Brent Hartnell works six months of the year as a hiking guide, while he has simultaneously built a business (Basic Adventure Tarps), providing lightweight gear designed for UL hiking.
“It's made the life of a professional guide a lot easier with regard to the wear and tear on the body. Due to the development of lighter gear, we (as guides) can work for longer periods of time and, in turn, earn a better living over the course of a year. UL is a game-changer!”
"The trade-off with UL gear, in a guiding capacity, is that the lighter the product, the more prone to damage/breakage with extended use. Super hi-loft sleeping bags started to lose their warmth efficiency, UL sleeping mats got holes in them faster. UL tents had poles that would snap easier. Basically it did not seem to last as long, so I seemed to be replacing gear on a 12-18 month basis.
"Over the last 2-3 years, there has been a quantum leap forward in UL products (and the technology they use) to make the previous statement a thing of the past. Things like DCF (cuben fibre) and carbon fibre have made products more durable for the heavy toll that guides put on their gear."
“I think what is more important than actual weight is gear that suits you and your experiences," says avid UL hiker Kerry Neighbour. "Going UL on your very first hike seems like a disaster to me. But if you take two years and dozens of hikes to get to UL, then that seems like a good path to me.
"Getting to UL (<5kg) is pretty difficult and usually means a few compromises. Personally, I am happy getting under 10kg or perhaps around 7-8kg. That is light enough for me that I am comfortable. Going less – I get diminishing returns.”
Tips for reducing weight safely on a hike
1. Take baby steps. Not literally, but don't jump straight into UL hiking. It can not only spell a miserable night in the rain, but can potentially be dangerous or life-threatening if you are not prepared.
2. Make safety paramount. This means never sacrificing on key navigational and safety elements in your packing, i.e. compass, maps, ELBs, water, food, shelter, clothes. You must be confident that you can stay safe on the trail and prepare for getting lost or emergencies (injuries).
3. Pack and then repack. This is vital for reducing your weight, and will help you identify items that are non-negotiables (see above).
4. Don't mess with your gear. Some UL proponents recommend cutting seemingly unnecessary straps or sections from your pack etc. Avoid this. Not only may it void your warranty on that gear but UL hiking often means you need gear for all sorts of conditions. Don't limit yourself to one type of hiking condition by eliminating opportunities for added carrying capacity.
5. Break things up into what you have to have vs what would be nice to have. This will help reduce the risk of not packing safety essentials.