Lightweight Backpacking in the Winter

Light Backpaking in the Winter

Hiking in the winter suppose to be fun, but it is hard to enjoy if you are loaded with heavy luggage. Many hikers believe that going ultralight in winter is a bad idea, so they overload their bags with gear and clothing. But, just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean you have to bring every item that comes to your mind to warm yourself.

Let me explain:

The key for great winter hiking is to lighten up your gear and be prepared for rough conditions like destructive winds, sub-zero temperatures, and snow. Lightweight backpacking requires some practice like how you use and select your gear, and how you make decisions during bad weather conditions. This is easier than it might sound.

And honestly

Hiking in the winter is worth the cost required to practice, select the gear and learn the skills. It affords personal rewards, amazing view, silence, and solitude. Following this ultralight winter backpacking guide, you will learn how to hike comfortably and safely without carrying a lot of weight.

If you want to know more, all you have to do is read on.

1. Lighten Up Your Backpack

“Weight kills. I never counted ounces before, but now I am fanatical. Ounces make pounds and pounds slow you down, creating more time between water access—and water is life. As thru-hiker Andrew Holycross told me – You quickly learn to carry what you need, not what you want.” according to writer Kevin Fedarko for National Geographic.

To reduce your pack weight, try to eliminate non-essential items including extra supplies and clothes that you really don’t need to bring with you. Use a digital or luggage scale to weigh your gear. Leave behind stuff you don’t need or replace it with something smaller with equal efficiency.

2. Food and Stove

“As a long-distance hiker with a ravenous appetite, I love coming up on overloaded backpackers who are delighted to give me some of their extra food. But for your own sake, please don’t feed the thru-hikers! I recommend 3,000 calories per person per day; this equates to about 1.5 pounds, assuming a caloric density of 125 calories/ounce. Some backpackers need more and others need less, but this is a good starting point. To minimize the weight of these 3,000 calories, eat fatty foods (nuts, peanut butter, cheese, Fritos, cookies). Fat is 2.4 times as calorically dense as carbs or protein.” said Andrew Skurka professional backpacker and author of the Ultimate Hiker’s Guide.

Calories and sugar are crucial when you are burning calories to stay warm. So, pack the chocolate also, it is always the best choice for a quick recovery. (source)

As for the stove, it is best to use a liquid fuel one because it’s the best solution for the winter. It will burn down to -40 degrees F, which is very important because the temperature can get really low. Also, if you travel with the group you can share the fuel with others since so many people use this liquid fuel stove in winter.

Bring 10 fluid oz. of white gas per day, and if the water is available to you, then just a half of that amount. Try to stick with one-pot, lightweight meals that have lots of calories.

3. Water

neoprene foam insulated water containerWe recommend you bring two or three liters of water, so you don’t have to stop every now and then and add more. Always leave a small amount of water in the bottle. This way it is easier to use a stove and melt more, without burning the pot and making a hole in it.

Put one bottle in a neoprene or foam insulated container outside your pack, so you can have an easy access. Make sure that the cap doesn’t freeze, so position the bottle upside down. Place the rest of them in your pack saving as much space as you can.

Choose the wide mouth ones which are easier to open and less likely to freeze. Use a stove to boil water and to purify it, if you can’t find it in a liquid form.

4. Clothing

“Mountains make their own weather. Often hypothermia is a bigger threat in the summer than in the winter because hikers hit the trail unprepared for the inclement weather. Always take some extra layers with you.” said Jennifer Phar Davis for Beyond the Edge.

With multiple lightweight layers, you will build an insulation. Bring light liner gloves, thick mittens, and a hat. As for the boots, it is best to go with the double insulated one.

They have removable liners in which you can sleep.

5. Shelter

Choose a lightweight winter tent which weighs about 2 pounds. It is designed for two people, so it has plenty of space, a nice head room and steep walls that will protect you from snow. You want to bring a warm sleeping bag and two pads for ground insulation: Inflatable mattress and a full-length foam one.

6. First Aid

“There are two categories of first aid situations: those that are realistically treatable in the field (blisters, headaches, mild diarrhea, small cuts, anaphylaxis); and those that are not (broken bones, HAPE and HACE, and cardiac arrest). My first-aid kit is designed to treat the former. I carry ibuprofen and loperamide, medical tape and duct tape, Glue, Hydrogel, and callus cushions (to take pressure off blisters). In the very unlikely event, something more serious happens, I get resourceful with what I have (closed-cell foam pad, guy lines, extra clothing, pen knife, etc.)” said Andrew Skurka.


Follow this guide for light backpacking in the winter and figure out what is the best choice for you to feel comfortable and safe on the trail. It is important to cut your weight down and don’t preload your pack. Before you go hiking in the winter, learn how to lighten your gear and carry less stuff.

This way you will reduce the weight you carry and feel more comfortable on the road.

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