And the Light Shall Inherit the Earth

How to build the perfect 20-pound summer backpacking kit.
Summer Backpacking Gear
Step into the Light: Low-weight strategies for high-octane output for your next summer foray (Blend Images)
Want to Go Heavier?
Accolades of the ultralight scene may scoff at Mountain Hardwear's new five-pound, 12-ounce Maestro backpack. But for those who embrace the heavier-set load, or combine activities like skiing or rock climbing with their backcountry forays, this pack is perfect. Find out why.
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Humans seem to excel at accumulating things. From collectibles to cars, clothes to birthday cards, there's always something else you need—or something else someone gives you. And in the case of outdoor apparel, the tail is almost wagging the dog—you didn't know that you needed that latest, greatest mp3 player/sunglasses/GPS unit until …well, you were told that it existed.

As a result, the garages and gear closets of most outdoor enthusiasts swell with out-of-style or no-longer-truly-functional items, the bane of all gear-heads. This is all well and good when you face a daylong outing—but for activities like a multi-day trek into the backcountry, the endless array of "essential" items almost makes you forget the golden rule of backpacking: When you head into the woods for days or weeks on end, you actually do have to carry everything.

Luckily, the lightweight backpacking revolution is upon us, and its benefits are numerous. Using less gear that is more versatile and constructed of new lightweight, durable fabrics, this approach will take the burden off your back without sacrificing too much in the way of backcountry comfort. And going "ultralight" doesn't mean sawing off the handle of your toothbrush to save an ounce. It just means that your gear often does double duty; you're carrying less while using more. One other caveat: Backpacking means you'll likely be spending most of your time on the trail, not at camp, so the comfort level should be judged more by how you feel while hiking, not just how plush your overnight gear will be.

With that graceful understanding, I've compiled the dreamland list of gear needed to create a 20-pound backpack kit with all the performance and durability necessary for extended stays in the backcountry during the warmer months—without breaking the back (or the bank).


Published: 9 Jun 2006 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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