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Photograph by Paul Miller

The Ultralight Gear That Will Save Your Summer Backpacking Trip

Outfitters are making camping equipment that's leaner than ever.

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If Colorado’s backcountry has felt a little less, well, backcountry in recent years, you’re not crazy. Since 2013, the number of backcountry campers in Colorado’s national parks and monuments has jumped by an average of 110 percent. Part of that growth might be due to the greater availability of super light gear. Several ultralight (UL) brands have launched in the past few years, while established names like Marmot and Mountain Hardwear have also added enhanced UL lines. Does it seem a bit niche? Yes. A little nerdy? Yeah. Worth it? Absolutely. Let us show you why.

Photograph by Paul Miller

A

Swap: A beefy backpack
For: Cortez-based Osprey’s 60-liter Levity Backpack, $270. Introduced in 2017, the Levity eschews elements such as ice axe loops and voluminous padding in order to shave its weight to two pounds or so.
Save: About three pounds

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B

Swap: A sleeping bag
For: Enlightened Equipment’s Revelation Quilt, from $225. Versatile quilts can be left open on warm nights or cinched when the temperature drops (this 18.5-ouncer is rated to about 20 degrees). Enlightened Equipment also lets you customize features like temperature rating, length, and width.
Save: About two pounds

C

Swap: A standard tent
For: Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Flat Tarp, $385. Who needs four walls when you can get away with two? If you’re not worried about wet ground or insects, this minimalist shelter (it’s really just a tarp with tie-downs, albeit one with fully bonded seams, UV resistance, and reliable impermeability) is about as light as it gets at less than 11 ounces.
Save: About five pounds

D

Swap: Cans of chili
For: Backpacker’s Pantry’s meals, from $4. This Boulder company’s freeze-dried and dehydrated meals require only water and a utensil, so you can ditch the dishes too. Bonus: Backpacker’s Pantry donates one percent of its sales to environmental efforts.
Save: About nine ounces

E

Swap: A traditional sleeping pad
For: Sea to Summit’s Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Pad, $130. At 17 ounces, this pad doesn’t save you weight—it saves you sleep. It blows up to two inches thick and supports your body across dozens of small chambers instead of a few large ones, so you won’t bottom out if you’re a side sleeper. Plus, it packs down to almost nothing.
Save: Zzzs

Happy Trails: Goose Creek Trail

By late June, there’s little snow here, so it’s the perfect testing ground for your UL gear. You’ll skirt a burn area—a result of the Hayman fire—at the start of the 9.4-mile (one way) trail near Deckers before following a creek through aspen forests, an old mining camp, and granite canyons. Since your load is so light, combine your route with adjoining trails in the heart of the Lost Creek Wilderness area to create a longer loop.

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