4 Crazy Things Ultralight Hikers Do

Backpacking in Alberta. Pack weight: 6.2 kg.

“Are you a day hiker?”

To an ultralight backpacker, that is the ultimate compliment. I routinely go on backcountry hikes with a pack that weighs under 5 kilograms, because I’ve discovered that I can travel further, see more, and hike without worrying about blisters and sprains. But like a drug, chasing those kilos and grams can be addictive. Here are some of the stranger things I’ve done in my quest for a light backpack.

1. Running around with scissors.

Make sure you can tie your shoelaces properly before indiscriminately snipping.
I did not have to cut the wrist straps off my trekking poles – a porcupine chewed that off for me already.

2. Going commando


On particularly long trips, you sometimes have to go into town to resupply and do laundry.  Except you don’t have a spare change of clothes to do laundry in.  Do what any ultralight hiker would do – don your rain jacket and rain pants… then head to the nearest laundromat.

3. Straight Up Olive Oil

Food groups? Nutrients? Everything you know about nutrition, throw it out the window. Replace it with a single number: calories per ounce.

I’ve tried a lot of different things in the interest in maximizing the weight efficiency of my caloric intake. Like adding vegetable shortening to all of my meals. Bringing nothing on a hike but two kilograms of macadamia nuts (200 calories/oz). Or drinking olive oil straight out of the bottle (251 calories/oz!).

Hint: Fatty foods give the best calories per ounce.  But don’t drink olive oil straight. The burning throat is just not worth it!

4. Weigh everything.

My girlfriend caught me sneaking about the kitchen late one night using the high precision kitchen scale. Again. That night, I recorded a 140 gram weight savings by switching my Nalgene water bottle to a 1L bottle of soda I bought at the drug store for two bucks. I also saved 7 grams by snipping off that luxuriously long handle that my toothbrush is endowed with! Fantastic!

Now I wonder how many grams I’d save if I just attached the toothbrush bristles to the end of my spork…


While sometimes it’s easy to go overboard, reducing your pack weight is an easy way to improve your backcountry experience.  Have you tried lightening your load?  How did it go?

Parkbus is an express bus service, connecting Toronto and Ottawa to provincial and national parks in Ontario. Visit parkbus.ca to view all routes, schedules, fares and other information.