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Ultralight Backpackin' Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping

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Walking into the wilderness with a pack on your back is an empowering experience—all the more so when that pack on your back isn’t weighing you down. That’s where this book comes in. Outdoors expert and celebrated illustrator Mike Clelland offers advanced techniques on how to pack light without sacrificing the essentials or your safety yet staying well fed and comfortable.   Written in the tradition of the successful Allen & Mike’s Really Cool Telemark Tips, with 153 trail-tested tips full of solid advice, as well as more than 100 humorous and helpful illustrations, Ultralight Backpackin' Tips is the ultimate guide for backpackers serious about traveling ultralight. Just a few of the top ten tips expounded upon in the * Use a scale.
* Comfortable and safe are vital!
* Make your own stuff, and making it out of trash is always the best!
* It’s okay to be nerdy.
* Try something new each and every time you go camping.
* Know the difference between wants and needs.

147 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

Mike Clelland

32 books39 followers
Mike Clelland is an avid outdoorsman, illustrator and UFO researcher. He has written extensively on the subject of alien abductions, synchronicities and owls. It was his first-hand experiences ​with these elusive events that have been the foundation for this research.

His website, Hidden Experience, explores these events and their connections to the alien contact phenomenon. This site also features over 200 hours of audio interviews with visionaries and experts examining the complexities of the overall UFO experience.

Beyond that, Mike is considered an expert in the skills of ultralight backpacking, and has authored or illustrated a series of instructional books focused on advanced outdoor techniques. He spent nearly 25 years living in the Rockies, and now lives in the Adirondacks.

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5 stars
392 (42%)
4 stars
354 (38%)
3 stars
154 (16%)
2 stars
17 (1%)
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6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Ellie Sorota.
157 reviews7 followers
July 3, 2015
I'm giving very low stars to this book because I'm a woman. Some will balk at that, but I found this book lacking a great deal in regards to advising the average female hiker. I read this in preparation for a section hike of the AT. I did hike in a group, so some of the suggestions were ruled out because I couldn't implement them in a group setting. For reference - I hiked a week and my pack weighed 30 pounds without water.

Thinny Thin Socks: had lots of chaffing, even with laces loose. Switched back to my higher, thicker merino wool socks and was fine.
Toilet Paper: Gross - rubbing your butt down a hill?! Terrain matters alot. The forested trails we were on had lots of poison ivy, very little grass and certainly no slopes to glide along bare-bummed. Did use some leaves now and again, but very thankful I brought toilet paper.

Female Hygiene: Nothing was mentioned about ultralight hiking in regards to female hygiene. I happened to be on my period and had lots of trash. In retrospect, I did find if funny that the book didn't mention female hygiene at all, especially when Clelland suggests going to extreme lengths to reduce pack weight.

Clothing: Followed Clelland's suggestions and took VERY minimal clothing. Thankfully, some in my group brought cranberry tablets to ward off yeast infections, because ladies have to think about those things. Never crossed my mind when packing! Ladies need more changes of underwear and pants than men do while backpacking because of our moister southern environment. Also, depending on where you are in your cycle, you will need to change clothes more often.

No Knife: Um...horrible suggestion to head out into the woods with no knife. A single edged razor may be able to do some things, but there are reasons everyone takes knives.

Tips I did find helpful:

Trimming your map
Foot glide and lots of it
plastic water bottle versus my usual nalgene
Packing in systems.

All in all, this had some good tips, but I will be looking for a female guide next time.

Profile Image for Dana.
70 reviews19 followers
October 2, 2011
"If you have snow available, you will have a stupendously clean bunghole! No foolin'-snow has all the properties that make it the creme de la creme of natural butt wiping." Oh gosh, five stars for the section on Pooping in the Wilderness. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!
Profile Image for Denny.
26 reviews5 followers
January 26, 2013
This book totally revolutionized backpacking for me. Instead of carrying huge packs 10 miles in boots and being exhausted, I'm happy to stroll 20 miles with a much lighter pack in trail running shoes. Checked it out from the library and like it so much I bought it. Now I share it with friends whenever possible. Love it!
Profile Image for Rhedyn .
8 reviews6 followers
February 10, 2017
One of my favorite backpacking books- always reminds me to put a new mindset on things. You will also laugh all the way through. My brother- (and Mike Clelland) are UL fanatics, so this book is a must-read if I want to debate with my brother on a knowledgeable level.
Reason for the docked star- Mike isn't a woman. (duh!) He really should have gotten some advice form one when writing certain sections. There's some things a girl physically can't go without. But for a guy- this is the most awesome UL book out there!
Profile Image for Eressea.
1,428 reviews57 followers
April 11, 2020



1. 留下必要,放棄想要
2. 裝備秤重並紀錄之,以便評估第一點
3. 安全與舒適為第一要務
4. 事前仔細評估

Profile Image for Allison.
208 reviews22 followers
March 9, 2021
this book introduced me to the beauty of the bic mini lighter
Profile Image for Jennifer DeJonghe.
17 reviews4 followers
June 20, 2012
I've been doing ultralight and lightweight backpacking for about a decade. Back in 2002 I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail and pretty quickly bought into the "going light" mentality. At the time I relied heavily on internet forums and Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight HikingRay Jardine, as well as the advice of other hikers. Many years and many hikes later I bought this book by Mike Cleland as a way to see if there are any new tips and tricks I could benefit from compiled in one place.

For experienced lightweight hikers, there isn't much new here, but what is nice is that it is very up to date, humorous, and has great illustrations. Some of the weirder ideas from the early days of ultralight hiking (modified umbrellas instead of rain gear) are thankfully absent from Clelland's book, which makes it feel like the tips here are really becoming refined and time-tested. And while the author is fairly opinionated, he doesn't come across quite as ornery as Jardine did in Beyond Backpacking. Lastly, I appreciated the book as a way to reinspire me to go ever lighter. Clelland's statements on "why" to go ultralight were right on.

The problems I had with the book had to do mostly with organization. I wasn't crazy about the 153 tips seeming to be in random order, especially since I have the ebook version. For example, he had one tip about how not to carry more than a liter of water, but many tips later he refers back to that tip and says "but carry more water in a desert". Why not have all the water tips close together? It just seemed disjointed and potentially unhelpful to new hikers. It was also very biased to his own preferences and he didn't always present alternative ultralight methods to those he personally uses. For example in the section on sleeping pads he talks about his system of an inflatable pad, which is actually pretty heavy. But in the section on tarps, he doesn't really discuss other ultralight strategies, such as hammocks, tarptents, etc. If he always presented a spectrum of choices from light to lighter, people could choose what fits them the best.

I enjoyed reading this and agree with *most* of his tips, but I would consider it as something to be read in conjunction with other sources.
Profile Image for Marcie.
133 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2012
Clelland's writing is concise and he has a sharp wit. His cartoon art is fantastic and he does drawings for all or nearly all of his 153 tips. The illustrations help a lot in understanding his modified gear and set up. Ultralight is defined as sub-8lbs (including the pack, sleeping gear, shelter, cooking kit, first aid, and extra clothes) before adding food and water. Clelland has tips about every item needed for backpacking, how to pack it, and how to use it. He provides information about how much food and water to bring and what containers to use. The book is thorough and thought provoking for those of us new to lightweight backpacking. Though my goal is not ultralight packing yet, I got some good tips for heading in that direction.
Profile Image for Sara Petsch.
7 reviews
October 31, 2012
First off I am biased since I know Mike and think he is awesome and everything he writes and illustrates is awesome!! But besides that, this book is funny, fun to read, and for me very helpful since I am getting into lightweight backbacking now that I have bad (arthritic) knees and need to do everything I can to save them, without giving up backpacking! Great book!
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
458 reviews81 followers
August 7, 2017
This book is short and sweet - and rip roaring hilarious! It's worth owning and keeping just for the section on personal hygiene in the woods (pinecones! snow!). So many good tips -- I keep it on the coffee table and it is a great conversation starter with my outdoorsy visitors.
Profile Image for Mike Green.
34 reviews6 followers
January 30, 2013
Wipe your ass with a rock eh? Can't wait to try that one out. All kidding aside. This was an easy read with a lot of really good tips. Hopefully I can put some to use soon.
Profile Image for Rex.
90 reviews41 followers
April 12, 2021
Lightweight should not be the goal of outdoor. Being safe and joyful should be. This book sucessfully change my mind. Outdoors should be green, clean, and healthy. What's the point of this sport when we sacrificing all the hygiene, safety, and coziness in order to save a few kg of weight? I will bring as much as I need without worrying a few more kg. I don't want to do my bathroom hygiene with a snowball. I want to smell better than my fragrant every morning. I want to change socks as frequent as possible. I want fo bring as many electronics as possible in order to record the nature. I want to shower three times a day. I won't use other's trash can in the trash bin. I won't cut my backpack with scissors. I will bring my heavy duty swiss army knife. No mosquito is not an option because of virus, not the itch. I will not drink water in the wild.

This book is OK if we are not living in the pandemic era. But camping during the COVID-19? It's a joke. I will be in the hospital sooner than I go back home.
Profile Image for Teo 2050.
840 reviews80 followers
April 5, 2020


Clelland M (2011) Ultralight Backpackin' Tips - 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping


The Manifesto

001. Get a scale
002. Comfortable and safe are vital!
003. Scrutinize everything!
004. Make your own stuff, and making it out of trash is always best!
005. It's okay to be nerdy
006. Try something new every time you go camping
007. Simply take less stuff!
008. Know the difference between wants and needs
009. Cut stuff off your gear
010. Document your gear

Basic Starting Points

011. Know the lingo
012. THE MODEL TRIP, our example expedition
013. Get Lighten Up! by Don Ladigin
014. Don't expect specific gear recommendations
015. Most of the pack weight is in a few items
016. Never say, "It's only a couple of ounces"
017. Never EVER guess the weight of something
018. Create a spreadsheet
019. Some items weigh zero!
020. There's no such thing as "just in case"
021. Think in systems
022. Learn to sew
023. Teammates help lighten the load

The All-important Mind-set

024. The human factor
025. Appreciate the wilderness
026. Take care of your equipment
027. Don't lose anything!
028. Define success
029. Learn from your mistakes
030. Is going ultralight more expensive?
031. What does in camp really mean?
032. Be present on the trail (a simple exercise)
033. Ditch the watch, wallet, money, cell phone, iPod, and car keys!
034. It's okay to stink!
035. Make a friend of the night
036. Sew your headlamp right onto your hat
037. Mosquitoes and karma
038. Take a little test trip
039. Break the 5-pound base weight: going SUL (Ryan Jordan)
040. Cross the line—go out too light
041. Have a GO-box ready
042. An overnighter doesn't have to be perfect
043. Share your UL skills with friends
044. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) camping
045. Pick up other people's trash

Decision Making

046. Simplify decision making with the UL pack
047. How to make decisions in teams


048. Down vs. synthetic
049. Upper-body clothing
050. Lower-body clothing
051. The humble bandana
052. I went camping with no stuff sacks!
053. What! No knife?
054. Make your own toothpaste dots
055. Prepare a simple first-aid kit
056. Carry a simple repair kit
057. Trim your maps
058. Multitask with the mosquito head net
059. Collect cute little bottles
060. Select your luxury item

Comprehensive Gear List

061. Everything you might ever need

Backpack Tips

062. The backpack as a foundation
063. Packing the backpack
064. Pack up with a buddy

Travel Techniques

065. Choose bold routes
066. Trekking poles (Glen Van Peski)
067. Find your traveling speed
068. Start hikin' early!
069. Quit hikin' late!
070. Eat dinner on the trail
071. Eat breakfast on the trail
072. Napping is a skill
073. Hike a 20-mile day
074. Take a break!
075. The art of off-trail travel
076. Scrambling is much easier with a dinky pack
077. Traveling on snow as a skill
078. No car shuttle? Use your thumb!


079. Wear lightweight hiking shoes
080. Lace 'em nice 'n' loose
081. Do you need gaiters?
082. Prevent blisters before you need to treat 'em
083. Thwart blisters with Hydropel
084. Upgrade your foot beds
085. How many socks?
086. Sleeping socks
087. It's okay to have wet feet!
088. Wear neoprene socks for soggy hiking
089. Plastic bags on your feet in wet conditions

Camping Tips

090. The joys of the tarp & bivy combo
091. Staking out your tarp
092. Stealth camping as a skill

Sleeping as a Skill

093. Find the ideal sleeping spot
094. Employ the LATS technique of weather prediction
095. It's okay to sleep under the stars
096. Sleeping bags, quilts, & bivy sacks—what's the difference?
097. The essential sleeping pad
098. Sleep warm with minimal gear
099. Wear it all to bed
100. The humble pillow


101. How much water should be on your back?
102. What's the lightest tool for carrying water?
103. Filling a water bottle
104. Add electrolytes when you need 'em
105. Should you drink untreated water?
106. How I use Aquamira

Soggy Conditions

107. Don't stop hiking just because it's raining
108. Waterproof your gear
109. How to dry wet socks
110. Rain skirts: the functional fashion statement

Desert Travel

111. Desert travel skills
112. Make the most of desert water sources


113. Camping in bear country
114. Hang your food at night
115. Keep the bear spray handy

Pooping in the Wilderness

116. Liberate yourself from toilet paper
117. Clean your butt!


118. Stoves and cooking—keep it light!
119. What size pot do you need?
120. Make your own alcohol stove
121. Calculate your alcohol fuel needs
122. Minimize your stove's impact
123. The humble Esbit tab
124. Woodburning stoves mean no fuel weight
125. The tried & true mini-BIC
126. Advanced lighting techniques
127. Carry a redundant fire starter
128. Kitchen cleanup


129. Turkish and cowboy coffee
130. Enjoy coffee on the trail


131. You CAN eat well in the backcountry
132. Three initial steps to food planning
133. How much food do you need per day?
134. Food weights and glossary
135. Create a food spreadsheet
136. Determine the number of days
137. Snacks vs. meals
138. How many calories do you need?
139. Factors that increase the need for food
140. Trip duration influences food needs
141. Stuff adds up over time
142. Balance your food items
143. Bag it all up
144. Go stove free!
145. What if you run out of food?
146. Make an insulating cozy


147. Groovy-biotic recipes
148. Dinners
149. The magic of instant mashed potatoes
150. Sauces
151. Breakfasts
152. Snacks

Final Thoughts

153. Ultralight skills can simplify the rest of your life

Suggested reading
About the Author
Profile Image for Suzy.
12 reviews
May 3, 2018
I’m sure this book would be 4-5 stars for someone REALLY into extreme UL backpacking but for me, it’s just not what I’m looking for. I did find a few helpful tips but I prefer toilet paper and other things that Mike Clelland cringes at.
I’ve managed to shave a few pounds off my pack’s base weight since my first ever backpacking trip and I’m very happy with that for now. I have a lot of respect for UL backpackers and if you are one, then definitely check this book out.
Profile Image for Wendy Wagner.
Author 86 books140 followers
June 4, 2019
This book might not get you excited about ultralight backpacking, but it IS really, really funny. Plus, the recipes for energy gel and granola bars look terrific!
Profile Image for Kadri.
123 reviews34 followers
August 10, 2020
Last time I read this book was 2016. I was a wilderness guide with a 5 lb pack from REI, a heavy duty sleeping bag rated to minus 30, and so much extra gear I could cry. The year before that I did trail work with UCC. We'd compare pack weights and mine usually topped out at 60 for an 8 day work week -- the lightest in my crew!

I've come a long ways since then. Not quite ultralight, but there's a skip in my step with a 30 lb bag on my shoulders. I'm grateful for this fun book and the tips in it.

Only critique is no tips for that time of month.
Profile Image for Ema.
1,260 reviews34 followers
October 1, 2017
If I were reading this when it was published or hadn't already read a lot on the topic, this would have had much more useful information. Regardless, I adored Cleveland's writing style and humorous tone, and appreciated his attitude of there being multiple correct ways to go UL. Also he's a vegetarian which is great. This was a fun and easy read.
Profile Image for Rolf Asphaug.
8 reviews1 follower
December 29, 2019
Great tips and philosophical support for UL backpacking

Great tips on all phases of UL hiking. An added bonus was the philosophical discussion about ultralight living as a life goal: simplicity. Mike Clelland’s illustrations are, as always, witty and packed with useful information. I’m looking forward to trying the recipes, too.
Profile Image for Andrew Mauroner.
29 reviews1 follower
September 28, 2020
Great format for picking up tips if you're familiar with camping/hiking! I'm not a ULer, but I do want to improve aspects of my "less is more" ideology. Some of the tips are a bit "much" for me, but obviously everyone hikes their own hike. Will definitely refer to this book for future trips though, and glad I picked it up!
Profile Image for Kuba.
4 reviews
May 2, 2021
Fantastów book! Although I won’t use all the tips myself (either too hardcore or I disagree with), I think it really changed my mind when it comes to preparing for a hike. I fully recommend it to everyone who took 15+ kilograms backpack for a 3-days trekking. Having this book read you will never make the same mistake!
Profile Image for Nicholas.
52 reviews
August 8, 2021
Wonderful tips that can be used even if ultralight backpacking isn't your goal. These skills are applicable to backpacking in general, which will assist in lightening up your load. The author is highly opinionated of several persons and paints with broad strokes when categorizing people, but it was easy to ignore while reading and get back to the actual point of the book.
3 reviews
February 21, 2013
This book, along with backpackinglight (used to be free, now they charge for the forums, bleck) helped me shave about 20-30 pounds off of my backpacking gear, and forever change my outlook on the activity. I highly recommend a read. It was easy to follow, simple, and engaging.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
390 reviews3 followers
January 9, 2022
This book passed through my hands on the way to a friend from another friend, so I thought I'd just read it while I had it in my possession. It's very accessible; a list of tips based on the author's own experiences as an ultralight backpacker. My only quibble is that it's also very male-centric: not his fault, because he's a guy, so it's the only POV he has - but it would have been nice to have guest writer provide a female point of view for tips every now and again. For instance, re: clothes: a guy might be able to wear the same pair of runderwear for 10 days at a stretch, but you can't do that with a bra, because they will stretch out by day 3 and then you chafe. And what do you do if you end up hiking during Shark Week? Sharks sometimes arrive unexpectedly, but there's no allowance in his list of gear for such. To be fair, the edition I read is dated 2011 so there might be updates in the last 10 years I don't know about. Still worth the time to read; lots of good tips.
178 reviews3 followers
August 13, 2019
Extremely readable. Especially because of the fun comical illustrations. I do feel at times the author pushes things a bit with some of the tips about dropping the weight and then seems to make suggestions for things that are unnecessary added weight. Might just be because things have evolved quite a bit since the publishing of this book and in the end he does preach about being mindful of the inclusion of everything. My main complaint is that even though he consistently talks about following leave no trace principles, a lot of the tips he gives go against these very principles such as camping and cooking right near a water source.
Profile Image for Kris.
Author 2 books2 followers
August 30, 2021
The only useful tip in this book was about making your own rain skirt. The rest of the tips were either things I knew or they were completely ridiculous. This guy’s sleeping method only works for people who sleep on their back and sleep warm. I cannot imagine propping my elbows on my shoes, they reek, there’s no way I want to sleep near them. He recommends going without toilet paper and using leaves or wiping your butt on tufts of grass. Good luck avoiding poison ivy! I’m not sure what qualifies this guy to give advice, but I would take it with a grain of salt and then maybe find a group on Facebook or something. They will have better suggestions.
Profile Image for Ridel.
180 reviews4 followers
August 31, 2022
A great reference. I'm an aspiring UL backpacker and a lot of the tips I had gathered from trolling forums and various blogs. It's great that they're in a single place, and I appreciate Clelland's challenge of writing without referencing specific pieces of kit. As a Canadian, one of the greatest annoyances is the fact that most cottage industry providers of kit are extremely expensive to ship from USA to Canada (if available at all). Boiling it down to just the principles makes things very accessible.

I will likely go back and pick out some of the recipes to try, and start tuning my own schedule once the hiking season begins. Recommended.
Profile Image for Catherine.
220 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2018
Lots of "how-to" in this book with cartoon illustrations. It's oriented to the he-man who, when lightening his pack, will be able to double his mileage on the trail. Still, I think it has some good ideas for me, an aging, short statured hiker, who needs adaptive technology to bring a pack's weight to something I can carry in order to back pack at all. The author is frugal in his recommendations, even sharing recipes for make-it-yourself lightweight food.
4 reviews
September 23, 2022
I feel the title of this book really undersells its value. This book is a comprehensive recipe to understand the philosophy of UL backpacking and no matter where you are in backpacking journey allows you to reflect on your strategy and evolve.

The book is delightfully easy to pickup and put down. There are no chapters only "tips", but they support each other loosely so you can read some and come back in a couple months when you have time.

Would recommend.
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