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Ultralight Travel Tips (and what we think about them)

April 12 2021

UL has been a movement in the through-hiking community for quite some time. Ultralight means much more in some circles than just low in weight, it has grown into a style of travel from trail to jet bridge.
Around here, weight is pretty much always front of mind. It’s where we started, and reducing base weight has become a top tier goal of ours. We like to travel light, but not so much to the point where we forgo every single comfort. Here are some tips and tricks for traveling light, and we’ve rated them for fun. 1 for heck nah, and 10 for definitely.
1. Cutting the handle off your toothbrush to save weight
Our take: 1- You can… but it’s probably not worth it unless you’re wilderness bound.
2. Streamlining your emergency kit
Our take: 8- We did! And, if you don’t have a kit, make one. A good kit includes everything from antihistamines to a needle and thread for gear repairs. We pack our kit in a 140ml canister.
3. Wearing your heaviest/largest items
Our take: 7- We often wear the heaviest coat we are bringing or most space consuming shoes. We don’t wear everything we are bringing. If you have traveled by wearing everything through the airport, please, please, please send us photos. We want to hear from you.
4. Streamlining your dopp kit
Our take: 10- definitely. Flatpak bottles are a must. We also save and reuse travel size containers for loose powders and even toothpaste (did you know you can refill travel toothpaste tubes?)
5. Packing bar soap and solids
Our take: 10- definitely! You can cut a piece off a soap bar and get so many more uses than liquid options… which are often mostly water. In addition to bar soap, there are face bars, hair bars, and even concentrated versions of liquids to consider. We haven’t tried solid toothpaste yet- but if you’re a fan let us know which one you prefer!
6. Reconsidering snacks
Our take: 8- We go for calorie dense travel snacks like nuts and nut bars as opposed to fruits or chips. We also like to bring energy GU packets and other snacks designed for the backcountry on our urban adventures too. The caffeinated GU packs are clutch when jet lagged.
7. Leaving behind the laptop
Our take: 5- it totally depends. We work on the road a lot and need a laptop. That said, phones can do a lot now. More often than not- we have a full laptop in tow.
8. Leaving behind a dedicated camera
Our take: 3- Years ago we used to travel with a full DSLR camera. We eventually made the slow transition to exclusively using our phones for pictures. Then, this last year we have gone back to bringing along a dedicated mirrorless camera. Smartphone photos are… fine… they tend to have lot of distortion, get grainy in low light, and the photos end up staying on the phone for eternity. Since going back to bringing a camera, our photo game has improved drastically. It helps that mirrorless camera tech has come a long way in the last several years. We might pack light, but we often still have a camera on us.
9. Rolling your clothes instead of folding
Our take: 10- it’s a no brainer. Fewer wrinkles, we can jam pack a SEG duffle and get a view of everything in each pocket.
10. Packing in vacuum bags
Our take: 1- just pack less. 42 liters is plenty large if you’re edited for trips of any length. Vacuum bags can also put luggage easily over the weight limits, and the extra fees can be as much if not more than another bag. If you didn’t use something in your bag last trip- you packed too much. Packing too much is being underprepared, not overprepared.
11. Packing in packing cubes
Our take: 4- We used to love traditional packing cubes. Then we started prototyping the SEG42 last year and WE WILL NEVER GO BACK. But, seg travel is not for everybody. Those folks can keep packing in their cubes… they are officially the second best thing.
12. Ditching roller bags
Our take: 5- surprised? Roller carry on bags are a hard 1 star in our book- why not just carry the bag? But, if you’re checking a bag and have a lot of equipment for an objective, wheels can be a nice to have feature on big duffles.
13. Renting equipment instead of packing it
Our take: 5- it depends on the equipment. Going to Patagonia to through hike the O-route? We are packing our own sleeping bag and pack. Hitting the alps to ski? We are renting ski gear there.
14. Going with down layers
Our take: 10- definitely! Down is warm, packs down small, and is comfortable in a wide array of temps. Built for the backcountry, perfect for pretty much everything.
15. Wearing the only shoes you pack
Our take: 7- We often have an extra pair of shoes in addition the ones we wear on the jetway unless the trip is just a weekend. For these shorter trips, we go with something very multipurpose. Shoes that are trail-worthy, waterproof, lightweight, and subdued enough to pair with street clothes in town. We are big fans of some of Solomon’s S/Lab low tops for this purpose. They are built like a trail shoe, but look like a street shoe. When packing an extra pair, go for something low profile if you can, like a sandal or lightweight trainer. Pretty often, we pack dedicated hiking boots. There’s no getting around it, we prefer not to wear them in the airport if we know we will be wearing them a lot at destination.
16. Ultralight accessories
Our take: 10- We recently added a UL towel to our nanofiber collection. Enter shameless plug, get one. The new black towel color is almost as good as the grams saved- consider it done.

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2 comments

  • Sunny: June 01, 2021

    I think this article gave some great advice. Traveling cheap usually means buying tickets that only allow personal item (no carry-on), which means you have to get really good at packing light.

    Clothes that versatile enough to go-out, workout or sleep in can come in handy, while also bringing a pocket clothesline (Sea2Summit) makes a great one and using a laundromat makes it much easier. Also you want to think about fast drying fabric.

    I’m a big fan of Goretex technology; Cordura nylon; and packable down materials. Always a fan of waterproofing everything (military hardwired that into my head— no body likes being wet)

    Other considerations in addition to the mentions of this article, I think about other essentials like ensuring portable battery pack (Anker) with 2 USB ports or an outlet adapter with multiple USB slots. Anker does sell a 10,000mah one that can charge an iPhone around 3×.

    My goal is to have a 4-day weekend getaway (usually includes eating out, walking around the city and doing a hike while staying at a hotel or a friends place) packed into the Matador Freerain 24. Definitely looking into the Matador Flatpack soap case, bottle, toiletry products. Also using some nalgene small containers from REI, and re-purposing a small pocket Altoids case.

  • Austin Tung: May 18, 2021

    I’m a dentist, but I knew about tooth powders (dentrifice) even before dental school. In an Amazon search I just found out that there are toothpaste tablets that you chew and moisten in your mouth before brushing.

    I love your products and spirit!

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