How to improve ultralight backpacking with a hammock

Hammocks and backpacking really are a match made in heaven. A few days ago we started to talk about how to backpack with a hammock and what are all the tricks and ideas to improve your backpacking experience by switching from a tent to hammock.

Another activity that hammocks improve incredibly and that they make more comfortable is ultralight backpacking.

Incredibly interesting type of adventure, and always more practiced by backpackers from all over the world, today here on Madera Outdoor we will talk about what is ultralight backpacking, how it works and how a hammock can improve your ultralight backpacking experience.

what is ultralight backpacking

What is ultralight backpacking

For those of you who are new in regard to this topic, let’s start from the basics. What is ultralight backpacking? This adventurous activity is basically the art of backpacking with just a few pounds on your shoulders. But how does it really work? 

The "ultralightness" of this activity is accomplished by two main things: an ultralight kind of gear, which is extremely specialized and guarantees the same results of a normal piece of gear (but with less weight and/or smaller sizes), and by cutting down to the minimum the things you will carry with you on your adventure. 

Ultralight backpacking is perfect for all kinds of backpacking, however, today we’ll focus specifically on outdoor ultralight backpacking and we will explore some tips and ideas on how to have the ultimate ultralight backpacking experience, also thanks to a hammock. 

Let’s start by saying that this activity is more of a lifestyle than a way of packing your backpack. Indeed, not only you will have to carry with you the least things as possible, but you will also have to live happily with less and, consequentially, consume less. Your needs will have to decrease, as well as the amount of things you think you need to live well. So you will also have to embrace some kind of ultralight living and be ready to surprise yourself of how much you’ll love it. 

Tips on how to improve your ultralight backpacking

Opt for a hammock

Didn’t see that coming, uh? Choose a hammock and a hammock tarp for the sleeping gear of your ultralight backpacking experience. They will be better than a tent, or open-air camping. Why?

Hammocks and rain tarps are a lot lighter than a tent, even when the tent is ultralight. Indeed, the two of them together add up to less than 50 oz, and use very little space in your backpack, making it the perfect and better alternative to a tent. At the same time, they will make your sleeping conditions a lot more comfortable and restful than sleeping on the ground with just a rain tarp above your head.

Indeed, the conditions of the terrain are not going to matter anymore and you will be able to set up your hammock wherever you will want to. No moisture or uneven ground is going to bother your sleep, the chances that your sleeping mat will get pierced will decrease and your spine is just going to be so much happier to rest on a hammock. Also, it will keep you safer from insects, bugs, snakes or any other kind of unwanted visitor, making your nights more comfortable and improving your overall ultralight backpacking experience.

Also, a hammock will provide the perfect relaxing spot for your zero days, regardless of weather conditions.

Improve your technological and digital skills

One of the things that allow ultralight backpacking to stay as light as possible is technology. The amount of stuff that technology can help you to leave behind and the many solutions that it can give you with just one click are incredible.

So we highly suggest to learn all the hacks, tricks and apps that can help you during your ultralight backpacking adventure: maps, compasses, GPS tracks and trackers, a list of useful places and their locations, such as huts, water sources, woods, or any other thing that might help you along the way.

Also, make sure that you can charge your devices and never end up with a dead battery. Rechargeable power banks, as well as portable solar panels can be of great help. Of course, opt for ultralight ones and in general do come up with an efficient plan to recharge your devices and your power banks when outside.

Make gradual changes

If it’s the first time that you are ultralight backpacking don’t make a drastic shift, but get there gradually. Indeed, you must try out and learn to use every single new piece of gear. Remember that ultralight gear is much more functional and practical, but it could be less resistant than your normal one, so always make sure to know how to use it properly in order to avoid early deterioration. 

Also, as we said, ultralight backpacking is more of a lifestyle than a way to choose or pack your gear, so as every other lifestyle you must get used to it and make it yours bit by bit, until it comes natural to you. It takes time, practice and discipline. 

Also, rehearse it during shorter ultralight trips. Spend a couple of days outside and find out what it means to backpack with half the gear you used to have on you, or with completely different habits in terms of food and water. Find out what are the things you need, what you must learn or plan in advance. Get to know yourself as an ultralight backpacker, your strong points and your weaknesses and learn to adventure with them. 

ultralight backpacking with a hammock

Carry a water filter and use collapsible water bottles 

Water is going to be the hardest component of the whole experience. Indeed, ultralight backpacking requires you to keep it light and not take with you many liters of water at a time. So first of all, according to the kind of place you are going to explore, opt for a fair amount of water. Understand where water sources on the trail are located and mark them down on the map. 

Always take a water filter with you which will allow you to refill your bottles anywhere you go and, also, opt for collapsible water bottles: they will take up less space but still allow you to carry that extra liter with you in case of need.

Opt for dehydrated instant food instead of cooking

Cooking means you will have to carry more stuff with you and that food that is going to be heavier. And whilst an ultralight camping stove and an ultralight tin can turn out to be super useful in some occasions, opt for dehydrated and instant food, which will need just some water to be ready and that will be a lot lighter to carry on your shoulders. 

Do track down places where you can eat along the way and plan ahead a good eating pattern that will allow you to keep it both light and healthy. The important thing is that you don’t skip meals and that you always provide your body with all the energy it needs. If you can’t be sure of this, then don’t go. 

Also, opt for fat and calorie-rich food that will allow you to have all the nutrients you need in smaller portions.

Stay safe

Just because you have to keep it ultralight, it doesn’t mean that you can approximate on safety. Do always make sure that you have a complete first-aid kit in your backpack and that you know exactly how to look for help in case of emergency. A good single-bladed knife, a whistle, bandage and everything else you need to stay safe and healthy while backpacking has to be on your ultralight backpacking checklist.

Also, sometimes people don’t realize it, but health and safety depend on hygiene too. Of course your hygiene conditions are not going to be at their best, however you should try to keep it as clean as possible, washing as much as you can in rivers, lakes and streams of fresh water, and keeping your clothes as clean as possible.

Allow yourself a treat 

Ultralight backpacking can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be a torture. You don’t have to be a hermit and you don’t have to be a stoic. Do allow yourself a treat. Every backpacker does. Do bring with you one object that you could do without if you wanted to, but that is going to make you happier: a notebook, some music, binnacles, a small pillow. Just one, but do bring it.


  • Dan

    Thoroughly agree with the above. An underquilt is an essential piece of gear for hammock camping, but a mostly inflated sleeping pad can deliver similar results. The sleeping pad can be difficult to stay in top of during the night and may result in cold spots as you slip off of it. Would definitely recommend an underquilt.

  • Jacob

    You left out how vital an underquilt is if you are going to be in a hammock! Because the wind can now get under you and because the material in your sleeping bag is compressed it will be almost useless. If you are just trying out hammock camping you can use your sleeping pad inflated about 25-50% or if you are invested in camping with a hammock get a nice underquilt to make sure you are warm toasty!

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