two hikes discuss gear philosophy next to a lakeside campsite

Adventure Alan & Co Gear Philosophy

When evaluating hiking gear, Adventure Alan & Co assessments are informed by decades of collective ultralight backpacking experience. We have been testing and reviewing outdoor equipment since 1999, and learned more than a few things along the way. In this article, we set out to explain our philosophy on why ultralight backpacking gear is superior, in order to help readers understand the editorial perspective that we bring to the trail.

What is ultralight backpacking?

But first, what is ultralight backpacking? We define ultralight backpacking as a choice backpackers make to carry less gear. It usually implies a base weight of approximately 10 pounds or less. Base weight is all the gear in your backpack, not counting on-body items, or consumables like food, water, sunscreen, etc. For context, the average hiker with traditional backpacking gear will carry 20-30 pounds of base weight.

Why ultralight gear is better

The following three bullets create a logic flow summarizing our philosophy on what makes some pieces of gear better than others, and we will proceed to break down each in detail.

  1. Ultralight style backpacking is desirable for health, happiness, and efficiency
  2. Good hiking gear must be sufficiently functional and practical
  3. Therefore, if lighter weight gear is sufficiently functional and practical, then it is superior to a heavier version

Ultralight is better for health, happiness, and efficiency

Unsurprisingly, going ultralight feels better on your body compared to hauling traditional heavyweight gear around. With less weight on your back, each mile is easier on your joints, legs, spine, feet, and shoulders. It improves your posture and decreases the likelihood of injury. Carrying less weight is equivalent to having better endurance fitness, only without training. It allows you to hike farther, faster, more efficiently, and more comfortably.

By reducing discomfort, you become more focused and present on the trail, more capable of taking in your surroundings, and experiencing more joy in nature. It opens up the possibility of doing longer trips in fewer days, or creates more free time on the trail for hobbies like photography or journaling.

Hiking gear must be sufficiently functional and practical

Above all else, a piece of hiking gear must adequately and reliably function to perform the task for which it has been designed. And it must do so in a way that is practical and user-friendly.

For example, a tent should shelter you from a storm, but it should also be comfortable to spend time in, quick to set up, and easy to get in/out of. A backpack should store all of your gear and be comfortable to wear, while still offering easy access to frequently-used items and be durable enough to deflect scrapes and snags. We hold our gear to high standards when it comes to functionality and practicality, and everything we recommend on this site is a top performer in those regards.

If performance is roughly equal, then lighter is better

At least, that is how we would recommend deciding between two products that are approximately equal in terms of functionality and practicality. In addition to performing its primary function, the lighter of the two helps reduce the weight of your pack, thus contributing to the aforementioned benefits of going ultralight.

But of course, it’s usually more complicated than that. Frequently, a slightly heavier item will offer slightly superior functionality or practicality. And then what? Well, that’s why our Buyer’s Guides exist. When the choices aren’t obvious, we dive deep into nuance to help ensure you’re packing gear that is the best possible blend of functionality and practicality, while still minimizing weight.

We hope you agree with our approach and that our gear guidance helps you to reduce the weight of your backpack, move more efficiently, and derive more joy on the trail. Happy hiking!

-Adventure Alan & Co

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