If you already hike ultralight, then summer is a great time to go SUL - Super Ultralight! Definitely not for beginners, but for advanced backpackers a way to get even more enjoyment when hiking, while also sleeping comfortably & warm at camp! Don’t ponder around, read on and see my SUL Gear List for short summer trips!
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WHY Super Ultralight?
That questions is probably on a lot of readers minds. While I see more & more lightweight backpacks and shelters when I am out backpacking in Finland, there are still lots more people backpacking with heavy 80 l Volume backpacks, hiking on established trails & sleeping in our Open Wilderness Huts. Which begs my question: Why so heavy? As you will see in this article, I own & use UL gear since 10+ years, and yet things have to go broken. Which means ultralight equipment - backpacks, sleeping pads, shelters & tents as well as garments, shoes and quilts - is durable and long-lasting, without being overbuilt.
While my base weight is usually somewhere around 3 to 5 kg, in the summer I do SUL trips as it’s very enjoyable to not carry the heavy camera and tripod, to leave the large backpack at home and simply to enjoy the small pack which carries everything I need for hiking on a trail on a warm summer day. People have a hard time believing that you can fit everything into a 24 l backpack, but hey - equipment materials have become lighter and can be compressed a lot more nowadays, so it’s pretty easy, as you can see in the accompanying video underneath. So for me going SUL in the summer is about enjoyment, being more connected to nature and the surrounding environment, while being able to cover longer distances without pain & stress. It simply is fun to be out with a light pack, without sacrificing any comfort or safety. And yes, there’s also some gear-nerdery going on on such trips, and testing what is possible! You can view the complete list at the end of the article or here.
Going SUL starts with the backpack for me. I want a comfortable, durable, and obviously really light backpack for short SUL Trips. HUCKEPACKS sent me their amazing PACKL Special in Orange VX07 fabric, and I have been using this pack on short trips and day hikes since the spring. Now at 284 g and an extra 34 g for the foam CCF pad on the inside experienced hikers immediately will say “There are lighter options!” and they are right. For example the PACKL Lite, also from HUCKEPACKS, is only 146 g “heavy” - that’s a whooping 138 g less, which in SUL Terms is A LOT. But I have the PACKL Special, and as my other equipment is really light, I can take this slightly heavier backpack 😃 And with it’s three extra pockets for organizing and the two mesh pockets for water bottles, this pack keeps my stuff organized and easy to access. It’s also really pretty, and easy to see which is good if you’re hunting in areas where there’s hunting going on. But yeah, I’m tempted to maybe pick up the PACKL Lite next summer, to go even a bit more light…
MY SUL Sleep System is a combination of old and new gear. It is for me really amazing to see how some equipment has gotten progressively lighter over the last ten years, while other gear already was really light. The foundation of my comfortable & warm sleep system is the ∞ Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Uberlite (Here’s my Review), an amazingly warm & comfortable inflatable sleeping pad which weighs a mere 232 g in the Regular length. That is 120 g lighter than my previous summer UL mattress, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite (which I still own and use regularly). A CCF pad or two could lighter, but honestly - this mattress is so compact in pack size, is so warm, comfortable and easy to use, that I don’t see a reason to use any other mattress.
My Medium-Length and Standard Width ZPACKS Classic Sleeping Bag is 340 g light, and this quilt is 10-ish years old. It’s a quilt I use on warm summer trips where I know the night temperatures will not go below 5°C (preferably a bit higher, though) and I absolutely LOVE ❤️ the amazing pack size of this quilt. It can be compressed to the size of a small loaf of bread with the cuben stuff-compression bag (18 g), something I can not do with my similarly great Katabatic Gear Chisos 40°F quilt.
Finally, so keep the Mosquitos away and stay protected from dew and rain splatters, I use the As Tucas Millaris Bivy. It’s 180 g light including the stuff sack, and is really spacious and also fits my winter sleeping bags. It works best against Mosquitos with two pegs to stake out the front, and then you can create with the elastic string a spacious interior space to sleep in, Mosquito-free. I used this sleep system also on my recent trip in Lapland, where it did a great job.
In addition to the aforementioned Bivy I also carry a tarp on my SUL Trips. You simply never can know when it starts to rain, or when the wind starts to blow so much that you want more protection. Hence a tarp. This Gossamer Gear Tarp isn’t made anymore, as I have a SUL Cuben version which weighs a mere 167 g incl. the straps. I also own & can recommend the ∞ Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp but it’s a bit heavier with all the straps. I still love tarps and especially with a bivy it’s a great setup, also in bad, rainy and windy weather. This tarp is really spacious, and pretty easy to pitch thanks to the Catenary curves - that way it’s simple to get a good, tight pitch.
Back in 2013 I wrote about Esbit and the Solid Fuel Cook System from LiteTrail is still what I use today on SUL trips in the summer. It’s still amazingly compact, easy to use, efficient and at 90 g for the stove, ground + windscreen, pot with lid and the stuff sack hard to beat. I also have a tiny 8 g knife in the pot, my foldable Esbit Spoon - though in a pinch you also could simply use a ∞long-handled spoon instead - and the Esbit fuel tablets.
For water filtering and transport I have an old ∞ 500 ml Flask and a Katadyn BeFree - though I have heard a lot of good about the ∞ Salomon Soft Flask XA Filter which is a bit lighter, but has a smaller volume. Nevertheless, I’d be curious to try the Salomon filter at some point - sadly a Waterfilter is something which one nowadays also should use in Finland, especially in areas where there’s a lot of other backpackers and hikers.
My hygiene stuff is properly light - everything together a scant 37 g. I was lucky enough to find a foldable toothbrush years ago and I should have bought a few to stash away for the future. I also bring tooth silk and a tooth pick along because clean teeth are a bliss. I am using ∞ Dent Tabs since many years - they’re easy to pack and use, really light and leave less trash than a tube of tooth paste. I tried dehydrating my own Dent Tabs, but that wasn’t successful so the ones from DentTabs they are! For soap and cleaning I use nothing else than ∞ Dr. Bronners Peppermint, I also have a few painkillers along, and a ∞ Lipbalm from ClimbOn. The Lipbalm also works really well for small scratches, wounds and blisters, so is proper Multiuse. It’s also made from 100% natural materials, which is always a plus in my book. All that hygiene stuff goes into a 10 year old ZPacks Cuben fibre bag, which still holds up really well. And yes, toilet paper is missing in the list and is needed, but won’t slow me down 😉
Lets start with the last bits of civilization: My wallet, keys, Suunto watch and phone. I bought a nice wallet from Treadlite Gear in which I have some Credit Cards and cash. My keys I usually leave at home/ car/ hotel depending on the trip, so these are not carried. On SUL trips I don’t take a camera as my Full Format ∞Sony A7 III with the ∞ GMaster 24-70 mm f/ 2.8 lens is REALLY heavy, and the camera of my iPhone 7 is still plenty good for snaps in good weather. I am tempted to take my Sony RX 100 IV at times, but then that is an additional 291 g … I also use the iPhone together with the ∞ Hikepack App for navigation, and I can get 4 days of use out of the phone if it is in Airplane mode and with Battery Savings on. In addition I have the ∞ Suunto Spartan Ultra on my wrist which I use for tracking and navigation.
Depending on the weather + bugs to be expected I either wear shorts or a long pants. I have been a Houdini Friend in the past, and still am buying and wearing their garments if they suit me well, so most things are from Houdini - even if there are lighter options available, but I have these, the company does well for both people and the environment, so there’s no reason for me to buy different things. So, my Daybreak Shorts come on if I don’t expect a lot of Mosquitos and a lot of sun, and if the bugs are out then I put on the Motion Lite Pants. Both have zippered pockets, are durable, comfortable, have great freedom of movement and I can wear them for days on end.
On top I usually have a ∞ Houdini Activist T-Shirt as the material mix of Merino Wool and Lyocell is working really well for me, I can have this on for a week without a problem. You might see white sweat stains after that time, but it doesn’t smell bad and is still comfy to wear. Depending on the bugs/ wind/ sunshine I also might be wearing the Black Diamond Alpine Start windjacket, which is still - 7 years later! - my favourite wind jacket. Underneath I usually wear ∞ Ortovox Comp Light Boxers, at 54 g and being without any seams these are after much testing the best boxer shorts I have found. Their wide elastic “belt” doesn’t push or anything bad, it’s simply a really well designed boxer shorts which is very comfortable, again with the benefits of Merino Wool. If I wear shoes and socks, then the latter usually are ∞ Darn Tough Socks as these are simply really good - comfortable & durable.
Footwear-wise I like to hike in the summer in my ∞ Luna Sandals OSO Flaco, these are simply AMAZING sandals and as soon as it is warm enough in Finland I will pretty much wear them all the time. But if it looks like there’s going to be rain, cold weather, lots of swamps to cross or mountains to climb, then other shoes come on. On my last trip I tried the ∞ inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 which let me done a bit durability-wise, in wet weather I’m a huge fan of the La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 GTX, but I also use shoes from ∞ Salomon, ∞ On Running and many other models from ∞ La Sportiva.
In my pack I have three extra garment pieces on SUL Trips: The PHD WaferLite Down Jacket which is hands-down the lightest and best down insulation piece I own for summer trips. 132 g light with a full zipper, it’s just the right jacket for fresh summer evenings where a cold wind blows or you need to huddle down in the rain under the tarp. The second and third apparel pieces are the Montan Podium Pull-On and Podium pants. I wanted an SUL rain pants + jacket since ages, and was happy when Montane asked if I’d like to try them. These are quite a treat to carry at a combined weight of 203 g, and in the rain showers and thunderstorms I used them they have performed just fine and as you’d expect: They keep you dry.
As seen above, I also wear a cap and sunglasses. My eyes are sensitive to the sun, so a pair of protective shades like the ∞ Oakley Latch are mandatory for me on summer trips. The ∞ Patagonia Boardshort Funfarer Cap is comfortable and has a closed back, which I prefer in Mosquito season. And while it isn’t in my list, if I expect A LOT OF MOSQUITOS then the ∞ Sea to Summit Nano Mosquito Headnet comes along (11 g extra, and so worth it!).
I have a 95% Vegan diet since two years now, and it’s amazing how easy it is to eat healthy and tasty vegan food when outdoors. There’s a host of companies which make amazing vegan backpacking meals, so for people without the time to make meals yourself these are a really good option. I’m a huge fan of the Tentmeals meals & breakfasts (My Patreons get a 25% Discount!), the Firepot Vegan meals are absolutely delicious and also the Vegan options from ∞ LYO Food are always something to look forward to after a day of hiking or packrafting. From back in the day when I also was eating meat, fish and poultry I can recommend meals from the aforementioned brands and also REAL Turmat.
Snack-wise I mix Chili Nuts and Honey-Roasted Nuts together, this is my absolute “Feel-Good Food” which helps me to stay motivated when I have a long day or a steep climb up a mountain. Similiarly I use ∞ Clif Bar Shot Bloks as these are easy to consume, tasty, and the ones with coffein allow me to skip the coffee breaks if the day calls for it. Speaking of coffee, I use Naturata Espresso Sticks since this year, it’s easier to get than than Starbucks Via, in my opinion even tastier, and it’s also Fair Trade and Organic.
This article, list and video show that it is nowadays extremely easy to carry really little & very light equipment on your backpacking trips while still being safe, comfortable, well-fed, dry in the rain and warm at night. 95% of people hiking on maintained trails don’t need much more than what is shown in the article - and even if they do (a map and compass is a good addition, as could be a powerbank and maybe some fresh clothes for camp) the added weight still will have them carry less than what the majority of people seem to carry outdoors in Finland. Which is not to say those carrying more are doing something wrong, as they are not, though I often encounter these people bent forward from their heavy backpacks, which they put down as soon as an opportunity arises.
That gives the appearance that with a heavy backpack the hiking part of a backpacking trip isn’t enjoyed a lot, and for me that is where I see most of nature and I get the most enjoyment. With a light pack I can walk straight and unencumbered, I am able to let my eyes take in the surroundings - be it the Black-throated loon on the lake, the Reindeer which is grazing a few meters besides me on the fjell, the Marmot which is alerting it’s family of my arrival or the beautiful wildflowers which grow along the trail. For me the hiking part is where I see most on my trips, which makes me feel happy, and hence it is for me a lot more enjoyable to hike with a SUL Pack in the summer! I hope you try some of the things in this article, and if you have questions, feel free to reach out on Twitter!
PS: If you’d like to pick up just one or two pieces of gear from this article then I’d recommend getting the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Uberlite and the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody. Both are AMAZING pieces of gear that will make your hiking and sleeping experience in the outdoors really good.
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