What Is Ultralight Camping? + Free Checklist!

I recently got into minimalist camping because every time I packed up for a weekend camping trip, I felt like it took me too long to get everything ready. I attributed this to having to pack too much stuff. For that reason, I did some research on how to reduce the number of things that I brought with me when I go camping, this led me to try ultralight camping.

So, what is ultralight camping? Ultralight camping is a style of camping that emphasizes bringing the simplest and lightest amount of camping gear for a given camping trip while still maintaining personal safety.

Ultralight camping focuses on reducing the amount of weight and number of things you bring camping with you. If you are interested in trying some ultralight camping then you need to know what is essential to bring and what is not essential. Keep reading to download a FREE ultralight camping .pdf checklist.

By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click hereOpens in a new tab. to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

How To Get Started With Ultralight Camping

The first step with ultralight camping is to take everything out that you would regularly take camping and separate out the nonessentials from the essentials. As you will see later, there are only a few gear items that are really important for camping. Most other gear that we bring is just comfort items that add bulk to our car and to our minds. The goal is to keep things as simple as possible and to bring as little as possible (while still staying safe of course).

Just because an item is a luxury item like “camping chairs” for example, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them just because you want to try ultralight camping. The real aim is to reduce the number of things that YOU bring. We all will have different priorities for the camping gear that we want to bring with us. If you want to sit on a comfy camping chair instead of the hard wooden benches provided at the campsite then do it.

Besides, like most things in life you want to get good at, it is best that you slowly introduce yourself to ultralight camping. I like to compare ultralight camping to minimalist camping because going back to the basics and making things simpler can be really freeing of the mind. Later on, I will provide you with a free checklist that has the bare minimum items that I recommend for ultralight camping. Of course, feel free to bring more than just the bare minimum, especially at first when you are just trying out ultralight camping.

A benefit of trying this way of camping is that it makes it much easier to pack for your trip and to pack everything up when its time to go. Ultralight camping is best suited for shorter camping trips such as an overnighter, a weekend, or even a 3 day holiday weekend. Not too long ago I wrote an article titled “15 Things To Leave At Home For Minimalist Camping”. That article very much applies to ultralight camping since it’s about leaving gear that you don’t really need at home and trying a more simpler camping experience.

Another benefit of this style of camping is that if you are new to camping and you already don’t have much gear then you can see how camping can be just as a rewarding experience without all the fancy stuff. Camping is good for you, and it’s important to realize that the benefits we receive from camping rarely come from bringing excess luxury gear. In fact, I wrote about 14 reasons why camping is good for you and none of them have anything to do with fancy camping gear.

What is ultralight camping based on?

Ultralight camping is based on ultralight backpacking. Similar principles apply except that with car camping you can carry and bring much more camping supplies than you would be able to if you were backpacking. Even though you can carry many more items and much more weight, you can still partake in ultralight camping if you just narrow down the amount of weight and number of items you bring.

For example, if you are solo camping, do you really need a four-person tent all to yourself? Reducing the size of the tent that you use is one way that you could try ultralight camping. Another easy one is using a sleeping pad instead of a bulky heavy air mattress. I will give you more tips on reducing your camping weight later on.

Trying ultralight care camping can be a gateway to eventually trying backpacking. Backpacking is a unique and rewarding camping experience like no other. If you like minimalist camping and ultralight car camping then odds are that backpacking might also be something for you to try. I myself have recently added backpacking to my camping repertoire and I highly recommend it to other campers that enjoy hiking, minimalist, and the wilderness experience.

What is essential camping gear for ultralight camping?

To be essential, a camping gear item must be absolutely necessary or extremely important. There are really only a few camping gear items that fit these criteria because in this context the only things that are absolutely necessary are things that will keep you safe and alive when you are camping. Just because you are going ultralight camping does not mean you must stick to only these items, but most likely these items will be included:

  • Shelter (Tent, Hammock, Tarp, etc.)
  • Floor Insulation (Sleeping pad, hammock underquilt, etc. (because the ground is cold!))
  • Sleeping Bag (Yital for preventing body heat from escaping)
  • Lightsource (Headlamp, flashlight, lantern, etc. (because we can’t see in the dark))
  • Food (Although you could survive upwards of 3 weeks without any)
  • Water (We can only survive around 3 days without it)
  • Clothing (Protects us from the elements, and keeps us decent)
  • Sun Protection (UV rays can be very damaging to our skin)
  • First aid kit (Because of boo-boos and stuff)
  • Multi-tool/Knife (Good for a variety of situations)
  • Health/Hygiene items (for obvious reasons)

What is not essential camping gear for ultralight camping?

Some items are great for camping, but they aren’t exactly required or essential to have a good safe time. Feel free to bring any of them if you really enjoy using them and it’s not too much of a hassle. Plenty of these items I still bring even when I am trying to lighten the load of my camping trip. These are some of the items where it’s just up to you if you still want to bring them:

  • Hammock (Essential for me though)
  • Air mattress (Too heavy, use a sleeping pad most of the time)
  • Big grill (How many steaks do you plan on eating!?)
  • Cot (This isn’t Bootcamp, just sleep on the floor)
  • Canopy (Use a tree for shade, unless you’re in the desert)
  • Mosquito Net (Just get your shots and you’ll be fine)
  • Portable showers (Shower when you get home)
  • Tables
  • Camping Chairs (Hard to give up these, most of the time I don’t)
  • Electronics (You got the great outdoors to entertain you now…)
  • S’mores (Believe it or not, you can legally camp without eating these)

How much weight is considered “ultralight” camping?

There is no base weight to be considered ultralight camping. That is because unlike backpacking, you don’t actually need to weigh everything that you are bringing with you on your camping trip. If you were doing ultralight backpacking then you would simply weigh your entire backpack.

With ultralight car camping, your focus isn’t exactly on reducing the amount of weight you bring to a certain number. It is more concerned with reducing the number of items you bring and reducing the size of that camping gear that you do bring. The focus is simply on being minimalist when it comes to camping gear and accessories.

Tips to reduce weight and amount of things you bring camping

Here are some additional steps that you can take to reduce your camping gear load even further:

  • Use a tent that is appropriately sized down.
  • Use a sleeping pad instead of an air mattress. (Check out the sleeping pad I use here)
  • Don’t use a camping cot. (they are heavy)
  • Use a backpacking sleeping bag instead of a regular bulky one.
  • Utilize natural shade instead of using a canopy.
  • Spray on bug spray instead of using a bug net.
  • Only bring clothing that is appropriate for the weather.
  • Use the provided picnic table instead of bringing your own.
  • Sit at the provided picnic table instead of bringing camping chairs.
  • Collect firewood instead of bringing it. (Rules permitting)
  • Use a small camping stove. (Check out the stove I use here)

Ultralight Car Camping Checklist

As promised, click here for a free .pdf ultralight car camping checklist that you can use as an open guide for trying out ultralight camping.

Related Questions:

Can you camp without a sleeping bag?

You can camp without a sleeping bag, but if you are camping in cold conditions then it could be a mistake. Sleeping bags protect your body heat from heat loss a lot better than blankets can.

Do I need a sleeping pad for camping?

You need a sleeping pad for camping if you are camping in chilly conditions because sleeping pads serve as a barrier between your body and the cold ground. A sleeping bag’s R-value is how well it resists heat loss from under you. Sleeping pads resist heat loss much better than air mattresses.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here Opens in a new tab.to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click hereOpens in a new tab. to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here Opens in a new tab.to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click hereOpens in a new tab. to see the best camping stove on Amazon.

Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

Recent Posts