Allison Nadler on the John Muir Trail (photo courtesy of Allison Nadler)

One of the constant struggles weekend warriors, peak baggers and thru hikers face is bringing the essentials without weighing down your pack with unnecessary items and gear.

Ultralight hiking has become a buzzword in the outdoor community. As summer approaches, people are looking to shed the heavy boots, overbearing packs and heavy tents in favor for trail runners, smaller packs and weightless tarps. It’s not uncommon for hikers to even cut their toothbrush down to just the head and bristle to avoid the extra weight.

At the head of the ultralight hiking movement is Massachusetts native Allison Nadler. Nadler is your typical, badass 20-something avid New England weekend warrior. She has conquered the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains three times and the 4,000-foot peaks in Vermont and Maine.

Allison Nadler on the Franconia Ridge, NH (photo courtesy of Allison Nadler)
Allison Nadler on the Franconia Ridge, NH (photo courtesy of Allison Nadler)

Nadler’s greatest hiking achievement yet is the John Muir Trail (JMT), a 211-mile hike through Yosemite Valley and other areas that cross over with the Pacific Crest Trail. She finished the JMT in just 15 days—the average ranging from 21-25 days—which she credits to her ultralight gear. Nadler’s pack for the trip weighed in just over 12 pounds. “I camp to hike, instead of hiking to camp,” she explained. Nadler loves hiking big mile days—on the JMT she averaged 18-20 miles per day—and did not want her gear slowing her down.

On the trip, Nadler chose to wear trail runners over hiking boots. She said that even with the lighter shoe, the trail runners are still durable and dry extremely quick.

Nadler sported a Gossamer Gear Mariposa ultralight pack that was able to hold all of her gear.

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Click photo to read more from Nadler on ultralight packs

For a shelter, Nadler used the Six Moons Design Wild Oasis—a tarp-like structure that is supported with a trekking pole. By using this shelter design, Nadler both significantly reduced the weight in her pack and made another use out of her trekking poles.

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Click photo to read more from Nadler on ultralight tents

She also used a Klymit Intertia X Frame sleeping pad. It is ¾ length with empty spaces, reducing its weight and making it more easily packable.

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Click photo to read more from Nadler about ultralight backpacking gear

In terms of hydration, Nadler recommended using a Sawyer mini filter that can attach to a Platypus hydration bladder. She was also able to remove weight from her pack by going stoveless while on the JMT. Nadler said that for her, the stove was a luxury that she did not need.

Click photo to read more from Nadler on stoveless backpacking
Click photo to read more from Nadler on stoveless backpacking

Nadler emphasized that people looking to go ultralight on their next backpacking adventure should not just invest in a total ultralight hiking set. She explained that it is more economical to acquire gear over time—whether it comes in the form of pro-deals and discounts, second-hand gear or other means.

For Nadler, her hiking experience is about the physical challenge of the mountains, and also how to best prepare herself with the proper gear. “Just being in mountains you really get to push yourself…anyone can do it, [it is a matter of how much] can you push yourself beyond those limits.”

Check out Allison Nadler’s blog for more ultralight hiking tips, Trail to Summit.

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Written by Aaron Pomerance

Professional adventurer, writer, a bit of a dreamer

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