Steven Shattuck has hiked more than 12,000 miles in the last decade. Here’s how he keeps his pack light.

From thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to the Continental Divide Trail, I have a lot of trail miles under my belt. Over the years, I’ve come to live by one backpacking law: the lighter, the better. Whether you’re a thru-hiker or just looking to cut weight on your next overnighter, fewer pounds mean more miles in less time.

After every backpacking trip, I examine the items I chose to carry. I think about whether any piece of gear could be lightened or removed completely from my kit before my next long hike. During long thru-hikes, I performed this examination whenever I reached a town, shipping gear home or swapping it out as I saw fit.

When beginning to analyze your full backpacking kit, you can shed ounces most effectively by going light on the Big Three: your shelter, sleeping system and backpack. These three items work together in harmony—here’s how to keep them ultralight.

Your Shelter

Traditionalists opt for double-walled tents with multiple pole sections, along with ground sheets to help protect the longevity of the tent floor. Though sturdy, they’re also heavy, and the poles are awkward to fit into your backpack. To lighten your load, look for those that do not use tent poles, but instead can be erected using your trekking poles.

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