Ultralight, Ultracheap Bikepacking

. 4 min read

I tend to look for minimilist inspiration in all kinds of places, I had a field day when I found r/ultralight not only can people travel out of a bag but living out of one too?!

This particular trip I was extremely unorganised but was able to learn a few things. Who knows, maybe I'll be walking the Appalachian Trail with only an ultra-runners bag in a years time.

I'm don't like investing large sums of money into something I might not actually enjoy so this setup is also ultra-cheap AND fits into school bag (although I used panniers from touring in New Zealand).


Terra-Hiker Poncho Tarp - At under £10 what could go wrong...?

Well all I can say is that I'm happy it didn't rain, I had practiced pitching it a few times so knew what I was doing, or so I thought. As the tarp slowly got closer and closer to my face - weighed down by the condensation - I curled up questioning why I wasn't just cowboy camping.

It was nice seeing the red sunset past my feet and the glowing village lights behind me; that's the best part of the experience for me, being so close to nature, seeing the stars at night. Luckily there were no bugs but incase there was I had a head net which I think I would have been fine with.

I'm not against the idea of tarp camping, it was incredibly refreshing but I would like to know if it's possible to pitch a poncho tarp while wearing it, other wise it seems pretty pointless to have this gaping hole in your tarp.

It's made out of SilNylon so getting it lighter would mean using cuben fibre (too expensive) since it's definetly not getting any smaller at 220cm X 145cm (7.2ft X 4.5ft). The width was fine though I'd like some more length, maybe 9ft.

Ground Sheet

...Window Insulation - Yup.

So if my research is right this is actually polycro, a common material in the ultralight world for use as a ground sheet. This stuff is feather light and cut down to size you will not notice it in your bag. Again, very cheap, I cut the sheet in half. 2 for 1 bargain.

There isn't much to say here, I dont know why more people don't use it? I was well protected from anything on the ground, plus it's see through so you can spot potential puncture points.

Sleeping Pad

3mm Thick Relective Foam - Surprisingly warm for how skinny it is (largely in part due to recycling radiated heat). This will do nothing in terms of padding, I found some thick grass on the side of the (quiet) road to call home for the night. I've experimented with sleeping on the floor for posture (there is sparse evidence for or against) so this wasn't bad for me. I slept as well as I would have on any other camping trip.

I cut the sheet into one half and two quarters (for torso length). The torso length pad fits easily into the laptop compartment of my bag... luckily I have no need for a laptop.


Stoveless all the way! When I toured New Zealand all I ate was bread, sugar, and peanut butter. Incredibly cheap, incredibly boring. This time I opted for trail mix and protein bars. Needing time to recharge my batteries (figuritively and literally) I also stopped at a vegan cafe - definetly not the norm for me. I'd need some time to figure out what trail food is right for me but to be honest the peanut butter diet isn't too bad when you're doing so much exercise.

This kind of spartan setup shows that my mindset with this experiment was basically just... give it a shot - it's only for a few days. As you can tell I wasn't financially invested in the idea but I'm glad I tried it. If I've seen others do it then I know it's possible for me as well. I just need a bit more experience with tarps and honestly I think this is a great setup.

By starting with the absolute minimum I can decide what works best for me, if I realise somethings missing I'll just buy a cheap solution to tide me over. Buying a bunch of stuff and throwing it away realising you haven't used it for hundreds of miles is not the way to go.

I'm still looking for a quilt, being vegan it'll be hard to find, either second-hand down or synthetic in the UK. On this trip I used some standard synthetic sleeping bag, not worth mentioning. This was to show you can get out there without needing any fancy equipment with a few key gear changes. The only way I could improve on this is with higher quality materials.

I did sleep in an Arc'Teryx Atom LT Hoody which has served me well for over a year now, I rate it highly. Good for if you get caught out in the rain - as long as its not too heavy. Perfect example of multifunctional gear that I mention in my minimalist travel post. The principles there apply here as well.

For pictures of adventures like this follow me on instagram @all_you_need_blog.

How do you think you'd fare with a setup like this? What do you use? Post in the comments!

Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.