The foundation of ultralight is not just stripping down your gear to trim grams off your pack weight. That’s part of it, but the more important piece of the puzzle is finding the balance between paring items and remaining safe and prepared. It’s a delicate balance.

I once met a second-time thru-hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail who was traveling so light through California and Oregon that I was jealous. I learned the problem was that he failed to change up his gear as autumn was approaching in Washington. A dire hypothermic situation ensued when for a couple more ounces he would have been able to swap out to a more suitable shelter for the conditions, instead of using his poncho as his tarp. My motto is crucial when you are treading a fine line with what you are carrying – proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

When planning your trip, it is crucial to evaluate the duration between resupplies, the likelihood you’ll be able to get certain things at each resupply location, climate, and quantities you might burn through based on the duration between restock locations. There are a few items that always remain the same but quantities change and other items get inserted or deleted based on these factors.

First Aid and Gear Repair Kit

Simple First Aid Kit and Gear Repair Kit for Ultralight Backpacking

Item Use
Ibuprofen To relieve pain and swelling
Bandana or clothes To make slings, compression wraps, and act as a buffer for icing injuries/swelling
Zip Lock Bag To ice injuries (with snow, ice or cold water). Can be used as an occlusive dressing, and for food storage.
Needle and thread (or dental floss) To make slings, repairs or alterations in the field, and to pop blisters
Small knife/multi-tool To cut fabric and other items, and tend to blisters
Trekking poles To lean on like crutches to help take weight off an injured leg while walking, to splint a broken bone or damaged joint
Duct Tape To care for foot or finger issues and repair gear
Tenacious Tape® Fabric rips, sleeping bag repair, clothing rips, temporary inflatable sleeping pad repairs

Other First Aid Considerations Depending on Location or Climate:

For traveling internationally to developing countries, it’s best to fill prescriptions before leaving and consider bringing medications for diarrhea, upset stomach and bacterial infections (i.e. Imodium, Pepto-Bismol® tablets, Cipro, Azithromycin, Tinidazole, etc.).

Leukotape® can also be really good for footcare, hot spots, and blisters. If you are traveling in a hot, humid location, breaking in new shoes, or know that your shoes will be wet a lot then definitely add this into your kit.

Rip items, such as duct tape, from the main roll to create a smaller roll, and repackage medications into small baggies to save weight and space.

At other various times I may add a small thing of Vaseline®, Neosporin®, or Super Glue®. Plus if I am using Aqua Mira as my water treatment, I’ll also use it as hand sanitizer.

ultralight first aid sticker for blister.

Duct Tape in my kit is used mainly for foot care. I like to rip a larger size piece that is bigger than the blister and then a smaller piece that is slightly bigger than the blister. I turn the smaller piece and attach the two pieces together, with the sticky sides facing one another. Then I adhere the tape to the blistered area or hot spot with the larger piece facing out. The smaller piece prevents the tape from sticking to the injured area and makes it easier and less painful to remove, while also preventing the injured area from additional injury from prying the tape off.

Also when using Tenacious Tape for fabric repairs, sleeping bag repairs, and inflatable sleeping pad repairs it can be useful to cut it with rounded corners. This will prevent the edges from catching on things and result in a longer lasting repair.

Remember to get creative if need be. That’s part of the fun of going ultralight. Create solutions with only what you have on your back. Everything you carry could be used for repair. For example I have used the cord from my shelter guy lines for a shoelace. Keep in mind there’s no wrong way, as long as you’ve made it back safely and have enjoyed the experience.

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Updated. Originally Published October 20, 2016.