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Solo backpacking as small woman- managing bulk/weight of pack

Hi all,

I’ve been working up towards my first solo backpacking trip, just starting with an overnight, and I’m struggling to decide upon a shelter. Being only 5 foot three and barely over 100 pounds, I am worried about overall bulkiness of my pack, almost more than weight. I was thinking about using a bivvy because they fold up smaller than a 1person tent, but Don’t want to sacrifice being able to have my pack inside with me. How do other smaller people find this balance when choosing gear to fit into your (smaller than a larger persons) pack?

12 Replies

I routinely sleep in a bivvy sack - no tent.  My pack does just fine, being outside in a cold, cruel world.  if dew is a problem, a rain cover can be easily improvised.  Be prepared to enjoy gorgeous views of the night sky.

I sometimes supplement the bivvy with a tarp, which can be pitched in various ways to provide surprisingly good shelter, even in significant rain.

Of course, there are other occasions where only a tent will suffice.

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There are several ultralight backpacking tents that are crazy light I’ve seen less than 4# including poles stakes which were titanium.  For your weight a 20-25# pack should get you by. Make sure your only taking necessary items and preferable items that have multiple uses. Remember a lot can be kept in your pockets freeing space in your back pack


There are a ton of 1p tents that are a little over 2lbs. Most of Big Agnes 1p tents are around that. My Big Agnes Copper Spur HV with poles and stakes weighs in at about 2.3lbs. 


Try making a list with every piece of your gear listed. It really helps to look at what you have. Do your research to find the lightest gear within your budget. I use a 1p tent. 

With my tent and all my gear, my winter base weight is 13lbs. That's winter. Summer is 12lbs. It's totally doable to get your pack weight down. But just know the lighter your pack, the more money you'll spend. But you still can get a fairly lightweight pack without breaking the bank.

Heard this recently: ultra light- freeze at night 

REI Member Since 1979

Not at all. It's all about appropriate gear choices. My winter weight includes a pad with a 5.4 R value, a 10° quilt, a double walled 1p tent, fleece top and bottoms, fleece hat, gloves... I stay toasty warm. All that plus more at 13lbs. But I've also spent a lot of money on my gear. Just my quilt alone cost $460. The less your gear weighs, the more you pay. 

I'm sure beginners who try to go ultralight may end up making bad decisions in which leave them freezing, but that's just a lack of experience, not pack weight.


That’s what I’m having trouble with! Most ultra light items have an ultra expensive price tag! I don’t want to spend more than $300 for a shelter and $300 for sleep system


It can involve some extensive research, but that's still a pretty good budget to get lightweight gear.

Here is a BA tent that weighs in at only 2lbs.

Can't beat that for a double walled tent! 

Sleep system, I suggest a quilt over a bag. Quilts are lighter. Someone else mentioned the Thermarest Neoair Xlite Women's version. I have that exact one. Keeps me toasty at night and with the patch kit and stuff sack only weighs 14oz. It does come in at $180 though. But worth it.

You can certainly come close to that that for a summer setup even with decent quality gear.  You may struggle a bit with that budget if you want a lightweight shoulder season or winter setup.

For example...not including tax...

A stock small enlightened equipment revelation 30 degree quilt is $270. and 18 oz

A Thermarest Z-lite sol is $45 and 10-14oz  so we are only $15 over budget (not counting tax)

An alternative bag is the REI Magma 30 which is $330 and 22.5oz which is only a bit over budget but might go on sale at some point.

And REI Quarter Dome SL1 is $299 and 38 oz. packed...

You can make a Tyvek footprint very cheaply or even for free which will add 4-5oz

Alternatively if you uses trekking poles and I recommend you do,  the 3 other tents I mentioned  Flash 1 Flash 2 and Luna Solo are all under $300 and all under 2 lbs.  You can get an ok set of aluminum trekking poles for around $50-$70 or better ones for around $100 if you want to count them as tent budget...although they are not normally.   Not a fan of carbon fiber (splinters rather than bends) and I would avoid cheap so called carbon fiber poles which can be mostly fiberglass with a carbon fiber layer.

So I think that is about 75oz or about 4.7lbs for $615 plus tax without even trying too hard. 

I can't say if you would find that sleep setup warm enough (depends where you go) or comfortable enough...Personally I would spend a bit more on the sleep system... However, you can find inflatable pads for less than $50 like the 14.5oz Sleepingo (have not tried it) but be aware they have an R value of 1 or less and even that may be optimistic but it may be good enough to get you going.