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The Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear

For backpackers who want to carry the least amount of weight with the maximum amount of functionality, ultralight backpacking gear keeps packs from getting weighed down without compromising on gear essentials.

Most ultralight packs weigh just a fraction of the weight of a regular backpack. It might seem impossible to pack enough in a pack that size to stay comfortable during a multi-night hiking trip.  It’s not only possible, but it can even be easy with a bit of planning and the right ultralight backpacking gear list.

Tips for choosing ultralight backpacking gear

Backpacking should be fun and comfortable. It’s much easier to appreciate nature with high-quality gear that keeps its owner dry and warm. Ultralight backpacking gear also needs to be practical and multi-purpose.

Everyone has different preferences for their gear, but some basic features like waterproofing and durability hold true for nearly everyone–even for those who need ultralight backpacking gear on a budget. There are options at virtually every price range, so it’s simply a matter of deciding on which features are non-negotiable and customizing within a set price range.

Don’t wait until right before a hiking trip to buy gear. Ultralight backpacking essentials may not always be in stock alongside traditional gear. Decide on a gear list and order it in plenty of time to test it out before a hiking trip.

What weight is considered ultralight backpacking?

Ultralight backpacks weigh around five pounds, fully packed. It’s quite a departure from the overstuffed, towering backpacks most people think of when they picture a typical hike. Carrying minimal gear ensures that energy is reserved for the hike itself instead of the weight of the pack.

Most people who try ultralight backpacking find it to be very liberating. Without the burden of gear, some hikers even add side interests to their hikes like birdwatching, photography, or painting.

How can I lighten my weight pack?

Ultralight backpackers, especially those who are used to traditional packs, will need to change their mindset and consider new gear options. Trade heavy canister stoves for alcohol-fueled stoves. Swap bulky, framed backpacks for lighter, frameless versions.

Most mainstream hiking equipment has an equivalent ultralight option. It’s simply a matter of thinking creatively and whittling the gear list down to what is truly essential. After some practice, the absence of bulky gear will feel normal instead of restrictive.

Preparing for ultralight backpacking

Ultralight backpacking doesn’t have to be an extreme switch from what hikers are used to. It’s useful to start with an old gear list and start removing items one by one. It’s surprising how many items really aren’t necessities and won’t even be missed.

Weigh each item before it is packed. Watching the total weight climb is a good incentive to further reduce the amount of gear that makes it into the pack. Keep in mind, however, that the goal is comfort and enjoyment, so don’t eliminate basic comfort items like a high-quality sleeping bag. Here are five ultralight backing gear essentials to consider.

4Monster Hiking Daypack

At just under four ounces, this 4Monster pack won’t contribute weight but still has plenty of room for gear, holding sixteen liters when fully packed. It’s perfect for single hikers who want to take a day trip and don’t need a lot of gear.

Reviewers report that the pack holds the essentials without looking or feeling bulky, and they love that the pack is washable when it gets dirty. Others caution that the fabric tears easily, so sharp objects should be contained before they are packed.

River Country Products Trekker Tent 2

Ultralight backpacking certainly isn’t limited to day trips. This River Country tent is perfect for one person with gear and two people without gear. It’s easy to assemble and take down and weighs just under three pounds.

Hikers love the durability of the tent fabric and the ventilation supplied by the zippered flaps. Others caution that the tent isn’t fully waterproof and will leak if exposed to more than just light rain.

HiHiker Camping Sleeping Pad and Inflatable Travel Pillow


Proving that comfort doesn’t need to be sacrificed for lightness, this soft sleeping pad and pillow offer protection from the cold, hard ground while taking up minimal space in a pack. Together, they weigh less than a pound and fold to a size of three inches by eight inches.

Tall hikers report that the sleeping pad accommodates their frame comfortably and with enough cushion for a comfortable night’s sleep. Others report that while the pad is quite long, it’s narrow and may not be suitable for all body types.

Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket


Hiking jackets are just as important as what goes in a pack. This light, all-weather jacket packs to the size of a granola bar and comes in a variety of colors. It’s also available in a wide range of sizes, from small to XX-Large.

Wearers love the breathable fabric and small pack footprint. While the jacket gets high reviews for its weather resistance, some buyers found that it becomes less resistant to rain after time. The jacket runs small, so it’s recommended that buyers size up at least one size.

Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Towel


Multipurpose gear is essential in keeping packs ultralight. This multipurpose towel is fast-drying and comes with a convenient hanging loop to ensure it’s ready for a dip in the lake or a trip to the shower house. It comes with a bonus hand towel for quick cleanups or to dry dishes at camp.

Hikers rave about the small folding size of the towels and the small amount of space they take in a pack. They also love the absorbency of the towel and the ability to hang it up to dry.  Other users say that the towel has a chemical smell when it is first unpacked, and recommend machine washing before leaving home. Some also report that the stitching may unravel after heavy use.

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