Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear
Backpacking is truly a wonderful activity to partake in. But, as everyone knows, a lot of prep work goes into it as you need to know exactly what you need to bring. At the same time, you will be forced to carry all your items so it is essential to prioritize smaller and more compact items. In specific, focusing on ultralight backpacking gear because, as mentioned, it really is all about the weight.
Today, we want to dive into this a little bit but instead of providing you with a list of every single essential item you will need, we want to provide you with a detailed guide that will lay the groundwork for some of the gear that you can buy.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12.75 hrs of research
There are two side entries
It is extremely lightweight
The overall construction is great
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST ULTRALIGHT BACKPACKING GEAR
1. BIG AGNES COPPER SPUR TENT
There are two side entries
It is extremely lightweight
The overall construction is great
It does not come with a footprint
Unless you are not planning on a backpacking overnight, you will need to account for sleep. And, unless you want to sleep under the stars, you may want to consider buying this lightweight tent.Read more
For the record, this is defined as a three-season, free-standing tent. However, it is really optimized for two larger adults or three smaller ones. Additionally, the high-volume hub enhances its overall strength and stability.
Both the canopy and floor are made out of proprietary ripstop nylon. In addition to the fully taped seams which provide waterproof protection, very few of you will be complaining about the craftsmanship here.
As durable as this is, it is even more amazing how lightweight it is. Oh, and the setup process is simple, thanks to the clip system. But, you do need to buy the footprint separately, for the record.
It was mentioned earlier, but it deserves re-mentioning, this is a three-person tent that works slightly better as a two-person tent. This is because, with average to large adults, space will be a little cramped.
There are interior storage pockets in this nice tent. Besides, this is also designed with two vestibules, two entry doors, and a quick-stash system on one of the doors.
It is just going to be tough to top this one, ladies and gentlemen. For a tent, this durable, lightweight, and well-designed, how could you possibly go wrong?
2. ALTRA LONE PEAK 4 TRAIL SHOES
There are quite a few stylish colors available
The breathability has been improved
There is plenty of room in the toe box
A little costly
When you think of ultralight backpacking gear, you probably do not think of running shoes. But, the Lone Peak 4s are not your average pair of running shoes as they are optimized for trails.Read more
Being trail running shoes, these are not only designed to provide you with cushioning and shock absorption but also protection against the terrain you will be backpacking on.
In addition to the fact that the breathability has been improved from the previous version of this footwear, the Lone Peak 4s also offers an exceptional combination of durability, traction, and grip.
Even if you do not plan to wear these for the entire duration of your adventure, they can easily be stowed away in your backpack (though they can’t be folded down or anything, clearly).
Not only do these encourage more power due to their design but they also offer protection against rocks and other debris that you will encounter. Oh yeah, and the canted lugs also provide superior traction.
Given these are running shoes, there are not too many extra features to speak of. But, a feature that has not been documented yet is the hook-and-loop tab which offers another layer of protection against debris.
Not too many of you will think of your footwear when you think of ultralight backpacking gear. But, after you have been witnessed to this, you are probably thinking about it now.
3. MARMOT PRECIP RAIN JACKET
It stuffs into its own pocket
Designed with waterproofing technology
Features fully taped seams
Not as breathable as advertised
The fit will be too loose for some
Look, no one wants it to rain (typically) on their backpacking adventure but the reality is you need to account for it and be ready for it. Investing in a high-quality rain jacket might be a good start.Read more
Yep, this is a rain jacket; however, it is a rain jacket that may provide a looser fit than you desire. Still, it does its job of shielding your clothing from the rain.
In addition to the fact that this is designed with NanoPro waterproofing technology, it also sports fully taped seams for enhanced waterproofness.
Even if you do not wear this (which you presumably will not unless it is raining or windy), it can stuff into its pocket, which makes it exceptional for backpacking.
Overall, like a rain jacket, this excels at protecting you from the rain. However, it is not as breathable as the description makes it out to be.
First off, this is equipped with two side pockets. Additionally, this features an attached hood, Velcro cuffs, and PitZips for enhanced breathability.
Even if you plan your adventure around the weather, rain can still creep up on you from nowhere. So, to better be prepared for it, why not include a rain jacket on your gear checklist?
4. GARMIN GPSMAP 64ST
Features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver
It supports paperless geocaching
Works with two different types of batteries
The software is not intuitive
The battery life has been criticized
Gone are the days where you would need to rely on a generic compass and map to find your way back to a specific spot. With the Garmin 64st, that issue becomes non-existent.Read more
This is a GPS device that is built with Bluetooth technology (and also ANT+), and it can assist you in getting back on the tracks. However, speaking for its software, its menu system is rather clunky and non-intuitive.
Overall, the build quality here is reliable. What is nice, though, is it is rated to IPX7 standards of waterproofness. It will handle inclement weather for sure.
This is bulkier than a typical smartphone, but it will also fit in the palm of your hands. Oh, it also only weighs 8.1 ounces, so that is a huge plus.
Thanks to the built-in high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS receiver (in addition to the quad helix antenna), this device can provide directional guidance even if you are under heavy cover.
Keep in mind that this can be powered by two different means (traditional AA batteries and the NiMH battery pack). But, the battery life has been criticized by former users. As for the display, it is not flashy but gets the job done. Oh, and this also sports eight gigabytes of internal memory and supports paperless geocaching.
No, the GPSMAP 64st is not flawless, but it is a GPS device designed by Garmin (so you know you can’t go wrong). But, it performs what it was set out to do very, very well.
5. REEHUT BACKPACKING STOVE
Backed by a pretty impressive warranty
The flame can be adjusted
It comes with a carrying case
The build quality could be better
This stove is not without its flaws but it literally excels with its lightweight nature. Do you sacrifice the build quality a little bit? Sure, but this stove will still deliver the goods for you.Read more
Though this is a stove and a nice buy, it is actually not going to work by itself. However, it is compatible with fuel canisters that sport 7/16 threads (both single butane and butane-propane mixed).
Overall, this is crafted with fairly thin metal and it is delicate. With that said, this will withstand corrosion and rust thanks to its aluminum alloy and stainless steel build.
In addition to the fact that this is lightweight and compact by itself, your purchase also comes with a carrying case for enhanced portability.
Thanks to the windproof screen that has been implemented (and also the honeycomb shape), this will cook with enhanced oxygen circulation. Also, the flame will not blow out quite as often.
What is quite nice about this gadget is the fact that the flame can be controlled. If you want a light simmer or a blazing heat you can. And, you can mess around with it a little bit.
For backpacking, this is about as optimized as it is ever going to get. Yet, admittedly, the build quality is sacrificed a bit for the portability (though this is still built with quality metal).
6. JOY WALKER RAIN COVER
Comes with a velvet pouch
Multiple color options are available
Compressed by three types of fabrics
Can still struggle under torrential downpours
This is another piece of gear that is going to combat the rain. If you do not either have or intend to buy a fully waterproof backpack then you may want a rain cover as a security blanket, so to speak.Read more
Do note that this is not an actual backpack but just a rain cover for backpacks (it fits 15 to 90-liter packs). With many sizes available, you can buy based on your needs.
Being made of three different kinds of fabrics (one of them being 300-denier nylon), this is a special blend and is also extremely well-crafted.
To carry this around, a velvet pouch is included with your purchase. This is made even easier given the fact that this cover collapses and only weighs 0.17 pounds.
It is noted that the 5000-millimeter waterproof grade this is rated with is one of the best. However, various users have reported that this cover struggles to perform sufficiently during torrential rainfall.
This is a pretty simple design overall. But, it does come with an upgraded buckle strap system so that is nice.
Much like with a rain jacket, this is a piece of gear that you hope to never use. But, it is also one that could prove beneficial if you do not own a fully waterproof backpack.
7. ZOMAKE HIKING DAYPACK
There is no shortage of available colors
Designed with several pockets
It is a lightweight design
Not very water-resistant
The quality could be improved a bit
It all depends on how much storage space you need but this convenient little daypack can do wonders for the right users. It comes packed with several storage compartments.Read more
Look, this may not be large enough for some of you. But, granted you are not going on a weekend or week-long trek, this compact daypack could do wonders for you.
Overall, the quality could be better here. With that said, it is made primarily of water-resistant nylon (which will also resist tearing). Then again, a few buyers have noted that this does not repel water well at all.
This daypack is not bulky, heavy, or cumbersome to wear, let’s just say that. On the contrary, it is ideal for backpacking due to its light stature.
For the record, this has a capacity of 20 liters. Additionally, equipped are breathable straps that can be adjusted to your liking for enhanced comfort.
Past the main compartment, also designed into this daypack are two side pockets, a front zippered pocket, and an internal zippered pocket.
Yes, the quality could use improved here. But, for day trips and short backpacking adventures, this could be just what the doctor ordered.
8. THETENTLAB POTTY TROWEL
Backed by a lifetime warranty
The teeth can be sharpened with a rock
It can be used upside down for enhanced power
A little too flexible and flimsy
When you are in the wilderness, there are not going to be public restrooms that you can access. So, you need to account for your “business” in some way and this device can help with that.Read more
In short, this is a device that can be used to bury your waste. Look, this is just one of the things that you need to contend with when you decide to go backpacking.
Even though this is designed of aerospace-grade aluminum, it is pretty flimsy overall. It is not cheap, but it can also struggle to dig into the harder ground.
This does come in multiple sizes but no matter which one you end up going with, quite frankly, all of them are optimized for transport and portability.
Sure, this is probably a bit too flexible, but it is also innovative in its design. You see, it can be used upside down when you need a little more digging power.
In addition to the newly designed handle (which improves your grip), the teeth on this trowel can also be sharpened with the use of rock (and this is extremely convenient and useful).
No one is going to put this on their Christmas list. But, this is a tool that will make it a lot easier to dispose of your waste when nature does happen to call.
9. TACT BIVVY
Features HeatEcho material
Ideal for emergencies
Backed by a six-month refund guarantee
It is nearly impossible to get it back inside the pack
The interior will build up condensation
Yes, this is somewhat of a sleeping bag but it is formerly known as a bivvy. This is an ideal piece of gear for emergency situations. However, it is not quite optimized for normal usage.Read more
No, this is not a normal sleeping bag and is actually a bivvy. Basically, it is an ultralight polyester film that reflects your body heat back to you. But, it is nearly impossible to get it back inside its sack once you take it out.
Few people will question the quality of this bivvy. It is designed to be windproof, waterproof and also resistant to tearing. Not bad, huh?
As you can see from the photos, the sack this comes in is about the size of your hand. It clocks in at 4.8 ounces in weight and is about as portable as it gets.
The good news is the HeatEcho material utilized reflects up to 90 percent of the heat generated from your body back to you. The bad news, though, is condensation buildup tends to be an issue.
This is pretty simple in its design and is almost devoid of any extra features, quite honestly.
For one-off emergency situations, this is going to be great. To offer a bit of variety to you, we thought we would include this one.
10. GRAND TRUNK STARTER HAMMOCK
Some hardware is included with your purchase
It easily packs down into a stuff sack
Ideal for indoor and outdoor activities
Not optimized for larger users
Right from the get-go, understand that this hammock is not optimized for larger users. It is well-designed for the right people, however, so do be aware of that.Read more
The different colors do happen to come with different hardware components so do be aware of that. All in all, though, this is nothing more than a portable hammock.
The green, blue and red versions of this hammock are made of ripstop polyester. Meanwhile, the royal blue and forest green variations are made of 100 percent polyester taffeta.
Due to the fact that this can pack down into its own stuff sack (that is attached to it), it is as portable as it gets. Oh yeah, it also only weighs 12 ounces so there is that.
Let’s just say that this can be comfortable and effective for the right users. These “right users” are anyone who is not too heavy or too tall. In other words, this hammock is optimized for smaller people.
Depending on the color you go with, you will either be provided with S hooks or nautical-grade carabiners. Other than that, this hammock is fairly simplistic in its design.
This could be seen as a controversial selection for this list as it is not going to be ideal for everyone. But, that is just the nature of the game, is it not?
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There really are countless choices on the market. But, you need to buy based on your needs.
Coming up with a checklist of all the gear you will need for your backpacking adventure can be a little tricky, quite honestly. The reason for this is you do not want to over pack but you also do not want to forget anything crucial. The bottom line is you need to buy and pack items that you will find useful on your trip. Thankfully, even though you can’t be told exactly what to bring, there are some essential items that will almost be needed for your trip.
For example, how about the backpack itself? Do not overlook this as a piece of gear because that is really what it is. The backpack itself needs to be lightweight, comfortable to wear and spacious enough for all your other items.
Of course, what about some form of shelter? This will typically be via a tent and yes, you can find ultralight tents on the market that will work great for backpacking and hiking.
And, you will probably also want to keep warm during colder nights so consider a lightweight sleeping bag, as well. But, you also need to account for food and directions, right? Possible items of choice to combat these two factors are GPS units, compasses, maps, stoves, fuel, watches, etc. Amazingly enough, though, this is just the start of it as there is plenty of other gear that could be beneficial for you.
In the wilderness, things are more prone to breaking and accidents and you may want to account for that.
In general, do you really want to spend your hard-earned money on cheap products? Now, there are products out there that can still be worth it even if they are not built tactically, however. When it comes to ultralight backpacking gear, we thought we would focus on two specific layers of durability (fabrics and metal). With literally countless backpacking items, you will see some form of fabrics or metal implemented.
To start, let’s take a look at fabrics. No matter if you are buying a tent, rain jacket, rain cover, footprint, or backpack, they will typically be designed with some blend of fabrics. Two of the most popular, in fact, are nylon and polyester. In general, nylon is stronger but, either way, both are tremendous. Then again, for enhanced strength, you may want to look for ripstop versions of the two materials. Also, you can assess the denier count of any given item you are looking at (as the higher the denier of a fabric, the thicker and more durable it will be).
But, what about metal? Most backpacking gear that features metal will either feature stainless steel or aluminum in some capacity. Now, though stainless steel is generally stronger (and also corrosion-resistant), aluminum is the lighter of the two metals which makes it ideal for this type of gear. Additionally, aluminum is not going to rust (though it can corrode).
This is really a no-brainer, is it not? Do you really want to carry bulky and heavy gear?
Given this guide is prioritizing ultralight backpacking gear, it was only a matter of time before this section would come up. After all, the terms “ultralight” and “portability” go hand-in-hand with each other. Now, when it comes to picking out items that are portable, there are a few factors to keep in mind.
For starters, it truly is all about the weight. When you go backpacking, the weight of your pack can increase very, very quickly. Even an extra one or two pounds can make all the difference in the world. As such, look for gear that is as light as possible (ideally under one pound though it does depend on what you are looking for).
Of course, the physical size of the items you buy will also play a role. If you need larger items, look for those that can be folded down for storage. And, in general, it may be in your best interest to prioritize more compact and less bulky items. Oh, and it is also never a bad idea to choose gear that either comes with their own storage pouches or that can be stuffed into their own pocket or sack (if this is applicable for the particular item).
No matter what gear you go with, it needs to be able to perform to your standards.
For the most part, this section is going to be pretty self-explanatory. After all, no matter what you are in the market to buy, you want to ensure that the products you end up buying will be able to perform what they were designed to do efficiently and sufficiently. And, as obvious as this sounds, it really is vital so do not overlook it. In regard to what this entails you to look for, it all comes down to the gear you are buying, quite frankly. Let’s look at a few examples to help clarify this for you.
Okay, so let’s say you want to buy a technology device (such as a GPS unit or even a power bank) for your trip. No matter what that device happens to be, it needs to be built with the functionality that you need. For example, with a power bank, if you need it to charge three devices at the same time but it only has the capability of charging two, what use is it to you? The same could be said about items that are designed to protect you from the rain. If these items are limited in their waterproofness, they may not be able to handle what you need them to.
Multi-functional devices and equipment can be a way to gauge this section, quite frankly.
For the most part, this last section is for you to address any additional features and functionality that a specific piece of gear has.
However, there is actually an interesting manner in which you can look at this. In the modern world, more and more devices are being designed to handle multiple tasks. In essence, we are seeing advancements in technology as said devices are becoming multifunctional in their designs.
But, what does this have to do with backpacking? Well, because it is all about minimizing what you bring, devices and gear that can perform more than one action can essentially allow you to buy two of them while only packing one.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
It is all about you and what you need. No, this does not make you selfish as this is just the reality of the situation. Generally speaking, there are items that can be beneficial to just about everyone but you may already own said items. Plus, what might work for someone else may not work for you. So, embrace your selfish side and make this all about you.
Can you think of anything worse than your tent ripping or your GPS device shattering into pieces when you are deep into the woods? It does not get much worse than that so, make it a priority to look for gear that will hold up for more than one or two uses. Even if you need to pay a little extra money for a top-notch option, you may want to.
This is pretty much a given, is it not? After all, you are going backpacking and that means you will need to carry every little item that you pack. And, it is literally amazing how quickly the total weight of your pack can increase even when you add smaller items. With that said, look for gear that is lightweight and compact as this can make all the difference in the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do you need to seam seal your tent?
You will need to seam seal your tent if it has not been done at the factory. This will provide a layer of waterproofness and it when it starts to downpour, this will be essential. However, you will just need to check your specific tent to see if it has been seam sealed at the factory. Then again, if you notice issues develop over time, you may need to seam seal the specific area that is having these issues.
q: How do navigation devices know where you are?
It is pretty much recommended to stick with GPS devices if you want some sort of navigation on your adventure. But, this does beg the question, how do these devices know where you are? Well, it all comes down to the power of GPS satellites as these make the entire process function. Of course, the signal that the receiver in your device can pick up will be affected by heavy tree cover and objects (which makes it almost mandatory to buy one with a high-sensitivity receiver).
q: Should you get a footprint?
For the record, a footprint is a “tool” that can be used to protect the bottom of your tent. And, yes, it is recommended to buy one. Not only can it protect the bottom of your tent from rocks and debris that are on the ground but it can also keep the bottom of your tent dry. Oh, and some tents can be constructed with the use of only a fly and a footprint (which can create an ultra-lightweight option).
q: How accurate are GPS units?
Clearly, it depends on the GPS unit that you end up buying. As alluded to earlier, it is advised to get one with a high-sensitivity receiver and also with a quad helix antenna. For the most part, though, advanced units will be incredibly accurate and precise with their directions. And, if you are looking for a recommended brand, you can’t go wrong with Garmin.
q: What exactly is an ultralight backpack?
At its core, an ultralight backpack is just a backpack that is much lighter than an average one. However, there is typically a reason for this. Most options on the market will be frameless to cut down on excessive weight. But, this can limit the amount of gear that you can carry. Thankfully, there are other lightweight options and these utilize pack stays (which essentially create frames without adding an excessive amount of weight).
q: How do you wash a down sleeping bag?
Down sleeping bags are almost mandatory if you will be going on adventures where it is going to get extremely cold at night. But, how do you clean them when the time comes? Well, you can opt to do so in a washing machine, for the record, but you will want to avoid top loading washers. Instead, if you want to go this route, do so in front-loading washers that are commercially-sized. Then again, you can also hand wash them, if you prefer, or send them to a specific company that will do it for you (though this can end up costing you more money).