Traveling light is the best way to really enjoy yourself when you are on the road backpacking, or when you are hiking multi-day trails in the wilderness. This means that finding the best ultralight backpacking gear is essential.
The less weight you have to carry, the easier it is getting around, and having a lighter backpack ensures that you can travel quickly from one destination to the next, without worrying about lugging around heavy equipment with you.
With ever-improving technology and materials, the best ultralight backpacking gear is getting lighter and lighter all the time. But the best ultralight backpacking gear doesn’t come cheap.
If you’re investing your hard-earned cash in new equipment for when you hit the road, then you’ll want to be certain that you’re investing in the best gear out there.
Top 15 Ultralight Backpacking Items
|Arc'teryx Zeta SL Women's Jacket |
-WaterTight full length front zip
-StormHood with halo adjuster
| The North Face Men's Apex Flex Gore-Tex Jacket|
-Protection with soft shell flexibility
-Covered hand pockets
|Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z-Poles |
-100% Carbon Fiber
-EVA foam grip
-3 section foldable design
-Moisture wicking grip
|Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System |
-Boils water in a lightning-quick 100 seconds
-Reliable push button igniter
-Color change heat indicator
-13.1 oz in weight
-Bottom cup doubles as measuring cup
|Western Mountaineering AlpinLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag |
-Full Down Collar
-1 lb. 15 oz. Total Weight
-19 oz. Down Fill
-Full-length #5 YKK Zipper
|Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Bottom - Merino 250 Wool |
-100% Merino Wool
-Traditional Fly Design
-Interlock knit for enhanced comfort
|Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top - Merino 250 Wool |
-100% Merino Wool
-Merino covered shoulder panels
-Slim fit design
|Men's Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60 |
-Dual density shoulder harness with
-Load lifter straps
-Removable sternum strap
-Dual large hip belt pockets
-DWR treated zippers
|Women's Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60 |
-Re-Fit fully adjustable (from 28 - 40in)
-Dual density shoulder harness
-Roll-top main compartment opening
-DWR treated zippers
-Dual density hip belt
|Salomon Men's X Ultra 3 GTX Trail Running Shoe |
-High Traction Contagrip
-GORE-Tex Performance Comfort
-Protective Heel Cap
|adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX Womens Hiking Boots |
-Molded TPU toe cap helps protect toes
-GORE-TEX lining for waterproof
-Speed lacing construction
-Traxion outsole for optimal grip
-Made specifically for Women
|Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Minimalist Backpacking Air Mattress |
-Featherlight at 8.8oz
-2.5 inches of cushion
-Inflates in less than two minutes
-Packs smaller than a one liter water bottle
-Stuff sack and repair kit included
|Nomader BPA Free Collapsible Sports Water Bottle |
-Rolls up for compact travel
-Attaches to your bag for quick access
-Eliminates leaks and spills
-Shatter proof silicone body
-Anti germ spout cover
|Helly Hansen Women's LIFA Merino Seamless 1/2 Zip Base Layer Top |
-100% Merino wool combined with Lifa technology
-Seamless construction in body and arms
-Flat lock seams
|Helly Hansen Women's HH LIFA Merino Wool Base Layer Pant |
-2 layer construction
-100% Merino wool exterior combined with Lifa technology interior
-Flat lock seams
-Superior moisture management
Quick Answer: Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear
- Best Rain Jacket for Men: The North Face Men’s Apex Flex Gore-Tex Jacket
- Best Rain Jacket for Women: Mountain Hardwear 1764281 Women’s Quasar Lite II Jacket
- Best shirt for Hot Climates (Men): Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve Shirt
- Best shirt for Hot Climates (Women): Arc’teryx Fernie LS Shirt Women’s
- Best shirt for Cold Climates (Men): SmartWool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Zip T Top
- Best shirt for Cold Climates (Women): Columbia Women’s Trail Summit Half Zip Shirt
- Best Cook Stove: Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System
- Best Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z-Poles
- Best GPS: Garmin Montana 680t
- Best Water Filter: Sawyer Products SP128 Mini Water Filtration System
- Best 1 Person Tent: MSR Carbon Reflex 1-Person Camping Tent
- Best 2 Person Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Backpacking Tent
- Best 3 Person Tent: Marmot Tungsten UL 3 Person Backpacking Tent
- Best Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot325 Headlamp
- Best Men’s Socks: Wigwam Hiking/Outdoor Pro Crew Socks
- Best Women’s Socks: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks
- Best First Aid Kit: Surviveware Small First Aid Kit for Backpacking
- Best Emergency Blanket: Snugpak Jungle Survival Blanket
- Best Lantern: Luci Outdoor 2.0 Inflatable Solar Light
- Best Headwear: BUFF Unisex Original Multifunctional Headwear
- Best short for Hot Climates (Men): Columbia Titanium Featherweight Hike Short
- Best short for Hot Climates (Women): prAna Women’s Revenna Knicker
- Best pant for Cold Climates (Men): Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Convertible Pants
- Best pant for Cold Climates (Women): Columbia Women’s Anytime Casual Pull-On Pant
- Best Two-Way Radio with SOS function: Midland GXT1050VP4 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
Tips for Choosing the Right Ultralight Backpacking Gear
Choosing an Ultralight Backpack
Your backpack is possibly the most important piece of equipment that you need to consider when you are choosing the best ultralight backpacking gear.
If you are traveling long term or hiking multi-day trails, then you will want the backpack to not only be as light as possible but to be as comfortable as possible.
You will need to find a backpack that is both the right size for your needs, and that’s made from a material that’s durable enough to take a beating while you are on the road.
If you are truly traveling light, then you will be able to get away with a backpack that’s between 35 and 50 liters. Any more, and you’ll be filling it up with unnecessary equipment anyway. You will want the backpack to be weather resistant, and also well designed so that the seams don’t split mid-hike.
A rain cover is a must if you are hiking, while you will also want to test out the straps and supports. A hip and chest strap will help take the weight off your back but will add to the overall weight of your gear.
The absolute lightest backpacks will, unfortunately, sacrifice functionality and versatility, as the lighter products tend to have fewer pockets, and are likely to be top-loaders only.
Choosing an Ultralight Tent
If you are hitting the trails, then a tent gives you the freedom to hike into the wilderness and to camp out where you like, and these days, good tents are only getting lighter and lighter.
Traditionally, tents were seen as one of the heaviest pieces of equipment you could be carrying, but these days, tents can be some of the lightest and the best ultralight backpacking gear out there.
It’s important to compromise between weight, weather resistance and durability.
Though you should consider that as the lightest tents on the market, while they will be perfect for a midsummer camping weekend, they won’t be as durable and waterproof as a tent that’s more suited for a multi-day, fall or winter hiking.
Always check the seasonality coverage – i.e two or three-season ratings – and the waterproof rating of a tent before purchasing.
If you are solo backpacking, a one-person tent is the lightest option, but then you are sacrificing space inside, in comparison to a two or three-man tent.
The lightest tents can weigh as little as a kilo, for a one-person tent suitable for summer camping. The lightest material is nylon, but you’ll need to be certain it’s thoroughly waterproofed.
Choosing an Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Just like tents, sleeping bags are another important piece of gear to get right when it comes to picking the best. Sleeping bags are there to keep you warm, and some of the best ultralight backpacking gear can do this while also keeping the weight of your equipment down.
The lightest sleeping bags are stuffed with Down, which packs down and compresses much better than synthetic fillings. Down is more expensive though, and if it gets wet, it loses its insulating qualities.
Sleeping bags are designed for a range of conditions too, and a four-season sleeping bag will always be heavier than a sleeping bag made from the same material that’s only designed for one season.
If you are only hiking and camping in summer, then you can afford to carry a much lighter sleeping bag than if you are summiting a mountain in winter.
Choosing an Ultralight Sleeping Pad
Sleeping Pads are perfect for camping and hiking expeditions, as not only do they give you a comfortable bed to spend the night on, but they also provide insulation to keep you warm.
Sleeping pads are some of the best ultralight backpacking gear because compared to more traditional roll mats, which are bulky and generally made from foam, modern pads can pack down and be incredibly light to carry.
A quality ultralight sleeping pad can weigh as little as 500 grams, and fold down to as little as 10 x 20 centimeters. You can choose between self-inflating and non-self-inflating sleeping pads, with lighter options generally being non-self-inflating.
Choosing an Ultralight Stove
Camping stoves come in a variety of shapes and sizes, while there are also a variety of different fuels to consider too. You will need to decide whether you prefer a solid fuel stove, a gas canister stove, or a liquid fuel stove.
The lightest stoves are usually fueled by gas canisters, and they fold up and pack away easily while weighing as little as 100 grams. The gas canisters themselves though, are bulkier and heavier than the stoves.
Liquid fuel stoves are generally much heavier than gas canister stoves, but they are the preferred option for anyone heading out into the extreme cold, or on mountaineering expeditions, as the fuel provides more heat.
The lightest stoves don’t offer much in the way of wind protection, and you’ll be at the mercy of the elements when you’re cooking. Depending on the severity of the conditions you will be encountering, you may want to consider sacrificing weight for an integrated stove system.
This will offer much more wind protection and efficiency when it comes to boiling water.
Choosing an Ultralight Water Bottle
If you are hiking, then hydration systems and water bottles are an incredibly important piece of equipment. There are a surprising number of factors to consider, however, and you will need to decide whether you need a tough, solid water bottle, or a more flexible, collapsible system.
You will need to know if your water bottle needs to be compatible with filtration systems or whether you need a wide mouth at the top for quick and easy refills.
The most obvious way to save weight is to downsize, and generally speaking, a one-liter bottle will be lighter than an equivalent two-liter bottle.
Collapsible water containers will save on valuable space inside your backpack, but the nature of the material means that they can be damaged easier than say a solid plastic bottle.
Solid bottles don’t pack down of course, but they can be more durable, and in many cases, can easily be secured to the outside of a backpack for easy reach.
Choosing the right Ultralight Clothing
Ultralight clothing comes in a variety of styles, fashions and materials, and purchasing the best allows you to save on both space and weight inside your backpack.
If you are hiking, then a rain jacket is a must. Extreme, lightweight rain jackets can weigh as little as 150 grams and fold down to be packed away easily.
While they won’t offer much in the way of warmth, they will keep you dry and can be carried anywhere, allowing you to be prepared all the time for when the clouds burst. Gore-Tex is an excellent, waterproof material, that’s increasingly lightweight and durable.
Hiking shoes can also be incredibly lightweight and waterproof too, with many shoes aimed at trail runners offering excellent grip and support, yet weighing little. Again, Gore-Tex materials are an excellent choice.
If you need to stay warm, and not just dry, then a down jacket is a great addition to your best ultralight backpacking gear. Down is wonderfully insulating, however, it loses that insulation if it gets wet, so you’ll need solid rain gear to accompany it.
Base layers can also be a great choice when it comes to ultralight clothing, allowing you to layer up and keep warm. Merino wool is a great choice if you are looking for lightweight material, that’s also a great insulator.
Choosing the right Ultralight Accessories
Depending on where you are backpacking too, and for how long, you may want to invest in different accessories to make your trekking and travels easier and safer.
Ultralight first aid kits can keep you safe in the event of accidents while you are hiking, but it’s important to pack only the necessities to save weight and space.
The contents of a first aid kit will vary from person to person, but you will at least want the basics, such as antiseptics, disinfectants, painkillers, bandages, and plasters.
Hiking Poles can provide much-needed support on steep hikes and long, multi-day treks, and the best will collapse down, and be attachable to the outside of your backpack.
Carbon or aluminum poles are great choices when you want to go ultralight yet still have a quality product that lasts, and can support you over long distances.
Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear Recommendations
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Women’s Jacket
The Zeta SL Jacket is designed specifically as an emergency shell for hiking. It packs up small so it’s ready whenever sudden storms arise. This superlight, packable, emergency waterproof jacket is made from GORE-TEX fabric with Paclite Plus product technology.
The minimalist design and fully articulated patterning give an exceptional fit and freedom of movement. Featured with a WaterTight front zipper and two hand pockets with RS sliders. The non-helmet compatible StormHood secures with a halo adjuster. The adjustable cuff and hem help seal out the weather.
- Breathable textiles
- WaterTight full-length front zip
- StormHood with halo adjuster
Check Arc’teryx Zeta SL Women’s Jacket price at Amazon
The North Face Men’s Apex Flex Gore-Tex Jacket
Take on any mission with a chance of showers with this new, ultra-soft, impossibly dry jacket engineered with Gore-Tex. Pairing a stretch-woven exterior for extra mobility with an ultra-soft knit interior to keep you warm and comfortable, this totally waterproof rain jacket doesn’t feel or sound like an average rain shell.
Designed for ultimate versatility in unpredictable conditions, an adjustable hood and pit-zip vents allow added ventilation in warmer weather. Come rain or shine, seek no shelter in the new Apex Flex GTX jacket.
- Protection with soft shell flexibility
- Active Fit
- Covered hand pockets
- Pit-zip venting
Check The North Face Men’s Apex Flex Gore-Tex Jacket price at Amazon
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z-Poles
Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z is our lightest Z-Pole engineered for those who travel fast. With 100% carbon construction, the Distance Carbon Z weighs just 9 ounces and features a three-section foldable design that allows for fast-response deployment.
We’ve improved the Distance Carbon Z’s joint support making them 30% stiffer, and they’re now more durable with reinforcements around the locking mechanism and upper shaft.
Non-scarring rubber Tech Tips and a lightweight, EVA foam grip round out this pole as a lightweight detail-driven pillar in pole tech.
- 100% Carbon Fiber
- EVA foam grip
- 3 section fold-able design
- Moisture-wicking grip
Check Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z-Poles price at Amazon
Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System
Blistering boil times come standard on the Jetboil Flash personal cooking system, the ultimate camping stove for preparing coffee, soup, or dehydrated meals on the trail. Optimized for efficiency, the Jetboil Flash boils water in a lightning-quick 100 seconds, making it the fastest Jetboil ever.
Jetboil’s 1-liter FluxRing cooking cup with insulating cozy makes boiling water—and keeping it warm—a breeze. Start heating instantly with the convenient, reliable push-button igniter, and verify that the water’s ready with the thermo-chromatic color-change heat indicator.
Compatible Jetboil accessories, such as a coffee press, hanging kit, pot support, skillet, FluxRing cooking pot, and utensils make this a necessity for your next backpacking adventure.
- Boils water in a lightning-quick 100 seconds
- Reliable push-button igniter
- Color change heat indicator
- 13.1 oz in weight
- Bottom cup doubles as measuring cup
Check Jetboil Flash Camping Stove Cooking System price at Amazon
Western Mountaineering AlpinLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
This bag is wide, warm, and packed with features. With a 3-dimensional full down collar, a full-length YKK zipper, and 5″ of loft, the Alpinlite has quickly become one of our most popular models.
The award-winning Ultralite has been a favorite among lightweight backpackers for more than a decade. The Alpinlite is just a wide version of that great bag. There are many 20° down mummy bags on the market, but none have the width, warmth, or loft of this bag.
- Full Down Collar
- 5″ Loft
- 1 lb. 15 oz. Total Weight
- 19 oz. Down Fill
- Full-length #5 YKK Zipper
Check Western Mountaineering AlpinLite 20 Degree Sleeping Bag price at Amazon
Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Bottom-Merino 250 Wool
The coldest days call for the smartest gear. The Merino 250 Bottom fits the bill with our warmest weight fabric, a covered elastic waistband, and flatlock seam construction to keep you comfortable from first tracks to last chair.
This heavier, soft, 100% Merino wool fabric offers breathable warmth, moves sweat away from the body, and provides next-to-skin comfort in colder conditions
- 100% Merino Wool
- Odor Resistant
- Traditional Fly Design
- Interlock knit for enhanced comfort
Check Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Bottom – Merino 250 Wool price at Amazon
Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top-Merino 250 Wool
The targeted insulation and ventilation in the Men’s Merino 250 Base Layer Crew allows you to stay comfortable while you’re out working up a sweat.
Merino wool is soft, moisture-wicking, thermo-regulating (warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s warm), sustainable, and odor-neutralizing- helping to keep your body dry, comfortable, and warm for longer than the synthetic. This shirt also offers UPF 50+ sun protection.
- 100% Merino Wool
- Merino covered shoulder panels
- Odor control
- Slim fit design
Check Smartwool Men’s Base Layer Top – Merino 250 Wool price at Amazon
Men’s Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60
The all-new Granite Gear Crown 2 60, an ultralight yet ultra-comfortable multi-day pack. This new and improved successor to the classic Crown V.C. 60, boasts Granite Gear’s patent-pending fully adjustable Re-Fit hip belt and their new and innovative Air-Current Mark 2 compression molded PP frame sheet with molded foam back panel.
All while weighing in at 2.2 lbs. (regular torso without lid), for ultralight loads, the frame sheet can be removed lowering the weight to 1.7 lbs. The Crown 2 60 L has a fixed, non-adjustable torso length that is offered in 3 torso sizes.
- Dual-density shoulder harness with
- Load lifter straps
- Removable sternum strap
- Dual large hip belt pockets
- DWR treated zippers
Check Men’s Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60 price at Amazon
Women’s Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60
One of the features that separate the Crown 2 from its predecessor is the newly designed top lid compartment with DWR treated zipper. The new lid is perfect for quick access for smaller items.
For a lighter load the lid is fully removable. Simply un-clip the back and cinch the straps with the dual compression system to assure a firm fitting.
Similar to Granite Gear’s Lutsen pack series, the Crown 2 has adopted their Re-Fit hip belt. This easily adjustable belt allows a fit customization to all body types.
- Re-Fit fully adjustable (from 28 – 40in)
- Dual-density shoulder harness
- Roll-top main compartment opening
- DWR treated zippers
- Dual-density hip belt
Check Women’s Granite Gear Crown 2 V.C. 60 price at Amazon
Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 GTX Trail Running Shoe
A best-seller, the X ULTRA 3 GTX has evolved into an even more effective hiking shoe. Thanks to Descent Control technology, it efficiently tackles technical hikes and really shines during tough descents.
Wear this pair and head downhill with a spring in your step, even in wet conditions.
- High Traction Contagrip
- Advanced Chassis
- GORE-Tex Performance Comfort
- Protective Heel Cap
Check Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 GTX Trail Running Shoe price at Amazon
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX Women’s Hiking Boots
Tackle the tricky terrain and wet weather with ease in the Terrex Swift R2 GTX trail shoe from Adidas Outdoor. A lightweight, athletic-inspired shoe designed for moving fast on the mountain.
Breathable ripstop mesh upper with TPU overlays for durability and added support. GORE-TEX membrane ensures breathable, waterproof protection from outside elements. Bungee lace-up system allows for quick and easy adjustments. Molded TPU toe cap for added protection.
Heel pull loop for an easier on and off. Cushioned textile footbed for underfoot support and comfort. Lightweight EVA midsole for long-term cushioning. TRAXION rubber out-sole featuring grippy Continental delivers exceptional traction.
- Molded TPU toe cap helps protect toes
- GORE-TEX lining for waterproof
- Speed lacing construction
- Traxion outsole for optimal grip
- Made specifically for women
Check Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX Women’s Hiking Boots price at Amazon
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Minimalist Backpacking Air Mattress
Weighing in at just over a half-pound, the insulted Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Minimalist Backpacking Air Mattress is a highly packable sleeping pad perfect for ultralight camping and backpacking that demands a minimalist pack.
Boasting 2.5-inches of luxurious NeoAir comfort, the minimal UberLite makes a big impact during nights in the backcountry. The tapered design reduces weight without compromising warmth, and the unique fabrics used for this pad meet strict durability standards that backpackers, alpinists and thru-hikers can depend on.
This camping air mattress inflates in less than two minutes by blowing into the valve and packs to the size smaller than a one-liter water bottle. Stuff sack and repair kit included
- Featherlight at 8.8oz
- 2.5 inches of cushion
- Inflates in less than two minutes
- Packs smaller than a one-liter water bottle
- Stuff sack and repair kit included
Check Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Minimalist Backpacking Air Mattress price at Amazon
Nomader BPA Free Collapsible Sports Water Bottle
Made of thick and flexible BPA-free silicone, the reusable Nomader water bottle maintains its sturdy feel for a comfortable drinking experience, yet it conveniently rolls up or squashes down when space is tight.
Attached multi-function strap secures the flask in its folded position and makes it easy to carry when you’re on-the-go.
The patented screw cap design ensures a secure, airtight seal when closed and controlled intake when open.
In between sips, the hinged cap doubles as a hygienic spout cover, preventing germs from getting onto the mouthpiece and into your drink, handy for when traveling, spending time outdoors, at the gym, or for kids at school.
- Rolls up for compact travel
- Attaches to your bag for quick access
- Eliminates leaks and spills
- Shatterproof silicone body
- Anti germ spout cover
Check Nomader BPA Free Collapsible Sports Water Bottle price at Amazon
Helly Hansen Women’s LIFA Merino Seamless 1/2 Zip Base Layer Top
HH Lifa Merino seamless is our warmest base layer, perfect for any type of activity in cold weather. A unique 2-in-1 base layer with Merino wool combined with Lifa stay warm technology in a seamless construction.
HH Lifa Merino seamless delivers all the great benefits of Merino wool fibers plus the unique properties of technical Lifa fibers. A seamless construction delivers maximum comfort and freedom of movement.
- 100% Merino wool combined with Lifa technology
- Seamless construction in body and arms
- Flatlock seams
- 1/2 Zip
Check Helly Hansen Women’s LIFA Merino Seamless 1/2 Zip Base Layer Top price at Amazon
Helly Hansen Women’s HH LIFA Merino Wool Base Layer Pant
HH Lifa Merino is our warmest base layer, perfect for any type of activity in cold weather. A unique 2-in-1 base layer with 100% Merino wool combined with Lifa stay warm technology in a 2 layer construction. HH Lifa Merino delivers all the great benefits of Merino wool fibers plus the unique properties of technical Lifa fibers.
- 2 layer construction
- 100% Merino wool exterior combined with Lifa technology interior
- Flatlock seams
- Superior moisture management
Check Helly Hansen Women’s HH LIFA Merino Wool Base Layer Pant price at Amazon
Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.
- Shop Columbia: The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
- Shop REI: They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
- Shop Moosejaw: Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
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