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Ultralight Backpacking Gear List: Your Ultimate Guide to Lightweight Hiking

Would you like to carry as little as possible in your backpack? If so, you've landed in the proper location.

The items on this ultralight backpacking gear list are the lightest available without sacrificing functionality.

A five-pound ultralight pack can provide the same level of protection from the elements as bulkier, more conventional equipment if used correctly.

Most of the items on this ultralight backpacking gear list are appropriate for use on trips of any duration (summer, fall, or winter).

You've just entered the world of the ultralight backpack, where freedom awaits.

What is Ultralight Backpacking?

Ultralight Backpacking

Simply put, ultralight backpacking entails taking along no more than an absolute minimum of gear.

Since ultralight backpacking prioritizes speed and distance over traditional backpacking, its practitioners don't wear the bulky, cumbersome gear typically associated with the sport.

The advantages of ultralight travel are not limited to increased speed or distance.

You'll likely have a better time hiking if you bring a small, light pack and dress in loose, breathable fabric.

And if you're relaxed, you'll enjoy yourself even more. It's not uncommon for ultra-lighters to spend more time on the trail than conventional backpackers do in a day.

You should log more trail miles if you plan on delaying ultralight backpacking gear setup because you forgot to bring a book or games. More fuel means more miles can be driven without stopping.

Thru-hikers favor ultralight backpacking because it allows them to cover more ground daily.

If you want your hike on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or any other epic long trail to be enjoyable rather than a suffering-fest, you need to pack light.

What weight is considered ultralight backpacking? 

Among some backpackers, the weight of one's bare essentials is a defining characteristic.

For example, if your base weight is under 10 pounds, you are considered an ultralight backpacker; if it is under 20 pounds, you are considered a lightweight backpacker.

A traditional backpacker's typical starting pack weight is less than 30 pounds.

How heavy is too heavy for a backpack? 

too heavy for a backpack

Twenty percent of your body weight is the maximum that should be spent on a fully loaded backpack.

Backpacks should not weigh more than 30 pounds (if you weigh 150 pounds, for example).

No hiker should carry more than 10 percent of their body weight in a fully loaded day pack.

The Ultralight Backpacking Gear Checklist


Backpackers' first thought is usually about finding a place to sleep. Your shelter is one of the "big three" (the others being your pack and sleeping bag arrangement).

These are the first things to be eliminated when attempting to lighten one's load.

Tents, tarps, hammocks, and bivy are all examples of shelters. Choose a tent that doesn't require ground tent stakes if you want to save weight but might need trekking poles.

These shelters can only be set up with the help of trekking pole tents. In addition, some campers choose to bring a footprint to shield the floor of their tent from sharp rocks and water.

A thin plastic drop cloth is inexpensive, easy to transport, and remarkably long-lasting. That same piece of plastic has seen me through over a hundred nights!




There is a wide range of pack sizes, shapes, and capacities available. One of your main three should weigh no more than two pounds.

The minimalist design of ultralight packs allows them to shed unnecessary bulk and ounces.

The ideal range is 36–60 liters. Longer trips, or trips where you need to bring extra ultralight gear like a bear canister, necessitate more storage space. The majority of ultralight packs don't have a frame.

If you decide to go this route, remember that carrying more than the maximum load can become uncomfortable.

Regarding comfort, pick a pack that fits your torso length, allows air to circulate, and has a padded back panel.

A pack liner, such as a thin trash compactor bag, protects your belongings from wet conditions.



  • Red Paw Packs Front Range 40L (10.4 oz)
  • Gossamer Gear Murmur (12.5 oz)
  • SWD Long Haul (32.5 oz)
  • Trash compactor bag (0.5 oz)

Sleep System

The last of the big three is the sleep system. Traditional sleeping bags and quilts exist.

Quilts cover you like a bed cover; they don't encircle you like a sleeping bag. Lighter and smaller. Down feathers are more expensive and lighter than synthetic fill.

High-temperature materials are lighter but less versatile. For most three-season conditions, a 30-degree bag is a good balance of pack weight and warmth. 

Consider comfort and insulation when choosing a sleeping pad. Inflatable pads are comfortable but puncture easily.

The foolproof foam sleeping pad is bulky. Insulation R-value. Higher R-Value means better insulation. R-Value should be 2.0 to 4.0 for three-season backpacking. A pillow can be a specialty item or stuffed clothes for your sleep system.




You can tailor your camp kitchen to suit your preferred trail fare. Cooking meals while camping can add extra bulk to your ultralight gear.

If you're watching your weight, going stove-free may be the best option (or just order a bunch of these meals :). A basic canister stove is the best option for a cooktop.

These ultralight stoves are portable, have a solid surface for cooking, and can bring water to a boil quickly.

They can be quickly and easily attached to and used with any cooking vessel. For many years, alcohol stoves have been the go-to for ultralight campers.

In the West, however, they are frequently prohibited during the high fire season. Try to avoid them if you can. Find light materials like titanium for your cooking utensils.

If you're doing a lot of chopping and slicing, you might want to invest in a larger knife. If you have a multitool, you can use its small knife instead.



Water Filtration and Storage

The ability to purify water while hiking is crucial in remote areas. An efficient water filter will have a low learning curve, be simple to maintain, and filter water quickly.

If your filter fails, you should have an alternative purification system ready.

You can do this by boiling water on the stovetop or keeping some water purification tablets on hand, such as Aquatabs.

If water is scarce or you must set up a dry camp, it is crucial to have a supply of water on hand.

While camping, it's preferable to have as little time spent as possible making trips back and forth to the water supply.

A foldable bladder can be easily stored when not in use because of its small size and lightweight.

Leave the heavy Nalgene at home and bring a plastic water bottle instead.



Packed Clothing

Sort your clothing into a "Hiking" pile and a "Packed" pile to ease the transition to ultralight.

Packed clothing, also known as camp clothes, are those items of extra clothing that remain in your pack throughout a hike.

The idea behind ultralight packing is to only use your hiking clothes while out in the elements, keeping your warmer, packed layers dry for use in camp or while sleeping.

A trail is a place where the weather can change rapidly. Having a dry change of clothes and a rain jacket on hand is crucial.

In the absence of such measures, hypothermia may result. Your rain gear is the only exemption.

You probably shouldn't be hiking if it's raining, so your rain gear should go in your pack. But if it's windy or raining, you should still go for a hike!

Packing only synthetics and wool is recommended as well. However, cotton takes a long time to dry, unlike wool, and won't keep you warm if it gets wet.



  • Montbell Versalite (6.4 oz)
  • Rain Jacket Outdoor Research Helium ll (6.4 oz):
  • Montbell Plasma (4.8 oz):
  • Senchi Designs Alpha Hoodie (3.1 oz)
  • Icebreaker Lightweight Wool (5.3 oz):
  • Montbell Zeoline Lightweight (4.4 oz)
  • Minus 33 Lightweight Wool (6.0 oz):
  • Starter Athletic Briefs (2.5 oz):
  • Darn Tough Quarter Hiker (2.3 oz):
  • Crocs Sandals (10.6 oz)
  • Xero camp Shoes Genesis Sandals (6.0 oz):


The smartphone is the primary device here. The cell phone has replaced other tools as a necessity.

It can help you navigate, has a camera, can act as a backup headlamp, can provide entertainment, and more.

It can even function as a phone, provided you have reception. A spare battery is a must if you are going on a long trip or if you use your phone frequently.

Shorter trips may only require a single payment.

If you're relying solely on your phone's maps for directions, a phone's battery can drain more quickly in cold weather, so be sure to bring extra juice.

Likewise, don't forget to pack your headphones and charge the cord.

Carry a USB Wall Adapter if your route includes a campground with electricity. To refuse free energy is foolish.



  • iPhone 12 Mini (4.8 oz)
  • iPhone Lightning to USB (0.6 oz):
  • Choetech 2 port quick charge (4.2 oz)
  • USB Wall Adaptor (0.7 oz):
  • Battery Anker Portable Charger (6.3 oz):
  • Shure SE215 (1.1 oz)
  • Yurbuds (1.2 oz):


The following are some items that don't have a clear home in any of our other groups.

Your gear will stay dry when you use a stuff sack. You can use them to keep your clothes, camp kitchen supplies, and food neat.

They're also useful if your air mattress or sleeping bag doesn't come with its waterproof stuff sack.

While gallon ziplock bags are great for keeping gear organized, they don't hold up well for a long journey.

In most cases, I'll use one to stow away items that can withstand a little moisture.

Make a minimalist wallet for the trail that can hold your identification, credit cards, and some cash in a small ziplock.

A separate headlamp is a must if you want to avoid draining your phone's battery while you're out in the wilderness. Before setting out on the trail, check the battery life.

When you get to camp, the last thing you want to deal with is dead batteries in your headlamp.

Noise from the forest, the weather, and other hikers can all be muffled with the help of earplugs.



  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear DCF (0.8 oz)
  • Granite Gear 16L x 2 (2.0 oz):
  • Sandwich ziploc and Gallon ziploc (0.2 oz):
  • Nemo Wallet (0.8 oz)
  • Wallet License, Credit Card, $50 cash (0.4 oz):
  • Nitecore NU25 (1 oz)
  • Petzl E+Lite (1.0 oz):
  • Ear Plugs Foam (0.1 oz)


In this respect, the decision is primarily up to you. Your pack, ultralight backpacking gear list, will be determined by the terrain of the trail you plan to hike.

Sunscreen is more critical than bug spray in the desert. In a temperate rainforest, however, you might want to do just the opposite.

To take soap on a hike is optional, and some people choose not to.

Packing a Diva Cup is waste-free, compact, and environmentally friendly in the ultralight community and an alternative to tampons and pads for female hikers who experience menstruation.

Bring only biodegradable soap and use it per Leave No Trace principles. Disposal of biodegradable toilet paper should also adhere to LNT principles.



  • Woobamboo Toothbrush (0.6 oz)
  • Sensodyne Toothpaste (2.6 oz)
  • Natrapel bug spray (3.4 oz)
  • 100% DEET Mini (0.5 oz)
  • Joshua Tree Stick (0.4 oz)
  • CeraVe SunStick (0.5 oz)
  • Biodegradable Toilet Paper (0.1 oz)
  • Dr. Bronners Hand Sanitizer (2 oz)

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is essential; don't skimp on it. Bring along the things that will help you feel physically and mentally at ease. You can really play around with this.

Don't forget to bring items that will make your trip more pleasant or even save your life if you have any known medical issues like allergies or a bum knee.

Tweezers are useful for removing splinters and bee stingers. Having a small multitool on hand will allow you to cut duct tape and bandages to the appropriate size for your injury.

When putting together my first aid kit, I don't worry about making it too light. A few extra grams of weight aren't worth losing my sanity.



  • 4 Ibuprofen Pills (0.0 oz)
  • 4 Imodium Pills (0.0 oz)
  • Wound Cleaning 2 Antiseptic Wipes (0.1 oz)
  • Blister Prevention/ Bandage Leukotape - 12" strip (0.2 oz)
  • Knife/Multitool Leatherman CS (1.4 oz)

Worn Clothing

Wear these items while out and about during the day. Keep it light and airy for hiking in all three seasons.

If you're going to be sweating a lot throughout the day, synthetic fabrics are your best bet because they dry out quickly.

You can use buff or worn clothing to shield your head from the sun or wrap around your shoulders and chest to stay toasty. Sheepskin is also a good option.

Don't bring any cotton because it takes too long to dry and won't keep you warm.

If you're hiking in open sunny terrain, consider getting a wide-brimmed hat. It's up to the wearer to decide whether they'd rather wear pants or shorts.

If you expect to do a lot of bushwhacking or hiking along trails with a lot of brush, pants are an excellent idea to protect your legs. On warm treks, shorts provide much-needed ventilation.



  • Ball Cap (0.6 oz)
  • Half Buff Headwear (0.6 oz)
  • Montbell Cool Hoodie (6.6 oz)
  • Columbia Long Shirt (7.2 oz)
  • R-Gear 5 hip belt pocket (6.3 oz)
  • Running Shorts (3.5 oz)
  • 2UNDR Night Shift (4 oz)
  • Starter Athletic Briefs (2.5 oz)


You'll be on your feet for a good chunk of the day, so wear camp shoes that support your arches.

Trail runners are an excellent compromise between traditional running shoes and bulky hiking boots.

In addition to being more comfortable to wear in hot or wet weather, they dry out quickly and allow for better air circulation.

Your feet will swell on longer hikes, especially through hikes. Look for a wider toe box for camp shoes if this is a problem. 

Depending on your needs, you can choose from a wide variety of hiking socks in height and thicknesses.

You could choose a shorter or taller stature in response to the weather.

Wool is fantastic because it can be worn to keep you cool on hot days and warm on cold mornings. It has the added benefit of keeping wet feet warm.

Wearing lightweight clothes and gaiters will keep dirt and grit out of your footwear.

It means less time spent stopping to remove rocks from your camp shoes on long, rocky hikes.



  • Altra Lone Peak (20.8 oz)
  • Darn Tough Quarter Hiker (2.3 oz)
  • Dirty Girl Gaiters (1.5 oz)


When trying to out-pack a fellow hiker, the lines between what is and is not a consumable can blur. Food, water, and energy sources are society's three consumables most widely recognized.

Attempt to consume at least 1.5 pounds of healthy food every day.

Calories, fat, and protein can all be packed into this weight, so you should have no trouble keeping your energy up on the trail. If the region I'm hiking through has a lot of water.



  • Food 1.50 lbs x 3 days (72.0 oz)
  • Life water/Smart water (17.6 oz)
  • MSR Small bear Canister (3.9 oz)


Trekking poles and watches are more common accessories people like to wear.

Trekking poles can help reduce pack weight and strain your joints when hiking for extended periods. 

They are also helpful for maintaining balance on surfaces prone to slippings, such as steep slopes and river crossings.

If you have a tent that does not stand on its own, you will need to bring along one or two trekking poles to set up your shelter.

After the trekking poles, when you're out in the wilderness, it's helpful to have a watch on your wrist to check the time without pulling out your phone.

A watch makes it easy and quick to estimate the number of miles hiked and track your pace. If you don't check your phone, you'll use up less of the battery.



  • Gossamer Gear LT4S w/ strap. (5.5 oz each)
  • Casio F91W-1 (0.8 oz)

Tips & Tricks for Ultralight Backpacking

Throughout the years I've spent backpacking and gradually transitioning to an ultralight setup, I've picked up quite a few helpful lessons.

Here are some of the most valuable pieces of advice that I can give you regarding ultralight backpacking.

Buy a Scale

When it comes to ultralight backpacking, every ounce counts, so make sure you weigh every item you put into your pack using a precision scale that you can get your hands on.

It will be easier to make future adjustments to your setup if you first conduct a thorough analysis of the weight of the gear you already own.

Scrutinize Everything


You will need to examine every item of gear included on your packing list to bring down your starting weight to the lowest possible level.

Scrutinize your existing equipment compared to other products available on the market, and constantly ask yourself, "Can I go lighter?"

However, lighter equipment does not always equate to better equipment; therefore, you should be prepared to do careful research and make decisions based not only on the weight of an item but also on its effectiveness.

Focus on the 'Big Four'

The following items top the majority of ultralight backpacking gear list as the heaviest ones:

  • Backpack
  • Shelter system
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad

You can shave not only ounces but pounds off your traditional backpacking setup by investing in a new ultralight tent, backpack, down sleeping bag, and pad.

This will allow you to carry less weight over longer distances.

Don't Bring Duplicates

In the world of ultralight backpacking, it is considered rude to bring two of something when just one will do the job.

Why? Because the UL credo is to carry nothing more than what is essential to your mission and nothing else.

This indicates that you do not need to bring additional pairs of sandals, rain jackets, socks, shirts, or underwear.

Share Gear with Others


Maintain open lines of communication with your hiking companions, swap items as needed, and split the load between your packs whenever it's practical to do so.

By combining the weight of your ultralight gear, such as tents, stoves, pots, water filters, knives, and so on, you can significantly reduce the weight of your base pack while still maintaining a certain level of comfort and convenience.

Research Your Hike Thoroughly Ahead of Time

What you bring hiking with you and what you leave behind should be determined by the terrain you will cover and the conditions you anticipate finding along the way.

Before you set out on your hike, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the topography, check the weather forecast, and calculate the distance between the various water sources.

For instance, if you spend two days backpacking alone in the world's driest desert, you will need a different set of supplies than if you spend a week hiking through Patagonia's intense wind and rain.

Leave all your other unnecessary gear behind and decide what to pack based on your journey.

Benefits of Ultralight Backpacking

Many backpackers are hesitant to purchase ultralight gear because they are under the impression that doing so will negatively impact their experience while on the trail. Below are the benefits of ultralight backpacking.

Benefits of Ultralight Backpacking

It entails Fewer Injuries

On the trail, your chances of sustaining an injury due to slipping, falling, twisting, spraining, or breaking increase in direct proportion to the weight of your backpack.

Your hike could be derailed in an instant if you sustain an injury, so reducing the weight of your pack will make you more stable on your feet and lower the risk of injury.

Enables you to move faster and more efficiently

You will be able to hike more quickly and efficiently if you have a backpacking setup that is optimized for ultralight backpacking.

This is in contrast to if you were to carry a backpack full of heavy and inefficient gear.

This faster pace will result in more daily distance hiked and less energy expended per mile than the previous slower pace.

It is More Comfortable than Traditional Backpacking


Anyone who has ever had to lug around a heavy bag that was also packed to capacity can attest to the excruciating nature of the experience.

You feel a dull ache creeping up your back, the straps dig into your shoulders, and your knees start to hurt with every step you take.

Carrying too much gear on your back can ruin a hike.

Your aches and pains will be reduced, and you can shift your focus away from your body and onto your surroundings when you use an ultralight and streamlined backpacking setup.

It brings more space for consumables

You can free up a lot of room in your bag by going ultralight. Because of the extra space, you can bring more supplies on the long stretches of trail where you won't be able to restock for days.

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Our goal in compiling this ultralight backpacking gear list is to assist you in making the necessary adjustments to your current setup to accommodate the reduced weight of your pack.

First and foremost, we hope this inspires you to go on some exciting and memorable UL outdoor adventures.


1. Does Backpacking Have a Weight Chart?

Since there is no official weight chart for backpacking classifications, defining them is entirely up to the individual doing the backpacking.

Here is my best attempt at answering your question based on my personal experiences with backpacking:

  • Traditional Backpacking: 30+ lb base weight
  • Lightweight Backpacking: 20 lb base weight
  • Ultralight Backpacking: 10 lb base weight
  • Super Ultralight Backpacking: 5 lb base weight

2. Is Ultralight Backpacking Gear Expensive?

While I've found ultralight backpacking to be a costly hobby, this is by no means necessary for you.

A brand new version of my ultralight backpacking gear costs around $2,500.

The high-quality equipment I carry won't need to be replaced for a very long time, regardless of how much it sets me back. To me, that's a wise investment of resources.

However, an ultralight backpacking setup can be assembled for much less than I spent.

By what means? Just be ready to think outside the box. Look for pre-owned items, study up on discount brands, and prepare to make compromises to save cash.

3. Is Ultralight Backpacking Dangerous?


True, it can be dangerous, but only if you don't do anything to prepare for it.

If you prepare properly, no extra danger is posed by using lightweight backpacking gear instead of heavier conventional gear.

Because of the reduced physical stress, an ultralight setup can be considered safer than a standard one.

When ultralight backpackers cut corners on necessities like first aid supplies, physical maps, and weather-appropriate gear, they put themselves in danger.

"Stupid light" behavior is dangerous and a waste of time when hiking.

4. What is the difference between hiking and backpacking?

The difference between hiking and backpacking is that backpackers must bring supplies for an overnight stay, while hikers typically return home at the end of the day.

Ryan S. Mills
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