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Ultralight Hiking Gear: For a Stress-Free, Lightweight Hike

Ultralight backpacking gear
Russell McCarty
Written by Russell McCarty

One of the most important things for outdoorsmen to learn is the art of packing light. Whether you’re planning a backpacking excursion on a snowy mountain or a hiking trip deep into the forest, you’re going to want to take advantage of ultralight hiking gear. Even casual hikes at short distances are most successful with a lightweight pack.

When your pack is bulky and heavy, you’ll get worn out more quickly. Hikers know how to balance the need to be prepared for emergencies with the inclination to pack light. That’s where the best and lightest gear can really come in handy.

Hiking Essentials

Luckily companies that make and sell outdoor products know the significance of creating light, durable gear. From the pack you wear on your back to the tools you store inside it, there are lightweight options for everything.

Of course, you’ll want to feel confident that you aren’t sacrificing functionality and toughness to save a few pounds. Deciding on the best gear for you requires looking at several factors. Here we have narrowed down seven of our favorite pieces of super lightweight hiking equipment.

Our top picks

Product NameWeightMaterialApplicationPrice
Granite Gear Lutsen 35 Backpack3.2 poundsNylonPacking and storageCheck price on Amazon
Rab Ignition 3 Sleeping Bag2.9 poundsNylon shell with polyester liningSleeping and shelterCheck price on Amazon
Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System0.2 poundsBPA free plastic bottleHydrationCheck price on Amazon
Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sacks0.3 poundsNylonSpace saving and storageCheck price on Amazon
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp1 poundDurable plasticIllumination and night visionCheck price on Amazon
Outdoor Research Men’s Crocodile Gaiter1 poundNylon and CorduraFootwearCheck price on Amazon
Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System0.9 poundsStainless steelCooking and heatingCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider When Selecting Ultralight Gear

Weight

Naturally, when you’re trying to hike light, you’re going to want to consider the weight of your items. Determine how much weight you are satisfied with bringing and choose your gear accordingly.

You will always have to bring food, water, and fuel if you plan on cooking. The weight of these items can greatly increase the weight of your pack as a whole, but for overnight hikes these consumables are non-negotiable. It’s best to leave them out of the equation when you are weighing your pack so that you can get a good idea of what your actual gear weight is.

Lightweight backpack

Keep in mind that if you’re packing light, you will probably be packing less. If you pack less, your backpack can have a smaller capacity and that’s OK! You can save weight by using a lighter backpack as well as lighter versions of the other main items you will need to bring on an overnight hiking trip which includes shelter, sleeping quarters, and clothing.

Necessity

After you’ve decided on a suitable weight, you have to determine what you really need to bring. There are several convenient, helpful items you can bring that aren’t totally necessary. You must choose which items you can’t live without and which items you can leave at home in order to save weight.

When you are hiking and camping in an ultralight fashion, you have to rely on yourself and your own ability to complete tasks and ensure you and your party is safe and protected. While it is 2017 and modern camping gear manufacturers have thought of pretty much everything, when you’re wanting to pack light you have to forgo packing some of those luxuries and take care of things the old-fashioned way.

Consumables

If you are planning a hike of any length, nourishment and hydration is absolutely a must. If your trip is going to be overnight or over several nights, you’ll need to account for the weight your consumables (which include food you’ll eat, water you’ll drink, and fuel you’ll use in a heater or stove).

Hiking consumables

You definitely can’t skimp on food and water just to save some weight. And if you don’t pack enough fuel, you won’t be able to cook so it’ll be kind of moot at that point. Luckily, there are lightweight options when it comes to consumables.

A water bottle that includes a filtration system will save you from having to pack a ton of bottled water which will weigh down your pack and result in an environmentally unfriendly footprint. You can also bring food that can be cooked and will last for several meals rather than pack a bunch of snacks that will take up space and won’t provide the same nourishment and energy.

Comfort

No matter how light or heavy your pack is at the end of the day, comfort is still extremely paramount to a good hiking experience. You absolutely cannot sacrifice your comfort to save a few ounces.

Hiking Tent

Comfort is a major component for most of the gear you’ll take with you on a hiking trip. You need a sleeping bag and sleeping pad that are comfortable for you to actually get some sleep and that will keep you protected from the elements outside. You’ll also need clothing that fits properly and is appropriate for the climate.

Your items have to be durable enough that they can maintain your comfort as well. Don’t go with a cheap tent because it is lighter. If it can’t keep you dry in a rainstorm it definitely won’t keep you comfortable and the weight you saved will be for nothing.The same goes for clothing like hiking boots.

Circumstances of Your Hike

Ultralight hiking might not be as easy in frigid climates during winter months. You have to consider the circumstances of your hike before you can properly decide what gear you will need to bring. Camping lighter is easier to do when the weather is warm and dry.

Hiking Tent

While you can’t always predict a sudden rain shower and you should always prepare for such, try to schedule an ultralight hike when the forecast is relatively clear and mild. If the temperatures after dark are going to be below freezing, that means you’ll have to pack more provisions for staying warm. It is best to consider the potential weather and temperatures you’ll likely run into when preparing for any hike, especially an ultralight one.

Price

Of course, the price of gear will be a factor no matter what kind of purchases you’re making. You always want to get the best gear for an affordable price. You don’t want to go bankrupt trying to prepare for your ultralight hiking trip!

Luckily, camping light does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. You’re in control of the total weight of your gear and you’re also in control of the total price! Choose gear that is comfortable, durable, and will get the job done without breaking the bank.

Here we have chosen seven of our favorite pieces of ultralight hiking equipment for you to enjoy!

Reviews

Granite Gear Lutsen 35 BackpackGranite Gear Lutsen 35 Backpack

Price: $130 – $180

Weight: 3.2 pounds

Dimensions: 11.5 x 24 x 11.5 inches

Specific features: 40-pound rating, fully adjustable torso, dual-density hip belt, dual density shoulder harness, water-resistant zipper, mesh hip belt pocket

Best use: Backpacking and hiking

The Granite Gear Lutsen 35 Backpack is a great choice for hikers wanting to pack light for several nights with a durable, comfortable backpack. Granite Gear’s Re-Fit Air-Current suspension system ensures this backpack is fully adjustable and can carry everything you need for your journey. This is the smallest backpack by Granite Gear that fits all of these criteria.

The hook-n-loop adjustment system is extremely easy to use so you won’t have to pack extra tools or manuals, thus keeping your pack even lighter. Each adjustment section is marked clearly so you can feel sure in its precision.

A hydration port and internal hydration sleeve allow you to quench your thirst without stopping during your hike. That helps you stay focused on the trails and on completing mileage goals.

While this backpack gets its name from its 35-liter volume capacity, it also boasts a 40-pound load rating. It also comes in a variety of stylish colors including Basalt, Moss, and Flint.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Fully adjustable
  • Stylish
  • Convenient air compression system
 CONS:

  • Small and simplistic (but these could easily be pros for some hikers)

Related: The Granite Gear Lutsen 45 Backpack is like a big brother to the one we have reviewed here. It is a great choice for about $20 more if you need a bit more packing capacity, as this one can hold 45 liters.

Check the price on Amazon

Rab Ignition 3 Sleeping BagRab Ignition 3 Sleeping Bag

Price: $150 – $160

Weight: 2.9 pounds

Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 14 inches

Specific features: 24 °F temperature comfort rating, lightweight ripstop nylon outer shell, soft polyester lining, pyrotech polyester microfiber insulation

Best use: Outdoor hiking, backpacking, and camping

The Rab Ignition 3 Sleeping Bag is a wonderful, super packable lightweight sleeping bag. The mummy shape encloses its user in a warm, cushioned embrace without making he or she feel too restricted. It’s an awesome pick for any lightweight hike.

It is designed for year-round use, so you can feel confident sleeping outdoors in this bag during both warm and cool months. This bag is durable, too, with anti-snag and anti-rip outer materials as well as rugged YKK zippers (without zipper pulls, sadly) that can handle lots of use.

The mummy shape features an internal collar, a hood with a drawcord, as well as an angled foot box. All of these things make the Ignition 3 a very comfortable sleeping bag that won’t weigh down your pack. It can be compressed to a small size so you will have plenty of room in your bag and you won’t be weighed down by a heavy sleeping bag.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Designed for year-round use
  • Stylish
 CONS:

  • Not water repellent
  • No zipper pulls

Related: With a sleeping bag you usually want a sleeping pad as well for added comfort. The Ozark Trail Self-Inflating Mummy Sleeping Pad would be a great investment for approx. $40 if you didn’t mind a little extra weight in your pack.

Check the price on Amazon

Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration SystemKatadyn BeFree Water Filtration System

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 0.2 pounds

Dimensions: 9.1 x 2.8 x 2.8 inches

Specific features: Collapsible 20-ounce hydrapak soft bottle flask, 0.1-micron water filter, EZ-clean membrane, stay-clean drink nozzle

Best use: Outdoor hiking, backpacking, and camping

The Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System is a unique, lightweight system that can come in handy on any outdoor trek. Thanks to the included water filter, you can fill up your bottle at a nearby stream without worrying about drinking the unhygienic items that come along with it. This makes staying hydrated a breeze and keeps your pack super light.

The drinking nozzle is free-flowing which means you don’t have to suck on it like a straw in order to get water out. While this may seem like a frivolous feature, the added convenience allows you to focus on your hike without constantly breaking.

The filter removes 99.99 percent of bacteria from your water. You want to hike happily without worrying about getting sick from harmful bacteria, and this filtration system is a great way to make sure that’s possible. It’s also super easy to clean with a dip in a stream, meaning the bottle will last for more uses since it won’t be cleaned using harsh methods.

Keep in mind that this will not filter out harmful chemicals in water, so don’t expect to get a safe sip of chemically treated water when using this bottle. Try to handle the filter itself with care to keep it functional and intact.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Quick flowing water
  • Easy to use
 CONS:

  • Small volume capacity
  • Won’t filter chemically contaminated water

Related: You can buy a Katadyn BeFree Replacement Cartridge for approx. $32. It’s always great to have a backup in case one of the straws inside the filter becomes damaged. With a backup, you can ensure that clean, filtered water will always be available to you!

Check the price on Amazon

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry SacksSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sacks

Price: $29 – $81

Weight: 4.8 ounces

Dimensions: 9 x 5 x 2 inches

Specific features: 30D diamond ripstop siliconized Cordura material, three-strap design for even compression, bar tack reinforced stress points, pull handle

Best use: Hiking and backpacking

The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sacks allow you to really compress items down to extremely small sizes which are perfect for hikers wanting to pack light. The three straps on each bag ensure that compression is evenly spread throughout the item you’re packing. These sacks help to compress items that usually take up a lot of space in a pack including sleeping bags and clothing.

These bags are available in sizes xx-small to large so they work well for all kinds of items of varying sizes. These bags are also extremely water-resistant so they will keep your gear dry in a rainstorm or an unplanned dip in a stream. That comes in handy when you are compressing your sleeping bags, tents, and consumable items since you’d probably prefer to keep those dry.

The Ultra-Sil sacks are not as durable as other compression sacks by Sea to Summit, so keep that in mind when you are planning your hiking trip. While these are nearly as functional as the original, a little of the durability and ruggedness has been sacrificed to make these even lighter.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Water resistant
  • Even compression
 CONS:

  • Less durable than other models
  • Relatively expensive

Related: The Osprey Ultralight Raincover will work in tandem with these compression sacks to keep your gear dry. This rain cover can cost $29 to $61. Thanks to the lightweight design, it won’t weigh you down and it will protect your belongings.

Check the price on Amazon

Black Diamond Storm HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm Headlamp

Price: $38 – $50

Weight: 1 pound

Dimensions: 5 x 5 x 2 inches

Specific features: Maximum output of 250 lumens, one quad-power LED, one double-power LED, red and green single power LEDs, Power Tap Technology for quick transitioning

Best use: Outdoor hiking, backpacking, and camping

The Black Diamond Storm Headlamp is a lightweight, water- and dust-proof, hands-free headlamp that works wonderfully during ultralight hikes. There is a bright white light setting as well as a night-vision setting for times when you want to see in the dark without waking up the campsite with a blinding light.

This stylish lamp houses four AAA-batteries. Light output is regulated which means you won’t have to worry about your light dimming as the batteries run out. There are strobe and lock modes as well. Since navigating the settings can be a bit complicated, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the options before you head out for a hike.

An awesome feature of this headlamp is its use of Power Tap Technology. This technology allows users to switch from high to dim light output settings by simply tapping on the side of the unit. That way no it is not necessary to stop and take a break just to adjust the headlamp.

PROS:

  • Bright light
  • Waterproof
  • Many useful settings
  • Good battery life
 CONS:

  • Can be difficult to use
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time

Related: A Princeton Tec Stash Headlamp Case will keep your headlamp safe inside your backpack when not in use. The case will fit the Black Diamond headlamp perfectly without weighing down your pack so you can maintain a lightweight hike.

Check the price on Amazon

Outdoor Research Men’s Crocodile GaiterOutdoor Research Men's Crocodile Gaiter

Price: $59 – $123

Weight: 1 pound

Dimensions: 20 x 9 x 2 inches

Specific features: 70D nylon upper leg, 1000D Cordura inner leg, bottom shear tab closure, BioThane instep strap, large circumference

Best use: Outdoor hiking and backpacking

The Outdoor Research Men’s Crocodile Gaiter is one of the best lightweight hiking gaiters around. With sizes from small to xx-large, these gaiters can fit calves of any size and the large circumference allows for plastic boot accommodation.

These gaiters are super durable thanks to the abrasion-resistant Cordura inner leg and boot. They will protect your snow pants and legs from getting torn on an uneven or harsh terrain. They will also keep your feet dry by keeping water out of your boots even while walking through streams and puddles.

Because these gaiters are designed to be lightweight, they are not as thick and hefty as others on the market. However, they are many hikers’ go-to gaiters for hiking because of the protection they do offer while remaining lightweight.

Sizing can be tricky with these gaiters. Some hikers will feel like they are too loose while others will feel they are too tight. Your best bet would be to follow Outdoor Research’s size chart and try the gaiters on before you take them out for use in the field.

PROS:

  • Keep snow and water out
  • Water and windproof
  • Breathable
  • Protect hiking pants and socks
 CONS:

  • Can run largely on calf
  • Velcro in place of zipper

Related: Kahtoola MICRO Spikes can be purchased for approx. $70 and can be worn with these gaiters to offer even more stability when traversing uneven terrain. If you are planning to go hiking in colder weather or on an icy mountainside, having the added traction is definitely a plus.

Check the price on Amazon

Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking SystemFlash Personal Cooking System

Price: approx. $100

Weight: 0.9 pounds

Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.1 x 4.1 inches

Specific features: 32-ounce capacity FluxRing cooking cup, insulating cozy with color-change temperature indicator, adjustable burner, included stabilizing tripod

Best use: Outdoor hiking, backpacking, and camping

The Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System is an excellent personal cooking system for anyone trying to pack light while also preparing meals on the hiking trails or campsites. The external temperature indicator is an updated feature that makes your outdoor cooking experience even more convenient. This system is designed to ignite easily and focus heat more efficiently and is able to boil two cups of water in two minutes.

Since the Jetboil cooking cup attaches to the burner directly, less heat is lost during cooking, saving you time and fuel. The windscreen also protects the flame so you can cook even in windy conditions.

The plastic cooking cup itself is a great thing to have while hiking because its neoprene lining not only indicates temperature, but it insulates food and drinks to keep them warm for longer. The cup features a plastic bottom that can be removed for use as a bowl as well. That means less equipment in your pack and a lighter hike!

Keep in mind that this cooking system does not perform as well in frigid conditions. Fuel may spray and become dangerous, so be sure to read all instructions carefully before using this cooking system. It’s best to be extra cautious when handling anything flammable, really.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Multi-functional
  • Compatible with any threaded fuel canister
 CONS:

  • Fuel not included
  • Igniter struggles in high altitudes
  • Less durable than other models

Related: The Jetboil Pot Support is a good product to have when using a Jetboil cooking system. It costs approx. $12 and allows the burner to become compatible with multiple sizes of pots and pans.

Check the price on Amazon

Take the Weight Off Your Shoulders

With these items, you can be sure your ultralight hike will be an awesome experience. While there are obviously more items available, we hope that our seven picks have shed some light on what is out there in the world of ultralight gear.

Remember, when going on an ultralight hike, you’ll need to determine the things you seriously need to bring and the things you’d be OK leaving at home. Once you’ve picked out the necessities and pack your food, water, and fuel, you’re all set for an awesome lightweight adventure.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russell McCarty
Russell McCarty

Russell considers backpacking one of his great passions in life. He actually managed to transform his passion into a living becoming a professional adventurer. Russell loves long-distance backpacking and he enriched his portfolio with famous trails like the Alaska-Yukon Expedition or the Appalachian Trail. With thousands of miles under his feet, Russell is the expert to consult when it comes to how to prepare for a successful outdoor adventure.

  • Christi Bell

    I love the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System! It’s a great on-the-go filtration system that comes in a compact design. I also really like how it eliminates the need for you to cart around a big, bulky water bottle all the time!

  • Marty Nance

    The Jetboil Flash in my opinion is the perfect lightweight cooking system to bring along. It’s easy to carry and I have used mine in pretty much every kind of weather so far and it’s worked great. It’s also very efficient, so a 100g container of fuel is going to last you awhile.

  • Russell McCarty

    At .2lbs, this baby is super light! The 0.1-micron water filter is very impressive and for that price, it’s certainly a steal!

  • Russell McCarty

    Hi there and thanks for dropping in. Yeah, the Jetboil Flash is a great companion and I’m glad you’re pleased with your purchase. It’s durable and a great value for the buck. 🙂

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