Best Ultralight Backpacks for Thru Hiking and Backpacking

Best Ultralight Backpacks

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This is a gear review of The Best Ultralight Backpacks for backpacking and thru-hiking in 2024.

Ultralight backpacks are getting better. It is no longer necessary to carry a 6 lb / 2.5 kg backpack as was normal 10 or 20 years ago. Ultralight packs are the new normal. If you haven’t tried an ultralight rucksack then you might be surprised to learn that they are the real deal and worth the investment.

All the rucksacks listed below are highly rated by long-distance thru-hikers as backpacks worthy of consideration. Most long-distance hiking trails require a strong, functional lightweight backpack in the 35-60 liter range which is the main focus of this article.

How We Tested

All the Backpacking Backpacks in this review have been extensively evaluated and researched by the expert author who has many years of experience in Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Hiking. Some of the Backpacks were purchased by the author and some were supplied by the manufacturer. They have been rigorously tested by the author in all kinds of weather on thru-hiking and backpacking trips. The research, testing, and experience of the author have combined to come up with the best ultralight sleeping bags for 2024. Read the Review Policy for further details.

Best Lightweight Backpacks for Backpacking 2024

The Best Lightweight Backpacks for Backpacking in 2024 are:

Best Ultralight Backpack – Overall

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 50L Review

Weight: 21.4 oz / 606 grams (50L Medium)

> Ultralight
> Good weight carrying capacity of up to 40lb
> Waterproof and seam sealed
> More durable than other ultralight packs
> Good range of sizes from 40L to 70L and in unisex and women’s sizes
> Not Cheap

The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra is an ultralight backpack best suited for thru-hiking and backpacking trips. When backpackers are looking for an ultralight backpack the Zpacks brand is one of the best.

The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra uses the relatively new Ultra fabric. It is more abrasion resistant than previously used ultralight fabrics such as Dyneema and still just as waterproof. The pack features a roll-top closure. I like roll-top closures because if you need to carry a big load or a small load you can adjust the closure perfectly.

There are two very handy and functional side pockets that are perfect for water bottles and tent poles. I was able to fit 3L water bottles in the side pockets at a squeeze but they do fit 2 x 2L bottles in each pocket. So good storage capacity when needed. The rear stretch mesh pocket is a generous size and perfect for airing out wet rain jackets or hiking socks and for storing items you want quick access to.

The carbon fiber frame is lightweight and the addition of a ventilated mesh back panel adds to the comfort of the pack. It will fit a bear canister when hiking in bear country and the larger 70L version will fit the canister horizontally to ensure plenty of room for other gear.

Overall, this is the best ultralight backpack of [currrentyear]. Ultralight backpackers will naturally be dreaming of using this backpack. It is the best overall ultralight backpack.

Read the full in-depth review of the Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 

Best Ultralight Backpack – Runner Up

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40L Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40L Backpack

Weight: 30.1 oz / 853.3 grams

> Lightweight
> Waterproof
> Good access to side pockets
> Multiple external storage options
> Comfortable even with a bit of weight in the pack
> Very Durable
> Not good for anyone who wants to carry a lot of gear

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40L is the newest ultralight backpack from HMG. It is very much targeted towards thru-hikers or backpackers wanting to lighten their load on their next overnight backpacking trip or multi-month thru-hike.

Although it is called the Unbound 40L, it has a total capacity of 49 liters. With a 40L internal capacity and a generous 9L of storage in the side and rear pockets.

This smaller-sized 40L pack will not be for everyone. But once you have a light and compact sleep system, have removed all your unneeded luxury items, and want to set off with minimal stress on your body then this is for you. If you want a little more storage HMG recently introduced Unbound 55L which is a 68L backpack if you include the large external storage pockets.

With multiple external storage locations, it is perfect for finding a place for your wet rain jacket after that short rain shower. And it has waterproof zips on the hip belt pockets which is a bonus. Speaking of rain, rest assured that your gear will stay dry in this waterproof backpack that even has seam sealing to ensure your gear stays dry.

The side pockets are the perfect place for carrying several liters of water during that desert section of the trail. Hyperlite Mountain Gear put some thought and effort into the external storage areas on this pack.

Overall, this is the perfect backpack for thru-hiking or those shorter multiday backpacking trips where you don’t have too much stuff. It is one of the best ultralight packs for 2024.

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Read the full in-depth review of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40L Backpack 

Most Comfortable Ultralight Backpack

Osprey Exos Pro 55L Review

Osprey Exos Pro 55L Thru Hiking Backpack Review

Weight: 33.2 oz / 942 g (S/M size)

> Ultralight
> Large capacity 55L
> Great for thru-hiking
> Large side pockets
> Bearvault 500 fits horizontally which makes this perfectly suited to places such as the JMT and PCT.
> Not waterproof, needs a pack cover or internal pack liner
> The removable lid is only extra weight and not that functional for most ultralight hikers

The Osprey Exos Pro is a brand new model introduced at the start of 2023. Along with the women’s Osprey Eja Pro, they are essentially trimmed down ultralight versions of the very popular Exos and Levity models.

The newly released Exos Pro and Eja Pro are lighter in weight, just as functional, and are easily the most comfortable lightweight backpacks on the market in 2024.

I’ve used the regular older Exos for more than 10000 miles / 16000 km of hiking and backpacking around the world and the new Osprey Exos Pro is everything that the old model was but lighter weight and with a couple of handy upgrades.

There is a new silicon section on the back of the hipbelt which keeps the pack locked in place better than before. And in keeping with the recently upgraded Exos, the Pro version continues to use hipbelt pockets. They are big enough for most large smartphones, snacks, and more.

The Osprey Exos Pro is one of the few lightweight backpacks that still offer a hydration sleeve for your hydration bladder which I like. And the side pockets are better than any other pack in this review. And the side pockets are big enough to carry 2 x 4L water bladders if needed. While the HMG Outbound 40L is also capable of this, the Exos Pro has much easier access than any other backpack in this review.

The outer fabric is lighter than previous models and made from recycled materials. You will still need a waterproof backpack cover or internal pack liner to keep things dry when the weather turns nasty as the pack is only water resistant. There is a removable top lid on his backpack. During testing, I removed the top lid and found the backpack works well by just using the small lid flap to keep the backpack closed and dry.

The ventilated frame is better than any other backpack in this review. It does a great job of allowing air flow around your back. And the adjustable shoulder straps, load lifters, and comfortable harness all combine to make this a super comfortable backpack. If it is important for you to have a lightweight backpack that is very comfortable, then look no further this is the best one out there.

Overall, the Osprey Exos Pro is the most comfortable lightweight backpack on the market for 2024. Keep reading to learn about every little detail about this backpack.

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Read the full in-depth review of the Osprey Exos Pro 55L Backpack 

Best Lightweight Backpack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear SouthWest Backpack

2400 40 liter – 30 oz / 850 grams
3400 55 liter – 32 oz / 910 grams
4400 55 liter – 39 oz / 1100 grams
> Very lightweight & waterproof backpack
> Strong and durable. Able to last multiple long-distance thru-hikes
> Comfortable
> Popular with ultralight backpackers
> Great external pockets, and storage for water bottles
> Not Cheap

Hyperlite Mountain Gear SouthWest backpacks are made out of super lightweight Dyneema Composite Hybrid Fabric backpacks. This is an upgraded very of the old Cuban Fiber. They come in a choice of 40 Liter, 55 liters, and a very large 70 liter, with the 55L being more popular.

The HMG Southwest has great external pockets both at the rear and side of the pack. They are perfect for storing gear such as wet rain gear, snacks, first aid supplies, water bottles, umbrellas and so much more. The front pocket and side external pockets make great water bottle pockets. The carrying capacity in the main compartment is quite large.

The Southwest is waterproof in all but the very worst of weather. In many situations you will not need to use any waterproof bags inside, just don’t take the pack swimming or Packrafting.

It uses two aluminum stays and a 1/4-inch foam backing on the back panel which is very comfortable. The ultralight backpack has a comfortable back panel and shoulder straps.

Overall this is a simple, high-quality pack that is very popular among hikers for good reason. This could be one of the best ultralight packs on the market right now and one of the best packs on this list.

This is the best backpack for the Appalachian Trail due to the waterproof Dyneema composite material and the trail being quite rainy. In fact, this is the best backpacking backpack for bad weather and there is no real need for a rain cover.

Best Large Capacity Backpack

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Large Backpack Review

Weight: 31.5 oz / 895 grams

> Great for heavy loads
> Lightweight
> Large Capacity 60L Backpack
> Great Side Pockets
> Reasonably Priced
> Not as comfortable as some of the other packs in this review

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is one of the most popular lightweight backpacks on the market in 2024. Maybe Osprey is the only other pack you will see on thru-hiking trails more than this Gossamer Gear Backpack.

When I tried the Gossamer Gear Mariposa I found it wasn’t quite as comfortable as the Exos but had much better external pockets. The Mariposa has some of the best external pockets of any of the backpacks in this review. You will be able to find a space for everything.

Made with quality Robic Fabric and one of the only packs in this review that will allow you to fit a bear canister horizontally inside the backpack. Add to that the quality load-carrying capacity of this backpack and it all combines to make it one of the best.

Overall, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is the best ultralight backpack for heavy loads and certainly one of the most popular backpacks on the market.

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More Backpacking Backpacks

Zpacks Arc Blast Review

zpacks arc blast review

Weight: 19.9 oz / 565.0 g

> Ultralight
> Very popular thru-hiking backpack
> Comfortable
> The perfect-sized backpack for most overnight or multi-day trips
> Great side pockets and rear mesh pocket
> Ultralight Backpack that is not as durable as some other heavier backpacks
> Expensive

The Zpacks Arc Blast has been one of the most popular ultralight backpacks for thru-hiking until the Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra hit the scene. When backpackers are looking for an ultralight backpack the Zpacks Arc Blast is certainly one of the best.

It is made with lightweight Dyneema composite fabric which is not only very light but waterproof. To assist with water resistance the pack features a roll-top closure. I like roll-top closures because if you need to carry a big load or a small load you can adjust the closure perfectly.

Two very handy and functional side pockets are perfect for water bottles and tent poles. The rear mesh pocket is a generous size and perfect for airing out wet rain jackets or socks.

The frame is also lightweight and adds to the comfort of the pack. It is also designed to fit a bear canister when hiking in bear country and there is a hydration port if you choose to hike with a water hydration bladder.

Overall, this is the best ultralight backpack for thru-hiking or backpacking when you want the highest quality ultralight backpack. This is my choice for a thru-hiking backpack.

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Ultralight Backpack

2400 40 liters 30 oz / 850 grams
3400 55 liters 32 oz / 902 grams
4400 70 liters 39 oz / 1105 grams
> Lightweight & waterproof
> Strong enough to last multiple long-distance thru-hikes
> Comfortable
> Popular with ultralight backpackers
> Great mesh pockets, external pocket, and storage for water bottles
> Not Cheap

It is a hard choice when it comes to which is the best Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) backpack. They are all made out of super lightweight Dyneema Composite Hybrid Fabric and all are great backpacks. But I prefer the Southwest over the Windrider due to the rear fabric pocket, compared to the mesh pocket on the Windrider. However, if you are hiking in areas where you would prefer an open mesh pocket to air out wet gear, then the HMG Windrider is a better option.

The HMG Windrider comes in 40L, 55L, and 70L versions, with the 55-liter being the most popular. If you are committing to ultralight backpacking, the rest of your gear is lightweight and compact then the 40L is a good option.

While the new Unbound uses only one backstay, the Windrider uses two aluminum stays and a 1/4-inch foam backing on the back panels. This makes for a comfortable back panel. Add to that the comfortable shoulder harness and this is a comfortable backpack.

The front mesh pocket and side mesh external pockets make great water bottle pockets. The carrying capacity in the main compartment of all sizes of backpacks is quite large.

Overall, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider is a great thru-hiking backpack and perfect for wet trails where you might want to use the mesh pockets to dry your wet gear while backpacking.

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Osprey Exos Review

Osprey Exos Backpack review

48 liters – 44 oz / 1255 grams
58 liters – 45 oz / 1288 grams

> Lifetime guarantee – if the pack breaks they fix or replace it
> The mesh harness allows air circulation around the back.
> One of the most comfortable ultralight backpack for carrying heavier loads
> Heaviest of all the packs listed.
> Mesh pockets on the side and rear of the packs are prone to rips and tears.

The Osprey Exos has been one of the most comfortable lightweight backpacks for many years, but with the introduction of the new Osprey Exos Pro, this model has moved a bit firther down the list.

Recently, Osprey bought back the hip belt pockets that they removed on the last couple of models which is a step in the right direction. They are on both the 58L and 48L backpacks which is a great feature.

I have used the Osprey Exos on all of my Triple Crown hikes. On the PCT I used the large capacity 58 liter which is the perfect size to fit a bear canister horizontally. While all the other packs in this review can carry a bear canister, they have to put the bear canister in vertically.

The large capacity main compartment also allows for lots of room to haul several liters of water along with several days of food through the desert or mountains.

When it comes to Bear Canisters all the ultralight packs in this review can fit the Bear Canister vertically but few can fit them horizontally, the Osprey Exos 58L version can.

The Osprey Exos 58 weights 37oz while the Exos 48 weights 36oz.

It also has room for a hydration pack in the main compartment and the ventilated back panel which works well. The top lid of the Osprey Exos is strange and the added weight of the removable brain is completely useless for most people. In fact, just get rid of the top lid, it is not worth it and save some weight on the process.

I changed to the Osprey Exos 48 liter for the CDT and AT as I didn’t need so much carrying capacity. This is one of the best lightweight backpacking backpacks and the most comfortable ultralight backpack in this review.

The Osprey Exos is the recommended pack if you want to carry slightly heavier loads and are not ready to commit to becoming an ounce-counting ultra-light hiker.

Both the shoulder straps and hip belt make this the best pack on the market for comfort, well at least when it comes to lightweight backpacks. I found the hip belt to be the most comfortable out of all the packs in this review.

The shoulder straps are super comfortable. You can strap trekking poles to the pack without using the compression straps to hold them in. The Trekking pole straps are sometimes annoying and I found that I rarely used them. I preferred to strap them to the side of the pack using compression straps.

Another good feature of the Exos is the price. It is one of the best-priced backpacking packs on the market. And some say it is the best backpacking brand for beginners and experienced hikers wanting a lighter pack.

And like all the other lightweight packs in this review, it is not designed to carry heavy loads like 35 pounds or similar. Overall, it is one of the best backpacks for the Pacific Crest Trail.

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Osprey Levity 45L

Osprey Levity Super Lightweight Backpack

Weight: 28.9 oz / 820 grams

> Lightweight
> Lifetime Guarantee
> Comfortable
> Good side pockets and rear stretch mesh pocket
> No Hip Pockets
> Discontinued so not many available, check prices below and pick up a bargain

The Osprey Levity has now been discontinued but that is good news for someone wanting a lightweight backpack at a cheap price, but be quick, there are not too many left now that the super awesome Osprey Exos Pro is on the market.

The Osprey Levity is a super lightweight backpacking backpack that is a good compromise between lightweight, durability, and carrying comfort.

The Osprey Levity comes with the same lifetime guarantee as the Exos but is a bit lighter. This lightweight does limit how comfortable the pack is when carrying a heavy load but when carrying a light load this pack is comfortable.

The material used is a lightweight 30-denier fabric which is strong and abrasion resistant.

The harness and hip belts are good and the side pockets are perfect for anything from tent poles to water bottle storage to food storage. But no hip belt pockets which is a bit of a negative.

Overall, the Osprey Levity is a good lightweight backpacking backpack. The Women’s Osprey Lumina 45 is the Women’s Backpack version with similar specs.

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Gossamer Gear Kumo Review

Weight: 18oz / 525 g

> Extremely lightweight packs
> Great value for money
> Long wear life
> Not comfortable with heavy loads
> 36 liters is small for most hikers
> Only for ultra-light hikers who have their lightweight gear dialed in

Gossamer Gear is a well-known pack manufacturer and a great choice for the minimalist hike.

Their larger packs such as the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 are popular but the lighter packs such as the Kumo are some of the better ultralight packs you can get right now.

Again, like a lot of the packs mentioned, do not load these packs with too much stuff. They are for ultra-light hikers only.

It comes with a roll-top closure and overall the main compartment is not that big. The huge water bottle pockets on the side and the large stretch fabric pocket on the back make the pack quite a bit bigger than it is.

At 36 liters they are small packs that are enough for thru-hiker and Bikepacker Onna ‘Onnamove’ Voellmer.

Onna used the Kumo 36L when she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Arizona Trail. She regards it as the perfect lightweight backpack for thru-hiking and peak bagging.

She reports that the shoulder straps on the pack are comfortable with loads up to 20lb (9kg) but it is often loaded up with 25lb (11kg) when leaving town after a big resupply.

Although it comes with a supplied back pad that sits on the back panel, she uses the sleeping mat and the Gossamer Gear Nightlight sleeping pad for extra padding. It is hard to find anything wrong with this pack, except it is only for ultra-light hikers who have committed to lightweight gear.

Onna ‘Onnamove’ Voellmer used the Kumo 36 and shares her hiking and Bikepacking adventures on

This lightweight rucksack is for backpackers who have already dialed in their gear and should only be used in conjunction with an Ultralight Backpacking Quilt and an Ultralight Backpacking Tent.

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ULA – Circuit / CDT Review

ULA CDT backpack

Circuit 68L – 37.3 oz – 1038 grams
CDT 54L – 27.1 oz / 768 grams

> The CDT is a nice lightweight backpack.
> Comfortable with heavier loads.
> The ULA backpacks offer optional colors, pockets, and personalized embroidery.
> The ULA Circuit is a bit heavy but the newer Ultra Fabric is a good choice.

Some of the most popular backpacks on long-distance hiking trails are the ULA Circuit (68 liters) and the ULA CDT (54 liters).

They are strong, lightweight, and suitable for any long-distance thru-hike. While the ULA Circuit is the most popular pack I prefer the ULA CDT for its lighter weight and no-frills features. Upgrades for 2022 by ULA include hip belts with a larger pocket which is now big enough for large-sized smartphones.

The Circuit is the heaviest of all the packs listed here and at 68 liters is quite large. These packs also come with optional shoulder pockets. They are certainly strong as they are made with the Robic 400 fabric. The ULA Circuit also is made with the new, light, and strong Ultra fabric which is a bit lighter. At the time of writing the ULA CDT was only made with Robic fabric.

Would you like to have your trail name or website embroidered onto your pack or have your own personalized color? They can do that for a couple of dollars extra.

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Mountain Laurel Designs Burn Review

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn Ultralight Backpack

Weigh: 14oz / 400g

> Extremely lightweight packs
> Great value for money
> Long wear life
> One of the best thru-hiking packs
> Not comfortable with heavy loads
> Only for ultra-light hikers

The Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) Burn is of the lightest high-quality backpacks on the market. They recently upgraded the fabric to use the newish Ultra Fabric which I think is the best backpack fabric on the market at the moment.

The MLB Burn is an ultralight pack for the experienced thru-hiker only, that have already progressed from lightweight backpacking to ultralight backpacking.

They are only for hikers that have a very light base pack weight of around 10lb (4.5kg) or lighter. If you are an already experienced hiker and have already started the journey of moving from Lightweight to Ultralight then this might be a backpack for you.

Fellow Aussie Thru Hiker Cam ‘Swami’ Honan has used the MLD Burn for thousands of miles of hiking around the world. He reported that the pack is comfortable as long the pack weight being carried is light loads less than 22lb (10kg.) The MLD Burn is durable enough to last him at least 8000 miles (13000km).

It has small exterior pockets with two side pockets and a front mesh pocket. It also has a roll-top lid which thru-hikers love when they need to access the main compartment quickly.

This lightweight rucksack should only be used in conjunction with an Ultralight Backpacking Quilt and an Ultralight Backpacking Tent.

Cam ‘Swami’ Honan uses the MLD Burn and writes about all things hiking on his website

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Pa’lante V2 Ultralight Backpack Review

Pa'lante V2 Ultralight BackPack Review

Weight: 17.6 oz / 499 grams
> Best light hiking backpack for ultralight hikers
> Great simple design with shoulder pockets and a bottom pocket under
> Good value for money
> Not comfortable with heavy loads above 25lb (11kg)
> Only for ultra-light hikers with a very low base weight
> Potentially long wait times for delivery

The Pa’lante V2 is an ultralight pack for the hiker looking to lighten their gear weight. This pack is frameless with a roll-top closure so only suitable for those who have a low base weight.

At 17.6 oz / 499 grams, it is a worthy ultra-light choice to consider.

Experienced thru-hiker Micheal ‘Grizzly’ Ivey who has a base weight of around 8-9lb (4kg) uses this pack. As his base weight is so low he does not use the hip belt. It should be mentioned that hip belts are optional on this pack. The whole weight of the rucksack is on the shoulder straps.

Grizzly hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with me in 2015 and again in 2019. He also hiked the Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail twice, and Superior Trail.

He reported that the Pa’lante V2 is the best ultralight backpack and the perfect size for him as he is an ultralight hiker. It is comfortable as long as the contents of the pack weight are kept below 25lb (11kg).

The pack is not waterproof and he uses a pack liner. He likes the pack so much that he used it on his 2019 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Micheal ‘Grizzly’ Ivey uses the Pa’lante V2, you can follow him on Instagram

This lightweight rucksack should only be used in conjunction with an Ultralight Backpacking Quilts and an Ultralight Backpacking Tent.

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Other Packs to consider

Other Great Packs:

  • Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet: Like the MLD Burn in the review above, the Prophet is a super lightweight backpack best suited to experienced ultralight backpackers.
  • Ultimate Designs Fastpack 40: The Ultimate Designs backpack is a cross between a trail running vest and a backpack. This pack has not been tested yet and may be added to the review in the future.
  • Six Moon Designs Swift X: The Six Moons Designs Swift X is a quality backpack that I am yet to review.
  • Granite Gear: They also make some great backpacking backpacks but most of them are not ultralight. Granite Gear packs are comfortable and better at carrying heavier loads.
  • Durston Kakwa 55L: This pack ticks a lot of boxes for someone looking for a highly-rated ultralight pack. I hope to test this pack soon.

Best Overall lightweight backpack

The best lightweight backpack is the Osprey Exos Pro which is comfortable and able to carry heavier loads if needed.

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are the best waterproof backpacks on the market right now. They are the best compromise between lightweight, strong materials, and they are able to carry heavy loads if needed. As they are made from Cuban Fibre which is now known as Dyneema, they are the most waterproof of all the packs. They would be the perfect lightweight backpack for thru-hiking and backpacking.

Osprey Exos on the PCT during the review of this backpack
Gear Testing the Osprey Exos 58 on the Pacific Crest Trail

Best Ultralight backpack

The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra is the best ultralight backpack for 2024. It just beat out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40L Backpack.

These backpacks are not only ultralight but high quality, waterproof and will be very popular on all the thru-hiking trails in the world this year. If you want an ultralight backpack, these are for you.

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 50L backpack

Why use an Ultra Light Backpack

Making the move from a traditional backpacking setup to a light backpacking setup, then moving even further to ultralight backpacks is not for everyone. Especially when it comes to ultralight backpacks.

Having a base weight of 13lb / 6kg or below will make hiking so much easier. There will not only be less stress on the body but less chance of injury and much less fatigue at the end of a day backpacking. With time and experience, you can lighten your baseweight to below 10 lb / 4.5 kg quite easily.

All of the ultralight backpacks listed are recommended as a major step in lightening the base weight of your hiking gear.

Carrying a backpack on the Inca Trail Peru in 1997
Gone are the days of carrying a heavy backpack as I did in Peru circa 1997!

A Word of Warning about Ultralight Backpacks

Do not consider buying any of the MLD, Gossamer Gear, or Pa’lante packs unless you are committed to having a base weight below 11lb / 5kg.

If you want to use an ultralight backpack like the backpacks in this review, then you should only use it in conjunction with an Ultralight Backpacking Quilts or Ultralight Sleeping Bag and an Ultralight Backpacking Tent.

Carrying loads heavier than 22-25lb (10-12kg) with any MLD, Gossamer Gear or Pa’lante packs will not be the most comfortable ultralight backpack. Some do not come with a hip belt or the hip belt is optional. Carrying heavy load with these backpacks are not an option. You have been warned!

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra Backpack
The author testing the Zpacks Backpack

Backpack Frame vs Frameless Packs

Which backpack is best for you, one with a frame or frameless packs?

Frameless Backpacks

Frameless Backpacks are lighter and simple. Backpacks with frames are arguably the most comfortable ultralight packs.

Frameless backpacks are for the hiker looking to move to ultralight backpacking who will be carrying much less weight.

A frameless pack should only be used if the loads are not too heavy and the gear is packed thoughtfully. Then they will be comfortable.

Some ultralight backpacks save even more weight by not using the hip belts.

For example, don’t pack your stove in your backpack so it pushes a sharp object onto your back.

Frame Backpack

Backpacks with a frame tend to be more comfortable but slightly heavier than frameless backpacks. They are also much better at carrying a heavier load. If you are seeking carrying comfort and have a heavier load then these will ultimately be better for you.

Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra frame and ventilation on the back
Carbon Fiber Frame and Ventilation on the Zpacks Backpack during testing


With names such as Dyneema Composite Fabric, Ultra, Robic, and nylons are more which ones are best for backpacks and why. There are many other fabrics but these ones are the better ultralight fabrics that are tough enough for backpacks.

Dyneema Composite Hybrid Fabric Backpacks

Dyneema Composite Hybrid Fabric (DCH) is the next evolution of the DCF fabric (Cuban Fiber). DCH backpacks are lightweight and waterproof like the original DCF but much more abrasion resistant. DCH material is quite a bit more expensive than other materials and seems to be suffering from supply chain issues.

Testing the HMG Unbound 40L Backpack and the Dyneema Composite Hybrid Fabric
Testing the HMG Dyneema Composite Hybrid Material

Ultra Fabric

Ultra fabric is essentially the same type of fabric as Dyneema Composite Fabric, just a slightly different material and a different brand. Like Dyneema is super strong but much more abrasion resistant. Add to that it is nearly impossible to tear and is highly UV resistant. At the moment, it is one of the best ultralight pack fabrics.

Testing the Zpacks Ultra Backpack Material
Testing the Zpacks Ultra Material

Robic Nylon

Light, strong, and reasonably priced is a good way to describe Robic fabric. It is not as light or waterproof as Dyneema but significantly cheaper. All packs made with this fabric are more economical and very abrasion resistant.

Shoulder Straps and Hip Belts

The quality, weight, features, and comfort of both the Shoulder Straps and Hip belt are super important. They must work together to distribute the weight and load in such a way as to prevent stress on the body. Thus making for a less exhausted hiker at the end of the day.

Osprey Exos
The comfortable harness of the Osprey Exos Pro allows you to carry lots of water in the oversized side pockets. That is a full 4L water bladder in the side pockets and a full 2L hydration bladder!

Waterproof Backpacks

All the packs in this review have some form of water resistance but none are completely waterproof. While the Ultra and Dyneema fabrics are waterproof, and in some cases seam sealed, they will not be 100% waterproof. Therefore, beware if using any of the ultralight backpacks for Packrafting or any other situation that requires them to be used like a dry bag.

During testing, I found that the Ultra Material and Dyneema were both great backpack fabrics, and both did not let any water into my pack. Having said that, I would recommend a lightweight pack liner or at least having your sleeping bag and clothes in some form of waterproof material inside your pack.


If you are in the market for ultralight packs then the price is probably not as important as the weight, comfort, and quality. An ultralight pack will set you back anywhere from $150 to $400, with the cheaper options not so easy to find. If you have come this far in the backpack review process then spend a little more and get a top-tier ultralight pack.

3 well used backpacks on the CDT
3 Well used ultralight packs were fully loaded and about to head out on the last section of the Continental Divide Trail


Here are the Best Ultralight Backpacks for 2024:

Another one of the Best Backpacking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does A Backpack For Hiking Cost?

The best ultralight backpacking pack is a big investment. In many ways, you get what you pay for. Quality costs money but many a hiker has been upset by companies that change a lot of money for a backpack only to find that it is worn out after a couple of months of use.
Even though some of the backpacks listed are rather expensive, they are considered good value for money.

Which company has the Best Backpack Warranty?

Before purchasing any of these backpacks be sure to check the warranty and return policy. Many hikers have been upset over the years when products do not live up to expectations.  
Osprey has one of the best warranties in the business. I’ve had my pack repaired and replaced due to holes in the side pockets, free of charge.
It could have been considered fair wear and tear or it could have been considered a weak point in the design, but they stand by their products. Not all companies are so forgiving.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is also reported to have great after-sales service.

What Is The Best Ultralight Waterproof Hiking Backpack?

Most modern backpacks are lightweight and strong but not all are waterproof. Lining the inside of the backpack with a large trash compacter bag is the cheapest method to waterproof the contents. The Best Ultralight Waterproof Backpack is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400.

What is the best material for a Backpack?

The materials used nowadays are much lighter than in years past with little compromise on strength and durability. The weight of lightweight hiking backpacks has decreased significantly since the days of 6lb / 2.5kg backpacks that were normal 20 years ago.
Lightweight Dyneema (Cuban Fibre) has led the way in making modern backpacks so much lighter but not all manufacturers use this material. Other materials such as Xpac and Cordura are also used.

What is the best Capacity for a Lightweight Backpack?

40-60 liters is enough capacity for 90% of hikers that are committed to hiking with a lighter backpack. For the hiker that is moving from lightweight to ultra-light, a 40-liter pack or smaller would be enough.
This is not recommended for most people until the level of hiking experience and ability matches the commitment to go ultralight.

How Durability are Ultralight Backpacks?

The most comfortable backpack probably has so much padding that it weighs too much. The best ultralight backpacking pack will not be comfortable unless you trim the weight of all your other bits of hiking gear to ultra light.
Most ultralight waterproof backpack is likely made of a material such as Dyneema (Cuban Fibre) and takes a little more care to prevent holes and tears (which can be easily fixed with tape).
All the packs listed are able to withstand multiple long-distance hikes with minimal wear and tear.

What are the best backpacking brands for backpacks?

Osprey, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ZPacks, Gossamer Gear, and ULA are all the best high-quality lightweight backpacking brands for backpacks

best lightweight hiking backpack
Best Lightweight Backpack for Backpacking and Thru Hiking
best lightweight hiking backpack

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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