This is an Ultralight Backpacking Gear List that will enable anyone to cut their base weight down to a very lightweight 10lb / 4.5kg or less.
I have hiked almost 8000 miles / 13000km and feel very comfortable with ultralight backpacking gear. I complete most of my hiking and backpacking trips with a base weight of around 13 lb / 6kg, but in very cold weather that weight can increase to around 20lb / 9 kg, especially if I am carrying snowshoes and winter clothing.
There is a certain joy that comes from carrying a lightweight backpacking setup. The ability to hike faster, less stress on the body, and a reduced chance of injuries. If you are reading this maybe you want some ideas on what gear you might need to reduce your base weight and move into ultralight hiking. Keep reading to learn how to reduce your base weight well below 10lb / 4.5kg.
Table of Contents
- Ultralight Hiking Gear ListShelter, Trekking Poles, Backpack & Sleep System
- Trekking Poles
- Tent Stakes
- Sleeping Bag / Quilt
- Sleeping Pad
- Cooking Gear
- Cup – Optional
- Knife – Optional
- Water Treatment
- Water Filter
- Water Storage / Water Bottle
- Down Jacket
- Base Layer Top
- Base Layer Bottom
- Hiking Pants
- Hiking Shorts
- Hiking Underwear
- Hiking Shirt
- Gloves – Optional
- Rain Jacket
- Rain Pants
- Hiking Umbrella
- Footwear- Socks – Gaiters
- Gaiters – Optional
- Cameras, Navigation, And Electronics
- Battery Bank
- Camera – Optional
- Headlamps – Optional
- Watch – Optional
- Satellite Messenger – Optional
- Winter Hiking Gear
- Ice Axe
- Frequently Asked Questions
Ultralight Hiking Gear List
Shelter, Trekking Poles, Backpack & Sleep System
With a total weight of 5 lb / 2.28 kg, the backpack, trekking poles, and sleep system are the heaviest items. But still very ultralight. And can be lighter if you only use one trekking pole to support the one-person tent.
Tents are getting lighter. There is no need to take a tent weighing 2lb / 1kg as there is so much good quality lightweight backpacking gear on the market. As for sleeping pads, they are getting very light and compact but as the grams drop, so will the durability and insulation. If going to places below freezing do not get the lightest option as insulation is more important. The level of insulation can be found in the r-value, the higher the r-value the better the insulation,
The same with backpacks. Whether you choose a sleeping bag or backpacking quilt, ensure they are also light in weight. Most people find a quilt works great at temperatures above freezing but below that, a sleeping bag is better.
Trekking poles are optional for most backpackers. If you need them for a trekking pole tent then they can be good to assist with hiking by taking a bit of weight off your feet when hiking. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum but will shatter when it breaks, whereas aluminum could be bent back into place and reused. At least until you get to the next town.
How does it compare to your ultralight backpacking gear list compare?
Read more: Best Ultralight Backpacks
Weight: 13.9 oz / 395 g
The lightest ultralight tent on the market in 2023 and should be a part of your ultralight backpacking gear list. It is big enough for solo backpackers and durable enough to last a couple of thru-hikes while withstanding bad weather very well. It needs one trekking pole to set up. I currently use the Zpacks Triplex.
2P: Zpacks Duolight
3P: Zpacks Triplex
Read more: Ultralight Backpacking Tents
Weight: 10 oz / 280 grams
These are the lightest high-quality trekking poles on the market in 2023. They are made from Carbon Fiber and perfect for the ultralight hiker. You will need one for the ultralight tent or two if you are using a two-person tent or bigger. As they are so light they are a little more prone to damage but rest assured that if you break a segment you can buy replacement segments, most other manufacturers do not offer this.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork
MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon
Weight: 0.2 oz / 5.5 grams (6-10 stakes needed)
The choice is between Carbon stakes, Titanium stakes, and Aluminum stakes. Generally, I prefer Aluminum stakes but Carbon is the lightest. And the MSR Carbon Core Tent Stake is the pick of the bunch.
Aluminum Stakes: MSR Mini Groundhog
Titanium Stakes: Zpacks Titanium Tent Stakes
Read more: Ultralight Tent Stakes
Sleeping Bag / Quilt
Weight: 23.5 oz / 665 grams
I have a preference for a sleeping bag over a quilt, therefore, my choice is the Sea to Summit Spark as my current ultralight sleeping bag of choice. The sleeping bag is lightweight, uses high-quality hyper dry down, and has a water-resistant outer shell. There are lighter options but I like the extra room in this bag. And you could go even lighter by using a backpacking quilt.
Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Weight: 8.8 oz / 250 grams
The lightest inflatable sleeping pad on the market in 2023. Ultralight thru-hikers will add this sleeping pad to their ultralight backpacking gear list. It is comfortable, but not as durable as some of the competition. Best suited for warmer weather only. I currently use this mattress and the Neo Air X-Lite and the Uberlite.
Sea to Summit Etherlite Insulated
Therm-a-Rest Neo Air X-Lite
Read more: Best Ultralight Sleeping Pads
Read more: Best Ultralight Backpacking Pillows
Some ultralight hikers like to cold soak meals and remove the need for stoves and pots. Only needing a spork and something to rehydrate their meals. I’ve tried this method and quickly realized it is not for me. Having said that, I would encourage everyone to try going ‘stoveless’ at least once to see how well it works for you.
The weight of the cooking setup below comes in at 6.1 oz / 171 grams or 10.6 oz / 299 grams if you add the optional mags and knife that I listed below.
You could consider a bear canister, or bear bag when hiking in bear country to ensure your food storage is not only legal but safe. Otherwise, a stuff sack should be enough. Lightweight stuff sacks can be made of Sil-nylon or Dyneema and both are good enough to store food.
Read more: Best Ultralight Backpacking Stoves
Weight: 2.6 oz / 72 grams
One of the lightest titanium pots on the market in 2023. It is just big enough for solo backpackers and good enough for most people’s needs. Couples or groups will want something with more volume. I currently use the Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Pot Set and Skillet.
Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium Cook Set Pot and Skillet
Snow Peak Titanium Single Wall Cup 600
Read more: Best Ultralight Backpacking Pots
Read more: Best Sporks for Backpacking
Cup – Optional
Weight: 2.5 oz / 72 grams
Most ultralight hikers and lightweight backpackers don’t use a cup or mug. For the gram counter, the cooking pot will double as a cup, or maybe even the water bottle. I have used a mug for years as I seem to need a hot coffee in the morning. I currently use the Sea to Summit X-Mug.
Snow Peak Titanium Double Wall Cup 450
Review coming soon: Best Backpacking Cups and Mugs
Knife – Optional
Weight: 2 oz / 56 grams
Ultralight hikers may not use a knife, and many seem to find a pair of scissors more useful! I like a small light knife. I have used Multitools, Swiss Army Knives, and many other types over the years. Currently, I like the Gerber Mini Paraframe. I used to use the very small Gerber knife but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore and I lost it!
Review coming soon: Best Backpacking Knives
No need to overthink water bottles, water filters, and how to carry your water. Keep it simple with these two items. Maybe reuse a plastic water bottle too. Around 3.8 oz / 108 grams will be enough for most people. Maybe a little extra weight for backup water treatment like chemical tablets.
Weight: 2.5 oz / 71 grams
The ever-popular Sawyer Squeeze. I used this filter for 1000s of miles of hiking and backpacking. It has a good flow rate, filters the water quite well, and is lightweight. It doesn’t matter what hiking trail you are on, you are sure to find someone carrying one of these. I currently use the Lifestraw Flex Squeeze but prefer the updated Lifestraw Peak and Sawyer Squeeze.
Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets
Read more: Best Backpacking Water Filters
Water Storage / Water Bottle
Weight: 1.3 oz / 37 grams
When you need to carry water, a water bladder is much lighter and more efficient than almost any style of water bottle. And the best of these is the Platypus bladder. And the Sawyer Squeeze will screw only the bottle. I currently use the 2L Platypus Bladder.
Review coming soon: Best Backpacking Water Bottles and Water Storage
Most of these items on the list will be worn while hiking and backpacking so they are not normally added to the overall base weight. There is packed clothing and worn clothing. Packed clothing would usually consist of rain gear and insulation such as a down jacket. And also extras like spare socks and underwear.
Read more: Best Down Jackets
Base Layer Top
With 87% Merino Wool this base layer top offers good regulation of body temperature. It also offers odor-absorbing qualities to reduce your offensive smells to other people. There is also a heavier-weight option if you want something a little warmer.
Patagonia Men’s Capilene Air Crew
Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer
Read more: Best Base Layers for Backpacking
Base Layer Bottom
100% Merino base layer with flatlock seams to ensure chafing is reduced. You can hike in these all day if you want. In fact, when it is cold you could use a pair of shorts over the top and not take any hiking pants with you. Due to the delicate nature of the fabric, this is only a good idea on marked trails with no sharp branches to rip the fabric.
Patagonia Capilene Midweight Base Layer Bottoms
Review coming soon: Best Backpacking Base Layer Bottoms
Lightweight, comfortable, and with enough stretch to make walking easy. I’ve used these hiking pants multiple times and like them for hiking and backpacking. They are great in cooler weather and also are a good option for those wanting protection from the sun and elements. I currently use the Kuhl Silencr and Kuhl Deceptr pants.
Kuhl Silencr Pants
Kuhl Deceptr Pants
Read more: Best Hiking Pants
Like the Pants version above these hiking shorts are light, quick drying, and comfortable. They have enough pockets for stuff and are nice to wear all day. Having said that, there are many that prefer a more traditional pair of hiking shorts with nice pockets, belts, and more.
PrAna Stretch Zion Shorts II
Patagonia Quandary Shorts
Read more: Best Hiking Shorts
Wearing underwear may not be for everyone and with so many options it can be hard to choose a favorite. In the past, I’ve used unpadded lycra bike shorts, synthetic underwear, and Merino Underwear. And it is Merino that I find best. They work well in all but the hottest and humid tropical type weather. When it is hot and humid, unpadded lycra or nothing at all works best.
Icebreaker Anatomica Boxer Briefs
ExOfficio Give-n-Go Sport Mesh Boxer Briefs
Read more: Best Hiking Underwear
A hiking shirt is good to keep the sun off but must be hard-wearing to withstand the kind of abuse that happens when backpacking. Some prefer long-sleeved shirts with pockets and others prefer merino t-shirts. Both are good lightweight options.
Icebreaker Tech Lite II
Patagonia Sun Stretch
Read more: Best Hiking Shirts
With so many styles and types of sun hats on the market, it is hard to pick a clear winner. Some prefer a plain baseball hat or trucker hat. Others prefer a Wide Brim Hat. I’m a fan of both with a preference for the baseball cap style. But the Sunday Afternoon Ultra is the best of both worlds offering a wide brim, a nice peak, a place to store your sunglasses, and plenty of protection for the back of your neck.
Tilley LTM6 Broad Brim Hat
Outdoor Research Sun Runner
Read more: Best Sun Hats for Hiking and Backpacking
Do they look good and not cost a fortune and protect your eyes from all the harmful rays? If the answer is yes then they will be good enough. If you are tight with money a cheap pair will get you by, especially if you are the type of person who loses everything within hours of buying them.
Julbo Explorer 2.0
Smith Lowdown 2
Read more: Best Hiking Sunglasses
Gloves – Optional
For most situations, a light pair of fleece gloves will be all you need. At other times a pair of waterproof winter gloves will be needed. At other times when the weather turns cold and you don’t have gloves, a clean pair of socks can work very well.
Outdoor Research Alti Mittens
Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof Extreme Cold Weather Gauntlet
Read more: Best Hiking Gloves
Weight: 5oz / 142 grams (without Pit Zips)
When making the jump to ultralight backpacking you will not need a big heavy three-layer rain jacket. An ultralight rain jacket with the option of pit zips to vent heat like the Enlightened Equipment Visp is perfect. Being so light and thin it also works well as a windbreaker on those cold mornings and can also be worn to bed to assist with insulation (yes, it works).
ZPacks Vertice Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium
Read more: Best Rain Jackets
Weight: 6.7oz / 190g
In many cases, a pair of rain pants will be overkill and not needed but for most those cases are rare. Take rain pants. They work as a good pair of wind pants too. They are not too heavy and can be a lifesaver in cold wet weather. The OR Helium is perfect even though there are much lighter options for those who really want to count the grams. I use the OR Helium and have for many years.
Arc’teryx Beta AR
Read more: Best Rain Pants
Weight: 6.8oz / 193g
To many, a hiking umbrella might seem like a luxury and way too heavy for ultralight backpacking. Think again. They work way better than most people would expect. They not only keep the rain off your body but keep the bright sun off you when hiking in the desert. It wasn’t until I tried it myself that I was convinced. So give it a go.
Six Moon Designs Rain Walker
ZPacks Lotus UL
Read more: Best Hiking Umbrella
Footwear- Socks – Gaiters
If you want to save weight and hike with a little less stress on your feet then consider trail runners. Ultralight hikers love them and as you are not carrying very heavy loads there is less stress on your feet, ankles, and knees. As your feet feel better there is less need for camp shoes, just loosen the shoe laces when at camp.
Weight per pair: 21 oz / 595 grams
There is a rather rapid move away from traditional hiking boots and shoes to lighter-weight trail running shoes. One of the best for 2023 is the Altra Lone Peak Trail Runners. They are ultralight, comfortable, have good grip, and last around 500 miles. I currently use these shoes.
Salomon Speedcross 5
Salomon Men’s X Ultra 4
Read more: Best Trail Runners for Backpacking
One of the most popular hiking socks in the world. The Darn Tough Light Hiker Crew Socks are worn by more thru-hikers than any other sock. Lightweight, good quality, and durable. These socks are built to last. I currently use the Macpac Merino Socks.
Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Sock
Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion Crew Socks
Read more: Best Hiking Socks
Gaiters – Optional
Gaiters are considered by many, including myself, to be luxury items. I find them to be very useful in snow and mud but not for general lightweight hiking and backpacking. But many love them for keeping sand and rocks out of their socks and shoes. The Dirty Girl Gaiters are among the most popular.
Altra Trail Gaiters
Read more: Best Gaiters for Backpacking
The electronics that you carry on the trail will vary a lot from person to person. If you are big on social media or have a Youtube Channel you will be carrying more in the way of cameras and backup batteries than some who just take photos with their smartphone.
For most, a smartphone and backup battery bank are the bare minimum and very important for photos, navigation, GPS, and contact with the outside world. The weight of a phone and backup battery bank will be around 1 lb. 2.2 oz / 524 grams but you can go much lighter is you choose.
Weight: 7.2 oz / 204 grams
With a great camera and the ability to use the newest 5G data for the ultrafast connection. The camera is awesome, and so is the ability to link with navigation apps via the built-in GPS.
Samsung Galaxy S22
Read more: Best Camera for Backpacking
Weight: 11.3 oz / 320 grams
This option combines a battery and charger all in one. This saves weight by eliminating the need for a wall charger. But for many, you will not need this much and a simple battery is all you need. For vloggers and hikers charging a GPS, watch, and more you will need a bigger system. One of the best ultralight battery options is the Nitecore listed below.
Read more: Best battery bank for hiking and backpacking
Camera – Optional
Read more: Best Camera for Backpacking
Headlamps – Optional
Weight: 0.9 oz / 26 grams
The Petzl E+Lite is not my favorite headlamp but it is one of the lightest. And in the world of ultralight thru-hiking and backpacking, it is a good option. My preference is a headlamp with rechargeable batteries and a bit better amount of light. But for the minimalist, the Petzl E+Lite is best. When hiking in summer with long hours of daylight I find the light on a smartphone is enough, and so do many other ultralight backpackers.
PETZL Actik Core 450
Read more: Best Headlamps
Watch – Optional
Weight: 1.87 oz / 53 grams
The Garmin Instinct Solar 2 is the kind of hiking watch that can do almost anything. With maps, GPS, weather, and more, it can also tell the time. With the solar, it can last quite a while between charges. But it is expensive. If you are a data nerd then you will love this watch or one of the others mentioned below.
Coros Vertix 2
Suunto 9 Baro
Read more: Best GPS Hiking Watches
Satellite Messenger – Optional
Weight: 3.5 oz / 100 grams
The Garmin InReach 2 is a very light two-way Satellite Messenger device. Use satellites when you are out of cell phone range to communicate with home, get weather, or alert emergency services of your location. If you are injured or incapacitated just press a button and help will be on the way. It has good battery life but as with electronics be sure to take a backup battery bank.
Zoleo Satellite Communicator
Somewear Labs Global Hotspot
Read more: Best Satellite Messenger
Winter Hiking Gear
When the white fluffy stuff starts to fall from the sky you may need to ‘gear up’ and get some specialist winter gear. An Ice Axe is commonly used on early-season trips in the mountains and is part of most lightweight backpacking gear lists. So is some form of traction device in the form of microspikes and for some, maybe even snowshoes, especially if you are thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail.
Read more: Best Ice Axe for Thru-Hiking
Weight: 11 oz / 312 grams
Microspikes are lightweight winter traction devices that work very well with late-season icy snow. Your boots or shoes will grip the ice and you can safely travel in the mountains. Almost everyone, myself included, uses the Kahtoola Microspikes.
Hillsound Trail Crampon
Read more: Best Microspikes
First Aid Kit and Misc
The first aid kit can be as basic as you want. Just ensure you have what you will need in the form of enough personal medication for your planned trip. As for the rest here is what I usually take. It will increase the pack weight a bit but I use most of the first aid supplies below on a regular basis. The most common things you will need are items to treat blisters or splinters with sun protection also being important. You could pack them in a stuff sack or use a zip lock bag.
- Plastic zip lock bags
- Money / ID / Credit Cards
- Blister pads
- Strapping Tape
- Giardia anti-biotic
- Foot infection anti-biotic
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Safety Pin
- Deet insect repellent
- Lip Balm
- Toilet tissue
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
Total 13oz / 375 grams
Frequently Asked Questions
Ultralight backpacking is the ability to cut excess weight from the amount of gear you carry when going backpacking. Most ultralight backpackers will carry less than 10 pounds as their base weight.
Less than 10 pounds is a good base weight for ultralight backpacking. It will require lightweight gear and the ability to not take items that are unnecessary.
Base weight is all the items in your backpack that you will carry with you all the time, such as a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, cook gear, and excess clothing not being worn. Consumables are the items such as water, food, and fuel.