The Essential Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
Estimated reading time: 29 minutes
Backpacking is a balancing act between equipment and weight.
Essential and functional become the keywords in deciding what to carry and what to leave behind.
The goal of this post, which comprises the essential ultralight backpacking gear list, is to provide useful tips and reduce the time you spend learning, so you can enjoy more time in nature.
Getting outside and hiking, backpacking and camping can change your life.
Expediting the gear selection process to essentials and planning to get outdoors, keeps your enthusiasm strong.
With a comprehensive super ultralight backpacking gear list, this article is written to prepare you for the journey.
Table of Contents
Choosing The Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear
I started hiking at a young age, and can’t imagine my life without it.
My hikes have gotten longer and longer over the years.
Most times my hikes are several miles and multiple days, which is referred to as backpacking.
Whether backpacking or hiking, the gear will be mostly the same.
The only differences come in when you need to sleep or cook on the trail.
Choosing the best ultralight backpacking gear for your next adventure is never easy…
But this backpacking light gear list is here to help you:
Every product I recommend on this ultralight backpacking gear list has been personally tested for a minimum of 24 hiking hours by my team.
We only recommend products we actually use ourselves.
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Let’s dive into the ultralight backpacking gear list!
Always go with a comfortable, well fitting, lightweight backpack suitable for all climatic conditions.
Should be big enough for what you need but small enough it doesn’t compromise balance.
My personal suggestion is the 52-Liter Ultralight Osprey Variant>>
Provides an additional layer, in heavy rain.
Ensure the cover fits well, covering the top and sides.
Again, I’d go with Osprey and their Large Ultralight Rain Cover>>
Dry foods, and essential documents are covered in case of submersion.
Continuing with the Osprey theme, my top choice is the Osprey Ultralight 6>>
When backpacking, a good night’s rest is critical for stamina, alertness and recovery from the day before.
Everybody sleeps differently and has different comfort levels.
In order to pack super light without sacrificing comfort, we recommend that you include the following in your ultralight backpacking gear list:
Should be small and lightweight, ideal for ultralight backpacking.
Four season bags are essential for winter, and alpine camping.
The most comfortable and versatile ultralight sleeping bag I’ve ever used is the;
Sleeping Bag Liner
Vapour barrier liners are designed to stop perspired moisture from degrading a bag’s thermal capabilities.
They are beneficial on multi-night trips, and in below zero environments.
We recommend the Cocoon Ultralight Silk Sleeping Bag Liner>>
Some are solid, some self-inflate, and others require inflation.
Lightness and comfort varies between the styles.
Of all the ultralight sleeping pads we’ve tested over the years, one reigns supreme…
The most comfortable, well constructed and lightweight is the EcoTek Hybern8>>
A tarp can substitute for a tent in the right conditions.
It can also provide an additional layer under, or be used as a fly over the tent or hammock.
Look for a minimum of 40D RipStop fabric.
Should also have Non-toxic dual Silicone, PU coating with Reinforced stitching & Heat taped seams.
Our top pick is the Aqua Quest Ultralight Guide Tarp>>
Whether you’re lounging in the yard or camping on unsuitable ground surface…
A hammock ties between trees, and can provide a comfortable night’s sleep. It would be worth your while to make room for it in your ultralight backpacking gear list.
The best bang for your buck is the Legit Camping Ultralight Hammock>>
A tent provides protection from the elements, and wildlife.
Keep it small, and lightweight for long backpacking trips.
I absolutely love my 1-man, 4-season Teton Ultralight Pop Tent>>
Many people utilize GPS to navigate the backcountry.
They’re definitely handy when you’re off trail with few visual references.
Generally I prefer a simple map and compass, unless I’m going to be in thick forest for extended periods.
Essential for navigating between points, or from a map to the terrain.
This lifesaving tools needs to be excellent quality.
Every backpacker should have and know how to use a compass.
I use and mastered back country navigation with a Bunton TruArc3>>
Portray the landscape, and enable precise locations and directions to be determined. Use with a compass and altimeter, for accuracy.
Since it would take far too much space to carry a map for every awesome location in the world, it makes sense to have it digitally.
The good news is there’s a touch screen watch with every adventure location on earth.
One of the coolest pieces of equipment ever to be included in your ultralight backpacking gear list is…
Very useful for protecting a valuable resource.
It’s also great in case of emergency.
If you prefer a physical map or have documents and money to keep safe…
I suggest the Dot&Dot 15″ Packing Folder>>
Provides accurate locations and directions based on satellite positions. Ensure they are fully charged.
There’s only one GPS unit (two way sattellite communicator with navigation) I trust…
The first thing to consider is how many people you’re cooking for.
If you’re with a group, figure out if everyone is cooking separately or as a group.
When you’re in a group but cooking for yourself, save space in your pack by eating out of your pot rather than a separate bowl or cup.
When on the trail for several days, I find it best to keep meals simple and just enough to keep me going.
I’ll usually piece a good cookware system together with a collapsible pot and utility utensil.
Here’s all you’ll need for cooking on the trail.
Should be lightweight and compact.
You want your stove to not only work quickly, but work in wet and windy conditions.
There’s only one that fits the bill around here…
Supplied in canisters.
Fuel for the Jetboil range, provides an efficient and powerful mixture for fast cooking.
You can’t use your JetBoil Flash without your 100g Fuel Cannister>>
Lighter or Strike Igniter
A lighter or igniter naturally is a must-have item in any ultralight backpacking gear list. Plasma lighters or strike igniters, enable the lighting of a fire, or igniting a portable stove in just about any weather.
There’s an outdoor plasma lighter that’s essential for any ultralight backpacking gear…
These useful lightweight culinary tools, allow a variety of foods to be eaten with a single utensil.
Nobody wants to have a bunch of silverware weighing down their pack.
I really love my Compact Ultralight Orblue 4-in-1 Camp Utensil>>
Cookware & Dishes
Lightweight cookware is multi-purpose, and is often purpose built for a cooking system.
Dishes and mugs are often collapsible to save space.
I’ve tried the popular Sea To Summit cookware and was disappointed in the quality.
We recommend the Sailing Collapsible Silicon & Stainless Stock Pot>>
5. EATING & DRINKING
First things first…
How much do you eat? Do you need to cook to eat and how long will you be on the trail?
When it comes to eating and drinking on the trail, here’s what to include on your ultralight backpacking gear list:
Lightweight, with a long shelf-life.
A wide range is available for main course and desserts. Just add water, and heat.
If you can dehydrate food yourself that would be my first suggestion.
Otherwise, I recommend, Harmony Freeze Dried Vegan Soup & Chili>>
Cliff bars, fruit and nut mixes, and chocolate, provide energy on the go. Easy to carry, and high in calories.
I’m a Kirkland fan, and bring enough trail mix to spread around the entire crew.
Gotta go with the 4lb Kirkland Signature Trail Mix>>
Water is a life essential, and carrying a personal water filter can provide drinkable water in an emergency.
Regardless of the trail, I always bring my LifeStraw>>
Before drinking from a natural water source, using a water purifier to sterilize the water is essential.
Varying technologies and purification levels available.
I like my Survivor Filter Pro Purifier Pump>>
These water reservoirs are fitted into backpacks to provide drinkable water on the go.
Available in a range of sizes.
I’ve been most impressed with the Heavy-Duty Crystal Creek 3L Insulated Bladder>>
6. CLOTHING FOR HOT WEATHER
Your clothing choices will be some of your most important choice when hiking or backpacking.
They keep you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
It’s important to learn how to layer clothes.
A layering system helps you carry less while being prepared to adjust for many conditions on the go. So, when hiking in hot conditions, here’s what your ultralight backpacking gear list must comprise:
These shirts are available in short and long sleeve.
They can be wrinkle resistant, UV protective, breathable, moisture wicking or anti-microbial.
Our guys appreciated the refined Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Long Sleeve>>
As for the ladies, our team loves the Columbia Bahama Long Sleeve>>
Quick Dry Shorts or Trousers
Made from quick dry nylon or Duralux fabric, with a water repellent finish.
Breathable and abrasion resistant.
Men should check out the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Short>>
Ladies, we’re confident you’ll enjoy the Royal Robbins Backcountry Short>>
Move moisture away from the skin to aid evaporation.
Synthetic, silk and merino wool are best.
Hands down favorite hiking chonies for men are Columbia’s Performance Stretch Boxer Brief>>
Ladies, I’ve heard good things about Adidas’ Climacool Thong Underwear>>
7. CLOTHING FOR COLD WEATHER
Each of your three primary layers has a specific role.
Your base layer provides moisture management.
The middle layers are your insulating layers that protect you from the cold.
Your outer layer shields you from the rain, wind, and snow. These three layers are great to have, no doubt, but it’s important to not overdo the protective layers even in cold weather. You want to be comfortably warm, not sweaty when hiking.
Here are the essentials that make it to the ultimate ultralight backpacking gear list:
Thermal base layer
Designed to trap heat and wick away moisture.
Choose merino wool, silk or synthetic fabrics in suitable thickness for the temperature.
When it’s cold I only wear my Under Armour Mens Base 3.0 Crew>>
For women, check out the Under Armour Womens Cold Gear Shirt>>
Merino wool and synthetic base layer with high moisture wicking and thermal properties.
Sometimes fleece lined for added warmth.
For the guys we suggest Under Armour Base 4.0 Legging>>
Gals, our team recommends goes to YogiPace Fleece Lined Leggings>>
Triclimate Jacket With Removable Liner
A good three season insulation layer, worn under a weather proof shell layer is ideal.
Hands Down, The North Face Canyonlands Triclimate Jacket>>
Ladies, we suggest, The North Face Cinnabar Triclimate Jacket>>
A thermal layer with high wicking properties. Provides cover for ears. Fleece or merino wool.
I’ve had the same Carhartt beanie for a decade, so I recommend the Carhartt Acrylic Knit Hat>>
Our lady nomads, rave about the WaySoft 100% Cashmere Beanie>>
Worn in layers.
A wicking, breathable, fleece liner glove as a base, with a rain mitt as a top layer in wet weather.
In freezing conditions, high dexterity, waterproof gloves are good.
Guys I recommend the Seirus Innovation Original All-Weather Glove>>
And for women, I recommend The North Face Apex Etip>>
8. WATERPROOF RAIN GEAR
Your shell or outer layer is critical.
It protects you from rain, wind and snow.
It also keeps your inner layer from getting wet and retains body heat.
An outer shell layer, with poor breathability will leave you just as wet on the inside due to sweat and condensations.
The main characteristics of an outer layer are weight, durability, waterproof and breathable.
Here’s exactly what to look for:
A shell layer, breathable, windproof and waterproof. Suitable for driving rain and activity.
For men I love my Waterproof Marmot Magnus Fleece Lined Jacket>>
And ladies, we recommend the Waterproof Marmot Magnus Fleece Lined Jacket>>
Waterproof and breathable trousers, used as a shell layer to provide warmth in wet conditions.
Men check out the UA ArmourVent Trail Pants>>
Women check out the prAna Water Resistant Halle Pant >>
A shell layer worn over liner gloves in wet conditions. Mitt gloves offer less dexterity than finger gloves.
I’m not a big glove fan, but if I had to, I’d use the UA Coldgear Storm Glove>>
For the women, our girls agreed on the UA Coldgear Infrared Run Gloves>>
One of the most important items on any ultralight backpacking gear list is the footwear. Naturally as you hike or walk through any type of forested area, you’re likely to encounter tough terrain.
Wearing shoes that will not only help you navigate the treacherous paths but also protect your feet and ankles from sharp rocks, thorns, and other dangerous elements that trail hikes and mountains are typically strewn with is essential. Needless to say you need tough shoes that will be able to sustain themselves in difficult territory.
During most hikes and even the majority of my backpacking trips, I prefer a lightweight trail runner.
Trail runners are generally lighter, fit better, and have a shorter break in time.
That said, hiking boots have improved exponentially in recent years.
Depending on the ankle support your need, hiking shoes come in low-cut, mid-cut or high-cut.
Here’s the hiking footwear we go with:
Ultralight Long Distance Boots
Lightweight, comfortable, breathable and quick drying.
With good traction and thick soles, they are good hiking shoes.
Men check out the La Sportiva Core High GTX Trail Hiking Boot>>
Women also checkout the La Sportiva Core high GTX Trail Hiking Boot>>
High traction soles, breathable, antimicrobial, cushioned open footwear, suitable for warm weather hiking.
Men I cannot recommend enough, the Brooks Cascadia 12s>>
Ladies, Brooks are made very well, also check the Brooks Cascadia 12s>>
Moisture wicking, and cushioning. Suitable for the footwear, activity, and the season.
Often a merino wool blended with polyester, nylon or spandex.
Men, check out the Yuedge 3 PairWicking Antimicrobial Sock>>
Women, check out the DarnTough Micro Crew Ultralight Sock>>
Toe Sock Liners
Sock liners minimise blisters, by wicking moisture, and reduce friction.
Usually thin, and wool, silk or synthetic fabrics.
For men and women, I suggest the unisex Injini Toesock Liners>>
High gaiters protect socks from getting wet in snowy conditions.
Short gaiters, keep stones, twigs, thorns and insects from getting inside shoes.
Check out the Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters>>
10. PERSONAL ITEMS & ACCESSORIES
There are a handful of items that often get over looked.
While you may not need all of them for a day hike…
Just about all of the following items are crucial for long distance treks, so be sure to include them in your ultralight backpacking gear list for longer trips:
Super bright LED lighting for use on the trail after dark.
Flood and focused beams. Red light preserves night vision.
I absolutely love my Black Diamond Unisex ReVolt Headlamp>>
Adjustable support for climbs, descents and rough terrain.
Lightweight and collapsible. Great accessories for snowy/slippery conditions.
I was gifted and really enjoy my pair of BAFX Anit Shock Trekking Poles>>
Wide brimmed or peaked.
Lightweight, moisture wicking and breathable.
For guys and gals, I suggest the Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Sun Hat>>
Diverse sizes available.
Full size (42, 50mm), Mid-size (32, 35mm), Compact (25mm).
Compact is obviously more lightweight.
I recently bought and LOVE my Binoculars>>
Quick drying, polyester/nylon microfibre.
High water absorbency, antimicrobial. Diverse sizes
depending on your adventure.
The only towel I pack is this Premium Lightweight Microfiber Towel>>
Used to dig cat holes, removes
small stones and cuts roots.
Plastic or metal.
Strength and weight varies with material and size.
Nobody wants to backpack a trail covered in human s***.
Use a trowel and burry it.
I’ve got to go (pun intended) with the Columbia Backcountry Potty Trowel>>
Where possible, pack out, or bury.
I’ve only used one brand, so I recommend Coleman Biodegradable Camp Toilet Paper>>
Versatile headwear, useful for other purposes.
Scarf, headband, pot holder, even as a water or coffee filter.
Wish I discovered these sooner.
I love the convenience and style of my Tapp Collections Shemagh>>
Assorted styles, sizes and materials.
Some have built-in hangers, compartments, and mirror.
I only use my Osprey Ultralight Roll Organizer>>
100% biodegradable, vegetable based liquid soap.
Gotta love the convenience of Lewis N. Clark Soap Sheets>>
Alcohol gel-based sanitizer to clean hands, and kills germs.
Use sparingly and only when you absolutely need to.
If I use hand sanitizer it’s the EO Natural French Lavender Spray>>
Used to take notes, formulate ideas and record experiences.
Some of my best articles and business ideas were inspired in nature.
I don’t hit the trail without my Rustic Red Buffalo Check Journal>>
Used to store liquids to protect other items.
Can be used to pack out waste items.
New backpackers and hikers alike often pack more first aid and safety items than they need.
I’m a former firefighter and certified first responder.
I’ve found it’s very seldom you need to perform first aid on the trail.
Not to mention, there’s only so much you can do in the back country.
Here are my backpacking and hiking safety essentials:
Comes in numerous sizes.
Added additional items as necessary.
I don’t go on any adventure without my SurvivorWare First Aid Kit>> This first aid kit includes everything apart from the prescription medicines or other over the counter drugs that you may need specific to your medical condition, if any.
However, if you’re planning to compile your own first aid kit, it’d be good to include the following:
- Antiseptic wipes
- Gauze roll
- Adhesive tape
- Bandages in different sizes and shapes
- Sterile dressing pads
- Butterfly bandages
- Forceps or tweezers
- Scissors, and a topical antibiotic ointment.
In addition you may also consider carrying pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen and other medicines for a stomach infection or diarrhea. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may require the inclusion of other items.
Useful for charging portable electronic devices.
Attach to outside of backpack.
This is another item I never leave the house without…
You never know when you’ll need you Anker 21W Dual USB Solar Charger>>
Plastic or metal with pea.
Used to signal for help or danger.
Use plastic in alpine conditions.
Look for a double tube survival whistle.
The only one I’ve found that actually works is Binboll’s Survival Double Tube Emergency Whistle>>
Carry permits for fishing, hunting or adventure access.
Honestly, if you value our natural environment, it’s important to acquire and carry all necessary permits.
Just get and carry your permits with a Witz See It Safe Waterproof Badge Holder>>
There you have it, these are the exact items myself and my team have agreed should be on every ultralight backpacking gear list.
To your adventure,