5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear List

The lightest gear that’s supremely efficient and safe! Whatever you like to do: enjoying great views, photography, swimming in a lake, fishing, getting some extra camp time, or just putting in some trail miles this efficiency focused, 5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear List will give you more time to do it.

This Lightweight (technically Ultralight) Backpacking Gear List is suitable for backpackers on most 3-season trips in the lower 48 and most trips world-wide. Its focus is to travel as light as possible but be warm, dry & safe while still being as efficient as possible. It is capable of going 100+ miles without resupply. See 10 Pound Backpack (gear, food, fuel & water) to Hike 100 Miles. In some instances, you may wish to fine-tune this list to your particular trip needs and/or backpacking style by selecting suitable optional or alternate gear in this list.

I highly recommend you read the accompanying descriptive and instructional post, 5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear List, to best understand the advantages of this gear and how best to use it.

5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear List
Summary Table with Weights

Backpack and Gear Packaging0.8Backpack, stuff sacks
Sleeping Gear and Tent/Shelter (conventional)2.5best high Western Moutains & treeless areas
Sleeping Gear and Shelter  – Hammock 2.8 best for East Coast and other wooded areas
Clothing in Pack (not usually worn) 1.2 Rain jacket, warm jacket, gloves, etc.
Cooking Gear and Water Storage/Treatment0.7Stove, pot, cookware, water “bottles” & purification
“Essential” Gear (small items not included above)0.6Maps, SOS dev., 1st aid, headlamp, knife sunscreen
BASE PACK WEIGHT (BPW) 5.6BPW = all items in pack = all items above,
less “consumables” (water, food and fuel)
Food for – 3 day trip (see Best Backpacking Food)
and see Sample Backpacking Food List
4.22.5 days @1.7lb/day (no break. day 1 or din. day 3)
Fuel (see Stoves and Fuel)0.11 fl oz alcohol x 2 (dinners + breakfasts) = 2 fl oz
Water (see Best Hydration Drink When Thirsty)1.0Little carried. Filter/drink@source. Well hydrated!
Total of Consumables 5.3 Water, food, and fuel
TRAIL PACK WEIGHT (BPW + consumables)10.9 For a long weekend – 3 day trip
Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack) 3.7Not included in pack weight: clothing worn on the trail, hat, shoes, trekking poles, stuff in pockets, etc.
Camera Equipment Gear List (new page)Details: Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras

If this list looks too minimalist for your tastes take a look at9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear Listwhich is a good first choice if you want to travel light while retaining all the convenience and comfort of “traditional” backpacking gear. E.g. a real tent vs. a tarp and a canister vs. alcohol stove. The gear is familiar and easy to use. This is also a great list for trekking almost anywhere worldwide.

Detail of Gear List Items

Backpack and Gear Packaging (shorter trips and/or no bear canister)

PackCuben Mountain Laurel Des. Burn
(Dyneema packs also good opt.)
Light but extremely durable, (almost waterproof, seam sealed bag), good pockets. Some may prefer the larger volume of the Prophet or Exodus Packs
Pack (alt)Larger MLD Prophet/Exodus 14ozFor larger volume load (many may prefer)
Food storageAloksak OP Sak 12.5″ x 20″ (1.0)control food scent – attract less animal attention
Bear can alt.Ursack S29.3 Bear Bag (7.8 oz)1st choice: bear storage req. & Ursack approv.
Stuff sacksFor sleeping bag, clothes, etc.1.0Cuben: keep gear organized, clean, & dry

Alt: Backpack and Gear Packaging (for heavier loads or needing a bear canister)

Pack opt 1Hyperlite Mountain Gear SW 2400
 (HMG 3400 better for canister)
 28.0Light, super durable, (waterproof, seam sealed bag), great frame/carrying capacity, good pockets. 3400 better for bear canister
 Pack opt 2ULAOhm 2.0 Pack (32 oz) Do-it-all. Good price. Durable, fits bear canister
REI packOsprey Exos 48 Pack (40 oz)At REI: excellent price. Fits bear canister. (but heavier)
Bear canisterBear Vault BV500 (41) or Wild-Ideas Weekender (31) 31.0(when reg’s require) Wild-Ideas is lighter but pricy. Bear Vault is a better value
Bear can alt.Ursack S29.3 Bear Bag (7.8 oz)1st choice: bear storage req. & Ursack approv.
Stuff sacksFor sleeping bag, clothes, etc. Cuben: keep gear organized, clean, & dry

Sleeping Gear and Tent/Shelter (best high Western Mountains & other treeless areas)

For more sleeping bag options see link: Recommended Sleeping Bags & Quilts
Sleeping QuiltHammock Gear Burrow Quilt “+30”14.9Pers fave. Great value! (with 2 oz over fill = “+30F”)
Sleeping Bag (alternate)Western Mountaineering SummerLite Sleeping Bag (19)
Mountain Hardwear Phantom (22)
Std +32 bag. WM Summerlite = light, highest qual, long loft retention. Mtn. Hdw bag avail. at REI.
Sleep Bag (alt)Feathered Friends Merlin UL 30 (23 oz)For those that sleep cold. Closer to a +20 F sleeping bag with 12 oz of 900+ FP down!
 Ground cloth Gossamer Gear Polycryo M (1.6)Not needed with a bivy or shelters with a floor
Sleeping PadT-Rest NeoAir X-lite “Women’s”12.0Perfect size for most. Warm. Super comfortable!
Sleeping PadT-Rest NeoAir X-lite Small (8oz) need to put lots of stuff under legs for size small
BivyMLD Superlight Bivy (7.0) 7.0Small footprint = more campsite options. Will cowboy camp under stars most nights.
 TarpMLD Grace Duo Tarp Silnylon (15) Cuben (7.8) 7.8Pers fave most trips: Huge coverage. Low weight. Great ventilation & views.
TarpHMG Echo II Tarp (9.0 oz) Another great Cuben tarp
 Stakes8 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea 4.0 Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
 Guylines 3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord 2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines) 1.0 2 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
Other shelter options see: Recommended Tents, Tarps, and other Shelters
Pyramid Shelt.Mountain Laurel Des. Solomid XL [in Silnylon (17 oz)]Solo ‘mid: Extremely versatile shelter for low weight. (no bug netting, no floor)
Pyramid Shelt.MLD Solomid InnerNet (11/7.5oz)bug protection/floor (only for when bugs are bad)
Pyramid Shelt.HMG Utamid (17 oz)great shelter for two. 1/2 lb/person shared
Pyramid Shelt.MLD Duomid XL Cuben (16oz) no pole between sleepers! 1/2 lb/person shared
Tent (alt)TarpTent ProTrail – 1 pers (26oz)Full rain & bug protection for one person (has floor)
Tent (alt)TarpTent MoTrail – 2 pers (36oz)Full rain & bug protection for two (has floor)
Tent (alt)Big Agnes 1 person UL tentREI: Freestanding tent for those who want one
 TOTAL 2.5  Lb

Sleeping Gear and Shelter – Hammock (*best for East Coast and other wooded areas)

*See: Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems

HammockDutchware 11 ft Netless Hammock
Dutchware Hammock w bugnet 10
8.01.0 Hexon single layer fabric, with ridgeline
Top quiltHammock Gear Burrow Quilt +3013.0Trimmed vers. (+40 quilt w 2 oz over fill = +30F)
Bottom QuiltHammock Gear “Phincubator” +30 14.060″ ver. of “Phoenix 40” with down overfill to get +30. (no need for pad under feet)
TarpHammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex
+ Zing-it ridge-line w hardware
 5.6Light, hammock specific tarp, huge protected area
Hammock SuspensionKevlar tree straps
Whoopie Hook Suspension
 3.0Kevlar straps, w Amsteel whooppie hook susp. Talk to Dutchware to ensure you get the right stuff
 Stakes4 MSR Groundhog Y-stakes .5oz ea 2.0 Hold better than skewer stakes. Red easier to find!
 Guylines3mm MSR Reflective Utility Cord  2.4mm reflect cord (8×4-ft lines) 1.0 2 to 3mm – all work well – diameter your preference
 TOTAL 2.8  Lb

Clothing in Pack (not usually worn)

Rain JacketOutdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4From REI: less expensive than many at this weight
RainJacketPatagonia Storm Racer  (6.0)Light! Minimal. Amazing it’s 3-layer fabric!
Rain PantsOutdoor Research Helium (6.0)Light. Not insanely expensive
Rainpants (alt)Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz)For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain
Down vestPatagonia UL or Mtn Hdw vests 6.0Warmth Important for rest stops and in camp
Warm jacketWest. Mtn. Flash XR Jacket (11)Water resistant shell and 850+ FP down.
Wm jacket (alt)Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket  (hooded)Stuffed with 900 fill power down! Warmth Important for rest stops and in camp.
Warm hatThick fleece hat (around 2.0 oz)Great for hiking in the cold and for a quilt w/o hood
Warm hatOR Option Balaclava1.2Neck coverage. bug resist. Great for quilt w/o hood
Liner glovesDuraGlove ET Charcoal Wool (2.5)Great liner glove – light, warm, durable!
Camp glovesGlacier Glove fingerless fleece (2.0) 2.0Dexterity camp chores – climbing in cold weather
Rain Mitts (alt)MLD eVENT Rain Mitts (1.2)Great for cold, windy, and/or wet
Spare socksDeFeet Wolleators or
SmartWool PhD Light Mini  or
Darn Tough 1/4 UL w cushion
1.8Will bring to wash & switch between pairs

Cooking Gear and Water Storage/Treatment

see Best Backpacking Hydration – Drink When Thirsty
BottlesSawyer 64oz Squeeze Pouch (1.5)For collecting treating water in camp – dry camps
BottlesSawyer 32 oz Squeeze Pouch (1.0)1.0Use during the day (note: Platypus doesn’t fit Sawyer)
PurificationSawyer filter (3.0)3.0To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary
PurificationChlorine Dioxide tablets (0.5)For treating 2L bladder in camp
see: Best Backpacking Stove System – Trail Designs Caldera vs. JetBoil
CooksetTrail Designs Toaks 900ml Pot, Sidewinder Ti-Tri + Zelph burner5.4Lightest, most practical cookset on the market.
Zelph StarLyte Burner stores unburned fuel.
Cookset (alt)Jetboil MiniMo Cook System, Jetpower 100 Fuel Canister (20.8)EZ to use. Much heavier than the alcohol stove cookset. Not “green” with non-recyclable canisters.
Fuel containerTD Fuel Bottle Kit (0.5 oz)5 fl-oz cap. Use squirt top + medicine cup accurate dispensing
Fuel containerTwin Neck Alcohol Fuel Bottle 1.2 Best out there. Stores/measures. Tight seal!
IgnitionStandard (not micro) BIC lighter0.2Larger is easier to use with cold hands
MugSnow Peak Ti Single 450 Cup (2.4)
Fave: MLD 475 Ti mug (1.3oz)
Eat breakfast & have coffee at same time
Bowl/Mug (alt)Ziplock 16 fl-oz bowl (0.9 oz) 0.9Pers fave: “mug” and/or bowl. Cheap & Light!
UtensilPlastic spoon with big shovel0.3spoon handle cut to fit in pot

“Essential” Gear (smaller items not included in above)

MAPSCustom Maps in ZipLock1.0Mapped with CalTopo and printed at Kinkos
ChargingEasyAcc USB Battery (5.4)Charge iPhone 6s ~3x, iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung Galaxy s6 ~2x (5,500 mAh, actual!)
SOS/TrackerPreferred: inReach SE+ (6.9)2-way com. big deal! visible GPS coord’s, & trip tracking+SOS. solo hikers should consider one…
SOS/Track (alt)SPOT Gen3 (4.8)Disadvantages: only 1-way com, no vis. GPS coord.
OpticsROXANT 7×18 monocular (2.0)Light: scouting/route finding, decent, inexpensive
Pen/pencilFisher Space Pen Stowaway0.2To mark up maps, take notes about trip
ToothbrushGUM 411 Classic Toothbrush0.4Full head. minimal handle (but not cut in 1/2)
ToothpasteTravel size 1/2 full0.7
Toilet paperWhatever is on the roll at home1.0TP only for polish, use found materials first
Soap/sanitizerDr. Bronners0.5Dr. Bronner’s – repackaged into small bottle
Sunscreensmall plastic tube about 1/2 full0.5for face & hands: most of body covered—large hat
Lip balmHigh SPF water resistant types0.2Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm
First Aid KitMeds, wound/injury, foot care3.0See detailed list at bottom
HeadnetSea to Summit Head Net (1.2)Mosquito netting – don’t take on most trips
Insect repell.Sawyer Picaridin lotion 14 hrs!
Pocketable Picaridin 0.5 oz spray
Lyme Zika protection: Picaradin Lotion most effective & long lasting. Unlike DEET it has no odor & won’t melt plastic.
CompassSuunto M-3D Compass (1.6)1.6Lightest compass with declination adjustment
Knife/scissorsWescott blunt tip school scissors0.9More useful than knife – OK for plane carryon
KnifeGerber L.S.T. Drop Point (1.2 oz)Can cut bread and salami – very light for 2.6″ blade
Knife (alt)Spyderco Ladybug Knife (0.6)2″ blade – one of the lightest functional knives
LightBlack Diamond Ion (1.9 oz)
Black Diamond Spot (3.2 oz)
$15 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz)
Ion for a “usual” trips.
Spot headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
Value $15 Energizer @Amazon, Target, or Walmart
Light (alt)Fenix LD02 w spare battery (1.0) 1.0Best mini light available, attach to hat brim with clip
RepairTenacious patch, duct tape, glue 0.2Also consider NeoAir patch kit, and Aquaseal
Finance/IDID, CCs, and cash in snack ZipLock0.2More secure on me than left in car

Clothing Worn and Items Carried (stuff not in pack)

ShirtRail Riders Adventure Top or
Sahara shirts like these at REI
7.3Pers fave. For hot and/or brushy (not a baselayer)
Shirt (alt)$40 REI 1/4-Zip Tech Shirt 6.5 
Smartwool PhD Light 1/4-Zip 8.8
Versatile, light, 50 SPF, nice collar, zipper neck
Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather
 Midlayer (opt)Quarter-Zip Fleece Pullover (8oz)For colder weather trips. Active mid-layer/windshirt (when taken, worn most of time) Limited stock. Or any 100wt fleece around 8 oz
PantsRail Riders X-Treme Adventure (16)Pers fave. Very durable, no velcro on pockets!
Pants (alt)REI Sahara convertible pants (14) 14Ex Officio and many others make similar pants
UnderwearExOfficio Give-N-Go Briefs M’s
Patagonia briefs Women’s
2.0Dry fast, will rinse/wash most days
BraPatagonia Active spots braAlison’s favorite
ShoesAltra Lone Peaks (21)
Altra Superior Trail-Running
 18Light. Huge toe room. Comfortable! Superiors lighter. Lone Peaks more protective sole.
Shoes (alt)Inov-8 ROCLITE 295 (20oz)Light, sticky rubber, durable, low heel rise
Shoes (alt)Brooks Cascadia (25 oz)Very popular trail shoe for LW backpackers
SocksDeFeet Wolleators or
SmartWool PhD Light Mini
1.8Wolleators are pers fave. Light, thin, warm, simple, durable
HeadwearOutdoor Research Sun Runner Hat2.5Removable sun cape. Adaptable to most situations
WatchSuunto Core with positive display2.2compass, altimeter, multifunction timepiece. No GPS
Watch/GPSGarmin Fenix 3 Sapphire (3 oz)Accurate trip track: GPS, compass, altimeter, time
SunglassesRx and non-Rx (polarized)1.0http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options
GlassesZenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz)Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery
CameraCanon S120 + extra battery (8 oz)Balance of wt, size, image qual; less $ than RX100
Camera (alt)Sony RX100 or Sony a6000See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras
GPS/CommIphone 6s+ Ziplock ba (7.5)7.5Primary GPS & map source (not leaving in car!)
Poles bargainCascade Mountain Tech CarbonPers fave. 1/3 price but equal to the best poles. wt 15.2 oz
Trek PolesREI Carbon Power Lock (16 oz)
BD Carbon Alpine (18 oz)
Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)
TrekPoles lightGossamer Gear LT4/5 Trek. Poles8.0Good for trail hiking. Not for mountaineering/talus

First Aid Kit (detail)

First AidItemOzComments
Pain, fever inflammationNaprosyn (Aleve), Ibuprofen, or Tylenol (fever)0.4In ziplock pill bag available at pharmacies
Foot/blisterGauze + Leukotape Tape0.3For taping over blisters, or pre-blister areas
Foot/blisterTincture of benzoin in micro-bottle0.2For getting tape or Bandaids to REALLY stick!
Wound careBandaids + gel blister covers0.5Assorted sizes – your preference
Wound careAntibact. packets + wound wipes0.4Wound cleansing, infection prevention
Wound care (12) 4×4″ gauze pads + 1 roll gauze Use duct tape to hold in place (from above – Repair Items)
OTC medsBenadryl, Sudafed, Nexium, Imodium, caffeine tablets0.4All in tablet/pill form
Rx medsPersonal Dr’s Rx meds0.4
Pain seriousDr’s Rx Painkiller0.2For serious injury, tooth abscess, etc.
Storage/orgBag Poly 5×8  to hold 1st Aid Kit0.2 Keep size down. Can only put in what can fit in bag.
TOTAL3.0 Oz (included in “Essential” Gear)
15 replies
  1. Phil Steffek
    Phil Steffek says:

    Hey Man – Just found your site while googling “lightweight backpacking list” or something of the sort. Totally digging it! Thanks for all the info!

  2. Deborah Ambrose
    Deborah Ambrose says:

    Was researching lightweight gear and came across your Adventure Alan sight. This is incredible and so resourceful. I have each section saved in my “notes” on my iPhone. Thank you so much for sharing

  3. nate
    nate says:

    Great info, Alan, as always. In your Hammock section i think you have “Tarp” where you mean “Under Quilt” and “Ground cloth” where you mean “Tarp”.

    Speaking of…your entire tarp setup isn’t only 5oz, is it? I have the same tarp, but with doors. Does your weight take into account your tarp’s guy lines and ridgeline? Thanks.

  4. Lauri Miller
    Lauri Miller says:

    Recently found your site and have now been digging through all the posts. Can’t thank you enough for all the invaluable no frills info!

    I have been looking for a lightweight waterproof backpack for shorter hikes and rock climbing and would really like to try out the Serac 45 from Exped. Would you happen to have any input on this particular pack? I like the minimalist design, don’t mind the lack of pockets but am somewhat concerned by the lack of a proper frame. They say the foam back is removable so I’m think that maybe it would also be possible to substitute the frame for something stiffer.
    Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thanks again!

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Lauri, Sorry for the late reply. Alison and I did 132 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains over this holiday weekend. Apologies, but I am not familiar at all with the Exped Serac 45. But I can address a few of the issues about a frameless pack. 1) In general, there is not easy way to retro-fit or jury-rig an effective frame for them. Some people try to pack them very tight and compress the heck out of them, creating a “virtual frame.” So in reality you might get 20% weight transfer to your hips. I.e. the hipbelt on a frameless packs in more of a pack stabilizer than a load bearing element. 2) It depends on how much weight you carry and how tolerant your shoulders are to carrying that weight. I have carried 30 pounds in a pack without a hipbelt but most people would not be happy with that. This is something you can easily test on a long day hike with a loaded frameless pack.

      But in summary, I am guessing that you’ll likely want light pack with a frame like a ULA or HMG in the volume range of 45 liters. Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan

  5. Mark
    Mark says:

    Hi Alan. Great post. I recently found this resource and have to say it is excellent. As a recent convert to going light while still maintaining some degree of comfort, this list is super beneficial. Two quick questions, what is your opinion of adding an ultra light dry sack to any of the configurations and have you had success incorporating any solar charging options? Thanks!

  6. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Hi Alan,

    Do you have a favorite winter traction device (e.g. Microspikes)? I just broke mine so am in the market for a new set.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Sorry for the late reply Jeff. In general, I am either winging it with Inov-8 boot lugs and trekking poles (many times nav’ing around the hard icy stuff). Or when it’s “real” using something like a full, light crampon that works with trail runners. Either Kahtoola KH-10s or Camp true crampons (CAMP’s Universal XLC 490 crampons). These I trust. I haven’t spent a bunch of time on the midway tractions devices like Yaktrax, Microspikes, and Hillsound Trail Crampons. Of note the Vargo Titanium Pocket Cleats are interestingly light enough to make them a tempting option for getting over very short icy/hard snow sections of otherwise “shoe-navigable” terrain. Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time with them in difficult conditions to make a rec’ one way or the other on them. Hope this gives you a bit more info. -alan

      • Jeff
        Jeff says:

        Thanks, Alan, I was unaware of the Vargo pocket cleats and they look very intriguing. I’ll pick up a pair and report back. Thank you as always, J

  7. John
    John says:

    Great site Alan. Much useful information. Do you have another suggestion for a good hammock. Many attempts to contact Ductchware have gone unanswered. Thanks

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi John,
      I just contacted Dutchware and got an almost immediate response from Dutch himself as follows: “We answer every email.  So if they are emailing sales@dutchwaregear.com and not getting a response, they are being blocked.  We also list out telephone number on the site and have a full time customer service person handling phones and emails.

      Hope this helps. And please let me know if still can’t get a response. Warmest, -alan


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