Adventure Alan’s Lightweight & Ultralight Backpacking Gear Lists
I have put these gear lists in order of how current and applicable they are most readers. Thus, most readers will not need to read further than the first table of gear lists. As you go further down the page you will get into more specialized gear lists, e.g. a canyoneering gear list, or historical gear lists, e.g. a group of gear lists that chronicle Colin’s and my 8 year journey to a 40 pound pack weight reduction; from a 55 pound packs in 1999 to a 15 pound packs in 2007. Enjoy!
Look at These Gear Lists First
These Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists, 5 Pound or 9 Pound, will save you a lot of pack-weight but still keep a smile on your face. You will most likely be warmer, more comfortable, and sleep better than most campers carrying 2 to 3 times the weight in conventional/heavier backpacking gear.
- 5 Pound Practical Light Backpacking Gear List (link) New
The lightest gear that still makes practical sense. Focused on efficiency while staying warm, dry & safe
- 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List (link) My top gear list since 2008
Travel light but retain the convenience & comfort of “traditional,” familiar, & easy to use backpacking gear
Note: all blue text is a link to content
These two great lightweight backpacking gear lists are suitable for most backpackers on most 3-season trips (spring, summer, and fall) in the lower 48 states of the US as well as most trekking (backpacking) trips world-wide. They will do you proud for:
- Appalachian Trail and other backpacking areas on the East Coast
- The Sierras, Rockies and other mountains of the Western US
- Cascade Mountains and Pacific Northwest
- The Canyons and Deserts of the Southwest
- Trekking Trips Worldwide (e.g. Patagonia, Europe, New Zealand, etc.)
5 lb or 9lb? Pick the Gear List that Suits You
|5 pound Practical Light Backpacking Gear List||9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Gear List|
|3 day wt||11 to 13 lb* total pack weight for 3 days
(*total wt includes gear, food, fuel & water)
|15 to 20+ lb* total pack weight for 3 days
(*total wt includes gear, food, stove fuel & water)
|Purpose||To travel as light as possible but be warm, dry & safe. Focused on efficiency. Whatever you like to do: enjoying great views, photography, swimming, fishing, getting extra camp time, or hiking long miles, this will give you more time to do it. Capable of 100+ miles w/o resupply||Travel light while retaining all the convenience and comfort of “traditional” backpacking gear. e.g. a freestanding tent vs. a tarp and a canister vs. alcohol stove. Gear is familiar and easy to use. Good for trekking almost anywhere worldwide.|
|Gear Sources||Uses some exciting, lighter & innovative gear from cottage manufacturers like Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ULA Packs, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Hammock Gear: (may need to wait a few weeks for some gear)||Uses more conventional gear (sometimes heavier) from mainstream commercial vendors like REI. Gear usually available off-the-shelf.|
|Pack||Under 1 pound: Frameless, with a good hip-belt & durable fabric. (Options for a frame pack for longer trips w/heavier loads.)||2 pounds or under: Solid internal frame. Larger volume. Can carry a bear canister. From REI: Osprey Exos 48 Pack|
|Shelter||Around ½ lb/person: usually a tarp or a shared pyramid shelter||Around 1 to 2 lb/person: freestanding tent (an ultralight one), or a TarpTent|
|Other||Less “other stuff.” Minimal light||A few more comfort & convenience items|
Hammock Camping on the AT
|8||Appalachian Trail Lightweight
(uses a hammock)
|3+||This list is fine tuned to the climate and terrain of the Appalachian trail. As such, it is a bit lighter than the regionally generic 9 Pound – Full Comfort – Lightweight Backpacking Gear List.|
*Sea = Seasons that the gear list is applicable to. 2+ seasons is Summer and the warmer portions of Spring and Fall. 3 Seasons is Spring, Summer and Fall. 3+ Seasons is Spring, Summer and Fall and potentially adds the warmer shoulders of Winter.
Other Lightweight and Ultralight Gear Lists
|4.7||Super Ultralight Sierras||2+||An aggressively light list, but still safe and practical. It capitalizes on the relatively dry climate of the summer Sierras. E.g. it uses a tarp for shelter. [older list. not all gear is current.]|
|4.2||Super UL Olympic Mountains||3||Worked well in spring snow conditions and moderate glacier travel; climbing a significant portion of Mount Olympus. Did well with moderate to high bug pressure. [older list. not all gear is current.]|
|2.4||Extreme UL Appalachian Trail||2+||A fringe list. For most, if not all readers it’s probably here only for theoretical/entertainment purposes. Nonetheless, it shows just how little gear you can actually get by with. It does work! [older list. not all gear is current.]|
|6.6||List for sustained cold rain PDF||3||For sustained cold rain, 3 or more days. Climates like the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, etc.|
Lightweight Photography Gear Lists
|Serious Lightweight Cameras||3||Current: The very best of lightweight backpacking cameras and photography gear.|
Lightweight Backpacking Photography Gear List
|3+||Older list: Save 4.8 lb and $3,650. A Lightweight Backpacking Photography Gear List for serious photography. And a detailed discussion of how to reduce the weight of camera gear.|
Historical Sierra Gear Lists – how to loose 40 pounds of pack weight!
|55||1999 Killer Heavyweight Pack||A poster child for what not to take backpacking. Never again!|
|25||2001 Lightweight Pack||Huge improvement in happiness and mobility! Look at Detailed Table of Weight Savings from 1999 to 2001|
|15||2007 Super Ultralight Sierras||Joy! Warm, comfortable, and supremely mobile. PDF Gear List|
|40||Lb saved||Approximately 1/4 of the weight of the Original 55 pack!|
2008 Lightweight Backpacking Gear List
- 2008 version of 9 lb Full Comfort Lightweight Backpacking Gear List (This is for two people sharing some equipment. Not all gear on the list is currently available.)
Other Ultralight Gear Lists
- 7.6 lb UL: My $700, 2001 Ultralight (UL) equipment list HTML
- Canyoneering Gear List Utah Canyoneering ’08 PDF
At under 5 pounds for my current base pack weight (technically Super Ultralight – SUL) I’m on the lower end of ultralight backpacking. My equipment list is intended work for me in the conditions as described at the end of this page. It should not be relied upon in extreme environmental conditions, especially by those unfamiliar with ultralight backpacking techniques.
What Makes My List Work?
- Mostly, I take everything that the usual backpacker takes, just a lighter version of it. Forget things like a 2 pound Gore Tex Jacket or a 3 pound sleeping bag. Sometimes my lighter equipment is every bit as good as heavier equipment. Sometimes my lighter equipment has some performance limitations and is less durable than heavier equipment. In this case, I believe that the reduction in weight exceeds the limitations of the lighter equipment. With care and proper use the equipment works fine. Manufacturers over-design equipment.
- I take little or no duplicate or backup equipment. E.g. all of the clothes, sleep system and shelter I take when used together, should keep me just warm and safe enough for the lowest anticipated temperatures and worst weather. Don’t pack for winter in Alaska if you’re going to be on the AT in the summer!
- I don’t take stuff I don’t need. This includes camp shoes, rain pants (may take rain chaps or a poncho), hiking shorts, books, multi-tools, knives over an ounce, most stuff sacks, towels, bathing suit, deodorant, etc.
- I don’t take more of anything than I need. E.g. I don’t take an 8 oz tube of sunscreen or 6 oz tube toothpaste when I only need an ounce or less. (1 oz of sunscreen is more than enough for two people over a week.) This stuff can really add up of you aren’t careful.
The Big Three — Pack, Shelter, and Sleep System — Save 10 to 12 Pounds
- Pack — Under one pound, no hip belt. At the weights I carry I don’t need, or even want, a hip belt. My pack may not be not as “bombproof” as a standard 5+ pound pack. It can’t be indiscriminately bashed or dragged around. With proper care it will survive bushwhacking and class 3 and 4 travel on granite in the High Sierras with no problems.
- Sleep System — Around 1.2 pounds, a hood-less 800 fill power down bag with short zipper, a 3.5 oz foam ground pad, and a one ounce plastic ground sheet. My down vest increases the warmth of this bag on very cold nights (to around +25 deg F).
- Shelter 1 (shared) — Around 4 oz per person, spinnaker cloth tarp. Needs some care pitching to provide proper protection from wind and rain. Less durable than a thicker nylon tarp. Treat carefully. No bug protection (use a head net).
- Shelter 2 (solo) — Under 4 oz, Cuben fiber tarp. The large size/coverage of this tarp allows me to not use a bivy sack (save weight) and still protect my down sleeping bag from precip. The Cuben fabric, uses a Mylar film and fiber sandwich. It is quite strong in tension but does not deal well the punctures or abrasion — treat carefully. Again, no bug protection.
A Brief List of Other Notable Weight Savings
- 5-7 oz UL rain jacket, 1.5 oz rain chaps (or none), or a silnylon poncho – save 2 to 2.5 pounds over Gore Tex jacket pants.
- 5-6 oz UL down or synthetic vest — save up to 2 pounds over a fleece jacket.
- I bring no camp shoes — Save up to 2 pounds over running shoes or Tevas (Tevas are not light!)
- I hike in light (10 oz) Trail Running Shoes — save 1.5 to 3 pounds over heavy hiking boots. At the weights I’m carrying, running shoes are not a problem even for days of hiking on talus or occasional snow, even canyoneering. In almost 10 years I have yet to sprain and ankle or bruise a foot.
- Skip heavy cases and stuff sacks – Use a few silnylon stuff sacs (or spinnaker/Cuben fiber) and zip-loc baggies. Get rid of all unnecessary packaging.
- Small LED lights weigh almost nothing – save 0.5 lb. over standard flashlights and headlamps
- Chemical, water treatment tablets or drops. Chlorine dioxide based these are safe and effective (Aquamira & Katadyn). Less than one ounce for two people on a usual trip. Skip that bulky and heavy water filter!
- When I solo, I either don’t take a stove or I take a 2.3 ounce (stove and cook pot) alcohol cookset from Trail Designs (Caldera Cone system). When sharing with a partner, our alcohol cookset (stove and pot) is in the range of 5 ounces.
- A few one ounce Platypus reservoirs can save a pound over traditional hard sided water bottles (e.g. Nalgene).
You should not attempt to emulate mine, or any other ultralight equipment list, unless you are an experienced backpacker and have a good idea of what you’re doing. Not having the right equipment, and/or unfamiliarity with ultralight backpacking techniques, could result in serious problems, injury, or even death. Work up to lighter equipment a bit at a time with judicious testing on short outings. Take plenty of backup equipment until you have confidence that your ultralight equipment will keep you warm and safe. This takes time. Don’t rush it.
My ultralight lists (7.6 lb UL and 4.7 lb SUL) are limited to:
- Early to late Summer trips to Western Mountains — Sierras or Rockies
(slightly longer season for Northeastern US)
- Night time temperatures not much below freezing
- Trail hiking and cross country routes not to exceed class 4 (no rope or climbing gear)
- Might be a bit iffy at some windy, exposed, high altitude camp sites (but if those conditions exist I will drop to lower and/or more sheltered location)