Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

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.

The Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

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.)

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
Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

My pack for 8 days:  With a light pack you can cover a lot of trail miles in complete comfort—wanting for nothing. Pictured the HyperLight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400  pack on the GR 20 in Corsica.

Modify These Gear Lists to Your Personal and Trip Needs

By all means, fine-tune these lists to your particular trip needs and/or backpacking style. Just select from the optional or alternate gear items (already included in these lists). In addition, you may wish to use some gear from the 5 Pound List and other gear from the 9 Pound List. Mixing and matching between lists is fine.

The two modifications I often make to the 5 Pound Practical Light Backpacking Gear List are:

  1. Substitute a two-pound pack like the HyperLight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 or 3400 pack ULA Ohm 2.0 or Circuit pack (or from REI:Osprey Exos 48) if reg’s require a bear canister, and/or if I am carrying a lot of food and/or climbing gear that pushes my my total pack weight above 20 pounds. Note: in areas where an Ursack is allowed I would go back to using a 1 lb frameless pack.
  2. Skip the tarp and use a MLD Pyramid or HMG Pyramid Shelter if I know (from a recent Wx forecast) that I will likely be camping exposed, above treeline in really cold/wet weather.

Hammock vs. Ground Sleeping (e.g. Tent)

Of particular note is that both lists have options for hammock or ground-sleeping (e.g. tent). In areas with plentiful trees like the East Coast of the US I feel that hammock camping has many advantages, see: Hammock Camping Part I: Advantages & disadvantages versus ground systems. When in the Sierras or other areas with few trees, the opposite is true and I usually cowboy camp on the ground in a 7 ounce bivy sack, only putting up a tarp when it is actually raining (or sharing a pyramid shelter).

Two Great Lightweight Backpacking Gear Lists

With a lighter pack you can get into some incredible areas like this that few people with heavy packs are likely to visit. (Off-trail in the High Sierra)

By | 2016-05-26T13:59:37+00:00 May 21st, 2016|Beginners, Gear List|6 Comments

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6 Comments

  1. Paul June 16, 2016 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Allen,

    Followed your website when I first looked at ultralight 4 years ago. I see your gear suggestions and would ask why not any Zpacks? Joe has some very innovative ideas. I use a lot of his gear and really like it. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    PS, I used to carry 50+ lbs in the Sierras too….but with age comes wisdom and limitations…

    • Alan Dixon June 16, 2016 at 11:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Paul,
      The Z-packs are up there. The Arc Blast may be close to the ideal AT pack. See Recommended Lightweight Backpacks. “Z-packs Arc Packs: If you hike mostly on trails, this might be the pack for you. What sets it apart is the load carrying capacity of its external frame. Z-packs does a modern, lightweight carbon fiber reinvention of the external frame backpacks of the 70’s and 80’s. Make no mistake, nothing transfers load to your hips like an external frame pack. Their Flexed Arc carbon fiber frame creates an air gap against your back, reducing that sweaty back feeling.” All the best, -alan

  2. Paul June 16, 2016 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    Alan…Sorry

  3. Paul June 18, 2016 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, Thanks for the response, Haven’t tried the Arc Blast but read great things about it. Testing out the Zero at 7 oz this weekend (no hip belt). Excited to see if it works with total weight around 10 lbs. Thanks Again- paul

  4. Jeff November 8, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Would you happen to have a winter checklist? It’ll only be my 3rd winter up here in Washington, and I’m pretty new to winter hiking; back in California it was easy enough to escape to the Mojave Desert with my summer pack list 🙂

    Jeff

    • Alan Dixon November 9, 2017 at 5:46 am - Reply

      Jeff, I am currently on International travel with limited connectivity. For the time being check out my posts 1) my recent layering piece, 2) why you won’t freeze or starve ultralight, 3) sleeping quilts and bags, 4) recommend down jackets. That should hold you until I am back next week. Warmest, -a

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