using adventure alan 3 lb day hiking gear list in the desert


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22

17.9 oz | $249

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22 is an ultralight daypack that is basically a slimmed down version of their Unbound backpacking pack design. This includes its Dyneema construction, roll top closure, and full suite of external Dyneema Hardline side pockets and Dyneema Stretch Mesh rear pocket. We love this design and find it be extremely functional and well-thought out. Read more in our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Elevate 22 Review.

Packed Apparel

Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket

6.4 oz | $250

Choose the Enlightened Equipment Visp Rain Jacket because it is the most breathable ultralight rain shell with an unprecedented MVTR rating of 83,000. The three layer Visp weighs just 6.4 ounces in a unisex size medium, has a very layer-accomodating fit, and comes with most of the bells and whistles including pit zips for even more breathability. The only downside is no pockets, but hey, this is Alan’s preferred rain jacket and we know you’ll love it too!

Alpha Direct Hoody

Alpha Direct Hoodie

~5.0 oz | ~$100

A hoodie made with Polartec AD fleece is lighter weight, has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio, higher breathable, less water absorption, and a faster dry time than any competing alternative. However, it is also far less durable than average and has zero wind resistance. But they’re basically perfect for fastpacking and super ultralight backpacking. Use it respectfully and pair with a UL windbreaker or breathable rain shell for maximum modularity, versatility, and surprising warmth. Read more in our guide to the Best Alpha Direct Hoodies.

Paka Performance Socks

1.7 | $24

For the ultimate blend of comfort and functionality, pull on a pair of Paka Performance 3/4 Crew socks, our editor’s choice award winning model for hiking socks. They have all of the right features, and are made with a dreamy blend of alpaca wool, Tencel, recycled nylon, and spandex that keep your feet comfortable, thermo-regulated, dry, blister-free, and less smelly, all day long. We’re even prepared to say that alpaca wool is superior to merino.


Black Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves

Black Diamond Screentap Lightweight Gloves

1.4 oz | $35

Minimalist and touchscreen compatible, the Black Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves are a basic pair of lightweight fleece liner style gloves at a good price. This unisex style is constructed with Polartec Power Stretch fleece, a premium name-brand fabric. Note, this is a lightweight fleece, and we’ve picked it because it weighs very little, not because it’s the warmest.

REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie

2 oz | $20

The basic-but-functional REI Co-op Lightweight Logo Beanie keeps your head warm and looking good at a great price. We like the wool/acrylic blend and found it comfy and cozy while hiking and while at camp. The doubled back beanie cuff provides extra warmth around the ears, or can be pulled down for a deeper fit.


Katadyn BeFree water filter

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter

2.1 oz | $40

Squeeze-based water filters are where it’s at, and Katadyn BeFree has the best flow and the most usable shape. Critically, the .6L size can be front-shoulder-strap mounted, which is the fastest and most efficient option for drinking from water sources as you pass by. It’s lighter and more compact than Sawyer Squeeze and MSR QuickDraw, albeit slightly less durable.

Outdoor Vitals Shoulder Strap Pocket

Outdoor Vitals Shoulder Strap Pocket

0.8 oz | $19

The Outdoor Vitals Shoulder Strap Pocket is our preferred holster for storing a .6L Katadyn BeFree water filter, and the two work in perfect synchronicity for a drink-from-the-source-as-you-go hydration strategy with the least possible amount of effort. This system is particularly ideal for people with inflexible shoulders who cannot reach back into their side pockets.

Pair of 1L Smartwater Bottles

Pair of 1L Smartwater Bottles

2.4 oz | $2 each

Ditch those heavy Nalgenes for a significantly lighter water storage unit. We prefer to use 1L Smartwater bottles. Incredibly durable for a “single use product,” this thru hiker favorite fits the Sawyer filter and can last an entire season of backpacking or longer. Also works for storing on a shoulder holster, and slides in and out of side pockets better than wide bottles.

Navigation, Accessories

Nitecore NU25 UL 400 Headlamp

1.6 oz | $37

If you don’t have a rechargeable headlamp yet, now is the time to upgrade. The Nitecore NU25 UL 400 Headlamp is our go-to for super ultralight fastpacking endeavors. But it works just as well as for short backpacks and as an emergency light for a day hiking kit. NU25 has a good battery, basic controls including locking, red or white light, different levels of brightness, and can generate up to 400 lumens of light. The two thin straps are marginally less comfortable than a wider one.

Garmin inReach Messenger

4.0 oz | $300

Garmin inReach Messenger is the latest contender in the satellite communicator genre, and offers best-in-class battery life, signal receptivity, and nearly all of the most desirable features for just $300 and four ounces. As such, it takes our top slot award, narrowly beating out ZOLEO and inReach Mini 2.

Gaia GPS App

Gaia GPS App

0 oz | $40

Available on iPhone or Android, Gaia GPS offers a Google Maps-like experience but pinpoints you on topographic maps with trails and routing. No cell service or internet is required, so long as you download the maps in advance. It’s much lighter, more affordable, and user-friendly than dedicated GPS units. Gaia GPS is our primary backcountry navigation tool, backed up by paper maps. And, if you subscribe to your first year of Gaia GPS by clicking the button below, they’ll give you 20% off! Considering that phone apps are weightless, we think this is some pretty great ultralight backpacking gear.

Suunto M-3D Compass

Suunto M-3 D Leader Compass

1.6 oz | $65

The Suunto M-3D is a simple and durable lightweight compass with all of the essential features, including declination adjustment. Should always carry along with paper maps as a backup to GPS.

Paper Topo Map

Paper Topo Map

.5 oz | Variable

A paper topo map is still important! We prefer printed topographic quadrangles at 1:24.000. Store in a Ziploc bag. High quality prints can be purchased on waterproof paper. You can also use online mapping software like Gaia GPS or CalTopo to print your maps freely. Nat Geo maps are nice, but heavy.


Benchmade Mini Bugout Grivory best hiking knife

Benchmade 533-04 Mini Bugout Grivory Knife

1.5 oz | $153

The Benchmade Mini Bugout is lightweight and made with extremely high quality CPM-S30V stainless-steel. Yes it’s spendy, but it stays sharper for longer in the backcountry, making quick work of food prep with a 2.8″ blade. The Grivory handle is lightweight and grippy, and has a secure locking mechanism for sure-fire cutting. Also great as an everyday carry.

Bogler OutdoorCo Trowel

BoglerCo Ultralight Trowel

0.5 oz | $18

BoglerCo makes an exceptional ultralight trowel; superior to our previous top pick, the Deuce #2. BoglerCo’s is longer, lighter, stronger, digs better, and is more comfortable to press down on thanks to its plastic top. The serrated edge easily cuts through small roots. This trowel is miles ahead of the classic orange Coghlan’s design.

Bic Mini Lighter

0.4 oz | $2

Smaller lighters save weight, and are just as good at lighting stoves. The Bic Mini has been with us for decades and is always reliable.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Drawstring Stuff Sack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Drawstring Stuff Sack

0.7 oz | $49

For storing frequently accessed items like sunscreen, bug head net, or extra socks, we recommend the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Drawstring Stuff Sacks in the 9L size, DCF11. They also make great food bags. These bags are constructed with waterproof, durable, ultralight Dyneema fabric and will outlast multiple generations of cheaper sil-nylon bags.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bag

2.6 oz | $40

For waterproof gear storage at a great price, we recommend the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bag. The largest model weighs only 2.6 oz and holds 35L, enough for a sleeping bag, puffy jacket, and camp clothes with room to spare.

First Aid, Repair

Homemade First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

2.5 oz | Homemade

The best first aid kits are homemade. Ours typically include some combination of the following: Leukotape, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, benzoin tincture, assorted bandages in different sizes, gel blister cover, 4×4″ gauze pads and gauze roll, neosporin, Benadryl, nitrile gloves, alcohol wipes, Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, caffeine pills, heavy duty pain killer, personal prescriptions, nail clippers, tick removal, safety pin.

If you’re unable or unwilling to make your own first aid kit, these “ultralight watertight” bundles will do in a pinch.

Homemade Backpacking Repair Kit

Repair Kit

1.5 oz | Homemade

Our homemade repair kit includes duct tape, Therm-a-Rest glue dot and patch kit, Tenacious Tape, Krazy glue, alcohol wipes, zip ties, safety scissors, needle, and a spare sawyer gasket. Use floss for thread, and safety pins from first aid kit. We find this is all we need to make small fixes to ultralight backpacking gear.


Bulk hiking food laid out under a tree

Hiking Food

To minimize carried weight and optimize your hiking performance, we recommend prioritizing calorically dense and/or protein-rich foods. Nuts, cheese, salami, and dark chocolate are some of our simplest go-to options. Supplement those with something carby, like crackers, dried fruit, and/or an energy bar, and you should be good to go. 3000 calories per day is a sweet spot for most hikers, so you probably only need 1000-2000 for a day hike, depending on length, and assuming you will eat breakfast before and dinner after. This should weigh up to one pound. Learn more about hiking diets in our guide to healthy and nutritious backpacking food.

Toilet Paper

Coghlan’s Toilet Paper

1.0 oz | $5

Any toilet paper works. Biodegradable is preferred. Remove the cardboard tube core to save bulk and weight.

Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer

1.0 oz | $2

Prefer 1 oz container of unscented gel. Spray is less effective on dry, dirty hands. 25-50% full is enough for most trips.

SPF Lip Balm

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Lip Balm

0.3 oz | $4

SPF lip balm in hot dry weather is critical. Double so at high altitude. Your lips will thank you.

SPF 30+ Sunscreen

SPF 30+ Sunscreen

1.0 oz | $5

To prevent burns, we generally prefer wearing full coverage sun clothing. Not only is it more protective than sunscreen, it also saves massive amounts of sunscreen weight. Thus, a small tube of SPF 30+ is all you need for most trips to cover your face and hands. Use SPF 50 for extreme UV exposure, like at high altitude or on glacier travel.

Worn, Held, Pocketed

HOKA Speedgoat 5

10.3 oz | $155

Our staff pick trail runner! The HOKA Speedgoat 5 is technical, cushioned, very sturdy, and very very grippy, even on challenging terrain. This shoe is great for hiking long days thanks for the comfortable cushion and wide toe box. The average overall width of shoe keeps feet from sloshing about on sloped terrain and provides accurate, stable footfalls. Perfect for everything from casual day hiking to super ultralight fastpacking, and everything in between. Read more in our full-length HOKA Speedgoat 5 Review.

Paka Performance Socks

1.7 | $24

For the ultimate blend of comfort and functionality, pull on a pair of Paka Performance 3/4 Crew socks, our editor’s choice award winning model for hiking socks. They have all of the right features, and are made with a dreamy blend of alpaca wool, Tencel, recycled nylon, and spandex that keep your feet comfortable, thermo-regulated, dry, blister-free, and less smelly, all day long. We’re even prepared to say that alpaca wool is superior to merino.


Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

15.6 oz | $65

Sturdy, lightweight, durable, well-built, the CMT Carbon Fiber Collapsible Trekking Poles for $65 are an incredible deal on ultralight backpacking gear. Marginally lighter options from traditional brands go for $150-$250. These aren’t fancy, but we just can’t stress enough how preposterously good of a value proposition Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles are.

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

Outdoor Research Swift Cap

2.5 oz | $30

A simple UPF 50 sun cap gets the job done best. The Outdoor Research Swift Cap is comprised of a lightweight, breathable mesh, with a 3-panel nylon layer on the crown to block the harshest UV. It also has a moisture wicking sweat band and adjustable at the back. We’ve worn this one all around the world.

Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie

Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie

5.2 oz | $75

For a majority of three season hiking, we recommend the Outdoor Research Echo Hoodie. This sun hoody is incredibly light, stretchy, comfortable, breathable, airy, quick drying, moisture wicking, and rated to UPF 15-20 (depending on color). This shirt does it all, and is perfect compliment to an ultralight backpacking gear kit. Pack a sun hoody and you’ll find that you will save weight carrying less sunscreen and also get less sun burns. We’ve worn this shirt around the world and are always impressed. What’s more, it’s built with eco-friendly recycled polyester!

Mens Kuhl Renegade Convertible Pants

15.2 oz | $109

There’s so much to like about the Men’s KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants. You want the best cargo pockets in the biz? Check. The most durable pants fabric for bushwhacking and scrambling? Check. Zip off lower legs to convert to shorts? Check. Add in a dash of stretch and a comfortable, roomy fit and these Renegades make for some of the best hiking pants imaginable. Our only knock is that they’re a bit heavier than average, but it’s not a huge deal since you wear them rather than carry them.

Womens Kuhl Freeflex Roll-up Pants

14 oz | $99

The Women’s KUHL Freeflex Roll-Up Pants offer spandex-free stretch, which doesn’t sag or bag. But more importantly, they have much sought-after dual cargo pockets on the thighs for handy storage of knickknacks like lip balm or a small tube of sunscreen. As the namesake implies, they have mid-calf snaps for converting into a capri. A functional and flattering design from KUHL. There’s no question as to why these pants get rave reviews.


Arcade Belts

Arcade Belts

2.5 oz | $32

Arcade Belts could be a big upgrade for hikers. It’s made of polyester webbing that is soft to the touch and stretchy, so it doesn’t dig into your skin or bite, even when you have it pulled taught. Adjusting this belt is straightforward, the clasp is very secure, it holds tightness, and does an excellent job of keeping pants up. Highly recommended if you’re still using something old, heavy, leather, or otherwise uncomfortable.


2.0 oz | $450

If you are serious about your outdoor adventuring and training, then the COROS APEX 2 Pro is the right watch for you. Over the past two years we’ve run this watch through the wringer, guiding in Alaska, mountaineering, nordic skiing, ocean kayak racing, trail running, mountain biking, etc. The verdict? This an exceptional performer in the field and our favorite outdoor smartwatch. In particular, its battery life blows the competition away with 200 hours of in-field GPS tracking. As such, it’s a perfect choice for those who play and train hard in the backcountry, especially for multiple days at a time. Read more in our full-length COROS APEX 2 Pro Review.

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses

1.0 oz | $30

Backpacking is hard on shades. They tend to get scratched, lost, crushed, or otherwise damaged. That’s why we recommend a basic, functional, and more economical option like the Tifosi Swank Sunglasses. They look great and you can replace them without breaking the bank. But you may never have to as they polycarbonate lenses are shatterproof, 20x more impact resistant than glass, and provide 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays. The frames are similarly durable.

ziploc bag hiking wallet

Ultralight Wallet

0.3 oz | $.25

For an ultralight, waterproof wallet, simply put your essential cards and a few bills into a ziploc bag. Freezer grade pint size is preferred for its durability. You will likely be able to keep reusing the same bag for an entire hiking season and beyond.

Saxx Quest 2.0 Boxer Briefs

Saxx Quest 2.0

1.8 oz | $32 MSRP

The Saxx Quest 2.0 Boxer Briefs are extremely breathable, quick drying, moisture wicking, and secure. And in their words, the patented BallPark Pouch™ provides friction-free support. This is the comfiest and most secure boxer brief we’ve tried. If you suffer from inner-thigh chafe, opt for the longer inseam version.

Patagonia Barely Bra

1.2 oz | $55.00

The Patagonia Barely Bra is wicking, quick-drying, comfortable, and odor-reducing, all important features for a backcountry undergarment. A meta study of buyers guides for hiking bras and online reviews confirms that this is one of the most widely recommended options.

Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear

Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear

1 oz | $35.00

With hundreds of 5 star reviews and featured in virtually every online buyers guide, we’re happy to endorse the Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear. The merino wool blend is comfy and naturally anti bacterial. They’re stretchy, breathable, and designed with low profile seams.

Hiking Gear List: Situational Additions

Sea To Summit Mosquito Head Net

Sea To Summit Mosquito Head Net

1.0 oz | $15 MSRP

Weighing only one oz and totally bug-proof, you barely notice the Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net. Yet in early summer, it might be the hardest working piece of ultralight backpacking gear you carry. It’s comfy see through, and outperforms bug repellent sprays and lotions. We like the version treated with InsectShield permethrin to further ward off mosquitos. This is a must-bring in June and July in the mountains.

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent

Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent

0.5 oz | $10

The efficacy of DEET without harsh chemicals. Sawyer Picardin Insect Repellent is our go-to skin protection against mosquitos and ticks. We prefer the lotion to the spray-on, which lasts 8-14 hours. And you don’t need to carry much, since you’re only applying once or twice per day. Buy the 4 oz container and decant half an ounce into an empty hand sanitizer bottle. That’s more than enough for an entire hiking season.

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent

11 oz | $48

Much like first aid, bear spray is one piece of gear you never want to have to use. Counter Assault Bear Deterrent has been the gold standard in scaring off curious ursine for decades now, and we trust this product. The lock mechanism is very secure.


Kahtoola MICROspikes

Kahtoola MICROspikes

11 oz | $75

Often copied but never equaled, the Kahtoola MICROspikes are the go-to option for walking on steep snowy and icy terrain. They have incredible traction, last forever, and are the preferred option of PCT thru hikers in the Sierra Nevada mountains during high snow years.

C.A.M.P. Corsa Ice Axe

C.A.M.P. Corsa Ice Axe

7.1 oz | $120

For periodically ascending steep-but-non-technical snowy passes and peaks, the ultralight C.AM.P. Corsa Ice Axe is all you need. It serves the primary purposes of self arrest and acting as balance point, while also saving more pack weight than any other ice axe when stowed. We think it’s the best ice axe for hiking and backpacking.

Hiking Gear List: Situational Apparel

Zpacks Goose Down Jacket

Zpacks Goose Down Jacket

6.8 oz | $399

The Zpacks Goose Down Jacket blows the hubcaps off competitors like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. In particular, it’s almost two times warmer for the weight. This is because it’s filled with top-tier 950 fill power down (and more of it) vs mid-tier 800 fill. And they didn’t skimp on features either. The Zpacks Goose Down Jacket still has a drawcord hood, two pockets, full front zipper, and drawcord hem to seal out drafts. It isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s still a great performance to value ratio costing only marginally more than Ghost Whisperer. Read more in our full-length Zpacks Goose Down Jacket Review.

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

6.7 oz | $130

Incredibly light, fully waterproof, great value, and more durable than the competition, thanks for the Pertex DiamondFuse shell fabric. The Helium Rain Pants are our go-to rain pants for hiking and backpacking, and exemplary ultralight backpacking gear.

Mens REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Shorts

8 oz | $60

Alan’s choice! The REI Co-op Sahara Cargo Shorts are a well-done-but-basic pair of hiking shorts that check all of the boxes without getting too fancy. Made with 96% recycled nylon, they are durable, sustainable, and quick drying. The addition of 4% spandex adds just the right amount of stretch. The men’s version has killer cargo pockets. And compared to similar models, they are priced very competitively..

Womens Kuhl Freeflex Cargo Shorts

8.5 oz | $89

Based on our extensive research, the W’s KUHL Freeflex Cargo Shorts have the best and most plentiful pockets available in a women’s specific cut. What’s more, they’re made with a fabric that’s as durable and stretchy as it is soft and comfortable. The 10″ long inseam is necessary for cargo pockets and provides good thigh coverage.

Glacier Gloves Islamorada Fingerless Sun Gloves

2.5 oz | $25

A simple pair of fingerless UPF 50+ sun gloves for use in harsh sun with heavy UV Exposure. The Glacier Glove Islamorada Fingerless Sun Gloves are dexterous, stretchy, breathable, quick drying, and durable thanks to the synthetic leather palms. This is technically a fishing glove, but we prefer it to similar and more expensive sun hiking gloves from traditional outdoor brands. Read more in our full length Glacier Gloves Islamorada review.

Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts

1.0 | $70

If you want the lightest and most breathable waterproof handwear, pull on a pair of Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts. They weigh virtually nothing, are three times more breathable than Gore-Tex, and when combined with fleece liners, make for a complete hand protection system for wet weather.



3.5 oz | $26.95

For sleet and cold rain, we use the SHOWA Gloves TEMRES 282, designed for winter-use in the maritime industry. These gloves are at home in truly nasty weather. and are 100% waterproof and never wet out from the exterior.

As out-of-place as they look in the backcountry, their performance is simply superior to alternatives from traditional outdoor brands, and they’re plenty warm enough. Dexterity and breathability are both lackluster, but functional enough for non-technical use. They run small so size up.

Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Quarter Zip

Smartwool All-Season Merino Quarter Zip

6.8 oz | $95

For cool weather hiking, especially in shoulder season, we prefer the Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Quarter Zip. This is a 150 weight base layer that derives performance benefit from an 88% merino, 12% nylon fabric blend. Specifically, its yarn is created by wrapping merino strands over a recycled nylon core. This keeps the merino next to skin for maximum comfort, while the nylon increases durability and moisture wicking.

Adventure Alan’s 3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Gear List

Ultralight Day Hiking Gear List Conclusion

We hope you’ve found our ultralight day hiking checklist helpful and informative. This kit has served us well for many years, and we know it will do the same for you. Happy trails and happy hiking!

Hiking on the beach in Ireland