lightweight backpacking gear

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Ultralight Backpacking Gear List | 9 Pound for 2020

Nine pounds of backpacking gear is all a hiker needs to be safe and warm. Simply put, this list has better backpacking gear. For over a decade it’s been tested, refined, and updated to reflect only the best and current backpacking gear now available in 2020. If you want to reduce pack weight without reducing comfort, look no further! The ultralight backpacking gear and hiking gear in this guide is suitable for all 3-season conditions on trips around the world, from Alaska, to Patagonia, to Utah. A Weight Summary for this Gear (Base Pack Weight) is at the end of this post.

Below you’ll find one or more of our favorite options for every single type of backpacking gear a hiker must carry. Green check marks indicate our go-to option(s). Look for ultralight cottage industry favorites, as well as excellent and reasonably priced gear from mainstream retailers like these $45 Carbon Fiber Trekking poles from Amazon.

Want to go even lighter? See our 5 Pound Practical Lightweight Backpacking Gear Checklist.

Video Version of the Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

For those that prefer video, this is a detailed deep-dive explaining all the gear, what’s great and how I use it. Otherwise, scroll down to see a traditional list of all this great ultralight backpacking gear.

Tents & Accessories

ultralight backpacking tent | rei flash air 2

New REI’s Lightest 2-Person Tent | REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent

Shared Tent | 1.9 lbs | (0.95 lb/person)

Value Tent | If you are looking to drop some weight in your pack, and are willing to consider non-traditional, this is a great way to save yourself a ton of trail weight from a trusted source. (Tent weight is only 1 pound per person!). And it’s a great value, costing far less than most tents in the sub-two-pound range.

New for this spring, the 2-person REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent is an exciting new entry into trekking pole supported tents. We are currently field testing the tent, but we are optimistic that it will be a solid competitor to cottage manufactures’ shelters like Tarptent. One thing that differentiates the REI Co-op Flash Air 2 Tent is a brow-pole that arches between the two trekking poles to better support the roof and create structure for the tent.

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Tent

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Tent

2.6 lbs | 38 ft2

Top Conventional Tent | The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL3 Tent  combines the best of the heavier and fully featured Copper Spur Series tents, with the lighter and lower cost of the Fly Creek Series. To save weight and cost, it is semi-free standing like the Fly Creek tents so the two rear corners need to be staked out. We prefer the Tiger Wall UL3 Tent for it’s huge interior volume and livability for two people vs. the smaller Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 TentFor a lower-cost tent check out the REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent a good value in a lightweight freestanding backpacking tent with a lot of vertical room or some of our Budget Backpacking Tents & Shelters.

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL & Duomid XL

Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL & Duomid XL

 Solo Tent | 0.8 lb | 2p Tent 1.3 lbs | 65 ft2

Top Tent – Low Bug Pressure | The Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid XL Pyramid Tent (or Solomid XL) in Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) is a marvel of engineering. Like all pyramid shelters, it’s lighter, and much larger and stronger than any traditional tent or tarp tent. We give a slight nod do the 65 ft2 Duomid XL because it has a less expensive SilNylon vs the HMG Ultamid 2 which only comes in DCF (but in DCF these two tents are close competitors!) Stats aside, we absolutely love its asymmetrical pitch. By keeping the support pole off center, the floor area is divided into two sections; sleeping (70%) and backpacking gear storage (30%). Unlike other pyramids, couples looking to share a two-person sleeping bag or snuggle will be able to do so without interference from a center pole. Unlike regular pyramid tents, the asymmetrical layout keeps the sleeping area dry even with the door open. The award-winning MLD’s Duomid XL will keep you warm, dry, and protected in any environment you choose to camp. Budget Pyramid Tent: Make sure to check out the $265 MLD DuoMid in SilNylon.

Hammock Gear Wanderlust Hammock Kit

Weight varies with options

Hammock Tent Option | We do much of our backpacking & camping in the east using a hammock tent. The Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Tent Camping raises the bar for an ultralight, low cost, easy to use, complete hammock kit. It is the least expensive, pro-quality hammock kit on the market. Not surprisingly it hits the sweet spot for, price, ease of use and low weight. It’s a hammock kit that will work for both beginner and expert hammock tent campers alike. The Hammock Gear Wanderlust is currently the only kit with the option to add on down top and under-quilts at a serious discount.

Read our  Review of the Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Camping

More Great Tent Choices: For more great tents, budget tents and Pro Tips checkout our Guide to Best Backpacking Tents | Lightweight & Ultralight.

Backpacks & Accessories

best ultralight backpacking gear - Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pack

31 oz | 58 L

Staff Pick: The HMG 2400 & 3400 Southwest Packs are a Staff Favorite and a Backpacker Magazine award winner for “Best UltraLight Pack.” HMG makes very light, functional and extremely durable packs that are virtually waterproof — no need for a rain cover!  HMG packs have stiff frames that comfortably support even heavy loads.  The slim profile gives great balance for scrambling or difficult trails. HMG packs are made with Dyneema Composite Fabric Fiber (formerly Cuben) which is light, waterproof and extremely durable. We prefer the 3400 Southwest Pack for it’s larger volume while weighing just a few oz more than the 2400.

hiking gear - Osprey Exos 48 and 58 Pack

Osprey Exos 48 and 58

43 oz | 58 L

Value/Features Pack | A less expensive pack and a true hikers choice and a darling of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. A pack suitable for all hikers, beginners and experts alike who are looking to cut a bit of weight without sacrificing comfort or features. The Osprey Exos 48 and 58 Pack (Men’s) and Osprey Eja 48 and 58 Pack (Women’s) are top sellers for a reason: the Osprey name and their signature ventilated frame. With the Osprey name comes quality, fair pricing, a good warranty, & many happy hikers.

Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus DCF 55L Pack

Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus DCF 55L Pack

17 oz | 57 L

For those with a dialed UL kit | The award winning Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus DCF 55L Pack is the lightest pack in our arsenal with the best volume/weight ratio. As such, it’s an excellent choice for UL backpackers looking to reduce weight with the best frameless pack money can buy. Yes, frameless packs don’t transfer weight to the hips as a framed pack but with some intelligent packing you can carry an amazing amount. Guiding in Rocky Mountain Park last summer, Alan carried a rigid Wild Ideas Scout bear canister with 5 days of food & guide’s gear in his Exodus DCF Backpack, saving himself around 3 to 4 pounds versus a standard pack/canister setup.

More Great Backpack Choices: For more Great Backpacks, and Budget Backpacks checkout our Guide to the Best Backpacks for Backpacking and Hiking.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sacks & Pods

2.5 oz

DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric) stuff sacks are almost waterproof. If you have a DCF Pack (like the HMG SW 3400 above) and use these stuff sacks you won’t need a rain cover or pack liner. Less expensive option is Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks. TIP | Not everything needs to be in a stuff sack. Some items are better off loose to fill in voids in the pack.

“Rain Cover” for Pack

2.5 oz

Pack covers don’t really keep your backpacking gear dry, are heavy, and add cost. They are a hassle to take on and off and flap in the wind. Instead line your pack with two Gossamer Gear Pack Liners or a less expensive and readily available trash compactor bag. For more info see PRO TIP | Skip the Rain Cover.

Ursack Bear Bag - Ultralight Backpacking Gear

Ursack Bear Bag

7.6 oz (only take when required)

The very lightest if allowed! The Ursack Bear Bag is the lightest and the first choice for to protect your food from bears. But only if the Ursack is approved in your park! So check the reg’s. We can get ~6 days in a Ursack Major and ~8-9 days in a Ursack Major XL.

If a rigid bear can is required | The  BearVault BV450 and BearVault BV500 (33 oz / 41 oz) Food Containers hit the sweet spot for weight, cost and availability. We can get ~5 days in a BV450 and ~7-8 days in a BV500 canister.

More Bear Food Protection: Bear canisters are becoming part of trail life as more parks require them each year. For more important info see PRO TIP | Bear Canister 101.

Tent Footprint - Part of the Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

Tent Footprint

3.5 oz | 0 oz if you don’t take one

If your tent floor is 30D or better (e.g. the HMG Dirigo 2) then you can likely skip a footprint or Polycro sheet altogether. On the other hand, many of the lighter tents 20D or even 15D floors. In this case, you should consider protecting it. Skip the Manufacturer’s Footprint which is heavy and expensive. Instead, use a 2 to 3.5 oz Polycro Footprint to protect the floor of very light tent floors (less than 30D). We recommend putting a $12 Gossamer Gear Polycro Footprint or MLD UL FOOTPRINT under it. This multilayer, cross-linked polyolefin film weighs less than 4 oz and is much stronger and more durable than the typical painters plastic sheet you’d get at a hardware store. [Get a large size and cut it to fit your tent.]

Tent Stakes

Upgrade Your Tent Stakes

12 g / stake

The light stakes that came with your tent are OK but you can do better. Good stakes make tent pitching faster and more secure. For pitching in rocky ground and other difficult areas we prefer these inexpensive but better TNH ‘Y’ Tent-Stakes. They have only a single notch at the head making them extremely resistant to bending and damage when pounding in with a rock. They have a pre-attached cord to make them easier to pull out — the cord is reflective to keep you from tripping on them during the night. Finally, ‘Y’ stakes have greater holding power than most stakes so they will hold your tent more securely. You can get similar ‘Y’ stakes, MSR Ground Hogs at REI.

Sleeping Bags & Sleeping Pads

Enlightened Equipment Enigma Camping Quilt +30F

16 oz

A Staff Favoritewarm, comfortable & incredibly light: The Enlightened Equipment Enigma +30F camping quilt allows us to camp most places in the world for 3+ seasons in complete warmth and comfort. It’s light and well mannered and comfortable in mild conditions but can just as easily handle cold. This system when combined with a warm down jacket (like those in this list) the can handle some truly cold conditions. For instance, Alison and I used this system camping on the Southern Patagonia Ice Shelf. And that 30F is an honest comfort temperature, not a limit temp used by most sleeping bag manufacturers.

Note: Quilts have a better warmth to weight ratio and cost less than sleeping bags. For the details of why this is so see our Buyers Guide to Lightweight Backpacking Quilts

REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30

REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30

19 oz

New for 2019 | Off the shelf and ready to go! | | REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30. We are super stoked to see REI offer a quilt version of the award winning Magma series bags! Pair this with the “Women’s” version of the XLite, (yes it fits men fine — all the men we know use it) and you will be toasty warm at night. And no wonder since it’s stuffed with 11 ounces of Water-resistant 850-fill-power goose down. What’s not to like!

Tip | Extend the range of a +30 sleeping bag or quilt | The vast majority of the time +30 sleeping bag is just great and it saves money and weight vs. a +20 bag. But if you do encounter rare, unexpectedly cold temperatures you can wear your warm down jacket (which you’ll have with you anyway in cool weather) and possibly other clothing to extend the temperature range of your bag or quilt. Alison and I and many backpackers we know have been doing this for years. More reading: see Guide to Lightweight Down Jackets and Pants for Backpacking

REI Co-op Magma 15 & 30 Sleeping Bag

28 oz / 20 oz

Top Pick for a Traditional Sleeping Bag |  we feel that the new REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag [28F comfort temp] M’s & W’s is an excellent all-around three season choice for most campers.  It will either keep colder sleepers happy in peak 3 season camping, or take most folks into colder shoulder (3+ season) camping of early spring or late fall. (But if you go out in warmer weather or are concerned about weight, the REI Co-op Magma 30 Sleeping Bag [39F comfort temp] just a bit over a pound but filled with 8.5 oz of 850-fill-power goose down! That will keep many sleepers warm but still not weigh a ton!)

Hammock Gear Economy Burrow 30F Quilt

21.8 oz

Value Sleep Option: The Hammock Gear Economy Burrow 30F Quilt is hands down the best value to sleep in the backcountry — and by a large margin! Or put in other terms, it costs way less and is around 1/2 a pound lighter than most comparable high-quality down sleeping bags with the same comfort temp rating. In addition, it still has a very high warmth to weight value, weighing just a few oz more than premium quilts. And that 30F is an honest comfort temperature, not a limit temp used by most sleeping bag manufacturers.

More Great Sleeping Bags Choices: For more great Sleeping Gear, and Budget Sleeping Bags & Quilts checkout our  Buyers Guide to Lightweight Backpacking Quilts & Sleeping Bags

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad “Women’s”

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad “Women’s”

12 oz

The best all-around sleeping pad! This is the “Women’s” version of the XLite, but it’s the right size for most backpackers. All the men we know use it — for tall men, as long as the end of the pad hits mid-calf you should be fine (Alan’s 6’5″ hiking partner uses one!). Best of all, at 12 oz and with an R-value of 3.9, it’s warmer and lighter than the “Men’s” version. Super warm and super comfortable we find its closer to a 3+ season pad and have happily used it to well below freezing!  As such, we find that it works well even into the colder shoulder seasons of late fall and early spring, so you can skip the weight and cost of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad

8.8 oz

Great lightweight option for +35F and above. | At only 1/2 pound for a size regular (72″ long) there’s been a lot of buzz about the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad. First, we’re stoked there’s a 25″ version of this pad. Some folks find that a 20″ pad is not quite wide enough. That is there’s room for you and one arm but not both. At 12 oz in a 25″ width the Size Large solves that problem without a weight penalty. Those with wider shoulders rejoice. Second, with an R 2.0 we find this pad warm and comfortable to around freezing. For temps colder than freezing we recommend the M’s XLite (R 3.2) or our preferred W’s XLite (R 3.9).

Stove, Cookware & Hydration, Water Purification

Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri + Toaks 900ml Pot Cooking System

Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri + Toaks 900ml Pot Cooking System

5.5 oz

Staff pick best backpacking stove! In our opinion the Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri Cooking System is the most practical cooking system on the market. It’s exceptionally light — about 1/3 the weight of a JetBoil. It’s very stable, wind resistant, and fuel efficient. The Toaks 900 ml titanium pot works well for both solo and 2-person use. Cheap alcohol fuel is available almost everywhere in the world. Take only the fuel you need, no canister disposal as waste. The wide pot is easy to cook in and easy to clean. Ti cone has option to burn wood. TD Kojin Alcohol Stove stores unburned fuel so no need to minutely measure fuel. Downside is a longer boil time vs. the JetBoil.

Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System

14 oz

The best Jetboil Stove! The award winning Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System gives you all of Jetboil’s new technologies: A proprietary regulator and enhanced regulator diaphragm for consistent performance down to 20°F. Their redesigned valve provides better simmer control. Finally, we’re huge fans of the wider pot. It’s easier to eat out of and clean and has a more fuel efficient shape to boot. Compared to the Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri, the Jetboil is easier to use for most folks, and boils water faster.

Liberty Mountain Twin Neck Fuel Bottle (8-Ounce)

1.4 oz

The best alcohol fuel storage! Easy dual chamber measurement with pour spout. No measuring cups needed, no spilling and fuel waste. Durable thick plastic is stronger than thin water bottles. Total capacity of ~9 oz is enough for Alison and I for around 5 days. Solo, I can get a week of cooking with the bottle and the TD Ti-Tri Cooking System.

TOAKS Titanium 450ml Cup (15 fl oz)

2.7 oz

A great deal for $20! A caffeinated backpacker is a happy backpacker! Enjoy your morning coffee with minimal weight penalty in this durable, lightweight, attractive titanium mug. A backpacker can never have too much titanium… or coffee.

Ziploc 16 fl-oz “Camp Bowl/Mug”

0.9 oz

Only $2, a personal favorite and far lighter than “backpacking” bowls. These Ziploc Twist ‘N Loc Containers (16 fl-oz) are surprisingly durable and useful. We use them both for bowls for dinner and breakfast cereal and when traveling light they also double as our coffee and hot chocolate “mugs.” We usually leave the lids at home.

TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon - Best Hiking Gear

TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon

0.7 oz

Titanium is a backpacker’s best friend! Digging the last morsels out of the bottom of a bag of freeze dried food is challenging with most utensils. Enter a 8.6,” long-handled titanium spoon. It can easily reach those faraway corners, providing you all the needed calories to keep you hiking. It’s light at only 20 g (0.7 oz), and won’t put holes in freezer bags like a spork.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System - Best Backpacking and Hiking Gear

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System

3.0 oz

The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System with Sawyer Squeezable Pouches for water bottles is our go-to hydration system. With the Squeeze, you can just fill up the bladder, and drink normally. Carrying heavy filters or waiting for chemical water treatments is more tiring, time consuming, and frustrating and regular pumps are slow, heavy and prone to clogging. Its 0.1-micron filter removes all the nasties and yuckies that occur in water in North America. It saves weight by allowing you to carry less water, and drink when you reach a stream. Finally the Sawyer Squeeze has lifetime warranty and almost unlimited capacity to treat water (assuming you back-flush when necessary). Water storage: we each carry a Sawyer 32 oz Squeezable Pouch (1 oz) for use during the day and a Sawyer 64 oz Squeezable Pouch (1.5 oz) For collecting treating water in camp. Camp treatment: For fast, efficient water purification in camp we use Water Treatment Tablets: We can treat 3 or more liters of water in less than a minute. And it’s ready to drink 20-30 minutes later.

Clothes Carried in Pack

PRO TIP – Use Your Clothes Better | Read Top Mistakes Using the Layering System | How to Stay Warmer and Drier. The layering system sounds attractive in theory. But as practiced by most hikers it is seriously flawed. It can be heavy, and expensive. And not used properly it could even make you colder more…

Lightweight Rain Jacket for Hiking and Backpacking

2020 Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket

6.3 oz

The Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket  is a great value, costing far les less than other jackets in the rarefied 6 ounce range!  For 2020 it’s way more durable at the same weight! The first upgrade to the highly regarded Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket in 8 years! It boasts a new super strong Pertex Diamond Fuse fabric. Outdoor Research say it 5x more tear resistant and 2x more abrasion resistant than the old Helium. [Older models are on steep discount]

More Great Rainwear Choices: For more great for Rain Jackets and Pants see our Best Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking

The North Face Men’s TKA 100 Hoodie & Pullover

8 oz

You save 25%. Currently on sale thur 4/6/2020

A 100 wt fleece shirt is our go to favorite mid-layer—goes on every trip! And The North Face TKA 100 Colorblocked Full-Zip Hoodie (and the lighter Quarter-Zip Pullover) are our favorites. The hoodie is new this year! This is a lightweight, inexpensive fleece that blocks the wind reasonably well and provides just the right amount of warmth. With an appropriate layering scheme, this can replace the need for a wind jacket for us entirely!  We find that in cool weather (where a layering system is most useful) a fleece shirt is better. For almost the same weight of a windshirt a light 100 weight fleece shirt has a greater temperature range for comfort — which means fewer clothing changes. And a thin fleece doesn’t trap moisture in the same way as windshirt.

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket - Best Backpacking Gear

REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket

11 oz

Available all year and for those on a budget: the REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket is a great value. While it weighs a bit more vs. an 850 fill power down jacket, it’s also half the price. Otherwise it has a same features and functionality of the more expensive down jackets.

REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0 Jacket

13 oz

Note: Only seasonally Available

REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Hoodie 2.0 is great value in a very warm ultralight jacket. This jacket is a favorite of ours and a great deal at $219 but when it’s on sale it’s a steal, especially compared to competitors jackets than can run $300 or higher. It offers easy movement and just-right warmth for backpacking, hiking and travel. And the Magma 850 Hoodie has all the features you want in a down jacket — the lightest high fill power water-resistant goose down, a hood critical to increasing warmth, a durable Pertex® ripstop shell, well-articulated shoulders for free range of motion, and variable baffles that provide warmth where it’s needed and reduced bulk where it’s not. Finally, it has pockets that aren’t blocked by a pack hip belt, a gripe we have with a lot of jackets. [And yes, there are a few lighter jackets out there but you’ll pay a lot more $ to lose a few ounces]

More Great Down Jacket Choices: For more great for Down Jackets and Pants see our Guide to Lightweight Down Jackets and Pants for Backpacking

DeFeet Duragloves - Best Ultralight Hiking Gear

DeFeet Duragloves

2.5 oz

DeFeet Duragloves | These are our favorite gloves. Light, warm, grippy and durable enough to be worn all day. They also have good dexterity — we can operate our cameras with them. They can be worn by themselves or make great liner gloves for use with rain mitts or a warmer outer-glove/warm mitt. Best of all, their bright color makes them easier to find and you are far less likely to forget them by the side of the trail. For more dexterity: we also like Glacier Glove fingerless fleece for their exceptional dexterity at camp chores, like cooking breafast in cold weather.

Glacier Glove Ascension Bay Sun Glove

1.0 oz

These are my all-day wear gloves. With 50+ UPF they keep the back of my hands from burning at high altitudes in the summer. They provide great scrape and minor bump protection and prevent chafing and slippage on trekking pole grips. I wore them all the time guiding in Alaska this summer where they also did a great job of protecting my hands bushwhacking. They also were beneficial guiding in Colorado to keep the 12,000 foot UV ray from scorching my hands without the need for chemical sunscreens.

OR Option Balaclava - Best Backpacking Gear

OR Option Balaclava

1.8 oz

For a warm “hat” we prefer the Outdoor Research Option Balaclava. It’s a good balance of weight to warmth. Balaclavas are warmer than a hat because they insulate your lower face and neck. This is also great for bug protection. A balaclava is a great combo to use with a quilt on cold nights.

Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks - Best Hiking Gear

Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks

1.8 oz

You always need a dry pair of sleep socks for camp! These are Smartwool’s smartest socks. Light and durable! Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks have a nice fit which they retain well even when wet and moving fast. They have good underfoot cushion only where you need it — on the ball and heel of the foot. Wool helps with foot stench.

Clothing Worn on the Trail

Best Lyme and Zika Prevention for Hiking - Best Backpacking Gear

Protect Yourself from Lyme Disease & Zika

2019 is forecast to be the worst year for tick/Lyme disease. But don’t let fear of Lyme or Zika keep you off the trail! This article has tips on the clothing, gear, repellents, and techniques that will maximize your Lyme and Zika Prevention as well as other tick/insect diseases when hiking or backpacking. Read more at our Best Lyme and Zika Prevention for Hiking…

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles - Best Hiking Gear

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

16 oz

At at on $45 these are 1/2 to 1/3 the price of many comparable trekking poles. The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles give up nothing in features and performance. We’ve used them in many countries all over the world. They have cork handles and flick locks like the much more expensive Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles, but cost 1/3 as much! That’s a lot of bang for the buck!

RailRiders Mojave Sun Shirt - Best Ultralight Backpacking Gear

RailRiders Mojave Sun Shirt

7 oz

Best all-round shirt | We are super excited that the legendary ultralight classic “Eco-Mesh Shirt” shirt of the 2000s is back! It’s reincarnation is the RailRiders Mojave Sun Shirt. This shirt is extremely light and tough and it won’t snag on brush like knit fabric shirts. I has great sun protection with UPF 50+ fabric. To keep you cool it has built in ventilation, long ¾ length zippered front and a neat cuff system to keep you even cooler. For a more traditional shirt: RailRiders Versatac Light ShirtFor insect protection: RailRiders Journeyman Shirt with Insect Shield.

REI Co-op Merino Midweight Half-Zip Base Layer - Best Hiking Gear

REI Co-op Merino Midweight Half-Zip Base Layer

8 oz

Shirt option for cooler weather | When daytime temps are cool our favorite shirt is the REI Co-op Merino Midweight Half-Zip Shirt. In this chilly weather we use it our “hiking shirt” and baselayer. This saves weight and and the complications taking on and off your baselayer.  The half-zip regulates temperature and the long sleeves and full neck are good for sun protection. Wool is warm when wet, does a good job of wicking moisture away from your skin and is naturally antimicrobial so it dramatically reduces stench. Finally soft merino wool does not itch. We also like the similar Smartwool Merino 250 Base Layer Quarter-Zip [Note: .]

RailRiders X-Treme Adventure Pant - Best Backpacking Gear

RailRiders X-Treme Adventure Pant

16 oz

Our pants are are always the first of our gear to rip and tear. And if we don’t wear long pants we get sunburned legs and get cuts and abrasions. That’s why we like the RailRiders X-Treme Adventure Pants with their lightweight, tough, quick-drying nylon fabric, and rugged, super abrasion-resistant fabric reinforcements on the butt and knees and inside cuff. They have 7 great pockets (5 zippered) that don’t bulge and snag like other cargo pants. And the hip pockets are huge and deep so nothing falls out. For insect protection: RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pant with Insect Shield (only 10 oz)

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap - Best Backpacking Gear

Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap

2.5 oz

A hat that does everything well! The Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap is convertible between a lightweight running hat and a more serious expedition hat by allowing a neck shade to be attached to the hat. The neck shade can block sun and protect you from bugs. It comes in light colors to better help deal with solar radiation. Other colors are available if you don’t like the bright white. This this is one of the most functional hats I’ve ever put on our heads. It works great to control the brim on your rain jacket.

Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes - Best Backpacking Gear

Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes

19 oz

Altra Lone Peak Trail-Running Shoes are Alison’s and my favorite backpacking and hiking shoes. These are the most comfortable shoe after a 30+ mile day on the trail. One key is the massive toe room that is so kind to trail-swollen feet at the end of the day. They are light and have a zero drop heel for a more natural stride. These come in both Men’s and Women’s models.

Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks - Best Hiking Gear

Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks

1.8 oz

These are Smartwool’s smartest socks. Light and durable! Smartwool PhD Run Elite Low Cut Socks have a nice fit which they retain well even when wet and moving fast. They have good underfoot cushion only where you need it — on the ball and heel of the foot. Wool helps with foot stench.

Other Essential Gear

More About Essential Hiking Gear | Our 13 Essentials for the Modern Hiker | A Realistic “10 Essentials” Is definitely worth a read. This article lists a more realistic 13 Essentials that will better keep the modern hiker safe more…

best hiking gear - Garmin inReach Mini 2-Way Satellite Communicator

Garmin inReach Mini 2-Way Satellite Communicator

3.5 oz

Critical Gear for Every Trip | Staying safe in the backcountry has never been so easy or so small and light! The Garmin inReach Mini allows text-messaging-like simplicity of communication even when far from cell service. This differentiates it from the more limited check-in or alert abilities of the SPOT devices. It also adds a layer of safety, and connectivity that used to cost much more! New Mini is really small and light, 3.5 oz vs. 6.9 oz of the the older inReach units. And it’s so small it can easily fit in a pocket. In summary, the The inReach is an indispensable backcountry safty and emergency communication tool for keeping loved ones updated, and for receiving weather and other important updates from the front country.

Fenix LD02

Fenix LD02 flashlight

Fenix LD02 EDC Flashlight / Headlamp

0.8 oz

This nifty flashlight clips to your hat brim making a “headlamp.” Weighing just 0.8 oz, Fenix LD02 EDC Flashlight is amazingly bright for its size and weight. It puts out 100 lumens on high power and runs 15 hours on low power. A backup battery weighs only .25 oz. So for only one ounce (flashlight + spare battery) you have 30 hours of light.

Need more power? Use the Black Diamond Spot 355 Headlamp if you need to seriously night hike. On high it puts out 325 lumens for 4 hours, and on medium 160 lumens for 8 hours — enough to hike out at night in an emergency on challenging trails. But it’s mild-mannered enough to use in camp at 6 lumens, where it will last for 200 hours.

Black Diamond Spot

Gaia GPS Smartphone App - Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear

Gaia GPS Smartphone App

0 oz

NAVIGATION $20 $16 with Adventure Alan discount | Gaia GPS is hands down the best navigational too for the backcountry. Use your smartphone for navigation AND get 20% off! through my site. Using this app on my phone has completely supplanted standalone GPS units for me. Gaia GPS is the standard backcountry GPS navigation tool for iOS (Apple smartphones), and after a new release this year, it is fully capable on Android smartphones as well. Gaia allows loading of GPS data, tracking, and map loading for offline use with many different layers available (similar to Caltopo).

Use Your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS: For essential reading on using a backcountry GPS see: How to use your Smartphone as the Best Backpacking GPS

Paper Map & Compass - Best Backpacking Gear

Paper Map & Compass

1.6 oz

Yup, as nice and handy has a GPS unit is electronics are not infallible. As such, you still need to have paper map and compass. The Suunto M-3D Compass Our pick for a backcountry compass. This is a simple, and durable compass with all the essential features including declination adjustment (which isn’t on most compasses). It doesn’t weigh much, but it could get you out of a pinch if you find yourself in a whiteout, or unsure of your bearings with a dead phone/GPS. A good compass is indispensable, and this one will last you a long time.

Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh – USB Battery - Best Hiking Gear

“Extra Batteries” | Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh – USB Battery

6 oz

Keeping your backcountry electronics alive keeps you safe. The Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh – USB Battery is perfectly sized to charge most large cell phones twice! And there is no need to carry any cables. The Jackery Bolt comes with two built in cables, 1) a Lightning cable for Apple products, and 2) a micro-USB cable for everything else. What’s more, this battery charges products faster than most competition with a 2.7A combined output. And is one of the lighter USB batteries around, making it perfect for most backpackers for up to a week in the wild! For more capacity: Anker PowerCore 10000 battery

hiking gear - Gerber LST Ultralight Knife

Gerber LST Ultralight Knife

1.2 oz

Weighing just over an ounce, the Gerber L.S.T. Drop Point Knife Knife is lightweight, but exceptionally functional with a full 2″ long blade. While there are lighter knives, if you’re going to carry a knife into the woods, you may as well be able to cut bread, salami and cheese with it! This knife gets the job done in a lightweight, no-frills, locking folding frame.

blunt scissors

Blunt Tip Scissors

0.7 oz

Alternate “knife” tool | Westcott Classic Kids Scissors, Blunt Tip, 5 Inch are airplane carry on friendly, and lighter and more useful than a knife. Great for first aid, cutting bandages, opening food packaging, cutting cord, etc.

Essential Backpacking Gear (continued)

  • SMARTPHONE 7.0 oz | With GPS App & connectivity to inReach, in a heavy duty Ziplock
  • MAPS 1.0 oz | 11X17 Custom Maps in Ziploc Mapped with CalTopo and printed at Kinkos
  • PEN & PAPER 1.0 | Fisher Space Pen & and a few sheets waterproof paper
  • TEETH 1.0 | GUM 411 Classic Toothbrush, Toothpaste Travel size 1/2 full
  • TP + SANITIZER 1.0 | 1/2 oz sanitizer, TP only for polish, use found materials first
  • POTTY TROWEL 0.6 | TheTentLab The Deuce #2 UL Backcountry Trowel is the lightest most useful
  • SUNSCREEN 0.5 | Small tube 1/2 full. Face and hands only, using clothing for most sun protection
  • INSECT REPELLENT 1.0 | Sawyer Picaridin lotion last 14 hrs! Also Pocketable Picaridin 0.5 oz spray
  • FIRE STARTER 1.0 | Bic Lighter, matches & small fire stick
  • REPAIR KIT 1.0 | Tenacious patchduct tapeglue (also consider Aquaseal)
  • FIRST AID KIT 3.0 | See detailed list below

First Aid Kit

  • Pain, fever inflammation | Naprosyn (Aleve), Ibuprofen, or Tylenol (fever) In ziplock pill bag available at pharmacies | 0.4 oz
  • Foot/blister | Gauze + Leukotape Tape For taping over blisters, or pre-blister areas | 0.3 oz
  • Foot/blister | Tincture of benzoin in micro-bottle. For getting tape or Bandaids to REALLY stick! | 0.2 oz
  • Wound care | Bandaids + gel blister covers Assorted sizes – your preference | 0.5 oz
  • Wound care | Antibact. packets + wound wipes. Wound cleansing, infection prevention | 0.4 oz
  • Wound care |  (12) 4×4″ gauze pads + 1 roll gauze Use duct tape to hold in place (from above – Repair Items)
  • OTC meds | Benadryl, Sudafed, Nexium, Imodium, caffeine tablets. All in tablet/pill form | 0.4 oz
  • Rx meds | Personal Dr’s Rx meds | 0.4 oz
  • Pain serious | Dr’s Rx Painkiller. For serious injury, tooth abscess, etc. | 0.2 oz
  • Storage/org | Bag Poly 5×8 to hold 1st Aid Kit 0.2 Keep size down. Can only put in what can fit in bag.

Weight Summary

Firstly, this list contains some of the best and lightest gear available. While we try and keep an eye on cost and value, top performance is our primary requirement. Again the backpacking gear and hiking gear in this guide is suitable for all 3-season conditions on trips around the world, from Alaska, to Patagonia, to Utah. So no one trick ponies here, e.g. a list that is only suitable for for the more benign conditions of summer hiking on the AT (you’d be surprised how many lists have a +40 bag, and little warm gear in them). And we include things like an iPhone, Satellite Messenger, & USB Battery, that many lists conveniently leave out.

Secondly,this list is not a rigid, “thou shalt” prescription. Quit the opposite, it offers a fair amount of customization for both price and personal backpacking style — and there are option for both solo and shared kits. This allows you to pick the gear that best suits your needs and budget. There is gear from major retailers like REI as well as top Cottage Manufactures. That being said, there are ways to make a kit from this gear for under 9 pounds and ways that you might approach 10 pounds. No right or wrong weight, except hopefully this post has given you information you need to choose your gear well.

And of course, not all items are needed on every trip. E.g. many areas don’t have a bear storage requirement so the Ursack or BearVault is not needed [And in Alaska during summer solstice you don’t need a flashlight!]. And in warmer weather you might skip a fair amount of insulating clothing and/or opt for a warmer, lighter sleeping bag.

Below is a sample way that you might assemble a kit with the items we have check marked in green. Again this list is not a rigid, “thou shalt” prescription, but one possible way you could select gear to get near 9 pounds base pack weight.

2.1 lb – Backpack & Accessories
0.9 lb – Tent
1.7 lb – Sleeping
0.9 lb – Cooking & Hydration
1.9 lb – Clothing in Pack
1.9  lb – Other Essentials

9.4 Pounds Total (includes iPhone, Satellite Messenger, & USB Battery!)


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