lightweight backpacking gear

Ultralight Backpacking Gear List | 9 Pound for 2020

Nine pounds of backpacking gear is all a hiker needs to be safe and warm. Or 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 most current backpacking gear now available in 2020. So, 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.

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.

Weight Summary

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)

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.

Ultralight Backpacking Gear List | 9lb

Tents & Accessories

ultralight backpacking tent | rei flash air 2

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

1.9 lbs | (0.95 lb/person when shared)

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. But to save weight and cost, it is semi-free standing like the Fly Creek tents. That is, 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 checkout the REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent a good value in a lightweight freestanding backpacking tent with lot’s 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

 0.8 lb | 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%). So, 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. And 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.

More Great Tent Choices: For more great tents, budget tents and Pro Tips checkout our Guide to 2019 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.  It’s slim profile gives great balance for scrambling or difficult trail. 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, a thru-hiker’s choice and a darling of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. But a pack suitable for all hikers, beginners and experts alike, 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. A 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. But 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 $9 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 bomber 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. And 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’ll 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.

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 2019 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

19 oz

Top Pick for a Traditional Sleeping Bag |  we feel that the new REI Co-op Magma 15 Sleeping Bag 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 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!)

More Great Sleeping Bags Choices: For more great Sleeping Gear, and Budget Sleeping Bags & Quilts checkout our  2019 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! To our mind 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. Can easily get cheap alcohol fuel almost everywhere in the world. Take only the fuel you need, no canister disposal in waste. The wide pot 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. And their redesigned valve gives you 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 effect 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!  And 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

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

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 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 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 in guiding in Alaska this summer where they also did a great job of protecting my hands bushwhacking. And again in guiding 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

A 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. Also, 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 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. And 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 from bugs. It comes in light colors to better help deal with solar radiation, but 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. And 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.

Optional Headlamp for serious night hiking 3.0 oz | Use the Black Diamond Spot 325 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.

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 NeoAir patch kit, and 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.

Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.

168 replies
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  1. Craig
    Craig says:

    Hi Alan,

    I love these lists! I just have a quick question about your first aid kit. Is it 1-2 gauze pads or 12? It doesn’t seem like 12 would fit easily in the bags. If it is 12, how many do you take on day hikes, etc.? Do you carry the same FA Kit or adapt it? Most of my other stuff is in line, but I am tweaking my FA kit right now…Twelve just seemed like a lot unless leading a group. I am WFA trained, but I bounce between 2 FA kits. One is mostly duct tape and advil and the other (homemade) is too large for day hikes.

    Thanks,

    Craig

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Craig, is just a few gauze pads. An injury that needs more that that is unlikely but serious. At that point you are making due with bandanas, clothing strips etc. Probably sterilized in some stove alcohol. And of course given a higher chance of infection with the larger wound, you are likely hiking the heck out. But of course you can always bring any quantity of gauze that you want. Wishing you a great 2020 of trekking. Warmest, -alan

      Reply
      • Craig
        Craig says:

        Thanks for the reply. That is what I thought, so I was confused to see 12 gauze pads in your first-aid list. I assumed it was a typo butwanted to ask.

        Again, thanks!

        Reply
  2. Randy Clark
    Randy Clark says:

    Hi Alan,
    Trying to decide to take my trusty Protrail or shell out big bucks for the Z Pack Hexamid tent? The difference would be a drop of 11 oz.
    My big 4 weighs 4.25 and my base weight is 9.3 overall. The money is not the problem it is the thought of a new tent and do I really need it. Going to try to finish a thru hike of the TSHT. Family emergency after the 4th day last year. My wife is kicking me out in September to finish it and she knows I really want to do it.

    Your thoughts Sir
    of the tents?

    Thank you

    Randy Clatk

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Randy, glad to hear you are going to finish up on the TSHT (alho I don’t know which trail that is). The ProTrail is still a great tent, and it would be very hard argument to make that the Hexamid is going to make a $550 improvement to your trip/life. But if you have the money and it will make you happy, it will save you some weight and give you high-class trail cache. If you really wanted to save weight, challenge yourself a bit and not spend tons of $, a simple silnylon tarp would do the trick. Even a DCF tarp can be had for nearly 1/2 the price of a Hexamid. Checkout our Best Backpacking Tents for 2020 | Lightweight & Ultralight for some other light and lower cost optitons. Wishing you a great hike on the TSHT (wherever that is). Warmest, -alan

      Reply
      • Randy Clark
        Randy Clark says:

        The trail is the Superior Hiking Trail. It is located near Duluth MN and goes 300 miles to the Canadian border. Great Great trail.
        Take care
        Randy

        Reply
  3. Bret
    Bret says:

    Great gear list! Thanks! Ziplock bowls are nice but don’t nest with most small pots (e.g. jetnoil or evernew pasta) since they have indentations. I had found Kroger store brand bowls that are perfect but are no longer available. It would be nice to also identify readily available bowls that nest with common backpacking pots.

    Reply
  4. Jason Lav
    Jason Lav says:

    Wonderful gear list (best on the internet IMO) and excellent resource for backpacker trying to reduce weight and remain safe. Unlike many ultralight lists out there, it does retain a reasonable level of comfort.

    However, the 9 pound claim is unfortunately misleading. Adding up the weights of all the items on your list with green check marks yields exactly 10 lbs by my calculations. Adding up all the weights in the video (tent replacing tarp) yields just over 11 lbs by my calculations. Could you elaborate as to how you yield 9 lbs from this list?

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Jason, it’s no simple task to convey/explain a gear list that works 3-season for most places on the planet — either in video or is “Written” List in a page post. This Video was my best attempt to do so. I will do my best to clarify a bit more.

      First, in the video I tried to show a broad range of gear that is included on the list, so people could see it, understand what it’s for and why it’s great. As such, there more gear in the video than I would take on any individual trip (the same is true for the “Written” Page Post version of the list, where there is optional gear for fine tuning the list or for cost saving options). That is, I would take some gear on one type of trip and other gear on another type of trip The check mark can only go so far though to explain this. An example of this is the the Dirigo 2 tent which I would take on a trip where I shared it with another person. In this case since the tent is shared that 1.9 pounds equates to 0.9 lbs/person shared weight. But, if I were on a solo trip I would take the Mountain Laurel Designs Solomid XL (0.8 lb) which is why it’s checked in the writtent post. (In the Video I decided to use the Dirigo 2, as I felt that most folks use 2 person tents so I thought it would be a better and more useful example.)

      Second, some gear, like the Ursack (0.5 lb) would only be taken when required. As such, it is not included in the total weight for “9 lbs.” (It is green checked, not because it is included weight but it would be my first choice if a park had a bear storage requirement.)

      I believe that these two items likely account for most of the confusion on the weight. Both for the Video at +1.6 pounds (1.1 lb Dirigo 2, 0.5 lb Usack), and the “Written” Page Post version of the list +0.5 lb Usack. Again, I hope this helps clarify things a bit. Warmest, -alan

      Reply
  5. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Hello Alan,

    This is a fantastic article and I used so much of your advice on my first 38K hike that I did in Algonquin Park, Ontario last week. I have been canoeing for years and was always hesitant on a 3-4 day hiking trip due to the weight of my gear. The gear suggestions and techniques on how to reduce pack weight have really opened up a plethora of options for me, my family and friends moving forward. I have shared your site with many people north of the border and everybody is thrilled to have the knowledge you have shared.

    Andrew

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Andrew, it’s our pleasure. But thanks for your kind words. It’s comments like these, people’s personal successes that make The Site worthwhile. Keep up the good work! Wishing you a great year of trekking. Warmest, -alan & alison

      Reply
  6. Randy
    Randy says:

    Hi Alan
    Getting ready for a thru hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. Wanted to ask, I have a xlite pad, I have always wrapped it and put it back in it’s bag. I felt it protected it better. My question is it necessary to do this? I was thinking of just folding it up and laying it first in my pack then put my tent (pro trail) on top. Your thoughts?

    Thank you
    Randy

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Randy, bottom the pack without stuff is fined. Loose folds that fit to the bottom of the pack are best. FWIW, I don’t use the stuff T-Rest stuff sack. It is extra weight, and it is quite time consuming to get it back in to the sack each morning. But likely the biggest reason not to use it is that I suspect that the tight folding and rolling to get it into the sack creates micro damage to the fabric and ensuig dispersed areas a slow air leakage through many small/undetectable “micro-hole.” These are the leaks that has your pad going down by 1/2 volume overnight and that you can never find, even when you put it in the bathtub. This is how all my pads have eventually failed (I have only punctured one once, at it was easy-peeze to patch it in the field, and the patch lasted for years). Hope this helps, best, -alan

      Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Tom and apologies for the late reply. I’ve been guiding Alaska’s Brooks Range for the last two weeks and will soon head back in to Alaskan mountains for another two weeks. First, don’t let the images fool you. Believe it or not, the gear here is almost identical the old “table format version.” Only changes are that I reduced the number of duplicate/optional items (e.g. I no longer list 6 optional packs, but rather refer people to my pack guide), and that I have updated some items to the most current gear (e.g. the HMG Dirigo Tent). Otherwise it’s essentially the same list. And you could make the argument that the image and additional text about the gear in this format does provide significant benefit not in the old table format.

      But I am with you. As an engineer I find the table format more understandable and useful. But I am in the minority. Most people in this phone based browsing day and age find the picture/text, picture/text format more understandable and accessible. (I am constantly stunned by people who express dislike for spreadsheets, and it seems to grow more each year.)

      The problem is that way more than 50% browsing is done by smartphones, and tables look horrible on a small screen. As such, tables on the Web are extremely undesirable and going the way of the Dodo. As such the current (new) format for this gear list is in keeping with the expectations of modern Web viewing public. Honestly, I held out two years longer than I should have to make this conversion.

      I am toying with the idea of having the old “table stye” version at the end of this post. There are a few downsides tho. 1) It would make the the page longer load, which in turn affects my web rainking. 2) It is significantly more effort since I have to update gear/information in two places. 3) I am fairly sure that most folks will scroll right past the link text at the beginning of the post that would jump them to the table list at the end. Thus most folks will remain unaware of the table list at the end.

      Anyway wishing you a great year of trekking. Best, -alan

      Reply
  7. Caroline Koenig
    Caroline Koenig says:

    Hi Alan,
    I have been using your site for almost 3 years and I have gone from a 32 lb pack for one night to a 19 lb pack for 3 nights. I still have wine (one night) a chair (thermarest sleeve: 230g) worth every gram -I love this chair! I bring a light book and a monocular…I have learned SO MUCH form your site. My longest distance single day hike has been 24km, last year I hiked 360km and camped solo 10 nights (separate trips) THANK YOU!
    BUT…now with your site modifications (very nice) I can no longer find your great gear lists. Maybe they are hiding somewhere? Under the 9 lb list I see only photos of many items but not the detailed list. Please let me know if those great lists are somewhere I have not yet looked. Thanks a million. Caroline (of Canada)

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Caroline, so glad that you’ve found the site useful. And congrats on getting your pack weight so low. Nice work! My pleasure to have been some small part of it.

      First, don’t let the images fool you. Believe it or not, the gear here is almost identical the old “table format version.” Only changes are that I reduced the number of duplicate/optional items (e.g. I no longer list 6 optional packs, but rather refer people to my pack guide), and that I have updated some items to the most current gear (e.g. the HMG Dirigo Tent). Otherwise it’s essentially the same list. And you could make the argument that the image and additional text about the gear in this format does provide significant benefit not in the old table format.

      But I am with you. As an engineer I find the table format more understandable and useful. But I am in the minority. Most people find the picture/text, picture/text format more understandable and accessable. (I am constantly stunned by people who express dislike for spreadsheets)

      The problem is that way more than 50% browsing is done by smartphones, and tables look horrible on a small screen. As such, tables on the Web are extremely undesirable and going the way of the Dodo. As such the current (new) format for this gear list is in keeping with the expectations of modern Web viewing public. Honestly, I held out two years longer than I should have to make this conversion.

      I am toying with the idea of having the old “table stye” version at the end of this post. There are a few downsides tho. 1) It would make the the page longer load, which in turn affects my web rainking. 2) It is significantly more effort since I have to update gear/information in two places. 3) I am fairly sure that most folks will scroll right past the link text at the beginning of the post that would jump them to the table list at the end. Thus most folks will remain unaware of the table list at the end.

      Anyway wishing you a great year of trekking. Best, -alan

      Reply
      • Caroline
        Caroline says:

        Alan,
        Thank you for your detailed thoughtful reply…as an engineering technologist : ) …the spreadsheet does (did) all the organizing for me. I have many of my own but your old one broke out all the gear by sections and gave me a TREMENDOUS head start WITH LINKS. In fact, I think I may have copied it into mine and I compared all my weights to yours. Is there any way I could access your updated list through Google forms…such a great head start for the novice and, with your new gear updates, for the person like me trying to continually lighten!

        Thank you for your consideration of this request.

        Reply
  8. Bret
    Bret says:

    Great list. No rain pants or kilt?

    I like pot+canister stove, Black Diamond Ion headlamp, power-stretch gloves, full brim hat, poly base layer (more comfy). Lands End has lightweight fleece in TALL to ensure overlap with top of pants.

    Reply
  9. Jimothy
    Jimothy says:

    Heads up: Your link to the Dirigo tent goes to REI’s page for the Tiger Wall tent instead of HMG’s site.

    Reply

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