I’ve been backpacking since childhood and actually made it my career. I can’t stand taking unnecessary weight. When you can easily get your pack weight below 20 or 15 pounds, why wouldn’t you? The following are my top ultralight backpacking gear picks.
I know how hard it is to find honest recommendations and to narrow down American made gear. This is why I started American Gear Guide. I take my recommendations seriously and only recommend the best of the best. Of course this is my subjective opinion but I’m confident it won’t disappoint. Here are a few reasons to trust me:
Its comfortable suspension, durable yet affordable materials, well thought out design, and ultra light weight make the Ohm 2.0 a favorite on long distance thru-hikes like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, and earns the Ohm 2.0 our Best Buy Award for backpacking. This is the most comfortable ultralight pack around and happens to be my personal go-to backpacking pack. ULA provides a variety of sizes and colors (including multicam) to suit your preferance; the Ohm 2.0 is my top choice. That said, I believe many folks will prefer the slightly larger Circuit or Catalyst packs depending on the compactness of your gear.
Last observed price: $225
The Hummingbird UL 20 is an incredible 20 F bag. The latest version sports 900+ down and a Pertex Endurance UL shell which helps it to weigh only 1 lb 9 oz (reg). I own the FF 40F Merlin and love it while my good friend owns the FF Hummingbird bag and sings its praises. If needing extra space, the Swallow is a similar but roomier model and the Swift is wider still. Personally I prefer fully hooded sleeping bags as it’s far easier to achieve a good seal to hold in warmth when temps plummet.
Last price observed: ~ $539
When weight is a top concern, this is the bag. New for 2018, the Tanager exists due to requests from PCT and Appalachian Trail thru hikers. The Tanager uses the lightest 950+ down, Pertex Quantum ultralight fabric, and forgoes a zipper and hood to pare down it’s weight to an astonishing 18.6 oz. Of course you’ll need to combine this with a hooded jacket in lower temps, which you’ll likely be carrying already.
Last price observed: ~ $399
Do you also value comfort and durability along with being ultralight? The NeoAir Xlite is your pad (and my pad). It weighs 12 oz (reg size), packs to the size of a 1L nalgene bottle, and has thick 2.5″ cushioning with a warm R-value of 3.2. I’ve personally used an Xlite and XTherm pad for the past four years and highly recommend them for a super comfy ultralight pad. One thing to note is the Xlite and XTherm pads produce a crinkly sound when you move around, it doesn’t bother me but it might bother some sensitive sleepers. I went with the large version for added length and width (I’m 6′ 2″).
Last observed price range: ~ $229
Sawyer’s newest Micro Squeeze Water Filter has caused me to retire my good old Sawyer Mini Filter for backpacking and any other adventure. It has certainly earned our Editor’s Choice Award. The Micro weighs just 2.5 oz, has a much better flow rate than the Sawyer Mini, is easy to use and to clean, is very affordable, has standard water bottle threads (like SmartWater bottles), and it’s rated to filter up to 100,000 gallons! It’s so light that I take it places I normally wouldn’t carry a filter, like mtn biking, small hikes, fly-fishing, even trail running. It’s awesome to drink out of any stream you come across, without worrying about the animals upstream. Long ago I used to carry pump filters, then progressed to water-treatment drops, or tablets when going ultralight; now I usually carry the Micro Filter. You’ll likely want to buy a good squeezable water pouch like the 2L Platy to go with this filter.
Last observed price: ~ $28
The clever SNAP is like getting four lights in one. It’s modular design functions as a headlamp, flashlight, lantern, and as a bike light with its included handlebar attachment. The removable 300 lumen head unit snaps into place with a strong magnet to fit the different modules. This headlamp has good battery performance using 3 AAA’s for 40 hrs on high and 130 hrs on low. If you’re a minimalist looking for one headlamp to do it all then the SNAP is a great choice. It weighs 3.5 oz. Last observed price range: ~ $38 – 40
Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are constructed of Dyneema (formerly known as cuben fiber) fabric. Along with fully taped seams, this translates into HMG packs being impressively weatherproof, more abrasion resistant, ultra lightweight, and earning our Editor’s Choice Award. HMG packs come in a wide variety of volumes and configurations, with some geared towards ultralight backpacking and some towards climbing with external attachment points for crampons, and ice axes. I find that their 2400 size with 40 L capacity hits the sweet spot for ultralight trips. For those wanting more volume, take a look at the larger 3400 and 4400 packs. HMG packs are specialized ultralight minimalist packs using latest tech fabrics and with that comes a higher price tag.
Last observed price: ~ $320
The Glow Compass is a reliable, no frills, light compass. If you’re going ultralight and want a compass for emergencies, then take a look at the .95 oz Brunton Glow Compass.
Last price range observed: ~ $13
A cool, compact fire rod you can carry anywhere including your keychain and pocket, at the ready to start a warming fire. I keep my Exotac nano in my backpack along with a cheap Bic lighter. This waterproof fire rod can be struck up to 3000 times with its replaceable 1/4″ ferrocerium rod.
Last observed price range: ~ $30
Weight: 1.31 lbs | 21 oz | 595 g
Best 3 Season Uses: Backpacking, Bikepacking, Alpine Climbing, Thru-Hikes, Packrafting
The Duplex is another fantastic ultralight option. Like the HMG tents, the Duplex utilizes ultralight Dyneema Composite Fabric and trekking poles for support. The Duplex also has a bathtub floor, two doors (so you don’t have to climb over anyone), bug-netting, and room for one plus gear or you can squeeze in a friend. If you prefer, you can optionally purchase carbon fiber poles to setup the Duplex as a freestanding tent.
Weight: 1.18 lbs | 19.01 oz | 539 g
Optional floored insert : 1.37 lbs | 21.98 oz | 623g
Weight: 1.44 lbs | 23.17 oz | 657 g
Optional floored insert: 1.75 lbs | 28.01 oz | 794g
Best 4 Season Uses: Backpacking, Ski Touring, Bike Touring, Alpine Climbing & Mountaineering, Thru-Hiking, Packrafting
Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) tents are for those where money is no object to achieve top quality. HMG constructs their tents of super durable, waterproof DCF8 Dyneema Composite Fabric (aka Cuben Fiber) that will last the test of time. The Ultamids use trekking or ski poles as the central support so if you’re using poles anyways then this saves lots of weight. Their pyramid design is very spacious; the Ultamid 2 comfortably sleeps 2 and the Ultamid 4 sleeps 4.
Full weight: 1.81 lbs | 29.03 oz | 823 g
Best 3 Season Uses: Backpacking, Bike touring, Thru-Hiking, Packrafting
The Echo II is an ultralight modular tent system that can be setup with trekking poles as a tarp, bug net, or a full weatherproof tent. Like it’s cousins it’s made with high end Dyneema and waterproof zippers. The Echo II provides a much roomier ultralight shelter than a bivy and can squeeze two people when the need arises.
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