Best Ultralight Backpacks

Ultralight backpacking has revolutionized the hiking and camping world, emphasizing minimalism and efficiency. By reducing the weight of your gear, you can travel faster, farther, and with less strain, making your adventures more enjoyable and sustainable. Ultralight backpacks, typically weighing under 2.5 pounds, are designed to carry your essential gear efficiently without adding unnecessary bulk.

The best ultralight backpacks cater to a variety of hiking styles and needs, from weekend warriors to dedicated thru-hikers. This guide will delve into the top options available, exploring their features, pros, and cons to help you choose the perfect pack for your needs.

Top Picks

Bestseller No. 1
Osprey Ultralight Collapsible Stuff Pack, Waterfront Blue
  • Part of a coordinated system for optimized packing. Customize your experience by adding on smart packing and organization accessories that meet your exact needs.
  • All of our accessories have been overhauled to offer better organization, operation, comfort and reduced environmental impact.
  • + bluesign approved main body fabrics + GRS-certified 100% recycled main body fabrics
  • Key clip
Bestseller No. 2
4Monster Hiking Daypack,Water Resistant Lightweight Packable Backpack for Travel Camping Outdoor (Yellow green, 16L)
  • 【Lightweight & Compact】Weight only 4 (oz), which is about half of the weight of a iphone. Easy to carry, can be folded into the wallet size fit into a pocket.
  • 【Water Resistant material】This lightweight hiking daypack is made of water-resistant material and zipper. Effectively prevent rainwater from wetting the phone or cash and other items in the backpack.
  • 【Durable】Tear-resistant 30D nylon will effectively prevent branches, stones from scratching the pack, keys and other products can also be safely placed inside. All stitches are strengthened to suit long-term use.
  • 【Multipurpose】This Foldable backpack provides enough space for outdoor travel, camping, hiking, day trips and shopping. Comes with a main zipper pocket, a front zipper pocket and two mesh side pockets. The main compartment provides enough storage space for day trips, hiking and shopping. It is also an ideal choice for international travel at the airport.
  • We want to make sure you have an amazing experience with us. 30 day no hassle returns / free exchange,12 month warranty.
Bestseller No. 3
Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack
  • 【Upgraded Wet Pocket Design】Venture Pal backpack stands out with more humane design for easy and convenient use. One waterproof wet pocket is added to the main compartment, a zipper on the back of this backpack which led to the internal wet pocket, to better separate sweaty clothes, towels or other personal things after swimming or taking exercise.
  • 【Durable Material】This backpack is made of high quality tear and water resistant nylon fabric,heavy duty metal zippers and enhanced by bar-tacks at major stress points provide long-lasting durability against daily activities.The extra strength provided by the double-layer bottom piece makes it possible to carry more stuff.
  • 【Compact & Comfortable】It weighs only 1 pounds, can easily fold into its own pocket for storage,and unfold it when you need it. Perfect all-purpose carrying bag for traveling , easily fit in the luggage. Breathable mesh shoulder straps with plentiful sponge padding help relieve the stress from your shoulder. The chest clip with a whistle buckle work perfectly to distribute the pack’s weight and keep it steady and centered. A must have for sports , hiking and camping.
  • 【Large Capacity & Multi Compartment】With 40L storage space, this backpack features with multi-compartment design includes one main zipped compartment, one zipped front pockets and two side pockets. One separator and one small zippered pocket in the main compartment are convenient enough to help you further organize things, can carry water, trail snacks, rope, and standard tools, the portable bags for climber. Large capacity helps you easily organize all your essential items.
  • 【Purchase Tips】- If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact us for assistance.

Key Features to Consider

When selecting an ultralight backpack, several crucial factors should guide your decision:


The primary goal of ultralight backpacking is to reduce the overall weight carried. Ultralight packs typically range from 12 ounces to around 2.5 pounds. Every ounce counts, so consider the pack’s weight in relation to its features and capacity.


Backpack volume usually varies between 30 to 70 liters. Your choice should depend on your typical trip length and gear requirements. For example, a weekend trip might require a 30-40 liter pack, while a multi-day or thru-hike could necessitate a 50-70 liter pack.

Comfort and Fit

Comfort is paramount, especially on long hikes. Look for packs with adjustable straps, proper padding, and an ergonomic design. A well-fitting backpack distributes weight evenly and reduces strain on your back and shoulders.


Materials like Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) and high-denier nylon are favored for their strength-to-weight ratio and water resistance. A durable pack withstands the rigors of the trail and provides longevity.

Accessibility and Organization

Consider how easily you can access your gear. Look for packs with easy-to-access pockets and compartments to keep your gear organized and within reach. External pockets and attachment points can be particularly useful.

Load-Bearing Capacity

Ensure the pack can comfortably carry your intended load without compromising structural integrity or comfort. Some ultralight packs are better suited for lighter loads, while others can handle heavier weights.

How do ultralight backpacks compare to traditional backpacks?

Ultralight backpacks are significantly lighter than traditional backpacks, offering a more streamlined design and fewer extraneous features. While traditional backpacks may offer more padding, compartments, and built-in frames, ultralight packs focus on essential features to reduce weight. This trade-off can lead to less comfort for heavy loads but greater efficiency and agility on the trail.

What are some popular brands of ultralight backpacks?

Popular brands of ultralight backpacks include Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ULA Equipment, Zpacks, LiteAF, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Osprey. These brands are renowned for their innovative designs, high-quality materials, and commitment to producing lightweight, durable backpacks suitable for various hiking and backpacking needs.

How do I maintain and care for an ultralight backpack?

Maintaining and caring for an ultralight backpack involves regular cleaning, inspecting for damage, and proper storage. Clean your pack with mild soap and water, avoid machine washing, and air dry. Check for tears or worn areas and repair them promptly. Store your backpack in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight, to prolong its lifespan.

Best Ultralight Backpacks

Best Overall: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55

  • Weight: 1 lb. 15.6 oz.
  • Volume: 40, 55, 70L
  • Material: Dyneema Composite Fabric
  • Pros: Lightweight, durable, highly water-resistant, can carry up to 40 lbs.
  • Cons: Expensive, minimal internal organization, poor ventilation.

Best Budget: Mountainsmith Zerk 40

  • Weight: 29 oz.
  • Volume: 40L
  • Material: 210D Extreema Recycled Nylon Ripstop
  • Pros: Affordable, durable, water-resistant, breathable shoulder straps.
  • Cons: Lower volume, lower load limit.

Best for Heavy Loads: ULA Circuit

  • Weight: 37.3 oz.
  • Volume: 68L
  • Material: Robic Nylon
  • Pros: High load-bearing capacity, comfortable, durable, extensive external storage options.
  • Cons: Heavier compared to other ultralight options.

Best Frameless: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55L

  • Weight: 18 oz.
  • Volume: 55L
  • Material: Dyneema
  • Pros: Extremely lightweight, customizable, durable.
  • Cons: Lower load limit, requires careful packing.

Best Customizable: LiteAF Ultra 30L Curve

  • Weight: 13 oz.
  • Volume: 30L + 15L external
  • Material: ULTRA 200
  • Pros: Super lightweight, customizable, vibrant color options.
  • Cons: Limited volume, low weight limit, long lead times.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 is an industry leader in ultralight backpacking. It stands out for its robust construction using Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), which is known for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio and waterproof properties. This pack is ideal for thru-hikers and long-distance backpackers who need a reliable, durable, and lightweight option.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 1 lb. 15.6 oz.
  • Volume: Available in 40, 55, and 70 liters
  • Material: Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF)
  • Carrying Capacity: Up to 40 lbs.
  • Design: Removable aluminum stays, foam back panel, wide hip belt for added comfort


  • Durability: The DCF material is highly resistant to wear and tear, making it perfect for rugged conditions.
  • Water Resistance: Fully waterproof, keeping your gear dry even in heavy rain.
  • Lightweight: Despite its durability, the pack remains incredibly light.
  • Versatile: Suitable for various hiking styles and conditions.


  • Cost: At $379, it is one of the more expensive options on the market.
  • Minimal Organization: Lacks internal compartments, which may require careful packing.
  • Ventilation: The back panel can become hot and sweaty during long hikes.

Conclusion: The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 is perfect for serious backpackers who prioritize durability and lightweight design. While it comes at a premium price, its performance and longevity make it a worthwhile investment.

ULA Circuit

The ULA Circuit is another top contender, especially favored by thru-hikers for its balance of weight, comfort, and capacity. This pack offers extensive storage options and a robust design that can handle heavier loads without compromising on comfort.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 37.3 oz.
  • Volume: 68 liters
  • Material: Robic Nylon
  • Carrying Capacity: Up to 35 lbs.
  • Design: Contoured shoulder straps, padded back panel, roll-top closure, multiple external pockets


  • Load Capacity: Can comfortably carry heavier loads, making it versatile for various hiking needs.
  • Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back panel provide excellent comfort during long hikes.
  • Durability: Made from robust Robic Nylon, ensuring long-lasting use.
  • Storage: Ample external storage options for easy access to gear.


  • Weight: Slightly heavier than some other ultralight packs.
  • Side Pockets: The angled design of the side pockets may not be as accessible as those on other packs.

Conclusion: The ULA Circuit is ideal for hikers who need a reliable pack that can handle heavier loads without sacrificing comfort. Its extensive storage options and durable construction make it a great choice for long-distance treks.

Zpacks Arc Blast

The Zpacks Arc Blast is a premium ultralight backpack known for its lightweight design and excellent ventilation. Made from Dyneema Composite Fabric, this pack offers a superb weight-to-volume ratio and is highly water-resistant.

Features and Specifications:

  • Weight: 20.5 oz.
  • Volume: 55 liters
  • Material: Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF)
  • Carrying Capacity: Up to 35 lbs.
  • Design: Arched frame for ventilation, customizable features, no hip pockets included


  • Weight: One of the lightest framed packs available.
  • Ventilation: The arched frame provides excellent back ventilation, reducing sweat buildup.
  • Durability: The DCF material is tough and water-resistant, ensuring gear stays dry.
  • Customization: Multiple add-ons available, allowing for a tailored setup.


  • Cost: At $375, it is among the pricier options.
  • Mesh Durability: The back mesh can be prone to tearing but is replaceable.
  • Hip Pockets: Not included by default and must be purchased separately.

Conclusion: The Zpacks Arc Blast is a top choice for ultralight enthusiasts who value ventilation and lightweight design. While it comes with a high price tag, its performance justifies the cost for serious hikers.

What are ultralight backpacks?

Ultralight backpacks are designed to minimize weight without sacrificing functionality or durability. Typically, they weigh under 2.5 pounds and are made from lightweight yet strong materials like Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) or high-denier nylon. These packs cater to hikers and backpackers who aim to reduce their overall load, allowing for faster and more efficient travel.

Why choose an ultralight backpack?

Choosing an ultralight backpack can significantly enhance your hiking experience by reducing strain and fatigue. Less weight on your back means you can cover more ground with less effort, enjoy greater agility on the trail, and reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, ultralight backpacks often feature streamlined designs that promote better organization and ease of access to your gear.

What are the best ultralight backpacks for thru-hiking?

The best ultralight backpacks for thru-hiking in 2024 include the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55, ULA Circuit, and Zpacks Arc Blast. These packs are favored for their lightweight designs, durability, and ability to carry the necessary gear for long-distance hiking. They offer a good balance of volume, comfort, and weight capacity, making them ideal for extended trips.

How do I choose the right volume for an ultralight backpack?

Choosing the right volume for an ultralight backpack depends on the length and type of your trips, as well as your packing style. For weekend trips, a 30-40 liter pack may suffice. For multi-day hikes or thru-hiking, a 50-70 liter pack is more appropriate to accommodate extra food, water, and gear. Consider your personal gear requirements and how efficiently you pack.

Are ultralight backpacks durable?

Yes, ultralight backpacks can be very durable despite their lightweight design. High-quality ultralight packs use materials like Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) and high-denier nylon, which offer excellent resistance to abrasion and weather conditions. However, they may require more careful handling compared to heavier, traditional backpacks to avoid damage.

What are the top materials used in ultralight backpacks?

The top materials used in ultralight backpacks include Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), Robic Nylon, and other high-denier nylon fabrics. DCF is highly prized for its strength-to-weight ratio and waterproof properties. Robic Nylon is known for its durability and abrasion resistance. These materials ensure that ultralight backpacks are both lightweight and resilient.

How much weight can an ultralight backpack carry?

Ultralight backpacks are designed to carry varying weights, typically up to 30-40 pounds. Packs like the ULA Circuit can comfortably handle heavier loads (up to 35 lbs), while others, like the Zpacks Arc Blast, are best for loads around 25-30 pounds. It’s important to match the pack’s load-bearing capacity with your gear weight to ensure comfort and longevity.

What is the average weight of an ultralight backpack?

The average weight of an ultralight backpack ranges from 12 ounces to about 2.5 pounds. For example, the Zpacks Arc Blast weighs approximately 20.5 ounces, while the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 weighs around 1 lb. 15.6 oz. The exact weight depends on the materials used and the pack’s features.

Can ultralight backpacks be used for winter hiking?

Ultralight backpacks can be used for winter hiking, but they require careful packing and consideration of gear weight. Winter hiking typically involves carrying more gear, such as extra layers and heavier sleeping bags. Packs like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55, which have higher volume options and are made from durable materials, can be suitable for winter use.

Are there ultralight backpacks with frames?

Yes, there are ultralight backpacks with frames. These packs, such as the Zpacks Arc Blast and ULA Circuit, feature lightweight frames that provide structure and improve load distribution. Framed ultralight backpacks are often more comfortable for carrying heavier loads compared to frameless options, offering better support and ventilation.

What is the best budget ultralight backpack?

The best budget ultralight backpack for 2024 is the Mountainsmith Zerk 40. Priced at a more accessible level, this pack offers a good balance of durability, weight, and features. It’s made from 210D Extreema Recycled Nylon Ripstop and weighs 29 ounces, providing ample storage and comfort without breaking the bank.

What are the key features to look for in an ultralight backpack?

Key features to look for in an ultralight backpack include weight, volume, comfort and fit, durability, accessibility and organization, and load-bearing capacity. Lightweight materials, ergonomic designs, and sufficient storage options are crucial. Additionally, consider water resistance and the ability to customize the pack to suit your specific needs.

How important is ventilation in an ultralight backpack?

Ventilation is important in an ultralight backpack as it helps keep you cool and reduces sweat buildup during hikes. Packs like the Zpacks Arc Blast feature arched frames that promote airflow between your back and the pack. Adequate ventilation can enhance comfort, especially on long, strenuous hikes in warm weather.

What are the advantages of frameless ultralight backpacks?

Frameless ultralight backpacks offer several advantages, including lower weight, simpler design, and greater flexibility in packing. They are ideal for minimalist hikers who carry lighter loads and prioritize weight savings over structure. However, they require careful packing to ensure even weight distribution and comfort.

Can ultralight backpacks be customized?

Yes, many ultralight backpacks can be customized. Brands like LiteAF offer packs with customizable features such as color choices, additional pockets, and specific design modifications to suit individual preferences. Customization allows hikers to tailor their pack to their exact needs and style, enhancing functionality and personal satisfaction.

What is the lightest ultralight backpack available?

One of the lightest ultralight backpacks available is the LiteAF Ultra 30L Curve, which weighs just 13 ounces. This pack is designed for ultralight enthusiasts who prioritize minimal weight while still needing sufficient capacity and functionality for shorter trips or minimal gear setups.

Are ultralight backpacks waterproof?

Many ultralight backpacks are made from water-resistant materials like Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), which provides excellent protection against rain and moisture. While these packs are highly water-resistant, it is still advisable to use additional waterproofing measures, such as pack liners or rain covers, for optimal protection.


Choosing the best ultralight backpack involves balancing weight, volume, durability, comfort, and customization based on your specific hiking needs. Ultralight backpacks offer a streamlined approach to backpacking, enabling you to travel further and more efficiently with less strain.

Key Takeaways

  1. Weight and Volume: The core philosophy of ultralight backpacking is to minimize weight. Ultralight packs typically weigh between 12 ounces and 2.5 pounds, with volumes ranging from 30 to 70 liters. The right volume depends on the length and nature of your trips, as well as your packing style.
  2. Durability and Material: Materials like Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) and high-denier nylon are favored for their strength-to-weight ratio and water resistance. Durability is crucial for ensuring your pack can withstand the rigors of the trail over extended periods.
  3. Comfort and Fit: Adjustable straps, ergonomic designs, and proper padding are essential for comfort, especially on long hikes. A well-fitting backpack distributes weight evenly and reduces strain on your back and shoulders.
  4. Accessibility and Organization: Easy access to your gear and efficient organization are key features to look for. External pockets, compartments, and attachment points enhance functionality and convenience.
  5. Load-Bearing Capacity: Match the backpack’s load capacity with your gear weight. Some ultralight packs are better suited for lighter loads, while others can handle up to 40 pounds without compromising comfort.

Top Recommendations

  • Best Overall: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 – Renowned for its lightweight design, durability, and water resistance.
  • Best Budget: Mountainsmith Zerk 40 – An affordable option offering good durability and storage.
  • Best for Heavy Loads: ULA Circuit – Balances weight, comfort, and capacity for heavier loads.
  • Best Frameless: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55L – Extremely lightweight and customizable.
  • Best Customizable: LiteAF Ultra 30L Curve – Allows for personalized features and minimal weight.

Popular Brands

Brands like Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ULA Equipment, Zpacks, LiteAF, Mountain Laurel Designs, and Osprey are leaders in the ultralight backpacking community. They offer innovative designs and high-quality materials, ensuring a wide range of options to suit different hiking preferences and requirements.

Final Thoughts

Switching to an ultralight backpack can profoundly enhance your hiking experience by reducing physical strain and increasing your enjoyment on the trail. Whether you’re a seasoned thru-hiker or a weekend adventurer, there’s an ultralight backpack that fits your needs and preferences. Evaluate your specific requirements, consider the key features discussed, and choose a pack that will support your adventures for years to come.

Investing in a high-quality ultralight backpack not only lightens your load but also elevates your overall backpacking experience, making your journeys more efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable.