If there’s one thing you don’t want to be when you’re traveling by foot through forests, mountains, or wherever your heart leads you, it’s bogged down by heavy gear. You want to enjoy your time in the great outdoors without a smarting back or aching feet. But you also know that hiking and backpacking require a lot of preparation, which includes packing for extended stays in the wild. And that can get rather weighty.
So what can you do? How do you lose some extra pounds in your gear without sacrificing your essentials? That’s where your backpack comes into play. You need a durable, yet lightweight backpack. One that’s compact, yet big enough for the gear you need for any trip you might want to take. And of course, you want one that’s comfortable to carry for extended periods of time.
Your Wishes Have Not Fallen On Deaf Ears
The answer to your world-traveling prayers is the ultralight backpack.
What You Need to Know About Ultralight Backpacks
Before we tell you our choices for the best ultralight backpack, let’s talk about them in general and our standards for choosing those that made the list.Ultralight backpacks are exactly like they sound: backpacks designed for outdoor travels that are light in weight.
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As with most things, making anything lighter tends to make it less sturdy. So to make our list, we searched for highly-rated, durable, and comfortable ultralight backpacks that can still hold all of your necessary gear without risk of breaking in the middle of your trip. We also found inexpensive ones so you don’t have to scrounge for cash if you’re on a tighter budget.
10 Best Ultralight Backpacks to Travel the World With
Now you’ve got the details, so you’re ready for the nitty gritty. Here are our top picks for the best ultralight backpack for the traveler looking to carry a lighter load.
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True to our word that we’d include great, inexpensive gear on this list, we found that the Granite Gear Crown2 60 meets all of our requirements. This ultralight backpack is not only inexpensive – we’re talking about $200, which isn’t bad for a high-quality pack – but it also appears in numerous articles with great reviews.
The Granite Gear Crown2 60 is made from 210-denier high-tenacity nylon, one of two materials you want a backpack to be made of if you want it to last. Gear testers and traveler’s alike praised this pack to be not only durable, but also very comfortable to wear. It fits snugly to the body thanks to its adjustable hip belt, so you don’t have to worry about it bumping around and throwing off your balance. It carries a max of 35lbs and only weighs a little over 2lbs itself. You can even remove some pieces to make it lighter without sacrificing what makes it great.
GOSSAMER GEAR MARIPOSA 60
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Another highly-praised ultralight backpack is the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60. Made from denier Robic nylon, this durable pack weights in a little over 2lbs and can carry up to 35lbs. You can purchase it for $225 and choose if you want to purchase the hip belt for extra comfort at $45. Both the pack and the belt come in three sizes so you can get the perfect fit. Traveler’s hailed it as having all the features a good, ultralight pack needs for extended treks through the wilderness.
ZPACKS ARC BLAST
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If you’ve got some extra spending cash and you’re really determined to find the lightest ultralight backpack out there, take a look at the Zpacks Arc Blast. Weighing in at only 1lb 5oz, this backpack makes many top lists despite its $325 price tag. The Zpacks Arc Blast is made of the highly durable and light Dyneema fabric – our second choice ultralight backpack material – and can carry up to 35lbs. Hikers praise it as being able to withstand use for very long treks, so you’ll get your money’s worth in mileage and durability.
SUPERIOR WILDERNESS DESIGNS LONG HAUL 50L FULL SUSPENSION
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Do you like having a lot of say in your ultralight backpack design? Want something handmade with love and care? Look no further than Superior Wilderness Designs’ Long Haul 50L Full Suspension. Hand-crafted from a variety of the best materials—including Dyneema – you get to choose many of the colors and features of your backpack through the Superior Wilderness Designs website. With a carrying capacity of 30lbs to 35lbs and a weight under 2lbs, you get a lot of bang for your $275 with the Long Haul.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider
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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider series of ultralight backpacks may come with a heavier price tag – $310 to $380 depending on the size you choose to go with – but it more than makes up that. One of the most durable backpacks on our list, the Windrider has stood up to almost every test that travelers have given it. Thanks to its Dyneema fabric, it is almost entirely waterproof. Hikers have dragged it along rocks, through thorny underbrush, and other harsh conditions and found the Windrider to be one tough pack.
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Maybe you’re not looking to spend $200 on an ultralight backpack, but you still want something that is durable and comfortable. Mountainsmith has their Scream 55 backpacks to answer your budget needs. A little on the heavier side for an ultralight backpack – it’s almost 3lbs – but its Robic fabric can stand up against a lot of damage. Available for $160, you get the ability to carry up to 45lbs and a pack that won’t give out on you halfway through your wilderness trip.
ULA EQUIPMENT CDT
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If you don’t intend to do a lot of really long hikes through any difficult terrain, but just need an inexpensive and light backpack, ULA Equipment makes the CDT. The ULA CDT is under 2lbs and only $145, the cheapest ultralight backpack we’ve seen that’s great quality. It can hold up to 18lbs comfortably and comes in a variety of colors and other customizable features through the ULA website. You can even purchase one without the hip belt to save yourself an additional $10.
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Comfort might be the biggest concern you have when it comes to your ultralight backpacking needs. If that’s the case, we suggest looking into the Osprey Levity, available for $270. Osprey is a big name in the backpacking world and one of their biggest selling points is the comfort provided by their products. The Osprey Levity is under 2lbs and ideal for even your desert treks, as its design is made to keep your back cool while you hike.
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Another contender for inexpensive, comfort, and durability, the Gregory Optic 48 doesn’t disappoint. with a carrying capacity of 40lbs and only weighing 2lb 8oz itself, this ultralight backpack can go just about anywhere you do without being a cumbersome burden. You also don’t need to break the bank to get one – it’s only $190 on REI.
KATABATIC GEAR ONNI 65
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Like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider but not its price tag? We have a solution for you and it’s the Katabatic Gear Onni 65. Onni 65 sports a similar design to the Windrider and is made from cuben fiber (aka Dyneema), making it very durable. One reviewer also stressed that the back ventilation was so comfy that he felt he could sleep on it. It’s also less than 2blbs and has some customizable options on the Katabatic website. Prices range between $265 and $290.
10 Ultralight Backpacks for Every Type of Traveler
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Now that you’ve seen our top 10 best ultralight backpack choices, you’re ready to choose one that suits your travel needs and style best. Use our list to make a purchase or as a springboard for ideas of what to look for as you shop. Whether you want something for a quick day-trek through the woods or an extended expedition through rough mountain terrain, there’s an ultralight backpack you can rely on to carry all you need without adding extra weight to your back.