By Michael Lanza

Do you need an ultralight backpack? Many backpackers might answer “no” when their answer should logically be “yes.” These packs aren’t just for thru-hikers. Typically weighing roughly between under two pounds and three pounds empty, ultralight packs have support for carrying 25 to 35 pounds—making them ideal for more than just ultralight backpacking. For many backpackers, that represents the range of pack weight they either carry on most trips—or could carry on most trips, with smart packing and reasonably light gear.

In other words, an ultralight pack just may be perfect for you. And this article covers the best ones out there today. My picks are based on extensive field testing of many packs of all types over more than 25 years of reviewing gear, formerly as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine, and many years for this blog.

As I wrote in my “5 Expert Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack,” when backpacking ultralight or lightweight—which describes probably at least 80 percent of my backpacking trips—I want a backpack with low weight and minimal features like pockets and zippers, because I just don’t need more than that. Still, I like the convenience of quick access for some items, like a lid pocket or, more often, side and hipbelt pockets for snacks, map, sunglasses, and sunblock, plus a large front pocket where I can stuff items like a jacket.

The pack you choose will depend on personal preferences regarding design features, price, weight, and capacity.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Teton Crest Trail. Click photo to see my e-guides to backpacking trips in the Tetons, Yosemite, and other parks.
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