The Big Guide to All the Best Ultralight Backpacks

In what is becoming a trend, more and more hikers and backpackers are looking to lessen the weight of their load. This is why they tend towards ultralight backpacks, which are considerably lighter than traditional bags. Of course, choosing one is no easy task, particularly if you are not sure how to go about selecting this type of pack.

So, we decided to take the reins and point out a few of the features that you need to keep an eye out for. All of the advice that we have provided here will allow you to find an ultralight backpack that is perfectly suited for you and your trip. Here is what you need to know:

Ultralight Backpacks: How to Choose One and Take the Weight Off

Backpacks have rapidly evolved over the last few years. Thanks to technology, these bags can be given additional features without compromising quality or strength. These developments are what has led to the prevalence of ultralight backpacks in the marketplace.

While ultralight backpacks are popular largely with hikers and backpackers, they have drawn all types of consumers. Essentially, these are the perfect packs for anyone who is looking to shed a few pounds from their overall load. Here we take a look at all of the features that make up some of the best ultralight backpacks and show you how to choose the best one for you.

Why Settle on an Ultralight Backpack

In most instances, ultralight backpacks are usually chosen for ultralight camping trips. These are where you carry no more than 10 or 12 pounds in total (excluding food and water) on your trip. Often, this means that you carry the bare minimum with you or take hi-tech items that are incredibly lightweight.

So, what is the advantage for you? Of course, the most obvious one is that you don’t have to carry as heavy a load. This can make hiking and camping a lot more enjoyable as you will not be weighed down. Not to mention, it is a lot safer for your back as well. Nonetheless, one of the main reasons that ultralight backpacks are so popular is because it allows you to travel greater distances in a shorter period of time. Since you will be less tired, you will be able to explore further than before.

A lot of people enjoy ultralight camping and backpacking because it also forces them to be minimalistic about the items that they carry with them. They are more likely to carry only the bare essentials and leave unnecessary luxury items at home.

What Type of Ultralight Backpack is For You

In this instance, ultralight backpacks can be categorized by the type of frame that has been incorporated into the pack. So, this narrows it down to simple frames, tensioned frames, and frameless backpacks.

Of all the backpacks, frameless backpacks are the lightest, although they are also able to carry the least amount of load. Packable backpacks and folding packs fall under this label as they can be folded when not in use.

Then, there is the simple frame backpack. The main benefit of these backpacks is that they keep the backpacks somewhat rigid and also make it easier for you to carry the load with your hips (which is what is best). Last but not least, you have the tensioned frame. This frame allows you to carry a much heavier load with less hassle. It is also great for keeping your back ventilated while you are on the move.

Ultralight Backpacking Materials

With ultralight backpacks, manufacturers simply can’t use the lightest fabrics available. Since these backpacks have to withstand considerable weights as well as environmental factors, special materials have to be used.

The most common type of material used for ultralight backpacks is ripstop fabric. These are a hybrid of fabrics woven into a square-like pattern. What really sets this material apart, though, is that it also includes other fabrics at certain points in the weave. While this is usually either nylon or polyester, nylon tends to feature more heavily in ultralight backpacks.

In addition to be quite lightweight, ripstop material has another special characteristic – it can minimize the amount of damage done to a pack. Now, this doesn’t mean that these packs can’t get rips or tears. However, you will be able to ensure that the rips will not spread any further than that one square of material. This makes it particularly good at surviving wear and tear for long periods.

Recently, another material that is being used more and more is Dyneema. It is touted as being one of the strongest fibers in the world although a slightly different version is used for backpacks. Its strength and durability aside, Dyneema is also incredibly light but can hold a large weight. The downside is that backpacks made from this material can cost considerably more than any other type of material.

Another type of fabric that is used a great deal in ultralight backpacks is weight. It helps to keep the weight down but is still able to carry a decent load. Not to mention, it works well to keep the backpack properly ventilated and more comfortable.

Weight and Volume

Usually, with a backpack, you would consider the volume above all else – that is to say, how much you can carry in your pack. While this is still important, there is another element that you will need to factor in and that is weight. Since the entire point of this exercise is to lower how much weight you need to carry, you will have to find a compromise between weight and volume. This is because larger bags tend to use more fabric and thus, are heavier.

Then there is the fact that you need to think about how much you want to carry in your backpack. If you will be using the most common (cheaper) backpacks, then you will have to opt for a slightly thicker and heavier one to help you carry the extra weight.

When it comes to capacity, most ultralight backpacks are used for hiking and camping. If you will be hiking for a day or less, you will find that one that is able to carry up to 20 liters will be suitable. For a longer trip, you may want to choose one that can hold between 30 and 45 liters.

For longer trips, backpacks that can carry between 45 and 55 liters may be able to take all of the items that you need. In cold weather, when you need to carry a greater number of supplies, most individuals will turn to a backpack of about 65 liters.

Additional Features

There are a few other things that you should analyze on a potential ultralight backpack before making a purchase:

The Size

Any backpack that you use should fit your torso measurements precisely. If not, you will find that it is quite difficult to walk with these packs on your back and your movement could be hindered. Ideally, a backpack should sit just below the nape of your neck and right above your hips. If you want a larger pack, make sure that it is only a few inches higher than your head.

The Suspension System

Now, there is no denying that a sturdier and more comfortable suspension system is going to add a few ounces here and there. This is why you may be tempted to stick with a more sparse harness. However, while you may save some weight by doing this, you will find it quite uncomfortable and heavy to carry a full backpack. So, it is better to stick with padded straps and belts instead.

Hydration Features

You will need to choose your hydration features, depending on what kind of activity you are doing. If you want extra pocket space and don’t mind having to pause your trek every so often, you can just look for water bottle holders on either side of the bag. If you don’t want this hassle, though, look for hydration reservoirs in the exteriors pockets that are connected to drinking and sip tubes.


If you are going on exhausting treks or will be hiking in warm weather, the level of ventilation afforded by your backpack is quite important. This will determine just how cool your back will be while you are carrying your bag. For greater comfort, look for backpacks that have a lot of mesh on the back so that moisture doesn’t get absorbed by the fabric. Also look for features that push the bag away from your back so that there is better ventilation in this area.

The Final Roundup

There are a lot of factors to consider when purchasing or choosing an ultralight backpack which is why there can be so much confusion involved. However, there are some things that you need to remember more than the others.

First, is that early on, you will need to decide between weight and durability. Unless you are willing to pay a considerable sum of money, this is a choice that you will need to make. Of course, you can always simply choose a smaller backpack made from a more durable material, if you want.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you should always weigh the backpack for yourself. There can be a certain level of variation, even in the same series. So, extra features such as lids or belts could add a bit of weight. If you are trying to keep things as lightweight as possible, even the smallest load could make a difference.

So, this covers all that you should be aware of when choosing an ultralight backpack for your travels. Armed with this information, you are sure to have no issues in choosing one that is ideal for you and your journey.

Top 10 Best Ultralight Backpacks

1 – Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15, Obsidian, Medium/Large
  • Large front storage for water, phone, maps, glasses or food
  • Sliding rail sternum straps
  • Designated no-bounce laptop pocket with cord storage securely inside
  • MonoRip Mesh is very strong, extremely breathable, non-stretch and hydrophobic
  • High-strength, durable Power Span Stretch Mesh allows you to see inside pocket to view contents

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15:

Reviewers like these things about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

  • According to several reviewers, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack backpack provides ample support which keeps them comfortable for overnight hikes.
  • Other users noted that it fits comfortably well on them.
  • Users also commended its spacious space for storing of gears and personal belongings.
  • Other reviewers thought that is pockets and compartments can be accessed quickly.
  • Reviewers thought that the backpack is ultra lightweight.
  • Its pockets are designed to make unloading of items much more manageable.
  • Many users have mentioned that its main compartment can expand to fit a lot of equipment.
  • Other users said that its dual adjustable sternum straps and side straps make the bag more stable and balanced.
  • Several others pointed out that it is also easy to stash certain gears due to its low-profile daisy chain system.
  • Testers felt that its back panel and shoulder strap system prevents users from abrasion and discomfort.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack rode low on his back.
  • Another reviewer felt that the bag has a tendency to bounce.

2 – Osprey Stratos 24

Osprey Packs Stratos 24 Backpack, Eclipse Blue, o/s, One Size
  • Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment
  • Integrated raincover
  • Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
  • Dual side stretch mesh pockets
  • Front panel storage pocket

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Stratos 24:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Stratos 24

  • According to users, the Osprey Stratos backpack is comfortable to use.
  • Other users thought that it has lots of adjustments.
  • A reviewer likes that the rain cover inclusion of the bag.
  • Other reviewers recommend the bag for those who are into hiking and traveling.
  • Its pockets and attachment loops are highly commended by users who have a lot of things to store inside the backpack.
  • Testers said that the bag has excellent support.
  • Reviewers mentioned that the pack is comfortable to wear due to its mesh back panel.
  • They also noted that the back panel’s ventilation keeps their back dry all the time.
  • Other reviewers thought that the frame and the padding add weight to the bag.
  • Several users felt that it was durable and sturdy due to its material.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack might be a little too small for extended excursions.
  • A tester said that it was difficult to organize things because it only had a couple of large compartments.

3 – Granite Gear Blaze AC 60

Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 Backpack
  • Lightweight 60-liter capacity pack with AirCurrent internal suspension that vents heat and moisture for evaporative cooling
  • Simple, lidless top loading design with a tall spindrift opening; durable and versatile stretch mesh pockets on bottom of the pack sides; tall front center pocket
  • Line-Loc compression system cinches load tight in all directions and can be used for gear attachment
  • 3-dimensionally molded alloyed frame, quick torso length adjustment, padded shoulder straps, and a swappable Ultralight hip belt for a custom fit
  • Pack weight: 2 pounds, 14 ounces; Lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Granite Gear Blaze AC 60:

Reviewers like these things about the Granite Gear Blaze AC 60

  • Most reviewers said that it is a great lightweight pack for weekend trips and camping.
  • Many of them said that it has good adjustable torso lengths to fit their back comfortably for carrying.
  • Some has also mentioned the excellent suspension system of the pack which helped them to carry the bag very comfortably.
  • Few reviewers said that the hip belt and should straps are very comfortable to wear.
  • A user also mentioned that the pack is roomy and has good compression straps that helped him to compress the bag when partially filled.
  • Many agreed that the pack is tough and built with good fabrics to make it more durable over the years.
  • A buyer said that pack is water and dirt resistant.
  • Another buyer said that the hip pocket was quiet useful to carry small items for the trail.
  • A user also complimented the big front mesh pocket that helped him carry wet and dirty clothes for camping.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A few buyers said that the pack has thin straps which made the pack uncomfortable to carry for heavier loads.
  • A user said that the biggest drawback is that the pack doesn’t come with a top compartment.
  • Another user said that the bag is too pricey compared to others with similar features.

4 – Osprey Exos 58

Osprey Exos 58 - Blaze Black Large
  • Ultralight and supportive, this pack offers the best of both worlds; its airy suspension is both light and comfortable for superlight backpacking and thru-hiking
  • Ventilated and supportive shoulder harness is made with slotted, mesh-covered foam; it features an adjustable sternum strap, built-in whistle and a pocket for energy gel
  • Mesh-covered, slotted-foam hipbelt tightens with an ergonomic, forward-pull cinch closure
  • Breathable, tensioned-mesh back panel pushes air to the sides for ventilation
  • 6061-T6 aluminum peripheral hoop frame effectively shifts load weight to the lumbar pad and hipbelt

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Exos 58:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Exos 58

  • Many reviewers noted that the craftsmanship of Osprey Exos backpack is excellent based on their experience.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that the bag has an internal sewn-in sleeve with clip attachment.
  • They further mentioned that such clip attachment could accommodate up to three liters of water.
  • Users indicated that its aluminum allows peripheral frame provides an excellent load carrying support.
  • They also said that it could hold a significant amount of stuff.
  • Many users reported that its sewn-in hip belt features a seamless layered mesh covered foam that provides comfort, cushioning, and load transfer.
  • Several reviewers found out that its fabric is durable.
  • Many of the users felt that it kept their things secure.
  • Users noted that the bag is comfortable to wear.
  • They pointed out that it pockets provide organizational options for their things.
  • Several testers recommend the use of the bag for travel, commute, or for everyday use.
  • Reviewers said that its floating top pocket could be removed.
  • They further mentioned the presence of multiple cord tie-off points which allows quick attachment of additional gear.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that it is too small for a larger person.
  • Another user had issues with the multitude of cords running everywhere.

5 – Granite Gear Crown 2 60

Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack - Men's
  • Dual density shoulder harness with load-lifter straps and removable sternum strap
  • Re-Fit fully adjustable (from 28 - 40in), dual density hip belt
  • Dual large hip belt pockets with DWR treated zippers
  • Roll-top main compartment opening with centered dual strap and singular buckle for quick access and easy compression
  • Removable lid has a compartment with DWR treated zipper

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Granite Gear Crown 2 60:

Reviewers like these things about the Granite Gear Crown 2 60

  • Reviewers agree that Granite Gear Crown backpack is comfortable to use due to its padded straps.
  • A user found out that the bag has a dual density shoulder harness with load-lifter straps.
  • Other users noted that sternum strap is removable.
  • Reviewers found that it has a dual large hip belt pockets with DWR treated zippers.
  • Other reviewers said that it has a roll-top main compartment opening with centered dual strap and singular buckle for quick access and easy compression.
  • Reviewers mentioned that its removable lid has a compartment with DWR treated zipper.
  • Testers found the bag to be very functional.
  • They have also said that the bag has hydration port & internal hydration sleeve.
  • Some reviewers liked its large side stretch woven pockets.
  • Others indicated that it has a stretch mesh front pocket.
  • They have also mentioned that the bag has side and front compression straps.
  • Many users were able to note that it has a re-fit hip belt that allows a fit customization to all body types.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that the stitching on the belt strap was not done well.
  • Another user felt that the water bottle pocket is hard to access.

6 – Exped Summit Lite 25

Exped Summit Lite 25 Backpack
  • Ultralight summit or day touring pack for climbing, globetrotting, or leisure
  • Streamlined, single compartment
  • Zippered top access
  • Mesh shoulder harness
  • Stows neat and compact in its lid pocket when not in use

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Exped Summit Lite 25:

Reviewers like these things about the Exped Summit Lite 25

  • Reviewers thought that the Exped Summit pack is surprisingly comfortable, even when it’s full, with nicely padded shoulder straps and auxiliary bands that buckle around the chest and hips to keep the pack in place.
  • Other reviewers remarked that it includes a spandex pouch on the outside of the pack cradles a large water bottle easily.
  • Users noted that the bag is water repellant.
  • They also noted that it is amazingly light.
  • Testers noted that it’s constructed from hard-wearing 100 D Triple ripstop nylon as well as being PU coated.
  • Users found that it has one main compartment with an internal sleeve and a zipped lid, with an internal zipped pocket in the lid into which the pack stows, along with a stretch side pocket which will hold a water bottle or rain jacket.
  • Other users noted that the bag features two daisy chains run the length of the pack for lashing extra gear to.
  • Testers found that stowing the whole thing back inside the lid is easy enough although most people will probably just bundle it away somewhere convenient when not in use.
  • Many of the reviewers noted that the bag is a nifty little pack that should particularly appeal to travellers.
  • Testers noted that it the bag is an ultralight summit and general use daypack.
  • A lot of users indicated that it packs down neatly into its lid pocket and stows away easily in a larger pack or duffle bag when not in use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the build material doesn’t look very strong.
  • Another reviewer noted that it has no compression straps to hold the load in place. Thus it swings around when moving.

7 – Terra Nova Laser 35L

Terra Nova Laser Backpack (35-Pack), Yellow
  • Lightweight, 17oz daypack
  • 35 liter volume
  • Zipper closure
  • One size fits most

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Terra Nova Laser 35L:

Reviewers like these things about the Terra Nova Laser 35L

  • Reviewers said that it is a great backpacking pack for short trips.
  • Several other users said that it holds more gear and is more comfortable.
  • They also said that it sits really snug and low profile.
  • One great feature praised by many users is that the waist belt pockets are great and will take a smart-phone easily.
  • Users said that it fits really well and didn’t move about too much.
  • Travelers said that it also didn’t overheat their back.
  • Many users mentioned that it looks cool, very light, comfortable.
  • Many other users said that it is big enough to carry stuff you need and too small to carry all unused things.
  • Another great feature mentioned by the users is that you can attach stuff outside of the bag.
  • Most buyers said that it is really light and really big and tough enough.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Users complained that the zipper split and all the pocket elastic had fallen out during the trip.
  • Some other users said that the side pockets for bottles are hard to use when the pack is full and they have no zippers.

8 – Granite Gear Virga 2 52L

Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack - Tiger/Moonmist 52L Long
  • Rolltop closure
  • Frameless suspension
  • Internal hydration hanger
  • Torso Length: 21-24in / 53-64cm [Long];
  • Weight: 1 lb 4 oz / 0.57 kg [Long]

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Granite Gear Virga 2 52L:

Reviewers like these things about the Granite Gear Virga 2 52L

  • A lot of users have mentioned that the Granite Gear Virga backpack is durable due to its Cordura fabric and high tenacity nylon material.
  • Other users also recommend the bag due to the comfort and sufficient support it provides.
  • Users found that the backpack was ultralight.
  • According to some users, it has an adequate load capacity to store a lot of personal belongings.
  • A reviewer mentioned that the bag is ideal for traveling, hiking, and climbing.
  • Testers found that it is frameless, adding comfort to the user.
  • Other testers noted that the pack has a sufficient number of pockets which provides room for storage.
  • Many wrote that it sheds water and mud easily.
  • Several of those who have tried the bag thought that is is an excellent pack for the money.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Reviewers observed that the mesh pouch on the front was quite small.
  • Another user noted that there are no pockets on its hip belt.

9 – Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider Backpack - 3356cu in White, Tall
  • Material: Dyneema
  • Volume: 3356 cu in
  • Support/Suspension: Dyneema Hardline, removable aluminum stays, padded back panel
  • Shoulder Straps: sewn-in spacer mesh, 3/8-inch foam
  • Waist Belt: yes

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider:

Reviewers like these things about the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

  • Many reviewers commend the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 backpack for its durable fabric and construction.
  • Users recommend the pack for those who are into hiking and traveling.
  • Reviewers pointed out that its tapes seams and needle holes make the bag almost waterproof.
  • Testers mentioned that it has a good range of sizes available for people with shorter torsos.
  • Other testers noted that its white color makes it easy to find gear inside the pack.
  • Testers commend the backpack for its incredible load to hip transfer.
  • Several of those who have tried the pack thought that its side water bottle pockets are reachable and replaceable while on the go.
  • Many reviewers pointed out that its external pockets have reinforced bottoms and drain holes.
  • Users indicated that its side straps provide proper compression.
  • They also noted that its fabric is resistant to puncture or abrasion.
  • Other reviewers said that the bag is conveniently lightweight.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer noted that the bag is quite expensive.
  • Another reviewer indicated that dirt quickly stains the pack.

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Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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