My Lightweight Backpacking Gear List

Above view of my lightweight backpacking gear laid out across a carpet

My Complete Lightweight Backpacking Gear List (12 Pounds)

 

The gear you bring along on a multi-day backpacking adventure can make or break your trip.

Heavy packs, uncomfortable boots, or an inadequate camping setup will distract you from your surroundings and cheapen your hiking experience. I’ve learned this fact the hard way.

Nowadays, I keep my backpack filled with the lightest and highest-quality gear I can get my hands on. Why? Because I simply want to suffer less and enjoy myself more. To achieve this, I’ve assembled what I consider to be a minimalist backpacking gear setup – without many frills or luxuries.

Life on the trail is just better with quality, lightweight backpacking gear.

The base weight of my pack (total weight minus food, water, and consumables) is just over 5.4 kilograms (12 pounds). I have enough extra space in my backpack for over a week of food and fuel. I stay warm in temperatures down to -9° Celsius (15° Fahrenheit) and my tent has withstood wind gusts up to 100 kph/60 mph on the infamous ‘O’ Circuit in Torres del Paine.

I’ve spent years researching, testing, and buying the best lightweight backpacking gear for comfortable multi-day hikes into the wilderness, and I’d love to share my current list with you.

Backpack and Sleeping System

Backpack: Osprey Exos 48

Weight: 37.5 oz
This is an extremely comfortable and functional backpack. Its suspended mesh netting allows for generous airflow between my back and the bag. There are significantly lighter options out there (Arc Blast 55L), but the Exos 48 costs less and is more durable.

Tent: Zpacks Triplex

Weight: 23 oz
The Triplex is my favorite piece of lightweight backpacking gear I’ve ever owned. This tent is spacious, extremely well-designed, and very stable. It’s held up admirably to all heavy rain, howling winds, and everything in between.

Sleeping Bag: Katabatic Gear Alsek 22°

Weight: 22 oz
My made-to-order Alsek 22° has never failed to keep me warm. Katabatic Gear’s ‘quilt’ design saves weight by using less material than a ‘mummy’ style bag. The bag connects to the sleeping pad below while locking in heat and creating more room to stretch out.

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Neoair Xtherm

Weight: 23 oz
Okay, I’ll admit it: this sleeping pad is about twice as heavy than what I should carry. That being said, I’m a finicky sleeper and having the toasty and spacious Xtherm has vastly improved my sleep on the trail. That’s a big deal. 

Pack Cover: Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover

Weight: 3.25 oz
Unlike many ultralight DCF packs on the market, my Exos 48 isn’t waterproof, making Ospreys rain cover a mandatory carry. This cover has kept my pack bone dry during steady and prolonged downpours time and time again. 

Tent Stakes: Zpacks Titanium V

Weight: 3.5 oz (8 stakes)
These lightweight ‘V’ shaped tent stakes stay anchored in the earth, even when conditions are less than ideal. They grip into the soil and don’t let go. These stakes are quite easy to bend, however, and should be used gently. Never hammer them into the ground.

Total Backpack and Sleeping System Weight: 112.25 oz/7.02 lbs

Carried Clothing

Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT

Weight: 10 oz
The warmth-to-weight ratio on this Arc’teryx down jacket is second to none, which makes it well-worth the price tag. I double purpose my Cerium LT into a comfortable camp pillow by putting it inside my stuff sack and using my balaclava as a pillowcase.

Windbreaker: Zpacks Ventum Shell

Weight: 2.25 oz
This shell should be on everyone’s ultralight backpacking gear list. For weighing almost nothing, this windbreaker stifles morale-zapping gusts and holds in body heat with ease. The Ventum ripstop nylon material is a bit fragile though, so treat it kindly.

Rain Jacket: Marmot Precip

Weight: 10.75 oz
I’m not blown away by this jacket, but I don’t hate it either. In heavy downpours, the jacket lets water through earlier than it should, but it does get the job done in average rain. I’ll eventually switch to the lighter and highly reviewed Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket.

Thermal: TSLA Base Layer

Weight: 5 oz
Tesla (yes, that Tesla) produces more than just cars. Who knew? Their lightweight thermal base layer is warm, comfortable, and very well-priced. It does have the tendency to ride up my torso, however, so I have to tuck it in every time I use it.

Rain Pants: The North Face Venture

Weight: 8 oz
I haven’t used these rain pants much, but when I do, they’re easy to slide on over my boots and effective against steady rain. Their zippered pockets keep my belongings dry, and the pants are quite breathable as well. No complaints here.

Long Underwear: Patagonia Capilene

Weight: 4.75 oz
I purchased the Capilenes mainly because they were heavily discounted, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with their performance. They are toasty and warm at night and work well as a base layer when hiking on extra chilly days.

Boxer Briefs: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go

Weight: 3 oz
The Give ‘n’ Gos are my go-to every day boxer brief. Work, travel, hiking, you name it — they get the job done. They’re comfy, breathable, and antimicrobial (odor-resistant). Each pair has a good 3+ years of life before they begin to wear out and lose their elasticity.

Sleep Socks: Smartwool Extra Heavy

Weight: 3 oz
Bringing a pair of sleep-only socks backpacking is against the ultralight mantra, but I don’t care. Having a fresh, dry pair of these burly Smartwools to slip into before bedtime is one of the little trail luxuries that simply feels too good to give up.

Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Hiker

Weight: 2 oz
The Darn Tough Hikers are the perfect backpacking sock. They’re durable, breathable, lightweight, and comfortable — an unstoppable combination. I never realized how important a good pair of hiking socks was until I tested out my first pair of these.

Balaclava: Seirus Polartec

Weight: 1.75 oz
This balaclava was originally a skiing purchase, but it quickly made its way into my trekking bag due to the fact that it’s lightweight, full-coverage, and comfortable. At night, I use it as a cozy fleece pillowcase with my stuff sack/down jacket camping pillow combo. 

Gloves: Sealskinz Waterproof

Weight: 5.5 oz
I’m torn about these gloves. One one hand, they’re a bit too heavy and bulky, and there are far lighter options on the market (like the Zpacks PossumDown gloves). On the other hand, they’re comfortable, durable, warm, and waterproof. Worth the weight? I’m not sure yet. 

Stuff Sack: Zpacks Medium

Weight: .25 oz
I use the Zpacks DCF waterproof stuff sack to protect all of my carried clothing during the day, and use it at night with my Cerium LT down jacket as a camping pillow. Bringing along this multi-purpose stuff sack is a no-brainer.

Total Carried Clothing Weight: 57 oz/3.56 lbs

Cooking System

Stove: Etekcity Ultralight

Weight: 3.75 oz
I carried the Jetboil Flash for years before I decided to lighten my load and switch to the Etekcity Ultralight. I’m glad I did. By switching, I shaved 7 ounces off my cooking setup weight and didn’t sacrifice any features. What an affordable and effective stove!

Pot: TOAKS Titanium 750 ml

Weight: 3.5 oz
Because I moved on from the Jetboil Flash to the Etekcity Ultralight, I needed to pick a camping pot to for all my backpacking food endeavors. The TOAKS 750 ml titanium pot fit the bill and has been as lightweight and durable as advertised. 

Spork: TOAKS Titanium

Weight: .5 oz
What’s not to love? This premium TOAKS spork is lightweight, sturdy, and easy to locate in your bag (thanks to its bright orange carrying pouch). It goes everywhere with me when I travel, and has saved my ass when not a single fork or spoon were in sight.

Total Cooking System Weight: 7.75 oz/.48 lbs

Water Filtration and Storage

Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze

Weight: 2.75 oz
The Sawyer Squeeze has cemented itself on countless ultralight backpacking gear lists. Why? Because it’s simple, effective, and really lightweight. Word to the wise: Don’t try to save weight by purchasing the Sawyer MINI. It’s maddeningly slow.

Water Pouch: Sawyer 64 oz

Weight: 1.25 oz
I use one 64 oz Sawyer water pouch to carry all of my dirty (unfiltered) water while I’m backpacking. When I’m ready to purify my water, I simply screw the filter onto the pouch and squeeze the water through. These pouches aren’t super durable, however, so bring a backup.

Water Pouch: Sawyer 32 oz

Weight: 1 oz
I use two 32 oz Sawyer water pouches to carry all of my clean (filtered) water. The filtering process can feel a bit awkward for the first few go-arounds, as there is no way to secure the clean water pouch to the Sawyer Squeeze filter. 

Total Water Filtration and Storage Weight: 5 oz/.31 lbs

Electronics

Cell Phone: Nexus 6p 

Weight: 4 oz
A quality-made cell phone is really good piece of gear to bring along on your backpacking trip. My Nexus 6p has a fast processor, good battery life, takes great photos, and has tons of storage. My 6p is my go-to navigation tool over physical maps on my multi-day hikes.

Battery Bank: Anker PowerCore II

Weight: 7 oz
Since I rely on my cell phone as my primary form of navigation, bringing an external battery bank along is essential for my multi-day trips. I’ve been able to keep my phone charged for an entire week thanks to the sturdy PowerCore II. I’ll never trek without it.

Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot

Weight: 3.25 oz
Sure, headlamps aren’t essential pieces of backpacking gear, but my Black Diamond Spot is lightweight, powerful, and has great battery life; it will always be on my list. It can be dimmed, brightened, or locked with ease and helps me navigate backpacking’s mysterious after-hours.

Total Electronics Weight: 14.25 oz/.89 lbs

Miscellaneous

Compass/Thermometer: Silva Specialty

Weight: .75 oz
A compass, thermometer, and whistle for under an ounce? That’s another no-brainer. I haven’t used the whistle or compass yet, but they’ll be there for me if I’m ever in a pinch. I hang this outside my tent so I can check the external temperature every morning.

Pocket Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army 

Weight: .75 oz
Knife? Check. Scissors? Check. Tweezers? Check. Toothpick? Check. Nail file? Check. Under an Ounce? Check. This pocket knife is yet another must-have. I use mine every single day when I’m trekking and it is one of my favorite pieces of lightweight backpacking gear that I own.

Paracord: 550lb Type III

Weight: 1 oz
I never used to bring paracord along on my treks, and it didn’t take many to realize that I was missing out. I now use my trusty paracord to hang clothes, repair gear, secure guy-lines, and hang my food safely in trees. It’s strong, lightweight, and has countless purposes.

Mini-Towel: Lightload Microfiber

Weight: .25 oz
I’ll admit that I’ve never used my Lightload Microfiber towel before, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate its usefulness. I carry mine to serve as an emergency fire-starter, mask, or first-aid device if and when the situation calls for it. 

Lighter: Bic Mini

Weight: 1 oz
The Bic Mini is a must-have for any backpacker’s lightweight gear list. Having a means to start a fire can be a life-saver during low-temperature emergency situations. I also use mine as a backup to ignite my stove and to burn off any frayed threads on my precious trekking gear. 

Pen & Paper

Weight: .25 oz
I love to take notes during my backpacking adventures, especially at nighttime inside my warm and cozy tent. Note-taking improves my memory and helps me recover important details when I’m writing my trekking guides weeks or even months after my initial experience. 

Money & Credit Card

Weight: 1 oz
My trail wallet is pretty simple. I carry my drivers license, a small amount of cash, and a credit/debit card enclosed in a small Ziploc bag. That’s it. I usually tuck my ‘wallet’ somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Who want to think about money in the middle of nowhere?

Total Miscellaneous Weight: 6.25 oz/.39 lbs

Total Base Weight: 202.5 oz/12.65 lbs

Worn Items

Boots: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Weight: 52.75 oz
I love my Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTXs. So much so, in fact, that I wrote a review singing their praises. These boots are burly and breathable. Cozy and comfortable. Durable and dynamic. They’re the point of contact where my body meets the trail, and it’s a perfect connection.

Shirt: Columbia Silver Ridge

Weight: 8 oz
I love this shirt. It’s breathable, UV blocking, moisture wicking, and stylish enough to wear off the trail. It hides the inevitable dirt, stains, and odor that come along with backpacking very well, is easy to wash, and dries quickly.  

Pants: ExOfficio Nomad Pant

Weight: 9.5 oz
I bought the Columbia Silver Ridge pants, and was completely let down by their lack of quality. Bummer. Good thing I still had my ExOfficio Nomad travel pants, which happen to work very well on long backpacking trips. They’re comfortable, lightweight, and durable.

Boxer Briefs: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go

Weight: 3 oz
I carry one extra pair of boxers on all my treks, but could shave weight by leaving them at home. Here’s how to keep your undies fresh on the trail. Step one: Wash undies. Step 2: Safety pin undies to backpack. Step 3: Let undies dry as you hike all day.

Socks: Darn Tough Hiker

Weight: 2 oz
I always carry one extra pair of hiking socks, but could shave weight by leaving them at home. I clean and dry these the same way that I do with my boxer briefs to ensure that I always have a fresh pair of socks at the ready.

Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Back

Weight: 20 oz
Trekking poles are an essential part of my lightweight backpacking gear list. They’re vital in distributing weight away from my creaky knees as I hike up and down steep elevation changes and also act as tent poles to keep my Zpacks Triplex sturdy and upright. 

Hat: Columbia Bora Bora Booney II

Weight: 3 oz
This hat may not be very stylish, but it’s functional, breathable, and lessens the amount of sunscreen I need to bring along on my trips. I can jam or smush it into the tight confines of my backpack and it won’t lose its shape or usefulness. 

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Square

Weight: 4.75 oz
I found these sunglasses at a thrift store and they’ve been a part of my lightweight backpacking gear list ever since. They’re durable, have UV-blocking lenses, and sport a wide range of vision. My only second-hand piece of gear on this entire list.

Eyewear Retainer: Chums 5mm

Weight: .25 oz
It’s amazing how a simple piece of cord can make life so much easier on the trail. I used to fumble around with my sunglasses when I didn’t want to wear them, either placing them awkwardly in my front pocket or on top of my head. Not anymore.

Total Worn Items Weight: 103.25 oz/6.45 lbs

Backpacking Trips With My Current Setup

Colorado Trail, United States: Six days • 87 miles
My beautiful 486-mile Denver to Durango trek was cut very short due to ITBFS knee injury. I’ll be attempting the 4-6 week backpacking trip again, either in the summer of 2019 or 2020.

Havasupai Falls Hike, United States: Four days • 35 miles
Stunning hike into Supai Indian Reservation within the Grand Canyon. Turquoise waterfalls, rivers, and pools create an unbelievable desert oasis. Highly recommended hike, but very difficult and expensive to reserve

Huemul Circuit, Argentina: Four days • 40 miles
One of Patagonia’s best lesser-known treks. Technical, off-trail hiking with glacier traverses, zip lines, dramatic elevation changes, and notoriously erratic weather.

Torres del Paine ‘O’ Circuit, Chile: Six days • 85 miles
The most breathtaking trek I’ve ever taken. Unworldly blue towers of granite, sprawling glaciers, and scenic mountain passes are just a few of the countless highlights that have made this a world-renowned trek.

San Bartolo Ghost Town Hike, Chile: Two days • 25 miles
A bizarre and barren walk through the Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar region in the world. The massive Andes Mountains dwell on the horizon of this Martian-like hike to a long-forgotten ghost town.

Salkantay Trek, Peru: Five days • 55 miles
Outstanding at points and maddening at others, I had mixed feelings about my hike to Machu Picchu. Overcrowding of the trail is definitely an issue, but for good reason: the landscape is gorgeous and the history is fascinating.

Other Lightweight Backpacking Gear Resources

Zpacks.com

Zpacks makes some of the most innovative ultralight backpacking gear available on the market. If I could afford it, I would buy exclusively Zpacks gear. Joe Valesko, Zpacks’ founder, posts a complete backpacking gear list for every single long distance trek he’s ever completed.

Reddit.com/r/Ultralight

A great subreddit forum to discuss the ultralight backpacking lifestyle. This is a super-involved community that’s full of like-minded hiking fanatics. Lurk or contribute to this rich resource for trail reviews, gear banter, and advice for your next trek.

AndrewSkurka.com

Andrew Skurka is a legend on the trekking circuit, completing some unthinkably ridiculous expeditions. His site is full of useful lists, hiking write-ups, and lightweight backpacking gear recommendations for any level of explorer.

SectionHiker.com

An extensive database made up of thousands of gear reviews, trip reports, and useful backpacking information. A gear nerd can get lost for hours on SectionHiker.com. Trust me, I’ve been there.


What are some of your favorite pieces lightweight backpacking gear that didn’t make my list? How heavy is your pack? Do you have any gear packing tips or tricks? What is the lightest backpacking gear list you’ve ever seen? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

2 Comments

  1. Hi Noel, just starting to make my own plan for hiking the O. Your website is a great resource!
    How many cans of gas did you take with you for your stove? I don’t see that on the list above.

    Cheers

    1. Hey, Sal. So glad you’re going to hike the ‘O’ Circuit! I’m glad you found my article. Makes me so happy to know that it’s helping people like you. To answer your question, I used one regular sized canister of fuel for the entire hike. Had plenty of gas to spare.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.