9.7 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List (2020 Optimal Setup)

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Above view of all my ultralight backpacking gear list laid out across a carpet

9.7 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List for 2020


I’ve spent years assembling the best ultralight backpacking gear setup for my multi-day hikes into the wilderness, and I’d love to share my 2020 list with you.

Why? Because the gear you bring along backpacking will make or break your trip. I know because I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.

During a naive and ill-prepared attempted trek of the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland, a brutal storm put me and my heavy, ineffective gear to the test. (We failed miserably.) The awful experience reinforced what I’d already known: it was time to overhaul my backpacking gear setup.

Since then, I’ve accumulated the best ultralight backpacking gear I could get my hands on. I’ve counted ounces, scoured over reviews, and slowly put together my dream kit. The base weight of my 2020 ultralight backpacking gear list comes in at a blissful 9.7 pounds.

And the setup I put together has withstood equally brutal weather conditions to those I experienced in Iceland (and it stood up perfectly). Nowadays, I feel light, mobile, and unstoppable on the trail.

So check out the gear I love, read a few reviews, and use the checklists as you get ready for your next trek.

Backpacking is simply better with quality ultralight gear.

Backpack and Sleeping System



Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Pad

Pack Cover

Tent Stakes

An 48-liter ultralight backpacking pack that carries every piece of gear on my list

Backpack: Osprey Exos 48

Weight: 37.5 oz | 1.06 kg
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.

Zpacks triplex tent

Tent: Zpacks Triplex

Weight: 23 oz | 652 grams
The Triplex is my favorite piece of ultralight backpacking gear I’ve ever owned. This tent is spacious, extremely well-designed, and very stable. It’s held up admirably to heavy rain, howling winds, and everything in between.

Katabatic gear lightweight sleeping bag

Sleeping Bag: Katabatic Gear Alsek 22°

Weight: 22 oz | 624 grams
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.

Thermarest ultralight sleeping pad

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Neoair Xlite

Weight: 12 oz | 340 grams
I used to sleep on the cushy and luxurious Thermarest Neoair Xtherm, but I decided to shave 11 ounces and sprung for the equally comfortable Xlite. This near-perfect pad is the go-to for ultralight backpackers, and it’s a piece of gear that will be on my backpacking list for a long time.

Osprey rain cover

Pack Cover: Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover

Weight: 3 oz | 85 grams
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. 

Zpacks titanium tent stake

Tent Stakes: Zpacks Titanium V

Weight: 3.25 oz | 92 grams (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: 100.75 oz | 6.30 lbs | 2.86 kg

Carried Clothing

Down Jacket

Wind Breaker

Rain Jacket

Rain Pants

Long Underwear


Stuff Sack

Down Jacket: Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka

Weight: 8.5 oz | 241 grams
In terms of warmth-to-weight, the Plasma 1000 down jacket is second-to-none. By utlilizing insanely efficient 1000-fill down as an insulator, Montbell has raised the bar for all premium ultralight down jackets. Gear nerds, rejoice, as it simply doesn’t get better than this.

Ultralight Zpacks windbreaker

Windbreaker: Zpacks Ventum Shell

Weight: 1.5 oz | 43 grams
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.

A green rain suit for lightweight backpacking

Rain Jacket & Pants: Frogg Toggs Ultra-Light2

Weight: 10.5 oz | 297 grams
Frogg Toggs rain gear is a polarizing topic in the ultralight backpacking community. Some despise it for its lack of durability. Others cherish it for how crazy light it is. I’m in the latter category. The key here is to be gentle with the suit (especially the pants) and your value-purchase will pay off.

Black long underwear

Long Underwear: Patagonia Capilene

Weight: 4.75 oz | 135 grams
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.

Zpacks possum down glove

Gloves: Zpacks Possum Down

Weight: 1.25 oz | 35 grams
The warmth-to-weight ratio on these gloves is second to none, and although they’re not waterproof, they’re a must have for any cold weather backpacking trips. To repel rain, pair them with the Zpacks Vertise Rain Covers, and revel in the glory of a perfect ultralight backpacking duo.

DCF stuff sack for ultralight backpacking gear checklist

Stuff Sack: Zpacks Medium

Weight: .25 oz | 7 grams
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: 26.75 oz | 1.67 lbs | 758 grams

Cooking System

Camping Stove

Cooking Pot


Compact camping stove

Stove: Etekcity Ultralight

Weight: 3.25 oz | 92 grams
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!

Titanium 750 ml pot

Pot: TOAKS Titanium 750 ml

Weight: 3.5 oz | 99 grams
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 useful and durable as advertised. 

Titanium spork

Spork: TOAKS Titanium

Weight: .5 oz | 14 grams
What’s not to love? This premium TOAKS spork is feather light, 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: 7.25 oz | .45 lbs | 205 grams

Water Filtration and Storage

Water Filter

Dirty Water Pouch

Clean Water Pouch

Lightweight Sawyer backpacking water filter

Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze

Weight: 3 oz | 85 grams
The Sawyer Squeeze has cemented itself on countless ultralight backpacking gear lists. Why? Because it’s simple, effective, and very lightweight. Word to the wise: Don’t try to save weight by purchasing the Sawyer MINI. It’s maddeningly slow.

Total Water Filtration and Storage Weight: 3 oz | .19 lbs | 85 grams


Cell Phone

Battery Bank


Nexus 6p cell phone

Cell Phone: Nexus 6p 

Weight: 5.25 oz | 149 grams
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.

Black battery bank

Battery Bank: Anker Astro E1

Weight: 4.25 oz | 120 grams
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 Anker Astro E1. I’ll never trek without it.

Lightweight backpacking head lamp gear

Headlamp: Black Diamond Spot

Weight: 3.25 oz | 92 grams
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: 12.75 oz | .80 lbs | 361 grams

Miscellaneous Items


Pocket Knife


Emergency Towel


Pen and Paper

Compass/thermometer combo

Compass/Thermometer: Silva Specialty

Weight: .75 oz | 21 grams
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.

Small black Swiss Army Knife

Pocket Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army

Weight: .75 oz | 21 grams
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 backpacking and it is one of my favorite pieces of ultralight gear that I own.

Orange paracord

Paracord: 550lb Type III

Weight: .5 oz | 14 grams
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, weighs barely anything, and has countless purposes.

Lightload microfiber towels

Mini-Towel: Lightload Microfiber

Weight: .25 oz | 7 grams
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. 

Mini big lighter for trekking

Lighter: Bic Mini

Weight: .5 oz | 14 grams
The Bic Mini is a must-have for any backpacker’s ultralight gear list. Having the 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 and paper

Pen & Paper

Weight: .25 oz | 7 grams
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. 

Total Miscellaneous Weight: 3 oz | .19 lbs | 85 grams

First Aid Kit & Toiletries

Duct Tape

Sewing Kit


Contact Case


Total First Aid Kit & Toiletries Weight: 2.25 oz | .14 lbs | 64 grams

Total Base Weight: 155.75 oz | 9.73 lb | 4.42 kg

Worn/Carried Items

Hiking Boots




Hiking Socks

Trekking Poles



Eyewear Retainer

Worn and carried items do not count towards total base weight.

Grey hiking boot

Boots: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX

Weight: 52.75 oz | 1.50 kg
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.

Grey, breathable hiking shirt

Shirt: Carhartt Force Extremes

Weight: 5 oz | 142 grams
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. It’s lightweight, easy to wash, and dries quickly. What more can you ask for?

Grey travel and backpacking pants

Pants: ExOfficio Nomad Pant

Weight: 9.5 oz | 269 grams
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.

Black boxer briefs

Boxer Briefs: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go

Weight: 3 oz | 85 grams
The Give ‘n’ Gos are my go-to everyday 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.

Darn Tough Hiker socks

Socks: Darn Tough Hiker

Weight: 2 oz | 57 grams
The Darn Tough Hikers are the perfect backpacking sock. They’re durable, breathable, and comfortable — an unstoppable combination. I never realized how important a good pair of hiking socks was until I geeked out while wearing my first pair of these.

Trekking poles

Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Back

Weight: 20 oz | 567 grams
Trekking poles, while not technically mandatory are an essential part of my ultralight 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. 

Columbia sun hat for hiking and backpacking

Hat: Columbia Bora Bora Booney II

Weight: 3 oz | 85 grams
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. 

Ray ban sunglasses

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Square

Weight: 4.75 oz | 135 grams
I found these sunglasses at a thrift store and I’ve worn them on every single ultralight backpacking trip 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

Eyewear Retainer: Chums 5mm

Weight: .25 oz | 7 grams
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: 100.25 oz | 6.27 lbs | 2.84 kg




Fuel Canister


Contact Solution


Rubbing Alcohol

Hand Sanitizer

I’ve accumulated an array of tiny plastic containers over the years to carry my sunscreen, blister prevention cream, bug repellent, advil, and multivitamins. I carry the bare minimum of what I think I’ll need on a given trip and stash my toiletries and first aid supplies in two separate Ziploc bags.

I use a Jetboil Mini fuel canister with my camping stove to boil water for my dehydrated meals. An empty canister weighs about 7 oz (200 grams) when full and 3.3 oz (94 grams) when empty. (Buy this in person, as the price is inflated online.)

Food for a day on the trail (about 3,000 calories) weighs about 2 pounds (900 grams), and I always bring an extra day’s rations in case of emergency. Check out my guide on backpacking food and meal planning if you want to see exactly how I pack food for a trip.

On average, I carry about a liter of water (35.25 oz | 1 kg) at a time during my backpacking adventures and filter water as I go. If the trail I’m hiking goes long stretches without any freshwater sources, I’ll carry two or more liters at a time. Water is heavy, so I try not to overload myself if opportunities to purify are abundant.

Consumables do not count towards total base weight.

Total Consumables Weight (Five Days of Food + One Liter of Water): 210 oz | 13.1 lbs | 5.95 kg

Total Worn Items + Consumables Weight: 308.5 oz | 19.28 lb | 8.75 kg

That’s it. You’ve now peeked at every single item on my ultralight backpacking gear list. I hope this post helps you in one way or another along your multi-day hiking endeavors.

What’s the next big step you’re going to take to dial in your ultralight backpacking setup?

Carry-On Only Travel Packing List

Want to see how I travel when I’m not backpacking in the wilderness with my ultralight gear setup? Click the link below to peek at every single piece of travel gear I carry when I’m not out chasing trails.


Lightweight travel and backpacking gear laid out across a wood floor

Trips Taken With My Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

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 backpacking trip 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 trek to Machu Picchu. Overcrowding of the trail is definitely an issue, but for good reason: the landscape is gorgeous and the history is fascinating.

More Ultralight Backpacking Gear Resources

Zpacks – 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 ultralight backpacking gear list for every single long-distance trek he’s ever completed.

Reddit.com/r/Ultralight – A great subreddit forum to discuss ultralight backpacking, gear lists, trip reports. 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.

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

SectionHiker – An extensive database made up of thousands of gear reviews, trip reports, and useful backpacking information. An ultralight gear nerd can get lost for hours reading the hundred of helpful posts SectionHiker.com. Trust me, I’m that nerd.

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


  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.


    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.

  2. Hi Noel, I’m preparing for the O Circuit. Thank you for your blog, it’s an amazing help!

    What do you recommend for camp shoes? I saw some in one of your picture above.

    1. Thanks, Clement! I’m glad you’re finding my guide helpful. When I was preparing, I couldn’t find a good guide with all the information I needed in once place, so I decided to make one myself.

      To save weight, I don’t use camp shoes, but if I did, I’d probably use my Chaco Z1 sandals – https://amzn.to/2Kv6Af7 – (very comfortable with socks and can be hiked in if I get tired of my boots) or a really lightweight pair of Crocs water shoes – https://amzn.to/2GOPxUk. I really do LOVE the luxury of camp shoes, but in the spirit of hiking ultralight, I have to leave them behind. I don’t really mind walking around camp barefoot either. In my opinion, it’s a great way to let your feet breathe and feel the earth underneath you.

      Any more questions about the ‘O’ Circuit or any of the gear I bring along? I’m excited for you! It’s really a once in a lifetime type of hike. What month are you going?

  3. Hi Noel, thank you for your advices on camp shoes! I’m gonna try the Chaco Z1 at REI. I really need something like this, for the travel from the US to Chile, and then for the evening at the campground :).

    I’m going to do the O Circuit this November, it will be windy!
    2 more questions regarding your gear list:
    -> For the rain cover, do you recommend it for the O Circuit? I have an Osprey also, and use dry bags in it. I wasn’t planning on buying a rain cover, I’ve read that with the wind it’s not adapted..
    -> For the water filter (I use the MSR filter https://www.rei.com/product/114975/msr-trailshot-pocket-sized-water-filter), I was thinking about taking this off my list… I’ve read multiple time that you find drinking water everywhere on the O Circuit. Did you take yours?

    Thank you again!

    1. Great choice! I got mine at REI on clearance ($30!), so be sure to check the clearance section before you buy a new pair. You never know. They’re great sandals to hike in if the weather is nice and you want a break from your boots. The soles are beefy like a pair of hiking boots and they’re extremely comfortable once you break them in. The break-in period was a bit painful for me but completely worth it. Favorite pair of sandals I’ve ever owned.

      Yes, it will probably be windy! That’s what TDP is all about. It’s all part of the fun. I’m excited for you. How many days are you giving yourself to hike the trail?

      I definitely recommend a rain cover. There will be rain at some point along you trek and it’s imperative to cover your pack and keep your belongings dry. I would use double protection (cover + pack liner). The rain, like the wind, is no joke in Torres del Paine. Buy a rain cover with elastic bands that you can pull tight around your bag to prevent it from being removed by the wind. I used the Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover and it worked great.

      You definitely don’t need a water filter along the ‘O’ Circuit, but I brought mine along anyways. Almost all of the water on the trail doesn’t need to be filtered, purified, or treated in any way. I never actually ended up using my filter. That said, it’s nice to have a filter in case you want to clean standing/dirty water along your trek. Either way, you’ll be fine. The water is clean and delicious to drink. Your call.

      Keep the questions coming! I’m glad to help.

      1. Hi Noel,

        Thanks again for the advices!

        I’m doing the O Circuit on 8 days/7 nights. I could have done less days but wanted to give me some time to enjoy the trek…

        I just bought my rain cover from Osprey also, thanks!
        I’ve tried the Chaco Z1 at REI, they are heavy… I understand now your comment! Not suitable for this trek. I might just take my Allbirds shoes, lightweight, comfy, will be enough for the travel and as camping shoes..

        1. I think 7 nights/8 days is perfect. I felt a little rushed doing my hike in 5 nights/6 days. You’re going to have fun.

          Yes, the Chacos are a bit too heavy. Take something lighter like Allbirds. Report back to me after your hike! I’d love to hear how everything went.

          1. Hi Noel,

            I have more questions as I’m getting closer to my trip, please :).

            For the bus to go from Puerto Natales to Torres del paine, and then for the 2nd bus inside the park, do you recommend to book it ahead? I will arrive in Puerto Natales 2 days earlier, mid November, so I was thinking about doing it when I arrive in the city… I’ve booked everything else few months ago (permits + campsites).

            For the campsites on the O Circuit -> do they have like trashcans on some campsites? or did you bring trash bags with you?

            Thank you again!

          2. Since you are hiking in the early season, you’ll probably be safe to book your buses when you arrive, but I still would book them beforehand if possible just to ensure that you get the exact bus you want.

            Yes, I believe I do remember occasional trash cans along the way. From what I remember, there are refugios and bathrooms with garbage bins that you should be able to dump some of your trash. I can’t give you many details as to where you can expect to find trash cans, as I kept all my trash with me for the entire trip.

            Sorry for the late reply! I’ve been away from the website for the last week or two.

            Let me know if you have any more questions!

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