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Gear Reviews

What to Bring for Ultralight Backpacking

Lighten your load and pick up the pace with these 10 ultralight pieces of gear.

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Besides your attitude, nothing influences how your trip goes more than gear. Pretty much anyone can pull off an excellent trip with the gear they already have (and, yes, proper planning and a good attitude) and getting into backpacking doesn’t have to mean dropping a ton of cash. But for those looking to shed ounces—lots of ounces—the right gear suddenly takes on a much higher importance. Going as light as possible is a mix of sacrifice and efficiency, as well as carefully choosing the gear that will save you the most weight and let you move long distance with a fraction of the stuff on your back of some other backpackers. Start with this list, which is ordered based on the overall affect to your base packweight.

Total weight: 5 lbs 6.7 ounces

Total price: $1,186.85

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest

Pack: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest

The weight of your backpack itself is easy to forget about, with all the hype about lightening the items that go inside it. If you can’t get everything into this 40-liter Dyneema pack, you’re not going light enough, and at 1.9 lbs, it keeps your total load light and comfortable thanks to removable aluminum stays. Need more space? The durable three big pockets on the outside are a thru-hikers dream, perfect for swallowing everything from a puffy to wet rain gear. A foam backpanel, roll-top waterproofing, ice axe loops, hydration compatibility, and lots of compression mean you don’t need to sacrifice comforts. 1 lb. 14 oz.; $310 Buy Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Now 

Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Sleeping Bag: Enlightened Equipment Revelation

The best sleeping bag for ultralighters isn’t a sleeping bag at all—It’s a quilt. Face it: The bottom half of your sleeping bag isn’t doing you any good anyway, once you’ve compressed it, so cut out the weight. Same goes for the hood, at least during summer trips. For the 30° version, the Revelation is filled with 850-fill down, features snaps and clips to cinch it around you or your sleeping pad when it cools down, and packs to the size of a football. U-shaped continuous baffled keep the down in place and a drawcoord neck closure seals out cool air. 1 lb 3 oz (30° regular); $280 Buy Enlightened Equipment Revelation Now

NEMO Switchback

Sleeping Pad: NEMO Switchback

For warm summer nights, a 10.5-ounce (get the short one, always) closed cell foam pad is hard to beat. The Switchback in particular features an egg carton-like design with hexagonal nodes to conform to your body (making for a more comfortable night’s sleep than your old foam pads) and pack smaller. A bonus thermal film layer bounces your body heat back to you and bigger pockets in the foam leave more space for sleeping bag insulation to lay uncompressed. Best of all? On long journeys, you’ll never need to worry about a popped pad. Plus, it’s dirt cheap. 10.5 oz.; $39.95 Buy NEMO Switchback Now

Altra LP4

Footwear: Altra Lone Peak 4

With lighter loads, you can get away with lighter footwear. Big lugs in a tough rubber outsole, a quick-drying mesh upper, a rock-stopping midsole, an easy gaiter attachment, and Altra’s renowned wide toebox mean these are comfortable (with moderate cushion), light (at 10.2 ounces), and tough on the trail. That feeling you have? Fleetness of foot. 10.2 oz.; $120 Buy Altra Lone Peak 4 Now

Big Agnes Onyx Tarp Carbon

Shelter: Big Agnes Onyx Tarp Carbon

Sure, you might be sacrificing some weather protection and livability, but you’ll hardly notice this in your pack. The 10-ounce 8.5-foot square tarp is made from ultralight and ultra-durable welded Dyneema, has a plethora of guy-outs makes it easy to set up in any configuration. One included carbon pole can be used to boost headroom (and livability), or leave it at home and set it up entirely with a pair of trekking poles. 10 oz. (packed weight); $499.95 Buy Big Agnes Onyx Tarp Carbon Now

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody

Insulation: Mountain  Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody

The gold standard in ultralight insulation, the 8.8-ounce Ghost Whisperer/2 is an ideal weight for shoulder season backpackers or anyone bound for chilly nights, thanks to its 800-fill down. Be careful with the 10-denier ripstop face fabric while bushwhacking through brush, but the thin material means the jacket will pack to the size of a Nalgene. Pro tip: The hood is super warm, so you can cut the weight of a hat. In the ultralight world, no two items share the same job. 8.8 oz. (m’s M); $325 Buy Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoody Now

Toaks Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot

Cookware: Toaks Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot

For true ultra-lighters or thru-hikers, one of the greatest skills in their back pocket is the ability to put together a one pot meal, simply because it means you only need to carry, well, one pot. This 4-ounce titanium pot is as simple as it gets—metal folding handles, a locking vented lid, and easy-cleaning rounded edges—but should be all you need to boil water, make dinner, and eat from. 4.4 oz. (with lid); $45 Buy Toaks Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot Now

Sawyer Mini

Water Purification: Sawyer Mini

It’s cheap. It only weighs 2 ounces. It’s easy to clean. And, thanks to its .1-micron filter, it will filter bacteria and protozoa from thousands of gallons before it finally quits. The lightest way to use it is by screwing it on to the end of a disposable plastic water bottle (like a Smartwater bottle), filling the bottle from a stream, and filtering as you drink. 2 oz.; $21.95 Buy Sawyer Mini Now

BioLite Headlamp 200

Lighting: BioLite Headlamp 200

Cut back on lumens and weight with the new BioLite option. The 200 lumens it pumps out is enough to hike with, cook dinner under, and mess around in your tent, and at 1.75 ounces and featuring a super comfortable moisture wicking headband, you’ll hardly notice you packed it, or are wearing it for that matter. A low profile design means it won’t bounce when you’re really cranking out the miles, reflective markings make it easy for cars to see you while you’re hitching to town, and a locking button means you can toss it in your pack without the fear of a dying battery. And on low power, it’ll last a whopping 40 hours. 1.8 oz.; $44.95

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