The best gear is the kind you never think about when you’re using it, the kind that does its job, never breaks, and doesn’t waste space in your pack. Before heading off on your next trip, be sure to double-check that you haven’t forgotten any of these ultra-light essentials, which on the best of days will make your trek easier and more comfortable, and on the worst of days, could save your life.
1. Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller, 4 oz, $39.99
No one wants to fall asleep swatting mosquitos or wake up with a dozen itchy bumps—especially in areas where mosquitos are known to carry deadly diseases. Protect yourself with Thermacell’s pocket-sized Backpacker, which is lighter than a bottle of bug spray and creates a hands-free, 15-foot zone of defense against mosquitos. It can provide up to 90 hours of protection from a single 4 oz fuel canister. Bonus? It’s odorless and completely DEET-free, which is good for both your skin and your gear: DEET can wear down the plastics in your waterproof layers and dry bags, rendering them useless.
2. Leatherman Signal Multi-tool, 7.5 oz, $119.95
Regardless of where you’re hiking or what the weather forecast is, you should always have the tools to help you build a shelter and start a fire. The Leatherman Signal multi-tool includes both a saw and a ferrocerium rod for fire starting, among a long list of other gadgets and features.
3. Therm-A-Rest Z Seat, 2 oz, $14.95
Preserve your body heat on chilly mornings and protect your clothes from muddy or damp ground during rest breaks with Therm-A-Rest’s Z Seat, made from the same material as the classic Z-Lite sleeping pad. It has a compact and minimalist design, there’s no excess bulk or weight. It folds down small enough to pack into a side water bottle pocket and weighs only 2 oz—light enough to be worth its weight for both the longest treks and shortest day hikes.
4. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack, .5 oz+, $13.95+
One of the greatest creature comforts you can bring on a backpacking trip is a sacred pair of socks, one that you put off wearing until you absolutely can’t bear your damp, stinky hiking pairs any longer. Keep the sacred socks—and, OK, maybe a clean T-shirt and pair of underwear, too—in an ultralight dry sack so you can rest assured they’ll be as clean and dry as you can dream for on the wettest, toughest day of your hike.
5. Petzl e+LITE headlamp, .9 oz, $29.95
Especially for multi-day treks in remote areas, you should always have a plan B for lighting. In addition to extra batteries for your primary headlamp, it’s not a bad idea to have a just-in-case spare. Petzl’s 50-lumen e+LITE is practically weightless at less than an ounce and is compact enough to fit into even the smallest pants pockets. It’ll keep on shining even if you accidentally take a dunk on a river crossing; it’s waterproof up to a meter for 30 minutes.