Best Ultralight Backpacks
Who doesn't want to lighten their load? Ultralight backpacks are making headlines this year and replacing traditional backpacks. They are available in all different colors, styles, and sizes. They can be used for school children, high schoolers, diaper bags, hiking expeditions, or world travel.
You may think that because of their light weight and thin material that they are not durable, but this is not always the case. It is important to take a look at the materials used, zippers and seams to ensure that this pack will be able to handle your load. To help you jumpstart your research and weed out of the bad seeds, we have compiled this list of the top 10 ultralight backpacks available today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research
Larger than it looks
Top 10 Picks
1. Outlander Packable
Larger than it looks
Your bag really can be durable, lightweight, and colorful these days. However you want it, products are available in a wide array of styles, and this bag is no different. It’s probably not the colors alone that has won it 7,000+ reviews that are all mostly glowing about Outlander’s packable handy ultralight backpack. At a truly ridiculous price, you can’t go wrong with this purchase. Topping our chart for the Top 10 Ultralight Backpacks is Outlander, coming in at #1 with some fierce competition.Read more
5 pounds- that almost seems nonsensical. What about the fabric, buckles, zippers, and straps? How is this weight even possible? Whether it is magic or science, Outlander has done it- and left it durable to boot!
There are two separate compartment areas in this bag, they are 20 liters and 33 liters in volume.
Highly rip and water-resistant nylon fabric is the material used to construct this beauty. Known stress points on this bag were reinforced so that you have peace of mind when slinging your bag around as you traverse your side of the mountain or the world. That being said occasional returns have to be made where the zipper was too close to the seam and split.
Very comfortable- customers couldn’t stress that enough. Easy on, easy off, all day, no problem!
Two U-zip openings allow for separation of items and better compartmentalizing. While U-zips aren’t as waterproof as most top loading bags, this one has great accessibility and ease of item retrieval. The straps are designed with breathable mesh that’s been padded with foam so as to act as a shock absorber. Very, very comfortable straps. Come customer highly recommended. It is also adjustable down the back so that you can personalize it to your body. Even in hot weather, these packs won’t leave your back all sweaty and gross as other competition will.
This backpack is not only ultralight, but it is also stable! Pack it full or leave it mostly empty, the bag will adapt to your needs- this is a great hiking pack!
2. Venture Pal
Inner layer pack has material issues
What are you looking for in an ultralight backpack- lightweight obviously; durability is also key, and fun styles and great prices can’t hurt either, so let’s throw them in there too. Seems like a hefty bill to pay- only, with Venture Pal you get the best of all those worlds! Coming in at Top 3 Ultralight Backpacks is Venture Pal with this incredible purchase!Read more
Get this, it weighs in at JUST .7 pounds. Point Seven Pounds! It is hard to ask for less weight and still have structural integrity!
This particular version is only 35 L- however, there were other liter sizes available as well- only marginally heavier.
High-quality tear resistance, long lasting, lightest weight possible. The inner pack is double-layered on the floor of the bag so as to help with durability. Bar tacks were added to the major stress points so as to add extra integrity to the overall structure of the bag. While the majority of consumers found that this bag was highly durable, there were some slight issues with one of the double-layered floor layer coming undone or splitting. Most didn’t have this problem though.
You can take this bag on long hikes and you won’t have issues with it. This backpack is wicked comfortable, meant to store your belongings while you almost forget it’s there.
This bag opens from the top but has a U-zip system so as to reach into the sides of the bag as easily as the top. The straps are made from breathable mesh with plenty of sponge padding so as to be of the utmost comfort while hanging from your shoulders. It also includes a chest strap so that you can more effectively secure the pack in place on your back. It has great airflow, even while at Disney World all day carrying your loved ones necessaries, you won’t get a sweaty back as you will with some of the competition. And lastly, the bag offers great stability when packing heavy or light.
3. G4Free Large
Seams around zipper occasionally present a problem
Coming in at our Top 3 Ultralight Backpacks, this Amazon Choice winner, G4Free has well over 700 highly positive reviews for their stylish and colorful bag! This backpack has good volume, low weight, and is resistant to most of what you will throw its way. Shop G4Free and see why all the customers are recommending this backpack to friends and family for a variety of uses!Read more
Weighing less than a pound at 12.7 ounces, you can’t go wrong with the weight- or in this cases- lack of weight!
This bag is able to hold up to 40 liters, which is more than enough for most people, but for ultralight backpackers, this is able to fit your base weight and everything else that you need.
Constructed from high-quality tear and water-resistant nylon, this bag is designed to last. However, you may have issues arise with your zipper around the seams if you continually overstuff this considerable backpack.
This bag is designed to be lightweight, so you have to compromise in padding. The back of the bag doesn’t have any padding so sharp or pointy items will get you. It also won’t offer any relief from the support of the bag. Overall it is comfortable though, just take note of what and how you pack.
There are so many colors to choose from with this bag it will be hard to pick just one favorite. This bag holds a lot but doesn’t hold you back with a bulky design and unnecessary weight. This backpack is top loading, so you have the security of better rain protection than U-Zip versions do. Inside the bag are two separate compartments for further organization. As it is top loading it can be difficult to get things in the bottom of the pack, you will likely have to root around in your pack semi-regularly.
These straps are designed to be breathable and to adjust so that you can breathe in just the right way too. The shoulder straps are padded so as to prevent the shoulders from getting sore. Consumers found this light and thin, however. You have to choose between weight and padding most of the time unfortunately when it comes to ultralight backpacking. You also won’t mind using this in the heat, and if you can use it in the heat, then you can use it anytime. Breathability is good on this bag.
The bag is fairly well balanced, although it doesn’t have padding or a frame so the back is rather loose. When you have to retrieve things from this pack you will have to dig to the bottom a lot to get what you need. You’ll learn how to pack for yourself just right with enough time.
4. Osprey Exos
Osprey is a name you can trust
One of the most expensive brands
Adjustments get in the way
If you have heard of backpack brands before than you have heard of Osprey. Osprey Exos 48 is 48 liters of volume that it can hold. Whether you are an ultralight backpacker or just looking to urban hike with it- this bag can hold a lot and not weigh a lot itself. Stylish in color, adjustable in shape, this bag offers great airflow and of course the Osprey name.Read more
Osprey is known for their ultralight bags, this one ways only 2.6 pounds, but that is more than some people want to carry around when on a long hike. For college students, the added weight for padding is worth it.
The name says it all, Exos 48- 48 liters.
Constructed from nylon fabric, this product comes with the Osprey Warranty.
Exos peripheral frame is 6065 aluminum alloy structure which provides carrying stability and has internal cross suspension which provides comfort and stability. The frame adds weight, but overall it holds the whole pack together.
The opening is on the top, bungee cord closed, protected by a rainproof cover. Offers great rain protection but it means you have to dig to get what you need on the bottom of the bag. As for the straps, Exo form is sewn in the hip-belt with seamless layered mesh covered foam which helps to create exceptional load transferring. Although the aluminum frame may add some extra weight, this pack offers exceptional breathability while maintaining overall balance and stability.
5. Granite Gear Crown
Pouch for bladder
Designed for comfort
Most expensive pack
This bag is classic in design, it’s reminiscent of what your grandfather might have used, but it is far from the shapeless pack that he might have known. Granite Gear may have a classic look, but its feel and fit is all modern. Comfort and stability make this light pack a go-to for long distance treks.Read more
Coming in at 2.2 pounds, this doesn’t quite make the limit of ultralight weight of 2 pounds, but it comes staggeringly close for the stability and framing that is offered.
Granite Gear will fit everything that you need, without weighing you down. Known for quality material, the fabric on this pack is sturdy and very much designed for comfort. Holds an incredible 60 Liters of volume, that’s the most out of any of the other backpacks. Included in the design is a space for a bladder of water up to 3 liters, although you might want to avoid getting too close to the full 3 liters.
Constructed from High-Tenacity nylon and treated with Neverwet liquid repelling.
Designed for comfort- fully adjustable straps and buckles for added personalization in shape. It is a little heavy but it is comfy.
It opens on top where it has a protective cover over the expandable opening. There are a good amount of pockets externally so you don’t always have to go rifling through your internal compartment. The straps are constructed with Dual Density shoulder harness with loader lifters, and dual density hip belt for added comfort as it distributes the weight throughout your back instead of isolated locations quickly creating sores.
The frame on this beast allows for exceptional airflow throughout the area between you and the pack. The balance on this beast is also exceptional. Granite Gear has a patent pending Re-Fit Adjustable Hip Belt that maximizes stability and balance.
6. Modase Daypack
Decent volume size
Not machine washable
Straps become uncomfortable with too much weight
Modase is classic in their shape and design, straightforward and functional- yet delivering class and style in their four different colors. You couldn’t ask for a more reasonably priced backpack and still be able to have it’s lightweight and volume size. Buy Modase today for your next big outing!Read more
Prairie dogging over a pound, this pack weighs just 16.9 ounces. If you are aiming for a low base weight but you don’t want to compromise on padding, this pack is the one you are waiting for! Designed with hip and sternum adjustable straps, the weight in your pack will be distributed throughout your back for a more optimal carrying experience. Lightweight usually means light padding, but this bag is able to deliver on both.
For the weight, this can hold a remarkable 40 Liters of volume.
Constructed from water and tear resistant nylon fabric.
This pack is great for ultralight backpackers that are keeping base weight at 10 or so, and not aiming to hold too much over 20-25 pounds as the pack becomes rather uncomfortable to lug around.
This pack opens on top and is covered by a protective cover that buckles down on the front. It is great for ultralight backpackers that are keeping base weight at 10 or so, and not aiming to hold too much over 20-25 pounds as the pack becomes rather uncomfortable to lug around.
It is constructed of mesh that allows for great airflow on both the shoulders and the hip-belt. The straps adjust to both men and women alike- so everyone can enjoy this pack! The hip strap helps to distribute weight across the body while maintaining stability and airflow alike.
7. Gregory Mountain Zulu
Space for 3-liter bladder
U-Zip access on a 40-liter
One of the more expensive
A backpack says a lot about you as an individual, don’t you think? Well, Gregory Mountain does an exceptional job with creating stylish products that are worth every penny. Just because you pay more doesn’t always guarantee that you are going to get quality- that’s not the case with Gregory Mountain. If you spend a little bit more on this pack, it’ll change the way you see backpacks.Read more
Weighing in at 2.86 pounds, this is a little heavier than most like, but it has some great features that make it worth the marginally larger weight class that it falls in.
Unlike its weight predicts, this pack only holds 40 liters, which seems a little strange given it’s bulkier size, but that comes mostly from padding and support than volume size.
This pack is made from a strong nylon materials that is abrasion-resistant.
Constructed with enhanced lumbar foam layering it increases load-bearing comfort to a new level.
This pack loads from the top at an expandable opening covered by a latchable rain flap. Dual-density hip-belt and shoulder harness padded with foam help to create a more pleasant carrying experience.
It is made with updated crossflo suspension, your back will be breezy and airy.
Designed with U-Zip construction, getting to the bottom of things- in this case, your pack- is effortless! Straps help with the overall stability and balance of the pack.
8. OUTLIFE Fishing
Not great strap stability
Outlife is about pride- not that kind of Pride- but that of pride in their products, the quality of their work, and the exceptional outcome of their goods. Outlife will have you out there in no time with stability and reliability that comes with Amazon Choice winners such as this one.Read more
Weighing in at 2.2 pounds, this is over what some ultralight backpackers might want to carry around, but folks on the market for ultralight backpacks but not ultralight backpackers will find this weight very manageable.
60 Liters of volume can be stored inside- can you believe that, 60 liters? At just 2.2 pounds? Maintaining base weight and having plenty of space has never looked so good!
Constructed from high-quality nylon fabric, the interior has been double lined with material to add extra strength and durability.
Without a frame, this bag can be a bit of a downer. It is perfect for weekend warriors or even week-long hikes, any longer and you might want to consider a different pack.
Top load bearing, access the protected main compartment under the rain cover that shields it from the elements. The straps on this puppy aren’t super secure which can make a big difference if you tend to swing your packs around as you walk or maneuver over the terrain, wherever you may be at.
The ergonomic design relieves pressure and protects the back with breathable mesh pad that gives comfort and keeps the hike a dry one.
This pack is secure and stable when on your back if you need to access some necessities without constantly removing your pack you will easily be able to do that with this pack as it has pockets all over.
9. Outdoor Vitals Rhyolite
Lifetime limited warranty
Holds lots of weight
4 pounds and 13 ounces isn’t an ideal weight for many ultralight backpackers, but if you are up for carrying more than 10 pounds of base weight than this pack makes up for where it lacks for in weight in other exceptional areas. If weight isn’t an issue for you then this Outdoors Vitals will become vital in your life!Read more
4 pounds 13 ounces is a lot for ultralight backpackers, but for those undeterred by a few extra pounds, this pack will win you over as it can hold up to 80 pounds of weight within it!
45-60 liters of volume is what you’ll be able to get with this puppy.
Constructed with only the best, ultra-tough, waterproof, durable material. Designed with high-stress YKK buckles. It is unfortunate to report that the ‘high stress’ isn’t truly that ‘high’ after all. Then again not every consumer is as hard on their gear.
This pack fully adjusts for everybody- gear that shape-fits is always the best. Give this some time, it’ll ride to your body sooner rather than later. The suspension on this pack isn’t always reliable- long hikes may become uncomfortable after a while.
The hood of this pack acts as a rain fly to your pack when equipped, or when disassembled can become a convenient waist pouch. This pack will hold all the weight that you need, up to 80 pounds! Opening from the top, this pack actually has full-length zipper sides for easy access while still allowing you to hold the most possible gear.
Padded adjustable straps with hip belt help to distribute the weight evenly along your back for a more pleasurable experience. This pack allows you to breathe without trapping your minimal sweat in or allowing the rain through. Because of the hip-belt, this pack is highly stable and well balanced.
10. Mountainsmith Scream 55
Features two deep pockets
More expensive than most competition
Mountainsmith- people love this 55-liter Mountainsmith bag. We know that that is a line that has been repeated throughout this buying guide, but it was steep competition and all of these exceptional bags deserved to be on this list of Top 10 Best Ultralight Backpacks. Mountainsmith wraps up this list of the best of the best!Read more
Weighs a minimal 2.4 pounds. That may be over the weight limit for some, but then for others, that’s a great- and reasonable- amount of weight. The pack itself can hold up to 45 pounds.
Wait for it- 55 liters. That’s a lot. Remember- you don’t have to fill the space. But it’s nice to know you can if you need to!
100d Nylon RipStop Robic610d Cordura HP210d Nylon Embossed Liner
It is designed with a removable rigid foam suspension frame to aid in comfort- however, this isn’t a frame and excessive amounts of time hiking is a lot on your shoulders.
Top loading, rolls tight and down the sides, strapped down with buckles like a white water rafting waterproof bag. The fixed shoulder straps offer load lifter adjustments.
Breathability is offered via anvil airway rigid EVA back panel padding. The pack has 2 deep pockets. While this allowed lots of room outside of the pack to store things, those 2 pockets could have been more widely distributed and have allowed for more pocket compartmentalization.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Weight is the major concern when it comes to shopping for backpacks. True ultralight hikers will want to go with a bag that is under 2 pounds, especially when you are trying to maintain 10 pounds as your max base weight. However, ultralight backpacking isn’t the only reason that people are on the market for buying backpacks anymore- even if it still is the leader in sales. Weight also plays a significant role when considering how much weight can the bag hold not just how heavy is it, itself. Ultralight backpackers are going to be looking for a bag that can easily (and comfortably) carry around 20-25 pounds. Of course, that number will vary depending on body size and body needs- but that is a weight that many aim for.
The next concern when it comes to buying the best ultralight backpack is to consider what you are going to demand of it- not just today but in the future, cause these bags are built to last! If you are ultralight backpacking then chances are you are going to want to have a bag equipped to effectively handle 40-60 liters. Again, that isn’t the die-hard formula, just what many start off aiming for and then personally hone over the years. If you aren’t about to take 2 months of your life off to go hike an incredible mountain range -hats off to those that do!- so you don’t need as many liter limits as ultralight backpackers, then there are still plenty of options in various sizes.
When you are contemplating spending a foreseeable chunk of your future spent living outdoors, the kind of material that is resting on your back all day matters. Then again, depending on where you live, daily life can be enough of a whirlwind that you need the reassurance of having good material protecting your possessions- while being reliable and dependable on your back. One of the worst things that can happen to a hiker is to have their pack split or a strap falls off. The material and the workmanship that went into the production make a big difference. By knowing the material that makes up your pack you can rest easy knowing the quality of the fabric.
Comfort is in the middle of this list, not because it was overlooked and added after, but because this is the apex of the problem when trying to find the perfect ultralight backpack for you. While foam padding, either on the straps or the back, may not add much weight, they do add some. When it comes to ultralight backpacking slimming ounces is where it’s at. If you aren’t going on a long distance trek, then the minimal amount of weight added to the pack by including built-in padding will be your lifesaver. Padding aside, some bags have additional straps or buckles. How do those pan out with customers? Did they make the trip more comfortable- or in the long run was what they designed, in theory, to be good only in practice it turns out as a dud? We evaluate not only what the company was hoping to achieve, but we also rate it based on how well it was received by customers.
How and where the bag opens isn’t a major concern, not among the other metrics on this list, but it is one that can either make your life a breeze or leave you flinging your belongings everywhere. Some consumers love and prefer the top loading versions of ultralight backpacks, but other consumers couldn’t imagine buying anything but a U-zip designed pack. This is where personal preference comes into play- that and what you plan on doing with this pack. The top loading backpacks are more waterproof than the U-zip- but they are much harder to keep organized and inevitably you end up digging through your whole pack at some point or another, unlike the U-zip versions.
We addressed straps a little in the last metric, but this section deals with the specifics of what the straps look like, how they work- or are supposed to work-, and how well they stood up to consumers. Whether you are late to class or 5 miles from the closest town, having a strap rip is one of the worst things that could happen at that time. It not only slows you down, it posses risk by further ripping, and whatever alternative method of keeping it up, for the time being, is likely to be far more uncomfortable than when the strap was whole. Bottom line, you want to be able to depend on the straps of the backpack to stay secure, whole, and where it needs to be, on your back.
Don’t you love when you’ve been carrying around 14 pounds of weight on your back from the last few hours and you have sweat staining your pack and your shirt? Chances are not high that that is the case. Of course, back in the day, we got over it because we had no other option- but now we have OPTIONS! How a bag rests on one’s back is totally personal. Most all of the bags offer a few adjustments, if not many possible adjustment options so as to make the traveling experience as unique and personal as you are- while generating the appropriate amount of airflow for what you require of it.
How does the bag sit on your shoulders? How well does it open and close? Do you have to use one main compartment for everything, or are there other smaller- external or internal- pockets that will help to keep you stable and mobile throughout the day? It’s not fun to have to sling your bag on and off every few minutes, or even every time you need some necessity. Having extra pockets can help you to always have everything literally right at hand without having to throw the pack around every time you need something. Then, of course, the obvious concern is how well it balances on your shoulders. Strap comfort is for a different section, this metric is concerned about balance and keeping you stable every time you don this on your back.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
If your chosen bag doesn't have as many organizational pockets as you would like, you may want to consider packing cubes. These "cubes" come in many shapes and sizes and usually are made from a nylon/mesh material, allowing you to see the contents without opening the bag. This is a great way to stay organized while traveling.
Accidents happen. Whether your strap snaps from too much weight or someone slashes your bag on the train. A great, lightweight, and strong sewing kit that you can pack includes dental floss or fishing line. Both of these options are much stronger than trational thread and will be much more durable on your adventures.
Other Factors to Consider
Value always comes last, not because the price doesn’t matter, but because you can’t know whether something is worth it or not without knowing what the features are, and how it stacks up to the competition. Once all the metrics have been laid out, then you can start evaluating whether the value of the product is worth it or not. Typically the more you spend, the higher quality material/workmanship/customer service you get. However, that is by far not always the case. Many of these backpacks were also incredibly light on price as well! That wasn’t always the case, but no matter the price bracket you are in the market for you are bound to find the perfect Ultralight Backpack for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Are these packs unisex?
Yes, for the most part, these are all unisex. Of course, some brands specify ‘men’ on their packs, but that just means that it has a longer frame and specified body shape in mind. Everyone has different body sizes though, ask the community, they are more than happy to answer any questions you have about size.
q: Can these bags be used as carry-ons?
That's a great idea! The majority of these packs are too large to be used as a personal item, but you could always store it in the overhead bin of the airplane. Any of the non-framed backpacks will easily store on the plane with you. The framed-in backpacks will vary depending on your airlines dimension restrictions. Once you reach about 60-liters or more, depending on how you stuffed it, some airlines may deem it too large to carry on. It is always a great idea to check the regulations of each particular airline.
q: Which capacity should I buy?
This depends on your intended use. If you are purchasing an UL backpack for daily-personal use, such as a catch-all bag or a diaper bag, under 30-liters will be fine. This will provide you with enough room for your phone, keys, toys, a sweater or change of clothes, diapers, wipes, and miscellaneous other items.
If you plan to use the bag for school or a short hike, 30-liters should be your minimum. These sized bags usually feature a bit more organization as well, which is great for many activities. If you will be camping or doing a multi-day hike, up to about 50-liters will be ideal.
If you will be using the pack for travel or extended trips, anything from 50-liters and up will work well for you. However, you must remember that while these packs all start out very light, it is easy to stuff them full and make them very heavy. They might feel fine at first, but we recommend that you take a nice long walk around your neighborhood with the bag fully packed and see how you feel after that. You may want to reconsider that extra pair of shoes.
q: How can I lighten my load when I go camping?
Just by reading this article, you're already on the right track. Finding a great UL backpack to take camping is the first step. After this, you shoud look into ultralight tents and sleeping bags. There are many options out there that mimic the style, price, and durability of full-weight versions.
As for food and water, remember that you do not need to carry all of your water for the trek with you at all times. You can ask around or research where a fresh water stream is and plan your route around that. Water is one of the heaviest items to carry on a hiking trip and is obviously one of the most important as well.