Ultralight Backpacking Gear List | 8 lb Base Weight (Full Comfort)

An overview of ultralight, an ultralight backpacking gear list and breakdown.

Updated on September 28th, 2021
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© Cara Dixon


Base Weight: 8.07 lbs
Shelter + Pack + Sleep System + Kitchen + Water Storage +
Packed Clothing + Electronics + First Aid Kit + Extras

Consumables: 7 lbs
Toiletries + Food + Water + Stove Fuel

Worn Weight: 2.99 lbs
Worn Clothing + Footwear + Accessories

    TOTAL WEIGHT: 18.06 lbs

    Zpacks Hexamid Tent: Zpacks Hexamid 10.4 oz
    polycro footprint Footprint: Polycro (plastic) 1.6 oz
    Red Paw Packs Front Range Pack: Red Paw Packs Front Range 19.2 oz
    trash bag liner Pack Liner: Trash Bag Liner 0.5 oz
    Sleep System
    katabatic palisade Sleeping Bag: Katabatic Palisade 18.4 oz
    neoair xlite Sleeping Pad: NeoAir Xlite 12.5 oz
    big sky dream sleeper Pillow: Big Sky Dream Sleeper 2 oz
    brs 3000t Stove: BRS 3000T 1 oz
    toaks titanium Pot: Toaks 750 Titanium 3.6 oz
    light my fire spork Spork: Light My Fire Spork 1.1 oz
    victorinox classic sd Knife: Victorinox Classic SD 0.7 oz
    bic clipper Lighter: Bic Mini 0.5 oz
    nano packtowl 100 Towel: Nano Packtowl 0.4 oz
    Water Storage
    sawyer squeeze Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze 3 oz
    life water Water Container: Life Water (x2) 2.4 oz
    Packed Clothing
    montbell versalite Rain Jacket: Montbell Versalite 6.4 oz
    montbell plasma down Down Jacket: Montbell Plasma 4.8 oz
    senchi designs alpha hoodie Sleeping Top: Senchi Designs Alpha Hoodie 3.1 oz
    montbell zeoline Sleeping Bottom: Montbell Zeoline Lightweight 4.4 oz
    darn tough socks Camp Socks: Darn Tough 2.3 oz
    crocs sandals Camp Shoes: Crocs 10.6 oz
    iphone 12 mini Phone: iPhone 12 Mini 4.8 oz
    charger cable Charger: USB cable 0.6 oz
    cheotech 2 port quick charge Wall Port: Choetech 2 Port Quick Charge 4.2 oz
    anker 10000 mah Battery: Anker 10,000 mAh 6.3 oz
    shure se215 Headphones: Shure SE215 1.1 oz
    Hyperlite Mountain Gear DCF Stuff Sacks: Hyperlite Mountain Gear DCF 0.8 oz
    ziploc plastic Plastic Bags: Ziploc 0.2 oz
    nemo wallet Wallet: Nemo 0.8 oz
    nitecore nu25 Headlamp: Nitecore NU25 1 oz
    ear plugs Ear Plugs: foam 0.1 oz
    bamboo toothbrush Toothbrush: Bamboo (cut) 0.6 oz
    sensodyne toothpaste Toothpaste: Sensodyne 2.6 oz
    natrapel bug spray Bug Spray: Natrapel 3.4 oz
    joshua sunstick Sunscreen/ Chafing: Joshua Tree 0.4 oz
    toilet paper Toilet Paper: Any 0.1 oz
    dr bronners hand sanitizer Hand Sanitizer: Dr. Bronners 2 oz
    First Aid Kit
    ibuprofen pills Pain Reliever: Ibuprofen 0 oz
    imodium pills AntiDiarrhea: Imodium 0 oz
    alcohol wipes Wound Cleaning: Alcohol Wipes 0.1 oz
    leukotape Blister Prevention/ Bandage: Leukotape 0.2 oz
    Worn Clothing
    ball cap Headwear: Ball Cap 0.6 oz
    montbell cool hoodie Hiking Top: Montbell Cool Hoodie 6.6 oz
    r-gear 5 pocket Hiking Bottom: R-Gear 5 pocket 6.3 oz
    2undr night shift Underwear: 2UNDR Night Shift 4 oz
    Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 3.5 20.8 oz
    Darn Tough socks Socks: Darn Tough 2.3 oz
    dirty girl gaiters Gaiters: Dirty Girl 1.5 oz
    assorted food Food: Assorted 81.6 oz
    life water Water: Life/Smart Water 17.6 oz
    msr stove fuel Stove Fuel: MSR (small) 3.9 oz
    Gossamer Gear trekking pole Trekking Pole: Gossamer Gear LT5 4.9 oz
    Casio F91W-1 Watch: Casio F91W-1 0.8 oz

    ⛺️ Shelter

    packed shelter
    From left to right: footprint, tent, stakes

    Shelter is often the first thing people think about when they think about backpacking. Your shelter is part of your “big three” - shelter, pack, and sleep system. These are the heaviest items and often the first items targeted when trying to go ultralight.

    Shelters include a tent, tarp, hammock, or bivy. If you want to get your shelter system even lighter, go for a non-freestanding tent. These tents rely on your trekking poles for their support.

    Additionally, some hikers choose to carry a footprint to protect the bottom of their tent from abrasion in rockier areas and protect in wet conditions. 

    A thin plastic drop cloth is cheap, light, and surprisingly durable. I’ve been using the same piece of plastic for 100+ nights!


    • Zpacks Hexamid (11.9 oz): Made with super light and durable Dyneema fabric and a generous 47” peak height the this tent is worth getting a little spendy on. Note this is a non-freestanding and requires trekking poles to set up. The listed weight includes 8 titanium stakes. 
    • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 (27.0 oz): Ligthweight and durable tent for those that prefer the stability of a freestanding tent.
    • Tyvek or 2mm painter’s drop cloth (1.0 oz): A piece of either of these will work well as a footprint.


    pack and liner
    Pack and Liner

    Packs come in many shapes, sizes and capacities. As one of your big three items, aim for two pounds (or less!) for weight. Ultralight packs generally have a simple design, keeping the feature list, and therefore the weight, to a minimum.

    Aim for 36 to 60 liter of capacity. You’ll need more capacity for longer trips or if you need to carry additional items like a bear canister.

    Many ultralight packs are frameless. If you go this route make sure not to exceed the maximum recommended weight otherwise it will become uncomfortable to carry.

    Speaking of comfort, choose a pack that is the correct torso length, is breathable, and has a cushioned back panel.

    Adding a pack liner like a thin trash compactor bag keeps your gear dry.


    Sleep System

    sleep system gear list

    Your sleep system makes up the last of your big three. Sleeping bags come as either traditional bags or quilts. Quilts work like a quilt on your bed laying over the top of you. They don’t go all the way around you like a traditional sleeping bag. This saves both weight and space.

    For fill, down feathers are lighter and more compact than synthetic fill, but more expensive. A higher temperature rating will be lighter but less versatile. For me, a 30-degree bag is a sweet spot between weight and warmth for most three-season conditions.

    When choosing a sleeping pad, focus on both comfort and insulation. Inflatable pads provide the most comfort but are prone to punctures. Foam pads are foolproof but bulky to carry. Insulation is measured in R-value. The higher the R-Value the more insulation the pad provides. For three-season backpacking, target an R-Value between 2.0 and 4.0.

    A pillow can be a specialized item or simply some clothes stuffed into a stuff sack.



    cook setup

    Your camp kitchen is customizable depending on the type of food you like to eat on the trail. If you enjoy spending time cooking at camp it may take up more weight. If you’re trying to shave weight you might opt to go stoveless (or you could order a bunch of these meals :) ).

    The best stove is a simple canister stove. These stoves are light, provide a stable cooking surface and boil water quickly. They are easy to attach and use with any pot. Alcohol stoves have been a popular ultralight DIY stove for years. However, due to increasing wildfire danger in the west, they are often banned during peak season. Best to steer clear.

    For a pot and a spork look for lightweight materials like titanium. A larger knife is only needed if you plan on doing a lot of chopping or slicing. If not, skip this and use the small knife on your multitool.


    Water Filtration and Storage

    water and filter

    In the backcountry, it’s imperative that you can filter water along the trail. A good water filter will be easy to use, clean, and have a fast flow when filtering. It’s also best practice to have a backup method of purification in case your filter breaks. This can be boiling over your stove or carrying a few purification tabs, like Aquatabs, for emergencies.

    It’s important to have enough water storage in case water is scarce or you need to make a dry camp. It also is nice at camp to limit the number of trips back and forth to your water source. A collapsible bladder is light and packs down small when not in use. For drinking on the trail, leave your bulky Nalgene at home, a lightweight plastic water bottle will do.


    Packed Clothing

    packed clothes

    When making the transition to ultralight, group your clothes into two categories: Hiking and Packed. Packed clothing, aka camp clothes, are the clothes that stay in your pack while you hike. The idea behind the ultralight clothing strategy is your warmer packed layers stay dry for use at camp or while sleeping and only your hiking clothes are worn out in the elements.

    Weather can change quickly on the trail. Always having dry layers to change into is important. If you don’t it can lead to hypothermia. The exception to this rule is your rain gear. Rain gear is considered packed gear because you normally don’t hike in it. However, if it’s raining or windy by all means hike in it!

    It’s also a good rule to pack only synthetic or wool materials. No cotton. Cotton takes a long time to dry and doesn’t keep you warm when wet as wool does.




    The main item here is your phone. Your phone is the new multitool. It serves as a GPS, map set, camera, backup headlamp, a source of entertainment, and more. It even works as a phone if you have service! On a shorter trip, you might be able to get away with one charge. On a longer trip or if you are a heavy phone user packing an extra battery is critical. This is especially true if your phone is your only source of maps.

    Cold weather can drain a phone’s battery faster than normal, always make sure to pack enough juice. Don’t forget to bring a charging cable and a set of headphones too. If your trail passes through a campground with power, bring a USB Wall Adaptor. Never turn down the chance for free power!



    ultralight gear list extras

    Here are a few items that don’t fit neatly into our other categories.

    Stuff sacks are used to keep your equipment dry. They are great for organizing your food, camp kitchen, and clothes. They are also good if your sleeping bag or inflatable mattress doesn’t come in a waterproof stuff sack.

    Gallon ziplock bags work well for organizing gear but are less durable over the course of a long trip. I generally use them for storing gear that is ok if it gets slightly damp. Create a simple hiker wallet in a small ziplock that includes ID, credit card, and some cash.

    A separate headlamp keeps your hands free around camp and saves precious phone batteries. Make sure to test the batteries before hitting the trail. Nothing is worse than getting to camp to find dead batteries in your headlamp.

    Earplugs block out snoring hikers, loud weather, and noisy woods.



    ultralight toiletry kit

    This category is largely up to you. The items you bring will be tailored to the trail you are hiking.

    If you’re in the desert you might bring more sunscreen and skip the bug spray. If you’re in a temperate rainforest you might do the opposite.

    Some hikers take soap, some don’t. If you bring soap make sure it is biodegradable and you follow Leave No Trace principles when using it. Follow LNT principles for how you dispose of your biodegradable toilet paper as well.

    For hikers who get periods, packing a Diva Cup is a convenient, lightweight, no waste alternative to tampons or pads.


    First Aid Kit

    ultralight first aid kit

    Please don’t skimp on a first aid kit. Pack what you need and what makes you comfortable, both mentally and physically. There is a lot of room for flexibility here. If you have known medical issues, like allergies or a bum knee, don’t leave out items that will make your trip more comfortable or save your life.

    Bringing a small multitool helps cut tape and bandages to fit your wound. And having the tweezers is nice for splinters or the stinger of a bee.

    Our list below is a bare minimum, make sure to read our full article on how to construct a lightweight and versatile first aid kit.

    Personally, when I make my first aid kit I don’t pay too much attention to the weight. I’d rather have peace of mind than save a few grams.


    Worn Clothing

    worn clothing ultralight backpacking

    This is the clothing you will wear during the day when hiking. For three-season hiking keep it light and breezy. Synthetic materials are preferred as they dry off quickly after a long day of sweating. Wool is also good. Don’t bring cotton, it dries slowly and won’t keep you warm if wet.

    Buffs are an awesome multi-purpose piece of gear that can be used to protect your head from the sun or to keep you warm.

    If you’re hiking in open sunny terrain, consider bringing a wide-brimmed hat.

    Pants vs shorts are largely a matter of personal preference. Pants will keep your legs protected if you’ll be encountering a lot of brushy trails or bushwhacks. Shorts are super breathable on hot hikes.

    I prefer a long sleeve top because it means less need for slathering on the sunscreen. The key idea here is to hike in what’s comfortable for you.




    You’ll be on your feet most of the day, make sure you set off with a comfortable pair of shoes. Trail runners provide a great middle ground between running shoes and hiking boots. They also dry off faster and are more breathable for hot or wet conditions. On longer hikes, especially thru-hikes, your feet will swell. When picking shoes look for a wider toe box to counter this.

    Hiking socks come in all thicknesses and heights. Depending on the temperatures you might opt for a shorter or longer height. Wool is amazing at being both cooling on hot days and warming on chilly mornings. It also keeps your feet warm when wet.

    Gaiters, prevent debris from getting inside your shoes. On long rocky hikes, it means less stopping to get pebbles out of your shoes.



    ultralight backpacking meal plan

    The definition of what constitutes a consumable can get murky, especially when trying to outdo a fellow hiker's base weight. The generally agreed on consumable items are food, water, and fuel.

    Plan on at least a pound and a half of food per day of nutritious food. You should be able to pack enough calories, fat, and protein in this weight to keep you going on the trail.

    If I’m hiking in areas of abundant water, I generally carry about half a liter. In drier climates, you’ll need more. A small 3.5 ounce canister of fuel is enough for a short to medium trip to rehydrate meals and make the morning coffee.


    ultralight backpacking accessories

    Another two popular worn items are trekking poles and a watch. Trekking poles can help alleviate strain on the joints on long days. They also provide balance on slippery surfaces, steep slopes, and river crossings. If you have a non-freestanding tent you’ll need to carry one or two trekking poles to pitch your tent.

    Wearing a watch in the backcountry is handy for being able to know the time without having to check your phone. Not checking your phone means less wasted battery. A watch also helps easily and quickly track pace and estimate miles hiked.


    *Potential Items Not Included in List (either luxury or conditional): Bear Protection (canister, spray), Book, Bug Netting, Fire Starter Kit, Ice Axe, Journal, Microspikes, Nailclipper, Navigation (compass, maps), Rain pants, Satellite Messenger, Sleeping Bag Liner, Sock Liners, Trowel, Winter Clothing (gloves, balaclava).

    See the complete gear list on Packfire.com.

    What's Considered Base Weight?

    Base weight is the weight of the gear in your pack that doesn’t change over the course of your trip. It includes items like your tent, sleeping bag, headlamp, etc. It doesn't include consumables like toothpaste, food, or water. Neither does it include anything you wear while hiking.

    Base weight doesn’t count consumables, the items that fluctuate depending on the length of your trip. Items like water, food, and fuel. Base weight also doesn’t count your worn and carried items. Items like clothes, shoes, or trekking poles.

    The reason we calculate base weight separately is to compare your standard gear from a trip to trip. Base weight shouldn’t change much for an overnight or a week-long trip. This gives us a good metric to use to reduce pack weight.

    Want to nerd out with your base weight? Packfire is an online tool that works like a spreadsheet to itemize your hiking gear list.

    Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)

    Justin Sprecher photo

    About Justin Sprecher

    Justin is a thru-hiker and writer with a passion for wild backcountry. He's thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, LASHed the Great Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, and clocked up 1,000s of miles on long-distance trails around the world.

    About Greenbelly

    After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

    Stoveless Backpacking Meals
    • 650-Calorie Fuel
    • No Cooking
    • No Cleaning