Ultralight Backpacking Gear List: 21+ Essentials You Need For Hiking

Nothing feels as incredible as standing at the top of a climb and gazing at the ridgeline, does it? Or looking back over the vast distance you’ve trekked. Perhaps you’re new to hiking and are looking forward to experiencing this for yourself. However, to hike trails and have the ultimate adventure, you need a hiking kit to support your health, safety, and comfort along the way.

Many things can go wrong when you’re in a remote place, so you need all the equipment to minimize risks. For example, without the right hiking kit, trekking can become very uncomfortable, dangerous even.

You need to consider a few things before going hiking that you might not even have thought of. For instance, it’s probably worth wearing in your new pair of trekking boots before heading out on an expedition. Blisters are never fun!

You also need to make sure that you communicate the route to every other person in your group before setting off. Finally, whether you’re planning to go for a one-day trip or longer, you should always pack a hiking kit to support you in case you get stranded (such as spare layers, food, and tent).

What is ultralight backpacking?

Truth be told, there is no clear definition of “ultralight.” For most hikers, ultralight backpacking is not so much of arbitrary pack weight but rather a frame of mind. This type of backpacking is about you deciding you can get by with less gear. No matter how many guides you read about light backpacking, at the end of the day, you’re the one to say what ultralight really means. For most hikers, anywhere between 12 to 28 pounds is considered to be ultralightweight. Before you jump into cutting off items from your backpacking list, you should remember one thing. When you pack less gear, you rely more on your backpacking skills and knowledge about staying healthy, safe, and comfortable every step of your trip. Needless to say, ultralight backpacking isn’t for those of fainted hearts nor entry-level hikers.

Where to begin?

If you’ve been backpacking before, you know that preparation can make a difference in life-threatening situations. here are some steps to take before you start lightening your pack:

Replace your current gear with lighter gear

Now that your mind is set on trying ultralight backpacking, you need to replace the current gear (for the most part) with new and lighter gear. You should note down, or at least pay attention to the gear you’re buying. 10 pounds of gear is what you’re aiming for. By the time you’ve added the consumables, the weight could be double.

Live with the trade-offs

This type of backpacking gives you speed while backpacking, but you should know that ultralight gear may not be as durable nor as comfortable as the regular alternatives.

Take “baby steps”

light gear can be more expensive than regular options, especially when you don’t want to compromise the quality, so you shouldn’t rush into ultralight backpacking if your wallet is thin. Unless you’ve won the lottery, it’s wise to purchase light items such as boots, a tent, or a stove one step at a time.

21 Essentials You Need For Hiking!

This list of hiking essentials includes equipment for those who hike and those who also like to camp. From sunglasses to sporks, to stoves we cover every single item you need to take.

essentials for hiking

1. A Backpack

First on the list is the most obvious, right? To go backpacking, you’re going to need a comfortable hiking backpack. You’ll want a large one to hold all the following essentials in. It’s best to get one with many compartments, including a compartment designed to give you easy access to your water bottle or reservoir.

Tip: How to select an ultralight backpack without losing comfort

Most packs weigh from 1lb to over 5lbs. the rule of thumb is that the heavier the pack, the more comfortable it should be. If comfort isn’t essential for you, you can switch to a feather-light backpack.

Heavy loads and wrongfully fitted packs cause knee, hip, and shoulder pain while backpacking. No matter what ultralight backpacking gear means to you, always make sure to get a pack that fits you. It’s not that much about the pack weight, but about how it fits you. a comfortable pack will feel more comfortable. Just because you’re going backpacking lightly doesn’t mean that your load cannot wear on your body after several miles.

All in all, even your ultralight stuff sack can be comfortable. You shouldn’t sacrifice the frame and support structure, though, but rather get one with fewer features. Additional storage compartments, numerous -access zippers, flaps, and buckles will add weight to your pack. A simple and comfortable pack is what you aim for.

Look for a supportive pack without having too many features. The weight ratio should always be appropriate. Single access to the main compartment and hip belt pocket for storing small gear items is enough. You can also lose the top part of the pack, so you lose some weight without losing comfort.

2. Hiking Boots/Trail Shoes

By its very definition, hiking is a long walk. It’s cross country. You must have some idea of what the terrain will be like, as it could be rough in places. A good pair of trekking boots or shoes are essential. For rough terrain, you’ll want a sturdy pair of boats. For easier terrain or lighter packing options, you might opt for trekking shoes.

Many ultralight backpackers choose light hikers or trail-running shoes. You don’t want to go from tough hiking boots to light trail running shoes all of a sudden, so train yourself with load-bearing day hikes. Features such as waterproofness add weight to your body, and many hikers prefer non-waterproof shoes as they dry faster than the waterproof models.

3. Comfortable Walking Clothing (including socks, underwear)

Hours of walking and climbing mean you’ll be moving about in sweaty clothes in weather that might change quickly. Therefore, you want dry clothes to help prevent friction sores. Wearing light, breathable clothes will also help protect you from the sun. It’s also advisable to have a spare t-shirt and a pair of waterproof hiking socks. (Tip: quick-dry clothes are convenient.)

Tip: Which clothing to get for your ultralight backpacking

The time of your trip affects the clothing you take for your lightweight backpacking. get clothes made of wool because they’re light and warm in the winter and synthetic fabrics that dry out fast in the summer.

Base Layers

  • look for warm and lightweight baselayer pants
  • base layer top with short/long sleeves.

Insulation

  • a micr0-fleece
  • synthetic insulated jacket or down jacket. Features like water resistance, windproof are important and don’t add too much weight to the jacket. You never know when it’s going to rain when backpacking through the mountains.
  • water-resistant and quick-drying walking trouser

Shell

  • you either get a rain jacket or a wind shell. We don’t recommend you take both because you will add weight. Rain gear is a great choice if you don’t worry much about a little rain.
  • For a colder trip, make sure to get waterproof trousers.

Accessories

  • quick-drying underwear. A good tip is to wear it on both sides. It will get dirty anyway, so why not pack fewer pairs of underwear?
  • merino socks that are odor-resistant and wick away moisture
  • socks that you only wear when sleeping
  • some waterproof socks
  • , sunglasses
  • gaiters if need be
  • bandana or a hat. The hat protects you from the sun, but you can use a bandana for many other things.
  • sunglasses

4. Navigation Equipment

Every responsible hiker knows the importance of planning your route and taking navigation equipment. This is critical to stop you from getting lost. A map, compass, and GPS are must-haves. As is making sure the map is up-to-date and, of course, knowing how to read maps!

5. Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are handy if you want to be more stable while trekking. Poles help to even the weight distribution of your load. Trekking poles also come in really helpful when ascending and descending hills or mountainous areas. People concerned about posture should use trekking poles to maintain an upright position as well.

6. Water Filtration and Water Bottle/Reservoir

You must stay hydrated. You can take enough water with you in a bottle or water reservoir. However, it’s always advisable to take a water purifier system of some sort (like sterilization tablets) and to know where you’ll have access to freshwater sources along your route.

Tip: How to keep your hydration lightweight?

If you typically use a cumbersome pump filter or a heavy water filtration system, you need to switch to something smaller and lighter than that. You will get the same results with a personal fill-and-squeeze filter. This water filter has a small footprint, and it’s really affordable. If you go ultralight, it’s one of the most effective water filter methods to use.

In addition, you can keep in mind a couple of tips to reduce the weight of your hydration solutions.

Carry only 2.2 pounds

Unless you’re in a desert, that should be enough for you between water sources.

“Camel” up

Before you go on your trail, make sure to drink a lot of water. Every time you’re at a water source, drink as much as you can. This way, you won’t have to carry much water when backpacking.

Use collapsible water bottles

some hikers prefer carrying soft bottles that are 80% lighter than hard-plastic water bottles.

Carry a mini-filter

Don’t forget to pack some purification tablets (in a tiny plastic bag) and a mini-filter. You can find models weighing only two ounces.

7. Sun Protection: Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Sun Hat, SPF Lip Balm

You want to make sure your head, eyes, skin, and lips are protected from the sun. Sunglasses, a sun hat, sunscreen, and SPF lip balm are essential even on overcast days. Use them also in snowy regions where the sun can cause damage from being reflected off the snow.

8. Use slow release energy foods

With all the exercise and calories you’ll be burning, you must replenish yourself and keep taking in energy. Look for slow-release energy snacks. Dehydrated meals and fruit (which can be rehydrated) are great as they’re light. Also, take other calorie-dense foods to enjoy along the way.

Tip: What food to pack

You will pack whatever you like for food, but you should follow some basic principles when selecting your food.

Pay attention to the calories.

Pack fat and calorie-rich snacks such as nuts, protein bars, chocolate, seeds, powder supplements, and dried fruits. You can add some salami and hard cheese.

Choose instant

Instant coffee and instant oatmeal for breakfast will give you the energy you need to start your day. Eat a protein bar on a cold morning and have the oatmeal on your first break.

Dehydrate food at home

You save both money and packaging if you dehydrate the food at home. Additionally, you can create your favorite meals.

Rehydrate food with cold water

You should pack various types of food that need cold water for rehydration, so you don’t use fuel. Look for any kind of food that requires one-two hours to rehydrate.

Do your own packaging

Use a zip-top freezer bag for food storage, dried dinner, adding hot water before eating. Make sure to use bags that withstand hot water.

9. Shelter & sleep System

If you’re planning a long weekend trip, a basha or tent will already be in your backpacking kit. However, for those planning a one-day experience, a lightweight shelter system is important in the case of an emergency. In addition, you may not always have the time to set up your tent.

Tip: tent, tarp, bivy sack &more-which are best for ultralight backpacking?

Buying a new ultralight tent can be too pricey for many hikers, especially if they typically go with someone else. When fair weather is forecast, a tarp, wing, and even a ground cover can work. Any of these options are lightweight and quite affordable too.

We advise you to practice in your backyard how to set up the sleep system. Even if the process is rather simple, it can take a couple of tries to perfect it. You need one or two tent poles to prop everything.

Another reliable sleep system for ultralight backpacking is the bivy sack which ways one to two lbs if it’s waterproof. A bare-minimum option is only six ounces or so.

The ultralight hammock is another sleep system to use instead of a tent. Look for one with bug net or rainfly.

Sleeping bag & sleeping pad

for lightweight backpacking, we recommend you get a sleeping bag with down, which is lighter and easier to compress than synthetic fill. Most down is treated for water resistance, and some down sleeping bags weigh one or two pounds.

Even if the sleeping bag is made with down, there are some tricks to keep it as light as possible.

  • Look for a mummy bag without a hood and wear a warm knit hat/balaclava on cold nights
  • get the warm bag that you truly need. Extra warmth adds unnecessary pounds to your stuff pack weight.
  • You can replace the sleeping bag with a down trekking quilt. It’s quite popular amongst hikers nowadays.

A full-length pad is under one pound and creates comfortable padding and counts for insulation as well. Experienced hikers still like closed-cell foam pads because they are long-lasting. since you aim to cut down the pounds, get a torso-length pad. You may improvise and use the pack under the feet to protect your feet from touching the cold ground. Again, it’s all about the comfort you want.

12. First Aid Kit

You can buy prepackaged medical kits. They include all the essentials necessary to take care of any minor injuries. It’s important to remember any prescription meds you take regularly and add this to your kit too. If you use any of the first aid kits, remember to replace the items once you get home.

13. Repair kit

Even if it’s better to be safe than sorry, it’s not the best idea to pack more than you actually need. here’s what your repair kit should include:

  • gear repair and/or duct tape
  • razor blades of a small knife
  • sewing needle and nylon thread
  • paracord
  • repair patches for the sleeping pad

14. Stove

A stove will mean you can easily enjoy a hot drink, soup, and another type of food requiring heating/cooking. It’s also useful when you need to heat water for various tasks. You might want to take a grill depending on the length of your trip and whether you’re staying overnight.

Tip: Which are the lightest stoves?

Unlike the bulky models, ultralight stoves require some practice before using. You need to always cook on a flat surface and to stay away from any fire hazards. Never use a lightweight model inside the tent or tarp. Ideally, you should learn how to get the best out of it at home. Here are the most popular ultralight stoves:

Alcohol stove

It weighs around an ounce. You need to count the hot meals to pack as many lbs of alcohol you need for your trip. The bottle shouldn’t be fragile, so it doesn’t break or puncture inside the stuff sack.

According to your needs, Tablet fuel stoves

buy an aluminum model and pack a tablet of fuel per day or meal.

The build-in canister stove system

if you’re hiking with a friend, you can pack an integrated canister stove system. even if it’s not ideal for ultralight backpacking when alone, it’s very efficient when backpacking with a friend because it boils water very quickly. Additionally, you don’t add much fuel to your gear list, so it’s a wash.

Canister stove

the canister stove weighs two to three o. the downside is that you need to screw it to an isobutane canister, which is quite heavy. You should learn how many meals you can cook with just one canister. Two ounces per day should be enough.

15. Knife

A lightweight, sharp utility knife is the ideal type of knife to take backpacking. You’ll be surprised at the unexpected moments you’ll need a knife on a hike/camp experience, so keep one in your kit at all times.

16. Spork

When it comes to eating time, you’re going to want a spork. Part spoon, part fork, it’s an absolute necessity when it comes to getting your high-calorie meals in easily. They also tend to be lightweight and great for any kind of food, both solid and liquid.

17. Head torch/lamp/flashlight

It’s really beneficial to take some type of illumination when you go backpacking. If you’re going for a one-day hike, it’s still sensible to have a head torch or flashlight in your backpacking kit. You never know when a hike might end up being longer than anticipated. For overnight trips, light is essential.

18. Fire Starter

To light stoves and to start fires, you’re going to need a fire starter. Getting a waterproof fire starter is best to get a fire going in any weather. A fire starter is an essential item in case of emergency too.

19. Gas

You’ll need gas to power your stove. It’s easy to light gas with a lighter in most weather. Usually, butane or propane gases are used for camping stoves. Gas is a reliable way to make sure your food is cooked evenly.

20. Biodegradable Wipes

Biodegradable wipes might not be the first thing you think of, but they’re brilliant to help you maintain outdoor hygiene. You’ll be able to use them to keep yourself clean during overnight stays and for other toileting needs.

Some feel more comfortable using toilet paper. But, truth be told, you can use it for various things, and you need to learn how to use it wisely.

21. Trowel

Last but not least, it’s essential to consider human waste and look after the environment. For example, you should take a lightweight trowel so you can dig a hole to use in place of a toilet.

That might be the essentials, but you might also want to ensure the following items are on your backpacking checklist too! Of course, it really depends on the duration of your hike and the climate.

  • Sliders (to let your feet breathe).
  • Sleeping bag.
  • Insect repellant.
  • Hiking permit (depending on your location).

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And now…the extra essentials

Some of you may feel that our backpacking gear list doesn’t include everything they may need. Feel free to adjust the checklist:

  • phone or other communication device
  • extra batteries
  • hand sanitizer
  • feminine hygiene products (as needed. Cup is the lightest option)
  • rain gear. If you don’t want a waterproof jacket, you can pack a lightweight, breathable rain jacket that is also wind resistant. Rain gear is essential because staying dry in the outdoors can make the whole difference.
  • Extra socks for the camp
  • camera, if need be
  • pee funnel with pee cloth
  • ultralight camping pillow. You may very well use a stuff sack filled with clothing instead of a pillow.
  • Map and compass-you never know when you need it.
  • Wireless charging bank, especially if your hiking adventure lasts for several days.

Should you try UL (ultralight)?

There is no easy answer because everyone has his own take on light backpacking. Ultralight backpacking is all about freedom and efficiency. As long as your new setup keeps you safe, happy, and comfortable every step of the trail, you should try cutting down the pack weight for the next trips.

If you like to take your time and like camping more than you do hiking, you shouldn’t strive to pack ultralight. You can add a coffee maker, some playing cards, extra comfortable camp shoes, and even a thick air mat. If you’re all about comfort when camping, you shouldn’t sacrifice it. Pack the extra luxury items that make your backpacking complete.

If, on the other hand, you are focused on covering as many miles as possible every day, you will enjoy the whole ultralight backpacking. The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail are the hotbeds for the ultralight hikers. Trimming weight means that every time on your checklist should serve its purpose as efficiently as possible. If it’s multi-functional, that’s even better. Everything in your storage space should have at least a couple of functions.

At the end of the day, less weight on your pack means that you will be able to hike longer, farther, and more comfortably. But, of course, you won’t know if you like it unless you try it first. After all, you lose the weight, but gain the experience!

What are the benefits of ultralight backpacking?

Some hikers worry that UL means that your ultralight backpacking gear won’t be as reliable as regular gear. even if that’s not entirely false, there are many benefits to enjoy through your trips:

  • the risk of injury is greatly reduced. In addition, lighter packs mean less weight on your knees, back, and ankles.
  • It’s more comfortable than you think. You will be able to hike over the mountains without ever complaining about sore shoulders or back pain.
  • The lighter the load is, the less energy you will need to cover a distance. Plus, you are faster when backpacking ultralightweight.

Tips & Tricks for Ultralight Backpacking

tips for ultralight backpacking

If you’re keen to pack as light as possible and want to cover distance fast, there are a few things you can do to make this type of trail easier.

  1. In terms of clothing, opt for lightweight boots. This is obviously season-dependent but a great idea if you’re trekking during fine weather across gentle terrain.
  2. Take a lightweight tent and leave the vestibule at home. For an even lighter option, take a basha for shelter. You can take half-length roll mats to sleep on.
  3. If you take a stove, you don’t necessarily need to take a flask. Instead, you can get water from a fresh source and boil it or use a purifier system.
  4. Cut your toothbrush in half!
  5. Take a smaller pack and smaller bag kit including the ultimate essentials: a torch, a knife, a way to navigate, a snack, a sleeping bag, water, a basha, a waterproof coat, a spare warm layer of clothing, and an emergency kit.
  6. If you don’t use an item every day, it’s better not to pack it to begin with. You can skip the rule with the first aid kit, but make sure you double-check all the other items you pack in your backpack.

Some principles are important to follow when you’re preparing your ultralight backpacking gear. keep reading for the details

Don’t go “stupid light”

Ultralightweight doesn’t mean “stupid light.” Aim for minimal weight and high utility for each item of your ultralight backpack gear. No ultralight backpacking should be unsafe or miserable. Inexperienced hikers believe that ultralight gear list means you only [ack a couple of items. Keep in mind that you don’t get the weight savings from leaving the essential gear such as a sleeping pad, food, or proper clothing behind. The “stupid light” practice is the surest way for a failed experience.

You should still be prepared for worst-case scenarios on your ultralight trips. Complete first aid kit, proper clothing, phone, both physical and digital maps are some of the fundamental items to pack.

Don’t overspend

you don’t need to empty your wallet to get reliable ultralight backpacking gear. As long as you follow the previous tips, you should pack lightweight backpacking gear that is both dependable and affordable.

Buy a scale

With ultralight backpacking gear, every ounce counts, so buy a scale. Weigh every item from your ultralight backpacking gear list. Once you know the current pack weight, you will discover what changes to make to reduce the weight of your bag for the next trip.

Double-check

you want to keep your setup as low weight as possible, so scrutinize all ultralight backpacking gear you pack. You don’t want to carry unnecessary items that you may never have to use on your trip. Make sure to have a checklist and compare it with other lists on the market or your hiker friends. There are always ways to reduce the weight of your ultralight backpacking gear.

Keep an eye on the “big four”

no matter the type of your backpacking, four items are the heaviest each and every time:

  • the sleeping bag
  • the backpack
  • the sleeping pad
  • the shelter system

Once you can reduce the weight of these four items, you can trim pounds off of your traditional backpacking setup.

Share your ultralight backpacking gear

If you’re backpacking with a friend, compare your gear list with theirs and share as many as you can/ it’s one of the most effective ways to cut down the weight of your bag. Tents, stoves, water filters, pots, or knives– these are all items you can share to decrease the weight of packs without losing the comfort and utility.

Never pack duplicates

when it comes to ultralight backpacking, adding doubles for an item is a big mistake. Above all, you should only pack what you need and nothing else. Your setup shouldn’t include extra pants, underwear, shirts, socks, hand sanitizer, pad, sleeping bag, or another piece of gear that you “might” use. etc. Go ultralight and carry only what you truly need.

Do due diligence about your hike

the trail you hike and the weather you expect are fundamental for what you need to pack. Do due diligence and learn everything about your hike’s terrain, take a look at the forecasts, find the distance between water sources, etc. weight savings can be done when you have accurate information about your hike and weather forecast. your ultralight backpacking gear list shouldn’t include rain gear if you’re backpacking in the desert. Obviously, you need to pack proper clothing if a strong wind is in the forecast. get waterproof pants if you expect rainy days.

Out with the old, in with the new

You need to use wisely every single square inch of your storage space. You need to go over your checklist repeatedly and take out the unnecessary gear to lose some ounces. You might have to repack a couple of times and try a few trips until you get it right. here are some tips on which items to replace for the best ultralight experience:

  • use a plastic water bottle and not Nalgene
  • use a polypro groundsheet instead of the typical tent footprint to reduce the weight
  • replace the full-size lip balm with a mini lip balm
  • replace hygiene, toilet paper, and some of the medical products with green outdoor salve products
  • focus on replacing the heaviest and bulkiest items from your gear list. The sleeping pad, the shelter, and the backpack count the most for the overall weight of your bag.

Conclusion

Hiking is one of the ultimate ways to experience the world, nature and to challenge yourself. However, as with any outdoorsy adventure, there are risks, and every responsible hiker knows the importance of taking a hiking kit that will keep them fueled and safe.

Of all essentials, you must include a GPS navigation system. Being responsible means not getting lost! It also means keeping yourself fed and protected from the elements. It’s advisable to create a tick-list of essentials to add to your backpack and make sure you’ve included all items before leaving.

You also want to make sure you’re physically up to the challenge. It goes without saying that it’s better to start with shorter walks along well-trodden paths before diving into remote 130km hiking trails at a

2500m elevation. With more practice comes more experience and more fun adventure!

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