If you often walk long distances, you will know how a heavy backpack affects your back and body after a day of walking. This is why making ultralight backpacks is one of the top concerns for backpack manufacturers. Those were the days when hiking backpacks were bulky and heavy on those mountain trails, backpacks are at a much higher level of technology when it comes to weight as lightweight backpacks would add to a better travel experience for the users.
If you’re looking for a lightweight backpack to use as an everyday bag, or an ultralight travel backpack for backpacking, and don’t know where to start, let’s follow along. We will introduce some of the lightest backpack options including some of our CabinZero bags, as well as how to choose the perfect one for you.
Best Ultralight Backpacks - Lightweight Daypacks
CabinZero Ultralight Classic Backpack
The most ultralight backpack in the CabinZero family - born out of the zero-hassle travel energy, the CabinZero Classic backpack is the travellers’ favourite choice when it comes to ultralight daypacks and backpacks.
Weighing only 600g and with a capacity of 28 litres, this backpack can fit a lot for a weekend trip or an urban expedition. It has a large main compartment with a spacious interior including 2 other small pockets and a laptop sleeve inside. What makes this backpack handy and easy to carry is the top and side handles that allow you to carry it the way you want.
With the simple and practical design, the CabinZero Classic backpack is an all-in-one bag choice for those who would ideally like a multifunctional and lightweight backpack.
Weight: 1.3 lbs | Capacity: 28L | Material: 600 Denier Polyester
Farpoint 40 Ultralight Osprey Packs
The Osprey Farpoint backpack is their biggest addition to the ultralight backpack market, and the Farpoint 40 model is the best product of choice.
It’s made of ripstop nylon, which means it will be resilient when you venture into the wilderness. One of the best things about this backpack is the quality of the workmanship. The packs are of high quality from the materials to the stitches and zippers.
One of the favourite features of the Osprey Farpoint bag is the large zip compartment. Instead of opening from the top like a traditional backpack, it can be opened like a suitcase. So when something is tucked away at the bottom of your bag, you don’t have to take them all out.
There are multiple compartments to store your gear. It is equipped with a rear storage panel, to transport it like a suitcase. It also has a harness and hip belt with a zippered back flap. There is also a laptop/tablet sleeve in a lockable compartment attached to the backpack as well.
Weight: 3 lbs | Capacity: 40 litres | Material: Nylon Ripstop
CabinZero Lightweight Military Backpack
The CabinZero Military backpack is the next ultralight rucksack that can offer comfort and packability with smart compartments and pockets. It can function as a lightweight travel backpack as well as a daypack with a large capacity.
This CabinZero Military backpack is made of the 1000 Denier nylon fabric and weighing only 950g - you can’t really go wrong with it. There are two big compartments - a large main compartment with two small pockets and a padded laptop sleeve inside, and a small compartment on the front. A sternum strap and a waist belt are also available, making your journey more stable and the load you carry on the back more secured. With the airflow system designed on the shoulder straps and the rear panel, this lightweight backpack provides better ventilation, breathability and comfort when you travel long distances in the heat.
This lightweight backpack model has an external water bottle, and a feature that makes it well-loved by travellers is the top and side handle - which offers flexibility to carry it the way we want. The side compression straps allow you to attach more essentials to the outer part - like an umbrella or a yoga mat.
Weight: 2.1 lbs | Capacity: 36L | Material: 1000 Denier nylon fabric
Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Ultralight Backpack
Before we get into the features and benefits of this pack, it is important to mention that this will not be suitable for hiking. It is a lightweight backpack, but it’s not really designed to hold enough gear to survive months on the track. The Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack is exactly what the name suggests - a pack to carry in a day. It was designed for travellers who carry a massic backpack from place to place and need a smaller option when exploring for the day.
With that in mind, it’s still a great lightweight backpack for hiking - but better suited for a day hike. It is made of polyester and weighs only 1.19 lbs. There are two main compartments - a large main compartment and a small pocket on the front. There are two side mesh pockets to carry things like a water bottle. In addition to that, it has a multifunctional interior pocket that can hold a table or water tank. You won’t run out of useful storage compartments to keep all your gear close at hand.
On the back, there is the signature Osprey vented back panel. This is absolutely essential if you want to stay cool when trekking in the heat.
Weight: 1.19 lbs | Capacity: 20 litres | Material: Polyester
Zpacks Arc Haul Zip 64L Lightweight Backpack
One of the best options for long-trail hikes, the Zpacks Arc Haul Zip 64L lightweight backpack is the ultimate hiking backpack for those who love an ultralight experience. Some of the features you will love include a zippered front-loading panel for easy access, and the very comfortable ‘Arc Frame’ system to transfer the pack’s weight to your hips.
The top of this lightweight backpack has a roll-top closure (like a dry bag) which prevents water leakage and lets you roll down the top - making it highly water-resistant. The comfortable shoulder straps and padded belt both have a daisy chain for clipping on items. Like other premium lightweight backpacks, this pack is also equipped with a sternum strap and the 3D mesh on the underside of the shoulder straps and waist belt - giving them more cushion and texture.
This lightweight hiking backpack model has a spacious interior made with solid material and a waterproof zipper opening. You can comfortably fit two ultralight tents or other gear and food for 5-6 day trips.
Weight: 1.61 lbs | Capacity: 64L | Materials: Gridstop fabric
Natural Balance 59-67 Liters Lightweight Backpack
If you’re a fan of outdoor activities such as skiing, trekking and hiking, you will love the features of the Natural Balance lightweight backpack. With the attachments for ice axes, ice clippers and trekking poles, this backpack is perfect for those activities.
This ultralight pack can carry a great amount of gear for an 8-day hiking trip or more with its large volume and spacious interior, together with plenty of pockets. This backpack also protects your back and reduces strain on your body with the Front Balance Pockets which allows you to carry all of your compact and heavy gear - leaving you standing upright and balanced.
Weight: 3.11 - 4.37 lbs | Capacity: 59-67 litres | Materials: 500D Kodura nylon, 210D, 70 x 100D, and 40 D ripstop nylon
Hyperlite 3400 Southwest Ultralight Backpack
For those who seek adventure travels, the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest ultralight backpack is a good choice for dry and rocky terrains. With a large capacity and an ice axe loop, this is a perfect choice for outdoor adventures.
Equipped with an adjustable sternum strap and Dyneema shoulder straps with closed-cell foam and spacer mesh, this ultralight backpack provides the ultimate comfort on your trails with the balanced load distribution on the back - not even mention the integrated foam back panel pad. There are also daisy chains on the shoulder straps - making it easy for you to attach external gear using a carabiner.
Weight: 1.98 lbs | Capacity: 55 litres | Material: DCH50 & DCH150
Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ultralight Crown Backpack
The Granite Gear Crown VC 60 is the ultralight backpack designed for hiking. You can really tell its purpose because of its simplicity and doesn’t have any frills or unnecessary pockets.
This backpack weighs only 2 lbs but manages to have a capacity of 60 litres. Comfort is very important for hiking, and this backpack does it well as any other. It is equipped with the Granite Gear’s Vapor Current Suspension technology, which allows it to withstand such an impressive load for an ultralight backpack.
The Granite ultralight Crown backpack has hydration ports and an internal hydration sleeve inside, which is very useful. The top of the backpack can be extended as a carrying tool. You can easily put a groundsheet or sleeping bag on top of your bag if you need extra space. The only drawback of this backpack is that the exterior pockets are prone to damage. If you use them everyday, they will tear eventually, so be careful when you use this pack.
Weight: 2.2 lbs | Capacity: 60 litres | Material: 100D cord & 210D Nylon
Mountainsmith Scream 25 Ultralight Backpack
Another ultralight backpack on the list, the Mountainsmith Scream 25 backpack is suitable for a one or two day hike with the capacity of 25 litres.
Weighing about 1.5 lbs, this backpack leaves no feeling on your back unless you fill it with heavy equipment. On the back, it has a lightly padded mesh panel and shoulder straps, which will add to the comfort when you carry it. You can always make it more comfortable with the adjustable hip belt.
This ultralight backpack has zip pockets on the top and sides of the bar for your valuables, and a large main compartment for the rest of your gear. But one of the best features of this backpack is that it folds completely into the lid pocket. This means that if you are travelling with a larger bag, you can store it inside and avoid having to carry two backpacks.
It also has some special features which include a built-in whistle, daisy chain gear holder, and trekking pole attachment.
Weight: 1 lbs | Capacity: 25 litres | Material: High-tenacity nylon
Gregory Optic 48 Large Lightweight Backpack
The Gregory Optic 48 backpack was built for long hikes. The first thing you will notice is its low weight compared to its size. It has an impressive capacity of 48 litres, while weighing only 2.47 lbs. All long-distance hikers know the importance of weight reduction and that is why so many backpack manufacturers consider this a priority.
This ultra-lightweight backpack has a very impressive rear panel with AeroSpan suspension, which means the bag does not warp under heavy loads. The back panel is covered with a moisture-wicking mesh fabric to keep your back cool and dry on a hot day. There is also space between you and the bag to allow air to circulate freely. It all adds up to a really strong and comfortable fit on your back.
When it comes to storage, most of our stuff fits inside the large main compartment. There are also a few expandable storage compartments around the bag to keep your extra stuff, water bottles and other gear inside. And there’s a completely removable top cover that can be removed if you want to save even more weight. If you decide to take it off, there is a small rain cover to keep your gear dry.
Weight: 2.88 lbs | Capacity: 48 litres | Material: 100% Nylon
Sunhiker Ultralight Cycling Backpack
The Sunhiker Cycling Backpack is an ideal bag for someone who is looking for a simple and lightweight choice, because not everyone needs a backpack that can complete the Appalachian Trail.
For starters, this lightweight backpack is a good value for money as it’s a lot cheaper than many hiking backpacks. It’s made of tear-resistant and water-resistant nylon that should stand up to everyday use.
On top of that, it has a few features that you would expect on very high-quality backpacks. These include the breathable mesh shoulder pads and mesh back. The technology isn’t advanced but it still lets air pass between your back and the backpack itself. There are also bottle holders on both sides and plenty of useful compartments for storing your valuable items.
Weight: 0.77 lbs | Capacity: 20-25L | Material: Highly tear resistant Nylon
How to Pick an Ultralight Backpack? - Factors to Consider before Getting a Lightweight Pack
Whether you’ve planned a truly epic hike or a simple weekend getaway, keeping the weight of the load on your back to a bare minimum is mega essential. A lightweight backpack will allow you to go a long distance with less energy, and obviously will make your entire hike much more enjoyable.
Photo by Austin Ban on Unsplash
Lightweight backpacks are no longer unique to long-distance hikers. The whole outdoor leisure and travel industry is caught up in the ‘lightweight’ game, and the reason for this trend is very simple: hiking with a lightweight backpack is much more pleasant. Your backpack is one of the heaviest items you will bring with you, it is therefore very wise to start by choosing a backpack model with optimal weight.
Whatever your purpose is, we hope that our advice in choosing an ultra-lightweight backpack will help you in the quest for the perfect backpack for your needs, which will make you feel comfortable on your excursions, for many years to come.
What to Consider When Choosing an Ultralight Backpack?
Price: Buying a sturdy and lightweight backpack shouldn’t force you to drain your savings account. With that being said, with proper maintenance, your backpack will theoretically be with you for many years to come and you will cover thousands of miles with it, so investing in the right gear is no foolish thing.
Weight: Your backpack will be one of the heaviest things on your trip, it is therefore very important to choose it correctly in order to minimize the total weight of your load.
Frame: The lighter your backpack is, the less it needs for a frame. If you plan to transport more than fifteen kilos during your expeditions, then opt for a more elaborate frame.
Volume: The volume of your backpack will determine the amount of gear you can fit in. If you are looking for a backpack for casual travelling purposes, then a pack of 20-36 litres will do a wonderful job. On the other hand, most experienced hikers will go for a 40 or 50-litre bag which will allow them to fit all of their gear even on long and technical expeditions. If backpacking is new to you, you may prefer to opt for a larger backpack first, and adjust its load little by little. If you plan to hike in more wintery conditions, this choice will be very reasonable, since it will allow you to store heavier and larger equipment, specifically for this type of excursion.
Design: A backpack doesn’t have to be very sophisticated. Oftentimes, the brands with the most basic and clean designs are the ones with the best products. In the end, your hiking bag is just a bag in which you store your equipment. And the one with an infinite number of pockets, straps or compartments may not be the best ones. The best backpack is the one that suits your needs the most.
Materials: Most lightweight backpacks are made from just one or two main materials: ripstop nylon or Dyneema fibre. Both materials are very durable and functional.
Fit: Fit is an important factor in a backpack, but it’s also one of the most difficult criteria to assess until you end up with your backpack full on your shoulders. Measure your bust size and your waistline before ordering and it should be fine.
Return conditions: Check the return conditions of the website you’re purchasing from. It is possible to return a backpack that has not yet been used, obviously having to respect the authorised return deadline. You can proceed with the purchase of the model you have selected, then try it out at home as soon as it arrives, and exchange it if it doesn’t fit you. Bear in mind that a backpack that doesn’t fit your back size will leave you with discomfort in the long run.
The Key Elements in a Good Design of an Ultralight Backpack
Centre Compartment: Most lightweight backpacks have the main compartment to store most of your gear. And that’s all you need. The other additional compartments usually add unnecessary weight and complexity to the backpack.
The hip belt: A good hip belt is absolutely essential for any backpacking bag. The hip belt is responsible for directing almost all the weight of your bag on your hips, which avoids exhausting the shoulders. These belts should be comfortable, preferably with padded foam.
Shoulder straps: These straps will carry a lot of weight on your backpack. So you want them to be as comfortable as possible, padded and well-positioned to avoid irritation or uneven pressure points.
Pockets on the hip belt: In theory, you won’t need many breaks during your journey, so it is convenient to have a few useful items close at hand, such as snacks, sunscreen, lip balm, mobile phone, camera, etc. Most of the hiking backpacks have hip belts integrated with pockets, but if they don’t, we recommend purchasing a separated hip pack for these items. Check out our Hip Pack collection.
Water bottle pocket: Staying hydrated is essential when travelling, hiking and walking long-distance, so it is important to be able to access your water bottle easily.
Waterproof feature: In general, it’s never a good idea to completely trust your backpack when it comes to waterproofing. Even waterproof zippers made from the most sophisticated materials will leak over time, so we recommend that you always protect your most important items (sleeping bag, clothes, electronics etc.) in small separate waterproof bags, or plastic bags, inside your backpack.
Chest straps: Chest straps are found on most lightweight backpacks on the market. They allow you to connect the shoulder straps to the level of your chest for a more stable and pleasant feeling. Some lightweight backpacks are equipped with a small elastic or an emergency whistle.
Load straps: The load straps can adjust the strap length between your shoulders and the backpack. This can help take some of the weight off your shoulders, shifting it more to the front of your shoulders and onto your chest.
Best Ultralight Backpacks - FAQs
What is the lightest ultralight backpack?
Depending on your purposes and the load you carry, there can be different ideal options for different types of trips. Here are our picks from the list above:
- Best ultralight daypack: CabinZero Classic 28L or Osprey Daylite Plus 20L
- Best weekend getaway lightweight backpack: CabinZero Military Backpack 36L or Osprey Farpoint 40L
- Best ultralight backpack for hiking and other outdoor activities: Zpack Arc Haul Zip 64L backpack or Natural Balance 59-67 Liters pack
Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash
Are ultralight backpacks worth it?
Yes, they are definitely worth it! If you compare a lightweight backpack with a normal backpack when storing the same amount of load, the lightweight backpack will be much more comfortable on your back as it reduces the overall weight. Obviously, you don’t want to carry a heavy backpack on long walks - this is where the ultralight backpacks come in - to leave you more room to store your necessities, cover more miles and help to reduce back pain.
No matter what your purpose is, going on a backpacking trip, or getting a backpack for daily use, or specifically hiking on long trails, an ultra-lightweight backpack is your best bet!
What is considered an ultralight backpack?
There are many factors when it comes to deciding whether or not a backpack is ultra-lightweight. While there is no official definition of a backpack to be considered ‘ultralight’, an ultralight backpacking experience is when the base weight of a fully loaded backpack at the start of a trip is under ten pounds.
How much weight should you carry on an ultralight backpack?
You must have known the guideline on how a backpack should fit your body:
- For loaded backpacks: they shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight
- For loaded day hiking packs: they shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of your body weight
But this isn’t always the case. It works for some people and doesn’t work for others. In addition to this rule, there are other factors that play a big part in the total weight of your backpack*:
- The duration of your trip: The longer your trip is, the more gear and food you carry with you.
- The season or weather: If you are travelling in low-temperature areas, you will need to bring heavier and more clothing items with you than those hot summer days.
- Personal preference: Some people prefer changing clothes multiple times over days while others can wear one item for several days. Especially when you go backpacking/hiking, this factor can make a difference to your overall weight.