When you’re out in the backcountry, carrying all your gear doesn’t have to be a strenuous burden. You can pack light and still have enough room for all your trip essentials with the best lightweight hiking backpack.
Unlike traditional heavy, bulky packs, lightweight backpacking backpacks are designed to increase agility while optimizing comfort. Choosing the right lightweight Choosing the right lightweight backpack, however, can be tricky. With so many options and a wide range in price, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’re here to help!
We put together a helpful guide of what to look for in a lightweight backpack along with our top recommendations to make the purchasing process easier for you.
For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Backpacks.
Quick Answer - The Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks
- Hyperlite 2400 Southwest
- Gregory Optic 48
- Osprey Exos 48
- Osprey Lumina 45
- Granite Gear Virga 2
Comparison Table - Best Lightweight Backpacks for Backpacking
|Hyperlite 2400 Southwest||2 lb 0.3 oz||40 L||Unisex||Internal||$$$||4.9|
|Gregory Optic 48||2 lbs 6 oz||48 L||Male||Internal||$||4.6|
|Osprey Exos 48||2 lbs 10 oz||48 L||Male||Internal||$$||4.6|
|Osprey Lumina 45||1 lb 12 oz||45 L||Female||Internal||$$||4.3|
|Granite Gear Virga 2||1 lb 2 oz||54 L||Unisex||Frameless||$||4.1|
Reviews - Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks
Hyperlite 2400 Southwest
- Gender: Unisex
- Weight: 2 lb 0.3 oz
- Volume: 40 L
- Frame: Internal
- Spacious Main Compartment
BEST FOR: EXPERIENCED BACKPACKERS
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack is a favorite in the lightweight backpacking community. Taking on a minimalist approach, it nixes all the fancy features for a clean design that streamlines performance. The 2400 Southwest Pack has an exceptional strength to weight ratio making it one of the lightest, most durable backpacks on the market.
This pack is built from dyneema, which is one of the strongest fibers in the world. Prized for its durability along with its super light weight, dyneema is often used in climbing gear, high-quality packs, and even the sails for sailboats. With strength like that, you know this pack can certainly take a beating on the trail.
Packing your gear is made easy with its roll-top closure and accessible exterior pockets. Tighten the compression straps to secure and balance the weight of your load, and then hit the trail. This pack is ready to tackle whatever terrain comes your way.
Gregory Optic 48
- Gender: Male
- Weight: 2 lbs 6 oz
- Volume: 48 L
- Frame: Internal
- Lots Of Pockets
- Excellent Ventilation
BEST FOR: THRU-HIKES
At its price, the Gregory Optic 48 offers an astonishing amount of features matched by performance efficiency. While other lightweight backpacks in its price range may skimp on useful features, this one does the opposite.
The Optic 48 shoulder harness system is designed to increase stability while letting your back breathe. This lets you focus more on the terrain in front of you and less on your sweaty back. One of the most useful extra features of the Optic 48 pack is its trekking pole gear loops, where you can store your hiking poles when you’re on even terrain and easily access them again when you start to descend.
The pack also comes with an integrated rain cover to keep your stuff dry in case of an unexpected thunderstorm. Just make sure to be safe and follow the lightning drill if you see any flashes in the sky! Balancing your gear load without slowing you down, this pack is built for tackling heavy mileage.
Osprey Exos 48
- Gender: Male
- Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz
- Volume: 48 L
- Frame: Internal
- Ample Storage
- Sturdy Frame
- Removable Lid (to increase storage or decrease weight)
BEST FOR: ENTRY-LEVEL LIGHTWEIGHT BACKPACKERS
The Osprey Exos is a popular choice among the lightweight backpacking crowd. With its comfortable design, ample storage space, and affordable price, it’s not hard to see why.
The frame of the Exos offers terrific suspension that makes you feel like you’re practically carrying nothing at all while optimizing your comfort level. It comes with an array of helpful features including compression straps designed to increase pack volume and sleeping pad straps for easy access when it’s time for bed. There’s also a removable pocketed lid should you feel the need to shed more weight.
If you’re new or transitioning to the lightweight backpacking world, the Osprey Exos 48 is a great entry-level pack. Capable of carrying medium sized loads, this pack offers a touch more storage space while retaining an impressively light weight.
Osprey Lumina 45
- Gender: Female
- Weight: 1 lb 12 oz
- Volume: 45 L
- Frame: Internal
- Super Lightweight
- Organizational Pocket For Smaller Items
BEST FOR: MINIMALIST FEMALE BACKPACKERS
The last thing you want while backpacking is to be loaded down by unnecessary gear. The Osprey Lumina has just the right amount of space for the basic essentials paired with an exceptional weight.
This streamlined backpack is easy to use and comfortable, too. The cleverly designed suspension system provides air circulation while the padded shoulder straps and hip belt increase comfort.
Weighing in at just under 2-pounds empty, you can store up to 25-pounds worth of gear in the Lumina without wasting an ounce of space. This is excellent for the minimalist looking to hike faster on a weekend or thru-hiking adventure.
Granite Gear Virga 2
- Gender: Unisex
- Weight: 1 lb 2 oz
- Volume: 54 L
- Frame: Frameless
- Roomy Storage
- Incredibly Lightweight
BEST FOR: LIGHTWEIGHT BUDGET OPTION
Not all lightweight backpacking backpacks have to cost you an arm and a leg. The Granite Gear Virga 2 is an excellent affordable option for beginner backpackers.
A steal of a price, this pack comes with all the essentials you need in a lightweight pack. The Virga 2 features external pockets for easy gear access, an adjustable padded hipbelt, and compression straps to tighten and secure your load. The roll-top closure makes it easy to access the main compartment while also keeping your gear tucked away safe and sound.
With its expanding top opening and lofty capacity, you’ll find this pack offers more than enough room for all your essentials. At merely a single pound, there’s no arguing it’s certainly one of the lightest packs around.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING BACKPACK
From $100 to $500 plus, lightweight backpacking backpacks have a wide price range. The difference between the prices is all about the features. Less expensive backpacks will have all your basics covered including a hipbelt, sternum straps, ample storage space, external pockets, and side water bottle pockets. As you start adding in all the bells and whistles, however, the price can escalate quickly.
We recommend beginning with an affordable option. As you gain more backpacking experience, you’ll learn what features you want and what features you can do without. Then, you’ll have a better idea of how much of an investment you want to make.
Ounces can quickly add up to pounds. Shaving off a few ounces by choosing a lighter backpack is an excellent way to help lighten your load. The less weight you have, the more comfortable you’re likely to be during your backpacking trip. If you plan on spending most of the day hiking, you’ll appreciate a backpacking backpack with minimal weight.
The storage capacity you need is dependent upon the weather, duration, and difficulty of your backpacking trip. For lightweight backpacks, this typically means a 30 – 50L backpack will serve you well for a three-day journey. Meanwhile, a longer expedition with harsh weather will require you to carry more gear, meaning a heavier pack with more volume is necessary.
Remember, the bigger the capacity, the more weight you’re likely to wind up carrying. Keep in mind, it’s not recommended to haul around a backpack that weighs more than 20 percent of your body weight.
Lightweight backpacking backpacks are a favorite among the long-distance, thru-hiking crowd. By only allowing room for the essentials, these types of packs let you go faster, longer, all while maximizing comfort.
If you prefer to bring luxury items on your trip or won’t be able to resupply for a week or more, you may want to consider alternative heavier options.
FIT AND SIZE
Like getting fitted for hiking boots, it’s important to get fitted for a backpack. Backpacks that don’t fit properly can wind up causing you extra strain and injury when you’re out on the trail.
To do this, you’ll need to find your pack size by measuring your torso and hips. Then, you’ll need to adjust all the backpack straps – hip, sternum, load lifter, and shoulder – so your hips and legs can support most of the load. Once you do all that, you’ll have reached the sweet spot of optimum comfort.
We should also mention that size and fit can vary by manufacturer so always double check their sizing chart to make sure it’s the best fit possible.
When choosing a lightweight backpack, you’ll come across two widely used frame types: internal frames and frameless.
Internal backpacking frames are great for balancing and transferring the weight of your pack’s load. They increase stability and mobility by hugging the pack closer to your body, while usually allowing for ventilation.
Frameless, on the other hand, is precisely what it sounds like- a backpack without a frame. The main purpose of going the frameless route is to lighten your pack weight.
While some people prefer the built-in structural support of a frame, others prefer to let their gear double as the frame. As long as you know how to pack strategically, you can still manage to balance your load properly.
Let’s put it this way, if a feature were a friend lending you a helping hand on the trail, that feature would be your suspension system.
The suspension system of your pack is not one single feature, but rather a combination of several features including the frame, load lifters, hipbelt, back panel, sternum strap, and shoulder straps. Together, all these components work in unison to transfer the weight of your pack while at the same time allowing for more range of motion.
Basically, a backpack suspension system helps stabilize the brunt of the load while allowing you to feel more comfortable on the trail.
Compression straps are located on the sides of your backpack. This nifty feature allows you to expand the storage capacity of your pack while at the same time tightening down your gear. Thus, it compresses your gear and keeps it closer to your body to help maintain a balanced load.
Hip belts are a vital feature when it comes to a backpacking backpack. They will help you support the majority of your pack weight so it’s important to find one that fits you well. Look for a hip belt with a decent amount of padding that sits comfortably around your hips.
Some hip belts even come with the addition of pockets. This is a nice feature to have when you want easy access to smaller items without having to go through the trouble of taking off your pack.
Some backpack manufacturers include removable lids at the top of the pack. This is essentially a removable pocket that resembles a fanny pack. They’re great when you want to carry extra gear or organize smaller items, but can also be removed when you prefer to shed some weight.
Dyneema is like the Superman of the fiber world. This fiber has a strength-to-weight ratio that blows other materials out of the water. It’s stronger than steel and is super lightweight – making it ideal for backpacking backpacks. Many outdoor manufacturers have caught wind of its impressive performance and it has become more widely used in high-quality outdoor gear.