Are you ready to lose all that weight and enter the fast-paced world of ultralight backpacking? Can you see yourself gliding elf like through the wilderness, carrying only what is essential? But how do you know if the items on your ultralight backpacking gear list are essential, or just dead weight?

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we understand the minimalist’s dilemma: How do you balance gear-weight -loss with the human need for a bit of comfort on the trail? Turns out, it’s easier than you might think.

There are a lot of gear out there designed specifically for ultralight backpackers, and replacing just a few big items will help you slim down quickly. We’ve put together this gear list to help you decide what to keep and what to replace, and whether to pack it in or leave it behind.

 

 

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

HOW TO USE THIS PACKING LIST

Before we discover the essentials of packing for an ultralight backpacking adventure, here’s a run down on how to get the most out of this list. Next to each item you will see a few categories. Here’s what they mean.

PURPOSE: What the gear is designed for, and why you would consider taking it with you.

ESSENTIAL ITEM: It’s difficult to know if you’re going to need something, so sometimes you end up throwing in everything. This is the opposite of what ultralight backpacking is about.

In this world, every ounce of weight must prove itself worthy. We’ve whittled it all down to what we consider to be the bare essentials, but these will always vary according to where you’re going, and when.

PRICE RANGE: While ultralight gear is typically pricier than standard backpacking equipment, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to lighten your load. Note that all price ranges are listed in US dollars.

LOOK FOR: Some quick tips on how to choose the best gear.

OUR PICK: Our choice based on the value and quality of the item.

LEARN MORE: A full article on how to choose that particular piece of gear and the best models of the year.

 

1. CARRYING

45-55L BACKPACK

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Carrying all of your stuff into and out of the wilderness.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $170-$500

LOOK FOR: Ultralight packs typically weigh no more than 2.5 lbs.

OUR PICK: Osprey Exos 48

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Backpacks of the Year >>

 

 

 

RAIN COVER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps your pack dry in the rain.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Only if you expect rain

PRICE RANGE: $30-$60

LOOK FOR: Durable and fits your pack

OUR PICK: Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover

LEARN MORE: Best Backpack Rain Covers of the Year >>

 

 

 

DRY BAG

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps important items dry.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Depends on your needs.

PRICE RANGE: $15-$50

LOOK FOR: Waterproof and roomy

OUR PICK: Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Bag

 

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2. SLEEPING

SLEEPING BAG

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps you warm and comfortable while sleeping.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $200-$500

LOOK FOR: Sufficient temperature rating for climate, small pack size and ultralight weight — under 2 lbs.

OUR PICK: Sea To Summit Spark SP II

LEARN MORE: Best Sleeping Bags of the Year >>

 

 

 

SLEEPING BAG LINER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Adds extra warmth to sleeping bag.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $30-$100

LOOK FOR: Comfortable material

OUR PICK: Sea To Summit Reactor Thermolite Liner

LEARN MORE: Best Sleeping Bag Liners of the Year >>

 

 

 

SLEEPING PAD

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Provides warmth and cushioning.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $50-$400

LOOK FOR: Ultralight, comfort, small pack size.

OUR PICK: OutdoorsmanLab Ultralight Sleeping Pad

LEARN MORE: Best Sleeping Pads of the Year >>

 

 

 

TARP

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Protects you and your gear from the elements.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Depends on your preference.

PRICE RANGE: $50-$150

LOOK FOR: Durable, ultralight and small pack size.

OUR PICK: Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Tarps of the Year >>

 

 

 

HAMMOCK

 

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Sleeping and staying out of the elements.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Depends on your preference.

PRICE RANGE: $150-$400

LOOK FOR: Durable, ultralight and small pack size.

OUR PICK: Hennessy Explorer Ultralight

LEARN MORE: Best Camping Hammocks of the Year >>

 

 

 

TENT

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Sleeping, storing gear and staying out of the elements.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Depends on your preference.

PRICE RANGE: $200-$800

LOOK FOR: Ultralight, small pack size, suitable size for number of people, suitable for climate.

OUR PICK: Nemo Dagger 2P Ultralight Tent

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Tents of the Year >>


 

 

3. NAVIGATING

COMPASS

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Finding where you are going

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $15-$200

LOOK FOR: Easy to use

OUR PICK: Suunto M3

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Compasses of the Year >>

 

 

 

MAP & TRAIL GUIDES

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Amazon

PURPOSE: Finding where you are going.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $5-$20

LOOK FOR: Durable & easy to read.

OUR PICK: National Geographic

 

 

 

MAP HOLDER

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Keeps your map handy and dry.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $20-$50

LOOK FOR: Waterproof

OUR PICK: Aqua Quest Trail Map Case

 

 

 

GPS DEVICE

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Amazon

PURPOSE: Navigation

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $200-$800

LOOK FOR: Easy to use and long battery life.

OUR PICK: Garmin GPSMAP 64st

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking GPS Devices of the Year >>

 

list for ultralight backpacking gear

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/littlew00dy

 

 

 

 

4. COOKING

BACKPACKING STOVE

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Cooking food

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $50-$300

LOOK FOR: Ultralight and reliable

OUR PICK: Jetboil MiniMo

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Stoves of the Year >>

 

 

 

FUEL

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Amazon

PURPOSE: Runs your stove.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-$30

LOOK FOR: Works with your stove.

OUR PICK: JetBoil Jet Power

 

 

 

LIGHTER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Lighting your stove.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $5-$20

LOOK FOR: Ultralight and reliable.

OUR PICK: MSR Strike Igniter

 

 

 

SPORK

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Amazon

PURPOSE: Eating

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-$30

LOOK FOR: Ultralight and durable

OUR PICK:Light My Fire Titanium Spork

 

 

 

COOKWARE & DISHES

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Cooking and eating.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Cookwear Yes, Dishes No

PRICE RANGE: $20-$200

LOOK FOR: Ultralight, durable and versatile.

OUR PICK: GSI Minimalist

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Cookware Sets of the Year >>

 


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5. EATING & DRINKING

MEALS

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Fueling your body.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $1-$10 Per Person

LOOK FOR: Sufficient calories, taste

OUR PICK: Mountain House Freeze Dried Food

LEARN MORE: Best Freeze Dried Food Packages of the Year >>

 

 

 

SNACKS

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Fueling your body.

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $1-$5

LOOK FOR: Fruits, nuts, peanut butter.

OUR PICK: Cliff Bars

 

 

 

WATER FILTER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Clean water

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes, if you’re going somewhere with water.

PRICE RANGE: $20-$100

LOOK FOR: Ultralight and easy to use.

OUR PICK: MSR Trailshot Microfilter

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Water Filters of the Year >>

 

 

 

WATER PURIFIER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Purify water

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes, if your’e going somewhere with water.

PRICE RANGE: $10 -$50

LOOK FOR: Ultralight and easy to use.

OUR PICK: SteriPen Ultra

LEARN MORE: Best Backpacking Water Purifiers of the Year >>

 

 

 

WATER BLADDER

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Carrying Water

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes, If You’re Going Somewhere Without Water

PRICE RANGE: $10-$30

LOOK FOR: Fits Inot Your Pack & Holds Enought Water

OUR PICK: CamelBak Antidote


 

 

6. CLOTHING FOR HOT WEATHER

HIKING SHIRT

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Wicking Sweat, Blocking Sun, Covering Upper Body

ESSENTIAL ITEM: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $15-$80

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Fit, UPF

OUR MEN’S PICK: Ex Officio Sol Cool

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Icebreaker Tech Lite

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Shirts of the Year >>

 

 

 

QUICK DRY SHORTS OR PANTS

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Block Sun, Wicking Sweat, Covering Lower Body

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $20-$100

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Fit & UPF

OUR MEN’S PICK: Prana Stretch Zion Shorts

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Prana Tess Shorts

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Shorts of the Year >> | Best Hiking Pants of the Year >>

 

 

 

WICKING UNDERWEAR

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeping You Comfortable And Dry Beneath Your Clothes

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-$50

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Fit & Quick Dry Material

OUR MEN’S PICK: ExOfficio Men’s Give-and-Go

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Icebreaker Sprite Hot Pants

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Underwear of the Year >>

 

ultralight backpacking gear list to have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/redwedge

 

 

 

 

7. CLOTHING FOR COLD WEATHER

THERMAL BASE LAYER

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Keeps Your Upper Body Warm & Dry

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $50-$150

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Fit & Quick Dry Material

OUR MEN’S PICK: Arc’teryx Phase AR LS

OUR WOMENS PICK: Arc’teryx Phase SV

LEARN MORE: Best Base Layers of the Year >>

 

 

 

THERMAL LEGGINGS

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps Your Lower Body Warm & Dry

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $20-$100

LOOK FOR: Confort, Fit & Quick Dry Material

OUR MEN’S PICK: Arc’teryx Phase AR Bottom

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Icebreaker Oasis

LEARN MORE: Best Long Johns of the Year >>

 

 

 

FLEECE JACKET

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps You Warm In Camp And On The Trail

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $50-$250

LOOK FOR: Comfort. Warmth & Fit

OUR MEN’S PICK: Arc’teryx Fortrex Hoodie

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Arc’teryx Fortrez Hoodie

LEARN MORE: Best Fleece Jackets of the Year >>

 

 

 

BEANIE

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Keeps Your Head Warm

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-$30

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Warmth & Fit

OUR PICK: Icebreaker Pocket Hat

 

 

 

GLOVES

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps Your Hands Warm

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-$40

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Warmth & Fit

OUR MEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Versaliner

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Versaliner

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Gloves of the Year >>


 

 

8. RAIN GEAR

WATERPROOF RAIN JACKET

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keeps Your Upper Body Dry In The Rain

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $100-$400

LOOK FOR: Fit, Waterproof Material, Pockets

OUR MEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Helium II

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Helium II

LEARN MORE: Best Rain Jackets of the Year >>

 

 

 

WATERPROOF RAIN PANTS

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keep Your Lower Body Dry In The Rain

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $100-$400

LOOK FOR: Fit, Waterproof Material

OUR MEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Helium

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Helium

LEARN MORE: Best Rain Pants of the Year >>

 

 

 

WATERPROOF GLOVES

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Keep Your Hands Warm and Dry In Rain

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $30-$100

LOOK FOR: Comfort, Waterproof Material

OUR MEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Arete

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Outdoor Research Arete


 

 

9. FOOTWEAR

TRAIL RUNNERS

 

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Encase Your Feet So You Can Hike

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $50-$150

LOOK FOR: Light, Durable, Comfortable

OUR MEN’S PICK: Merrill Grassbow Air

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Merrill Grassbow Air

 

 

 

SANDALS

 

Check out the latest price on: 
AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Camp Shoes & Walking Through Water

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Only If Your’e Hiking Through Water

PRICE RANGE: $50-$150

LOOK FOR: Light, Comfortable & Durable Straps

OUR MEN’S PICK: Chaco Classic Sport

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Chaco Classic Sport

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Sandals of the Year >>

 

 

 

SOCKS

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Protect Your Feet

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: Yes

PRICE RANGE: $10-30

LOOK FOR: Comfort & Appropriate For Your Shoe

OUR MEN’S PICK: Darn Tough Vermont Socks

OUR WOMEN’S PICK: Darn Tough Vermont Socks

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Socks of the Year >>

 

 

 

LINERS

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AmazonREI

PURPOSE: Help Prevent Blisters

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $10-$50

LOOK FOR: Comfort & Fit

OUR PICK: Inji Liner Toe Socks

 

 

 

GAITERS

Check out the latest price on: 
Amazon

PURPOSE: Keep Rocks and Stickers Out Of Your Trail Runners

ESSENTIAL ITEM?: No

PRICE RANGE: $20-$100

LOOK FOR: Ultralight & Durable

OUR PICK: Outdoor Research Sparkplugs

LEARN MORE: Best Hiking Gaiters of the Year >>


 

 

10. PERSONAL ITEMS & ACCESSORIES

 

 

11. SAFETY

  • Cash
  • Credit Card
  • Phone

Do you want to save money on hiking gear?

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