When it comes to gear list weight reduction for lightweight and ultralight backpacking, the biggest gains come from lightening the big three, including your backpack, tent, and your sleep system which includes a sleeping pad and sleeping bag or quilt. These are almost always the heaviest items that you have to carry on a backpacking trip, excluding water and food, and you can achieve the gear list weight savings by replacing them with lighter alternatives. After that, you can gradually replace your stove, headlamp, extra clothes, trekking poles, and other items with lighter weight alternatives for incremental savings but they’ll be much less significant than the weight you can eliminate by replacing your big three.
As an example, I’ve assembled three “Big Three Makeovers” with gear that I recommend that illustrate a range of different price points. While you can go still lighter weight than these, none of the items I’ve listed below require any new skills or a loss in comfort. For example, I’ve only listed tents that come with floors and bug netting and not floorless pyramids, flat tarps, or other more extreme UL shelters like poncho tarps. All of the sleeping pads listed are full size and the backpacks have frames.
Why isn’t hammock gear listed below? If you haven’t used hammocks before they do require a significant amount of new skill development and the learning curve can take a while. People who hammock are also generally more interested in comfort and less obsessed with gear weight. They still care about it, but not to the degree that conventional ground sleepers do.
Inexpensive Big Three Makeover ($) – 5.85 lbs for $730
|Make / Model||Weight||Price|
|Granite Gear Crown 2 60L Backpack||37 oz||$200|
|Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent||26 oz||$230|
|Hammock Gear Econ Burrow Top Quilt 40 Deg, 800 Fill Power, Wide 55"||18.63 oz||$160|
|NEMO Tensor Air Pad||12 oz||$140|
The Granite Gear Crown 2 is a great lightweight backpack that has an adjustable length hipbelt and lots of external attachment points. It weighs less than 3 pounds, has a comparatively low price and is really feature-rich. You can also remove the top lid because the main compartment closes with a roll-top to keep out dirt and rain. The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is a spacious single-wall tent that’s both lightweight and reasonably priced. Hammock Gear’s Economy Burrow Quilts are an excellent value and the Nemo Tensor pad is quite comfortable and low weight. I personally prefer using air pads with quilts, but there’s no reason you could spend less and replace it with a foam pad like the NEMO Switchback.
Moderate Big Three Makeover ($$) – 4.68 lbs for $1014
|Make / Model||Weight||Price|
|Gossmer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack||30.5 oz||$270|
|Gossamer Gear "The One" Tent||19.93 oz||$299|
|Hammock Gear Premium Custom Burrow, 40 deg, 850 Fill Power, 55" Wide||15.57 oz||$250|
|Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite Sleeping Pad 72"||8.8 oz||$195|
Less costs more, which one of the ironies of buying lighter weight backpacking gear. While the Gossamer Gear Marispoa 60 costs more than the Granite Gear Crown 2 above, it can carry the same amount of weight in comfort and has lots of useful features. The Gossamer Gear One is also a really nice spacious trekking pole tent, plus it’s seam taped, so you don’t have to seam seal it before you can use it. You can shave some more weight by switching to a premium ground quilt from Hammock Gear with higher fill power down. Ground quilts are usually wider than hammock quilts to block drafts, which is why I’ve specified them at 55″ of width instead of 50″. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite is the lightest air mattress available today, and while it is more prone to punctures, the bathtub floor in your tent should be more than sufficient to protect it.
Expensive Big Three Makeover ($$$) – 3.42 lbs for $1285
|Make / Model||Weight||Price|
|Zpacks Arc Blast 55 Backpack||20.1 oz||$325|
|Zpacks Hexamid Solo w/Floor||14.3 oz||$500|
|Enlightened Equipment Revelation 40 Degree,950 Fill Power, Regular Width||14.83 oz||$305|
|Thermarest NeoAir Uberlite Sleeping Pad Small||6.0 oz||$155|
If you want to really cut the of your Big Three, getting a Dyneema backpack or tent is a quick way to shed a lot of ounces. The Zpacks Blast 55 is a ventilated adjustable-length Dyneema backpack that can hold a lot of gear but is still super lightweight. Couple that with a Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tent and a bathtub floor insert and you have a fully functional tent for less than a pound. An Enlightened Equipment Custom Revelation Quilt with 950 fill power down will keep you warm at night, while the 2.5″ thick NeoAir Uberlite will keep you comfortable and off the ground.
Weigh Your Existing Gear
To have this exercise make sense, whip out your postage scale and weigh your existing backpack, tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag or quilt. If they weigh 9 pounds or more, you might really benefit from one of the makeovers shown below. You have to decide whether the price is worth it, but you’ll be surprised how much more comfortable it can be to hike with less weight. Need convincing? Pack all of your backpacking gear up, including 3L of water. Put on your pack and go for a walk. Then take the water, which weighs 6 lbs out and walk around. That’s what carrying 6 pounds less feels like.
Besides weight, there’s no huge functional difference between the items on all three of these lists. While it is fun to get the lightest weight gear, there are quickly diminishing returns for your money. There’s very little incremental value in buying the most expensive, lightest weight, backpacking gear, because the less expensive stuff listed above, will work just a well.
But everyone has different goals and resources. Just remember, the most expensive gear is gear you never use.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.