Backpacking packs and backpacking gear have gotten much lighter weight in recent years due to innovations in the materials and fabrics available to backpack manufacturers. Most 40-60L ultralight backpacks now weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. The ones we list below all have frames or frame stays and can usually carry between 25 and 35 pounds of backpacking gear, food, fuel, and water. If you need to carry more than that, you’ll want a bigger backpack. Less than that, you’ll probably want to get an even lighter, frameless, ultralight backpack.
Here are the 10 best ultralight backpacks in the 40L-60L range that we recommend. Stay tuned as we update our 2023 recommendations for the best ultralight frameless backpacks, the most durable backpacks for wilderness backpacking, and ultralight backpacks for women.
|Make / Model||Weight||Fabric|
|Zpacks Arc Haul 60L||20.9 oz / 593g||Ultra 200|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55||34.9 oz / 989g||Dyneema DCF|
|Granite Gear Crown 3 60L||32.6 oz / 1040g||Robic Nylon|
|Osprey Exos Pro 55||34.6 oz / 981g||UHMWPE Nylon Ripstop|
|ULA Circuit 68L||37.3 oz / 1038g||Robic Nylon|
|Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L||30.5 oz / 865g||Robic Nylon|
|REI Flash 55L||45 oz / 1276g||Robic Nylon|
|Gregory Focal 58||41.3 oz / 1171g||Robic Nylon|
|Waymark Gear Lite 50||34.8 oz / 987g||EcoPak EPX200|
|Atom Packs Mo EP50||32.1 oz / 910g||EcoPak EPX200|
Be sure to read our Ultralight Backpack Selection Guide below and the linked FAQs for even more advice and reader feedback. SectionHiker has an international reputation for its comprehensive men’s and women’s backpack reviews and we’re passionate about helping our readers find the best backpacks for their needs.
1. Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack
2. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 Backpack
3. Granite Gear Crown 3 60 Backpack
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
4. Osprey Exos Pro 55/Eja Pro 55 Backpack
|View at REI||View at Osprey|
5. ULA Circuit Backpack
6. Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack
7. REI Flash 55 Backpack
8. Gregory Focal 58/Facet 55
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
9. Waymark Gear LITE 50 Backpack
10. Atom Packs The Mo EP50
Ultralight Backpack Selection Guide
Ultralight Backpack Frames
Most ultralight backpacks range from about 40 liters up to 60 liters in volume and usually weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. They’re intended for carrying loads between 25 and 40 pounds and have full frames or frame stays. The volume and weight capacity you need will depend on the amount of gear, food, fuel, and water you need to carry. This can vary from trip to trip, or town to town if you’re a thru-hiker or section hiker, but compression straps let you shrink a pack’s volume from 40L down to 60L as needed. Generally speaking, you want more “frame” for heavier loads, but this can be a matter of personal preference.
See the following FAQs for more advice and reader discussion:
Gender-Specific Backpack Features
Many ultralight backpacks are now available in men’s and women’s specific models, although there are a few exceptions. They also tend to have fixed torso lengths and hip belt lengths, although many backpack manufacturers have figured out that adjustable torsos and hip belts or ventilated backpacks give them a significant competitive edge. Many women prefer S-shaped shoulder straps and female-specific hip belts because they mold better to a “curvier” female form.
Backpack Fabric Durability
Most ultralight backpacks are made with Nylon and it’s variants include Robic Nylon, Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), XPac, EcoPack, and Ultra. In terms of durability, Ultra is usually the most durable in terms of abrasion resistance, then EcoPak, XPac, DCF, and then Nylon, although it depends on the thickness of the material used. In addition, there are many different types of Nylon and thicknesses, which are measured by “deniers”, also abbreviated as “D” in “20D Nylon Ripstop. Usually, higher denier counts result in more durable fabrics.
Dyneema (DCF) packs are the most costly in terms of price, then Ultra, EcoPak, XPac, and then Nylon.
Backpack Covers and Pack Liners
DCF, Ultra, EcoPak, and XPac are waterproof materials so you can get by without a backpack cover if you wish. That said, the shoulder pads and hip belts on all backpacks are not waterproof and will absorb some water, but your gear will stay dry even if you don’t!
Most ultralight backpacks do not include a rain cover. If your backpack is not waterproof and rain is likely where you plan to hike, we recommend you get a backpack rain cover or line the inside of your backpack with a plastic bag. Some people do both or wear ponchos that cover themselves and their backpacks. See the following FAQs for more advice and reader discussion:
Roll Tops vs Top Lids
Some of the backpacks listed above are roll tops and some have top lids. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference. Roll tops can be nice because they’re more minimalist and require fewer webbing straps. But top lids are handy if you need to change hats or gloves frequently or access a map and navigation gear. Still, other packs, like the Granite Gear Crown3 60 and the REI Flash 55 are roll-tops, but come with an accessory top lid that can you attach over them. That’s really the best of both worlds.
The most important factor when choosing an ultralight backpack is fit. Keep trying ones on until you get a torso length and hip-belt that fits you perfectly. Return policies and warranties matter. Stick close to manufacturers that guarantee their products, are easy to contact and want you to have the best experience possible. What makes an ultralight backpack great? It fits you, has easy-to-use external pockets or daisy chains to attach your own, and works well with your other backpacking gear choices.
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