Home / SectionHiker.com’s Gear Guide / 10 Best Ultralight Backpacks of 2019

10 Best Ultralight Backpacks of 2019

10 Best Ultralight Backpacks

Check out the results of the 2019 annual SectionHiker backpack survey with over 2400 participants. These are all great UL-style backpacks with plenty of variety, volumes, and max loads to suit different preferences, budgets, and needs.

The best ultralight backpacks range from about 40 liters up to 60 liters in volume and weigh 1-3 pounds. They’re intended for carrying loads between 15 and 35 pounds. What makes an ultralight backpack great? It fits you, has easy to use external pockets, and works well with your backpacking gear choices.

Some ultralight backpack have internal frames, some come with frame stays, and others are frameless. Generally speaking you want more “frame” for heavier loads, but this can be a matter of personal preference. Most ultralight backpacks are unisex, although there are a few exceptions. They also tend to have fixed torso lengths and hip belt lengths. Packs made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics are more expensive, but don’t age well, suffering UV and abrasion damage. Roll top packs are the norm, but some come with optional lids.

The most important factor when choosing a UL pack is fit. Keep trying ones on until you get a torso length and hip-belt that fits you perfectly. Return policies and warrantees matter. Stick close to manufacturers that guarantee their products and want you to have the best experience possible.

Make / ModelGenderVolumeMaterialsWeightPrice
Osprey Exos 58 M | F58LNylon2 lbs 10 oz$220
ULA CircuitUnisex*68LNylon2 lbs 9 oz$235
Granite Gear Crown 2 60M | F60LNylon2 lbs 5 oz$200
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60Unisex60LNylon1 lb 14.5 oz$270
Hyperlite Mountain Gear SW 3400Unisex60LDCF2 lb 3 oz$345
Zpacks Arc Blast 55LUnisex55LDCF1 lb 5 oz$325
Zpacks Arc Haul 62LUnisex62LDCF1 lb 8 oz$299
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40Unisex40LNylon1 lb 14.5 oz$260
ULA Ohm 2.0Unisex*63LNylon2 lbs 2.5 oz$210
Gossamer Gear Kumo 36Unisex36LNylon1 lb 5 oz$165
*S Shoulder Strap Option

1. Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

Osprey Exos 58 Backpack
The Osprey Packs Exos 58 is lightweight minimalist pack favored by thru-hikers and weekend backpackers alike. Weighing 2 lbs 10 oz fully configured, it has a rigid frame that makes it good for hauling heavier loads up to 30-35 pounds. The top lid can be removed if not needed, dropping the pack weight close to 2 lbs 5 oz ounces. Ultralight details and back ventilation make the Exos a good backpack for hiking in hot or humid conditions. A women’s model is available called the Osprey Eja 58. Read the SectionHiker Exos 58 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver | Amazon

2. ULA Circuit Backpack

ULA Circuit Purple

The ULA Circuit Backpack is a popular multi-day backpack with thru-hikers and weekend backpackers. Weighing 41 ounces, this 68 liter backpack has a load carrying capacity of 35 pounds and is available with men’s or women’s-specific shoulder pads and a unisex hip belt. The Circuit has a roll-top favored by long distance hikers, with a front mesh pocket, two large side water bottle pockets, and two large hip belt pockets. Lightweight, but bomber tough, this pack can last through a long distance thru-hike and come back for more! Read the SectionHiker Circuit Backpack Review.

Check out the latest price at:
ULA Equipment

3. Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack

Crown2 60L -Mens

The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 is an ultralight-style roll-top backpack that’s well-suited for thru-hiking and multi-day backpacking trips. Weighing 2 lbs 5 ounces, it has all of the features you’d expect in an ultralight backpack including a large mesh back pocket and side water bottle pockets. What makes this pack distinct is its adjustable length hip belt so you get a custom fit, the ability to carry a bear can canister under the top lid, or remove it altogether and go lid-less. The Crown 2 60 has a maximum recommended load of 30-35 pounds. A women’s model of the Crown 2 – 60, is also available. Read the SectionHiker Crown2 60 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Campsaver | Amazon

4. Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack

Gossamer Gear Mariposa
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a great pack for backpackers who are lightening their loads because it has plenty of storage. It’s intuitively organized for a multi-day trips, with plenty of external pockets for wet gear, and lots of covered storage for items you need less frequent access too. The Mariposa has a lightweight aluminum frame stay capable of carrying 35 pounds comfortably, and interchangeable hip belts sizes are available, ensuring a good fit. Weighing 1 lb 14.5 oz, it has a unique side quiver pocket which is perfect for storing a tent. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker Mariposa 60 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

5. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 Backpack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest (55L) is a streamlined and durable backpack good for any kind of outdoor adventure from thru-hiking and climbing to packrafting. Made with super strong but ultralight Dyneema Composite Fabrics, it’s effectively waterproof with solid external pockets that are virtually impossible tear on desert scrub or sharp rock. The frame on this roll top pack consists of two aluminum rods, called frame stays, that can be bent for a custom fit. Weighing 2 lbs 3 oz, it has maximum recommended load of 40 pounds. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker.com 3400 Southwest Backpack Review.

Check out the latest price at: 
REI | Hyperlite Mountain Gear   

6. Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack

Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack
The Zpacks Arc Blast (55L) is an ultralight ventilated backpack with a hybrid external frame that lets you adjust the amount of curve and air flow it provides. Made with Dyneema Composite Fabric, the 1 lb 5 oz Arc Blast is a roll top with side water bottle pockets and a front mesh pocket for external gear storage. The torso length is adjustable by raising and lowering the shoulder pads, while the hip belt is available in multiple lengths to let you dial in a great fit. The Arc Blast can haul up to 35 lbs. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker Arc Blast Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Zpacks.com

7. Zpacks Arc Haul Backpack

 
The Zpacks Arc Haul (62L) is similar to the Zpacks Arc Blast, but is made with a gridstop nylon fabric instead of DCF, making it more abrasion and UV resistant as well as less expensive.  Like the Blast, the Arc Haul has a ventilated and adjustable length frame, a roll top closure, side bottle pockets, and a front mesh pocket. The hip belt is also interchangeable, so you can dial in a perfect fit. Weighing 1 lb 8 oz, the Arc Haul has a max recommended load of 40 pounds.

Check out the latest price at:
Zpacks.com 

8. Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 Backpack

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack 40
The Gossamer Gear Gorilla (40L) is a streamlined load hauler for the fast and light crowd. It’s a super comfortable pack with a specially-shaped frame stay capable of hauling heavy loads when needed. Unlike the Mariposa 60 (above) the Gorilla has a more conventional side water bottle pocket configuration, with large pockets that are reachable while wearing the pack. A top lid pocket provides accessible storage for maps and personal items. Weighing 1 lb 14.4 oz, the Gorilla is available in a wide range of torso lengths and has interchangeable hip belt lengths that make it much easier to dial in a perfect fit. Read the SectionHiker Gorilla Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear 

9. ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack

ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack
The ULA Ohm 2.0 (63L) is a ultralight pack designed for people with a base weighs of 12 lbs or less. While it is a higher volume pack, it has a minimalist carbon fiber & fiberglass stay that requires more nuanced packing than backpacks with a beefier frame. Weighing 2 lbs 2.5 oz, the Ohm 2.0 has a two large water bottle pockets, a stretch mesh front pocket, and is available with a cinch or roll top. Read the SectionHiker Ohm 2.0 Review.

Check out the latest price at:
ULA Equipment 

10. Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Backpack

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Backpack
The Gossamer Gear Kumo 36L is a 1 lb 5 oz ultralight frameless backpack that’s great for die-hard minimalists, overnight trips, day hiking, and travel. It uses Gossamer Gear’s signature SitLight pad as a combination camp seat and framesheet with a maximum recommended load of 20-25 lbs. Reachable water bottle pockets, a front mesh pocket, and a map pocket in the fold over lid provide handy external storage. The hip belt is also removable if you don’t want to be encumbered by it. Read the SectionHiker Kumo 36 Backpack Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear 

Methodology

How do we know what the top 10 best ultralight backpacks are? We survey our large readership to ask. In this case, we asked 2,456 backpackers what three-season packs they preferred and recommend. If you’d like to participate in our surveys, be on the look up for the gear raffles we run every few weeks on SectionHiker, where we give survey participants a chance to win. Or sign up to the weekly, award-winning SectionHiker newsletter, so you never miss out on an opportunity to participate. We hate spam, so we’ll never share your email with anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Check Out All of SectionHiker's Gear Guides!

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the 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 gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

Most Popular Searches

  • best ultralight backpack
  • ultralight backpacks
  • best lightweight backpack

53 comments

  1. I’m really surprised the Gregory Optic 58 didn’t make the list, it’s a much better pack than the # pack on this list, the Exos..

    • I think that Gregory would be wise to change their guarantee to be more like Osprey’s.

      • I bought an Optic 58 last fall and broke the buckle on the primary cinch strap the first time I used it. I sent it back and plan on buying the GG Crown 2 or the Exos 58. My wife has used the Exos over many hard miles the past few years and it has held up fine.

  2. Hey, Philip

    Have you been able to test the Katabatic Knik, or do you plan to?

    Thanks for all the work you do for us!

    -Nick

    • Just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I reviewed the KB Onni a year or two ago and it was directionally positive. I doubt any of the hip belt issues I experienced on that high volume (65L) pack would be a problem in a low volume 40L model since you’d be carrying much lighter load. I have always been impressed by the KB workmanship. Their manufacturing quality is really first rate.

      • I’ll go give that one a look with those comments in mind. Thank you kindly, sir!

        P.S. A couple years back you steered me in the direction of a ULA CDT–it is still serving me well.

  3. 41 oz might be a lightweight backpack, but is most certainly not an “ultralight” one. Might want to change the headline of this article.

    • An elite member of the BackpackingLight community just contacted me and encouraged me to add a 44 oz backpack to this list.

      I do wish you pundits would get your definitions correct!

      • No seriously. I think that the ultralight category has expanded since the old days when people all had packs that weighed less than 10 oz and were made out of silnylon. I don’t miss those days at all. Today’s packs are far more durable and comfortable, they can carry more weight when its necessary (water carries, food) and so on. We should all be happy that more people are seeing that you can carry lighter weight gear, instead of posturing about who’s a pure ultralight backpacker and who’s not.

      • Thank you!!

  4. Thought we might see the new REI flash 55

    • I Love REI and the new Flash 55 is a very nice pack, but they don’t keep the new models around for more than a year at a time. Next year they’ll completely redo it again. Its wasteful and stupid. The reason why the packs listed here are so good is because they’ve been refined based on customer feedback for many years….This isn’t rocket science, you know.

  5. Would love to see more of these companies get with it and offer women’s versions. Great market segment looking for light gear.

    • Women do not need special backpacks. These are all fine for them.

      Why are women always complaining about equal rights but at the same time demanding special treatment?

      • Why do men need more than one-size-fits-all, one type of last in shoes? It’s the FIT. Unisex packs with fixed torso length are sized for the average man. Tall man or petite woman may be SOL, because their torso lengths may be markedly different from the unisex norm. Men with linebacker builds may be SOL. Some women may get a good fit from particular packs designed for “average man” dimensions. Shoulder, chest, hip dimensions, shoulder strap details, hip belt details may vary between individuals. Smaller women (and very short men) made do with kid’s torso-adjustable packs to get appropriate fit.

        Note also that smaller people have more of a challenge bearing heavily loaded packs, because the pack weight is a greater percentage of body weight. Therefore, proper fit, which improves carrying efficiency, is particularly important for smaller people.

    • It’s scandalous that more of them don’t make women’s packs. If all of those female brand ambassadors kicked up a fuss, maybe they’d change.

      • Women hike at a much lower rate than men. All of the backpacks above are suitable for men and women. No need for special treatment.

      • I think we’ll just let the ladies decide for themselves. Hike your own hike.

      • Well said, Phillip. I am appalled by some of the other men’s comments on this page. Women’s outdoor gear is one of the fastest growing segments right now and more women will be getting outdoors. My wife and daughters have backpacked with me for years. If you don’t like special treatment, then stop acting like the outdoors are only for you. Entire families are out there hiking together these days.

  6. Any plans to review the new granite gear vapor trail? It looks interesting

    • It’s in the queue. Interesting backstory there. REI contracted with Granite Gear to remake it on an exclusive basis. Granite Gear doesn’t have any in stock in their warehouse, just REI.

      • I was an early adopter of the Vapor Trail; at the time it came out, all the other offerings in the mass market weighed at least 5 pounds.

        I loved that pack. It served me well for a number of years. Of course, back then I was taking 3-night trips regularly; gear was also heavier and bulkier, so a 60-liter pack was easy to fill up. My favorite feature was the backpad: it was large enough and padded enough that I could use a 48-inch Thermarest and use the pack under my lower legs to effectively create a full-length pad – and simultaneously solve the problem of where to store the pack in a one-person tent!

        I’ll be checking it out for sure, but I suspect that a 60-liter pack is overkill for the size loads I carry now. (I’ll definitely load my gear into one, just in case…one can always hope!)

    • I don’t think my wife or daughters demand special treatment. Would you like to wear women’s underwear when you go backpacking? Or are you advocating that women should only wear men’s clothes when backpacking? Why is gear any different than clothing? Why isn’t every piece of clothing and every piece of gear designed to fit both men and women alike? You wear a pack all day long, it’s gotta work for you like anything else you’re wearing.

  7. I’m a little surprised that no one has mentioned that the Osprey Levity pack is lighter than the Exos – “so why isn’t it on the list?” (What follows is not intended to say the Levity is better or worse than the other 9; I don’t have a basis for doing that.)

    I tend to agree with your choice to include the Exos and exclude the Levity, if by “best” you mean that after judging all factors, it seems most likely to meet a set of requirements set by long-distance hikers. In that case, the Levity comes up short because of its definite load limit of 20 pounds for the Levity 45 (the larger Levity might be a bit higher, but I doubt more than 25.) Those simply will not fit the needs of most long distance trips due to the food (and maybe water) loads such hikes require. The Exos packs have higher limits that will work for long-distance hikers. So, if “best” means long-distance, I agree that the Exos belongs, and the Levity doesn’t.

    However, if you define “best” as fitting the needs of the long-weekend hiker, then I’d replace the Exos with the Levity; I’d also reduce the size from the 55-60 liters on your list to 40-50 liters. An ultralight load for a weekend in the local National Forest, for an ultralight (or ultralight wannabe) hiker would probably not need to exceed 20 pounds or 50 liters. The additional capability of the Exos becomes irrelevant, and the Levity becomes the better choice between the two.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been using the Levity 45 (for weekend trips) for several months now, and like it more every time I go out. However, I haven’t yet gotten rid of my Exos 48 – though that may yet happen. My weekend load ranges from 13 – 17 pounds (including food and a quart of water) depending on the weather forecast and whether I’ll be out 2 or 3 nights.

    • Why do you need to be a long distance hiker to carry a UL-style pack. I don’t get it. Most of the people who use then or want to use them certainly aren’t thru-hikers or long distance hikers. Also, most people who carry ultralight packs carry way more than 20 pounds of gear and supplies.

      As to why the Levity is not on this list, see the methodology section. I personally think the Levity is a mediocre pack and while I don’t especially like the Exos, I’d rather carry it than the Levity any day.

      • I wasn’t trying to imply that long-distance hiking and UL were automatically linked. The point was that even using UL techniques, most long distance hikers I’ve met (and I’m not one, by any stretch) carry enough food that they almost certainly will exceed 20 pounds, and therefore would not find the Levity to be a viable choice – pretty much what you said in your reply. As far as methodology, it also makes sense since this is a fairly new pack; I’d be interested in knowing how many (if any) votes it got out of the 2,456 cast. I’d be shocked if it was the #11 choice, but pleasantly surprised if it was in the top 30.

        I don’t disagree that the Levity has limitations, and to the extent that those make it undesirable to the majority of hikers, I think you’re right to classify it as “mediocre.” As I said, I’m reluctant to turn loose of my Exos; however, for the backpacking I do, in the places I do it, the Levity has turned out to be a pretty good solution for me. That doesn’t mean I automatically think it’s good for anyone else.

        Again, this list is useful and informative. It provides good information on the state of the market, and as someone else pointed out, it gives folks a great starting place when they are looking for their next pack.

    • It’s not really his choice to include it over the Levity, the list is based on the polls he conducts.

      • Now there’s a jinx, buy me a backpack?

      • I never intended to say it was his choice – I was just surprised no one had commented, “Hey, why isn’t the Levity on the list? It’s lighter than the Exos.” However, as I re-read my comment, I did say “I agree with your choice.” I shouldn’t have worded it that way; I knew that he was simply reporting survey results.

        I suppose it would have been more clear if I had said that “the results could indicate that the respondents might be predominantly long-distance hikers who needed a sturdier frame” instead of accidentally implying that Phil made the choice. I’m sorry for any confusion I caused.

      • I wasn’t bothered, just trying to point out it was a poll because of the wording.

  8. I don’t put much faith in these results. I think the Osprey is the most recommend because it’s sold through mass market retailers and is much more available to the general public. People recommend what people have. Personally, I own, or have owned, six of these packs (including the Exos) and put the Osprey bag at the bottom of the list. Tied for first is the Zpacks Arc Blast and the HMG Southwest 3400.

    • And that in a nutshell, is why I run reader surveys. Because what people “believe” and what actual statistics show is often quite different. The way I look at this list, is that these packs are the cream of the crop as judged by other hikers and that they form a good place to start if you’re looking for good packs to try. You might have different preferences, fine, but these are all very good backpacks and plenty of people are successful with all of them.

  9. Phillip. Love your site man. Learned a lot here and like all the comments. I use an Exos 48 and love it. Thru hiked theAT with it last year and went UL all the way. It’s popular because it’s ventilated, but much less expensive than the zpacks packs. My 2 cents. Hikeon brother!

    • I did not mean to impune the Exos, all in all, it’s a fine pack. The problem I had with it (I had the 58) was that the hip belt was inadequate in that it did not fully cover my hip crest. My rotund mid-section is as much to blame as the pack. All that being said, if you’re a long distance hiker, you know that weight is a major concern. The Exos 48 size large weighs in at 42 ounces, the Zpacks Arc Blast, also a ventilated pack, is an incredible 21 ounces, taking 27 ounces off your back. I know hikers that would kill for 27 ounces!

      • I have the same problem with the Exos. Damn hip belt is for 20 somethings. But Zpacks doesn’t have an adjustable length hip belt either last I checked, so it’s also going to be hit or miss. That’s why I often steer people to Granite Gear’s packs with the adjustable hip belts. Fit trumps everything. Especially hip belt fit.

  10. Which of these packs is your favorite SectionHiker?

  11. In 2005, when I changed over from my outrageously heavy Dana Designs Terraplane (7 lbs. 8 oz.) to the first REI UL Cruise then the 2nd REI Cruise UL 60 I learned the joys of UL backpacking.
    A series of Tarptent solo tents, a UL Thermarest Prolite mattress and a canister top stove helped a lot too.

    Then I bought the EXOS 58 and found even more comfort. I’ve used it from Utah’s Coyote Gulch to a North Rim-to-South Rim Grand Canyon backpack and many others and really like it. Not the lightest UL pack but very comfortable.

    But I gotta say the Z-Packs ARC Haul interests me for its weight and the mesh trampoline back I’ve learned to love in the EXOS 58.

    Thanks for a good review of UL packs.

  12. Just an observation but I’m surprised that there isn’t a 48-50L pack on the list, for my summer hikes of 3-4 days 58L is overkill (and I’m more light than ultra). Most of the manufacturers in the list offer something 48 or 50L I believe.

  13. No love for the My Trail Backpack Light 70 or Light 50? Their predecessor Go Lite packs always competed pretty well.

  14. Being 72 yrs old I may be old-fashioned in my thinking, but to me the whole idea behind ultralight packs is to help someone to reduce his or her pack weight. When you suggest that a 55 liter pack capable of carrying a 40 pound load should be considered an ultralight pack because it weighs under 3 pounds, I can’t help but laugh. The Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 is a nice weight but is still has excess capacity. For the past 6 years I have been doing all of my summer backpacking trips of up to three days, two nights using a Terra Nova Elite 20 pack. It weighs in at under a pound, is a pleasure to wear and lets me bang out 20 miles days with no problem. Using this pack my pack base weight is 7 pounds, and with food and water for 3 days it tops out at under 13 pounds. Adding the additional weight of one of the “ultralight packs” in you review will accomplish nothing for me other than to add unnecessary weight. I love reading your product reviews but think that this one missed the (ultralight) boat.

    • It’s not a gear review, which I think I’ve made clear already. It’s the results of a survey.

      But a Kumo will lower MOST backpackers’ pack weight. I know it is difficult, but try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

      I’m happy that your summer gear list is 7 pounds. Really. I backpack year-round and can’t get my gear weight that low during the other three-seasons. But I really don’t care that much anymore about it to be honest. I’m comfortable and I just want to help other people get to the point where they are too.

  15. Philip,

    Where did the MLD Burn DCF or Prophet DCF come in one the list? I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the Pa’Lante V2 vs the Burn/Prophet and would love to see if they’re closely ranked on this list.

  16. Philip, I am assuming you are getting the term “Ultralight” from the manufacturers descriptions and/or a misinformed/inexperienced public.
    Following the standard 10% guideline for a Pack’s weight vs Base weight:
    SUL: <5 pounds base means <8oz for a pack
    UL: <10 pounds base means <16oz for a pack
    Lightweight: <20 pounds base means 20 pounds base means >2pounds for a pack

    Most of the packs on this list are NOT UL packs, merely lightweight packs. At least one is a traditional pack. I do most of my hiking with an UL setup between 6 and 10 pounds. It is difficult for me to remain UL even with a 13oz pack and be comfortable over most of 3season hiking. Winters are different, you need more gear.
    The Rule of Half’s for SUL: half pound tarp, half pound pad, half pound pack, half pound cook wear, half pound water handling, half pound lighting/FAK/lines/stakes/misc gear, half pound luxury item(s), (and an exception) a 1 pound bag, leaves an 8oz margin in the entire carry weight, usually cloths.
    The Rule of One’s for UL: one pound tent/tarp, one pound pad, one pound pack, one pound cook wear, one pound water handling, one pound lighting/FAK/lines/stakes/misc gear, one pound luxury item(s), (and an exception) a 2 pound bag, only leaves a 1pound margin (cloths) in the entire carry weight but puts you firmly in the UL category at 9pounds.
    The Rule of Two’s for Lightweight: . . .
    Of course, you are free to mix weights however in the packing list, saving a few ounces here, applying a few ounces, there. For example, I usually carry a 14oz saw, but this comes out of the 1 pound pack (3oz), the 1 pound pad (4oz) and the one pound lighting/misc gear (8oz.) A LOT of different combinations, substitutions, additions and deletions that compensate for small underweights/overweights.

    Anyway, just my take on weight creep and labeling. It really doesn’t much matter except to those that don’t like to haul 30pounds of gear for a two day trip.

    Base weight is not really a limiting factor for short or long trips. I have been out for a single night with UL gear and my pack weight was 10 years) won’t want to carry the extra weight (bear bag kit 2pounds) and use their developed skills instead. In between, they adopt bear cans, because they require a lot less skill. Both do the job adequately. Emergency situations happen. A rookie will quit a trail because he gets a bad blister on his foot. It might take a while before he realizes he needs a larger size shoe for hiking and in the mean time he stuffs his pack full of all sorts of blister remedies, ointments & salves, special cushioning tape, etc. An experienced hiker simply wears oversized shoes at the start, brings a couple pieces of duct tape and calls it good. IFF he gets a blister (rare) he might pop it with a sharp knife, dump a little fuel on it, make a pad with a bit of toilet paper, and tape it with piece of the duct tape. Two different philosophies there…very similar to UL and Lightweight.

    In the woods, I find few (only one person in 55 years) hiking with SUL gear. I have found a few, about one person every year, sometimes two, going truly UL. Many are lightweight, and many are still traditional. I guess UL packing never really caught on.

    • Jim, You know I respect you, but I’ve never been comfortable with these stupid definitions, rules, and the pseudo science of ultralight backpacking which is highly biased for west coast summer backpacking in warm temperatures. People should pack what they need, they can afford, and what they feel comfortable using and not get all hung up on the labels. We all want to carry less weight, but there’s a point where it just doesn’t matter anymore. Especially with today’s lighter weight gear.

      Yes, the labels are hyped. Manufacturers and retailers are calling everything under the sun ultralight because they sense a gold rush. It’s the nature of broader market adoption in a capitalist society. As long as you list the weights, you can label it anything you want.

      Like you, I rarely run into UL backpackers who stick to the rules you list. It’s nice to have a low base weight, but I hike solo in hostile terrain and I’m not going to let some labels dictate what I bring or not. Meet any winter UL backpackers who hike in the New England mountains? I thought not.

      • “…I’ve never been comfortable with these stupid definitions, rules, and the pseudo science of ultralight backpacking which is highly biased for west coast summer backpacking in warm temperatures.”
        Yes, I agree. But I think this applies mostly to SUL. I manage UL weights fine for most of the three season hiking through rather rugged terrain, myself. And yes, I do so solo.

        “Yes, the labels are hyped.” Despite being standardized by over thirty years of usage, there is no real EPA definition forcing manufacturers to adopt these standards. Ideally, a pack that weighs nothing and gear that weighed nothing would produce true ultra light hikers, but, as you know, everything weighs something. Nothing can replace the skills needed, even though this is an example of something that works and doesn’t weigh anything. The labels let me know where I stand on this scale and how much more I need to learn. There is always something to learn out there.

        Hiking in winter with UL gear…no. As I said, unless there is some new technology out there, I think even 15 pounds would be dangerous at -20F.

      • Sorry man but this whole thing about SUL and UL is pointless.

        Who came up with these terms? Some guy in the internet?

        Everyone I’ve ran into on the trail carrying a 70L osprey and a frying pan seemed to be having a good time.

        Not everything has to be put in a box and labeled. And not every piece of hiking gear is meant for the AT.

  17. I have the ULA OHM, and love that I can use it with all its build for heavier loads, and also strip it down to 24oz for UL use. BTW, I am a woman, and just to mention the main reason for wanting some kind of modification is that women’s breasts are more comfortable with a curved strap. Many pack makers supply those. It’s just an anatomy thing, not anything “special.” (And I’m not arguing with anyone; just pointing out something matter of fact ;-))

  18. Philip, value your writings, thank you. Appreciate your wisdom today and what I would have given 60yrs ago for your insight starting out knapsacking. Would be informative seeing the percentages for the survey participants choices for UL-style backpacks. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *