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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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