This post may contain affiliate links.

10 Best Ultralight Frameless Backpacks of 2024

As ultralight backpacking gear has gotten lighter weight, so have ultralight backpacks. So much so, that many thru-hikers, section-hikers, and long-distance backpackers are turning to frameless ultralight backpacks for their adventures. Designed for loads of 20-25 pounds or less (including food, water, and fuel), these backpacks and their manufacturers have proven to be wildly innovative in their use of cutting-edge materials, colors, and features.  While backpacking this light isn’t for everyone, the increased availability of ultralight backpacking gear and access to know-how through social media has made it more achievable than ever.

If your aim is to reduce the weight of your backpack to close to a pound or less, here are some ways of achieving that goal.

  1. Use a frameless backpack, since you don’t need the added support or weight of a frame or even a hip belt for loads under 20-25 pounds.
  2. Reduce the volume of your pack to 40L or less. which forces you to use lighter-weight and more compact gear.
  3. Pick backpacks made with ultralight fabrics like Dyneema DCF, Ultra, or EcoPak which are waterproof and highly durable.

Here are the 10 frameless ultralight backpacks that we recommend that embody these qualities.

Make / ModelTotal VolumeWeight
Zpacks Nero Ultra 3838L10.3 oz
Gossamer Gear Kumo36L20 oz
Nashville Packs Cutaway42L17.5 oz
Pa'lante V231L, 37L17-19 oz
Osprey Talon Velocity 30L30L35.5 oz
SWD Ultralight Superior Frameless45L18.2 oz
Mountain Laurel Designs Burn38L16.5 oz
Gossamer Gear G4-2042L20-26 oz
Mountainsmith Zerk 4040L29 oz
ULA CDT54L27.1 oz

Be sure to read our Frameless Ultralight Backpack Selection Guide below which explains these tradeoffs in greater detail.

Note: If you want an ultralight backpack that has a frame or frame stays, a fully-featured hip belt, can comfortably carry 25-40+ pounds, but still weighs between 2 – 3 lbs, see our article, The 10 Best Ultralight Backpacks (with frames).

1. Zpacks Nero Ultra (38L)

Zpacks Nero Ultra 38L
The Zpacks Nero Ultra 38L is an frameless rolltop pack that weighs 10.3 oz. It’s made with a durable waterproof material (called Ultra 100) and seam taped making the pack highly water-resistant. The pack has two side pockets and a large stretchy mesh center pocket for quick access items. There is a top strap so you can lash gear on top of the pack, side compression straps, diasy chains on the shoulder straps to attach pockets, a removable hip belt that can be adjusted for three torso lengths, and a sit pad that provides back padding. Read the SectionHiker Nero 38 Review
Shop at Zpacks

2. Gossamer Gear Kumo (36L)

Gossamer Gear Kumo Backpack
The Gossamer Gear Kumo is a frameless backpack made with Robic Nylon that weighs 20 oz. It has 28L of closed storage and 8L of open storage in its side and front mesh pocket. In addition, there’s an external pad pocket behind the shoulder straps that holds a foam sit pad (included) and a map-sized zipper pocket in the fold-over lid. The hip belt has pockets and is also removable. Gossamer Gear also makes a vest-style version of the Kumo called the Fast Kumo for fastpacking, but I prefer the regular Kumo. Read the SectionHiker Kumo Review.


Shop at Garage GrownShop at Gossamer Gear

3. Nashville Packs Cutaway (42L)

nashville Packs cutaway

The Nashville Packs Cutaway is one of the most innovative frameless ultralight backpacks we’ve encountered in a long time. It’s a 42L (total volume) roll-top with side and front pockets, as well as a bottom sleeve for trash or hats, buffs, and snacks, and is designed so that all of the exterior pockets can be accessed on the move while wearing the pack. While it is available in a variety of ultralight fabrics, the thing that sets this pack apart is the optional vest-style shoulder strap system which is hands-down the most comfortable, best-fitting, and functional vest-style shoulder strap system we’ve ever used. This is because Nashville has a unique way of measuring your size for the best fit. You can also get the Cutaway with regular shoulder straps because the pack is modular and you can switch between them. Read the SectionHiker review.

Shop at Nashville Packs

4. Pa’lante Packs V2 (31-37L)

Palante Packs V2
Pa’lante Packs is one of the original movers among second-generation frameless backpack manufacturers and many other of their innovations have been copied now by others. Their V2 backpack includes the original bottom pocket for stowing snacks, layers, and trash, shoulder strap pockets, a stashable hipbelt, adjustable side pockets, and a designated stake pocket. The V2 is available off-the-shelf in two torso lengths: 16″ and 19″ and two colors: sand and black.

Shop at Garage Grown

5. Osprey Talon Velocity (30L)

Osprey Talon Velocity 30
The Osprey Talon Velocity 30 is a frameless backpack with a running vest-style suspension that’s great for fastpacking. While it’s on the heavy side for an ultralight fastpack (38 oz), it has an adjustable length torso which is rare among vest-style packs and greatly enhances the fit. Numerous pockets built into the vest-style harness and hipbelt let you easily access squeeze bottles, snacks, your smartphone, or sunglasses while you’re on the move without having to stop. Volume-wise, the pack has 34-35L of total storage including its open pockets. Read the SectionHiker Talon Velocity Review. A women’s version, the Tempest Velocity 30 is also available.

Shop at REIShop at Osprey

6. Superior Wilderness Designs Ultralight Superior (40L)

Ultralight Superior Frameless SWD

The Superior Wilderness Designs Ultralight Superior is an 18.2 oz frameless ultralight backpack with 45 liters of capacity: 35 liters in the main compartment and 10 liters on the exterior. The pack made is with Ultra, which is a new ultralight waterproof material that is more abrasion resistant than Dyneema DCF and XPac. The Ultralight Superior comes with a lycra pad sleeve on the back panel, a foam sit pad that can be used as a seat while taking breaks, and a 1″ webbing belt. The pack is designed for loads up to 20 lbs. Several low-priced customizations are also available.

Shop at S.W.D.

7. Mountain Laurel Designs Burn (38L)

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38L Backpack
The Mountain Laurel Designs Burn is a 38 liter frameless rolltop backpack that weighs 16.5 oz. Made with 210D Dyneema Gridstop Nylon, it has a padded hipbelt, S-shaped shoulder straps, deep side pockets, and a solid stretch front pocket for improved durability (not shown here). With a recommended load range of 18-25 pounds, the thing that sets the Burn apart from other ultralight backpacks is the quality of its construction and bomber durability. The pack has over 50 heavy-duty sewing bartacks and can withstand multiple thru-hikes. Minor customizations are also available.

Shop at MLD

8. Gossamer Gear G4-20 (42L)

G4-20 2024
The Gossamer Gear G4-20 is a 42L frameless ultralight backpack that weighs 25 oz and can carry up to 25 lbs comfortably. The G4-20 has a front stretch mesh pocket, two side pockets including one that’s large enough to carry a shelter, an external map pocket, and a roll-top closure. Its internal storage capacity is 30L with 12L in its mesh and side pockets. The well-padded hip belt, which includes pockets, is not removable, but you can ditch the molded foam sit pad covering the pack’s back panel and reduce the pack weight to 21.7 oz. Read the SectionHiker G4-20 Review. 

Shop at Gossamer Gear

9. Mountainsmith Zerk (40L)

Mountainsmith Zerk 40 - 2024
The Mountainsmith Zerk 40 is inspired by Ultra-running backpacks. It has a roll-top closure, removable, hip belt strap, and a running vest-style shoulder strap system. Numerous open mesh pockets make it easy to store frequently accessed gear and food on the exterior of the pack so you don’t have to open it during the day. The pack comes with bear can straps so you can lash a canister on top and includes numerous external gear loops so you can attach additional gear to its exterior. While there is a foam pad in a pad pocket behind the Zerk’s shoulder straps, its primary purpose is to protect your back from being poked by the pack’s contents. Read the SectionHiker Review. Updated in 2024, the latest version includes added daisy chain attachment points, dual ice axe loops, dual side compression straps, and embroidered design.

Shop at Garage Grown

10. ULA Equipment – CDT (54L)


The ULA CDT is a 54-liter frameless rolltop backpack with an internal pad pocket. Weighing 27.1 oz, the CDT is a streamlined backpack with 36 liters of closed storage in the main pack bag and extension collar, with the remainder distributed across its side pockets, front mesh pocket, and hip belt pockets. While the CDT is not the lightest frameless backpack available today, it is one of the largest in terms of overall volume, it is available with J-shaped or female-friendly S-shaped shoulder straps, and comes in a very wide range of torso sizes and hip belt lengths. ULA also offers a large number of customization options on the CDT including colors, fabrics, and hip belt components. Read the SectionHiker CDT Review.

Shop at ULA

Frameless Ultralight Backpack Selection Guide

Early model of the Gossamer Gear Frameless G4 Backpack - 2011
Early model of the Gossamer Gear Frameless G4 Backpack – Frameless packs have come a long way since 2011.

Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Backpacks

Many frameless ultralight backpacks are made by hand by cottage manufacturers and can be customized in terms of colors, fabric, or features. Some of the more established backpack manufacturers or retailers listed above only offer “stock” backpacks with a fixed set of features. The advantage of purchasing a stock backpack is that it’s usually available immediately without a long wait time. If you decided to go the custom route, be sure to contact the manufacturer if you have any questions before you order. Most custom backpacks are non-returnable.

Frameless Ultralight Backpack Volume

How much volume do you need in an ultralight backpack, when you’re trying to get your TOTAL pack weight below 20 pounds? It’s hard to make a blanket recommendation because it ultimately comes down to the climate you plan to hike in and what your clothing, sleep insulation, shelter, nutrition, and water needs will be. For general three-season conditions, most UL backpackers find that a 40L pack provides more than enough volume for a 3-5 day trip, including gear, food, fuel, and water. It gets much more difficult to fit everything you need into a 30L backpack, however, unless you can resupply more frequently, you go stoveless, or you don’t need to carry much water. However, given the list of packs above, there’s not a huge weight penalty for carrying a higher volume pack than you need, since they’re all so lightweight and you can compress them using a roll-top closure or side compression.

Massive External Storage

Frameless ultralight backpacks tend to have a lot of external storage which is accessible while you’re still wearing the backpack. This is as much a mantra as a design philosophy with the underlying goal of hiking as many miles as possible (like all day) without ever having to stop and take your backpack off. Many frameless ultralight packs come with pockets sewn onto their shoulder straps, bottom stretch pockets so you can reach underneath a pack when worn to pull out snacks or deposit used wrappers, and accessible side pockets.

Ultralight Backpack Fabrics

Most ultralight backpacks are made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), XPac, Nylon (Robic, Cordura, Dyneema X, etc.) In terms of durability, Ultra is usually the most durable in terms of abrasion resistance, then EcoPak, XPac and LiteSkin, then DCF, and finally Nylon, although it depends on the denier or weight of the material used. DCF and XPac revolutionized UL backpack manufacturing because they’re so lightweight, but are being quickly overtaken by newer waterproof fabrics like EcoPak and Ultra which are even more robust and ecologically sustainable products.

The biggest areas of wear and tear on a backpack is the base, where you put it down on the ground, and the side pockets, especially if they’re made with mesh. Most UL pack makers have switched to more durable mesh, use more durable stretch mesh that has finer holes and is less prone to snagging, or have switched to making external pockets with solid fabrics for better durability.

DCF, XPac, ECOPAK, Ultra, and LiteSkin are all waterproof materials so they won’t absorb water when it rains. DCF has the advantage that it can be seam-taped which greatly increases the waterproofing of a backpack. While XPac, ECOPAK, and Liteskin can be seam-sealed, most people don’t bother and line their packs with trash compactor bags or use waterproof stuff sacks. Very little water will get in anyway. It’s much the same with Robic Nylon and other high-tenacity nylons although they will soak thru, can make your gear wet, and take a while to dry out. See the following FAQs for more advice and reader discussion:

Hip Belts on Frameless Backpacks

The hip belts found on frameless backpacks are not load-bearing because there’s no frame to transfer to load to the hips. This explains why many ultralight packs don’t have them, they’re removable, or stowable, and only made with webbing if they’re included at all. Their only real purpose is to provide an anchorage for hip belt pockets or to prevent the pack from bouncing against your torso if you walk fast.

Since the hip belts are not load-bearing, all the weight will rest on your shoulders. When choosing packs, you should consider how much shoulder strap padding you prefer and the strap width that you find most comfortable.

Shoulder Straps

An increasing number of frameless pack makers are including S-shaped backpack straps on their packs, which are more comfortable for women because they accommodate breasts more comfortably.  Many men also find them more comfortable than the J-shaped shoulder straps that were used previously.

There’s also an increasing use of vest-style shoulder straps on many backpacks which can take some getting used to if you were born and bred on more conventional shoulder straps. The added width and pocket storage on vest-style packs makes them an attractive feature and can help distribute the load across your shoulders, especially if your pack lacks a hip belt.

Torso Length

Shorter torso lengths are also increasingly available to accommodate women, who on average, aren’t as tall as men. However, matching your exact torso length is less critical on a frameless backpack because the hip belt is not load-bearing. The fitting process is actually more similar to fitting a daypack (without a hip belt) than a regular framed backpack, although matching your torso length is still a good benchmark to aim for.

Check Out All of SectionHiker's Gear Guides!

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.


  1. i got a Nashville Pack Cutaway and its my 1-3 day go-to pack right now. Really enjoying it. I was very skeptical because it seemed soooo lightweight but it’s a joy. Two sternum straps are necessary and I got the vest style harness. Really light and east to get comfortable with.

  2. I have the Pa’lante V2. I did modify it by having daisy chains sewn onto the shoulder straps. (hear that Pa’lante? LOL)

    It’s a joy to use. I was able to use a small bear canister – before I bought an ursack. Even frameless, and without load lifters (obviously), there was no discomfort for my bony shoulders – up to 19 lbs. I’d say the max would be pretty close to that.

  3. I have 2 favorite frameless packs. 1. Zimmerbuilt Quickstep and Bigstep 2. Yama Gear Sassafras.

  4. For everything besides winter backpacking, I’ve been using the a DCF Z-Packs Nero for going on 4 years now. I added a Z-Packs water bottle holster and cinch sack to the shoulder straps and also use a fanny pack when I hike with it. This has proven a great system for me. The wide, free floating, shoulder straps carry about 25 pounds comfortably, the small size keeps me from bringing too much and I have enough exterior storage to access snacks and other commonly used items without taking it off, which I find essential to making good mileage during the day.

    There have been a few issues with my pack. First, the tiny hooks they use to attach the shoulder strap accessories to the daisy chains bent or broke within a few months of use. I just tied things on with a bit of cordage and that has worked great for years now. The mesh they were using at the time tore on my first trip and the DCF/Nylon fabric of the pack body wore thru in the abrasion prone areas. I was able to send it back to Z-Packs and they replaced my mesh and patched the worn spots on the pack body at no charge. The mesh and Ultra material they are using now seems to be more durable and I’m probably going to buy the same pack again when mine finally wears out.

  5. No GG Virga 3?

  6. It’s not starting shipping until late April, but I’m really excited about the Durston Wapta 30. Has almost all the features (and weight) I’ve been looking for, to pack for my 1-2 night summer trips.

  7. Mountain Laurel Designs is using Challenge Ultra X (100/200 combo) or Challenge Ultragrid for fabrics. I have no affiliation but I love my Burn in Ultragrid. Built right, priced right.

  8. Disappointed / disappointing that Atom packs don’t get a mention here.

  9. No Waymark packs? I have the Mile 28 which I could probably use as an overnight in a pinch. Fits my lumps and curves very comfortably, and the quality build is impressive. Thanks for your comprehensive reviews.

  10. The MysteryRanch Bridger is a pack (whether 35, 55, or 65 L) built for heavier carries that employs vest-style shoulder straps. Those who love the pack argue it is the straps that make the packs carry so well. I wonder how this is achieved with a heavier pack? Perhaps they design their straps differently than the smaller volume packs?

    • I’ve used a bridger 55 and I really didn’t like their strap system. That’s just me. I didn’t find it particularly comfortable.

      In my experience, the sweet spot for vest-style straps really is for about 35L or less because they work best with packs that don’t require a hip belt. Since the vest makes the pack ride higher up the torso, it negates the effect of a hip belt since there is no load transfer. The bridger is also a very heavy pack with a frame – not frameless at all!

      One of the reasons I wrote this article:

      is to make the point that slapping vest-style straps onto a larger backpack doesn’t provide a different carry. It just provides more accessible storage. What I see is that conventional backpack makers like MR are putting vest-style straps onto higher volume packs for that purpose but not to exploit the difference in suspension characteristics that vest-style straps can provide by positioning packs higher on the torso.

      • Thanks for the reply.

        Perhaps off-topic, but can you comment on how shoulder strap shape (J or S) can contribute to or detract from shoulder (dis)comfort?

        I have wide, sloping shoulders but a fairly flat chest. I’ve used only J-shaped shoulder straps and have had problems with shoulder discomfort. Of course, this could be due to many factors (size of pack, load carried, etc.). However, given my anatomy as described, would one work “better” for load carry than another? Or is it just more noise in the overall scheme of transferring weight to the hips?

        I ask because I’m contemplating the purchase of a pack, and have read many of your reviews (thanks!). I am thus looking at trying the REI Flash 55, but concerned that perhaps the straps are not the optimal shape for my torso. Counterintuitively, perhaps, something like the Durston Kakwa straps (S-shaped, thinner padding) might provide more comfort.

        • S-shaped straps were originally developed for women because they curved around breasts and men with wide (barrel) chests, but anyone can use them quite comfortably. They sound like they might work for you. There are other factors that could be important – width, padding thickness, flexibility, breathability, and ease of rotation. It’s like fitting a suit – everyone has different preferences. more an more manufaturers are offering S-shaped straps as standard because they work for men and women. J-straps mainly just work for men.

Leave a Reply

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

Captcha loading...