Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

10 Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| 2023 Recommendation

10 Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks for 2023: Whether for hiking or a casual short trip, lightweight backpacks have revolutionized the world of outdoor enthusiasts in terms of functionality, durability, and style. Whether you are an avid thru-hiker, a weekend backpacker, or an adventure seeker, choosing the right lightweight backpack is essential for optimizing your outdoor experience. But choosing an ultralight backpack is not as easy as sounds. There are several premises glued with each other which may leave you baffled. But worry not, diving into your problem, we have come up with a fine assortment of lightweight backpacks best for hiking. Thus in this article, we present a compilation of the top 10 best lightweight hiking backpacks that have captured the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. From ultralight options to versatile designs, these backpacks have garnered high praise for their impressive features, comfort, and reliability. Let’s explore these exceptional backpacks that have redefined the way we embark on our outdoor adventures.

Lightweight Hiking Backpack 1: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest ($379)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest is an ultralight backpack priced at $379. It weighs 1 lb. 15.6 oz. and is made of Dyneema fabric in 50D and 150D variations. It comes in capacities of 40, 55, and 70 litres.

What sets this backpack apart is its impressive lightweight design, durability, high water resistance, and ability to carry a full load. The Dyneema fabric is known for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, tear resistance, and waterproof properties. As a result, the sub-2-pound Southwest 3400 is not only one of the lightest packs available but also remarkably durable, which is rare among ultralight backpacks. Additionally, it features removable aluminium stays, a foam back panel, and a wide and supportive hip belt, allowing it to comfortably carry loads of up to 40 pounds (while many packs are rated only up to 30-35 pounds).

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 is highly recommended for dedicated thru-hikers who cover long distances. However, it may be excessive for recreational backpackers. With a price tag of $379 for the white pack ($399 for the more durable black model), the 55-litre 3400 is significantly more expensive than packs like the REI Flash. Furthermore, the organization features are minimal, and the lidless design might require an adjustment for those accustomed to standard backpacking packs. Lastly, the Dyneema back panel may not provide adequate ventilation, particularly in hot climates or for individuals who tend to perspire more. Despite these considerations, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 offers an excellent combination of weight savings, durability, and carrying comfort, which is highly sought after in an ultralight pack. It’s also worth exploring other Hyperlite models such as the Windrider and Junction (which differ only in pocket materials) or the new Unbound 40. Read the in-depth review for more information.

Lightweight hiking Backpack 2: ULA Equipment Circuit ($279.99)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| ULA Equipment Circuit

The ULA Equipment Circuit is an ultralight backpack available at a price of $279.99. The Circuit 68 model weighs 2 lb. 5.3 oz. and is constructed using Robic nylon (400D) and X-Pac laminate fabric. It has a capacity of 68 litres.

If you’re planning to embark on major long trails in the United States, such as the PCT or AT, chances are you’ll come across many hikers using packs from the popular cottage brand ULA Equipment. The Circuit is one of their most versatile designs. It adheres closely to the standard ultralight formula, featuring a minimalistic main compartment with a roll top, three large dump pockets, and a hip belt pocket on each side. What sets the Circuit apart is its wide range of sizes and customizable fit options. When ordering through ULA’s website, you have the flexibility to customize the hip belt (available in six sizes from XS to XXL), torso (available in four sizes from S to XL), and shoulder strap style (J or S straps). The website also provides helpful guidelines and instructional videos on how to accurately measure yourself and determine the right size. If you’ve struggled to find a well-fitting backpack, the ULA Circuit might be a game changer for you.

The Circuit offers more than just a customizable fit. It provides impressive carrying comfort despite its minimalist design. This is achieved through features such as the aluminum stay (which can be adjusted to match the contour of your back), a perimeter hoop, and rigid foam sheet. During a trek in Chile’s Parque Patagonia, we were pleasantly surprised by how comfortably the Circuit carried a 30-pound load (although ULA’s load limit is set at 35 lb.), and we experienced no pressure points or rubbing throughout four days on the trail. While the Circuit may not match the ultra-low weight of the Dyneema Southwest mentioned earlier, its 400-denier Robic nylon and X-Pac laminate are highly durable and water-resistant. There have been numerous reports of hikers using the same ULA pack for multiple long-distance thru-hikes, which speaks volumes about its longevity (ULA’s Ultra Circuit offers even greater durability). Ultimately, the Circuit offers exceptional value at $280 and is our top choice for hikers seeking a backpack with a Goldilocks fit.

Lightweight hiking backpack 3: Osprey Exos 58 ($260)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Osprey Exos 58

The Osprey Exos 58 is an ultralight backpack priced at $260. It weighs 2 lb. 13.4 oz. and is made of nylon fabric in 100D and 400D variations. It is available in capacities of 38, 48, and 58 litres.

Osprey is known for their focus on comfort and fully-featured designs for traditional backpackers, but they have successfully ventured into the ultralight pack category with the Exos (and women’s Eja) model. Updated recently, the Exos has the appearance of a standard backpacking pack, featuring a floating lid, well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps, and ample pockets for organization. Notably, it also incorporates Osprey’s suspended mesh back panel, a feature found in many of their heavier designs, which provides exceptional ventilation compared to other ultralight packs. Additionally, the new Exos 58 includes an adjustable torso length, allowing for a more customized fit, a feature that is often absent in ultralight packs.

After using the Exos for over a year, we have been impressed with its carrying comfort, ventilation, and convenient organization. The pack captures the essential elements of a traditional design without unnecessary additions. However, the Osprey Exos may not appeal to all ultralight enthusiasts due to its relatively heavier weight of 2 pounds 13.4 ounces for the men’s medium size, and the limited options for removing features, which restricts the opportunity to reduce weight. Nevertheless, for weekend warriors, aspiring ultralight enthusiasts, or thru-hikers who prioritize ventilation and comfort, the Exos offers a well-balanced design that is hard to fault. It’s also worth considering Osprey’s new Exos Pro 55 ($290), which reduces weight by over 12 ounces through streamlined suspension and the use of thin 100- by 200-denier NanoFly material. For more details, read the in-depth review.

lightweight hiking backpack 4: Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50L ($299)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Superior Wilderness Design

The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50L is an ultralight backpack offered at a price of $299. It weighs 2 lb. 2 oz. and is constructed using Ecopak fabric in 200D and 400D variations. It comes in capacities of 40 and 50 litres.

Superior Wilderness Designs (SWD), a small cottage brand based in Michigan, specializes in made-to-order ultralight packs and accessories. Among their offerings, the Long Haul 50L is their most popular model. Similar to many packs in this category, it features an internal frame and a simplified design, including a roll-top closure, three external dump pockets, and various external attachment points (hip belt pockets can be purchased separately). Notably, SWD has given it a high load limit of 50 pounds, which surpasses similar designs like the Mariposa and Circuit mentioned earlier. The Long Haul also stands out in terms of its materials. SWD recently transitioned from X-Pac and Dyneema to Ecopak, a newly developed fabric made entirely from recycled materials. Ecopak offers enhanced abrasion resistance compared to the aforementioned fabrics while maintaining a high level of water repellency. The Long Haul incorporates 200-denier Ecopak, ensuring durability even in rugged conditions.

Although the long-term performance of Ecopak is yet to be fully determined, early indications suggest that the Long Haul is a durable and reliable ultralight workhorse. SWD’s commitment to eco-friendly practices is commendable, and their handmade-to-order approach demonstrates their dedication to crafting packs for thru-hikers, by thru-hikers. It’s important to note that due to the small-scale operation, you won’t be able to try on the Long Haul at a local store before purchasing, and there is currently a wait time of approximately 14 weeks. However, for those seeking a pack that combines durability and ultralight capabilities, the Long Haul is a solid choice.

lightweight hiking backpack 5: REI Co-op Flash 55 ($199)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| REI Co-op Flash 55

The REI Co-op Flash 55 is an ultralight backpacking pack available at an affordable price of $199. Weighing 2 lbs. 13 oz., it is constructed using nylon fabric in 100D and 210D variations. The pack has a capacity of 55 litres.

REI Co-op is renowned for offering gear with great value, and the Flash 55 pack is no exception. Designed to cater to the increasing interest in ultralight backpacking, the Flash is a well-rounded choice for those seeking an entry-level UL pack. Priced at $199, weighing 2 pounds 13 ounces, and equipped with an internal steel frame, padded mesh back panel and hip belt, and an adjustable torso length (a new feature in the updated model), the Flash is designed to handle loads of up to 30 pounds while providing excellent carrying comfort. What sets the Flash apart is its adaptability. The pack features removable components such as the lid, hip belt, compression straps, hip belt and shoulder pockets, allowing users to modify and customize the pack according to their hiking style and organizational needs. Removing all these components can reduce the pack’s weight by 7 oz.

With its high level of customization, the Flash 55 holds significant appeal in the ultralight market, especially for those who prioritize storage options. Additionally, the pack is available in four sizes—small, medium, large, and a large torso/small hip belt combination—ensuring a better fit for a wide range of users. However, there are some compromises due to its budget-friendly price point. The materials used are relatively thin, with 100-denier nylon for the body and 210-denier nylon for the bottom, and the padded back panel lacks the ventilation found in suspended mesh designs. While the Flash 55 may not appeal to ultra-strict weight-conscious hikers due to its weight approaching 3 pounds, it still provides excellent value for those who prefer a familiar brand and wish to lighten their load.

lightweight hiking backpack 6: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 40 ($195)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Ultimate Direction fastpack

The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 40 is a fastpacking ultralight backpack priced at $195. Weighing 1 lb. 9.6 oz., it is constructed using polyester fabric and is available in capacities of 20 and 40 litres.

Fastpacking, a growing trend in backcountry travel, combines long, multi-day routes with a fast-and-light approach. With good fitness and lightweight gear, trails that typically take backpackers a week or more can be completed in just a few days. Accompanying this discipline is a new style of backpack that merges the capacity of an overnight pack with the accessibility and snug fit of a running vest. Ultimate Direction, a reputable brand in the running market, offers one of our favourite designs in their Fastpack series, including the Fastpack 40 (and the women’s FastpackHer). The Fastpack series provides options for both men and women, with capacities of 20 and 40 litres for men and 20 and 30 litres for women, allowing users to choose the ideal size for their specific load.

The Fastpack 40 is a true hybrid design. It combines the simplicity of an ultralight pack with a spacious main compartment, a roll-top closure, and three stretch dump pockets on the front and sides. Additionally, it features multiple pockets on the shoulder straps, including two zip pockets, for convenient storage of on-the-go items like snacks, water flasks, and a phone. The thin polyester fabric used in the pack does raise some durability concerns, and the lack of a denier specification adds to this uncertainty. Furthermore, with only a streamlined webbing hip belt, the pack may become uncomfortable when overloaded. However, overall, the Fastpack 40 is a tried-and-tested design for moving swiftly with minimal gear. For those seeking additional support, the Arc’teryx Aerios 45 (featured below) offers a similar hybrid design, albeit with a heavier and less comfortable running experience due to its rigid frame sheet.

lightweight hiking backpack 7: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 ($285)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Gossamer Gear Mariposa

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is an ultralight backpack designed for serious thru-hikers. Weighing only 1 lb. 14.5 oz., this pack offers a lightweight and customizable design. Constructed with Robic nylon in 100D and 200D variations, it provides a capacity of 60 litres.

Gossamer Gear is a well-known name in the world of ultralight backpacking, and their Mariposa 60 is a go-to choice for various adventures, from quick overnight trips to week-long missions. Despite its sub-2-pound weight (for the medium frame and hip belt), it offers an impressive 60 litres of capacity, distributed between a spacious main compartment and seven exterior pockets. The pack is remarkably supportive, capable of handling loads of up to 35 pounds. 

It incorporates features designed by experienced thru-hikers, including a tall side pocket for tents or shelters, two water bottle and filter pockets on the right side, a stretchy rear pocket for quick access to essentials, large hip belt pockets, and a main compartment compatible with bear canisters. The Mariposa also features a removable foam back panel located on the outside of the pack, offering easy accessibility and doubling as a comfortable sit pad for breaks and camp life.

While the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a popular ultralight pack on the trail, it falls slightly short compared to the ULA Circuit in a few aspects. The fabric used in the Mariposa is noticeably thinner, which may not concern most recreational hikers but could be noticeable for those who spend extended periods on the trail. Additionally, the Mariposa offers less fit customization, with three torso and hip belt sizes available compared to the Circuit’s wider range of options. Some hikers may find that the foam back panel tends to bunch up during a day of hiking, and they might choose to replace it with another foam or inflatable pad (Gossamer Gear also offers a more rigid SitLight Camp Seat). However, for dedicated ultralight enthusiasts who prioritize organisation, the Mariposa provides a functional and streamlined backpack option.

lightweight hiking backpack 8: Gregory Focal 58 ($250)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Gregory Focal 58

The Gregory Focal 58 is an ultralight backpack that competes with the Exos in terms of design and performance. Gregory and Osprey, two established pack specialists in traditional backpacking, often offer comparable options, and the Focal is no exception. Striking a balance between a traditional backpacking pack and an ultralight haulier, the Focal (and its women’s version, the Facet) is known for its well-rounded organization, carrying comfort, and ventilation provided by a suspended mesh back panel. The Focal’s shoulder straps and hip belt seamlessly integrate into the back panel mesh, resulting in a comfortable and seamless ride without any seams causing rubbing or hotspots.

Choosing between the Focal and the Exos comes down to minor differences. If you favour one of these packs, chances are you’ll be satisfied with the other as well. However, there are a few distinctions worth noting: The Gregory Focal is about 3 ounces lighter in the men’s medium sizes and is $10 cheaper. It also features slightly larger hip belt pockets (the women’s Facet can accommodate an iPhone 11 in a case, although it’s a tight fit). On the other hand, the Osprey Exos excels in providing a good pack fit, offering 4 inches of torso adjustment compared to the Focal’s three sizes. The Exos also utilizes slightly more durable fabrics, although both packs are expected to have similar overall longevity. Ultimately, both designs are excellent choices for those who prefer a traditional pack over more divisive ultralight options.

lightweight hiking backpack 9: Zpacks Arc Zip Ultra 62L ($449)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Zpacks Arc Zip Ultra

The Zpacks Arc Zip Ultra 62L is an ultralight backpack that showcases Zpacks’ reputation for providing impressively lightweight gear, weighing just 1 lb. 8.7 oz., this pack offers a comfortable and well-appointed design. It utilizes Dyneema fabric, specifically the 3.5 oz/sqyd variation, and provides a capacity of 62 litres.

Zpacks has established itself as a leading brand in the ultralight cottage industry, offering a range of products such as packs, shelters, and sleeping bags. The Arc Zip Ultra 62L exemplifies its unique design approach by incorporating an external frame, unlike most packs that use internal frames. This external frame distributes the load and creates distance between the pack and the body. Additionally, a lycra panel supports the back, promoting airflow, isolating the pack’s contents from the body without the need for a foam back panel, and providing support for impressive loads of up to 40 pounds. The suspended back panel design is particularly advantageous when considering the breathability limitations of Dyneema fabric, making it a preferable choice over the potentially sweaty Hyperlite Southwest.

The Arc Zip Ultra 62L stands out not only for its low weight but also for its well-designed organizational system. It features a large zippered opening on the front, allowing easy access to the main compartment—a feature reminiscent of traditional backpacking packs that are significantly heavier. The pack’s overall design is top-notch, including a highly adjustable suspension system, ample external pockets, taped seams for water resistance, and more. The main drawback of the Arc Zip Ultra is its price, as it is the most expensive pack in this selection, priced at $449. Additionally, the thin 3.5 oz/sqyd Dyneema fabric used in its construction is not as durable as the 3.5- and 5-ounce materials found in the Hyperlite Southwest (there is also an option for an even thinner 2.92 oz/sqyd Dyneema). However, if you prioritize a combination of low weight, comfort, ventilation, durability, and user-friendliness, the Zpacks Arc Zip Ultra 62L is hard to beat.

lightweight hiking backpack 10: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40 ($369)

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks| Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40 is an ultralight backpack specifically designed for serious thru-hikers. With a sleek 49 litres of capacity (40 on the inside and 9 on the outside), this pack is purpose-built for tackling long trails like the PCT, AT, or CDT. While the top spot goes to the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400, it’s worth highlighting the Unbound 40 as a notable option.

Compared to the Southwest, the Unbound 40 offers enhanced on-the-go storage solutions, including larger side pockets and a Dyneema Stretch Mesh pocket on both the front and bottom of the pack. The latter pocket is particularly useful for storing trash or wet gear. In terms of weight savings, the Unbound achieves this through streamlined 5/8-inch webbing and hardware, as well as a single lightweight aluminium stay (most Hyperlite packs feature two stays). The pack also incorporates updated features like exterior seam binding, resulting in a sleeker interior and improved water resistance. Additionally, a V-pull cinch allows for separate tightening of the top and bottom of the hip belt, enabling a closer and more comfortable fit.

It’s important to note that the Unbound 40 has a capacity of 40 litres on the inside, which requires a carefully curated ultralight kit. However, for serious thru-hikers seeking a purpose-built pack with efficient storage options and weight-saving features, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 40 is worth considering.

FAQS| Best lightweight backpacks for 2023

Q. How to shop for a lightweight backpack for travel?

A. There are several factors to consider prior to shopping for a lightweight backpack for travel. Such as load-bearing capacity, length-width ratio, individual’s body stature and weight, etc. Pay generous attention to all these parameters before finalising a backpack.

Q. Where should I buy a backpack for hiking?

A. There are so many famous retailers in the market which sell adventure gear at decent prices. Such as REI, Cotopaxi, Tough Traveler, Dicks Sporting Goods, etc. You can choose any of these at your convenience.

Q. What are the best-seller backpacks for hiking recommended for 2023?

A. The list is wide for the best-seller backpacks. However, among all, you can place Osprey Exos 58, REI Co-Op 55, on top of all hiking backpacks.

**Suggested Reading:

Selecting the ideal lightweight backpack is a crucial decision for any outdoor enthusiast, and the top 10 best-selling options showcased in this guide offer a diverse range of choices to cater to various needs. These backpacks have earned their reputation through their innovative designs, durable materials, efficient organization, and comfortable carrying systems. Whether you prioritize weight savings, organization, versatility, or durability, there is a backpack on this list that will meet your specific requirements.

Remember, when choosing a lightweight backpack, it is important to consider your individual needs, the nature of your outdoor activities, and the gear you plan to carry. By investing in one of these best-selling lightweight backpacks, you can confidently embark on your adventures, knowing that you have a reliable and high-performing companion by your side. So, gear up, pack smart, and enjoy the freedom and comfort that these exceptional lightweight backpacks bring to your outdoor pursuits.

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