If you are sick and tired of carrying a ridiculously heavy backpack, then it might be time to try something new. Ultralight backpacks are thin and lightweight bags that are made from strong and durable materials. They usually weigh only a few ounces, so they are great for people who really want to minimize the load they carry on the trails.
At A Glance: Best Ultralight Backpacks
However, these kinds of backpacks make a lot of compromises – after all, you can’t have a 3-ounce backpack and expect it to have superb padding in the waist belt and backpanel. That’s why we went through dozens of different ultralight packs, so that we could show you only the absolute best options that exist. Here are the ten best ultralight bags money can buy!
Highest Quality Backpack
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Best For Multi-Day Adventures
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Most Lightweight Backpack
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Best Medium Backpack
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Best Organizational Features
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The Ultralight Stuff Pack from Osprey is easily one of the best lightweight and packable daypacks to get. It is made from ripstop Nylon, which is a very tough and durable material. Most of Osprey’s regular packs are made from the same fabric, so it’s fair to expect excellent durability out of this lightweight bag.
Nylon has great tear and abrasion resistance, and even really good water repellency without any additional coating. But this isn’t a seam-sealed backpack and it still is really thin, so don’t expect it to keep all of your stuff dry in heavy downpours.
Another thing I love about the Osprey backpack is that it features the Airmesh harness that is often found on the brand’s much more expensive bags. The shoulder straps are entirely made from that mesh, so they offer excellent breathability.
The backpanel is just nylon though, but that’s fine because there is no additional padding – butting breathable mesh instead of the nylon on the backpanel would just severely damage the overall durability of the bag.
This backpack has a spacious main compartment and three external pockets total. Two of those are roomy side pockets made from stretch-mesh, while the top pocket is actually zippered and has some slip pockets and a key clip inside.
All in all, considering the level of quality, durability, and comfort you can expect with this backpack, I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of the best ultralight bags you can get for just a little more than $30.
The Osprey Levity is an ultralight large capacity bag for backpacking. And you don’t see many bags like this – most packs with a capacity of 60 liters and more weigh at least 4-5 lbs. The Levity weighs a mere 2 lbs, which is absolutely astounding. That’s less than a traditional 25-liter backpack!
The pack has an internal frame with thick padding in the backpanel and shoulder straps, so it’s actually going to be very comfortable to wear. The main compromise it makes is the material of the body of the bag – it is made from Nano Fly fabric, which combines polyethylene ripstop and Cordura nylon. Nano Fly is exceptionally abrasion resistant, but at the same time very thin and lightweight.
The only downside of the Nano Fly is that it’s not a very structured fabric. The backpack doesn’t retain its shape when it is empty, so the body does get wrinkled when not in use. But even this has an upside – it makes the bag easier to store, since it takes up a lot less space.
The Levity has a big capacity, with lots of internal and external pockets. The stretchy side pockets are big enough to fit even the largest water bottles, and you also get a dedicated hydration bladder compartment.
On top of that, the bag features lash point on the top pocket, as well as daisy chain webbing on the front panel, so you can also attach some bulkier gear to the exterior of the backpack.
The Levity doesn’t feature proper compression straps, but it does have a thin compression cord. It works just as well as the compression straps, but at only a fraction of their weight.
The Sea to Summit backpack weighs only 2.5 ounces, which makes it the absolute lightest backpack out there. It packs down to the size of a tennis ball, so it barely takes up any space in your luggage. And it still has a capacity of 20 liters, so you should have enough room for day hikes.
The pack is made from cordura nylon with PU coating, meaning that it has really good water resistance. This bag also features reinforced shoulder straps, which reduce bunching and just improves their overall durability.
It comes with an aluminum carabiner, so you can easily attach the folded backpack to a different bag or just your belt. The stuff sack is made from the same durable fabric as the body of the pack, so it has pretty much the same water and tear resistance.
There is only one main compartment in this backpack, and that’s pretty much it in terms of storage space. It has one small internal pocket and some daisy chain webbing for attaching items to the outside of the bag. But that’s it – you don’t get any external pockets on this backpack, which is a shame.
Another downside of this bag is the lack of breathable mesh on the shoulder straps. While the reinforced stitching does make them very comfortable over longer periods of time, the lack of breathable mesh is a big hit for its overall ventilation properties. But that’s only going to be a problem when it is really warm outside.
It is also worth noting that this backpack doesn’t have a sternum strap or a hip belt, so it’s not going to be very comfortable if you’re carrying lots of heavy items in it.
The Modase hiking backpack is a really good medium sized option. It has a total capacity of 40 liters, which is really good for an ultralight pack. The bag weighs a little over 1 lb, and that’s actually really good considering all the different features it is equipped with.
This backpack has a hip belt with pockets, a sternum strap, and a compression strap on the front panel. Those are great inclusion on a backpack this size – a hip belt really helps make the backpack more comfortable to wear when it is at full capacity, and the compression strap helps with load distribution when it is only half full.
Additionally, the Modase hiking pack has a bungee cord at the front panel, which is great for storing bulkier items that won’t fit inside the main compartment. There’s also a top compartment with a zippered pocket, as well as an internal hydration bladder sleeve. The top pocket features an opening for the bladder hose, so you can have easy hydration access on your hikes.
This pack is made from tough water-resistant nylon that offers excellent performance at minimal weight. The material also has great tear and abrasion resistance, so this is overall a very durable backpack.
Also, the shoulder straps are covered with breathable mesh for excellent ventilation in warm weather. They even have thin padding, so they’re actually more comfortable than the shoulder straps of the average ultralight backpack.
In general, if you want a bag that is very lightweight but can hold a lot of gear and keep you comfortable at the same time, the Modase hiking backpack is a really good option. Especially considering the affordable price of only some $20!
The Outlander backpack is a really good option for people who want great organizational features. It has two roomy compartments and three external pockets, which is more than you get on any other backpack with a capacity of 20 liters. There’s also a zippered pocket inside the bag, for items you want to keep a bit more secure.
The bag features padded shoulder straps that are covered with breathable mesh for excellent ventilation, and which feature reinforced stitching at the bottom. The side pockets are very spacious, and they can actually fit more than just water bottles. Also, there are bungee cords near the side pockets, which will secure those water bottles in place regardless of their size.
One downside of this pack is that it doesn’t have any external attachment points, so you won’t have any room for the very bulky items that don’t fit inside the main compartment.
The Outlander backpack is made from water resistant nylon with reinforced stitching. It is a very durable bag that can handle a lot of daily wear and tear, especially with the heavy-duty SBS zippers.
One thing worth noting is that the backpack is available in three different sizes and two designs. I’ve focused on the features of the 20-liter bag here, but you should know that the 25-liter bag boasts an entirely waterproof exterior with sealed seams.
However, that size of the backpack features fewer compartments, so ultimately offers worse organizational features.
The Amazon Basics backpack is a great option if you just want a budget bag – it retails for under $20, but it performs like a much pricier bag. For one, the pack has excellent water resistance and will do a phenomenal job at protecting the gear inside from light and medium rains.
It’s not going to perform as well in heavy rain, mostly due to the fact that zippers don’t have any waterproof coating. But that’s pretty much expected from the bag, considering that it is made from rip-resistant nylon.
The material has really good water resistance without any additional waterproof coating, in addition to being tear and abrasion-resistant.
There are two backpack sizes to choose from – one that’s 25 liters and a larger, 35-liter option. That’s pretty good because lightweight backpacks tend to be a lot smaller and it’s nice that Amazon gives options for people who need that extra capacity, but still want a very lightweight bag.
However, keep in mind that there’s really no difference in the design of the bags, apart from their respective sizes. the 35-liter backpack will not feel comfortable to wear when at full capacity, due to the lack of a hip belt, a sternum strap, and padding in the backpanel.
The lightweight backpack features breathable mesh on the shoulder straps for great ventilation. The stretchy side pockets are made from the same mesh, and they’re spacious enough to hold large water bottles.
As for the capacity of the bag, it has a spacious main compartment, a zippered pocket on the front panel, and two stretchy pockets on the sides. There’s also a pocket inside the main compartment, and that’s actually the pocket that the bag folds into.
The Granite Gear Crown is another great option when it comes to durable and lightweight large capacity bags. It has a total capacity of 60 liters, and yet it weighs only about 2 lbs – pretty impressive for a backpack this size.
But the thing that’s even more impressive is the backpanel. It features lots of thick padding with spaced-out foam ridges for excellent airflow, and lots of padding in the hip belt and shoulder straps.
Also, it’s worth noting that some components of the backpack are removable, so you can reduce its weight even more. The hip belt alone weighs about 6.6 oz, while the top lid and the internal frame each come in at 2.8 oz. If you take all of those away, you get a backpack that weighs about 1.7 lbs, which is pretty amazing.
However, I wouldn’t recommend removing the components if you plan to fill the bag to capacity, simply because it is not going to be very comfortable to wear without them.
This backpacking bag features four pairs of compression straps that allow you to cinch in the pack when it is not full to the brim. This is great for managing load distribution since a tightly packed bag feels much more comfortable to wear.
On top of that, the backpack has several different external attachment points, for all those bulky items that might not fit inside its main compartment.
There are lots of different pockets, both internal and external ones. In fact, the Granite Gear Crown bag even has hip belt pockets, which is a very convenient feature if you’re going to wear it for prolonged periods of time.
Overall, it’s definitely one of the best and lightest large-capacity backpacks you can get at the moment.
The G4 pack is a good option if you want something lightweight and packable, but with a pretty big capacity. The backpack weighs only 12.7 ounces, which is really good for a bag that has a capacity of 40 liters. And that is without all the external attachment points, which allow you to secure some bulkier items to the outside of the pack.
The main compartment of this bag is massive and it can fit a lot of stuff. There are also two zippered and two stretchy external pockets, for the items you want to keep more easily accessible.
Additionally, this backpack actually has a waterproof top cap that covers the main compartment. It is secured in place with compression straps that you can tighten for better load distribution when the bag is not at full capacity – another useful feature for such a big capacity bag.
There is some padding in the shoulder straps, but it is very thin. They are covered with breathable mesh, so at least you know that the ventilation of the backpack is very good. However, it is not going to be very comfortable at full capacity.
With no padding in the back system and no hip belt, this won’t be the most comfortable bag to carry. The sternum strap does help somewhat with the load distribution, but such a big capacity can hurt your back even if it’s a bag with lots of comfy padding.
So, keep that in mind while you’re packing – I would suggest using this bag for lighter items like down insulated sleeping bags and jackets, and using something sturdier for the really heavy stuff.
The Roamm Cram backpack is one of the lightest daypacks you can buy. It weighs a mere 3.5 ounces, which is absolutely amazing considering it has a total capacity of 20 liters. Plus, the bag is made from nylon, which has excellent tear and abrasion resistance.
This lightweight pack has shoulder straps that are entirely made from breathable mesh for great ventilation. It is possible to adjust the width of the straps, so you can make them fit your body really well. The bag doesn’t feature any padding in the backpanel or the shoulder straps, and it also lacks a hip belt and a sternum strap.
However, I don’t think that’s a big downside since it’s meant to be a packable bag with a rather small capacity – such backpacks aren’t really designed for heavy items, so it’s unlikely you will be uncomfortable when wearing this bag.
One thing you should pay attention to is how you arrange the stuff inside the main compartment. There’s no padding so the stuff inside might poke you in the back, so just keep that in mind when you are packing the backpack.
Also, it is worth noting that the Cram backpack doesn’t really have any structure and its shape heavily depends on what’s actually inside the bag.
The only downside of the bag is the lack of pockets. There’s a single zippered pocket inside, a stretchy external pocket and that’s about it – the majority of the bag’s capacity is just its main compartment.
This means that the organizational features are seriously lacking – if you are fine with that, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if you prefer to have multiple pockets so you can organize the smaller items, then definitely check out some other bags first.
The Zomake backpack is one of the most popular average-sized bags you can get your hands on.
It appears to be the bag that the majority of people gravitate to, and it’s easy to see why – with a capacity of 20 liters and a retail price of only about $15, it’s definitely the best value for money you can find.
Also, this backpack is available in a wide variety of fun and interesting colors, so you can easily get something that suits your personal style. Plus, all of the colors are made from the same water and tear-resistant nylon, so you are getting the same level of quality and durability regardless of the color you pick.
Another thing worth noting about this bag is that the bottom and stress points are reinforced. This improves the overall tear resistance of the bag, ensuring that it performs great even with heavy use.
But, it’s important to note that this is definitely not the best or the lightest backpack you can get. It weighs almost 9 ounces, so it is actually heavier than most of the other bags that have a similar capacity. That’s nearly double the weight of Amazon’s bag, which happens to have a much bigger capacity than this one.
This lightweight backpack features shoulder straps that are made from breathable mesh, for excellent ventilation. It has one spacious main compartment with a small zippered pocket inside, two stretchy side pockets, and one external zippered pocket. And more thing – the Zomake ultralight backpack has zipper pullers that are glove compatible, which sets it apart from other similar backpacks.
Overall, if you want a packable and lightweight backpack that is very affordable and simple, this is a great option for you. But if you want an excellent bag that is better than almost all the other options that exist, I think you can do a lot better than this backpack.
What kind of ultralight backpack are you looking to get? Do you want a tiny packable daypack you can carry in your pocket, or an extremely lightweight version of a sturdy multi-day bag? Those are the two main types of backpacks we’re focusing on in this review – if you just wanted a very lightweight version of a traditional outdoor backpack, I recommend you check out one of my other posts.
The ultralight multi-day packs are never going to be as lightweight as the packable daypacks, but they are without a doubt the better option if you intend to pack a lot of gear inside the bag. The bags featured in this review are all incredibly lightweight for their size, but they still feature a very comfortable backpanel, ergonomic shoulder straps, and more than enough padding to keep you comfortable.
On the other hand, the small daypacks are better for people who need a spare bag for hikes or camping trips. Something you can keep in your pocket and use instead of the main 50-liter backpack you brought for the weekend trip. Ultralight backpacks are also amazing for overseas flights since you can bring a whole extra bag without it actually taking up space in your luggage.
They can also work for some really short hikes when you don’t need a lot of gear and you don’t want to be weighed down by a 3lb bag. But I would not recommend an ultralight backpack as your main hiking bag, mostly because they are very thin, they lack padding and they are just not as durable as traditional outdoor backpacks.
With ultralight backpacks the focus is normally on weight and packability. It’s all about how tiny the pack is when folded, and how little space it takes up. But that shouldn’t be the most important factor, and you should pay a lot more attention to the materials and tear resistance of the bags.
The thing is, most of these ultralight packs are also ultra-thin, in order to make them as compact and as lightweight as possible. Which more often than not results in bags that are not very durable and that get torn the first time they get caught on a rock.
That’s why you should look for materials that are reinforced and have excellent tear and abrasion resistance. Ripstop nylon is probably the best option here, followed by cordura nylon and reinforced polyester. With some of the cheaper backpacks, you won’t get the premium materials, but that’s okay as long as you know what to expect – if you’re paying $15 for a backpack, don’t expect it to perform as well as a $150 one.
Most of the ultralight packs you can get your hands own aren’t exactly packed with different features. They tend to have the main compartment, the one pocket they pack into, and a couple of stretchy side pockets if you’re lucky. Also, the really good ones will have breathable mesh on the shoulder straps, and I would always recommend you pick up one of those if they aren’t out of your price range.
You’re always going to sweat when you are hiking, and anything that can make your time on the trail better and more comfortable is worth it. Breathable mesh significantly improves the ventilation of any given backpack, as it pretty much guarantees that your t-shirt will dry off much faster.
Another thing to keep in mind here is that most of these backpacks don’t have any padding in the backpanel. That would prevent them from folding into their own pockets, which kind of defeats the whole point of ultralight backpacks.
This alone significantly impacts how comfortable you are going to be with any of these packs – if you plan to pack heavy items inside it, or something that’s probably going to poke you in the back, you might want to consider getting something else.
Not sure which of this ultralight packs to get? It’s okay – go with one of our top three picks depending on what exactly you want from a backpack, and you are all set!
If you are prioritizing weight over everything else, then you should go with the lightest backpack out of the bunch. That is the Sea to Summit backpack, which weighs only 2.5 ounces. That’s an amazing weight considering that the backpack has a capacity of 20 liters.
However, this bag does make some compromises – it is made from very tough fabrics with great water resistance, but it has just one compartment and a single internal pocket.
Those of you that are looking for a medium-sized backpack should be happy with the Modase Hiking Backpack. It has some amazing features like padding in the shoulder straps, hip belt pockets, and multiple compartment and external pockets. Also, the backpack has a bungee cord on the front panel for stashing bulky items and it is compatible with hydration bladders. It weighs about 1lb, which is a pretty good weight for such a large bag.
If you need a large capacity backpack that is suitable for multi-day adventures, go with the Osprey Levity. It’s easily the best option in that category; this 60-liter backpack weighs a mere 2 lbs, the majority of that weight is distributed over its back system. The bag has an internal frame, as well as thick padding in the backpanel and shoulder straps – the rest of it is feather-light. There are lots of internal and external pockets on the Levity, and it also features cord compression for better load distribution at higher capacities.
Head over to Amazon to see the prices and color options of all of the backpacks featured in this review. And if you’d like to see even more options, be sure to check out our related posts!