Here are five lightweight backpacks that are ideal for long-distance backpacking and thru-hiking. They have been around for years and received many positive reviews and industry awards. I’ve used most of these packs myself and see a ton of them on the trails.
Lightweight backpacks are designed for base-weights of 10-15 lbs and can carry up to 35 pounds, which is ideal for 5-7 day stretches between resupply stops. If one of these lightweight backpacks can’t carry all your gear, then you’re packing too much stuff!
Weight: 2 lbs, 4 oz
Capacity: 4, 200 c.i.
Price: $225 Buy from ULA-Equipment.com
The ULA Circuit (along with it’s siblings the ULA Catalyst, ULA OHM and ULA CDT) is one of the most popular lightweight backpacks for thru-hikers and long-distance backpackers. If you hike any of the major long trails in the U.S. you are bound to see the tell-tale green checkered pattern of ULA packs everywhere.
And for good reason. ULA packs provide everything a long distance backpacker needs (capacity, comfort, lots of exterior storage pockets and materials that are both light weight and durable. ULA offers several models for different weight classes and styles of hiking. But, I think the Circuit is the best middle-of-the-road choice.
Weight: 2 lbs, 2 oz
Capacity: 3, 660 c.i.
Price: $199.95 Buy from REI.com
The Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 is the successor to the Granite Gear Vapor Trail, winner of Backpacker Magazine’s Editors Choice and a perrenial favorite among thru-hikers. I carried a Vapor Trail on my 2, 650 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007.
The new Crown V.C. 60 is a few ounces lighter and includes a stretch front pocket, which was notably missing from the Vapor Trail. As with their other models, a specially designed “Ki” version is available for female hikers. Granite Gear makes some of the most comfortable lightweight backpacks on the market. The only thing still absent is hip-belt pockets.
Weight: 1 lbs, 14 oz
Capacity: 3, 050 c.i.
Price: $109 Buy from Golite.com
The Golite Jam is a classic lightweight backpack that has gone through several incarnations over the years. It started as a simple rucksack and got slightly heavier in recent versions, but it is still respectable at under 2 pounds.
Some unique features of this pack are it’s zippered front pocket and it’s low price. This is one of the most affordable lightweight backpacks on the market. The Jam is a bit smaller than it’s contemporaries so it works best with compact lightweight gear.
Weight: 1 lbs, 13 oz
Capacity: 3, 500 c.i.
Price: 245.00 Buy from GossamerGear.com
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa features a traditional lightweight pack design. A large nylon pack body with roomy extension collar and generous exterior mesh storage pockets.
This pack has some unique features, including a removable foam back-pad/sit-pad, removable hip and shoulder belt padding and aluminum suspension stay.
Weight: 3 lbs, 2 oz
Capacity: 3, 100 c.i.
Price: $199 Buy from Amazon.com
The Osprey Atmos 50 is a popular choice for backpackers who are transitioning to lightweight gear, but haven’t completely taken he plunge yet. It’s heavy duty materials and comfortable suspension system make it a good crossover pack.
Though it is capable of carrying loads in the 35-50 pound range the Atmos is not a particularly large pack, so you may find that bulky gear items (such as sleeping pads and tents) need to be strapped to the outside.
The Osprey is also one of the few lightweight packs available in many “brick and mortar” gear shops.
There are many other lightweight backpacks, but you can’t go wrong with one of these five.