Top 5 Lightweight Backpacks For Thru-Hiking And Multi-Day Hikes

lightweight backpacks

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! :)

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Circuit

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Circuit

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.

Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60

Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60

Weight: 2 lbs, 2 oz
Capacity: 3,660 c.i.
Price: $199.95 Buy from Campsaver.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.

Golite Jam

Golite Jam

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.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus

Weight: 1 lbs, 6 oz
Capacity: 3,600 c.i.
Price: $170 Buy from GossamerGear.com

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus 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 (can be replaced with spare socks to save a few ounces) and aluminum suspension stay.

This is the lightest pack on the list. The urethane-coated ripstop may not be as tough as Dyneema Gridstop, but it’s still plenty durable as long as you don’t abuse it.

Osprey Atmos 50

Osprey Atmos 50

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.

Have a question about¬†lightweight backpacks or a recommendation based on your own experiences? Please post your comments below…

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68 Responses to “Top 5 Lightweight Backpacks For Thru-Hiking And Multi-Day Hikes”

  1. Hard to quibble with your pack choices, although I would have chosen the Osprey EXOS 46 over the Atmos 50. It holds about the same amount of gear, but is itself over a pound lighter. I love the lightweight mesh that gives a bit of air space between the pack and your back.

  2. Erik,
    I’ve been using Joe Valesko’s ZPacks for years and have been made a believer. I used the cuban Blast for 4 years before it wore out and now I’m trying then ne exo-pack this season. It looks very well made and comes in at under 13 oz. for 50L.

  3. @ruffwork: Thanks for the suggestion. I met Joe and his wife on the PCT and have been wanting to try out his packs and tents for a while now, but haven’t had the chance yet. One thing I wondered about was the durability of the cuben fiber fabric. Glad to hear it held up for you.

    Here is the link to his website:
    Zpacks.com

  4. Mountain Laurel Designs has several ultralight back packs, used a lot on the AT- mine worked well.
    The lightest packs- less than 1 lb are Zpacks made from Cuben. I just bought a hybrid silnylon/cuben that seems very durable and still less than 1 lb.
    For loads over 25 lb Six Moon Designs is best by test and experience.

  5. Erik,

    Thanks so much for your site! I’m a big fan with plans to complete a long trail in the near future. While gearing up for AT I came across Hyperlite Mountain Gear and the Windrider pack. HMG is a fairly new company but they’ve got years of experience behind them and it shows in the Windrider. Here are some specs:

    weight: 1.6 lbs.
    volume: 2,400 cu. in. body + 250 cu. in. exterior pocket
    materials: H2O-proof cuben fiber/ripstop hybrid

    best of all though is that these award winning packs are made in Maine. HMG even offered to customize the pack for me because of an old back injury I have (which lead me to going ultralight!). I’d highly suggest checking it out.

    happy trails,

    dave

  6. Interesting choices. There are many and each tend to be personal. I am currently looking at the Mariposa, the ULA OHM 2.0, and the SMD Starlite. I am leaning towards the Mariposa with added hip pockets – cheaper, bigger with better outside pockets.

  7. Three of the packs on this list are also available in female-specific versions:

    Granite Gear V.C. 60 Ki

    Golite Jam Women’s

    Osprey Aura 50

    These are designed to fit a woman’s torso better, with shorter back pads, narrower shoulder straps, wider hip-belts with more padding, etc.

  8. Hey Erik,
    One other thing I might mention about the ULA packs. I have kind of narrow shoulders from side to side. I was having a hard time getting the ULA packs to fit because the inside of my arms rubbed against the shoulder straps. When I tried to use the sternum straps to pull the shoulder straps in, the shoulder straps twisted. ULA has now come out with S shaped shoulder straps in addition to their regular straps. These were originally made for women but I got a Circuit with these S straps and it has solved my problem beautifully. I am now a happy camper.
    Regards,
    Bill

  9. Six Moons Starlite – its only 4200 ci but check the main body size. its way bigger than all the others that claim its size and weighs in a little less. I’d rather have stuff in the pack than clipped to the outside. but, as always, hyoh.

  10. hi eric. yeah im looking at the six moon designs starlite too. only weighs 1.5 lbs. im tiny so need to be super conscious about weight. Thoughts, comments, opinions?

  11. Great list of packs. There are so many choices!

    I’ve been using the Osprey Exos 46 since it came out. I really like the combination of features you get (39 oz for size L), especially the trampoline suspension which allows airflow across your back.

    I’ll be trying the Osprey Hornet 46 at (25 oz for size M/L) when it comes out in a dedicated large size this year. The previous M/L combined size was too small for most.

    BTW, I have several pieces of ZPack’s gear including the Hexamid Solo tent (8.8 oz) which is just fantastic!

  12. No disagreements here. However, I do wonder why you chose the GoLite Jam over the GoLite Pinnacle. The weight of the Pinnacle is noticeably greater (by about 6 oz), but its volume is too (by about 1200 ci). What say you?

    • @RodentWhisperer: If the Jam isn’t big enough Pinnacle is a good alternative. But my philosophy is that moving to a larger pack to accommodate more gear is a step in the wrong direction. I would rather eliminate gear and replace it with smaller, lighter alternatives that fit in the smaller pack.

  13. Ah, that makes sense. I’ve heard other say that the number one task when you are looking to go UL is to size down your pack– it makes it impossible to carry too much, eh?

  14. My current pack is the Mariposa Plus, gotta love all those mesh pockets! My previous two packs had them too. An original G4, and my $19 14oz homemade pack.
    Did I mention I love mesh pockets?

  15. + 1 on the Circuit! I got mine while they were still doing colors (http://joannareichertphotography.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/new-backpack/ if you don’t mind links) before Christmas, and I think I found my pack soul mate. No joke, I tried on nearly 2 dozen packs, bought one that fit okay, and then finally bit the bullet and got the Circuit . . . . wow I love this thing.

  16. Hey Erik!

    Thanks for all of the great info on your site! Wondering if i might get an opinion.

    I’m fairly new to backpacking. The longest trip i’ve done is 26 miles over 5 days. I will be doing the 100 mile wilderness (10 miles/day over 10 days) at the end of june, & want to get my pack weight down.

    I am 5’0″ and 103 lbs. I’m pretty sure my pack was close to 35lbs for the 5 day trip. I’m looking into lighter weight packs and other gear to get my base weight down. I’ve been looking at the catalyst and others you’ve mentioned. One concern i had about the catalyst was that there is only 1 side compression strap. Any words of wisdom or suggestions?

    Thanks!
    Trish

    • @Trish: I would recommend trying to get your base pack weight (all gear minus food and water) down below 15 pounds (preferably closer to 12). If you pack 1.5 pounds of food per day on your trip and carry an average of 1 liter of water that means you will start out carrying around 35 pounds and end up carrying around 15 pounds at the end of 10 days.

      The ULA Catalyst is a great pack and it has a ton of room, so you should not have a problem fitting 10 days of food in there (as long as you pack lightweight, high calorie, low volume foods). Don’t worry about the lack of compression straps, most lightweight packs are like that. The trick is to pack them in a way so that your gear takes up all of the space inside and presses stiffly against the walls. Here are some tips for packing a lightweight backpack.

      I have heard the mosquitoes can be bad in Maine, so you’ll want a fully enclosed shelter. My next shelter will probably be a Lightheart Gear Solo. I haven’t had an opportunity to try it out yet, but it looks like a really ingenious design, with lots of mosquito netting and weighs well under 2 lbs. Tarptent and Six Moon Designs also have some nice lightweight shelters.

      For a sleeping bag try to keep it around 2 pounds. Marmot, Western Mountaineering, Montbell, REI all have high quality down bags in the 20 degree range that weigh around 2 pounds. I would recommend storing it in a lightweight roll-top dry sack so that it doesn’t get wet under any circumstances.

      Keep your sleeping pad under 1 pound. If you want comfort you can get a full-length inflatable like a Neo Air or Synmat UL for a pound. If you want to go lighter you can go with a 3/4 length pad or foam. Gossamer Gear makes some nice ultralight foam pads.

      These are the major items. If you can get your Pack, Sleeping Bag + Pad and Shelter under 7 pounds total you don’t have to worry too much about the rest of your gear. It tends to take care of itself.

      Good luck and have a great hike!

  17. Wow! Thanks so much for the info Erik! This really gives me a solid direction to work towards. I’ve been eyeballing the tarptents but the lightheart gear looks really good too.

    One more question. Do you have any experience with quilts? I’ve been looking at them as an affordable alternative to shaving off some weight. But i definitely don’t want to worry about being cold.

    Thanks again Erik.

    • @Trish: Quilts are good if you are a sound sleeper and can lie flat on your back all night long and not roll around too much. If you thrash and turn while you sleep (like I do) quilts are not so good because you will always be opening up gaps for cold air to sneak in. A mummy bag is better in that case.

  18. Ya…i’m a bit of a thrasher myself. :) Sounds like a mummy would be my best bet.

    Thanks so much Erik!

  19. Hi, Erik.

    Am a customer of your JMT Atlas and a fan of your blog. Appreciate you!

    As a longtime magazine and newspaper editor and editorial director, am compelled to point out that you misuse “it’s.” ;>) “It’s” is the contraction for “it is.” “Its,” without the apostrophe, is the possessive. Counterintuitive (many pro writers make the same mistake), but grammatically correct.

    I’d be happy to mentor you on grammar, as you’re mentoring me so brilliantly on the state of the art of lightweight backpacking.

    Will through-hike the JMT in September and celebrate my 70th birthday on Mt. Whitney on 1 October. Thanks for your guidance. The Atlas is brilliant.

    Steve

  20. @Steve: Thanks for the grammar tip. Believe it or not I have a copy of Strunk and White in the bookshelf right by my desk. The problem is I never look at it. I was embarrassed to find the rule you mentioned is on the very first page! Ouch :P Thanks for buying a JMT Atlas and best of luck on your thru-hike this fall.

  21. Erik:
    I really like what you are doing here, it’s a good service and informational webpage for those interested in lightweight/ultralight. I’ve been hiking/backpacking since my scouting days – 50 + years…the lightweight/ultralight experience is par excellence compared to ‘back in the day’ and I appreciate you being an evangelist of the method.
    I would like to suggest the ULD CDT model. It is $135 and weighs in at approx. 20 oz. with a capacity of 3200 cu. in. As long as you keep the full load weight to 24 lbs. it carries “like it’s not even there.” A great pack with a lot of versatility..and of course can be modified to lighten its 20 oz weight also! Happy trails, see you out there. :-)

    • @Jack: Amen to that! The ULA CDT is the pack I carry myself (actually mine is a several year old ULA Conduit, which was the predecessor to the CDT) But, as soon as my Conduit finally gives up the ghost, I will be replacing it with a CDT. The reason I did not include it on this list is I feel that although it is an excellent pack for ultralight backpackers like you and me, it’s still a bit on the small side for lightweight backpackers whose base weight is still up around 12 pounds or more. But once you break the 10 pound barrier the CDT is perfect. Thanks for bringing it up.

  22. Hey Erik,
    How do you think the Jam, Crown and Circuit compare for folks carrying 25-30 lbs of bulkier gear ? (Synth bag, small tent, fleece insulation, 70 denier PU coated raingear).

    Also, do any of them fit slim teenagers better than the others ?

    Thanks,
    John

    • @JohnG10: I’ve never used a Golite Jam before (and they are getting hard to find anymore) but I have used the ULA Circuit and Granite Gear Vapor Trail (predecessor to the Crown) extensively and both do well with loads up to 35 pounds. The two packs are very similar in size and functionality. You really can’t go wrong with either. The only big difference now that Granite Gear has added a front pocket is the lack of hipbelt pockets on the Crown.

  23. Nice list, Erik! Be advised that ULA (Ultralight Adventure) is no longer in the loving hands of Brian Frankle. The new owner is not nearly as involved in customer satisfaction, at least that’s been my experience.

  24. Have been researching light backpacks to make a new purchase. One backpack not mentioned here that I am considering is the 1.4 lbs Equinox Katahdin. I have a 19 1/2 inch torso (I’m 5-9 1/2) and this pack seems to be the right length 19-21.
    2nd choice –The Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60
    Am really intersted in the Exo Zpack mentioned here but am on the trail this month so not sure enough time to get it and it is for sure the most expensive .. and Go Lites are out of stock.

    Any thoughts?

    • @Shelly: Since I’m mostly a western hiker I have never actually seen one of the Equinox packs in person. I know they are popular back east with Appalachian Trail hikers. From looking at pictures it looks like a decent pack and I’m sure it will work fine. However there are a couple reasons why I would not choose it myself:

      1) It does not have a large external mesh front pocket. This is such an important feature because it provides a place to stuff small and oddly shaped items that you need to get to without having to dig into the pack (ex: first aid kit, toilet paper, maps or guidebook, ground sheet, etc.)

      2) I am not a fan of silnylon packs. It’s strong enough, but it is slippery and not as abrasion resistant and other materials (like Dyneema Gridstop). Also it does not hold it’s shape very well when stuffed with gear. In my experience silnylon packs are kind of “floppy” unless you are really meticulous about stuffing them. You have to fills out the entire area equally and make sure there are no weird shaped items inside (another reason you need the external mesh pocket)

      So personally I would go with the Granite Gear (or a ULA).

  25. Oops. Already ordered it. Will see how it works out and provide an update.

  26. Eric,

    Thanks for a solid list of ultralight packs. I have never attempted a long distance hike, but I plan on thru hiking the AT in 2013. I have been doing my research and I am probably going to go with an Osprey Exos 58. I’m going to try to pack as light as possible, but I like the option of a suspended pack in case I do end up packing upwards of 35lbs. My question to you is, how much weight can an average male carry “comfortably” on a thru hike? I am 6′ 165 lbs, and I intended on testing this out for myself once I purchase my pack, but in your experience, what would you consider the max weight to be at whilst still being able to enjoy the hike? Thanks.

    • @Mark: I’m 6′ 210 pounds. For me 35 pounds is about the threshold for comfort. Once the pack gets above that weight it starts to feel like a burden. It’s ok for short stints, but no fun over the long haul. I usually try to keep my total pack weight in the 20-30 pound range. At that weight it feels nice and light and I can do 15-30 miles a day without too much fatique. Good luck with your hike.

  27. Mark, I’ve been there, man! I know you don’t think you can cram everything you want to take with you into anything smaller than an Osprey Exos 58 pack, but that’s because you haven’t walked long miles with a 35-lb pack yet. You don’t want to do this. Believe me! Do more research. Take a couple of hikes with a 35-lb pack. Get your base weight down to the 13-15 pound range before you even THINK about buying a pack. Then buy a smaller one, for God’s sake. Something that weighs at or under two pounds. Otherwise, you are going to spend most of your hike thinking murderous thoughts about the weight of your pack. You can thank me when you get back. :-)

  28. Hi Erik,

    Just wanted to send you a big thanks for your input, and all of the great info on this site! I completed the 100 Mile Wilderness in 10 days on July 2nd. Thanks to much of the info here, my pack weighed in at 29lbs plus some ozs at the start! The big 3 I went with were:
    - ULA Circuit Backpack,
    - Lightheart Gear Duo Tent,
    - Z-Packs 20 degree short sleeping bag

    I followed your packing guide which worked perfectly – very comfortable load.

    We had TONS of rain for the first few days and flooded trail conditions..and thus, i got some bad blisters on the bottom of my feet by day 6 – gave your blister draining trick a try- it definitely expedited the healing. Also got chafing (never expected that) due to friction caused by wet shorts- used your alcohol trick which definitely dried it out!

    On my bucket list to get out west to hike – will definitely grab your guides!

    Thanks again Erik!! :)

  29. i have been in the woods most of my life. Hunting camping and fishing but have recently become really interested in backpacking. i recently bought a coleman elate 65l just as a starter backpack. anyway to get to the point i have been checking different sites for a couple days about backpacking and how to pack. But i havent been able to find out anything about how to or where to pack small stuff. Like fire starter, multitool, binocoluars, notebook, pen and flashlight. I was just wondering your thoughts on how to pack this gear.

  30. Hey Erik,

    Just thought I’d add my 2 cents. I found a great lightweight backpack after lengthy research: the Mammut Creon Light 45. It was very hard to find info/reviews on this pack, but it seemed to have everything I was looking for so I took a gamble and ordered one without even seeing it in person.

    After a few months and well over 100mi with varying pack weights, I can say with confidence that i LOVE this pack. Full internal frame, 45L capacity, suspended mesh back panel, weighs 1090g (2.4lbs), $180 msrp. It has some nice features which are all very well though out. My only complaint is that the shoulder strap padding is a little too thin for me, but my 2nd pair of socks works great to add some fluff there.

    I am very surprised this pack hasn’t gotten more publicity and just wanted to let people know it is out there. Its a great compromise for a lightweight pack with a full frame

    -Erik the Green

    PS it’s nice to see another Erik who spells his name correctly haha:)

  31. Erik,

    i’m in the process of buying new gear in an attempt to decrease weight/bulk on the trail. so far i’ve replaced my sleeping bag (bought a golite adrenaline 3 season – any suggestions for a compression sack) and tent (cooper spur ul1 – couldn’t make myself go the shelter route). i haven’t changed my ground pad (older thermarest prolite 3) because it’s still in good shape and isn’t too bulky or heavy. i’m struggling on deciding what type of pack to get. i’ve looked a bit into the granite gear blaze but also the ula circuit. i’m not planning any long term hikes in the near future (unfortunately the job prevents that), so i’m more of a weekend warrior. i’d like a light back that has some support but that can also hold gear well without having to strap items all over the outside. any recommendations?

    robert

    ps: love the blog

    • @Robert: For storing my sleeping bag I use 13 Liter Sea to Summit Dry Sack. It’s not a compression sack but it’s waterproof and you can stuff your sleeping bag down pretty small just by stuffing in your back, squeezing the air out and then rolling the top. Weighs almost nothing (I think an ounce or two). I have used both Granite Gear packs and ULA packs and they are both excellent. Whichever you choose I don’t think you will be disappointed. These days I carry ULA personally. I like that they are a small operation, their packs are made in the USA and they have all of the features I need (like big mesh pockets outside). The ULA Circuit is a good medium-sized pack. If you need a bit more room the ULA Catalyst is bigger, a bit heavier but sturdy as hell and I think it is still their most popular model.

  32. Hey Eric,

    I just got my “Eric the Black, Pocket Atlas, for the Colorado Trail”, (great guide, thank you) which I’m hoping to do in 2013 and I’m psyched.

    I just ordered the Osprey Exox 58 (turning 55 and I wanted to start off with a pack that will give me some extra support), otherwise I’m planning to go as light as possible within my budget and comfort level.

    A few questions:

    -You have in your gearlist the Thermarest Prolite Sml, but in the store they are touting the Thermarest Air xlite. The small is 8oz, 3 oz, less then the prolite. thoughts?

    -Do you recommend for GPS the Garmen Oregon (for a couple extra oz) or Dakota 20?

    -How much water should I calculate per hour/miles? I understand there are some stretches of the CT with over 20 miles with no water and wonder if I would need more then one, 2.4 L Platpus backup? (I can find a 2 or 3 L option online).

    Thanks for all you help and support, Jordan

    • @Jordan: I used Thermarest Prolites for year and they are great pads, but they are kind of thin. If you tend to sleep on your sides or stomach (as I do) you may want to go with the Neo Air instead, because it provides more thickness. My hips always dug through the Prolite into the hard ground underneath. I recently switched to an Exped Synmat UL 7 which is a blow up pad similar to the Thermarest Neo Air (but a little less crinkly). It’s very comfy. I have only used mine for a couple hundred miles so far, but I dig it.

      I believe the Dakota is just like a mini version of the Oregon. They are both good GPSs from what I’ve heard (I’m still using my old Garmin Colorado which refuses to die). The Dakota is a little smaller and lighter weight, which is nice, but it doesn’t come pre-loaded with topo maps like the Oregon does. I believe the maps are about $80 so that kind of kills the price difference between the two. I think if I had to make a choice, personally I would go with the Oregon 450T because it comes preloaded with topo maps, holds more waypoints and tracks and has a few more features.

  33. Hi Eric,
    First off, thank you for all the great help here!

    I’m looking at my shelter and I note above you are talking about getting the Lightheart Gear Solo as your next one. I was looking at the Zpacks Hexamid Solo, only because it was on your list. I am way out of the loop in backpacking, it has been about 30 years or so and so I’m really steering off your experience. Do you still think the Lightheart Gear Solo would be the way to go at this point?

    Thanks much, Jordan

    • @Jordan: My reason for preferring the Lightheart Gear over the Zpacks is because it is made out of silnylon instead of cuben fiber material. I am very hard on my gear and I expect it to last several seasons. Cuben fiber is the lighter choice, and I have heard reports from many hikers that it has held up well on long hikes. But, I still do not trust it (and I don’t trust myself to baby it well enough to keep it in good condition). So I’m willing to carry a little extra weight to go with silnylon, which I know from experience is highly waterproof and will hold up to several years of abuse before it explodes. I haven’t ordered it yet, but I do still plan on getting the Lightheart Gear for next year’s hiking season.

  34. I have just used a Zpack Cuben hybrid with polyester pack for 9 weeks on the GR5 with no wear except from a mouse eating the webbing. It was water resistant but not waterproof. It is stiff and thick enough not to need support, but still is very light..
    It is the the best pack I have ever owned

  35. Hey Erik, thanks all you helpful information. It has really helped my transition into going lightweight. So I have gotten my base weight to about 10 pounds, not including small things I have not been able to weigh, toilet paper, sanitizer, toothbrush, phone, camera, wallet, insect repellent, chargers, and my luxury item, crocs. I am getting ready to invest in my first ultralight pack. Ive been trying to decide between the ULA CDT and the Circuit. I feel like I am almost light enough to get the CDT, but I do not fully understand using my sleeping pad to help form the pack structure. For the beginning of my thru hike I am planning on using an inflatable pad. How exactly do you use an inflatable to do this? And would using an inflatable pad be putting extra stress on an already fragile item? Once it warms up I will switch back to my thermarest zlite pad.
    thanks

    • @Harrison: The main deciding factor between the Circuit and CDT will be the bulk of your gear. Both are great packs, but the CDT is quite small. So you really need to have compact stuff to be able to squeeze it all in. The Circuit, on the other hand, is quite roomy. I use an inflatable sleeping pad with my CDT. Here is how I use it: I fold the sleeping pad into thirds (or fourths or fifths if using a full-length pad), then stick it in the little straps that hold it inside the pack, leaving the air valve open and at the top of the pack. Then I pack all of my gear in around it. The last step is to give the sleeping pad a couple of puffs (which will cause it to stiffen up) and then close the valve. Using this method you can make an inflatable pad even stiffer than a foam pad, and it provides great back support. Just remember not to set your pack down on any cactus or sharp stuff that could poke through and pop your sleeping pad ;)

  36. My 11 year old son has to go on a school hiking trip – they need to have a 75L backpack – what would you recommend (other than not going ;-) - he weighs 35KG and is 5’2″

    • Marissa: I would normally never recommend a 75 liter backpack, especially for someone as small as your son. But I’m guessing the school will be providing all of the heavy gear and you just need to provide a pack big enough to carry it all? If that’s the case I would go with an Osprey backpack. They are heavy duty, comfortable and relatively lightweight compared to other large packs.

      The Osprey Aether 70 weighs 4 lbs, 8 oz and comes in torso sizes from S – XL.

      Here is some info from Osprey’s website on proper sizing and fitting:
      http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/web/sizing_and_fitting

  37. Thanks for the awesome pack run down and the excellent discussion in the comments. I am curious why you did not include the Ohm (or currently Ohm 2., that is) in your rundown. Do you have reasons for jumping straight from the Curcuit to the CDT with a drop in base weight? Just curious as I am seriously considering the Ohm 2.0 and see it as a nice option that offers slightly more structure, but still comes in as ver light at 29 ounces with all the trimmings. Cheers!

    • @Chris: I have never used the OHM personally, but it looks like a good transition pack between the Circuit and the CDT. The CDT has plenty of room for all of my gear and it’s quite a bit lighter, so that’s why it is my pack of choice these days.

  38. Erik,

    I’m not sure if it’s been mentioned but I run the Jansport katahdin 50L. Clocks in at 2 lb 1 oz. With a few trims and pull out the sleeping bag compartment divider you can get it to come in under 2 lbs. I never see many people talk about Jansport but their lifetime warranty is a great deal.

    Jansport Katahdin 50L Backpack

  39. Looking for a pack recommendation for my wife. I carry the ULA CDT and love it. Her total base weight is certainly under 10 pounds (we share some redundant gear and I carry out tarp tent shelter) and her gear is all very compact. She wants something with as much padding on the straps as my CDT and likes the hip belt pockets and mesh pocket. Was considering a Jam 35 but is that far too small? Any other recommendations?

    • @Joe: I have not seen the Golite Jam 35 in person yet. But if you are carrying the shelter and her base weight is under 10 pounds I think it would be big enough. According to the specs on Golite’s website the Jam 35 has 2,135 ci of room. By comparison the CDT has 1,750 ci of room in the main pack body (with the rest being made up in the exterior pockets and extension collar). So if you can fit all of her gear inside the main body of your CDT I think it will work. I’m not sure how cushy the straps are.

  40. I am surprised not to see the Gossamer Gear Gorilla on here!!

  41. The jam straps aren’t very cushy. They are mostly soft and flexible enough to conform to your hips really well so there are no pressure points. They are also floppy enough that the pack sags and bounces if you load it up too heavy.
    The granite gear packs have very cushy straps and they make a women’s version that is well designed. (Not sure if their newest super light packs still have the very cushy straps, but I know the blaze ac does).

  42. I’ve been backpacking on and off for a while, but I’m in the process of transitioning to smaller and lighter gear. This is still a work in progress, but I’ve gotten a 2 pound down sleeping bag and ditched my heavy tent for a 14 oz. hammock and tarp. And I’m now using a soda can stove and platypus bags for water, to give a few examples. I’m probably never going to get to extreme ultralight, but if I could get my total pack weight down to 15-20 pounds for a couple nights in the woods, I’d be happy. Anyway, I’m curious what size backpack I should be looking at. My old pack is probably 5 pounds or more, and I’d like to get that into the 2 lb range. Size suggestions for a new pack would be much appreciated.

    • @Greg: A 2 lb pack like the ULA, Golite or Granite Gear will probably be plenty enough room for your gear and give you some flexibility in case you want to carry more and do some 5+ day trips. You may be able to squeeze everything into a smaller pack like a ULA CDT (21 oz) as well, but that requires more careful attention to be paid to packing only small, compact stuff.

  43. Thanks for your tips on packing a backpack. Very helpful. Do you plan out your meals so you end your hike with no extra food? I always seem to have extra food (which ends up being dead weight) at the end of my trip.

    • @John the White: If I know the route well and am reasonably certain that I’ll be able to hit my next resupply point on time, then I don’t pack any extra food. If I get near the end and there is anything extra bouncing around the food bag I just eat it. If I’m hiking somewhere that is not as familiar and I’m not sure what kind of pace I’ll be able to keep, then I do like to pack some extra food just in case it takes longer than expected.

  44. Eric, I love your blog! Four great packs for consideration here are the Osprey Talon 33, the Osprey Talon 44, the Osprey Exos 48 and the Osprey Exos 38. They are lightweight, durable (the Talon packs are more durable than the Exos packs, but the Exos packs should hold up well if reasonable care is taken with them)), and they are loaded with many great features. Keep up the good work, Eric!

  45. Barbara Matthews Reply March 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I am looking to switch to a lighter pack. I frequently travel in areas that require a bear can. Since I can see many of these options without ordering them, do you happen to have any suggestions about which of them would accommodate a bear can? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • @Barbara Matthews: Any pack that has a long top strap can carry a bear canister strapped sideways on top. I like to carry mine this way because it is more comfortable than trying to stick the bear canister inside the pack, where it doesn’t fit well and pokes you hard in the back. The BearVault canisters work especially well when carried this way because they have grooves around the center where the strap can sink in and prevent it from sliding off. Of the packs in this list most of the ULA Packs have a top strap that should work, my old Granite Gear Vapor Trail (the precursor to the VC 60) had one so that would probably work as well. The Golite and Gossamer Gear also have a top strap. I’m not sure if the Golite Strap is long enough to go all the way around a bear canister, but it might be. The Gossamer Gears I used to have several years ago had a really long strap, so if they still do they should work. The Ospreys do not have a top strap, so the canister would have to go inside.

  46. Barbara Matthews Reply April 2, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for the info Erik! The photo is particularly helpful to see how that would fit.

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