Ultralight Backpacking Gear Makeovers: Three Examples

Ultralight Backpacking Gear List Examples

Ultralight backpacking gear lets you hike farther, faster, and with less of a physical impact so you can enjoy yourself more. While you can spend an arm and a leg to switch to ultralight backpacking gear, the cost of doing is probably less than you realize. As an example, I’ve assembled three mini gear lists below, with gear that I recommend, that illustrate a range of different price points. While you can go still lighter weight than these, the gear below doesn’t require a loss in comfort compared the more conventional backpacks, tents, and sleep system (bag/quilt and pad) that you may already be using.

The Big Three

When it comes to gear list weight reduction for ultralight backpacking, the biggest gains come from lightening the big three: your backpack, shelter, and sleep system, including a sleeping pad and whatever insulation you prefer, i.e. a sleeping bag or quilt. You’ll be well on your way to an ultralight gear list if all you do is swap out your heavier kit for lighter weight versions of the same items. After that you can gradually replace your stove, headlamp, extra clothes, trekking etc with lighter weight alternatives for incremental savings but they’ll be much less significant that the weight you can eliminate by replacing your big three.

None of the items I’ve listed below require any new skills or a loss in comfort. For example, I’ve only listed tents that come with floors and bug netting and not floorless pyramids, flat tarps or other more extreme UL shelters like poncho tarps. If you switch from a sleeping bag to a quilt, you don’t have to worry about a sleeping pad attachment system because the tent walls will block any drafts. Finally, all of the backpacks below have internal frames and should be easy to switch to if you already use an internal frame pack.

Why isn’t hammock gear listed below? If you haven’t used hammocks before they do require a significant amount of new skill development and the learning curve can be expensive. People who hammock are also generally more interested in comfort and less obsessed with gear weight. They still care about it, but not to the degree that conventional ground sleepers do.

Inexpensive Ultralight Makeover ($) – 6.2 lbs for $665

Make / Model Weight (oz) Price
Granite Gear Crown 2 60L Backpack 37 $200
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent 26 $200
UGQ Bandit Fast Track Quilt 800 fp, 30 degrees, 72″ x 55″ 18.8 $200
MassDrop x Klymit V Ultralight Sleeping Pad 72″ 17.7 $65
Total 99.5 $665

Moderate-Priced Ultralight Makeover ($$) – 5.2 lbs for $944

Make / Model Weight (oz) Price
Gossmer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack 30.5 $225
Gossamer Gear “The One” Tent 22.4 $299
UGQ Bandit Fast Track Quilt 850 fp, 30 degrees, 72″ x 55″ 18.2 $250
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad 72″ 12 $170
Total 83.1 $944

Expensive Ultralight Makeover ($$$) – 4.0 lbs for $1319

Make / Model Weight (oz) Price
Zpacks Arc Blast 55 Backpack 21 $325
Zpacks Plexamid 14.8 $549
UGQ Bandit Quilt 950 fp, 30 degrees, 72″ x 55″ 15.63 $275
Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad 72″ 12 $170
Total 63.43 $1,319

Ultralight Backpacking Gear Costs

While can spend a huge amount of money to swap out your existing backpacking gear for lighter weight alternatives, you don’t have to. Granted, the $665 dollar (6.2 lbs) Inexpensive Ultralight Makeover above isn’t chump change, but it’s a lot more affordable than the $1319 dollar (4.0 lbs) Expensive Ultralight Makeover list. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth spending $654 dollars to reduce the weight of your gear list an additional 2.2 lbs. Just remember, a liter of water weighs 2 lbs…you could just carry one less liter of water for free.

Besides weight, there’s no huge functional difference between the items on all three of these lists. While it is fun to get the lightest weight gear, there are quickly diminishing returns for your money. There’s very little incremental value in buying the most expensive, lightest weight, backpacking gear, because the less expensive stuff listed above, will work just a well.

But everyone has different goals and resources. Just remember, the most expensive gear is gear you never use.

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Author: Philip Werner

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