Play Reverse Play Icons Cross Icon Next Icon Prev Loader Navigation Icon Search Logo Shape Hamburger Pin icon Icon filter icon Group

Ultralight Hiking Gear Essentials

Ultralight Hiking Gear Essentials

Are you looking to reduce your pack weight and increase your mobility on the trail? Then ultralight backpacking gear may be just what you need. The ultralight backpacking community defines "ultralight" as a total base weight under 10 pounds.

In this article, we explore the must-have ultralight essentials for your next backpacking trip. From the best backpacks to keep you light on your feet, to the optimal clothing and footwear for your adventure, as well as what ultralight cooking, hydration and other gear essentials you need, we've got you covered. We'll also go over some of the benefits of ultralight hiking, and answer some common questions about this popular outdoor activity.

Ultralight Hiking Essentials

Hitting the trail for an ultralight hiking adventure requires careful planning and consideration of the gear you'll carry with you. While you can't always cut down the weight on water, food, and safety, the right set of essentials can significantly reduce your pack's weight, making your journey more enjoyable. In this section, we'll discuss the vital ultralight hiking equipment you'll need, with a focus on backpacks, sleeping systems, clothing and footwear.


Choosing the right backpack is an important decision for any ultralight hiker. There are two primary types of backpacks to consider: frameless and lightweight internal frame backpacks. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so understanding the differences is essential for making an informed decision.

Frameless Backpacks

Frameless backpacks are the go-to choice for many ultralight hikers due to their minimalist design and low weight. They typically have no rigid structure, which means that the support comes from your gear's careful arrangement. It's worth noting that they are designed and built for carrying loads under 15-20 pounds.

Lightweight Internal Frame Backpacks

For those who prefer a bit more support or carry slightly heavier loads, lightweight internal frame backpacks are a perfect option. These packs include a thin, flexible frame that provides additional structure and weight distribution. One of the major benefits of an internal frame backpack is that it's designed to carry your gear low and close to your body. This puts your center of gravity in its natural position and improves balance and stability while you're on the trail..

Sleeping Systems

Just like at home, an uncomfortable bed can lead to a terrible morning. A cozy, comfortable sleeping system is necessary for a good night's rest after a long day of hiking. Ultralight hikers usually choose lightweight tents, hammocks or a combination of quilts and sleeping pads. Not sure which is best for your trip? Let's take a closer look at each of these options.

Ultralight Tents

An ultralight tent needs to be lightweight, compact, and provide weather protection. Choose tents that are lightweight yet have plenty of room to spread out and stash your gear, and provides excellent weather resistance. Get a tent that protects you from the storm, all while making the outdoors feel like home.


Does sleeping on the ground keep you from enjoying an overnight camping trip? Hammocks may be your ideal sleep system. You don't need much space for your campsite, and you don't need much space in your pack. Choose ultralight hammock options made from durable materials that hold up in various weather conditions. Make sure you test out setting up a hammock before hitting the trail (we suggest a book and blanket for the ultimate test), and experience a different kind of sleep on the trail.

Quilts and Sleeping Pads

Ultralight quilts and sleeping pads are designed to keep you warm and comfortable without sacrificing weight savings. Down quilts offer excellent weight-to-warmth ratios and pair well with lightweight insulated sleeping pads, all while being packable and light in your pack. And the best part is your ultralight quilt isn't just for campsites - enjoy this versatile camping gear all year round at concerts, picnics, and even the beach.

Clothing and Footwear for Ultralight Hiking

Appropriate clothing and footwear are essential for staying comfortable and safe while hiking. We'll discuss several types of apparel and footwear that ultralight hikers typically consider, including moisture-wicking clothing, insulation layers, ultralight rain gear and lightweight footwear.


The ultralight backpacking community often adopts the "less is more" philosophy when it comes to clothing. Selecting versatile garments that can be layered, serve multiple purposes, and can be worn several days in a row helps to minimize the number of items you need to carry.

Moisture-Wicking Clothing

Moisture-wicking apparel is designed to pull sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable during physical activity. Materials like polyester, merino wool and nylon effectively wick moisture, while also remaining lightweight and quick-drying. At Stio, we carry a variety of stylish, lightweight clothing with an innovative drirelease fabric blend that efficiently wicks away moisture and dries fast. Pack les, hike more with all of our versatile lightweight base layers.

Insulation Layers

Insulation layers like mid-layer fleece jackets and down or synthetic puffy jackets are essential for retaining warmth, especially during cooler nights or mountain hikes. The ideal insulation layer is lightweight, packable and efficient in providing warmth. Stio carries fleece and insulated jackets, vests, pants, shirts and scarves. We use PeakFill, Thermore Ecodown and Polartec Alpha Active insulation to retain warmth, all while being lightweight, super packable, and mountain-tested..

Ultralight Rain Gear

Ultralight rain gear is essential to keep you dry in wet conditions. Lightweight and packable options are ideal for ultralight hikers. Look for a rain jacket that keeps the elements out, while keeping you comfortable. We like rain gear that can easily be stashed in a pocket and accessed when the weather turns stormy. Look for rain jackets and pants with full seam sealing, waterproofing and windproofing and a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish that resists moisture. Gear with GORE-TEX PACLITE technology is guaranteed to keep you dry without adding much weight to your pack.


Proper footwear supports your feet during long hikes, aids in preventing blisters and provides reliable traction on various terrains. Ultralight hikers often favor trail runners, lightweight hiking shoes or even hiking sandals, depending on their preferences and trail conditions.

Trail Runners

Trail runners are known for being lightweight, agile and comfortable. They offer excellent traction on a variety of surfaces and dry quickly if they get wet. Some also offer weather proofing elements, meaning a little stream crossing won't end your hiking plans.

Lightweight Hiking Shoes

Lightweight hiking shoes provide the perfect balance between the support of traditional hiking boots and the agility of trail runners. These shoes are great if you're on a less worn trail, or a trail with some serious elevation gains.

Hiking Sandals

When you want to be one with the trail hiking sandals are a breathable, more minimal alternative to hiking shoes. Hiking sandals are best suited for well-maintained trails and warm, dry conditions.

Ultralight Cooking and Hydration

Just because you're cutting down on pack weight doesn't mean you should sacrifice a good trail meal. Ultralight cooking and hydration are essential aspects of outdoor adventures, as they provide the nourishment needed to tackle those long miles on the trail. In this section, we'll cover various gear options, tips for efficient meal preparation and how to stay properly hydrated.


Choosing ultralight cookware is critical for reducing the weight carried while hiking or backpacking. Consider options such as titanium, aluminum and silicone cookware, which are lighter and more durable than traditional stainless steel. For example, the TOAKS Titanium pot and MSR Titan Kettle are popular options among ultralight backpackers.

Lightweight Stoves

Lightweight and compact stoves can notably reduce the weight of your cooking system. Some popular options include the MSR PocketRocket, Jetboil Flash and SOTO WindMaster. These stoves offer excellent performance in variable conditions, ensuring consistent cooking experiences in the great outdoors.

Minimalist Cooksets

Minimalist cooksets help simplify your outdoor kitchen and increase portability. Often consisting of a single pot, a stove and a spork, these sets allow for basic meal preparation without compromising on performance. Look for kits like the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Soloist or the Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium.

Sporks and Multi-tools

Sporks and multi-tools are space-saving alternatives to conventional cooking and eating utensils. They combine the functions of a fork, spoon and knife, and frequently include other components such as a bottle opener, can opener or scissors. The Light My Fire Titanium Spork and the Leatherman Squirt PS4 are both excellent examples of versatile and lightweight eating tools.


Proper hydration is essential while on the trail, regardless of your hiking style. Consider collapsible water bottles, hydration bladders and soft flasks for convenient and lightweight options. Make sure that no matter which hydration system you choose, it is easily accessible to you as you're hiking. Brands like Platypus, HydraPak and Osprey offer various sizes and designs to suit your specific needs.

Water Filters and Purification

Ensuring safe and clean drinking water is crucial in the great outdoors. Ultralight water purification options include compact filters like the Sawyer Mini, chemical treatments like Aquatabs and UV sterilizers like the SteriPEN. Choose a purification method that best suits your individual needs and preferences, and always have a reliable backup method.

Soft Water Bottles

Soft water bottles are a lightweight alternative to traditional hard-sided bottles. They can compress or roll up when empty, saving space in your backpack. Brands such as Vapur and HydraPak offer durable and flexible soft bottles that are perfect for ultralight adventures.

Hydration Bladders

Hydration bladders are another lightweight and convenient hydration solution. These reservoirs can be easily stowed in your backpack, allowing hands-free access to water via a tube and bite valve. Osprey, CamelBak and Platypus all produce reliable and durable hydration systems.

Other Ultralight Gear and Accessories

Aside from cooking and hydration, there are plenty of additional gear options that can help reduce the overall weight of your backpack. Here, we discuss some ultralight navigation tools, trekking poles, safety essentials and other accessories.

Navigation Tools

Staying on track while navigating the wilderness is vital to a successful outdoor adventure. Lightweight navigation tools like digital maps, apps, GPS devices, mini compasses and physical maps can help you confidently explore the outdoors without adding unnecessary weight to your pack.

Digital Maps and Apps

Smartphones and dedicated GPS devices have revolutionized the way we navigate, offering detailed maps and trail information in a lightweight package. Apps like Gaia GPS, AllTrails and ViewRanger are excellent resources for your outdoor journeys, providing trail data and additional tools to help you stay on course. Just make sure you have a backup battery or solar charger, if you're relying on apps and electronics while on the trail.

Mini Compasses

Even with modern technology, a reliable compass is still a crucial part of any outdoor adventure. Mini compasses, such as the Brunton Classic and the Silva Micro, are small and lightweight options perfect for ultralight backpackers. Always carry a backup navigation method alongside electronic devices to ensure safety and preparedness in any situation.

Physical Maps

No matter how useful digital maps have become, you should never rely solely on technology that can fail. Always bring a physical map with you in the event that your phone dies or you lose signal. They shouldn't add much weight, but make sure you use a portable paper map to minimize your load.

First Aid and Safety

An ultralight backpacking gear setup also includes lightweight first aid and safety essentials. Carry compact first aid kits, bear spray, emergency blankets, mini whistles and trekking poles to help you stay prepared and ready for emergencies on the trail.

Ultralight First Aid Kits

Companies like Adventure Medical Kits and Surviveware offer compact and lightweight first aid kits specifically designed for ultralight backpackers. These kits typically contain essentials like bandages, adhesive tape, gauze, tweezers and pain relievers, ensuring you have what you need for minor injuries and ailments.

Emergency Blankets

Emergency blankets, also known as space blankets, are lightweight and compact solutions for retaining body heat in emergency situations. Carry one in your pack, as it could make a significant difference in your survival in case of an unexpected event. Brands like SOL and Go Time Gear offer high-quality options.

Mini Whistles

Carrying a mini whistle is a small but essential safety measure. In the case of an emergency, a loud whistle can help alert nearby hikers, signal for assistance and even deter wildlife. Fox 40, Sea to Summit and Ultimate Survival Technologies offer lightweight and durable whistles.

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are an essential item to add to your ultralight backpacking gear list. Trekking poles not only help reduce the weight a backpacker carries, but they also provide stability and reduce fatigue on long hikes. Their adjustable height feature also makes them versatile and allows them to be used in a variety of terrains, including steep or uneven ground. Lightweight poles made of materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum provide the needed support without adding too much weight.

Benefits of Ultralight Hiking Gear

Opting for an ultralight backpacking gear setup offers several advantages, such as improved comfort and mobility, increased efficiency and speed and an enhanced outdoor experience. Checkout Stio's lightweight gear today, and be ready to hit the trail in comfortable, performance ready base layers, mid layers, jackets, and so much more.

Improved Comfort and Mobility

By reducing the weight carried on your back, ultralight backpacking gear significantly increases your comfort and maneuverability. This allows you to hike longer distances with less strain on your body and enjoy the journey with greater ease.

Increased Efficiency and Speed

When you carry less weight, you typically expend less energy on the trail. Ultralight backpacking gear allows for more efficient movement and faster hiking paces, which can help you cover more ground without feeling overly fatigued.

Enhanced Outdoor Experience

Ultralight backpacking offers an opportunity to connect more deeply with nature, as it often involves relying on your skills and knowledge rather than an excessive amount of gear. Embracing a minimalist attitude can result in a more rewarding and transformative outdoor experience.

Build Your Ultralight Backpacking Gear List With Stio

Let Stio help you build your ultralight backpacking gear list! We offer top-quality, lightweight gear and apparel designed to last. We take pride in using durable materials and innovative waterproof and windproof technology to ensure that our gear is both functional and comfortable.

If you visit our retail locations, our knowledgeable staff can also help you choose the right gear for your specific needs. We're here to make sure your backpacking experience is both enjoyable and memorable. Whether you're heading out for a weekend or a multi-day backpacking trip, Stio has the supplies you need to start your adventure.

Checking off your ultralight backpacking gear list for your next hike? Browse our selection of outdoor apparel and gear to get started.

Ultralight Backpacking FAQs

Ultralight hiking has gained popularity in recent years for its minimalist approach to exploring the outdoors. You might have some questions about the gear involved, as it can be very different from traditional backpacking equipment. These ultralight backpacking FAQs will answer your most common inquiries.

What Makes Hiking Gear Ultralight?

The term "ultralight" refers to a simplified, lighter-weight approach to backpacking. Ultralight gear is designed to be as light as possible without compromising functionality or safety. Examples include tents, backpacks and sleeping bags made from lightweight materials that still provide durability and protection from the elements.

What are the Benefits of Ultralight Hiking Gear?

There are several benefits to using ultralight backpacking gear, including:

  • Reduced pack weight: Carrying a lighter load reduces strain on your body.
  • Faster travel: Lighter gear enables you to cover more distance with less effort.
  • Improved comfort: Reduced pack weight can lead to less fatigue and more enjoyable hikes.
  • Environmental impact: Ultralight backpacking gear and a minimalist mindset encourage responsible use of resources.

It is important to remember that ultralight hiking may not be suitable for everyone or every situation. It requires experience, planning, and the willingness to adapt to unexpected situations.

How Can I Choose the Right Ultralight Gear for My Needs?

When making an ultralight backpacking gear list, it's essential to balance weight, durability, comfort and cost. Here are some tips:

  • Research materials: Familiarize yourself with lightweight materials such as Dyneema, cuben fiber and silnylon.
  • Read reviews: Investigate what other hikers and experts have to say about specific products.
  • Consider your hiking style: Reflect on the type of terrain, climate and duration of your hikes when choosing gear.
  • Test gear: If possible, borrow or rent gear to test it in real-life conditions. You can also attend gear expos or workshops for additional information and hands-on experience.

Remember that investing in high-quality ultralight gear may be more expensive upfront but can save you money over time by preventing the need for frequent replacements.

What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid When Using Ultralight Gear?

Avoid these common errors when using ultralight backpacking gear:

  • Underestimating weather conditions: Ultralight gear may not provide the same protection as traditional gear, so always be prepared for harsh weather.
  • Sacrificing necessary items: While the goal of ultralight hiking is to minimize your load, don't forgo essential items such as suitable clothing, emergency supplies and necessary gear.
  • Choosing gear solely based on weight: The lightest gear may not always be the best choice. Remember to consider durability, functionality and your specific needs.
  • Failing to maintain gear: Ultralight backpacking gear requires care and maintenance to ensure a long lifespan. Follow manufacturers' recommendations for cleaning, storing and repairing your gear.

Give yourself time to practice and experiment with different gear combinations to find the best system for you.

What Expert Opinions Can Help Guide My Ultralight Gear Choices?

Many experts advocate for ultralight hiking through blogs, websites, YouTube channels and published works. Some influential figures within the ultralight backpacking community include Andrew Skurka, Ray Jardine, Jennifer Pharr Davis and Glen Van Peski. They offer valuable insights, product recommendations and firsthand experiences which can prove beneficial when selecting the right ultralight gear for your needs.

What Are Some Popular Variations of Ultralight Gear?

Here are some popular variations of ultralight gear to consider:

  • Tents vs. tarps: Ultralight tents provide bug and weather protection, while tarps are lighter but require additional setup and offer less coverage.
  • Quilts vs. sleeping bags: Ultralight quilts are more adaptable to temperature changes but offer less insulation, while sleeping bags can provide more warmth but may be heavier.
  • Frameless vs. framed backpacks: Frameless backpacks are often lighter but may have lower weight capacities, while framed packs can carry more but may weigh more.

Ultimately, personal preferences and individual needs will determine the best gear options for each hiker.

What Resources Can Help Me Learn More About Ultralight Hiking Gear?

There are numerous resources available to learn more about ultralight backpacking gear:

  • Books: "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips" by Mike Clelland and "Beyond Backpacking" by Ray Jardine.
  • Online ultralight backpacking community: Backpacking Light and r/Ultralight on Reddit offer countless community tips, strategies, reviews and ideas for gear lists. You can even ask fellow ultralight backpackers questions on the Backpacking Light forum or Ultralight Subreddit.
  • Workshops and expos: Attend workshops or backpacking expos to gain knowledge and try out new gear options.
  • Local hiking clubs: These groups can provide tips, information on local trails and opportunities to try gear from fellow members.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and learn from others with experience in the ultralight community. Continuous education is key for a successful and enjoyable ultralight hiking experience.

Arrow Left