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Best Lightweight Backpacks for Hiking – Buyer’s Guide

One of the essentials for any hiker or adventurer is an ultra lightweight backpack. Lightweight backpacks not only make your life easier, they’re designed to provide ample storage space and offer optimum comfort, so you can spend more time trekking and less time massaging.

Lightweight backpacks come in various sizes and shapes, but for any individual desiring to channel their inner nomad and adventurer, ones that offer the highest capacity (in volume) while having the lightest possible empty weight are the best.

Best Lightweight Backpacks for Hiking in 2018

We’ve created a list of what we think are the best lightweight backpacks you can buy in 2018. These backpacks offer great durability, high capacity, and ultimate comfort for prolonged periods for the wearer.

Best Overall

Best Overall

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

The Ideal Lightweight Backpack

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a 60 liters backpack weighing just over 2 pounds. It’s made out of extremely during 100D Robic nylon, and has a perfect mix of comfort and performance

It’s really difficult to find a near-perfect product in any category, but the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is certainly a product that we cannot fault.

Great Value

Great Value

MountainSmith Scream 55

A Reliable Lightweight Backpack

Weighing 2 pounds and 13 ounces and having a capacity of 55 liters, the Robic fabric MountainSmith Scram 55 is a backpack design to withstand harsh environment without costing as much as the other lightweight backpacks in this article.

The MoutainSmith Scream 55 is an incredible deal for a light backpack. It’s not dirt cheap, but it cannot be because of just how reliable and durable it is.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

GossamerMariposa

The Mariposa is one of the best choices for all hikers because of its incredible volume and comfortable design. It has all the features you need form a premium hiking backpack.

It features an aluminum frame, a ton of pockets in all the right places, and a highly cushioned waist belt for ultimate comfort. The material used for the fabric is 100D Robic nylon, which performs exceptionally well in rough terrain due to its resistance to abrasions and wear.

The rated volume capacity of the Gossamer Mariposa is 60 liters, but you can always extend this a few additional liters, which is quite incredible since most backpacks don’t go beyond 55 liters in storage space.

The total weight is at 32.7 ounces which isn’t the lightest backpack on the list, but still fairly lightweight nevertheless. Given the great quality, features, and performance of the backpack, there’s very little to fault it. It’s simply a perfect product and a fantastic companion for any hiker.

Pros

  • Very comfortable design and choice of material
  • Highly versatile
  • Extremely durable
  • Incredible amount of volume
  • Has all the features you need

Cons

  • None

ZPacks Arc Blast

ZPacks

The ZPacks Arc Blast is the holy grail of ultra lightweight backpacks. Weighing at just over 1 pound, this incredibly portable and easily handled backpack is one of the most sought after adventure tools by hiking enthusiasts.

The maximum capacity of this blue beast is 55 liters which is housed in an extremely durable Dyneema fabric. There is also a great suspended frame for ventilation, making this backpack very comfortable.

This ZPacks backpack is a favorite of many hikers who put in massive miles due to its durability and light weight. The biggest downside to this otherwise near-perfect backpack is its high pricing. At $325, ZPacks makes sure you know you’re buying a premium product.

We’d also prefer it to come with waist belt pockets within its base price, but unfortunately those have to be bought separately.

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Fairly comfortable
  • Practically waterproof design
  • Great storage capacity
  • Very durable

Cons

  • This is an expensive product
  • Waist belt should come with pockets given the price point

MountainSmith Scream 55

MountainSmithScream

Lightweight backpacks generally cost quite a bit due to the material design, storage space, and durability. The MountainSmithh Scream 55 is a really good hiking backpack available at a price that doesn’t seem completely unreasonable.

As you may have guessed from the name, the Scream 55 has a capacity of 55 liters, which is a great amount of space for most hikers and trekkers out there. It weight in at 2 pounds and 13 ounces. This is slightly heavy for a “lightweight backpack” as most of them weigh around or less than 2 pounds. However, given its price and performance, it’s still a great option.

It also has two useful large external pocket that help a lot with additional organization. The balance of the pack is great as well; the EVA framesheet distributes weight quite evenly while wearing the backpack.

The vertical side pockets are also useful, but users have complained that they can be too tight for storing certain things. They do work well for bottles and other cylindrical items though.

The Mountain Smith Scream 55 is made of Robic fabric, which is durable and dependable. It is also available in both men’s and women’s models.

Pros

  • Great product for the price
  • Good, even weight distribution
  • Spacious and voluminous

Cons

  • Rear pockets are limiting
  • Slightly heavier than most lightweight backpacks

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

HyperliteWindrider

If you thought the ZPacks was expensive, you’ll be shocked to know what the Hyperlite Mountain Gear sells for. It’s important to highlight this negative before saying anything about the Hyperlite Windrider because, well, there’s very little else that is wrong with it.

This stunning container is the most expensive in our list, and it offers near unparalleled durability, reliability, and performance in the harshest of conditions.

From dedicated mountain climbers who trek the Himalayas to desert strollers of the Sahara, the Hyperlite provides incredible performance with its high-tech cuben fiber (currently known as DCF) that is both tough and lightweight. It also happens to be almost completely waterproof, making covers redundant for your backpack.

At exactly 2 pounds, the Windrider is light and high-performing. It offers great storage space at 55 liters as well. If you’re going to be trekking in the harshest conditions, you’ll need elite gear, and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider is right up there.

Pros

  • Incredibly durable
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Completely waterproof, which makes covers redundant
  • Works well in all conditions

Cons

  • Ridiculously expensive

Granite Gear Crown 2

Crown2

Sometimes all you want is a normal backpack that doesn’t look like it’ll turn into a fabric robot any second. The Granite Gear Crown 2 is a great option for those looking for an incredibly minimalistic yet highly spacious backpack.

With a fantastic 60 liters capacity at a weight of 2 pounds and 2 ounces, the Crown backpack comes with no extra bells and whistles. It provides a no nonsense roll-top main compartment that is your only access to any kind of storage. You do have some exterior pouches and simple compression straps, but that’s all you get.

For those who need less space, the Granite Gear Crown 2 even comes in a smaller 38 liter capacity. We think this is an overlooked decision, as man individuals prefer smaller ultralightweight backpacks with the same durability and design as the ones meant for larger, longer adventures.

The backpack is made of 210 denier nylon. This makes it sturdy and durable, and it combines extremely well with its great 360 degree compression system to make the footprint smaller when you don’t need much space.

Pros

  • Great for minimalists who prefer a straightforward backpack
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Durable
  • Great 360 degree compression

Cons

  • Mesh side pockets aren’t durable

Gregory Optic 58

GregoryOptic

Whereas the Granite Gear Crown 2 provides a minimalistic, streamlined product, Gregory goes in the other direction and makes the Optic 58, a lightweight backpack full of features.

This top loading backpack is a 58 liter capacity companion for hikers that is designed to give ultimate comfort to the wear and protection to the items.

It contains a moisture-wicking aerospan suspension system based on a peripheral 7001 aluminum frame. This transfers all the load to the lumbar region and to the hip belt where you are padded and protected, giving a more balanced and comfortable feel.

The experience is further enhanced with a really great ventilation system that ventilates the shoulder harness and hip belt for reduced irritation and sweating.

The weight of the backpack is around 2.5 pounds, which is slightly heavy for lightweight backpacks, but it makes sense because of how many features it has. It also comes with a rain cover, which adds great value to the product.

Pros

  • Great ventilation
  • Fantastic suspension system and padding
  • Great material and craftsmanship
  • Included rain cover is great

Cons

  • Not as light as some of its competitors
  • Harness is not adjustable

Osprey Packs Levity 60

Osprey Levity

Osprey is one of the biggest brands and commercial leader in the design and manufacturing of backpacking packs. Most of their products are really good, but the one that really stands out for its incredible lightweight design and performance is the Osprey Levity or Lumina.

The Levity is the men’s version, whereas the Lumina is the women’s version. For the sake of simplicity, we’re only going to use Levity. Please note that both have almost the exact same features.

The Osprey Levity features a brilliant capacity of 60 liters, which is great as it is. But the most striking part of the backpack is not its capacity but its incredibly light weight. It weights only 1 pound and 14 ounces, making it the second-most lightweight backpack in this article.

The suspension of the backpack is such that it feels like its on a trampoline, comfortably suspended away from the back to provide ventilation as well comfort. It can feel a bit odd for individuals more used to conventional styles, but this suspension type has its benefits.

Osprey uses HMWPE fibers for the external fabric, and very light silnylon in the interior. The latter can be a bit flimsy though, but the external fabric and overall durability of the backpack is still top notch.

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Great capacity
  • Great material and craftsmanship
  • Ventilation system is effective

Cons

  • Suspension system isn’t for everyone
  • Expensive

Buyer’s Guide

    One of the first things you’ll look at when you buy a backpack is the capacity. No one is going to want a small backpack when they’re setting in mind a trip that will require a lot of equipment.

    Hundreds of models offer a ton of different capacities, but for hiking and backpacking, we think a capacity between 55 and 60 liters is what you should be looking for. If you think you won’t need so much capacity all the time, try to get a backpack that has compression features in it to shrink its size.

    Comfort may feel like a very vague and generic term, but it’s actually determined by very specific features in a backpack. One of the most important things you’ll need to look for in any lightweight backpack is its suspension system.

    This is how you suspend the backpack on your back. Some lightweight backpacks use systems that are a little awkward at first but will distribute the load in such a way that it’ll be benefit in the long term for your back. Others feel a lot more comfortable for short periods but can take a toll on certain parts of your body.

    The other important aspect to consider for comfort is the ventilation system. You need ample ventilation on your shoulders and back to prevent excessive sweating. The backpack will also cause irritation on your back and shoulders if the areas are inadequately ventilated, causing rashes and other nuisances that you don’t want to experience while on an adventure.

    Finally, padding on the back area as well as the shoulder straps is also very important. Padding will reduce unnecessary strain on these areas under load.

    Another aspect that ensures comfort as well as grants the backpack durability is its frame. High quality backpacks include an interior frame.

    The primary purpose of this frame is to distribute the load evenly. The other purpose is to offer rigidity to the bag, making it easier to handle when it is fully loaded. A backpack’s frame load distribution is such that it will transfer the weight to certain parts of the backpack to make carrying it less cumbersome for your back.

    Durability is determined by a lot of factors, but the one that has most impact is material choice. This is also the main factor that makes ultralightweight backpacks so expensive. High quality fabric is not only tough, it is also extremely lightweight. This makes its strength to weight ratio incredibly large, but consequently makes the backpack expensive.

    Material like Robic nylon measured in the unit of denier (measures the density of fibers per unit length) are usually high quality. There are many others as well. Be sure to research the fabric material before you buy a backpack.

    Why do these lightweight backpacks cost so much?
    Several different things make lightweight backpacks cost a lot. The main is the quality of the fabric that makes it durable yet also lightweight.

    Additionally, most backpacking and hiking backpacks are designed for very long treks, so they have dedicated padding, unique suspension designs, and a lot of additional features for comfort and performance in mind that add to the cost of manufacturing.

    Are pockets and additional quick access locations necessary?
    We feel that they are, but many people are bothered by them because they prefer a minimalistic experience. It really depends on personal preference.

    Why do I need such high capacity backpacks?
    Most hiking and backpacking backpacks are designed to provide you with enough space to cram tents, food, water, gadgets, and some clothes in them. That’s a lot of stuff to cram into something as long as your spine.

    Most brands do offer smaller backpacks with less capacity with he same set of features though. However, given that this was an article dedicated to lightweight backpacks for hiking, we preferred listing ones with higher capacity.

    What’s the one major factor I should base my selection around?
    A lot of people will tell you that it’s capacity, but if you’re going on a long and/or tumultuous journey, comfort and durability should be the most important factors. There’s no point having a 60 liters backpack if it’s going to break your back or shoulders midway through the journey.

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