3-Day Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
Dear fellow backpacker,
I’m on the sunset side of 60, but even when I was in my teens and twenties I had fun reducing the weight of my pack.
When I was young, strong, and full of energy I still couldn’t understand carrying a heavy pack. Backpacking is infinitely more enjoyable when you’re carrying a light load and getting closer to nature. Hiking should be closer to walking than hauling.
So, for over 50 years I’ve been working on ways to lighten my pack — without sacrificing comfort.
I get lots of catalog requests that say things like "I have knee problems and need to get my pack down to 35 pounds." Ouch!! Why not get under 20 pounds so you can float along and really have fun!
Much of a heavy pack comes from the overkill of carrying winter items. If your biggest weather threat is a summer shower, backpacking should be simple. For starters, most people use a sleeping bag that makes them sweat in summer. It’s easier to use one of the Western Mountaineering bags — then if you go on a trip that’s going to be a little cooler, just add a silk liner. It’s just 4.7 ounces, and the liner keeps you another 9 ½ degrees warmer.
Once you commit to a light pack, you can save a lot of weight on the pack itself. Many packs weigh 7 pounds or more. And the manufacturers have the nerve to say how "comfortable" they are. Your knees and ankles know the total weight you’re carrying.
Notice how these products are as comfortable to use as heavier ones, and in most cases more convenient because they’re small and simple.
People have asked me for a specific list of how I can get my pack weight down to 15 pounds, and less. Here it is -- including clothing and food. You can modify it with a tent instead of a bivy sack and so on. Put the pencil to it. It works!
Add up your heaviest items, the pack, sleeping bag, bivy, pad, rain gear, stove, and fuel and you’re still under 4 pounds — the weight of many packs alone! Choose a full size pack and a tent instead of a bivy, and you’re still under 6 pounds. Then see how light your total can be, including food and water.
Your 3-day pack can be only 7 lbs. 7.3 oz. plus 27.5 oz. for food for a total of 9 lbs. 2.8 oz.. No smoke. No mirrors. These are the real weights of each item and the real total. You can switch to a full tent and still be less than 11 pounds. Add water and you're still less than 13 pounds.
Here's a convenient Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet so you can compare gear. Special thanks to Chuck Lowe for providing the spreadsheet.
3-Day Lightweight Backpacking Gear List
Six Moon Designs Feather (2,650-2,771 cubic inches)
Six Moon Designs Swift (3,400-3,520 cubic inches)
Six Moon Designs Starlite (4,200 cubic inches)
Katahdin pack (3,350 cubic inches)
Granite Gear Virga (3,200 cubic inches)
Granite Gear Crown V.C. 60 (3,660 cubic inches)
ULA AirX (4600 cubic inches)
Montbell #3 UL Spiral Down Hugger
Lightweight Equinox tarp (using 6 titanium stakes)
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (Pole +1.8oz. & stakes)
11.0 - 14.0 oz
Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape/Shelter w/ stakes and pole
16.0 - 19.0 oz
Six Moon Designs Wild Oasis w/ stakes and pole
24.5 - 42.0 oz
Contrail, Squall2, Double Rainbow, or Rainshadow2 Tarptent
Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo (Pole +1.8oz & stakes)
Klymit X-Lite 41"
Klymit X Frame 72"
Peak Elite Air Mattress 72"
Rainshield Rain Wear (large)
mont-bell versalite (medium)
White Box Stove w/ base and windscreen
Snowpeak titanium - Very quick and convenient
White Box Stove: 2/3 oz. boils 2 cups 6 oz. and 1 oz. container
Mess kit, cup
I take the spoon only, shortened for weight & to fit in cook kit
Gerber ultralight knife - Super strong for its size
* 32 oz./1 liter soda or water bottle
Using about 1/4 of the towel on the web site
Use this mirror for grooming & as an emergency signal device
First aid kit
Add your items to our first aid kit & place in a lighter ziplock bag
The weight is for 2 Pulsar II's, so you even have a backup
2 book matches & a few water/windproof in 2x3" ziplock bag
This emergency blanket is very light for the peace of mind it offers
This whistle weighs about 1/2 regular plastic size & 1/6 metal size
Ultrathon with DEET in 1/4 oz. container
Campsuds in 1/4 oz. container
Sawyer Stay-Put SPF 30 Sunblock in 1/4 oz. container
Your favorite with SPF protection
Water purif. tablets
50 Potable Aqua tablets in the 1-dram bottle
100% biodegradable toilet paper comes in rolls of 140 sheets and is only 1 oz. per roll. But don't try to go too light on this one!
25 feet of very lightweight nylon cord for general use
Large re-sealable bag (10 1/2x12") found in all supermarkets
Silk shirt - Warms when cool, wicks moisture when hot
Wigwam Mid Hiker™ (large size)
Lightweight nylon running shorts pack small, dry fast
Use lightweight bikini brief style or silk boxers
Trim if desired - Don't cut legends, side trails, etc...
Small pencil & paper for emergency messages and notes
Choose from our selection of Sunbelt Polarized Sunglasses; ziplock bag is lightest protection
Pick one with small brush area, cut handle in half
Small sample, half empty. Or use powder or baking soda
Smaller than average, and cut in half
Take just the one you need; tie small bright cord to it; drill and file much of the weight out
Cash & ID*
I always carry some cash, 1 credit card, and drivers license
Rubber bands, safety pins, tape, needle & thread
The clothing items above are your extras. Of course, you can reduce overall carrying weight by wearing lightweight clothes to begin with, too.
Food* for 3 days
The following weights are achieved by removing packaging from the MountainHouse freeze dry products and placing them in sandwich-size ziplock bags.
4.1 oz. x3 = 12.3 oz
Mountain House granola with blueberries & milk
2 envelopes = 4.7 oz
* Lipton dry soup mix, rated at 6 total servings
3.5 oz. x3 = 10.5 oz
Mountain House entrees. (Add 6 oz. for double servings)
Total food weight = 27.5 oz.
The Timberline filter is very fast and light
32 oz. Bota. Remove the weight of your other water bottle
Katadyn Hiker (Formerly Pur) Water Filter
Polypropylene gloves are warm, light & compact
Hat, cap, or visor
Several brands make very light models
Arrid makes a cream that can go in a small, plastic container
Put some in a 2x3" zip seal bag
Cut about 1/3 from the ones you find in the supermarket
Wind & waterproof matches & stove should be enough....
mont-bell Ex Light Down Inner Jacket
mont-bell's Ultralight Trekking Umbrella
Mosquito Head Net
This Mosquito Head Net is great protection if bugs are thick
I take the tiny folding kind
Not optional, but their weight adds to the total
Some folks like to take some light reading
Total weight before food and water: 7 lbs. 7.3 oz. ; with food 9 lbs. 2.8 oz.
There you have it. A checklist of where you can make the most weight savings to lighten up and have more fun. Happy camping!
This chart is figured for solo camping. When hiking as a pair, you can make some other small weight savings.
Here’s a sample of the gear I’d be wearing:
Wigwam Mid Hiker™ (Same as list above)
1 lb. 15 oz
New Balance 801 Trail running
RailRiders, Roll-up tabs convert it quickly to short-sleeve
RailRiders, Adventure Khakis
Bikini brief style or silk boxers
* These are the only items not found on our website