The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear to Help Lighten your Load

The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear

Prior to this summer, I was using a 70-liter pack on all of my backpacking trips and found that it was waaaaay to easy to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. I’d end up on a quick overnighter and somehow be carrying 40 pounds. Not only does that not feel awesome on your back, but it really ends up slowing you down.

So this year, I decided it was time to shed some weight.  I started by downsizing to a 50-liter pack. That way I’d be forced to fit everything I need for a weekend trip in there and nothing more. Then over time, I’ve slowly swapped out some of my heavier items for newer lightweight backpacking gear. And now for the first time ever, throwing on my pack is no longer a struggle, and I finally feel like I have my system pretty dialed.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces of the best lightweight backpacking gear that now make up my kit. And ladies, stay tuned for a post on clothing which is coming atcha in the upcoming weeks.

The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear Essentials

 Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50 L Outdry Backpack

This summer I decided to downgrade to a smaller pack for shorter weekend trips. It forces me to leave non-essentials at home resulting in a lighter load. This 50 liter Ozonic pack by Mountain Hardwear fits super comfy like a glove and has just enough pockets to keep things organized. It’s also completely waterproof, eliminating the need to carry a rain cover when weather looks iffy. The only thing I would change about this pack is that there is no hydration sleeve inside and the side pockets for water bottle storage are a bit hard to reach with the pack on. But those issues are minor and other than that, I really love this bag.

Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 2

I’ve been a big fan of Mountain Hardwear’s tents for a while now, and their Skyledge 3P tent, which I took on the John Muir Trail, is incredibly solid. If I’m camping with a friend and we can split up the load, the Skyledge is my go-to. However, at just over 4 pounds, the 3-man is a little much for me to carry on a short weekend trip, especially if I’m sleeping solo. The Mountain Hardwear SuperMega UL 2 is the perfect alternative. Weighing 2 pounds 2 ounces, it’s the lightest tent in their lineup, yet still provides solid weather protection. The only thing to keep in mind is that most ultralight 2-man tents these days are tight on room…so be prepared to do a bit of snuggling.

 REI Joule Sleeping Bag

The REI Joule Sleeping bag is rated for a chilly 23 degrees Fahrenheit, yet it only weighs 2.2 pounds, making it one of the lightest bags on the market for its warmth factor. It also packs down very small, and with a compression sack will easily fit into that 50L pack. Made with water resistant down, this bag is made to withstand damp conditions better than traditional down sleeping bags. I find it to be plush, roomy enough, and warm in all the right places. REI also makes a men’s version of this sleeping bag called the REI Igneo Sleeping Bag.

 Big Agnes Insulated Double Z Sleeping Pad

At 1 pound, 5 ounces the Big Agnes Insulated Double Z Sleeping Pad isn’t the lightest on the market, but boy is it comfy. Getting a good night of sleep when camping can make or break your experience, so in my book, the few extra ounces are worth it. Plus it packs down almost as small as some of the lighter pads on the market and is still much smaller than my 10 year old Thermarest. With a high insulation factor, this is a pad you can rely on to keep you warm even in the coldest temps. It’s also easy to inflate and deflate with its one-way valve – which is becoming more standard on sleeping pads these days. For more info on the different factors to weigh when shopping for a new sleeping pad, see my post “How to Choose the Best Sleeping Pad for Backpacking where I compare the specs of some of the most popular pads on the market.

The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear - Camp Kitchen Essentials

 Snow Peak GigaPower Auto Stove

I’m a huge fan of the Jetboil Flash for longer excursions, but since you don’t have a lot of temperature control with the Jetboil, you are pretty much limited to eating dehydrated backpacker meals. And on shorter weekend trips,  sometimes you want something a little fresher. Maybe you want to saute some veggies or whip up a delicious curry. While not quite as fast as the Jetboil, the Snow Peak Giga Power Auto Stove is still super powerful and provides the ability to simmer and saute making it much more diverse. Where it really shines is that it weighs less than 4 ounces and fits in palm of my hand when folded up.

Sea to Summit X Pot – 2.8 Liter

Switching from the Jetboil to a more traditional stove also meant I had to get a new pot, and this new collapsable cookware line from Sea to Summit keeps things nice and compact. The base of the pot is a durable aluminum, while the walls of the pot are made of a flexible, easy-to-clean silicon that collapse and lay flat when stored. The lid also comes with a built in strainer which is useful for pasta dishes. The 2.8 liter pot weighs 10 ounces and is plenty big to serve up a meal for 2-3 people.

Fozzils Solo Camp Dishes

If you aren’t planning on eating right out of the pot, you need some sort of dish, and the best camp plates and bowls are super light and don’t take up any room in your bag. I’ve been using a foldable plate and bowl set like this one from Fozzils which weighs just 4 ounces for the entire three piece set. I like these kind of dishes because I can easily shove them in the outer pocket of my bag for easy lunch access and the lack of nooks and crannies means it’s a cinch to clean.

 Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon

Typically, a spoon is really all I need when backpacking. What I like about this ultra-light spoon by Sea to Summit is its long handle that allows you to get down to the very bottom of the pot or package without getting food all over your hands.

GSI Infinity Mug

Hot beverages all around. Whether it’s a warm nightcap or my morning coffee, I always bring a mug backpacking. This 3.5 ounce GSI Infinity Mug is insulated so you don’t have to chug your drink, and it also has a nylon handle so you can clip it to the outside of your pack.

The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear - Water Treatment

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System is absolutely the easiest way to filter your water in the backcountry. This Platypus filter relies on gravity to push water through, eliminating the need to pump water by hand – meaning you can save your energy for the hike. At 9.5 ounces you will barely notice this thing in your bag, and what’s really cool is you can connect the hose directly into your water bottle or any standard hydration reservoir. Check out my post – Filtering Water the Easy Way – for a full video review.

 Platypus SoftBottles

For those who don’t like to carry a hydration bladder in their backpack, these 1-L Platypus SoftBottles are the best and lightest option for carrying water. Each bottle only weighs 1.2 ounces and when they are empty, they roll up so they don’t waste space in your bag. For backpacking trips, especially where it’s dry, I carry three of these for a total of 3 liters.

 Potable Aqua Iodine and Taste-Neutralizer Tablets

It’s always a good idea to bring some purification tablets as a backup in case something were to happen to your water filter.  These Aqua Iodine tablets come with an additional tablet that you throw in to neutralize the taste so the water doesn’t have a funky flavor. You can also rely on these tablets all together if you don’t want to bring a filter with you. The only thing is that they don’t get the sediment out like a filter would. If that doesn’t bother you, then you can save some space by just bringing these and leaving the filter at home.

The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear - Cameras and other gadgets

These are the backpacking gadgets that I carry. Before purchasing any of these, I did a ton of research to figure out my lightest options given my goal, which is to be able to take high-quality pictures. I realize not everyone needs this much camera gear, and the weight from these types of items can quickly add up. But if you are a photo enthusiast like me, these are my recommendations for backpacking.

MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod

I did ALOT of shopping around before I decided on a tripod. Many of them are bulky and heavy, or if they are lighter, they don’t extend tall enough. The MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod weighs 2.6 pounds and is a good compromise between these different factors. It’s just over a foot when packed away, and it reaches heights of 4.5 feet tall when fully extended. It also fits in the side pocket of my Mountain Hardwear Ozonic Pack. You can angle your camera in any direction and for nighttime photography, it really does the trick.

 Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera

The Sony Alpha a6000 camera allows you to snap professional quality photos with a camera that’s just slightly larger than a point and shoot. The Sony Alpha a6000 is the newest in the lineup of Sony’s mirrorless technology, which I have been using for the last couple of years. It’s a perfect camera for travel, whether that be exploring new cities or going deep into the backcountry, and it provides an excellent compromise between size and quality. The 16-50mm zoom lens that comes with the camera kit is a great starter lens for someone looking to grow their skills. Plus with the option to swap out the lens, there is a lot of creative potential with this camera. It also comes with built-in wi-fi so you can upload photos directly from the camera to the web for instant sharing.

 Goal Zero Switch 8 Portable Recharger

As long as I charge all of my batteries before heading out for the weekend, I usually don’t need a backup energy source. But if I know I’m going to be taking a lot of photos, sometimes I’ll throw Goal Zero’s Switch 8 Portable Recharger in my pack. You simply charge it at home via your computer’s USB and then if you end up needing it, you just plug your devices in to recharge. I find that carrying this is a small price to pay to avoid stress over battery failures.

 Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp

The Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp has multiple settings, including ultra bright and red night vision – which comes in handy when you want to have a conversation without blinding your friends. It also has a locking mechanism to prevent it from accidently turning on in your bag. What really distinguishes this headlamp from the rest is that is works on rechargeable batteries that you can recharge using a solar panel or USB outlet. So while it may be slightly more expensive than the average headlamp, you won’t have to carry extra batteries, which will end up saving you money and weight.


For those of you who go on solo outings or are want to snag some great action footage, the GoPro HERO4 Silver is nice addition to your camera kit, especially for water based adventures. The GoPro HERO4 Silver performs decently in low light and has a touch screen so you can easily review photos. GoPro also recently came out with their new Session Camera which is even smaller. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, but initial reviews are saying that it has better sound quality and longer battery life.

 XShot 2.0 Selfie Stick

Ok, I know some of you probably despise the selfie-stick…but…sometimes they do take pretty awesome photos. And if you are hiking alone, it’s much easier than setting up the self-timer on your camera. So for those of you who are interested in putting your GoPro or cell phone on a selfie-stick, this one by XShot is the one I use. It’s super packable, very light, and extends plenty far to get those crazy wide angle shots. 


Bearfoot Theory

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. I only products that I truly love, and any purchases you make help keep this blog going. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen
There are 31 comments on this post.

About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

31 Comments on “The Best Lightweight Backpacking Gear to Help Lighten your Load

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  1. Excellent article! Especially the stove. My jetboil drives me nuts with the inability to dial in the temp.

      Thanks so much! And agree on the Jetboil. I love it for extended trips where all I’m doing is boiling water for coffee and dehydrated meals. It’s so efficient and quick. But if you want to eat real food, it really doesn’t cut it. With this SnowPeak stove you really can dial in the temp and it still seems pretty efficient for boiling water. If you end up buying it, let me know what you think. -Kristen

      Jetboil has recently added a new product to the line up. It\’s called the MiniMo and it has a very nice adjustable temp control!

        Nice. I’ve seen it but haven’t used it…so excited to hear some feedback.

    I am new to backpacking and went on my first trip this year! I borrowed most of my equipment. Do you use two sleeping pads or one? And why?

      Hey Tracie- Congrats on your first backpacking trip! And that’s a great question about sleeping pads. Many sleeping pads these days are plenty insulated (for warmth) and padded (for comfort), so there’s really only the need to carry one. This post on how to choose a sleeping pad goes into a lot more detail about the factors to consider when purchasing your first sleeping pad. Check that out and let me know if you have any additional questions. -Kristen

        I read it, thanks for the helpful information!

      I use one in the summer, but in the in the winter I use typically two (one inflatable and one standard). It adds just a little more insulation from the freezing cold ground, helping me to stay warmer and sleep better.

    So useful! Everytime I go backpacking I realize I’m carrying way too much stuff. Gotta lighten that load!

      Thanks Michelle! Let me know if you have questions about any of this. -Kristen

    I also use both jet boil and power gigantic stove.exactly as mentioned. Gigantic for fry pan cooking and coffe in mornings making coffe.when close to the trailhead or multiple people the jet boil is my goto stove. I also use a homemade alcohol stove just when I wanna feel’s my favorite because a built it and it’s lighter then either of the two others.

      Yeah the jetboil is so efficient. I really like it for making hot drinks. But this past weekend I used the Giga stove and we were able to make tacos and thai noodles thanks to it’s ability to simmer. It’s nice to eat well on those short trips!

    Way to start lightening up! The biggest changes I would still recommend is to trade your pack for something lighter and check out the sawyer mini filter. Your pack is still almost 4 lbs empty. Gossamer Gear has many for less than 2 which would fit your setup great. The sawyer mini is only $20,weighs practically nothing, and filters as you drink!

      Hey Allison! Thanks for the tips. I’ll definitely check out the Gossamer Gear pack and the filter you suggest. Cheers, Kristen

    Just started seeing more people use the collapsible pot for cooking! I see a few added benefits such as lighter weight and more room in your pack. I also switched from a jetboil to a whisper-lite and a titanium mug but I am digging this new collapsible pot thing. Might just be my next purchase! Thanks for the post!

      Hey Cameron – These Sea to Summit pots are pretty new…in the last year I think, but they’ve won a bunch of awards. I’m super happy to have switched, at least for trips when I want to eat something besides backpacker meals. I think for longer trips, I’ll probably stick with my jetboil due to how efficient it is…but for a short overnighter, this thing is pretty slick.

    You can go way lighter without sacrificing any comfort! Start with your pack and water filtration sysrem… Both too heavy. You could take a pot half the size and skip the bowl and mug. Also there are far lighter sleeping pads that are just as comfy as yours. You’re on the right track; keep working on it. You’ll be amazed at how comfortable you can be on the trail, without sacrificing your comfort in camp.

    Hell yeah. I’m super stoked about that sleeping bag. I’ve been researching for months on a new one that will keep me warm in 20 degrees and also won’t take up a bunch of space.

      Hey Mackenzie – thanks for checking out the post. I hope you like the sleeping bag and I’d love for you to come back and share some feedback. Thanks! Kristen

    Great article, as someone new and just getting into extended hiking and camping it was very insightful. I will be making my first big hiking/camping trip this weekend into Havasu Falls, unfortunately it doesn’t look to be the best weather but I’m still hoping for the best.

    I’m no fan of gas-cylinder stoves. One use and the used canister goes into the trash. I’ve used my multi-fuel MSR stove from Iceland (using kerosene) to everywhere Out West. I Love that stove, and have for fifteen years

    I saw the bowl you recommended and I was wondering if there are 2 of you – is that one bowl sufficient for both of you or do you each need one?

      Hey Vicki – That bowl is good for 1 person. You should each bring your own.

    The Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt is literally the best piece of gear I own. My 20 degree quilt weighs 18oz. and I’ve used it down to 15 degrees without being cold

    I have a 30 L backpack and I take it when I go for hiking in different areas. It really helped me a lot to pack many things in it. I have great experience of backpacking and will continue it. Also, I gathered many information from different sites about backpacking which really helped me.

    Interesting list. I’m not sure a gopro is really essential. In my opinion, waterfilter system, lighter and a good backpack are the most essentials 🙂

      Hi there! Lots of people want to travel with cameras to capture great photography which is why we included the GoPro. We get the question often about lightweight cameras for backpacking & hiking. Our list includes more than just essentials.

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