2021 Ultralight Backpacking Gear List 9 lb

Stoke level way up on an icy morning. Ojai, CA. Photo: Nick Bobroff

2021 Ultralight Backpacking Gear List 9 lb

Over a decade of refinement, obsession, and testing has gone into the creation of this ultralight backpacking gear list. A sub 10-pound backpacking base weight, 3-season capable, durable, efficient, full-featured, and smile enhancing UL gear list. Comfortable in temperatures down to 20℉, with generous safety, survival, and first aid essentials.

The following UL backpacking gear list contains the author's* personal selections currently used for the 2021 season. *Male, 5 ft 9 in, 160 lbs/ 175 cm, 72.5 kg.


Clothing and gear that is worn or carried separate from your backpack. Typically, this is your core hiking clothing, shoes, watch, and trekking poles.

The items in this section aren't included your Backpacking Base Weight, and should only include the primary items you actually wear and carry outside your backpack. Resist the temptation to "hide" gear, for example your mobile phone shouldn't be included in this section.

The author's typical Worn/Carried setup. Temple Crag, Sierra Nevada.

The author's typical Worn/Carried setup. Temple Crag, Sierra Nevada.

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail SS Shirt

Patagonia Capilene Cool Trail SS Shirt

Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts

Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Socks

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Socks

Hoka One One Torrent Shoes

Hoka One One Torrent Shoes

Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

ShirtPatagonia Capilene Cool Trail SS Shirt, S19 Men's M$39.004.45oz
ShortsPatagonia Strider Pro Shorts, Men's M$69.003.50oz
SocksDarn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Socks, Size L$22.002.60oz
ShoesHoka One One Torrent Shoes, Men's 9.5$120.0018.00oz
AccessoriesHat, Buff head wear, cotton bandanna, Oakley Turbine sunglasses, Suunto Core watch$455.007.00oz
Trekking PolesZpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles$99.0013.40oz
Total Worn/Carried$804.0048.95oz

Base Pack: Backpack

Number one of the "Big Three", your backpack will need to fit everything not included above in the Worn/Carried section.

Base Pack: BackpackItemCostWeight
BackpackInternal Frame, Hipbelt w/Pockets: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Junction, Color White, Size M$355.0032.00oz
AlternateFrameless: Pa'lante Packs V2 Backpack, S18 Black 37L Size 19", non-hipbelt version$245.0015.70oz
OptionalPack Liner: Zpacks NyloPro Odor Barrier Bags, Extra Large, 20"x36"$6.001.00oz
Total Base Pack: Backpack$355.0032.00oz

Base Pack: Shelter

Number two of the "Big Three", a bivy, tarp, or tent are common shelter options, along with stakes, guylines, and optionally a groundsheet.

Base Pack: ShelterItemCostWeight
ShelterZpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp w/ Doors, S20 DCF6$299.004.75oz
AlternateFully Enclosed w/Bathtub Floor: Zpacks Plexamid Tent, DCF6$549.9915.30oz
GuylinesBraided polyester dyneema core 2mm reflective 1x75", 2x54", 5x32", 1mm accessory 1x96"$0.001.15oz
StakesEaston Nano Spike 2x8", MSR GroundHog 4x7.5", Ti Shepherd Hook 4x6", MLD DCF Tent Stake bag Size L$38.493.75oz
GroundsheetWindow Shrink Film 44x84"$2.251.50oz
AlternateGossamer Gear Polycryo (Tent Footprint) Ground Cloths, Size M 40x96"$6.001.60oz
Total Base Pack: Shelter$339.7411.15oz

Base Pack: Sleeping

Number three of the "Big Three", is your sleeping bag or quilt, and is accompanied by a sleeping pad, and optionally a pillow.

Base Pack: SleepingItemCostWeight
Sleeping BagFeathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL, S20 68" 12.6oz 950+ down fill$369.0018.60oz
AlternateQuilt w/Sewn Footbox: Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt, 20℉, 7D shell, 13.83oz 950 down fill$410.0019.25oz
Sleeping PadNEMO Switchback, Size Regular* (two panels removed), S20$49.9512.60oz
AlternateInflatable Pad: Thermarest NeoAir XLite, Size Women's R$174.9512.00oz
PillowBig Sky DreamSleeper UltraLight Pillow$24.951.55oz
Total Base Pack: Sleeping$443.9032.75oz

Base Pack: Clothing

Clothing items not normally worn/carried such as rain gear, sleepwear, and puffy insulation layers.

Base Pack: ClothingItemCostWeight
Top, ShellArc'teryx Zeta FL Rain Jacket, S19 Men's M$325.007.35oz
Top, BasePatagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip Neck, S19 Men's M$99.006.50oz
Top, InsulationPatagonia Micro Puff Jacket, F18 Men's M$249.008.15oz
Bottom, ShellMontbell Versalite Rain Pants, S19 Men's M$139.003.20oz
Bottom, BasePatagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms, S19 Men's M$59.005.90oz
Bottom, InsulationBase layer bottoms are sufficient for average 3-season conditions$0.000.00oz
HeadSea to Summit Mosquito Head Net, Smartwool Merino 250 Beanie, Enlightened Equipment Hooligan Hat$120.003.45oz
Hands, FeetDarn Tough Socks (spare), PossumDown Sleep Socks, PossumDown Gloves, Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts$115.006.25oz
Stuff SackUse backpack pack liner (multi-use)$0.000.00oz
AlternateDCF: Zpacks Medium Stuff Sack$20.000.25oz
Total Base Pack: Clothing$1,106.0040.80oz

Base Pack: Gear

Gear items not normally worn/carried such as your cookset, first aid kit (FAK), and electronics.

Base Pack: GearItemCostWeight
EssentialsNitecore NU25 headlamp, Victorinox knife, micro carabiner, mini butane lighter, pen cartridge, ear plugs, needles, safety pins, water filter gasket, inflatable pad patch, tenacious tape, gaffer's tape 2"x6', small storage case$55.004.00oz
SurvivalSOL Fire Lite Kit with Tinder-Quik x6, water purification tablets x6$11.000.35oz
First AidTriple antibiotic, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, loperamide, aspirin, steri-strips, bandage tape, tweezers, small storage case$10.001.65oz
HygieneAll items unscented: Chapstick, mineral sunscreen 15mL, picaridin insect repellent (pump spray, not lotion) 15mL, benzalkonium hand sanitizer 15mL, Wheaton 15mL Dropper Bottle x3 (for repackaging), soap sheets, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, ultra-slim nail clipper, Deuce #1 trowel$36.004.00oz
ElectronicsAukey PB-Y13 10000mAh USB-C Power Bank, USB-C/Micro cables, adapters, wall charger, wired audio earbuds, Android phone (excl. from cost)$30.0014.00oz
Stuff SackHyperlite Mountain Gear DCF8 Drawstring Stuff Sack Small (8x10, contains all of the above)$24.000.28oz
SatelliteGarmin inReach Mini satellite messenger$349.993.40oz
H20 StorageCNOC Vetco 2L Water Container S19, Smart Water 1L bottle$19.954.00oz
H20 TreatmentSawyer Squeeze Micro with Smart Water sport cap$27.952.00oz
Food Prep650ml Ti Mug, Soto Amicus without igniter stove, Ti long handle polished bowl spoon, Zpacks Mini Stuff Sack, cozy, rag$90.006.25oz
Food StorageTwo-handle grocery store plastic bag (thicker type)$0.000.90oz
AlternateDCF Roll-Top w/Flat Bottom: LiteAF Flat Bottom Food Bag, 11L Size S$21.951.20oz
AlternateBear Bag ~5-Day Supply: Ursack Major Bear Bag$89.957.60oz
AlternateBear Canister ~3-Day Supply: Lighter1 Lil' Sami Bear Canister$99.9528.00oz
AlternateBear Canister ~7-Day Supply: BearVault BV500 Food Container$79.9540.00oz
Total Base Pack: Gear$653.8940.83oz


Food, water, fuel, and some toiletries are consumable items not included in Worn/Carried or Base Pack weight calculations.

H201L (typical carry)$0.0035.20oz
Food20oz / day x 4 days (typical resupply)$50.0080.00oz
Fuel1x3.9oz (110g) MSR IsoPro fuel canister$4.957.40oz
Total Consumables$54.95122.60oz

Grand Total

Here's where your hard work in selecting the best clothing and gear become reflected in the total weight of your Base Pack and Full Skin Out (FSO) or Complete weight.

Grand Total
Total Base Pack$2,898.539.85lb
Total Complete$3,757.4820.57lb

Why 10-Pounds?

With today's technology and gear options that's the weight of a typical "ultralight" kit. A focus on lightweight items with a nod to durability. In the classic lightweight backpacking bible Beyond Backpacking , Ray Jardine configured an 8.5 pound base pack that he considered thru hike worthy. However, Ray hiked with a partner and they split up gear and each carried only a partial kit. For example, Jenny might carry the shelter kit, while Ray would carry the sleeping kit. If you were to weigh up Ray's pack fully allocated, it would likely land in the 10-pound range.

What about SUL?

I've gone SUL (super ultralight, 5-pound base pack weight) on countless trips in extreme conditions which was fun and challenging. I've personally found that carrying a 5-pound vs. a 10-pound base pack is not significantly different. However, the difference (net gains) in long term durability, functional range, comfort, less mental stress, and ease of use were massive. A more robust, though heavier gear list, resulted in a much better outdoor experience - for me. YMMV!

How is a Thru Hike Gear List Different?

On a thru hike one needs to account for things like town stops, recharging electronics via 110v/220v power outlets, resupplying consumables regularly, traveling through the full gamut of climate zones, and generally living on trail day-to-day. On a casual weekend trip, you can probably leave your cell phone wall charger behind, carry enough consumables to last the whole trip, and pack for weather conditions specific to your route. Thru hikers on the other hand tend to adopt a more "life on the trail" approach, and carrying a full jar of peanut butter, large pizza, or brick (if you get pranked) into the backcountry is not uncommon! In short, a thru hike kit is like having a sustainable "house" on your back, that is ready for the challenges a long hike presents.

Plug and Play

Many of the items in this list can be switched out for your preferred type, and not adversely effect the 10-pound threshold. Think of this list as a template, and as long as you plug-in items with similar function and weight, the end result will be a list customized for your needs that maintains a happy balance between weight and experience, while keeping you safe - so long as you fill up the space between your ears with the right knowledge, skills, and experience.

Archived Gear Lists

Previous Versions: v201906