Lightweight Backpacking Gear Guide

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Ultralight Outdoor Gear for a look at all the essential kit you need to go lightweight backpacking…

There’s nothing better than hiking for days (or weeks) on end with everything you need to survive on your back. No need for huts or refuges, let alone shops or restaurants, you are completely self-reliant and can plan your days accordingly, knowing you have the freedom to stop and camp almost wherever you want. Being as you may be miles from anywhere and are carrying everything, making sure you have the right kit, however, is vital. It must do the job you need it to do, of course, but also not be so cumbersome that it detracts from your adventure or slows you down. 

 In this guide to backpacking gear, we err on the side of lightness when recommending products, without necessarily going for the absolute lightest items in each category, however the net result of choosing wisely – and not taking unnecessary items – is that your overall weight can be reduced significantly. So sit back as we take you through the three main areas that make up your backpacking kit – your sleep system, your clothing and personal equipment and your cooking and water systems.


The ‘big three’ items of tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat (or alternatives) are where you can save a lot of weight – but you need to make sure they are fit for purpose as well as light…

Hilleberg Anaris

Ideally you want a lightweight, spacious tent that is capable of handling changeable conditions, both in the UK and abroad. A great choice is the new Hilleberg Anaris three-season, trekking pole ridge tent (above). Weighing in at just 1.4kg this two-person tent is extremely spacious with large, versatile vestibules for storing all your gear. The normal top-quality design and materials from Hilleberg make this a durable and reliable shelter. It’s a great alternative to traditional tents, especially if you already use poles when walking. If you’d prefer a conventional ‘poled’ tent, look for models around the 1.5kg mark from the likes of Exped, Vango, Vaude, MSR and Big Agnes.

Rab Siltarp

The Rab Siltarp uses lightweight silicone-coated nylon to provide a highly versatile, strong and waterproof shelter. Weighing just 218g it is a superb option that can be adapted with reinforced pegging
and guyline points and can pitched in a wide variety of ways that help you shelter from the weather using trekking poles, trees or pretty much anything nearby.

Outdoor Research Stargazer Bivy

A hooped bivy such as the Outdoor Research Stargazer Bivy can sometimes be a viable alternative to a tent. It uses the impressively breathable AscentShell fabric to reduce the risk of condensation which bivy bags have been renowned for. The simple, single hoop design provides space inside while the zips allow you to get full protection from the elements, make use of the bug net or have it fully open for star gazing. This lightweight, packable bivy is ideal for fast pitches where space is limited.

Sierra Designs Nitro 800 Quilt

Quilts have become a really popular alternative to sleeping bags in the last couple of years, especially since they can save so much weight without losing warmth when paired with a good sleeping mat. The Nitro 800 Quilt from Sierra Designs (above) is a great option with an oversize design, hideaway hood and insulated pockets to make it feel more bag-like if this is your first use of a quilt. Quilts are ideal for warm sleepers and people who move around a lot during the night but it’s important they are paired with a good sleeping mat.

Sea to Summit Ether Light XT

A good sleeping mat is vital for resting and recovering when you’re out in the mountain’s day after day. Finding a warm enough mat that doesn’t take up too much space in your pack or weigh too much is really important. Sea to Summit’s Ether Light XT insulated sleeping mat (below) one of our ‘Top Picks’ with its combination of comfort, weight and pack size. When inflated it is over 10cm thick and with a three-season temperature rating this is a seriously comfortable mat for a good night’s sleep. It also has a clever Pillow Lock system that works with Sea to Summit Pillows where pad and pillow attach using simple Velcro patches to stop the pillow from disappearing during
the night.

Rab Neutrino Pro 400 Down Bag


Finding the right mix of warmth, weight and price is key when selecting a sleeping bag. The main factor most people consider is the temperature rating – then it’s working out how lightweight they can afford to go! The Rab Neutrino Pro 400 Down Bag (left) is a great all-rounder with a comfort limit of -8 degrees Celsius and weighing in at under 850g. This bag contains high quality 800FP down and uses a durable and water-resistant Pertex Quantum Pro fabric. Synthetic bags can be surprisingly light these days, as well as being a lot cheaper, and it’s worth looking at models by the likes of Mountain Hardwear and Marmot.


Along with your sleep system, your cooking and water equipment is vital in ensuring you can be self-sufficient when going off-grid, so careful choices have to be made here too…

Katadyn BeFree


When travelling in the hills and mountains it’s important that you are able to top up your water to stay hydrated. To do this safely a water filter is really important and the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System 1L is one of the best on offer. It is much lighter and easier to use than many alternatives while also providing plenty of protection from protozoa and bacteria that may be unseen in the water.

Sea to Summit 1.2L Alpha Pot


Whether boiling water for drinks and freeze-dried meals or cooking up a feast, a decent pot is crucial. The compact, lightweight design of the Sea to Summit 1.2L Alpha Pot make it an ideal choice.

GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug


A simple, effective mug you can enjoy hot and cold drinks from rather than relying on water bottles is a real boon. The GSI Infinity Backpacker Mug is durable and easy to use so it always gets packed.

SOTO Windmaster


An efficient stove that boils water quickly, can be used for cooking and works in the wind will make a huge difference to you when you’re hungry and tired at the end of a long day. The SOTO Windmaster is one of the best lightweight options that ticks all the boxes; a proven performer with top quality manufacturing you can rely on.

Gram-Counter Gear Titanium Long Handled Spoon


A long handle spoon makes a huge difference when eating camp food. A lightweight, durable utensil like the Gram-Counter Gear Titanium Long Handled Spoon is a must have item for backpackers.

Exped Fold Dry Bags


In order to keep your
kit organised and your important items dry an assortment of different-sized Exped Fold Dry Bags is a good solution, particularly when you’re out for more than
one night.


Even in summer, you will need a layering system to cope with a variety of conditions, but with modern materials and construction this and your other personal equipment need not weigh you down too much…

Mountain Equipment Switch Jacket


Finding a versatile midlayer can be a challenge. Balancing warmth, weather resistance and breathability will often require compromise. However, the lightweight Mountain Equipment Switch Jacket combines fleece panels with Polartec Alpha active insulation in the body to help regulate your temperature effectively.

Leki Sherpa Lite XTG


Walking poles are a great way of walking more efficiently and taking a lot of the strain off your joints, especially when descending. The Leki Sherpa Lite XTG poles provide a great combination of strength and adjustability without weighing too much. The ability to quickly and easily shorten or lengthen the poles makes them great for climbing and descending steep slopes.

Hoka Speedgoat 2 Mid


Shoes are one of the most important pieces of kit to keep you comfortable when you’re walking anywhere. The Hoka Speedgoat 2 Mid Gore-Tex Shoes provide a waterproof barrier, some ankle support and a huge amount of cushioning for your feet. These shoes are designed to make you more comfortable over long distances and technical terrain.

Petzl Bindi


A headtorch is essential for overnight trips, but if you’re not going to be walking through the night you don’t need a big, heavy torch so the Petzl Bindi headtorch is ideal. Weighing just 33g and fitting in your pocket easily, it can give out up to 200 lumens of light and with a range of brightness settings you can easily extend the battery life across a couple of nights.

Rab Forge


Choosing between merino and synthetic baselayers can be a challenge in changeable conditions, so the Rab Forge series of tees and underwear are the perfect solution, offering as they do a blend of both fabrics. The result is the best of both worlds, with a great combination of lightweight, warmth, breathablility, fast drying and odour control.

Mammut Hiking Pants


Lightweight, breathable and quick-drying pants are what you need for changeable conditions when backpacking, and Mammut’s Hiking Pants tick all the boxes having a slim but comfortable fit with plenty of stretch in
the fabric.

Haglöfs L.I.M Comp Jacket


A shell jacket you can trust when the weather takes a turn for the worse is crucial. The Haglöfs L.I.M Comp Jacket uses Gore-Tex Active, a top-quality waterproof fabric which delivers excellent breathability. This makes it a great option when you’re working hard uphill or wearing the jacket for prolonged periods.

Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew


People spend hundreds of pounds on footwear and then use old socks that offset many of the benefits of new boots. Darn Tough make a wide range of high-performance sock that are versatile enough for year-round use, dry quickly, retain heat when wet and are odour resistant. The Light Hiker Micro Crew is our choice for the warmer months.

Montane Featherlite Trail


A wind shirt is often overlooked when packing for the mountains, but at such a low weight they provide an amazing amount of protection from the wind, sun and even light showers. The Montane Featherlite Trail is a classic, simple windbreaker that breathes well, is soft and comfortable to wear and weighs only 108g.

Exped Thunder 50


Getting a comfortable pack that fits well is vital for enjoying your trip, and with a new, adjustable back system and a focus on reduced weight and increased durability and comfort, the 2020 Exped Thunder 50 is well worth   a look. With plenty of storage, this is a versatile pack that works well for overnight trips through
to multiday epics.

Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody


An insulated jacket for colder conditions and overnight camps is a must. Synthetic insulation has become more popular due to new technology increasing warmth while reducing pack size. Jackets, like Patagonia’s Micro Puff Hoody are virtually on par with similar down jackets now, with their effectiveness in damp conditions being the stand-out feature.

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