The Five-Pound Base Weight
The quest for the lightest pack consumes some more than others. In some circles super-extreme-holycrap-ultralightweight backpacking has become a bit of a cult. No, you don’t need a tent that doubles as a poncho or sacrifice comfort to achieve near or below a five pound base weight. Obviously, this gear list can be tweaked and would probably be added to for Winter hiking. Though, if you want a good jumping off point and a lightweight list of some of the best brands in the industry this is your guide.
The Big Four
Backpack: ZPacks “Zero” Ultralight Backpack
Weight: 4.2 ounces(36 liter pack with no add ons)
Price: $105(36 liter without add ons)
This is the lightest backpack I have found on the market. It’s cuben fiber material allows it’s extremely lightweight and waterproof design. You have three different options for volume: 27.5 liters, 36 liters, and 44 liters. I like the variety of options it offers and would recommend adding the padded hip belt, side pockets, center mesh pocket, roll top closure, and load lifters which bring the total price and weight for the 36 liter variety to $205 and 7.5 ounces, respectively.
Tent: ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tent
Weight: 15.4 ounces
You can’t beat a sub-one pound tent. Made out of cuben fiber and erected with your trekking poles this tent is about as light as you can get. It has a bathtub floor and netting giving it a large edge over minimalist shelters of a comparable weight.
Sleeping Bag: ZPacks 900 Fill Power Down 40F
Weight: 11.4 ounces(40F Regular Width-Medium)
Price: $380(40F Regular Width-Medium)
These are the lightest sleeping bags I have found on the market. Zpacks has a variety of degree ratings and size options for any weather you may experience, all while keeping their bags as ultralightweight as possible.
Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite
Weight: 12 ounces(Regular)
Lightweight, comfortable, and warm the NeoAir Xlite is a popular choice for backpackers. It is also has a short version which shaves about 4 ounces off the weight.
Cooking and Hydration
Stove: MSR MicroRocket
Weight: 2.5 ounces
Ultralighters will scoff at the lack of coke can alcohol stove on this list. It’s true. You will probably save half a pound on going alcohol. My personal preference, however, is a regular stove. The Microrocket is incredibly lightweight and durable. I used one on my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and it is my personal go to.
Weight: 2.8 ounces
My chef skills on the Trail are limited to boiling 2 cups of water and boring it into ziplock bags filled with freeze dried goodies. No pots needed.
Utensil: Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Weight: 0.6 ounces
I guess you could also use a stick if 0.6 ounces are that important to you.
Water Filtration: Sawyer Squeeze
Weight: 3 ounces
You could save a couple of ounces by going the tablet route but the Sawyer is incredibly convenient with it’s ability to screw on top of Smart Water bottles. There is no better water filter on the market. Don’t forget to backflush!
Water Bottles: 2x Smart Water Bottles
Weight: 1.3 ounces each
Price: A couple bucks.
Any thru-hiker will tell you: These are the best water bottles hands down. So, throw out those Nalgenes, head to the grocery store, and throw down a few dollars on the only water bottle you will ever need.
Clothing and Miscellaneous
Rain Jacket: AntiGravityGear Ultralight Rain Jacket
Weight: 4.8-5.2 ounces
If it was Summer in the Mid-Atlantic or South I’d say forego the rain jacket completely. Nothing is better than that free afternoon shower after three days in the woods. However, if you must absolutely stay dry(good luck) this is your lightweight option.
Down Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket
Weight: 7.7 ounces
One of the lightest down jackets on the market, the Ghost Whisper will keep you warm without the weight.
Extra Pair of Socks: Darn Toughs
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Price: Varies depending on the pair.
An extra pair of socks is, in my opinion, mandatory. Darn Tough’s are the way to go in the foot department and probably the most popular sock brand int he hiking world.
Flashlight: Petzl E+LITE
Weight: 1 ounce
I’ll be honest, I did most of the A.T. this year without a light source and debated to even add one to this years gear list. But, at a mere 1 ounce this headlamp is a great option. You can’t beat the $29.95 price tag either.
With a total weight of 73.9 ounces this list will keep the pounds off your pack and your mileage up. You get all the hiking comforts without the sacrifices (except to wallet). As always, remember that any gear list is flexible and that there are exceptions to every rule. Pack what you want and have fun!
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Wow Chris you do an incredible job keeping things as light as possible, I definitely still have some improvements to make and this article will help me get the weight off my pack.
I’m really into, gear, gadgets and just all around cool outdoor stuff. I’ve been following appalachiantrials for a couple months now and you guys are great!
Can I make a request?
I wish you’d review this knife:
It’s called a Credit Card Knife, because it folds into a thin card shape and fits in your wallet.
They are giving them away for free here:
I’m still waiting for mine in the mail.
Oh also, if you could review the Kabar Kukri machete that would be amazing, I’ve been thinking about buying one! Its quite light as far as machetes go from what I hear.
Dang me……they won’t ship those credit card knives to the UK ?
Great ultra-light gear list! Don’t forget the sawyer-mini water filter, it weighs in at 1.4 ounces, is smaller and works just as well.
I would have to disagree on this one…the Sawyer Mini has an abysmal flow rate compared to the Sawyer Squeeze. I knew a lot of people on the A.T. last year who switched from the Mini to the Squeeze because of that.
Get rid of the Pocket Rocket. Alcohol stoves much lighter and better for the environment. Can’t recycle the MSR canisters.
I use an alcohol stove bc I’m cheap so I second the sentiment, but…
while I thought that the canisters aren’t recyclable, turns out they are able to be mostly recycled (though seems difficult to manage along a thru-hike). https://thesummitregister.com/recycling-isopro-canisters/
MSR canisters are recyclable.
I would be very wary of the AntiGraviyGear rain jacket. That’s what I used last year on my thru hike and it leaked quite badly at the seams. And the sizes run small too.
This doesn’t include any electronics, guide,
toiletries, or first aid. Do you choose to not bring any of that?
I would go stoveless and take all of those things for a similar weight – that’s just personal preference, of course.
I got to 7lb 4 oz last summer hiking just by throwing stuff I had at my house into an old book bag. No titanium, no Cuben fiber. Didn’t spend one single penny on gear. Hiked Ma & Ct with that set up. 5 days food weighed in at 13lb 9oz at the Goose Pond Scale.
Sorry, don’t have a blow by blow breakdown, but major items were poncho tarp w/ strings & 6 needle stakes, exped air mat, shrink wrap ground cloth, fleece, puffy, quilt, cup, spoon, sun hat, bushcrafter knife, zippo lighter & fire kit, toiletries, FA-blister kit, full ATC map set, full ATC data book, my Leki poles, spare socks, a pair of light cotton boxers to sleep in/do laundry & my heart medication & a blow up travel pillow.
Rained off and on, trail was flooded calf deep for 4 hrs one day and I was warm, mostly dry from knees up, and totally comfortable.
Since then I’ve ditched my merrel last ventilator’s for a lighter shoe. I wouldn’t change anything else.
Got a lot of “day hiker” questions and some NY hiker trash couple stole my food. But all in all I’d go again with the same gear.
PS the book bag is 35 years old and less than 1/2 wore out.