What Do You Need for Ultralight Backpacking?

By Michael Ferguson

Ultralight backpacking is becoming an increasingly popular activity as more people discover the incredible sense of freedom and accomplishment that comes from carrying everything you need to survive in a backpack. The key to ultralight backpacking is packing the essential items, while leaving anything that isn’t absolutely necessary behind. In order to do this, there are some basic items that you will need for any ultralight backpacking adventure.

Backpack: This is obviously the most important item when it comes to ultralight backpacking. You want a pack that is lightweight and comfortable, but also has enough space for all of your gear. Look for packs with adjustable straps and even pockets or compartments in the straps to help distribute weight evenly.

Shelter: Once you have your backpack, you will need a shelter. There are many different options when it comes to shelters, including tents, tarps, hammocks, or bivy sacks. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages so be sure to do your research before choosing one.

Sleeping Bag: You will also need a sleeping bag or quilt for warmth at night and insulation from the cold ground. Down-filled bags are usually the lightest option but can be expensive. Synthetic bags may not be as light but they will usually keep you just as warm.

Cooking Gear: For cooking on the trail, you will need some sort of stove and pot or pan set. Alcohol stoves are lightweight and easy to use but can be slow to boil water; gas stoves offer faster boiling times but are heavier and more expensive. Pots/Pans should be made from lightweight materials like titanium or aluminum.

Clothing: Clothing is an important consideration when ultralight backpacking since it can add up quickly if not chosen carefully. You want pieces that offer good insulation while still being lightweight and breathable. Look for base layers made from synthetic materials such as polyester or merino wool.


Ultralight backpacking requires careful preparation in order to ensure that only essential items are taken on a trip while still staying safe and comfortable in the outdoors. The basic items needed include a backpack, shelter, sleeping bag/quilt, cooking gear, and clothing made from lightweight materials such as polyester or merino wool.