10 Best Lightweight Backpacks of 2021

10 Best Lightweight Backpacking Backpacks

Backpacking packs and backpacking gear have gotten much lighter weight in recent years due to innovations in the materials and fabrics available to backpack manufacturers. Most lightweight backpacks now weigh between 2 and 3 pounds and have 40 to 60 liters of storage volume. They have frames and can usually carry between 30 and 40 pounds of backpacking gear, food, fuel, and water. If you need to carry more than that, you’ll want a bigger backpack. Less than that, you’ll probably want to get an even lighter, frameless, ultralight backpack. It doesn’t matter if you’re a thru-hiker, a section hiker, or a weekend warrior, switching from a heavy backpack to a lightweight backpack will be easier to carry so you can hike faster or bring along gear or food that you’ve had to leave behind in the past.

Here are the 10 best lightweight backpacks that we recommend.

Be sure to read our Light Weight Backpack Selection Guide below and the linked FAQs for even more advice and reader feedback. SectionHiker has an international reputation for its comprehensive men’s and women’s backpack reviews and we’re passionate about helping our readers find the best backpacks for their needs.

1. Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack

Gossamer Gear Mariposa
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a great pack for backpackers who are lightening their loads because it has plenty of storage. It’s intuitively organized for multi-day thru-hikes and section hikes with plenty of external pockets for wet gear and daytime essentials, plus lots of covered storage for items you need less frequent access too. The Mariposa has a lightweight aluminum frame stay capable of carrying 35 pounds comfortably, and interchangeable hip belts sizes are available, ensuring a good fit. It’s made with Robic nylon which is good for on-trail use, but you may want something more durable for tougher terrain. Weighing 1 lb 14.5 oz, it has a unique side quiver pocket that is perfect for storing a tent or hammock. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker Mariposa 60 Review.

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Gossamer Gear

2. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 Backpack

HMG Southwest 3400 Black
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest (55L) is a streamlined and durable backpack good for any kind of outdoor adventure from thru-hiking to wilderness backpacking. Made with super-strong but ultralight Dyneema Composite Fabrics, it’s effectively waterproof with solid external pockets that are virtually impossible tear on desert scrub or sharp rock. The frame on this roll-top pack consists of two aluminum rods, called frame stays, that can be bent for a custom fit. Weighing 2 lbs 3 oz, it has a maximum recommended load of 40 pounds. We recommend getting the black-colored version because it’s more durable than the white-colored version. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker.com 3400 Southwest Backpack Review.

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear   

3. Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack

Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack

The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 is an ultralight-style roll-top backpack that’s well-suited for thru-hiking, section hiking and multi-day backpacking trips. Weighing 2 lbs 5 ounces, it has all of the features you’d expect including an optional top lid (there’s a roll-top underneath), a large mesh front pocket and side water bottle pockets. What makes this pack unique is an adjustable length hip belt so you get a custom fit, the ability to carry a bear can canister under the top lid, and wrap-around compression straps that make it easy to carry bulky gear. The Crown 2 60 has a maximum recommended load of 30-35 pounds. A women’s model of the Crown 2 – 60, is also available. Read the SectionHiker Crown2 60 Review.

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Backcountry | REI | Amazon

4. Osprey Exos 58 Backpack

Osprey Exos 58 Backpack
The Osprey Packs Exos 58 is a lightweight minimalist pack favored by thru-hikers, section hikers, and weekend backpackers alike. Weighing 2 lbs 10 oz fully configured, it has a rigid frame that makes it good for hauling heavier loads up to 30-35 pounds. The top lid can be removed if not needed, dropping the pack weight close to 2 lbs 5 oz ounces. Ultralight details and back ventilation make the Exos a good backpack for hiking in hot or humid conditions. Read the SectionHiker Exos 58 Review. A women’s model is available called the Osprey Eja 58. Read the SectionHiker Eja 58 Review.

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Osprey | REI | Amazon

5. Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack

Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack
The Zpacks Arc Blast (55L) is a lightweight ventilated backpack with a hybrid external frame that lets you adjust the amount of curve and airflow it provides. Made with Dyneema Composite Fabric, the 1 lb 4.1 oz Arc Blast is a roll-top with side water bottle pockets and a front mesh pocket for external gear storage. The torso length is adjustable by raising and lowering the shoulder pads, while the hip belt is available in multiple lengths to let you dial in a great fit. The Arc Blast can haul up to 25 lbs. While strictly speaking, the Arc Blast is an ultralight backpack, its large 55L capacity makes it a frequent choice by lightweight backpackers. Sizing is Unisex. Read the SectionHiker Arc Blast Review.

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Zpacks.com

6. ULA Circuit Backpack

ULA Circuit Purple

The ULA Circuit Backpack is a popular multi-day backpack with thru-hikers and weekend backpackers. Weighing 36.6 ounces, this 68-liter backpack has a load-carrying capacity of 35 pounds and is available with men’s or women’s specific shoulder pads and a unisex hip belt. The Circuit has a roll-top favored by long-distance hikers, with a front mesh pocket, two large side water bottle pockets, and two large hip belt pockets. Lightweight, but bomber tough, this pack can last through a long-distance hike and come back for more! Read the SectionHiker Circuit Backpack Review.

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ULA Equipment

7. REI Flash 55 Backpack

Rei Flash 55
The REI Flash 55 Backpack is a 2 lbs 10 oz ultralight-style roll-top backpack with an optional top lid. The pack has all of the standard features of an ultralight-style backpack including a front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, and hip belt pockets. There are two things that set this pack apart from others. First, it comes with pockets and straps (called “packmods”) that can be removed without having to resort to scissors and can save an additional 7 oz of weight. Those same pack mods can be moved around to tailor the pack to your needs. The Flash 55 also has innovative side water bottle pockets that make it very easy to reach your bottles, with snap closures to secure tall bottles if you use them. A women’s specific model is also available. Read the SectionHiker REI Flash 55 Review.

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REI

8. Hanchor Marl 55 Backpack

Hanchor Marl 55
The Hanchor Marl Backpack is a 55L backpack that weighs 2 lbs 5.5 oz that stands out in its ability to handle heavier loads well. It is constructed primarily of X-Pac VX21 and comes in four different torso lengths and four different hip belt sizes. The Marl is an ultralight style pack with a roll-top closure, two side water bottle pockets and a front mesh pocket. It includes load lifters and uses internal stays as a frame, which need to be bent to fit your personal dimensions before use. Read the SectionHiker Marl 55 Review. Sizing is Unisex.

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Hanchor

9. Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50

SWD Long Haul 50
Weighing 31 ounces, Superior Wilderness Design’s Long Haul 50 backpack is well-sized for thru-hiking, section hikes, and multi-day backpacking trips, with all of the must-have features you’d expect on a lightweight backpack like a rear mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets, and a roll-top closure. Made with X-Pac, a waterproof fabric similar to Dyneema DCF, but less expensive and more abrasion resistant, the Long Haul is built for durability. Pre-bent aluminum stays and a sewn-on hip belt also provide superior comfort, excellent load transfer, and a body-hugging fit, while a plethora of attachment points make it easy to tailor for technical hikes. Generally, packs made with XPac compare very favorably to those made with Dyneema DCF in terms of durability, weight, and price. Read SectionHiker’s Long Haul 50 Review

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Superior Wilderness Designs

10. Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 60 Backpack

Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor Backpack
The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60 is a top-loading backpack with a unique top hatch and two side water bottle pockets. Designed by Andrew Skurka, it has wrap-around compression straps that let you shrink or expand its capacity from 40L to 60L so you can fit more food and gear inside when you go on longer trips. This is complemented by a stiff but lightweight frame that makes it possible to haul heavy loads, far exceeding those that can be carried by similarly sized ultralight or internal frame backpacks. The current Flex Capacitor is available in white or black, but you can still get the earlier silver version shown here which we prefer even though it’s nearly identical. Read the SectionHiker Flex Capacitor Review.

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Sierra Designs

Lightweight Backpack Selection Guide

Lightweight Backpack Frames

Most lightweight backpacks range from about 40 liters up to 60 liters in volume and usually weigh between 2 and 3 pounds. They’re intended for carrying loads between 30 and 40 pounds and have full frames or frame stays. The volume and weight capacity you need will depend on the amount of gear, food, fuel, and water you need to carry. This can vary from trip to trip, or town to town if you’re a thru-hiker or section hiker, but compression straps let you shrink a pack’s volume from 40L down to 60L as needed. Generally speaking, you want more “frame” for heavier loads, but this can be a matter of personal preference.

See the following FAQs for more advice and reader discussion:

Gender-Specific Backpack Features

Many lightweight backpacks are now available in men’s and women’s specific models, although there are a few exceptions. They also tend to have fixed torso lengths and hip belt lengths, although many backpack manufacturers have figured out that adjustable torsos and hip belts or ventilated backpacks give them a significant competitive edge. Many women prefer S-shaped shoulder straps and female-specific hip belts because they mold better to a “curvier” female form.

Backpack Fabric Durability

Most lightweight backpacks are made with Nylon and its variants, Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), XPac. In terms of durability, XPac is usually the most durable in terms of abrasion resistance, then DCF, and then Nylon, although it depends on the thickness of the material used. In addition, there are many different types of Nylon and thicknesses, which are measured by “deniers”, also abbreviated as “D” in “20D Nylon Ripstop. Usually, higher denier counts result in more durable fabrics.

Cost

Dyneema (DCF) packs are the most costly in terms of price, then XPac, and then Nylon. DCF is the most labor-intensive, then XPac, then Nylon in its various forms.

Backpack Covers and Pack Liners

DCF and XPac are waterproof materials so you can get by without a backpack cover if you wish. That said, the shoulder pads and hip belts on all backpacks are not waterproof and will absorb some water, but your gear will stay dry even if you don’t!

Most lightweight backpacks do not include a rain cover. If your backpack is not waterproof and rain is likely where you plan to hike, we recommend you get a backpack rain cover or line the inside of your backpack with a plastic bag. Some people do both or wear ponchos that cover themselves and their backpacks. See the following FAQs for more advice and reader discussion:

Roll Tops vs Top Lids

Some of the backpacks listed above are roll tops and some have top lids. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference. Roll tops can be nice because they’re more minimalist and require fewer webbing straps. But top lids are handy if you need to change hats or gloves frequently or access a map and navigation gear. Still other packs, like the Granite Gear Crown 2 60 and the REI Flash 55 are roll-tops, but come with an accessory top lid that can you attach over them. That’s really the best of both worlds.

Backpacking Fit

The most important factor when choosing a lightweight backpack is fit. Keep trying ones on until you get a torso length and hip-belt that fits you perfectly. Return policies and warranties matter. Stick close to manufacturers that guarantee their products, are easy to contact, and want you to have the best experience possible. What makes a lightweight backpack great? It fits you, has easy to use external pockets, and works well with your other backpacking gear choices.

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