Whether you’re going on a short hike or setting off on a multi-day adventure, you want the gear on your back to be as light as possible. While all the features that large backpacks offer are nice, sometimes the biggest upside is not having a sore back after a couple of hours on the trail. This is where lightweight backpacks step in – they weigh next to nothing and allow you to comfortably carry your gear all day without getting tired.

Besides weight, several other factors need to be considered when choosing a lightweight pack. Among other things, you should pay attention to the material quality, capacity, and storage organization. To help you with this, we are going to break down everything you need to know about backpack features. In addition, our lightweight backpack reviews will talk about the best ultralight backpacks currently on the market, so you can easily choose a great backpack that won’t let you down no matter where you go.

How To Choose A Lightweight Backpack – Buying Guide

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Weight

Since we’re talking about lightweight backpacks, weight is the most important consideration. The weight of the backpack depends on the fabrics used to make it, the amount of padding, the number of extra features, and whether or not it has a frame.

While the best lightweight backpacks usually weigh under 1 pound, it’s sometimes smart to go with a slightly larger model that will give you a bit more packing space or offer useful features.

Volume

Like with any other backpack, the volume shows you the amount of backpacking gear that you can pack inside. This varies dramatically with lightweight packs – from 20 liters for ultralight packable models to over 50 liters for lightweight backpacking backpacks.

Choosing the right volume depends on how and where you plan to use the pack. Go with a smaller one if you’ll mostly use it for short hikes and everyday wearing, but go with a larger one if you’re preparing for a longer expedition.

Material

The choice of materials is very important because the fabric needs to strike a balance between a high degree of durability and keeping the weight as low as possible. This isn’t always easy to achieve, which is why the choice usually comes to two types of fabric – nylon, and polyester.

Nylon is probably the best option because it resists tears and punctures pretty well without pumping the weight up. Polyester, on the other hand, is a bit lighter but isn’t as strong. Both of these fabrics can also come with a ripstop design which is very useful because it prevents large tears if the pack is punctured or damaged.

Opening (Access)

As you’ve had the chance to see, most lightweight backpacks come with a traditional zippered opening. While this isn’t optimal in terms of protection, a dual zipper and some sort of water repellent can significantly improve the protection. On the other hand, some of the larger backpacks like the Granite Gear Crown 2 come with a roll-top closure and a removable top lid which provides much better protection to your gear.

Frame

Unlike standard backpacks for backpacking, most ultralight models come without a frame for additional support. Even though backpack frames are usually made from lightweight aluminum alloys, this would add too much weight to the pack and render it impossible to fold completely.

For this reason, you need to keep in mind that lightweight backpacks have a lower maximum load capacity and that they aren’t as balanced as the best backpacking backpacks. One of the rare exceptions is the Osprey Exos 58 which comes with an internal frame but still manages to keep the overall weight very low.

Comfort

The comfort of light backpacks mostly comes from their low weight and reduced pressure on your shoulders. Most of these don’t feature additional padding on the straps or back. However, if you want the highest level of comfort, look for a model that features adjustable torso sizes, adjustable shoulder straps, and plenty of mesh to improve breathability.

Related Review: Adjustable Length Backpack

Size

While volume is more important when considering which backpack to buy, size (dimensions) shouldn’t be forgotten either. Ultralight backpacks are generally more compact than standard models but there can be significant differences between them too. This is particularly important if you’ll be using your backpack for traveling, so make sure to check the dimensions and see if they comply with the airline regulations.

An additional benefit of lightweight backpacks is that they can be folded easily, so you should consider packed size too. The best models can be compressed to a size no larger than a soda can which is a huge advantage if you’re using them as a backup bag.

Related Post: Ultralight Backpacking

Features

Even though ultralight backpacks are not as packed with features as some larger models, they still have many useful additions that improve the functionality and convenience in use. Besides the spacious main compartment, many of these models have zippered storage pockets both inside and outside so you can easily organize your backpacking gear.

On top of this, we feel that it’s very convenient if the pack comes with elastic mesh pockets on the sides for stashing water bottles. Of course, since the storage space is often pretty limited, you also need to pack the backpack properly so you can make the most of it.

Related Post: How To Pack A Backpack

FAQs

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Q: What Is Considered A Lightweight Backpack?

A: 

While giving an exact weight isn’t easy, many consider packs that are under 1 pound ultralight backpacks. In relation to this, carrying a loaded backpacking pack that weighs less than 20 pounds is considered lightweight backpacking, while carrying a load that is under 10 pounds is considered ultralight backpacking.

Q: How To Clean A Backpack?

A: 

For regular maintenance, simply wiping the backpack with a moist cloth will usually be than enough. However, if your backpack has stains on it, you can use a damp cloth or sponge with some mild detergent to scrub the dirty spots. Afterward, it’s important to rinse the detergent properly and leave it to dry before storing. We would advise against machine washing as this can seriously damage the backpack fabric.

Related Post: How To Wash A Backpack

Q: Are Lightweight Backpacks Durable?

A: 

Yes, lightweight backpacks can be pretty durable. However, this depends on the type of fabric as well as the stitching used when making them. Generally speaking, ripstop nylon is the best option but fabrics like high-denier polyester and polyamide can be durable too. We paid special attention to this when choosing the packs on this list so the featured models can withstand heavy loads and a lot of wear.

Globo Surf Overview

Whether you’re traveling, walking around town, or going on a hiking trip, a backpack that is too heavy can ruin everything. The pack itself mustn’t add too much weight, which is why choosing the best ultralight backpacks can be beneficial in many situations. We hope that you’ve found our guide and reviews useful so that you can confidently choose a lightweight backpack to take anywhere you go.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!