If you’re backpacking, you always want what’s on your back to be as light as possible but also able to give you the right amount of comfort and durability. Balancing these key features can be very difficult which is why getting the best ultralight backpack is important.
Choosing the best ultralight backpack though can be difficult as there are many features to consider and sometimes compromises need to be made. There are also other key features to consider too, such as the volume, material, and storage options.
In this guide we will help to clear up all your questions to make sure you can be fully confident in buying the best product for you. We have also completed lightweight backpack reviews to show you the best products out there and once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know exactly what you want.
How To Choose A Lightweight Backpack – Buying Guide
The weight of any product is important when you are backpacking but the actual backpack itself needs to be light enough to not add too much to the overall weight of what you are carrying. If you have too much weight on your back then it could make for a miserable experience and could well cause your injury problems.
When you are out there, a few items will take a significant amount of the weight as you will have your backpack, your sleeping bag, your tent and possibly a sleeping pad too. If you can get the weight of all of them down to a minimum then you could see a huge difference in the overall weight.
There are a few caveats to that though as there are often compromises to be made when it comes to backpacking. Whilst you want it to be light, you don’t want it to fall apart easily and you still want it to be comfortable. In order to be durable, aspects like a thick bottom layer and reinforcements are added, and with comfort, padding needs to be added to the shoulders.
It’s up to you to determine how much you are willing to sacrifice for the weight but a lot of these products are able to strike the perfect balance and be able to give you the durability and comfort that you need but while staying ultralight. If you want to focus mainly on comfort and durability, it might be worth looking at a regular backpack.
This also depends on the amount of hiking that you are doing. If you are only going to be traveling for short distances, then weight it less of an issue. Over longer distances it is more important but you also have to consider that the bigger the backpack you carry, the more it will weigh and also the higher the overall weight with the gear inside.
It can be hard to picture the amount of space which is in a bag, especially when you are given the dimensions of different storage spaces and even though it can be hard to picture, measuring the volume of a bag in liters will be able to give you something to easily compare different products too.
If you have an existing backpack or a mini suitcase then it might be worth seeing how many liters it is and compare that to the backpack that you are looking for. That way you’ll have a much better idea of how much space you will need.
Your need for volume depends on a few factors such as how light do you plan on packing your items and also the weather conditions that you are going to be in. If you are going to be a serious ultralight backpacker then it’s likely that you are not going to need a large volume due to the fact that you will be taking the bare minimum with you.
If you are going to be in the cold weather though, then you will need to bring more and thicker items with you and therefore a larger volume is required. If you’re inexperienced and not sure on how much stuff you’ll be taking on your backpacking trip, then it’s best to be cautious as it’ll be much better to have empty space in your bag rather than leave anything behind that you might need.
Most standard bags come in at around 35 liters which should be good enough for most trips, depending on where you are going. There are much bigger options available though but it’s always worth considering what the overall weight of a large backpack will be. A fully-loaded 60-liter backpack would take a great deal of strength to carry.
The material of these backpacks is very important as they have to try and strike that fine balance between being highly durable but also as light as possible too. It’s a balance that many materials find hard to achieve which is why you see the same type of materials coming up again and again when backpacking.
When it comes to backpacking, nylon has these qualities a lot better than other materials but it is also quite inexpensive too which makes it a very popular choice, one crucial element that needs to be added to nylon though is ripstop which will help to make it even stronger than it already is.
Ripstop is an additional fiber that can be added to the fabric in order to make them more durable and nylon can also be treated with additional water resistance too in order to make them even better. The ripstop material is able to make the fabric not only abrasion resistant but also tear-resistant too, which is essential in the world of backpacking which can often be a rough and tough environment.
One fabric that can compete with nylon is Dyneema composite fabric which was previously known as cuben fiber. This is actually a better material than nylon as it is lighter and more water resistance but the big downside is that it’s actually a lot more expensive which is why it isn’t widely used for backpacks.
When it comes to backpacking though, nylon is still king. It’s able to come in a variety of different colors and is flexible and soft enough to be a comfortable material for carrying around all day. You just need to ensure that it contains ripstop for that added durability.
When it comes to the old traditional backpacks you would often see them having a top lid which can still be seen with larger ultralight backpacks such as the Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack. For smaller bags though, this lid is often not there in order to get rid of some extra weight.
Most of these backpacks can simply be opened from the top with a dual zip which will allow you very easy access but doesn’t give you the same level of weather protection as you would get with heavier backpacks which are happy to add that little bit of weight.
A lot of these products have waterproof fabric but the zip can be a weak point. You want to ensure that the fastening is as secure as possible to not allow any water through and it’s also useful to check what other internal compartments it has where you would be able to store more valuable items.
There is also the ability to bring your zippers down to the side so that they are not directly exposed to the rain. Other ideas include using a poncho or a rain cover for your bag but this would only really be required in the heaviest of rain. If you are actively going to be out in bad conditions, then it’s probably worth getting a specific bag for this.
For their weight, these bags do a great job of being able to protect what’s inside from any water but they can only do so much. If you’re concerned about the rain, make sure to check the opening and the internal compartments to ensure that it’s good enough for your needs.
The assumption when you are looking for a backpack is that you are going to try and fill it with items that are also as light as they can possibly be. These products are made with that in mind and therefore they don’t offer up much in terms of a frame.
This is often seen on heavier bags where they have to have an internal structure in order to be able to support the greater weight that is going to be placed inside them. A lot of these backpacks though are able to be folded down to a very small size and be taken anywhere that they need to go.
If you need to be carrying a lot of weight then it’s best to look at a bag that is going to have a sturdy frame which is going to be a lot heavier and not really ideal for taking on long hiking trips. A backpack can comfortably sit on your back for days on end.
There are a few additional features that can be useful on a backpack when it comes to extra support with one of them being the backpack having weak points that are reinforced throughout the bag. This will help to keep the bag solid and ensure that it doesn’t rip easily.
One area that almost always has additional support is on the bottom of the bag as this is the place that is going to take the most punishment. Having extra padding here will ensure that your bag is able to last you for a good number of years.
When you have anything on your back, comfort becomes a big issue as if you are on a backpacking trip with an uncomfortable bag then it can really take away from the experience. Often with comfort comes a balancing act due to the other aspects that can be affected by it, with a big one being weight.
The point was made before and it’s relevant to comfort too, these products are made with it in mind that the person buying them is going to want to fill them with items that are fairly light and therefore the overall bag weight is still going to be quite low.
Therefore, these bags don’t give you the greatest level of padding in the world but it should be enough to make it comfortable while you’re wearing the backpack. Even with ultralight backpacks, you still need padding on your shoulder and all products should have this level of protection for you.
It also helps if they have a breathable mesh on them as well. This will help to ensure that enough air can circulate with the padding so that you don’t sweat and overheat very easily. Having this type of ventilation on the back can also massively increase your comfort levels.
On backpacks that have a greater capacity, there can also be additional straps to help you carry the weight and these will either be found over the waist and/or over the sternum. These are rarer with lightweight backpacks due to the fact that they are not designed to carry a huge amount of weight.
In terms of comfort, you also want to make sure that the straps are going to be able to fully adjust to you and your height. If your backpack is not tightly on your body then it’s going to move around more and cause you a lot of back discomfort so always ensure that the backpack is going to fit you and that they have the straps adjustable enough to keep it tight.
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In terms of the overall size of the backpack, you want to make sure that it’s going to be ideal for you and your circumstances. Some of these bags are a lot bigger than others and if you’re not used to carrying a big bag then it could be very uncomfortable and make for a very miserable experience.
There is also the aspect of travel too which can make these backpacks really stand out from the competition. A lot of them are able to fold down into a very small size which is going to be able to fit in your hand, which means that they can be taken anywhere.
This makes them great for travel where you might be staying in a central base such as a hotel or a camp and want to be able to venture out and take all your essentials with you. Being able to fold down to this size can make them highly convenient, especially for those who are traveling by air.
In terms of design, there are not many differences from the outside due to the needs of the backpack and how light they have to be. The style is often a personal choice and a lot of these backpacks come in a range of different colors so you will be able to get one which matches your personality
With the size though, a lot of it comes down to common sense and making sure that you are not expecting too much of yourself when it comes to having one of these ultralight backpacks. Get one which you’re actually going to be able to carry, even if that means getting a backpack which is slightly smaller.
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There are a few additional features that can be found on these products. Checking them against each other and seeing which one you need can be a great way to decide between two different backpacks when you are struggling to separate them.
One part of the bag where there can be a few main differences is in the main compartment as different companies will set this out in different ways. This is where the majority of your backpacking gear needs to so needs to be able to accommodate everything that you want to carry on your trip.
After the main compartment, there will be a number of different compartments. Some can be found under the main zip next to the main compartment and this is often where people will place valuables and other key items. Most will also have a front pocket too which can be useful for having instant access to booking receipts, vouchers, or any other piece of important documentation.
Most ultralight backpacks will also have a side pocket which is generally designed to be able to hold water bottles. This will mean that you can have easy access to your water without having to take off your bag and also without worrying that you are going to get any of the other contents wet.
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Other ultralight backpacks have more complicated designs and it’s whatever suits you. Some people prefer a minimalistic approach so that they don’t lose anything whereas others will be happy to have as many pockets as possible in order to be able to separate everything in an organized way.
With the bigger bags, they need to have enough straps to support the weight and other features such as hydration ports can be very useful. When choosing your bag it’s good to have in mind exactly what you need. That way, you will be able to quickly cross off your list any lightweight backpack which doesn’t meet your requirements.
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Q: Are Lightweight Backpacks Durable?
Globo Surf Overview
Backpacking can be a wonderful experience but many people have been in that situation where they have been walking for a few hours and their shoulders start to ache and you can feel your back taking the strain, all the while you are probably constantly readjusting your backpack to try and make it more comfortable.
This can ruin your backpacking experience but with the best lightweight backpack, you will be able to put those worries behind and head out into the great outdoors fully confident that you are going to be able to spend the whole day doing what you love and not having to worry about what’s on your back.
Before that moment though you have to pick the perfect backpack for you and a lot of that will come down to the size of it. You don’t want a backpack that is going to be too difficult to carry and in the same breath, you don’t want a backpack that isn’t able to hold all your items, finding the middle ground is going to be crucial to getting the right size.
The material is going to be important in getting a durable backpack and most of these products are made from nylon and it’s important that ripstop fibers have been added to it in order to give it more durability. Once you have that figured out you can check that the backpack is going to be suitable for your needs by having the design that you want and any additional features that you need.
Once you have picked one of the best ultralight backpacks then you will be to enjoy every type of adventure. This guide has hopefully helped to clear up any questions that you might have had so that you can start your backpacking adventure with a light and comfortable bag, which is going to make your adventure even more enjoyable.
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