Your Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

Your Ultralight Backpacking Checklist

Your Ultralight Backpacking Checklist


 It ’s easy to do ultralight backpacking if you know what gear to bring along and what gear to leave at home and this ultralight backpacking checklist will help you identify that gear. In order to fully enjoy your backpacking trip, it’s super important that you’re able to carry everything that’s inside your bag. It’s also important to know that you can bring ultralight versions of gear to make your load less heavy. Remember, summertime will be the easiest time to do ultralight backpacking, but it doesn’t mean you can’t travel light in the other seasons as well. Just make sure you bring what’s appropriate and necessary.

Here are the basics from our ultralight backpacking checklist:

ultralight backpacking checklist

Your “It-Does-the-Job” Shelter

If the season is right, get an ultralight tent (under 5 lbs.) and a light sleeping bag that weighs a little more than a pound. Both should roll up easily. You might also want to consider the use of a bivy sack, which is essentially a sleeping bag and tent in one.

Your Versatile Clothing

Prepare yourself for extreme weather by packing the necessary layers or protective gear. In winter, you’ll need extras like gloves and insulated shirts. In summer, you’ll need a hat to protect your head. Make sure clothing is lightweight and versatile, but don’t skip out on the necessities.

Light and Airy Footwear

Hiking boots can be really heavy, and even though you won’t be carrying them, you don’t want to have a hard time walking. Instead, take a light pair of trail shoes to give everything an easy, bouncy feel when you walk. Bring along the exact amount of socks, (you can always wear a pair again), and a pair of sandals or outdoor slippers for when you’re at your campsite.

To Stay Clean

It’s necessary to take care of your hygiene on the trail, but it doesn’t mean you need to bring your entire bathroom with you. When considering your ultralight backpacking checklist, focus on dry shampoo, one-time-use soap shavings, a toothbrush, toothpaste powder, toilet paper, a mini-deodorant, and hand sanitizer.

For the Trail

You’re going to need gear specifically for hiking. This means your map or GPS, compass, headlamp or flashlight (with backup batteries), your first-aid kit, bug spray, and sun protection including sunglasses, a hat, and of course, sunscreen.

Your Meals, Snacks, and Water

In order to successfully organize your ultralight backpacking checklist, you will need to plan your meals out before you go, individually packing them so you can get rid of weight as you go on. Prepare just-add-water meals, bring two or three trail snacks per day, drinking water or a lightweight water purification system (like the Sawyer Squeeze or just a pot to boil water), and a water bottle.

For cooking and creating your fire, bring an integrated stove system (like the Jetboil) and a means of starting a fire. You’ll need matches and backup fire-starters. You will also need a knife or multi-tool and utensils for eating (like the Eat’N Tool).

Emergency Items and Repair Tools

No matter how lightweight you want to be, make sure you keep the things you might need “just in case” on your ultralight backpacking checklist. Most stoves come with a repair kit, but don’t forget extra fuel (if necessary), duct tape strips or Tear-Aid, an ice ax (if hiking in the winter), a signaling mirror, and a reflective blanket. The other items on this list can be used in an emergency as well.

Useful Accessories

When it comes to gear accessories, it’s important to keep in mind that fact that you are keen on doing ultralight backpacking. That being said, there are several useful accessories you can take along that won’t add much to your bag, but can positively impact your overall experience. This can include anything from trekking poles and a whistle, to footprints for your tent, cool gear gadgets, or a compression sack.

Personal Items

If you’re looking to do ultralight backpacking, then you might have to sacrifice bringing along some personal items. Lucky for you, some of our favorite personal items are pretty lightweight. These items might include your camera (hopefully we’re talking about something small like a GoPro), your phone with your favorite hiking apps, an MP3 player, binoculars, a bag of marshmallows….whatever floats your boat!


No matter how lightweight you want your load to be, there are certain things every backpacker needs. In addition to all the emergency gear, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve remembered any documents you need to get into the park or area you’ll be hiking. This includes your hiking permits, driver’s license or other form of ID, and even some cash and a credit card. If you take any medication in addition to what’s in your first-aid kit, don’t leave it behind. If you’re someone who gets blisters or sore ankles, bring along anything you need to help. And, if you want to make ultralight backpacking even more lightweight, then bring along a friend or significant other to help you split up the weight!

It might be hard to plan and pack for an ultralight backpacking trip, but you’re going to be glad you did!

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.