Any backpack that weighs between 2 and 3 pounds to me is considered a lightweight backpack, so the list below will be all the best options available that all come in under this mark.
I apologize for these not being all complete and fully fleshed out, these take time when you don’t hire someone to spam out Amazon lists and I am working to make them the best resource on the web. Hopefully, soon they will be live.
Thru-Hiking Backpacking Requirements
When considering an ultralight backpack, there are a few key features to look for:
An ultralight backpack should be made from lightweight materials such as nylon or Dyneema in order to minimize its weight.
Ultralight backpacks are designed with simplicity and functionality in mind. They typically have fewer pockets and compartments than traditional backpacks and may forego features such as a frame in favor of a lighter weight.
They will tend to be less than 2 pounds when empty and can often be compressed down to a small size when not in use. Some are even in the vicinity of 1 pound or less!
For most, you will need around a 40-liter capacity but some go as low as 30-35 liters. This is typically sufficient for carrying everything you need for the 3-7 day town to town visits that you get on a thru-hike.
Most backpacks were made from DCF fabric but newer materials are coming that are lighter and more durable like ULTRA which is taking the thru-hiking world by storm.
Most ultralight packs will have a roll-top enclosure which is not only lighter but also more versatile in terms of fitting a wider range of gear inside.
Padded shoulder straps are key for comfort on those long days on the trail. Many ultralight packs will have thinner straps to save weight but some companies are now making lighter weight padding that still provides good comfort.
Additional Considerations When Choosing a Backpack for Your Thru-Hike
When thinking about grabbing an ultralight pack you want to make sure that it will fit all of your gear, that it is going to be comfortable for numerous continual days, and then you will have lots of individual pieces that may be specific to your thru-hike or part of personal preferences.
For most, including myself, comfort is key when choosing a backpack. If it is not comfortable then you will likely be miserable within the first few days. I prefer shoulder straps that are well-padded and have load lifters for adjustment on them so that I can tweak the fit.
There are many sizes within packs from short to tall and many in between. It is important that you get a pack that fits your torso length well. If the pack is too long or short then it will not fit correctly and be uncomfortable.
How well the fabric defends against water and how well were seams managed will also play a role in deciding which backpack is best for you. If you are hiking in an area with a lot of rain, or even if you just want extra peace of mind, you may want to consider getting a pack with good waterproofing or a solid liner.
How well the fabric will last will matter when you are going to be roughing it for 5-6 months. If you are constantly having to stop and fix up holes or replace gear then it will cut into your hiking time and enjoyment. I prefer packs that use high-quality materials like Dyneema and Ultra because they are performance-based and pretty durable.
Do you care for pockets, lots of straps, hip belts, or other parts? If so you will want to take a look at the different designs and find something that meets your needs.
For some, a simple roll-top backpack will suffice but others may want or need more organization in their pack. If you have gear that you need to access frequently or are worried about losing small items, then you may want to consider a pack with more compartments and pockets.
You are trying to find the pack that has the internal liters at the lowest weight. This is the number that you really want to focus on when choosing a pack because it will help you understand what kind of gear you can bring along.
Gear Fit in Your Backpack
How does your gear fit, some people like to lay everything horizontally while others just toss it in. I tend to organize my gear in a horizontal method which means I need something deep and wide enough to ensure everything fits laying flat, I don’t want horizontal tents or similar items.