Ultralight Backpacking Checklist (Printable PDF & Editable)

Ultralight backpacking is the practice of packing as light as possible for a backpacking trip and still being warm, safe, and well-fed! A base weight of 10 pounds (or less) is the ideal that many strive for. With today’s modern and very lightweight gear – it’s actually quite doable if you have the cash!

Ultralight backpacking is all about the freedom to go further, faster, and harder than you can with a normal backpack. Some conditions and situations don’t lend themselves to Ultralight backpacking, however, such as winter backpacking in the snow, but so many other backpacking situations do!

Ultralight backpacking will put less strain on your body and as long as you don’t go “stupid light” and leave things like maps and first aid kits behind to save weight, it is just as safe. 

You can’t really cut down on food and water or go too far with cutting down warm clothing without jeopardizing your safety, but you can cut down on the big four; your backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and pad. They take up the most room in your backpack and also weigh the most.

The lower base weight means you can pack more food, fuel, and water so you can travel further without having to come back to civilization and restock your consumables so soon.

Read on to delve into our ultralight backpacking checklist and see what tips and hints we’ve got so you can reduce your base weight for your next backpacking trip!

Shelter

  • Ultralight tent, tent poles, and rainfly
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  • Stakes/pegs
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  • OR Hammock with a rain fly and bug net
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  • OR Bivy
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  • OR Tarp setup
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Related: Looking for a tent that holds up in the cold? Check out our review of the best 4 season tent.

Sleeping

  • 15-20° Light sleeping bag
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  • Stuff sack to keep your sleeping bag dry
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  • Inflatable sleeping pad
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Walking

  • 40-65 liter internal frame backpack
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  • Hiking pole (Can double as a tent pole too)
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  • Boots and / or trail runners
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  • Permits
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Cooking & Eating

  • Canister camping stove
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  • Extra stove fuel, lighter
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  • 2x firestarters – just in case
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  • 1x Cooking pot
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  • 1x Spoon or spork
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  • Multi-Tool incl knife
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  • Dishcloth
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  • Water purification system
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  • Resealable plastic bags for food storage
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  • Stuff sack for food
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  • Water bottle or bladder (personal preference)
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  • Bear bag/canister (if required by park regulations)
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Wet weather protection

  • Rain and wind jacket
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  • Waterproof pack cover
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Clothing

  • Wool or synthetic base layer – that you literally won’t take off
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  • Long-sleeved mid-layer.
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  • Insulating jacket, top layer, down or synthetic
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  • 1x Hiking bottoms. Synthetic
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  • 1x Rain and wind jacket
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  • 1x Rain pants – check your guide to see if you’ll need them on your trail
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  • 2x underwear, 1x sports bra
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  • 3x Socks.
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  • Woolen gloves, if it will be cold
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  • Beanie (Merino or synthetic)
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  • Plastic bag for dirty/wet clothes
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  • Stuff sack to keep camp clothes dry
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  • Camp clothes: Wool polyester or synthetic leggings and a spare top
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  • Camp shoes/sandals to give your feet a break
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Use merino wool socks and take a pair for camp, two pairs for walking and maybe also a thick pair for cold nights.

Toiletries

  • Fold up toothbrush
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  • Sample size toothpaste
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  • Antibacterial soap
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  • Small quick-dry towel
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  • Hairbrush
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  • Toilet paper and ziplock to carry out used paper
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  • Toilet trowel
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  • Medications
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  • Waterless hand sanitizer
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  • Anti-chafe
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First Aid Kit

  • Antibiotic cream
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  • Gauze pads
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  • Painkiller
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  • Anti-diarrhea tablets
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  • Antihistamine
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  • Sewing needle with dental floss for thread
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  • Blister tape
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  • Duct tape (works as a bandage, splint, covering)
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Personal Protection

  • Sunglasses
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  • Insect repellent
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  • Sunscreen
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  • Chapstick or lip balm
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  • GPS subscription
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Lighting

  • Headlamp
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  • Spare Battery
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Luxuries

  • Smartphone in a protective phone case and power bank
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  • Notebook and pencils (pencils write on wet-ish paper)
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  • Downloaded guide to your walking area
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  • Downloaded books, star charts, and field guides
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  • Camera
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Useful things

  • Watch
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  • Parachute cord
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  • Emergency beacon
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  • Tent pole repair
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  • Compass or navigation device
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  • Credit card/cash/Identification
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A woman carrying a backpack hiking up a mountain with trekking poles.
A pack that is too heavy will take all the fun out of a trek. Go as light as you can and save your knees as well.

Backpacking weight comparisons

Backpacking typeApprox Base Weights
Traditional backpacking30+ lb (13kg)
Lightweight backpacking20lbs (9kgs) 
Ultralight backpacking 10lbs  (4.5kg) 
Super ultralight backpacking 5lbs (2.2 kgs) 

Base weight includes: Pack, tent, sleeping bag, and pad, cooking and eating utensils, first aid, electronics, water filter, spare clothing & misc. It doesn’t include consumables like food and water.

Cutting the weight of the big four items 

BackpackTentSleeping bagSleeping pad
Backpacking weight 65 liters 3-5lbs5-7lbs6lbs1lbs 8oz
Ultralight Weight 45 – 55 liters 1-2lbs1-2lbs2lbs10 -15oz

Hints and tips for reducing weight further

  • The heaviest items are your backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. You can knock at least 10 pounds off by investing in ultra-light specialty items like these. 
  • Weigh each piece of gear  – you’ll be surprised. Note your base weight total before adding consumables (food and water)
  • Instead of a mallet, use a rock at the campsite to put in your tent pegs. 
  • If it’s good weather, consider ditching the rainfly, or tarp.
  • There are lightweight tent footprint options around or if the ground is going to be soft enough, leave the footprint behind in an Ultralight trip. 
  • When you replace old gear, find lighter more modern substitutes.
  • Leave most of your toiletries at home. You attract fewer insects too!
  • Wear the same clothes over and over. You’ll always be dirty on the trail, so just be dirty. 
  • Evaluate your gear when you get home. If you didn’t use it, maybe it stays home on the next trip?
  • Eat out of the pot you cook in.
  • Instead of a waterproof pack cover, consider using a bin liner on the INSIDE of your pack. Lighter and everything stays dry. 
  • Swap your standard tent stakes with a lighter set.
  • Share your weight amongst your group. You don’t need two stoves and two tents do you?
  • A razor blade can be a good knife and scissors alternative
  • Consider a tarp instead of a tent or try a trail weight tent setup.
  • Go stoveless if the weather and your tastebuds let you. 
  • Water is heavy. Use a water filter and “camel up” every time you stop for a break. The best place to carry water is inside you!

Collating a list like this one is a great place to start looking at where you can reduce the amount of gear you are carrying, especially if you weigh each item so you can see at a glance where the weight is. A spreadsheet is a great idea as it can add and subtract as you think about it making it easy to see what will make a difference and what won’t. 

“Do you really need it?” is the mantra of the Ultralight backpacking community and a question you’ll be asking over and over again on your journey to downsize your backpacking gear. And it is a journey, make no mistake about it. 

Just walking into a camping shop and buying the lightest gear doesn’t make you an ultralight backpacker. It takes time to know what works for you, for your climate, your comfort levels, climate, and the trails you want to hike. 

So get out on the trails, taking less and less with you each time until you run out of things to ask, “Do I really need this?” about!

Happy trekking! 😊

Next up: Planning to deep dive into outdoor adventure and take your first thru-hike? Find out what you need to pack with our thru hiking checklist.

Back one: Is it getting chilly in the tent? Find out how to heat a tent in cold weather.

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Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!