By Steve Gillman
Lightweight backpacks should weigh less than three pounds.
Though most backpacks are heavier than this, there are plenty
of good ones under three pounds for almost all types of trips.
My own pack is a GoLite Breeze. It weighs just 13 ounces and
has a capacity of about 2,900 cubic inches (plus more with the
extension collar up). It is more comfortable than any frame pack
I've had, especially since I don't carry more than 16 or 17 pounds
The mesh outer pockets are a great idea for lightweight backpacks.
I have often stuffed my wet tarp in the large one in the morning,
where it easy to get out to dry in the sun later. I've had the
pack for years, and I've used it on two trips to Ecuador (from
rain forest to 20,600 feet), as well as in the Rockies, the Smokies,
and here in Michigan. It's still in one piece, and if packed
right, it qualifies as carry-on when I fly (I don't check luggage)
My next lightweight backpack may be the tougher GoLite Gust,
which weighs 20 ounces. I just finished reading seven reviews,
and all of them praised the pack. One reviewer carried it for
the weekend with a 27-pound load, so lightweight backpacks don't
have to be light-duty. At the bottom of the page you'll find
a couple examples of what's available in lightweight backpacks,
with complete descriptions.
Notes: These products come and go, and you can check
out my latest updates on my page about lightweight
Frame-Less Lightweight Backpacks
Most lightweight backpacks don't have frames. I use a sleeping
pad for a frame, as is often recommended. You can use a cheap
closed-cell pad if you cut it across, halfway through the foam,
on opposite sides. Then you can accordion it into a three layer
thick (2 cuts)or four layer thick (3 cuts) back-padding frame.
Just put the pad in the pack first, then load everything in behind
Other Lightweight Options
There are plenty of lightweight backpacks you can buy, but
there are also other alternatives to buying a new one. For example,
I've experimented with an old aluminum pack frame and large duffel
bag, creating a full-suspension pack that weighs only two pounds.
It carried loads well in the mountains of Montana, but it wasn't
the most convenient pack to use. It was nice to have the frame,
though, in case I had to carry my wife out of the wilderness.
The 8-ounce duffel works okay as a backpack by itself too. Any
other experimenters out there?
Another way to save money on lightweight gear is to checkout
Craigslist or other online classified advertising sites.
Lightest Ultralight Backpacks covers really light
packs. One new model weighs under four ounces.
Is Lightweight Backpacking? answers that question "How
light do you have to go to call it lightweight?," plus has
tips on how to keep it light.
Cheap Backpacks : A couple
ways to buy them cheap or make them cheap.