The 5 Ultralight Pieces of Hiking Gear You Need
Whether you’re planning an overnight trek or a day’s walking in the mountains, there are five key ultralight pieces of hiking gear that will make your life so much easier.
After all, who wants lug those unnecessary extra pounds up Ben Nevis or around Lake Windemere? Certainly not us!
So, strap yourselves into your backpack and enjoy the trip – with our help.
Here are the five ultralight pieces of hiking gear you need…
1 . An ultralight backpack
Everything starts with your backpack. First and foremost, make sure you have a good fit by taking your measurements and ensuring the pack you choose sits perfects on your back. It should also have an adjustable waist strap that transfers the weight of the pack from your shoulders to your hips. In fact, it can transfer up to 80% of the weight in this way, according to some studies, so this is vital.
Obviously, if the pack itself Is ultralight, you’ll be able to carry more items inside it comfortably, feel less tired, and enjoy your walking more. An ultralight backpack is generally considered to be anything less than 4.5kg, with daypacks obviously weighing considerably less than those used for longer hikes.
For day hikes, the Naturehike Foldable Backpack is an excellent choice for anyone on a budget. It has a 25L capacity, weighs just 160g, and can also fold down to 15cms by 8cms by 4cms, so it is possible to store it in your pocket when it’s not in use. It has padded straps and an adjustable waist belt and is perfect for both men and women. It retails at £26.94.
The Mammut Lithium Speed 20L Hiking Backpack is super lightweight at 0.7kg and it has breathable padding, a trekking pole carrier, the space for a hydration system, and hip belt adjustment. There are two slip pockets, and a fitted rain cover is also available from Mammut. This unisex backpack costs £83.15.
Salomon is a well-known brand favoured by walkers and hikers, so many will choose the unisex Salomon Trailblazer 20 Unisex Hiking Backpack for a day hike. This weighs just 414g, has a 20L volume, has a light harness and belt construction to spread the load of the pack’s weight, and it has an elastic chest strap which expands when you breathe heavily. It’s also compatible with Salomon’s 1.5L and 2L bladders. This retails for £55.
If you need more storage capacity, the MAXTOP 50L Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack has 40L of main storage capacity and 13 pockets, with several that are easily accessible without opening the top of the pack.
There are useful mesh pockets for water bottles and trekking poles, the pack is made with a water-resistant nylon fabric. The chest strap also has a buckle for a whistle, perfect to keep it handy if you need to raise the alarm. This unisex pack weighs 0.78lbs and it retails for £17.99, which is great for anyone on a budget.
If you’re planning a trek covering several days, you’ll need a backpack capable of taking a sleeping bag and a bivvy or a one-person tent, alongside your food, clothes, and all your other useful camping items.
The unisex Free Knight 60L Waterproof Backpack is 0.9kg but has the capacity for everything you need on a longer trip. It has padded shoulder straps, back support, breathable straps, and a ventilation system to help you stay dry, with side pockets for water bottles, hanging straps for your walking poles and tent, and it comes with a rain cover. It costs £45.
The unisex 60L FKDG Ultralight Hiking Pack is also a good option for longer trips – light enough for walking and big enough for anything you’ll need to carry. It comes with a rain cover and is made from waterproof fabrics, which is always useful in the UK! It weighs 1.5kg and is ergonomically designed with a breathable mesh back panel to help cool you down when you’re on foot. It sells for £66.99.
Whichever backpack you choose, always ensure you have a well-fitting rain cover for it. Buy one separately if your backpack doesn’t come with one.
When things in your pack get wet, they get heavier, plus there’s nothing worse for a trekker’s feet than having to change into soggy socks. That’s a recipe for blisters. It’s also worth looking at the description of your backpack. If it’s described as water resistant, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily waterproof.
2 . Ultralight trekking poles
Anyone who’s been on a challenging trek will tell you about the importance of having lightweight walking or trekking poles.
They give you extra stability on uneven terrain, help your balance when crossing moving water and tackling ridges, and help you cope with loose ground like sand or scree.
Poles also help you maintain a decent pace, walk in a good rhythm, and help reduce swelling to the hands and arms on long walks. You can also use them to test the depth of snow or water, and some can even be used as tent poles.
Most modern walking poles are light, folding or telescopic, and can be retracted or folded enough to be stored in the mesh panels on the side of a backpack when they’re not in use.
These poles are generally made from two materials, carbon fibre and aluminium alloy.
The AONIJIE Folding Ultralight Carbon Fibre Trekking Poles weigh just 173g per pole and they’re made from aerospace-grade aluminium alloy and carbon fibre with a tungsten carbide tip for extra stability. These foldable poles have four sections, wrist straps, and a non-slip grip. They cost £47.99.
Wrzbest Aluminum Alloy Quick Lock Trekking Poles weigh 221g, they’re anti-shock, telescopic, made from aviation-grade aluminium alloy, and they have an ergonomic T-handle that helps reduce the stress on your knees. The handles have wrist straps and are made of cork, too, to wick away moisture and give you a good grip. They cost £27.86.
3 . Ultralight rations
Some of the heaviest items we take on a walk with us are the food and water we’ll consume along the way. This is especially true if we’re planning to be trekking in the great outdoors for several days.
Now we have to eat and drink, especially when we’re expending so much energy! However, there are things we can do to ease the burden.
We can spread the weight of the water we take with us with a bladder hydration system that fits into a backpack, also allowing us to keep hydrated via a tube as we walk along. No need to stop for water breaks!
The UTOBEST Hydration Bladder Bag comes in 1L, 1.5L, 2L, and 3L and costs £8.99 to £11.99, for example.
If you’re going to be outside for a few days or more, you may want to rely on rivers or streams for your water. To do that, you’ll need to purify it with water purification tablets that will kill off micro-organisms to prevent diarrhoea and water-borne diseases. Oasis has a pack of 50 water purification tablets for £2.49.
To cut down on backpack weight, you may want to invest in some walkers’ field ration packs. These are particularly useful if you don’t want to take much cooking equipment with you as you can buy self-heating packs. One meal pack contains a main course and dessert, and snacks like a chocolate bar and cereal bar, plus tea and coffee. Ration-X has a meal pack for £13.95 that gives you 1200 calories weighing less than 750g. A 24-hour pack with three meals and 4000 calories costs £29.49 and weighs 1.8kg.
If you’re just out for a day‘s hike, choose protein-rich, carbohydrate-rich, calorie-dense, and light foods like nuts, dried meats, and cold pasta dishes. Many walkers also take a bag of sweets or chocolate bar in case they need a quick injection of energy.
If you are planning to cook, look for a lightweight system like the Trangia which sells for around £80 and weighs 1.1kg. The pans, burner, and kettle stack together inside a small bag.
4 . Ultralight waterproofs and warm clothes
Anyone who walks in the UK knows how important it is to pack for all seasons – as we often get them all in one day!
The key to keeping it easy to carry is to choose multiple thin layers in lightweight fabrics.
Depending on the season, many walkers will opt for a set of very lightweight waterproof over trousers and hooded jacket that can be stowed in a rucksack when weather permits.
Mountain Warehouse has a good affordable range for both men and women with taped seams making them fully waterproof. For example, their Pakka women’s waterproof over trousers have ankle openings to make fitting over walking boots easy. They cost £16.99. Mountain Warehouse’s men’s Downpour waterproof over trousers roll up into a small bag and cost between £18 and £40.
If you have more money to spend, Berghaus has lightweight, durable, and eco-friendly Paclite Gore-Tex waterproof men’s over trousers that will keep you dry in downpours and roll right up into a small ball in your rucksack. They cost between £80 and £147. Berghaus also has women’s Deluge 2.0 waterproof over trousers for between £45 and £64.
Mountain Warehouse’s packable waterproof Pakka men’s over jacket costs between £22 and £30, while the women’s version costs between £16 and £25. Regatta has its Pack-It III Waterproof Packaway jacket costing between £14 and £50.
For colder months, many walkers will choose a lightweight down-filled jacket that can be rolled up and packed away into the bottom of your rucksack. Wantdo Women’s Down Jackets cost between £29 and £60 and they are both windproof and warm enough for mountain conditions.
Mountain Warehouse has its Featherweight Men’s Down Jackets costing between £50 and £70.
Don’t forget to pack a woollen hat and gloves even in the summer if you’re walking in the mountains. It can still be surprisingly cold at higher altitudes.
5 . A lightweight torch
Being able to see your way in the dark and in cloudy, misty conditions is vital. So, packing torches is especially important – with spare batteries and a spare torch if something goes wrong with the first one.
Head torches allow you to see clearly and keep your hands free, which is extremely useful when you’re using walking poles. Aennon has a USB Rechargeable LED head torch for £16.99 (or two for £17.99) which gives you up to 150m of vision and is comfortable to wear.
When it comes to travelling light, it’s all about planning things ahead of time and knowing what you can leave out of your backpack during your hike.
Do the research now, and the future you will thank you on that long, hot walk up a mountainside!
Get some inspiration from our guide to everything you need to pack for your walk.