Sweat trickles down your back. The sun blazes down, your rucksack weighs heavier each step, and the incline feels unrelenting – how much longer till you can stop for a cool drink and a break? An all too relatable feeling for most outdoors folk, and aside from getting fitter (or simply staying on the sofa) there is one secret solution to the problem – carry less weight.
The quest for less weight on trips and expeditions has always been ‘a thing’. The Victorians drilled holes in heavy equipment in an effort to lighten it – but modern technology and materials can do much much better than that.
We’ve pulled together some of the best lightweight gear for camping or backpacking, to help you put together a pack that weighs a little lighter on your back. These are the new products blazing a well-trodden trail with gusto, cutting the kilos but most importantly still being excellent outdoor items – just don’t go drilling holes in them
- Kit yourself out with one of the best camping cookware sets
Light but extremely robust, the Mountain Hardwear Alpine Light epitomises the lightweight approach possible with modern materials. By using Dyneema fabric Mountain Hardwear has been able to make an incredibly strong and water-resistant rucksack to excel in everyday use, but one that weighs only a fraction over a kilo (1037g), even at a roomy 50L size. There’s lots of other vital detail here too, with handy side pockets, secure zip pockets in the lid, a comfortable but lightweight harness, and reflective tapes built into the lid and zippers.
The Salomon XA soft flask doesn’t look much at first glance, but there is genius here, especially for long-distance walkers and runners alike. A flexible half-litre bottle packs down to almost nothing, and only weighs 52g, but because of the inbuilt filter, can be topped up from any water source you encounter. This means you can carry less water (which is very heavy), but also be confident of drinking clean water, whatever the source. Brilliant for emergencies and wallet-friendly, this is one for every rucksack.
The Rab Mythic Ultra 180 is quite simply the best lightweight sleeping bag right now. Sleeping bags can be heavy beasts, with even high-end winter bags clocking in around the two-kilo mark. Cheap summer bags can easily hit a kilo, so Rab’s work making this 0-degree-rated bag a mere 394g is all the more astonishing. As well as using lightweight materials and top-notch 900+ FP R.D.S. certified European goose down, the inner is impregnated with titanium (in a process called Thermo Ionic Lining Technology) which reflects body heat but weighs almost nothing.
Not right for you? Explore our pick of the best sleeping bags overall.
The Gore-Tex Paclite has been a regular in our ranking for the best waterproof jackets for some time now. The latest version, the Paclite Plus, knocks off even more weight. Mountain Hardwear has got to market first with the new fabric, in the shape of the 257g Exposure 2 jacket. There are lighter waterproof shell jackets, but this will stand up to the rough and tumble of outdoor life with aplomb, as well as being bluesign approved and PFC-Free.
The clean lines of the North Face Dryzzle Futurelight jacket conceal some ingenious tech. Even at first touch it’s obvious something unusual is going on here and with a total weight of just 300g, this is no heavyweight hardshell jacket. This is down to TNF’s Futurelight fabric, an engineering first that uses nano-spinning technology to add air permeability to a waterproof membrane, resulting in a light, breathable but robust waterproof shell. A stretch-knit backer prevents that cold, clammy feel of a traditional shell on bare skin, and all the hardshell mod cons are present and correct, including velcro cuffs, fully adjustable hood and storm flaps.
It might look like a spaceship, but there’s a good reason for the styling of the Terra Nova Solar Ultra 2 Tent. Weighing in at 722g (that’s an astonishing 361g per person), the two man Solar Ultra is the lightest two-man freestanding tent available today (compare it with its competitors in our roundup of the best backpacking tents). As well as being designed to shrug off the worst UK weather, there is some serious tech included to make this one of the best tents around – not least in the weight-squeezing Dyneema guy lines and titanium pegs. However, the big noise is that silver flysheet, made from Terra Nova’s ULTRA fabric, itself made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) – a material more commonly used in bulletproof composite armor systems.
While we’re fans of jackets that last the test of time, if only for ethical reasons, the Hyper 100 has a strong claim to appearing here. Made of fully waterproof Hydroshell Elite Pro fabric, the entire jacket weighs in at a ludicrous 97g, or considerably less than your average smartphone. Obviously at this weight there are compromises here, with just elastic holding cuffs and hood closures, but when the grams really count, there’s not many other waterproof shells in competition.
There are plenty of hiking poles out there, some beefier than others. Indeed, some poles can easily weigh double these ultralight versions from Leki, adding half a kilo of deadweight to your load. The folding Micro Stick Carbon weighs in at a featherweight 191g, mainly due to the slimline 100% carbon fibre build. However, unlike super-cheap carbon poles, Leki protects the junctions between each section with an aluminium overlay, which also hosts the collapse/expand button in the top unit. Although the pole is fixed length (so make sure you pick the right size for you), it does fold down to a rucksack-friendly 37cm, and features Leki’s ultralight Aergon grips for comfort and easy grip changes on varying terrain.