Outdoor kit is heavy enough on its own without your backpack adding extra weight—that 20-pocket beast might look good in the store, but you'll soon resent its increased heft when you're lugging it through the wilderness.
This is where a lightweight backpack comes into play. These typically weigh around 2lbs or under, pushing to 3lbs maximum. This type of compact backpack is especially considerate if you're carrying a raft of outdoor gear, including, of course, the obligatory slab of Kendal Mint Cake.
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With that in mind, here we’ve rounded up the best lightweight backpacks, ranging from advanced packs for thru-hiking and alpine adventuring, through to smaller ones for casual rambling.
We've even included some waterproof backpacks in case you'll be crossing a river or two (don't forget your waterproof hiking boots for that one). Before we unveil our picks, let's look at how you can choose the right 'pack for your individual needs...
How to buy the best lightweight backpack for you
Ultimately, the biggest consideration is what you need a lightweight backpack for. That will inform how big of a pack you need. As a general rule of thumb, 10-30 litre capacity backpacks are suited to day trips, while 35-litres upwards caters to extended hiking and camping trips. And yes, it's entirely possible to find larger capacity backpacks that are pleasingly lightweight.
Material is important. If you want a lightweight backpack to use year-round, or even to wear while wading through rivers and streams, choose one with a waterproof outer. This will ensure that your kit stays bone dry inside.
Finally, does the backpack have handy outside pockets for you to quickly store essential items that you'll need fast access to? External mesh pockets are brilliant for housing water bottles to quench thirst on the move, or sunscreen for topping up your level of sun protection.
So, without further ado, here are our picks for the best lightweight backpacks...
These are the best lightweight backpacks you can buy right now
When it comes to the best lightweight backpacks, this one comes up trumps for those of you putting comfort and ventilation above everything else. Why? Because the Osprey Levity’s aluminium frame holds the body of the backpack around three inches from your back.
This AirSpeed mesh system improves breathability and prevents build-up of sweat, and unsightly sweat patches on the back of your t-shirt.
Weighing in at 1.7lbs and offering up a generous 45-litre capacity, the Osprey Levity 45 can comfortably accommodate up to 10lbs of hiking or camping gear.
It's compatible with hydration reservoirs, and has plenty of external pockets for stashing items you'll need easy access to, such as sunscreen, a water bottle and map.
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Thru-hikers, step this way. If you've ever stood in the middle of an outdoor supply store not knowing which of the tens of 'packs is right for your needs, Granite Gear is about to make your life so much easier.
The 1.9lb Crown2 top-loading multi-day backpack is super comfortable to wear, with a dual density shoulder harness and a foam back panel infused with ventilation channels to maximise airflow, keeping you cool.
A removable sternum strap works to distribute bulk more evenly, so you won't suffer with the weight of each step. We also love the fully removable zippered lid for easy access into the backpack when you're on the trail.
Many of the best lightweight backpacks we’ve featured here are ideal partners for day trekking and everyday outdoor adventures, and the stylish Brize 25L Backpack is no exception.
This 25-litre Arc’teryx backpack has zippered top access, enabling you to delve in for snacks and trail essentials. An internal security pocket keeps smaller items safe, with quick-access side pockets ideal for housing a one-litre water bottle or your trekking poles. You could also secure poles via the dual front daisy chains with bungee straps.
Arc’teryx has designed the Brize 25L lightweight backpack with a HydroPort tube passage and internal clip, so it’s hydration bladder compatible. It’s also handsome enough to see you from the trail to the pub or tea room after you’re done trekking.
This roll-top Aquapac offering is the best lightweight backpack for those of you who plan on adventuring in wetter conditions. It's also available in 15 (1.35lbs), 25 (1.43lbs) and 35-litre (1.75lbs) sizes to accommodate a range of outdoor gear.
The Aquapac Wet and Dry is the ideal choice for keeping your action camera, spare clothing and snacks dry when you're canyoning down waterfalls or wading through rivers; its IPX6 rating is essentially jet-washer proof.
If you plan on wild swimming, keep your wet clothes separate from everything else by stashing them in the full-size waterproof internal pocket. You can also clip your climbing helmet or even a robust portable Bluetooth speaker to the integral light-lash, leaving you hands free.
This bag is all about convenience. It’s as light as a feather and can fold up into a tiny carry case the size of an apple, which makes it the ideal backpack for taking with you on active holidays.
The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack boasts a waterproof external fabric, so your kit will be safe in a downpour. There’s an internal security pocket for smaller bits of tech and valuables, plus an external side pocket for stashing a water bottle.
If we could change a couple of things, we'd add in a sternum strap for extra stability, and a padded back to prevent gear placed inside the pack from jabbing us when we walk.
If you’re heading to snow covered peaks for climbing, mountain trekking or general alpine adventuring, Mammut's 28-litre punt for our best lightweight backpacks round-up is worth checking out.
The Trion Light 28 is incredibly lightweight at 1.2lbs, making it one of the lightest options here. A roll top closure prevents water from dripping through, keeping your clothes, snacks and outdoor essentials safe and dry.
Ropes can also be quickly attached to the outside of the Trion Light 28 for securing skis and ice tools.
When you remove the T-Frame 'Remove and Climb' frame and the padding from the waistband, the backpack feels lighter than air. Mammut has even designed it with a very short back length (48cm), enabling you to climb without restrictions.