Updated April 2017
For spring and summer ultralight go-getters, we updated this review to provide the best analysis and selection of ultralight packs. We added details on some minor updates to two award-winning packs, one each from Gear Gorilla and ZPacks. We expect both modifications to improve their performance. Full comparisons of the older and latest models of these packs are found in their respective individual reviews. To highlight comparative differences in performance between all tested models, we added tables and charts in the metrics.
Best Overall Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Carries light and medium loads well
Perfect feature set
More durable than most
A little small for a bear canister
The packs in this review all excel in at least some way, but the Gossamer Gear Gorilla
proved to be an uber-performer across the board. It remains comfortable and high-functioning whether loaded light or up to 30 pounds and provides excellent adaptability and durability for an ultralight pack. It has the right pockets in the all right places, and the removable aluminum frame is burly yet light. The Gorilla is our favorite for all our lightweight backpacking and thru-hiking adventures, hands-down. Gossamer confirmed with us that they updated this pack since we reviewed it, redesigning the hip belt and aluminum frame. More details on the updates are in the individual review.
Read full review: Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Best Bang for the Buck
Osprey Exos 48
Perfect for medium loads
Most complete set of features
Many external storage and lashing options
Not as durable as others
The Osprey Exos 48
is the most affordable pack in this review that landed among our top five scoring products. It carries very light loads reasonably well, has the most refined and utilitarian set of features, and truly delivers when you want to carry overall loads of 20 pounds or more. Anytime we headed out carrying 30 pounds or a little more, it was difficult to not choose the Exos
it just carries relatively heavy loads better than others over long miles. As an added benefit, this Osprey pack is widely available from online sources and bricks and mortar retailers, which isn't the case with our other two award winners. If you want to buy a pack today and head out on a lightweight backpacking adventure next weekend, the Exos 48 is your best bet.
Read full review: Osprey Exos 48
Top Pick for Ultralight Enthusiasts
ZPacks Arc Blast 55
Lightest pack with a frame
Good external storage
No hip belt pockets (available add-on)
The ZPacks Arc Blast 55
is the lightest backpack we tested that can comfortably carry 20 to 30 pounds when you need it to, but really excels when carrying 10 to 20 pounds. Weighing 21 ounces, it is a half pound lighter than any of the other top scoring packs in this review. Built with a hybrid Cuben fiber material and carbon frame components, this is the pack several of our thru-hikers testers chose for multi-month hikes when every ounce matters. If you are an experienced ultralight hiker seeking to spare another half pound or more from your Big Four base weight, the Arc Blast receives our highest recommendation. This ZPacks has received some minor updates since our review was published, including changes to the volume (more of it), frame, and belt, sternum, and top strap buckles. Its name is now the Arc Blast 55, formally known as the Arc Blast 52. We have detailed these changes in the individual review of this product.
Read full review: ZPacks Arc Blast 55
Honorable Mention for Multi-day Trail Running
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30
Designed for running
Comfortable vest-like suspension
Excellent on-the-go access
No waist belt
Heavy frame sheet
The Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30
is the smallest pack we tested in this review, and the only purposely designed for multi-day trail running adventures. We carried up to 15 lbs in it during a two-day trip and stayed relatively comfortable. If you want an ultralight running pack with capacity for multi-day trips, it is perfect.
Read full review: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30