Lightweight Backpacking Gear Manufacturers

There are five basic attributes I look for in all of my backpacking gear: simplicity, functionality, durability, lightweight, and value for money. All of the companies listed below make gear that meet these criteria:

  • Atom Packs: Highly regarded ultralight backpacks made in the UK.

Combining the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xtherm and the Katabatic Sawatch 15F quilt | Ausangate Circuit, Peru, 2017.

  • Dirty Girl Gaiters: Lightweight, durable, inexpensive. Weighing in at 1.2 oz, these usually colourful gaiters (see the website for scores of funky patterns) have been a regular part of my three-season backpacking kit since 2007.
  • Feathered Friends:  Specialize in quality goose down products. Jackets, sleeping bags, vests. I have had my Helios Jacket since 2003 and it’s still going strong.
  • Gossamer Gear:  Ultralightweight backpacks, hiking poles, sleeping mats, and shelters. I’ve been using their ultralight  Kumo pack since my 2015 traverse of Southwest Tasmania’s Arthur Range.

Yours truly and the Gossamer Gear Kumo | Colorado Trail, 2015.

  • Granite Gear:  Lightweight, durable, well-made backpacks. Their Crown2 38 is an excellent choice for hikers looking at lightweight internal frame models.
  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear: Bomber tarps and backpacks made of DCF. I used the HMG Southwest 2400 pack during my traverse of southwest Tasmania, and it held up like a champ going through some of the roughest terrain on the planet.
  • Jacks R’ Better: In 2008 & 2009 I used one of their No Sniveller quilts. Great multi-use piece of equipment. Doubled as a “Serape.” Like a goose down version of what Clint Eastwood wore in the Spaghetti Westerns.
  • Kathoola: The maker of Kathoola Microspikes. Lightweight, low profile, slip-on traction device. Big improvement over the Yaktrax I once used.

Kathoola Microspikes came in handy descending an icy Mount Triglav in October 2019.

  • Kelty: The triptease has been my guyline of choice for many years. Kelty don’t make too much in the way of uber-lightweight equipment, but what they have done since 1952 is produce quality, reliable, and reasonably priced backpacking gear. A great choice for folks looking for solid equipment that won’t break the bank.
  • LOKSAK: Odour and waterproof storage bags. Since 2007, these bags have been an integral part of my backpacking kit, irrespective of the season. More than 25,000 miles and not a single critter has gotten into my food.
  • Marmot:  Although not specifically a lightweight gear manufacturer, Marmot nonetheless produces some of the best lightweight sleeping bags on the market. Their
  • Montane: UK company that produces a wide range of high-performance garments (e.g. base, insulation, outer layers). I’ve owned their Lite-speed wind jacket and Featherlite pants since 2011, and both pieces are still going strong.
  • Montbell:  Wide range of ultralightweight clothing and equipment. I have used their down jackets, wind shirts, wind pants, rain gear, and Thermawrap vests/jackets since the early 2000s. Great balance between weight, functionality, durability, and reasonable prices.

Rugged up in the Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine Down Parka | Schladminger Tauern Hohenweg, Austrian Alps, October, 2019.

  • Mountain Laurel Designs: Ultralightweight gear. Reputation for quality and workmanship. Their tarps, pyramidsbivyspacks, and ponchos all consistently gain high marks amongst the ultralight hiking community. The MLD Burn has been my go-to backpack for three-season conditions since 2009.
  • Nunatak:  Highly regarded down and synthetic sleeping quilts.
  • Patagonia: Although not specifically a lightweight gear manufacturer, Patagonia nonetheless produces several outstanding lightweight clothing options (e.g. Houdini Jacket, Nano Puff, and R1 Hoody). The Hoody has been a long-time layering stalwart whenever I’m venturing into cold, wet and/or winter conditions.
  • Rab Equipment – Since the 1980s, UK based Rab has been producing highly regarded, lightweight gear for climbers and backpackers. Best known for their down sleeping bags and insulation garments.
  • Six Moon Designs: Lightweight tents, tarps, and backpacks. A long-time favourite item of friend & legendary hiker, Billy Goat, is the classic Gatewood Cape; a shelter/rainwear hybrid that weighs in at 12 oz (340 gr.).
  • Steripen: UV water purifiers. Great option for hiking and travelling in third world countries where tap water is generally not potable (i.e. minimizes the number of plastic water bottles you need to buy).
  • Tarptent: The standard in single wall silnylon Tents. In recent times the company has branched out to also make DCF shelters. Since 2004 I have used their Squall (no longer made), ProTrail, and Aeon Li models. Well designed, lightweight, durable, very reasonably priced products.

Tarptent Aeon Li | Alta Via 2, Italy, 2019

  • ULA Equipment: Arguably the most popular Lightweight packs in the US long-distance hiking community.
  • Western Mountaineering: Quality goose down sleeping bags and jackets. Amongst the US long-distance hiking community, their products invariably rate right near the top.
  • ZPacks: Specializes in super light outdoor gear made of DCF (formerly known as cuben fiber). Shelters, packs, sleeping bags and bivys. Their tarps consistently receive good reviews amongst ultralight hikers.