Best Ultralight Backpack: 10 Small and Startup Brands to Check Out

Lloyd Vogel

Whether you are out for a couple of hours or a couple of months, a quality ultralight backpack is an essential feature of a good trip. Backpacks come in an incredible variety of shapes, sizes, materials, features, and designs, but all attempt to do the same thing: help you carry your stuff successfully from point A to point B. 

While there are hundreds of different backpack brands on the market, there are a handful of smaller brands that all backpackers should be familiar with. These brands are leading much of the innovation found in ultralight backpacking. 

Have experience with one of these brands? Share it in the comments and help spread the good word!


Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Based in: Portland, Maine
Founded in: 2010
Fun fact: All Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs, shelters, and stuff sacks are manufactured in an 1880's mill that sat dormant and unused from the 1970's to the 1990's. Learn more at

***All Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks and shelters are available for purchase on Garage Grown Gear***



Superior Wilderness Designs
Superior Wilderness Designs

Based inRomeo, Michigan
Founded in: 2016
Fun fact: All SWD products are made to order in their small shop in Michigan. Founders Brandon and Ashley hiked the PCT in 2016 and they focus on providing hikers with ultralight gear that is fine-tuned to their specific needs. Learn more at:

 ***All Superior Wilderness Designs Backpacks are available for purchase on Garage Grown Gear including custom designed packs***


Gossamer Gear
Gossamer Gear

Based in: Austin, Texas
Founded in: 1998
Fun fact: While Gossamer Gear is perhaps best known for their packs, tents, and trekking poles, they may be the first and last company on earth to make the crotch pot. Learn more at:



Based inLogan, Utah
Founded in: 2002
Fun fact: 
ULA packs hangout at the corner of ultralight and comfort. One of the most popular pack companies for thru hikers, independent surveys have shown ULA packs to the be most popular packs on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and second only to behemoth Osprey on the Appalachian Trail. Not bad for some little guys who started in a garage! Learn more at:




Based in: West Melbourne, Florida
Founded in: 2005
Fun fact: Zpacks employs a lot of people (from designers, to social media directors, to sewing machine operators) who have completed at least one thru-hike of a national scenic hiking trail. Learn more at:


Granite Gear Granite Gear

Based in: Two Harbors, Minnesota
Founded in: 1986
Fun Fact: The Granite Gear team loves picking up trash. Seriously, once you start, you can't stop, they say. They clean up trails, beaches, waterways, parks, you name it. Everyone on their Grounds Keepers team loves to pick up trash too. Learn more at:


Mountain Laurel DesignsMLD

Based in: Roanoke, Virginia
Founded in: 2002
Fun fact: MLD can see 20 miles of the AT (from McAfee Knob to Tinker Cliffs) from their gear cutting room window! Everyday they throw a little wave and a nod to the hikers! Learn more at:


Based in: Doylestown, Ohio
Founded in: 2010
Fun fact: Zimmerbuilt makes customs packs, but to help you brainstorm some good ideas you can browse through dozens of their previous creations! Their founder (Chris) is still just a one-man operation trying to produce the best quality gear that he can. Learn more at:


Appalachian UltralightAppalachian Ultralight

Based in: Allentown, PA (soon to be based in Philadelphia)
Founded in: 2016
Fun fact: Appalachian Utralight will soon be releasing the lightest backpacking poncho in the world. A DCF poncho that weighs under 3 ounces. Expected release this summer. Also, founder Cody LOVES Lenny Kravitz. Learn more at:


Pa'lantePa’lante Packs

Based in: Provo, UT
Founded in: 2016
Fun fact: The name Pa'lante, comes from a Spanish expression "Para Adelante." This roughly translates to "onward" or "forward." The name is very fitting because founders John and Andrew enjoy continual forward motion as they hike. Learn more at:



***There are also a bunch of other ultralight backpack companies we'd be stoked to check out but aren't particularly familiar with: Katabatic Gear, Atom Packs, Waymark Gear, Little River Packs, and probably a handful of others. Have suggestions or thoughts? Let us know! ***



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1 comment



ULA is based in Logan Utah not Logan Texas.

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