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Best American Made Ultralight Backpacking Equipment

By Matt Mullins   Last updated: June 4, 2024 

I’ve been backpacking since childhood and actually made it my career. I can’t stand taking unnecessary weight. When you can easily get your pack weight below 20 or 15 pounds, why wouldn’t you? The following are my top ultralight backpacking gear picks.

Why Trust Me?

I know how hard it is to find honest recommendations and to narrow down American made gear. This is why I started American Gear Guide. I take my recommendations seriously and only recommend the best of the best. Of course this is my subjective opinion but I’m confident it won’t disappoint. Here are a few reasons to trust me:

  • I make independent recommendations based on personal experience (not paid to endorse a product).
  • As a passionate outdoorsman that reviews gear for a living, I also actually own and use all American made gear.
  • My background includes 10 yrs working with the Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter, Ranger, Wildlife Crew-leader, and Forest Ecologist. I’ve been certified as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I’ve backpacked extensively throughout the USA and 34 countries including in Central & South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. See About page for more.
  • I attend industry trade shows like Outdoor Retailer to stay informed on the latest innovative equipment.
  • This guide receives regular updates with the newest gear.
  • I encourage continuous learning & self improvement, so I welcome your criticism. If you think I missed anything then please leave some helpful suggestions.

Top Ultralight Gear Picks

ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack

Its comfortable suspension, durable yet affordable materials, well thought out design, and ultra light weight make the Ohm 2.0 a favorite on long distance thru-hikes like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, and earns the Ohm 2.0 our Best Buy Award for backpacking. This is the most comfortable ultralight pack around and happens to be my personal go-to backpacking pack. ULA provides a variety of sizes and colors (including multicam) to suit your preferance; the Ohm 2.0 is my top choice. That said, I believe many folks will prefer the slightly larger Circuit or Catalyst packs depending on the compactness of your gear.
Last observed price: $359.99

Feathered Friends Hummingbird

The Hummingbird UL 20 is an incredible 20 F bag. The latest version sports 900+ down and a Pertex Endurance UL shell which helps it to weigh only 1 lb 9 oz (reg). I own the FF 40F Merlin and love it while my good friend owns the FF Hummingbird bag and sings its praises. If needing extra space, the Swallow is a similar but roomier model and the Swift is wider still. Personally I prefer fully hooded sleeping bags as it’s far easier to achieve a good seal to hold in warmth when temps plummet.
Last price observed: ~ $609

Feathered Friends Ultralight Tanager Sleeping Bag
The Lightest Bag Around

​Feathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL Sleeping Bag

When weight is a top concern, this is the bag. New for 2018, the Tanager exists due to requests from PCT and Appalachian Trail thru hikers. The Tanager uses the lightest 950+ down, Pertex Quantum ultralight fabric, and forgoes a zipper and hood to pare down it’s weight to an astonishing 18.6 oz. Of course you’ll need to combine this with a hooded jacket in lower temps, which you’ll likely be carrying already.
Last price observed: ~ $469

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad

Do you also value comfort and durability along with being ultralight? The NeoAir Xlite is your pad (and my pad). It weighs 12 oz (reg size), packs to the size of a 1L nalgene bottle, and has thick 2.5″ cushioning with a warm R-value of 4.5. I’ve personally used an Xlite and XTherm pad for the past four years and highly recommend them for a super comfy ultralight pad. The past crinkly sound of the previous generation of Xlite and XTherm pads is vastly reduced with the NXT version. I went with the large version for added length and width (I’m 6′ 2″).
Last observed price range: ~ $209

Sawyer Micro Squeeze Filter

Sawyer’s newest Micro Squeeze Water Filter has caused me to retire my good old Sawyer Mini Filter for backpacking and any other adventure. It has certainly earned our Editor’s Choice Award. The Micro weighs just 2.5 oz, has a much better flow rate than the Sawyer Mini, is easy to use and to clean, is very affordable, has standard water bottle threads (like SmartWater bottles), and it’s rated to filter up to 100,000 gallons! It’s so light that I take it places I normally wouldn’t carry a filter, like mtn biking, small hikes, fly-fishing, even trail running. It’s awesome to drink out of any stream you come across, without worrying about the animals upstream. Long ago I used to carry pump filters, then progressed to water-treatment drops, or tablets when going ultralight; now I usually carry the Micro Filter. You’ll likely want to buy a good squeezable water pouch like the 2L Platy to go with this filter. 
Last observed price: ~ $33

Princeton Tec SNAP Modular Headlamp

The clever SNAP is like getting four lights in one. It’s modular design functions as a headlamp, flashlight, lantern, and as a bike light with its included handlebar attachment. The removable 300 lumen head unit snaps into place with a strong magnet to fit the different modules. This headlamp has good battery performance using 3 AAA’s for 40 hrs on high and 130 hrs on low.  If you’re a minimalist looking for one headlamp to do it all then the SNAP is a great choice. It weighs 3.5 oz. Last observed price range: ~ $30

Brunton TruArc 3 Compass

Thus is a reliable, no frills, light-weight compass. If you’re going ultralight and want a compass for emergencies, then take a look at the 1.1 oz Brunton TruArc 3 Compass which includes a global needle and tool-free declination adjustment. 
Last price range observed: ~ $24

​Platypus 2L Platy Bottle

Platy bottles are incredibly lightweight and quite durable for a collapsible, rollable bottle. They won’t last you forever being rolled up again and again but should last a good couple years of consistent use.
Last price range observed: ~ $19

Exotac nanoStriker Fire Rod

A cool, compact fire rod you can carry anywhere including your keychain and pocket, at the ready to start a warming fire. I keep my Exotac nano in my backpack along with a cheap Bic mini lighter. This waterproof fire rod can be struck up to 3000 times with its replaceable 1/4″ ferrocerium rod.
Last observed price range: ~ $33

Zpacks Duplex Tent

Weight: 1.31 lbs | 21 oz | 595 g
Price: $699

Best 3 Season Uses: Backpacking, Bikepacking, Alpine Climbing, Thru-Hikes, Packrafting


The Duplex is another fantastic ultralight option. Like the HMG tents, the Duplex utilizes ultralight Dyneema Composite Fabric and trekking poles for support. The Duplex also has a bathtub floor, two doors (so you don’t have to climb over anyone), bug-netting, and room for one plus gear or you can squeeze in a friend. If you prefer, you can optionally purchase carbon fiber poles to setup the Duplex as a freestanding tent.

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