Clicky

  • Home  / 
  • Hiking
  •  /  Multi Day Lightweight Backpacks: Battle of the Backpacks

Multi Day Lightweight Backpacks: Battle of the Backpacks

multiday lightweight backpacks

Ever been overwhelmed by the amount of entree choice on a restaurant menu? Choice is a convenience of our time, which ironically, isn’t so convenient after all. In fact, it can be paralyzing. The same goes with choosing a suitable backpack for all your multi-day adventures.

A Guide: Best Multi Day Lightweight Backpacks

In this technological age we live in where computers can fit in our pockets (smartphones), it’s no wonder that lightweight backpacking is being embraced. The options are endless, with every pack competing to stand out in the market. What most backpackers are looking for, however, can be broken down into 5 categories of price, load, comfort, durability, and weight.

This article will act as a battleground for the top trending lightweight multi-day backpacks. Some are newer than others, some have been an authority in the market for some time, and most have following of some sort. These tools of the backcountry are all good, but we're going to help you decide which is the best for you.

Best Price: Granite Gear Crown V.C. vs. REI Flash

multi day lightweight backpacks

Product

Weight

Load

Comfort

Price

Rating

Granite Gear Crown V.C.

2.2LBS

60L

Vapor Current

$$$

REI Flash

3.10LBS

65L

UpLift & Pack Nit

$$$

Price

Most hikers have some sort of budget. For $199, the Crown V.C. and the REI Flash will definitely make it onto hiker radars for budget alone.

Once you factor in all the other equipment costs, like sleeping bags and mats, shelters, and so on, these packs might end up being the biggest deal of everything you own. The sad fact of this world is it runs on money, but the good news is you can spend it elsewhere and not feel bad about the quality of pack you are getting.

Load

Both packs have tool loops, hydration sleeves, and are designed for attachments. The LineLoc Lid can increase the volume slightly on the Crown V.C. another 7 liters for $41.95. The Lid can also be converted into a hip-pack. Overall, this 60L pack works best with a load at 35lb. or below.

The Flash outdoes the Crown V.C. just by a smidge with a 65L pack. The Flash is able to be attached to a smaller adversary, the Flash 18 for an additional $34.50. There are two ways to get into the Flash, which are through the top and the Jzip on the front. The V.C., on the other hand, only has one way into the bag through top-loading.

Comfort

Crown V.C. actually means Vapor Current, the name Granite Gear has given to this pack’s suspension system. The back pad is made up of ventilation channels that feel comfy and allow air to circulate effectively.

Although air must get between the hiker and the pack, the Crown V.C. has cleverly created this system without having to move the overall weight of the pack away from the hiker’s back. The hipbelt and shoulder straps have double layered padding as well.

REI’s Flash, on the other hand, utilizes the REI UpLift technology which forces the pack higher and closer to the hiker’s back, enhancing the fit. Also, the hipbelt is meant to “hug your hips” in foam. Finally, REI’s Packnit is a mesh backpanel for all body shapes and allows air to pass through easily. Either pack you choose, you’ll enjoy it being attached to you.

Durability

It can get confusing with fabric names, but let’s trudge through. CORDURA fabric is what you’ll find on Crown V.C., which is used to make “from outdoor gear and workwear to luggage, military and upholstery.”

The brand and fabric made from CORDURA is only used by respectable retailers. The Crown also has stretch mesh pockets meant to adhere to what you decide to cram in there. This pack is meant to last.

REI Flash is made of lightweight nylon fabrics; 100 and 420-denier to be exact. It’s all considered ripstop, which implied by the name, is a fabric intended to prevent ripping. The higher the numbers, the stronger the fabric is because of its thickness. 420-denier sounds strong, but the pack could see some weakness in the 100-denier areas.

Weight

Weight is obviously something on everyone’s mind that’s reading this. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, a lighter weight pack usually means a skyrocketing price. Coming in at 2lb. 2oz., the Crown is unbelievable for the price. Your mind might even blow when you realize the frame at your back can be removed to bring the pack down to 1lb. 13oz.

3lb.10oz. isn’t bad for the Flash. There are some heavier packs that cost more, but when you dedicate your lifeblood to lightweight backpacking, a difference of over a pound and a half seems like quite a lot for a pack of the same exact price. In my humble opinion, this is when the Crown soars to victory.

Best Load Capacity: HMG Windrider vs. Golite Jam

multi day lightweight backpacks

Product

Weight

Load

Comfort

Price

Rating

HMG Windrider

2.2LBS

70L

Padded foam & hipbelt

$$$$

GoLite Jam

1.15LBS

70L

ComPACK

$$$

Price

If you’re a budget backpacker, there will be an obvious choice here. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 4400 Windrider pack could cost you $365. Either way, it’s an investment you’ll want to think about carefully before dropping the dough.

You will pay much less for the Golite Jam pack, no questions asked. That extra $125 you didn’t spend could be used for so much more, like equipment or food you’ll need for that multi-day trek you’re planning. Although, consider all the specs before buying the Golite Jam.

Load

This is where the adversaries meet. According to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the Windrider is technically 72L and means to carry bigger loads for a lightweight pack. There are also three external mesh pockets and a compression system that vertically and horizontally cinches the load. This top-loading pack also has a hydration sleeve, an ice axe loop, zippered hipbelt pockets, and four exterior buckles that encourage additional accessories for convenience.

The GoLite Jam fights back and has a few tricks up its sleeve. The biggest and most unique feature is the ability to convert the 70L pack into a day bag. GoLite calls it the ComPACKtor system, which compresses the volume of the pack down to at least ⅔ of its carrying capability.

It also has a hydration sleeve, a large front pocket, two side stretch pockets, side straps that can compress the load or convert for further attachments, and double ice axe loops with handle straps. It’s a tough call, but the Jam seems favorable here.

Comfort

If foam and mesh sound comfortable to you, the Windrider is layered with both. An internal plastic frame sheet with additional elastic frame sheets provide maximum comfort for your back when higher load capacity is a consideration. Padded foam can be found on the shoulders, hipbelt, and even back panel in varying closed cell widths. Spacer mesh can be found for the shoulders and at the hipbelt as well for ventilation.

Unlike the Windrider, the Jam is frameless which automatically suggests discomfort. However, Golite claims to have improved its suspension system in a number of ways. They use a Double-Wishbone hipbelt to transfer weight comfortably, use mesh on the back panel, hipbelt, and shoulder harness to promote ventilation, and load lifters bring the overall load weight close to the body. No apparent victor, so you can count on either being comparably comfortable.

Durability

Another tough category to judge when it comes to the Windrider and Jam is the durability. They are both primarily made of Dyneema fabric, which is ”15 times stronger than quality steel...floats on water and is extremely durable and resistant to moisture, UV light and chemicals.” Specifically, the Windrider is made from 100% waterproof Dyneema Composite fabrics and is seam sealed all over.

Similarly, the Jam has a fusion of a few fabrics, including 100% Gridstop Nylon, Dyneema, and Double-Diamond Ripstop Nylon. Basically, there isn’t much room for weakness in either of these packs. You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose.

Weight

These packs will finish nearly side by side. The Windrider won Backpacker Magazine’s “Best Ultralight Pack” in 2011 and hones in at just under 2 lb. 2 oz.; a very light pack for everything it has. It’s hard to beat a bag this light.

However, also winning a Backpacker Magazine award for “Best All-Around Ultralight Pack,” except it was one year later in 2012 was the Golite Jam. Although only 3 oz. lighter, this makes all the difference to an ultralight backpacker.

Both are made from similar fabrics, have similar functions and features, but the only clear indicator of a winner has to come from price. Unless you feel that spending more money will get you a higher quality pack, go for the Golite Jam.

Most Comfort: Mystery Ranch Sphinx vs. Osprey Atmos 65

Product

Weight

Load

Comfort

Price

Rating

Mystery Ranch Sphinx

5.3LBS

65L

FIberglass & hipbelt

$$$

Osprey Atmos 65

4.3LBS

65L

Anti-Gravity

$$$

Price

The Mystery Ranch Men’s Sphinx or Women’s Mystic backpack is a brand new pack on the market and has won the most recent Backpacker Magazine’s Choice award for 2016. Now that you’re beginning to understand pack pricing, $299 isn’t on the cheap side, but it also isn’t the most expensive pack out there. Keep in mind you would also be paying for the newest and most up-to-date technology, so the price could come down in due time.

Osprey’s Atmos AG Men’s or Aura AG Women’s pack won the Backpacker Magazine’s Choice award just last year, so these two packs are highly noted by current experts in the field. This Osprey pack is $260 and not much cheaper than the Mystery Ranch packs. A $40 difference shouldn’t be significant enough to steer hikers in one direction or another, so read on.

Load

Both are 65L packs, although the Atmos/Aura can come as a separate version at 50L. The Sphinx/Mystic has a removable lid and is top-loading but contents inside the pack can be easily accessed by a front-central zipper. Also, there are water bottle pockets, two external “torpedo” pockets, a hydration bladder sleeve, and ice axe loops that can be adjusted.

The Atmos/Aura AG 65, the larger of the two versions, provides 3 access points by two zippered front pockets, a base zipper, and top-load entry. The lid on top can take on extra contents, but can also be removed to save weight.

Also, double ice axe loops, adjustable bungee loops, and sleeping pad straps can hold gear in place outside the pack. Finally, the Stow-on-the-Go attachment system provides the hiker with the convenient option of putting trekking poles on their pack quickly. I do believe the Atmos/Aura AG 65 takes the cake on load capacity.

Comfort

Lightweight hiking usually means a sacrifice in camp comfort. With this being said, many lightweight hikers believe the comfort whilst actually hiking is the most important. The Sphinx/Mystic and Atmos/Aura both take pride in their comfort systems, so let’s break them down.

The Sphinx/Mystic incorporates a fiberglass and carbon-fiber frame, which is much more flexible than aluminum or plastic. The reason for this emphasis on flexibility is so the pack is “in sync with how your body moves,” but at the same time, these vertical stays and horizontal crossbar promote uncompromising strength.

Backpacker Magazine experts claim that heavier loads of 60 to 80 lbs. were very comfortable wearing this pack. Also contributing to comfort is the shaped hipbelt in multiple sizes and a Velcro flap that helps customize to individual height.

The multiple-award winning Atmos/Aura pack is well-known for its AG, or Anti-Gravity, suspension system. A single suspended mesh net covers the entire backside of the pack from the top of the backpanel to the hipbelt, which provides free-flowing ventilation and complete comfort. Also, the Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt and adjustable harness allow for endless customizing when it comes to personal fitting. These rival packs will pillow fight each other to get on your back.

Durability

Tough! Since the Sphinx/Mystic is a younger pack, reports on abuse to these packs will still be coming in on how they hold up in the backcountry. But for now, they appear strong with 210 Robic fabric all around. Simply stated, this fabric is used by the military. What better for battle?

The Atmos/Aura has quite a hodge-podge of different fabrics. It consists of 210-denier double Ripstop fabric, Cordura nylon, and Lycra (Spandex). This concoction of materials suggests well-rounded durability in places, enabling it to have strength and flexibility meant to last whatever the elements throw at it.

Also, there is an integrated raincover to keep moisture at bay. So, do you choose a pack dedicated to one fabric or many? Hard to answer that one, but both seem proficient in taking a beating well.

Weight

After all these considerations and ready to choose the preferred pack of choice, lightweight hikers might start to scratch their heads because these two packs actually end up being the heaviest of all 10 packs in the article.

At 5lb 5oz, the Sphinx/Mystic is the heaviest bag of all. Mystery Ranch claims its intended use is for lightweight backpacking. Luckily, loads carry comfortably, so it might not feel like the tank it truly is. But to a lightweight hiker, this pack definitely causes confusion.

The Atmos/AG is an entire pound lighter, but in the grand scheme of the lightweight world, it’s also not that light. Never was a race closer between two packs in comfort, durability, and load, but because the Atmos/AG is just that bit lighter and a little cheaper, the Atmos/AG will have to take the gold.

Most Durable: Gossamer Gear Mariposa vs. ULA Circuit

Product

Weight

Load

Comfort

Price

Rating

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

1.13LBS

60L

Ergonomic

$$$

ULA Circuit

2.9LBS

68L

Padded; Contoured

$$

Price

Get ready for another brutal round of comparing titan packs. This round we’ll see the Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack against the ULA Circuit, so expect major blows.

The Mariposa, to start, actually begins at $215. But don’t get too excited, because that’s without the hipbelt, which you have to purchase separately for another $40. The advantage of this is to purchase the hipbelt rightly sized for the individual. You’re looking at a realistic $255 once all is said and done with Mariposa.

The ULA Circuit comes up to $235, which isn’t significantly cheaper than the Mariposa. Sure, it’s a $20 difference, but in the long run you probably won’t be shaking your head in your hands over $20 more or less spent.

Load

The Mariposa is labeled a 60L pack and holds 30 pounds best, but can handle up to 35 pounds. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue for lightweight hikers.

There are 7 pockets found on the pack, including two on the purchasable hipbelt, two on the external left and one long external on the right, a mesh pocket for drying wet equipment, and plenty of space in the body to fit your gear and a big, clunky bear canister! A hydration sleeve, an ice axe loop, and a harness with options for attachments can also be discovered on the Mariposa.

For being a 68L pack, the Circuit is a bit funny because higher volume doesn’t necessarily mean comfortable heavy loads. The Circuit has the lightweight feel maxing out at 30 lbs. Quite comparable to the Mariposa though, it also has two hipbelt pockets, two side pockets, and a mesh pocket secured by shock cord on the front. Ice axe/trekking pole loops, a hydration sleeve, internal stash pocket, water bottle holsters, and handloops also included, but more on those later.

Both packs top-load, and have all the features you would expect of quality and convenient caliber. Back and forth shoving doesn’t prove any pack a sure win.

Comfort

The word ‘ergonomic’ should make anyone excited because the idea is that one size fits all. Mariposa has made sure of this with that purchasable hipbelt that keeps popping up, which has an additional stiffener and stay in place in order to transfer the load the right way. No worries for any gender since both the hipbelt (XS-XL) and included shoulder harness (S-XL) is a unisex fit. Found on all loading points is an air mesh that is meant to limit friction between pack and hiker.

Carbon fiber and Delrin suspension, foam frame, and an aluminum stay are the words of a comfort sandwich in a lightweight pack. The Circuit has combined all of these elements to provide the hiker with outstanding back support while being stable but without limiting range of motion.

Also, the Circuit can be purchased with a 12”18” harness setup to accommodate younger hikers. By the sounds of it, the Circuit may have squeezed a comfortable victory but the Mariposa is hot on the Circuit’s heels.

Durability

The term ‘Robic fabric’ has come up time and time again, and here it is found in a high percentage of both the Mariposa and Circuit. The Mariposa has 100 and 200 Robic fabric, making it tough yet lightweight. Mesh can be found between the pack and the hiker as well as in the rear pocket on the front.

The Circuit has no less amount of Robic fabric, but also has Cordura found on the bottom panel. A similar mesh pocket on the front almost makes these two packs sound related. And according to reviews, the Mariposa and Circuit have seen thousands of miles on global thru-hikes. No questions here; these are armoured packs you can rely on.

Weight

It’s coming down to the wire here! The Mariposa weighs an awesome 29 oz., putting it in the ultralight category under 2 lbs. It is possible to remove the aluminum stay found in the suspension system and reduce the pack approximately 3 oz., but it might not be worth the compromise in comfort. Either way, you’re looking at a featherweight champion in Mariposa!

At 41 oz., around 2.5 lbs, the Circuit is just a touch heavier. But remember these: Hydration sleeve, internal stash pocket, water bottle holsters, and handloops. Well, as a matter of fact, they are all removable!

Including the removable aluminum stay meant as back support, you could save yourself half a pound in weight! Wow, this is so close. Of course, you would be looking to minimize on comforts, but these two packs could potentially weigh the same in the end. To be honest, a clear winner isn’t apparent. The first ever draw has been announced.

Lightest Pack: Zpacks Arc Blast vs. MLD Exodus

Product

Weight

Load

Comfort

Price

Rating

Zpacks Arc Blast

1.5LBS

60L

Flexed Arc Carbon

$$$

MLD Exodus

1.0LBS

58L

Superwick Shoulders

$$

Price

Let the final battle commence! ZPacks Arc Blast makes one serious ouchie out the gates with a price of $325. Budget backpackers will most likely look the other way immediately, as this is one of the most expensive packs on the list.

MLD (Mountain Laurel Designs) Exodus pack is a refreshing breath of budget air for $195. Again, more will unfold as the battle continues but the Exodus would already be my first choice on price alone. Knowing it has won a Backpacker Magazine award for “Best Ultralight pack” doesn’t hurt.

Load

Before you hike off into the sunset with the Exodus, the Arc Blast has multiple advantages that will make you reconsider and forget that nasty price tag. It has a volume of 60L handling loads up to 35 lbs., and is a top-loader that rolls down the gear load which can fit any standard bear canister.

Elastic side pockets that have drainage holes can fit 1.5 liter bottles and are positioned in such a way that access is simple and easy while hiking. A large front mesh pocket and straps found on the top and base of the pack can store items that are bulky or need to be used often. Finally, a hydration port that allows a variety of bladder positions and small daisy chains on straps and hipbelt can clip more gear on. This pack is loaded!

The Exodus is similar to the Arc Blast, but slightly smaller in load capacity. With the filled extension collar, the pack is 58L, but can be reduced to a 30L day pack if desired. The main compartment can fit a solo bear canister, but the top carrying capacity should not exceed 25 lbs. because it’s frameless. Side pockets can hold up to 2L, and the main front pocket is 6L. There are twin ice axe loops as well. Exodus seems to pay a small price in load capacity compared to the Arc Blast.

Comfort

Arc Blast has returned with a vengeance and comfort in mind. The carbon fiber frame flexes for strength and gives air an open window between your back and the pack. Because the frame curves, no extra padding is needed.

The removeable and interchangeable “V” shaped hipbelt is right at the bottom of the pack and wraps around your back to promote the most efficient load transfer. Combined with load lifters and shoulder straps, the Arc Blast has maximum adjustability.

The Superwick Mesh system is what Exodus relies on for comfort. Thick, wide foam padding lines the entire length of the pack and curved side panels brings the load near the upper back, encouraging load control. Also, the hipbelt is cushioned and ergonomic with daisy chains for more attachments. The Exodus sounds alright, but the Arc Blast is the dreamy pack of the two.

Durability

Arc Blast has a combination of Cuben Fiber on the inside, matched with a 50 denier polyester on the outside of the pack. Cuben Fiber is the stuff of sails that must be extremely wind resistant, so this pack guarantees durability. Also, the seams and corners are taped shut which means a highly water resistant backpack. Zpacks believes in their packs, so every pack has a one year warranty against craftsmanship defect.

The Exodus doesn’t mess around with anything but Dynemma, double and triple stitching the entire pack. As seen with some of the other packs, it’s a go-to fabric for high quality brands who believe in a product that lasts. The Exodus does have bungee for pocket adjusting but MLD has faith that their bungee has an elasticity that isn’t cheap. Basically, either pack will stand strong in the backcountry.

Weight

The moment you’ve all been waiting for and what probably brought you here in the first place. Weighing in at a pound and a half, the Arc Blast would blow away if not attached to you.

Zpacks claims that the small and medium packs will fit on an airplane as carry on, but the vertical frame bars would have to come out of the large pack to fit onboard. For what this pack can do and how much it can hold, it’s amazing how light it is.

But the lightest pack at a ferocious one pound is the Exodus. Of course, MLD had to make sacrifices to get to such a weight, like excluding a frame that only allows a hiker to carry 25 lbs. at a time. But how cool would it be to have a backpack that only weighs one pound?

If you’re going to do a few lightweight hikes here and there, I’d have to recommend the Exodus because of price. However, I’d say the Arc Blast is a better buy for the lifetime hiker because it sounds too comfortable to pass up and such a strong and light pack overall.

So, there you have it! Truthfully, all these packs are winners and you can’t make a mistake buying either one of them. Happy pack hunting and safe hiking to all!​

How to Train for Mountains When You’re Not in the Mountains
A Guide: Daypack Backpacks
About the author

Dan

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: