Lighten Your Load
These minimalist packs will help you reach the summit and stay light on your feet for day hikes.
Call them fastpacks. Call them summit packs. The important thing is that they minimize weight while not compromising performance. Whether it’s from your car or from your basecamp, you want to ascend (and descend) at a comfortable pace, nimbly across uneven surfaces, and not be hampered by a bulky pack that weighs you down or doesn’t support your load. Here are our favorite packs for tackling big peaks from the trail, or the trailhead.
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
There’s small and light, and then there’s “you’ve-gotta-be-kidding- me” small and light. The Ultra-Sil Daypack definitely falls into the latter category. We’re talking so small—just 2.4 ounces and about the size of a tennis ball—that it comes with a key ring attachment!
Unpacked, however, this little beauty turns into a 20-liter, water- resistant daypack that’s perfect for carrying your lunch, jacket and other essentials on any quick trip when you want to leave your big pack in camp. $30
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
Water bottle pocket: check. Zippered stash pocket: check. Breathable, air mesh harness: check. Weighs just 3.2 ounces and packs into its own tiny storage pocket: check! The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is big on features and small in your pack—until you open it up.
Then you have 18 liters of storage space for carrying along everything you need to bag a lofty summit, or head down to the lake for lunch and a nap. When you’re done, just stuff it back in its pocket and you’ll never notice it’s there. $35
Gregory Miwok 18
If you don’t want to carry a lot, but what you do carry you want to keep organized, then the Miwok was made just for you. With 18 liters of storage space, this little pack boasts eight fully-functional pockets in a sleek design for light and fast outings.
Stash your phone and snacks in the waist pockets, your keys and wallet in the zippered interior pocket, your essentials in the main compartment and your rain gear in the quick-access exterior pocket—and there are still three more pockets for you to fill up! $99
Klymit Stash 18
The downside with many summit packs is that they don’t offer much structural support. Klymit found a way around that by making the Stash’s back support as light as air—literally!
This simple, lightweight pack—with a large main compartment and small exterior pocket—employs an Air Frame to give it structure and support and keep the weight to a minimum. Just give it a few pumps to inflate the back support to your liking and go. Deflated, you can roll it, stuff it and carry it on longer trips. $60
Arc’teryx Cierzo 25
When you don’t need every item in its own place, but want a sleek, lightweight packbag that won’t hold you back, the Cierzo is the ticket.
This roomy, 25-liter sack weighs in just under a pound, and sports a lid pocket, small internal pocket, and external gear loops and bungee for lashing on poles and rain gear. You can even remove the lightweight back support and roll it up for packing along on longer treks. This pack is quick to load and quicker to go, so you’re spending more time on trail. $99
Black Diamond Nitro 22
Whether you want to day hike a long trail, scramble up a rocky peak, or pedal down some sick singletrack, you can do it all with the Nitro. Start by organizing your gear with smart internal and external pockets. Slip your hydration bladder into the external sleeve—a favorite feature. Then go play!
The reACTIVE suspension system works with your own movement to keep your load balanced and comfortable, while the OpenAir back panel keeps you cool, no matter what your activity. $120
This article originally appeared in the Sept+Oct 2015 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.