The Best Lightweight Backpack for Day Hiking


We go on a lot of day hiking adventures with our dog. We also live in San Antonio, Texas, where it gets very hot and dry. Consequently, we need to carry a few essentials along during our hikes. We’ve been searching for the best lightweight backpack to meet our trail needs, and this is a review of the one we found.

What is the Best Lightweight Backpack?

This is a subjective question, and most people will have a completely different answer. I prefer more storage space and less weight to carry. The comfort around my shoulders and midsection is also important. Finally, I need a backpack to go the distance on the trails without feeling burdensome.

These are my “must-haves” in a lightweight backpack. The Ultimate Direction Vest is the best lightweight backpack I have ever used. In fact, it’s the lightest backpack you can get!

This adventure vest by Ultimate Direction is the best lightweight backpack we have used.
The Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest

What is the Best Backpack for Hiking?

When I’m hiking 10 – 20 miles, I don’t want a backpack chaffing my shoulders and smacking me in the lower back the entire time. Nor do I want a backpack that causes my back to get very hot and sweaty. These outcomes are not comfortable and make the hike less enjoyable.

The best backpacks will reduce or eliminate these outcomes. The Ultimate Direction Vest resolves these issues caused by traditional backpacks. It is the best backpack for day hiking because you are wearing essentials, but hardly know they are there.

My lightweight backpack weighs six pounds!

How Much Does Your Backpack Weigh?

If you are trying to improve muscular, or cardiovascular endurance, you probably want to carry more weight regardless of comfort. If you plan to camp in the woods, your backpack will need to be full of supplies which last the night. The Ultimate Direction Vest will not be a good fit for those activities.

However, it’s not designed with camping supplies or weight in mind. The design is beneficial to runners and day hikers. Furthermore, it makes those types of activities more comfortable. The average backpack may weigh about 16 pounds, although this is impossible to determine without studies. According to REI, the typical hiker should carry no more than 10% of his, or her, body weight for day hiking.

The average hiker is probably carrying more than the recommended amount of weight. In the past, I carried a traditional backpack weighing roughly 15 pounds. After switching to the Ultimate Direction Vest, I was able to cut that weight to pieces. My lightweight backpack weighs, a puny, six pounds. This is considered ultralight to some. Not only is the Ultimate Direction Vest light, it is the best lightweight backpack for day hiking.

The Adventure Vest is the lightest backpack for day hiking.
The backside of the lightest backpack for hiking

Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest Review

Storage

This vest has more than 10 pockets, nine of which are zippered. In terms of shape and size, the pockets are all over the place, but there is no shortage. At least two of the front pockets are large enough to hold 12-ounce water bottles. This prevents removing the backpack in order to get some water. One water bladder comes with this backpack, but there is room for more.

On the back side there are three pockets with zippers, and one stash pocket which is secured by a compression bungee. The larger pockets go from shoulder to mid-back. The stash pocket is half the size of the others. There are also two pockets on the sides and shoulders. These pockets are small, but can fit things such as ID’s or snacks.

What’s Inside My Backpack?

I carry two water bottles in front, a pocket knife, hand sanitizer, chap stick and a couple of snack bars. Around back I’m hauling binoculars, a first-aid pack, dog food, more snacks and an extra harness. I also pack a headlamp just in case the lights go out. If we plan on hiking 10 miles or more, I’ll throw extra water in the back as well. For the most part, these items fill the pack, but there are a few empty pockets (and pouches).

There is enough space for a phone, but mine stays in my side pocket and tracks my steps during the hike. Pole holders are available in front, but I haven’t had use for those yet. We typically go on dog friendly hikes without the aid of walking sticks. Although, sometimes I wish I had one for webs and weeds.

There are several loop-strings on the zippers and the packs outer edge, allowing you to attach light items. My backpack weighs less than a gallon of water and is easy to carry on day hikes. In fact, the weight drops to four pounds after we have consumed our water.

My Ultimate Direction Vest is less than eight pounds when full.
A full Ultimate Direction Vest

Comfort

The Adventure Vest is small in comparison to traditional backpacks. It hangs on the shoulders, drops to the middle of the back and buckles at two points in the front. The mesh material has some stretch and is semi-transparent on the inside. This material doesn’t stick to your clothes and will not absorb much sweat. It doesn’t even feel like a backpack. It fits perfectly around the body and feels like a vest with a trivial amount of weight.

The best part – it’s covered by U.S. warranty, unlike other knockoff versions. There are three sizes and each is flexible and adjustable. I have a chest size of 36in, which falls in the medium category. However, I bought the small and it’s a perfect fit. You may want to go with the recommended size if you want more room. The Adventure Vest is machine washable with cool or warm water, but the company recommends using a garment bag, and hanging it to dry.

Specs

The volume of the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest is 16.4L and weighs 10.65 oz without bottles. A one-year warranty covers this vest. The purchase must be made from an authorized dealer, and the warranty applies to the original owner.

Ultimate Direction Vest Sizes

  • Small: 23in – 32in
  • Medium: 30in – 39in
  • Large: 37in – 46in

Durability

These vests fit great and have some flexibility. They are form fitting if you choose the right size, and do not bounce around like most backpacks. The mesh feels very soft and may be easy to puncture. I would not place a sharp or pointy object inside the pack.

I wear mine on a weekly basis and have not noticed any deterioration after several months. Hopefully it will last, at least, two years considering the price and the brand. I will update this Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest review as we continue to use it on hikes. How long will the Adventure Vest last? Time will only tell.

Cost

Most well-made backpacks are not cheap, and this product from Ultimate Direction is no different. These vests cost between $135 and $200! However, the company comes out with new models for most vest styles. When a new model comes out, be on the lookout for a bargain on the older vest. You may be able to find some vests at half price.

Video Speed Review of the Best Lightweight Backpack for Hiking

Pros and Cons of the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Several pockets, pouches and zippers
  • Flexible
  • Easy to wash
  • Form-fitting
  • Less coverage and heat on the back
  • Multiple loops for attaching items
  • Adjustable
  • Less rubbing while running

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Material seems easier to rip or tear
  • Less space than average backpacks

The pros of this lightweight backpack outweigh its cons. It’s small and costs a nice chunk of change, but it will help keep you cooler on the trails. The comfort is far greater than the average backpack. It will make your hike easier, while allowing you to carry your essentials.

Ultimate Direction makes the best lightweight backpack for hiking, and they call mine the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest. If you’d like to purchase one of your own, you can find one on our Shop Page. There are several other styles for running, biking, mountain climbing and other activities.


I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.

We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.

Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

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David Earley

CPT, CES



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