Friday, April 18, 2014

Under $350 Ultraight Backpacking Kit

For simple overnight backpacking trips, you can easily put together an Ultralight Backpacking kit that costs around $350 and one that weighs MUCH lighter than the backpacking kit listed recently in Outside magazine
I have been asked several times to put together an Ultralight Backpacking kit that costs XX dollars for so and so.  Here's my attempt at assembling one for around $350, about what any hobby starts at.
First buy or borrow a postal scale that weighs pounds, ounces, and grams so you can know your equipment's actual weight.  Everything but the food listed here is available online.
Lets start first with the Big Three, the pack, tent and sleeping bag.
Pack - Go Lite Jam 35 costs $99.99, weighs 1 lb, 11 oz @ Go  35 liters is the correct size for overnight backpacking trips IF you carry lightweight equipment.  It also comes in blue or green.  Your Go Lite 35 pack is an excellent choice, and it will last and last.  The idea behind the 35 liter size is to just carry less.  You won't need to carry more than that on 1-2 night trips.

Tent - Eureka Solitare 1 person tent costs $68.94, weighs 2 lb, 9 oz @  You may find this for even less if you search online.  Use the included poles and stakes.

Bag - Slumberjack Lone Pine 40 degree sleeping bag costs $59.98, weighs 2 lb, 4oz @ More than warm enough for most summer camping, add a sleeping bag liner for more warmth.

The Second Big Three includes sleeping pad, cook stove & gear, and water filtration.
Pad - Thermarest Trail Scout inflatable pad (full size) costs $39.98, weighs 1 lb, 11 oz @  You need protection from the ground's cold and some padding to sleep comfortably.

Cook gear - Esbit stove/cook set costs $22.95, weighs only 7 oz @  Any plastic spoon and lightweight cup will do for the rest of your cook kit.

Water filtration - Sawyer Mini Filter costs $24.95, weighs only 2oz @  This is all the water filter you will ever need and your water won't taste like chemicals.  Use chemicals as a backup.

This gets you to $307, more or less and weighs about 8 pounds and includes the same type of items as were listed in the article.  That 8 pounds would also be called your base weight, before food, fuel & water are weighed.
Extra items that not mentioned in the article, but are things you would still need...
Fuel - Esbit Tabs 12 pack is $7.99 ( need 2-3 for overnight trip @ 1oz each)  @  Add this to the food, water & fuel weight.

First Aid kit - Adventure Medical Kit .5 is $16.95, weighs 10 oz @  Learn to use everything inside the kit.  And it is waterproof!

Rain -  Outdoor Products Multi-purpose Poncho is $30, weighs 12 oz @  Works fine unless it is windy, and it gives you something to sit on during breaks.

Water bottles - Gatorade 32 oz, empty & rinse 2 of these, and once you drink the Gatorade, they are free. Thanks for keeping them out of the landfill.  I keep a couple of spare lids at home in case I lose a lid.

Those add up to $55 and another 2 pounds for a total of about $359 and a total of 10 pounds base weight.
And I have nothing against Outside magazine, I read them often.  I used to purchase those same heavily built packs and shred my feet with those same hard leather boots, but no more.  Instead of the 40+ pound non-ultralight gear mentioned in their article, you can cut that weight in half for about the same price.  Food, fuel & water will weigh around 6-8 pounds more.  Make sure you bring a lighter, matches, flashlight, trash bags (water-proofing), a sweater and soap.  This brings your base weight to about 10 pounds.
Total weight for the Ultralight pack with food, fuel, water & all your stuff is under 20 lbs.  Again, that is less than HALF the weight the magazine article is suggesting that you carry.  Your new pack will carry easily on your back, your knees won't hurt and your feet will be light on the trail.  You will move quicker and not be as tired at the end of the day.  You will be happier, trust me.
A little more searching online may lead you to even better deals.  If you want to go on a backpacking trip in the shoulder seasons (spring/fall), add a sleeping bag liner, long underwear, and polar fleece outerwear, hat & gloves to keep warm.

Beyond the $350 amount, I suggest you invest in a pair of trail running shoes like the Montrail Mountain Masochist II  at $71.51, 2 lb, at  Amazon.  They work great for me, grip the ground awesomely, and at a pound each are very light weight.  You can also wear them for other things than backpacking.  Boots are such overkill.  They are heavy and they shred your feet.  With such a light load on your back (it weighs like most day packs), boots are no longer required.
For food, plan on keeping it simple: mac & cheese & a very small can of chicken that can be freezer bag cooked, an apple, fig bars, breakfast bars, PB&J, trail mix, coffee/tea, etc.  Or eat before you leave the trail head and don't cook dinner the first night out.  Once you get into this, you can create all kinds of wonderful and tasty meals at home to enjoy on the trail.
And wear no cotton clothing - what you already own that is synthetic material will work great, you don't really need hiking-specific clothing.  I wear a synthetic sports t-shirt, thin socks, compression underwear, with nylon pants, and a long sleeve fishing shirt.  With the pants & shirt both being nylon, they dry quickly and block some wind and sun.  And wear a hat.  In Florida I wear a lightweight hat with a wide brim with vents all around.
A hiking stick is always a good idea, and a lightweight wooden one is fine - you can always get collapsible hiking poles later if you still need them.
The other things you need are some basic outdoor skills and a positive mindset.  Basic map and compass skills, camping skills, knowing your knots and a knowledge of first aid (all those things that you learned in Boy Scouts).  These items and more are covered in the Free Ultralight Backpacking E-Book available at Lite Packer Lifestyle on Facebook.  Or search for Ultralight Backpacking how to books on Amazon.  Remember, knowledge weighs nothing!
In between trips, read lots of ultralight blogs for cool DIY weight-saving ideas.  Shop online sales for shoulder season polar fleece and down clothing.  Convince your friends to go camping with you.  Go backpacking 1-2 weekends a month.  Join the Florida Trail, the Sierra Club or any local backpacking group that actually gets out there.  Challenge yourself at least once a year on a multiple day hiking trail far away from home, a kayak or canoe river camping trip or even on a loaded bicycle tour, all using Ultralight weight camping gear.
Dream of backpacking the AT and the PCT.  Pack light, go far, very far.


  1. According to me Shoes are the most important item on a camping trip which involve hiking and trek. This year I am going on a trip with my college mates that is why i purchased this glorious lowa pair for me from
    . Bit expensive though

  2. Those montrails are the crappiest shoes I have ever bought period!! They feel like you're wearing cardboard, that you found naked and afraid on a deserted island. You can feel every pebble on the ground and the sole is floppy as a wet fish. And the tread wore out in maybe 5 long hikes.

  3. I bought a pair of NB 481At at big 5 for $50 on sale and they are doing great. Just did a 70mile section hike of the hardest section of the JMT. Bishop pass to kearsarge pass. 5x 12kft passes in 6 days and the shoes were comfortable and grippy and stiff enough with my 35lb full pack weight.