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Cheap Ultralight Gear List
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Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 07:22:12 MDT Print View

I created a cheap ultralight gear list for another thread, but thought it might be more appropriate posted under "Gear List". Its under 9 lbs and is $350 for base weight ($500 includes carried+base+food).

Have I forgotten anything? Any issues with this list?


Note: I estimated weight on a couple of items, but most should be dead on.


Edited by jshortt on 10/10/2010 07:23:21 MDT.

Mathias Gillum
(MattyG) - F

Locale: Midwest
Cheap 2 Person / 3 Season tent on 10/10/2010 08:23:13 MDT Print View


Nice utilitarian list.

Do you have any suggestions for a "cheap" (truly) 2 person/3 season lightweight tent - say close to $100.00?



Karl Gottshalk
(kgottshalk) - MLife

Locale: Maine USA
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 09:49:06 MDT Print View

Keep an eye on the gear swap. I have a Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn tarp and a MLD DuoMid that were both close to $100 used and in excellent condition from the forum.

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 11:32:36 MDT Print View

MattyG, A lightweight fully enclosed 2 person for $100 is a bit difficult. As you can see in the list one of the biggest cost savings is in shelter, but there are examples to be found. You will want to think used (as pointed out), sale or close out models. You are looking at 5 lbs of weight total.

Here is an example of 5 lb 2 person tent from REI, meaning it will be backed by REI's great return policy.

REI Sierra Dome 2

You can usually split the weight of most double wall tents with a partner, by one person carrying the tent body and the other person carry poles and fly.

Other options from reputable tent makers exists such as Kelty or Eureka (found at

Kelty Grand Mesa 2

If you bump up to $150 you should be able to get a North Face, Sierra Designs, or Marmot tent. But consider looking at a used Tarp Tent for $150 ti $175. Now you will have some nice weight saving, but since these tents are single wall you usually can not split the weight between 2 people.


Edited by jshortt on 10/10/2010 11:35:44 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 11:46:04 MDT Print View

Well done! I bestow on you an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Cheapness.

Of course used is one way to save an enormous amount on gear, but it's hard to make a suggested list based on that-- it's like predicting the weather.

Cheap is a lot of work, but if you have more time than money, it can make for a great kit. I personally enjoy seeking out the bargains.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 11:59:16 MDT Print View

Used and cheap can be done easily, it just takes patience, grasshopper.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 12:23:15 MDT Print View

Thanks for this great list, Jamie! It gives me lots of ideas to use with my grandsons who are raring to go out on another trip with nana. I have some spare gear, but the list is helpful, especially in the clothing department, since they're growing like weeds and have already blasted through my old Zamberlans.

James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Thanks - Great List on 10/10/2010 12:48:50 MDT Print View

I wish I had had this list wehn I restarted backpacking in 2007. If I had followed most of it, I would have been years ahead in reducing my pack weight. Since I'll soon be 70 before years end, weight reduction is becoming critical to keeping up my hobby.

I lost 30 pounds from illness, but that was mostly good muscle, not the useless belly fat.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
El cheapo on 10/10/2010 18:46:46 MDT Print View

Someone should do an el cheapo article for BPL

and it should be made free for non membera as well

i predict that if such an article was well made it would be one of the most read on all the internets ... Lol

it still feels like a recession for lotta folks

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: El cheapo on 10/10/2010 18:47:45 MDT Print View

>it still feels like a recession for lotta folks

Still is a recession! And going to get worse.

Stephen P
(spavlock) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 21:27:18 MDT Print View

Great work! Write this into an article and submit it. I think all interested newcomers should see something similar to this before they get overwhelmed by the latest gear talk and feel they need the newest titanium cookset, lightest most expensive shelter, and underwear made out of cuben!

Stephen P
(spavlock) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 21:28:15 MDT Print View

Wait...wait a BPL members don't wear underwear

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/10/2010 21:53:21 MDT Print View

Part 9. Ultra-Light, Ultra-Cheap, by Dave Schultz

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/11/2010 16:54:26 MDT Print View

John, Thanks for posting the link, I had not seen this. The article is definately interesting. There are many similarities to my list, but also a fair amount of differences. David Schultz does a nice job of talking about each needed piece and then presenting 3 approaches from cheap to cheaper to cheapest. His list is generalized a bit, while I was shooting for specific items. I also find it interesting that his cheapest list is ~$300, but weighs 15 lbs base, his lightest list is 11.8 lbs at $541....and these are prices from 9 years ago. Using a similar approach my modern day list was <9 lbs for $350. This is significant difference to me.

I really appreciate the encouragement for making this an article. I will give it some thought and look to ways to expand from David's 2001 article to compliment it without trying to reproduce it. For example adding strategies for finding gear at a discount, buying used gear, or making your own gear.

Thanks all for checking it out,

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
nice job on 10/11/2010 19:18:49 MDT Print View

great list and cheap!

one option that wouldn't add much $, if you went w/ a poncho/tarp (ala Equinox) you'd be at 9 oz for both raingear and shelter- they can be had for ~ $45 vs $27 for dri-ducks + blue tarp- weight savings of 20 oz

just a small nitpic :) mini-bics are ~0.4, you have 1.0

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/11/2010 20:36:45 MDT Print View

First, I want to commend you for an excellent list! We need budget options for young people (such as college students) starting out as well as for those impacted by the recession! For many of us, unless we have money to burn, it's not a good idea to invest a lot of money in an activity until we're sure that's something we really want to do. I did quite a bit of research a year ago for my then 18-year-old grandson who was looking for budget gear.

A few observations:

Some of us dislike and avoid Walmart, but athletic departments in other discount stores will have the same or similar stuff at similar prices. REI, IMHO, is one of the most expensive places for socks (or almost anything else). Athletic departments in discount stores will have just as good socks (avoiding cotton). Costco (for members or those who can get a member to shop for them) has excellent quality merino wool socks. I've found good bargains on socks and other items at big-box sporting goods stores, too--just need to be careful about quality and weight and, of course, fabric content.

Most people own some kind of running-type shoes anyway; unless they have slick soles, they'll be fine for backpacking. That's zero cost! Many will have at least some components of their clothing system already in their closets, which should be checked first before going shopping--as long as it isn't cotton!

Thrift stores often have clothing (particularly polyester fleece and synthetic fabric shirts) for a lot less! Often you can pick up lots of other gear items there. Maybe even a used pack! Several trips to several different stores are apt to be more productive.

Military surplus is another good place to look. Some years back, all of us in the climbing/hiking club I belonged to then bought Air Force surplus tropical weight wool/polyester pants for about $10 apiece. Comfortable and wore like iron (I still have mine!). Never mind that we looked like a uniformed group!

I have a problem with relying on closeout sales for low prices because the same item is never available later on. It is a good idea to watch for and take advantage of sales and especially check the various outlets (REI,, etc.), but such bargains are not always available when you need them! There are other possibilities, such as the Campmor 20* down sleeping bag, often recommended as a low-budget option, even though it's more a 30* bag.

Sometimes a cheap big box store pack will fit just fine; it's worth taking a look, as long as the beginner remembers that comfortable fit is far more important than price.

A number of items are available at the local hardware store--blue tarps, mason's cord, gutter nails. You could even make tent stakes for free from metal coat hangers!

Baking soda is lighter than toothpaste, dentist-recommended and has multiple uses.

Here are some other references I've found for budget stuff:

Mark Verber's "Backpacking for Cheap" has good ideas and a bunch of good links:
In addition, in each of the categories of his "Reccomended Outdoor Gear," he has a final paragraph listing low-budget options.

Here's one from WhiteBlaze (may be the same as the Sgt. Rock one linked to on Mark's site):

On the Gossamer Gear website:

I hope these help! Thanks again for an excellent addition to the literature on low-budget backpacking gear! If you can gather some of the other info linked here into an article to go with your list, that would be wonderful to have a single, up-to-date source!

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/11/2010 20:38:40 MDT.

Dug Shelby
(Pittsburgh) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Cheap Ultralight Gear List on 10/18/2010 03:08:51 MDT Print View

Loved this list!
I'm a big fan of using things I already have, or can get my hands on easily...thrift stores are one of my favorite places. I've found items at thrift stores that were specialized, yet the store employees had no idea how valuable they were, so the marked prices were insanley silly low....but it does take some "sifting" time to get the really good finds. But when you find them, it's like striking gold. :)

Thanks again!


Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Nice List on 10/18/2010 11:45:06 MDT Print View

I would increase my budget and maybe add a few thing.

Order some polycro for ground cloth. Just get a frostking sliding glass door kit and that will make a couple. Nothing wrong with what you have though.

I would also fork out for some 1.25 oz tyvek from Quest outfitters and make a bivy sack for some extra water protection. You can glue tyvek so its not that bad. Maybe go to walmart and get some $1.50 a yard netting and you could glue that into your MYOG bivy sack for some bug protection. The one I made weighed 7 oz.

In the future a MYOG hammock is very easy and cheap if you want to try that out. Just go to walmart and shop the $1.50 fabric section. Get some 1.6 oz or 1.9 oz ripstop and build a gathered end hammock. Last one I built cost like $18 with straps. An 8x10 tarp is a good size for hammocking.

My local walmart right now has 1.9 oz digital camo ripstop which is cool. Just made a shorty and a long.
Also picked up enough green noseeum there to do a bug net.

There are some hammock instructions over at Risk's ultralight camping page.

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
To add on 10/18/2010 14:14:06 MDT Print View

Forget the wendys spoon and buy something like a light my fire spork. A lot tougher. I think they sell them at walmart for about $3.

Might want to carry a few trioxaine tablets in case you run out of alcohol. They are light.

I would carry something more reliable than a book of matches
as a fire backup. Maybe get a steel and striker or carry a spare lighter and some waterproof matches. 3 reliable ways to start fire is good IMO.

If you want a real knife anytime a Mora is really nice with a 4" fixed blade and weighs 4 oz. They go on eby for about $12. I like the carbon steel models. They hold and edge really well. The becker necker is also a good knife.

I would add a few more emergency items.

One is definitely (for me) an emergency blanket. They are cheap light and at least of your bag gets wet you will have something. Can also use it inside your bag for a vapor barrier etc.

Below is that I carry for emer stuff.

Every day I carry a small altoids can filled with the items shown and listed and and keyring. Just that gives me 3 ways to start fire. Also carry a lighter so I guess that's 4.
Must be that time I ran out of matches and my lighter died.

Pic of the can and my keyring.
The short stubby cord is tinder a 6 braid hemp soaked in salt peter.
The tiny waterproof alum container is a pill container from CVS.


List of whats in it and the extra stuff I carry besides. This is just emer and medical. A lot of it is overkill, but it might give you some ideas.

The altoids tin and key ring are always in my pocket so I am carrying 6 oz in a pack with this setup.

In small altoids can 1.3 oz
$20 bill
1 micro pack antibiotic
1 condom
2 water tablets
16' of spiderwire cord
Length of SS wire
Brunton button compass
2 fish hooks
1 needle
1 xacto blade
2 Suture strip band aids
5 wp matches
1 micro mag glass
1 length of tinder cord

Key ring 2.2 oz
Small wp container wrapped w/ gorilla tape
steel flint and striker
GI can opener
swiss army micro knife

Rest of the survival kit 3.8 oz
(5.4 oz with 50' of Kelty triptease)

Space blanket
Gorilla tape
Rubber bands
8 water tablets
Signal mirror
2 pc wp paper
Micro pencil
50' Kelty triptease
Extra fire tinder
Safety pin

1 micro tube krazy glue
2 Suture strip bandaids
2 regular bandaids
2x2 gauze
3x4 non adhesive pad
Xtra pack antibiotic

Edited by tammons on 10/18/2010 14:19:29 MDT.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Poncho on 10/20/2010 02:12:16 MDT Print View

A milsurp poncho tarp weighs about the same as the blue wal-mart tarp and is a possibility for those not expecting much rain. I hear the swiss ones are good and have seen 3 packs for <$12 online.

Of course, if you use a poncho tarp and expect heavy rain then you need a bivy of some sort. I've used a driducks poncho with a cord tied around one end with some success here (the Academy here as them in stock for right around $10 now). I never had it out in a real deluge but it worked well enough for the more normal rain showers. Just remember there's no bathtub floor so site selection is of even greater importance than when using such a poncho/bivy. Pics can be found on JRB's website but I think they modify it more than I did. I just ran some #18 masons line (makes excellent guy lines too!)through one of the bottom seams. I didn't even use cord locks - I just scrunched it up and wrapped the loose ends around it to make a foot box and tucked one side under my sleeping pad to hold it in place. It does help if you tie something on the ends to keep the cord from working its way out of the poncho.

Golite Jams and Peaks can regularly be found in Gear Swap and on Gear Trade for around $80 as well.

I've often wondered if the large knitting needles at Wal-Mart would work as well as the blue Easton stakes.

Also check out the Ranger Rick Digests. That guy must be a master scrounger!

Edited by veriest1 on 10/20/2010 02:18:51 MDT.