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Cheap gear upgrade advice!
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Loren B

Locale: London UK, Greenville USA
Cheap gear upgrade advice! on 05/19/2013 17:36:41 MDT Print View

A good friend of mine asked me last week for some advice about lightening up her pack weight before a trip we are going on. She's a struggling actress and as a result does not have a huge amount of money to burn so price is definitely a big consideration. Has done a lot of backpacking, climbing etc before so does own everything needed already, but a lot of the stuff she has is either preposterously heavy or totally worn out. Anyways, she weighed all her gear for me just now and there were a few very obvious areas to start.

So, I thought, who better to ask than the ultra knowledgeable folks at BPL. If you have any advice at all then please share as that would be awesome and highly appreciated. The main things which need replacing are:

Backpack - Somewhere around 2200-2600 cubic inches. Framed or frameless. Mens or womens.

Tent or tarp/groundsheet/bivvy/bug netting combo - 3 season, good in heavy rain

hiking poles - aluminium or carbon

cook system - alcohol/esbit stove, pot.

Again, the main considerations are price and lightness (and function). Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have!

Edited by ljamesb on 05/19/2013 17:41:20 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Cheap gear upgrade advice! on 05/19/2013 17:52:36 MDT Print View

If money is one of the main factors I'd say buy a copy of Mike Clellands book:

If that is too expensive then about %80 of the goodness can be got just by reading, watching the videos on, his website:

Cheapness is a thing he very much emphasizes. He give VERY specific examples on many things - some not so specific answers to a few other. Petty much all his suggestions/solutions are cheapest-in-class, or close to it. After that then the question will be which things she personally feels she needs (nicer more expensive tent, and so on) to invest more on. But a lot of the choice mike make pretty much are cheapest (and a lot of time lightest). Example for stove: cat stove (pretty much free and weightless) + mug + Al foil windscreen, plus spoon.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Cheap gear upgrade advice! on 05/20/2013 18:12:41 MDT Print View

Poles: REI garage sales are a good place to find cheap hiking poles (if she already has some I don't think the cost is worth the weight savings compared to other items). Costco also carries some good carbon and aluminum poles that are durable enough for $20-$40.

Cook system: cat can stove with a snowpeak titanium bowl and foil lid. Cheap for a titanium pot (20oz for ~$15@REI) and works for many people. Otherwise a DIY fosters can is even cheaper and lighter but less convenient to acquire.

Shelter: Can't be the price and simplicity of an 8x10 blue poly tarp from REI or Walmart. Good enough albeit bulky and heavier than any cuben/silnylon option. Still lighter than most normal tents. 8x10 will provide plenty of solo rain coverage, especially with careful site selection to avoid pooling or runoff in sustained rains.

Pack: The REI Flash 45 is on sale for $90 right now. Some people really like it (if I didn't already have a 44L bag I was impressed enough that I would have grabbed one myself).
Through REI outlet the flash packs are on sale. Bigger than what you listed at 50L and 65L but both sizes are available around ~$100 in both men's and women's versions. They can be stripped down to under 2lbs and have compression options IIRC. A review of the packs is somewhere on this site. According to an old review, the flash 50L actually measures around 43L...The stoke 29L is also available around ~$65 but smallish for you requirements. Boreas Buttermilks 40L for $115 may work well for her.

Basic kit and nothing to envy but for ~$125 she'll have a pretty solid lightweight setup.

Also make sure she pares down extra clothing and repackages toiletries. I find most women that climb are not adverse to doing this, they just don't think to do it since their non-dirtbagging life emphasizes the exact opposite.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Cheap gear upgrade advice! on 05/21/2013 08:33:54 MDT Print View

If you do a search there are tons of advice on this subject and some links people give to their own blogs that give tons of ideas.

David McBride
(VintageGent) - F

Locale: Galveston TX
Cheap cook pot on 05/21/2013 08:45:35 MDT Print View

For a cheap pot, I recommend the IMUSA:

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Cheap gear upgrade advice! on 05/21/2013 09:09:36 MDT Print View

Suggestions, for what they're worth:

Backpack. GoLite is running a 15% off sale right now that would put their Quest (framed) or Jam (frameless) packs right around $100 in the volume she's looking for.

Cook System. If she's just boiling water, I think it's hard to beat the GSI Halulite Tea Kettle. Reasonably lightweight (5.7oz) and only $17 from Amazon.

Hiking Poles. Black Diamonds are on sale (25%) at REI, $60 for their basic Trail Back set. For just a little more, I have the BD "Distance Z-Poles" in aluminum that I LOVE. Fixed length but collapsible, UL and great R/L-specific straps. (

Fitz Travels
Dicks Sporting Goods on 05/21/2013 10:22:24 MDT Print View

I was in Dicks Sporting Goods yesterday and they had a tarp and bug bivy for around $30 each. They also sell Kelty packs which i believe are pretty inexpensive. I think theirMarmot Gunnison line, only found there, is around $50. Its 40 liters but i think probably their main compartment is around 30.

Adam Battenburg
DIY on 05/21/2013 16:25:26 MDT Print View

Making some of your own stuff really helps keep the cost down and is often lighter then things people end up buying. With the hiking poles for example, you can find cheap golf shafts online and then just glue them to Leki tips. Lighter then most poles, and works just as well. With the cooking system, a simple cat stove works well with something like the Kmart Grease pot. A backpack and tarp however, are a bit more work. DIY tarps aren't really that bad but for the backpack, I would defiantly just get a Go-light pack or something similar. Their is a great cheap gear list/site in general here:
Sometimes I feel like all the money people spend on gear really takes away from the true pursuit of backpacking.

Loren B

Locale: London UK, Greenville USA
re: on 05/21/2013 19:50:46 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone. Some very good ideas. Here is what she is going with so far.

Cookset is now all sorted. Cat can stove, foil lid, titanium long spoon. Found this stanco grease pot for $6.50. I picked one up also :). Supposedly it weighs 2.5oz without the lid.

Snowpeak ti bowl was a nice suggestion as it is just so incredibly light, but the capacity might be a bit small. The GSI kettle is also great especially because of its ease of use for water only cooking. She went for the stanco over the imusa simply because it comes with a lid and strainer which may come in handy.

When I saw it, I thought to myself, the strainer would be perfect for trail baking if placed in the bottom of a larger diameter pot. I did a search and ta-da , a whole thread devoted to mods for the stanco pot.

Rollmat. I found a full length inflatable rollmat for precisely 83 cents from REI here , which is just astonishingly cheap. Not sure about weight, but I'd guess about a pound.

Knife - dermasafe style for $2.83.

Backpack - the Golite Jam and granite gear Virga are looking like the best options at the moment. Does anyone have experience with the Virga by any chance?

hiking poles - costco poles seem like a nice option.

bivy - probably equinox bivy ($55 from amazon)

groundsheet - tyvek

tarp - undecided

Thanks again for the ideas. Please keep 'em coming if you have any more especially when it comes to tarps/tents. I think this really proves that it doesn't cost a lot to go lightweight.

Edited by ljamesb on 05/21/2013 20:04:16 MDT.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Jam on 05/21/2013 20:38:50 MDT Print View

The Virga only has a piece of webbing where the hip belt usually is. The jam has a hip belt that will snug the pack into your lower back and take some weight off your shoulders. The jam has a nice big front pocket, and small hipbelt pockets too.

Matthew Reese
Jam on 05/22/2013 06:29:05 MDT Print View

Another vote for the Jam. It also has the, "compactor" system which effectively lowers the volume and profile of the pack, making it easy to double as a day pack. With careful packing it is quite comfortable, at least for me. One potential problem is the hipbelt sizing; I got a large because I have a long torso but the hip belt barely fits; if i lose any more weight I'll have to rig something.