Buying new gear can feel overwhelming. Especially if you are coming from an older setup or completely new. Buying too cheap the first time will likely mean that it won’t hold up and you’ll end up replacing the gear. Other gear is priced expensively for minimal weight savings. For some this is worth it, for others they want to find the best value in gear. I put together an Ultralight Setup that has everything you need for an overnight to week long trip!
Finding the Best Value
I took the liberty to sort through hundreds if not thousands of pieces of gear to find the best value in gear for a beginner or any person looking to transform into an ultralight backpacker. My main goal was value. Search over the internet and you’ll find plenty of people proposing budget UL setups around 10 lbs for about $600 and I think these are great for a specific audience. What I’m looking to capture is you, someone who is interested in having an even lighter load, and one that is going to last you many seasons. At the same time it should be reasonably priced.
Overview of the Ultralight Setup
There are some things that I have done differently than most others who proposed similar setups. First, I suggest a tarp and bug bivy setup. It weights in less than a pound and it’s quite cheap. This isn’t commonly recommended as it takes some skill to learn how to pitch and stay dry. I assume that you have access to the internet, and are interested in your gear. If this is the case, you can easily learn how to properly pitch your setup using tools such as YouTube and other online resources. Use your brain to save you weight and money.
The next major difference is that I went with a no cook setup. I went no cook for over 2000 miles on the Appalachian Trail and unless you’ll be backpacking in winter or going 4+ days without hitting civilization with food then I think no cook is the best option. It’s debatable about the weight saved, but it cuts down on camp chores and is a more simple approach.
Finally, my clothing system may be a bit different than others. I don’t have much in the way of extra clothing. The majority of your time in the woods is either hiking or sleeping. Hiking keeps you warm naturally because you heat up as you walk. When you are in your sleeping setup you have your quilt to keep you warm. It means you sacrifice a bit by not having additional warm layers, but I believe you’ll have no issue going down to the mid 30’s with this setup.
So What’s on the List?
Sub – 7lb $700
This isn’t the most beginner friendly setup in the world, I admit that. But what it does have is good value and it’s light. The cheapest setup’s under 10 lbs come in right around $500-$600. So adding an extra $100 to your setup saves you an additional 3 lbs.
A lot of the other lists, omit items to either make weight or budget. I tried not to, so I included things like your smartphone in the weight and costs for everything but worn items which you should already have. If you need clothes and trail runners factor in an additional $150. The only gear omission is the cookset, which I am firmly in team no cook.
Details of the Process
To start out, I took all of my current gear. So I have a pretty no frills setup, so I took that as a template for the items that you will need. From there I went through and scoured the web for the best items which fit this. Ultimately, this is most of the gear I would buy if I had to upgrade anything. Some things I may splurge a bit more on, such as a Cuben Fiber Tarp.
Tarp and Bug Bivy
Borah Gear, is a small cottage company who makes their products to your specifications. If you want anything custom on your items they will do it at a reasonable fee. They offer very reasonable prices on light gear. I suggested the tarp and bug bivy setup because I ultimately believe it is more versatile than a tent and saves weight.
Quilt and Pad
I currently own the Burrow 20 from Hammock Gear, and am pleased with my purchase. It’s arguably one of my favorite pieces of gear, yet I still have my qualms (horizontal baffles). Regardless, their Econ line is transforming the quilt marketplace by hitting the sweet spot between cheap and light. As for the pad, the closed cell the clear option when you’re looking for a decent R value on a budget. You may not be comfortable on it at first, but give it a few nights and it will grow on you.
This is the single item I had the hardest time picking. Ultimately, I went with what will be my next pack. The MurMur 36 Hyperlight is what I expect to be the best pack in terms of price and weight. Coming in at a whopping 9 ounces the Hyperlight takes the cake on this. It is also reasonably priced at $155. I had a hard time recommending this to other hikers because the maximum total weight is supposed to be around 15 lbs. This leaves you about 9 lbs for food and water. Reasonably, you should be able to take this pack out for 4-5 days with no issue assuming you use the gear list provided. In theory it might be a little too little for some of you, and if its a concern the Kumo is a great pack. I saw a lot of them out on the Appalachian Trail this year.
Most of the other gear is self explanatory so I won’t go into detail on each of the small things I picked. Mostly I picked them because they fit the function at the lightest weight. If you are wondering why I went with the Katadyn BeFree check out my Sawyer Squeeze review. I did skimp on the headlamp because I don’t do much hiking at night, if you do upgrade as necessary. My list even includes a battery bank which most others do not, I highly recommend the Anker 10500 for most trips unless you want to go smaller, then any 3000 mAh will do. If you want to read more on battery banks do it over here.
This is my attempt at getting you out there as light as possible and save you as much as possible. Hopefully I haven’t missed anything in terms of gear. Make sure to comment if there is anything you like or hate about my list!