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  • Monday, February 6, 2017

    My $100 Super-Ultralight Gear List

    Some of the best moments in my life happened when I had the very least. Whenever I stress about money or work, I remind myself of that. When I was spending a majority of each year backpacking, hitchhiking, or cycling, people would ask me if I was a self-made millionaire or a trust-fund baby. I’d laugh it off and assure them that living like a hobo was dirt cheap.
    I used to have a motto back then: “A dollar saved is a mile hiked.” I’d see something I wanted to buy and think, "is it worth 200 miles of trail?” Needless to say, I’ve learned a few things about how to have a great adventure without spending a fortune.
    A reader on a budget once asked me how cheaply they could buy a set of gear for their first backpacking trip. I worked out a sample gear list for them, but I kept finding new ways to go even cheaper and lighter.
    While waiting for the end of winter, I thought I'd pass the time by compiling everything I’ve learned and come up with a super-ultralight, super-ultracheap gear list for those who think you need to be a trust-fund baby to live a life of adventure.
    I’ll be writing all year on this topic, but I’m going to start it off with a simple gear list that can get you out the door and on the trail for just under $100. I'll also disprove the myth that cheap gear means heavy gear, as this gear list weighs just over 5 pounds.
    My Goals For This Gear List
    1. It can't cost a penny over $100.
    2. It has to have a base weight of about five pounds, which is the weight of the pack not including consumables like food, water, and cooking fuel. 
    3. Any DIY gear had to be easy to make without having any uncommon tools or skills (i.e. by people like me)
    4. I could use common household items as long as they were so common that any first-time backpacker would already have them.
    5. I had to maintain my normal level of safety and comfort on 3-5 day stretches in summer temperatures, between 60 and 90° F (16 to 32° C).
    Why $100? 
    An avid backpacker would never limit their budget to $100. Obviously, a budget of $1,000 or more will get you a better set of gear, but I think it would surprise most people to learn just how little they have to spend.
    I love shopping for new gear as much as any backpacker, but setting extreme limits is a great way to force yourself to get creative and learn something new. For first-time backpackers, those on a budget or not, this is a great way to start learning about what gear you need, and what you don't, before an outfitter tries to sell you everything including the kitchen sink.
    Why 5 Pounds?
    There's nothing inherently special about five pounds, except that your enjoyment on a hike generally goes up as your pack weight goes down. You'll have more energy, you’ll hike faster and further, and you'll have less aches and injuries. There's a point, however, when shaving off that last ounce will actually decrease your enjoyment or make you less safe. You may find, for example, that 7 or 8 pounds works better for you.
    That being said, challenging yourself to get as low as five pounds will force you to get creative and learn something new. With this knowledge, you'll make better gear choices and you'll know if and when an upgrade is worth the money or carrying the extra weight. 
    Finally, minimalism on the trail is liberating. Not only will you minimize your impact on the environment, when you head into that green tunnel of trees you’ll find that the less you require, the freer you'll feel. Later, when you're working hard to buy the next thing, you'll remember that the best times in your life were when you had the very least. Discovering that could change a life. And I believe if enough people make this discovery, it could change the world.
    The Gear List 
    Alright, on to my $100 super-ultralight pack. For now, I’ll just give the gear list then I’ll dive into the details in my next posts.
    Check back over the next several weeks for DIY instructions and other tips for super-ultralight, super-ultracheap hiking trips. 
    Packing Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Backpack Ozark Trail Atka 27L, modified 18.97 10.649
    Bag Liner DIY, Polycryo Plastic (Window Weatherproofing Shrink Film) 2.00 0.35
    Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack DIY, Polycryo Plastic  - 0.28
    Small Stuff Sack DIY, Polycryo Plastic - 0.14
    Sleeping Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Hammock Grand Trunk UL, modified 13.99 11.464
    Rain Tarp DIY, Polycryo Plastic - 4.4
    Guylines Braided Mason's Cord and 1 mm Elastic Cord 5.48 0.847
    Sleeping Bag Bear Butt, 41-Degree Bag 32.97 29.98
    Cooking Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Stove Soda Can Alcohol Stove w/ Windscreen and Pot Stand - 1.411
    Cook Pot Steel Coffee Can - 2.36
    Pot Insulator DIY, Windshield Sunscreen 1.00 0.282
    Fuel 4 oz. Eye Dropper Bottle for HEET 1.59 0.494
    Lighter Mini Bic Lighter 1.00 0.388
    Spoon Heavy-duty Plastic Spoon from Wal-Mart 0.57 0.28
    Food Bag DIY, Polycryo Plastic - 0.14
    Water Treatment Bleach in "Breath Drops" or Eye Drops Bottle - 0.25
    Water Storage Soda Bottle - 0.81
    Large Water Storage 2-Liter Soda Bottle - 1.728
    Hygiene, First Aid & Gear Maintenance Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Gauze Roll Dollar Store Roll of Gauze 1.00 0.141
    Duct Tape/Pen Tape Wrapped Around Pen Ink - Carried
    Antiseptic Single-use in Fused Drinking Straws 1.00 0.04
    Medication Excedrin &  Ibuprofen in Mini ZipLoc - 0.07
    Hand Sanitizer In Eye Dropper Bottle 1.00 0.76
    Toilet Paper Partial Roll, Cardboard Tube Removed - 0.3
    Toothbrush Travel-Size from Dollar Store 0.50 0.247
    Toothpaste Travel-Size from Dollar Store 0.50 0.71
    Sewing Kit Needle and Length of Thread - 0.00
    Storage Baggie DIY, Polycryo Plastic - 0.07
    Miscellaneous Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Headlamp Ozark Trail from Wal-Mart 1.00 0.95
    Spare Batteries Batteries from Extra Ozark Trail Headlamp 1.00 0.21
    Blade Razor Blade - 0.07
    Safety Pins For Hanging Wet Clothing on Pack - 0.04
    Sit Pad Back Pad Removed from Atka Backpack - 0.56
    Waterproof Matches Wooden Strike Anywhere Matches with Heads Dipped in Candle Wax - 0.14
    Bug Repellent (If needed) DEET Spray, 1 oz 2.99 Carried
    Notebook DIY Waterproof Notebook - Carried
    Map (If Needed) - Carried
    Clothing Cost (US$) Weight (oz)
    Pants/Shorts Non-Cotton Shorts from Thrift Store 1.98 Worn
    Shirt Non-Cotton T-Shirt from Thrift Store 1.98 Worn
    Bandanna DIY Buff, from Thrift Store Material 1.98 Worn
    Socks Use What You Have, Non-Cotton Preferred - Worn
    Extra Socks Use What You Have, Non-Cotton Preferred - 1.80
    Underwear Use What You Have, Non-Cotton Preferred - Worn
    Extra Underwear Use What You Have, Non-Cotton Preferred - 2.787
    Shoes Start out just using what you have, Trail Runners preferred - Worn
    Rain Poncho (If Needed) Frogg Togg Poncho 4.99 3.99
    Thermal Layer (If Needed) Thrift Store Fleece, Cut Into Vest 1.98 5.00
    Totals, If Packing Everything $99.47 5 lbs 4.1 oz
    Next Post: A closer look at my backpack, DIY pack liner, and stuff sacks.
    Please email any questions or comments to ryan@abackpackerslife.com.  If you have an alternative idea for a super-ultralight, super-ultracheap gear list, let me know. I would like to share them in future posts.
    Related Posts:
    Financial Responsibilities  
    How to Make a Wicking Alcohol Stove
    Safe Drinking Water in the Backcountry, Part 1: Using Bleach