That article has a few different purposes:
- Lets a person new to the outdoors world and/or on a budget purchase some equipment that will not break the bank and will let the outdoors be explored.
- Show how the BEST gear is not needed to get outside.
- I think it functions as good minimalist list. As I wrote “A better pack, sleeping bag, shelter etc. within this lists’ framework will still leave you with a lightweight list with no extras. In other words, this is a good list to build upon for lightweight backpacking in general I think. Part of what lightweight backpacking is not so much what you take but rather it is what you do not take.”
However, I realize this kit is not ideal and narrow in focus. Works well for prime three season summer conditions (unless a better sleeping bag is purchased for example). As an aside, my original kit way back in 1996 was not much different from the $300 challenge kit (bargain external frame, bulky and cheap sleeping bag, old fleece) and I rather enjoyed myself. But I did upgrade, swap out, etc. as my experience, preferences and budget dictated.
Recently, I was asked to contribute a gear kit for my friend Liz Thomas’ course for Backpacker Magazine. The kit was a step up from the $300 kit but not quite what I have now in some cases. There is a “better” pack shown, but still suggest the M65 liner for example. I called it the “dirt bagger deluxe” kit. 🙂
So, I thought perhaps it was time to write a sequel of sorts to the Frugal Backpacking Kit and introduce the Budget Backpacking Kit. A little beyond what I sent Liz and perhaps a very good kit for all around backpacking as opposed to the specialized long distance treks. Most weekend backpackers will not want a tarp for a general purpose shelter, will not be moving all day to make miles nor do they wish to futz with an alcohol stove. It is a kit that handles a variety of conditions beyond well-marked and maintained trails.
The budget kit is the not the lightest gear, or the most cutting edge. But it is light and functional overall. And it does not require too much (or any) leg work. The rule I imposed upon myself for this kit is that it has to be composed of items I can *easily* find be it online, in a store or in a typical person’s home as of April 2017. One off clearance items or lucky finds would not work for the purpose of this list.
You’ll notice many links for REI and Amazon for a reason: REI is found almost everywhere now. And, with Amazon Prime, it is very easy to get a wide variety of goods. There are still a sprinkling of cottage gear makers, surplus, and discount stores, too. Frankly, that is how I shop as I like to get items online as much as possible but will go to a certain store if I know the item will be less expensive (a fleece pullover for example. Less expensive at Target or –gasp- Wally World versus other places). Obviously, if some gear such as long underwear or winter jackets are bought off-season, the prices may be even less expensive.
So here’s my Budget Backpacking Kit.
As always, I have the Rockies in mind with cooler temps but generally drier with more sun exposure. Other places may want a warmer weather bag, perhaps beefier rain gear, maybe a heavier fleece in place of the lightweight puffy, a lightweight alcohol stove where food carries are less and fire restrictions not as common, etc. This kit is not meant to be the cheapest kit. Again, see my $300 for that type of list. Rather this kit is a well-rounded kit for a variety of conditions beyond set routes and trails.
Overall, though, I think it is a good all-purpose kit that all requires minimal tinkering for any environment in three season+ conditions.
I can honestly say it is gear I would use myself (and in many cases, do!) and would gladly suggest to friends.
Originally written Fall of 2015, Updated: April 2017
|ITEMS||COST||WEIGHT (in oz)||WHERE||NOTES|
|Pack and accessories|
|ULA CDT||$145||19||ULA Gear||At $145, roughly 50L and ~19 oz stripped down, it is a good overall lightweight pack for most uses. Durable, too.|
|Garbage compactor bag||0||0.625||House||Normal household item|
|Kelty Cosmic 21 DriDown||$129||41||eBay||The Cosmic down has long been known to be a good budget bag.|
|Z-Lite 3/4 Length Pad Clone||$16||10||eBay||Less expensive than an inflatable pad, better than the minimalist choice of the “blue foam pad”, the Z-lite is a classic, durable and reasonably comfortable pad with good R-value for three season use. Works as a stay in the pack, too.|
|SMD Skyscape Scout||$125||34||Six Moon Designs||I have the 24 oz version of this tent for various conditions. The Scout is the more budget-minded version that is still as functional and capable for less money.|
|Gutter Nails (6)||$5||2.5||Hardware store||Light, inexpensive, durable and effective|
|Lexan spoon||$1||0.375||REI||Standard spoon. Usually found with the cookware. So cheap it is not online.|
|Lighter with duct tape||0||1||Home||Duct tape does everything. To quote the author Andy Weir: “Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped”|
|Stanco Grease Pot||$10||5||Amazon||Light, cheap and effective. Use your bandanna for a pot grip. Works well with the stove below.|
|Hornet BRS-3000t||$15||0.9||Amazon||A sub-1oz, $15 canister stove suitable for solo hiking. Alcohol stoves are coming under increased scrutiny in the increasingly fire prone American West.|
|Dental Floss||0||<.125||Home||Works for repairs, too!|
|Silynylon food bag||$17||1||Amazon||Silnylon is no longer an exotic fabric and is reasonable in price|
|1 qt Gatorade bottle (2)||$2||2.25||Grocery Store||The Gatorade bottle is light and cheap. Comes with a drink!|
|96 oz Nalgene cantene||$7||2.25||REI||For larger water carries, I’ve been using this piece of gear for years. The wide mouth makes it very easy to use, too.|
|Sawyer Squeeze Mini Filter||$25||2||REI||Effective and inexpensive water treatment. I prefer chemicals as I selectively treat, but for those who treat more, the Sawyer makes more financial sense.|
|Clothing in pack|
|100 weight fleece||$10||8||Any discount store||One of my most versatile pieces of clothing. Wear it in all four seasons. I purchased one for $10 at Sports Authority|
|Uniqlo down jacket Clone||$15||8||eBay||Affordable, functional and effective. Before I was given a Montbell jacket for volunteer work, I used one. At the end of the season, can usually be bought at a steep discount.|
|C9 (Target) Running Socks||$9||1.5||Target||Big fan of these running socks. Durable, light and cost-effective. Sold in a two-pack.|
|Frog Toggs Ultralite 2 Jacket||$20||6||Amazon or Discount Store||Good for on trail. The jacket works surprisingly well. I would not use the pants. Put them in your emergency car kit instead.|
|Campmor Backpacker Rainpants||$10||8||Campmor||Traditionally, the Campmor house brand was good quality and functional. These rain pants are some of the few items left. Not as breathable as more expensive or more fragile gear, but good for cold rain when you really need it.|
|TSLA Thermal set||$20||10||Amazon||Basic thermals|
|Polypro balaclava||$8||1.75||Amazon||A long time favorite of mine that is worn in all four seasons. Very versatile. Inexpensive. Mine is 15 years old!|
|Wool liner gloves||$5||1.5||Surplus store||Another four-season mainstay, coupled with the shell mitts (below) , a versatile system for all conditions.|
|Event Shell Mitts||$30||1||Borah Gear||Light and simple|
|Merino wool socks||$6.50||1||The Underwear Guys||My “snivel gear”. A warm pair of dry socks, only worn to bed, is heaven.|
|Trashbag||0||0.375||Home||A free and waterproof stuff sack!|
|First Aid/ Repair Kit||0||1.5||Home||Simple and to the point. Band Aids, 4×4 gauze pads, Vitamin I, needle with floss, small tube of sunscreen and in a ZipLoc bag.|
|Deuce of Spades Trowel/TP/Ziploc||$20||1||Amazon||LNT means leave no #2 and TP lying around! I have no affiliation with The Tent Lab (maker of the Deuce of Spades). But for the weight, no reason NOT to take one. Esp now that the longer trails are getting popular.|
|Hand sanitizer||$3||2.25||Drugstore||Get the travel size|
|Energizer head lamp||$10||2||Amazon||Fine for three-season use with its long days and just needing a bit of light in camp.|
|TOTAL COST OF PACKED GEAR: $655||TOTAL WEIGHT OF PACKED GEAR: 142 oz / 11bs 1 oz|
|Equipment “on self”|
|Polycotton blend button up shirt||0||6||Home||I actually like the ventilation of a poly-cotton blend shirt. I use an old casual dress shirt repurposed for hiking now.|
|Nylon shorts||0||3.75||Home||Assume most have some sort of shorts for exercising|
|C9 Running socks||–||1.5||Target||from Target. Already bought two pairs! 🙂|
|Bandanna||$1||1||Many stores||Multi-purpose. Helps keep me cool. Worn under a boonie hat.|
|Boonie hat||$12||3.5||Surplus Store||Surplus store special|
|Analog watch||$10||<1||Discount store||For dead reckoning and first aid use. Don’t have a watch? Get the cheapest analog one you can find.|
|Key Chain Light||$10||1||Amazon||The light, can opener and knife is a basic kit. Something I happen to carry everyday that I use on the trail. A basic, versatile tool kit for everyday life..or the outdoors|
|P51 Can Opener||$2||–||Surplus Store|
|Swiss Army Classic||$15||–||Amazon|
|Sunglasses||$0||1||Home||Probably already have a pair? I like safety sunglasses myself: Light, durable and inexpensive.|
|Silva 1-2-3||$10||1||Many places||Basic compass|
|Costco carbon hiking poles||$30||16||Costco||Light and inexpensive. Work very well. This one is a small cheat as you need a Costco membership..or a gift card. 🙂|
|Running shoes||0||30||Home||For trails, a good pair of running shoes used for workouts will work beautifully|
TOTAL COST OF ALL GEAR: $751
- S&H and taxes not included in the prices
- Items that vary on trips such as food, fuel, guidebooks and maps (which are trip dependent) not included
- Cameras will add weight..but worth it, I think. For basic snaps and landscape photos, camera phones have come a long way. Need a real optical zoom and better manual control? I’d invest in a mirrorless camera. I have a DSLR, but it is a huge weight penalty. Mirrorless cameras have gone up in quality and down in price. That’s my next outdoor piece of gear personally.
- I don’t claim this is the best set of gear for everyone and all situations. I will say I think it is a very good gear kit for the price. This kit will work well for a variety of conditions and places whether on a multi-month thru-hike or a weekend jaunt.
- Unlike the $300 kit, this kit can easily push into later fall conditions.
- Lots of good budget items of various quality (the Z-Lite clone is good; I’d rather use a ULA CDT) from this link found on the UL subreddit originally.
- My apologies, but the original total packed weight listed was mix and matched from the Backpacker Magazine article. I have since updated. Thanks, Brian!