Ultralight doesn’t necessarily mean ultra-expensive. In fact, in many cases the most ultralight option (cutting unnecessary items out) is completely free. A few of the products included in this list do two amazing things at once: save you weight and save you money. For example, the Grifiti bands are an excellent replacement for expensive Dyneema stuff sacks. On the other hand, some of these items are ultra-mini versions of products we use daily on trail, like lip balm and lighters. Here are nine pieces of backpacking gear that are ultralight and ultra-cheap, a win-win for hikers everywhere.
Anyone who’s forgotten their chapstick at home knows how essential it is for backpacking. The Beeswax Mini is as UL as it comes — it’ll easily fit in any hip pocket, shoulder pocket, or fanny pack. This is a great item to include in every resupply box; it goes by fast on sunny adventures.
Have you ever tried to cut a brick of cheese precariously balanced on your leg? Usually, it’s either that highly questionable option, or giving into eating dirt. Enter Cascade Wild’s UL Cutting Board. It’s an absolute lifesaver when it’s time to prepare and serve food. Not only does it give you a clean place to prep, it can be used as a plate as well.
These stretchy, colorful bands are endlessly useful — replace stuff sacks with these bands; secure the lid on your pot to keep it from jostling in your pack; compress your clothing or a quilt into a space saving bundle; and on and on. Finally, they’re also a much better reusable emergency repair solution than zip ties. You can easily save yourself the weight and money of an ultralight stuff sack by instead using a Grifiti Cross Band.
Why not shave some weight on this classic backpacking must-have? I tested both a normal Bic lighter and this mini in below-freezing weather, and they work exactly the same. Plus, the more compact size fits nicely into my Jetboil Stash cook system.
Stakes are a crucial part of your shelter. They become even more so when working with a non-freestanding system, where tension and leverage are the name of the game. The Zpacks Super Sonic Stakes are extra long aluminum ultralight tent stakes. They have a Y-beam design for great holding power, and a groove toward the top for a cord loop. They’re very similar in design to the MSR groundhog, but a little lighter, and a little cheaper.
Weight: 0.25 oz
Size: 6.5 inches long
Best use/purpose: shelter system
My favorite feature of these lightweight stakes is their comfort. Have you ever tried to pull a tent stake out of the ground on a freezing morning and felt like your fingers were going to tear off? These stakes have orange-coated hooks on the end that are much nicer on the hands, and add visibility in the dark. Their sharp end slides easily into the ground, and they’re maneuverable when trying to find that perfect soft spot for staking.
Grabbing extra condiments from fast food restaurants in town may work sometimes, but you’re unlikely to find quality spicy brown mustard or Frank’s Red Hot sauce. These condiment packets are a total lifesaver when your resupplies are in need of a little extra flavor. Plus, adding either the mayonnaise or olive oil packets adds extra precious calories for very little weight tradeoff.
We truly do not need much between towns. Oftentimes, even travel-sized cosmetics are more than enough for a week-long stretch. These mini containers are perfect for splitting one bottle of cosmetics between your tramily during resupplies, or when preparing for a weekend backpacking trip. I’ve found them useful for moisturizer, face sunscreen, and for storing my WYSI wipes.
Even MORE Ultralight Gear Costing Less Than $5! Here are 6 Extra Shout Outs ...
5. Smart Water Bottles (to be reused time and again; compatible with both Sawyer Squeeze and HydroBlu Versa Flow gravity filters)
6. Ziplock Baggies (for use as stuff sacks, food storage, etc.)
Katie is a freelance writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. When she's not behind her laptop, you can find her guzzling instant coffee in the backcountry or developing a new and expensive outdoor hobby. To see her adventures and occasional long rambles, follow her on Instagram @katelyn_ali