11 Pieces of Ultralight Gear Under $5 (Updated)

Lloyd Vogel

While high-quality, high-performance gear matters, you don't always need the most expensive products to make the best kit. Here are 8 UL items that'll leave you content (some more than others) and with $$ to spare (or at least to spend on other gear)! 


1. Derma-Safe Folding Knife:

Some people really like taking knives into the backcountry. If you are one of these people... power to you, but you should probably skip to the next item!  For those of you who bring a knife more out of obligation than out of a clear vision of utility, the Derma Safe knife is a wonderful option. It cuts chord, shaves sticks, chops sausage, and generally makes you feel content with any basic cutting/slicing needs. No, it won't hack down a tree or serve as a means of self-defense, but it does do about 95% of the things you need a knife to do. Plus it only weighs .27oz and costs $2.25. Available through GGG.


2. Smartwater Bottle:

A classic water container option for long distance hikers, Smartwater bottles are great for those looking for an ultralight and ultracheap option. You can stack 2 next to each other in the side pockets of most packs, and they work with most water filters on the market. They are malleable for squeezing and pretty durable as well. Going the route of a Smartwater bottle? I'd suggest bringing an extra cap just in case you misplace it.


3. Zip Lock Baggies:

While I love compartmentalizing my gear in dry bags and stuff sacks as much as the next UL backpacker, Zip Lock bags make for great cheap alternatives. While not as durable or glamorous as "Russian Dolling" 4 DCF stuff sacks inside your pack, they are excellent for helping keep you organized and serviceable at keeping your stuff dry. They are also excellent for repackaging and storing food! While there are far too many styles and sizes of Zip Locks to give you an exact price, I opt for gallon bags and sandwich bags. Plus, they make excellent trashbags when empty.


4. Thumbprint Toothbrush:

While cutting a toothbrush in half is always a solid option, so is just bringing a $.99 tiny toothbrush to begin with. It also saves you from wasting half of a regular toothbrush! Originally created for prisons (apparently they are difficult to turn into shanks), these little .12oz brushes are about as cheap and UL as they come. Pair it with some powdered toothpaste and you are all set! Available through GGG.


5. Plastic Cutlery:

While I'll swear by a titanium spork until my last breath, plastic cutlery will do in a pinch. Yes, you'll have to treat it like royalty to keep it from breaking, but it's free, extends the life of something that would otherwise just get trashed right after use, is exceptionally light, and very serviceable. 


6. Inflatable Pillow

While inflatable pillows are a luxury item that aren't particularly expensive to begin with, Flex Air pillows are a great ultracheap option. Typically used in hospitals, these pillows can be inflated or delated with our without the included straw. They pack down flat once deflated, and while it's not quite your pillow at home, it still supports your head more comfortably than nothing at all. Want to make it relatively cosy? Just place a shirt or fleece on top of the pillow and hit the ZZZZzzzzzzzzs.... Available through GGG.


7. Nylofume Pack Liner

While more expensive than a truly cheap regular trash bag, Nylofume pack liners are way cheaper than their similarly performing peers. Created for use in construction, these pack liners are exceptionally durable and don't stretch or tear like most average trash or compactor bags. Unlike some of these items that could be seen as less expensive downgrades from your already aquired expensive gear, if you are using trash bags, you should 100% switch to Nylofume pack liners. Available through GGG.


8. Subway Olive Oil Packets

While not a piece of "gear" per se, Subway single serve olive oil packets are a great way of transporting an expensive and potentially messy highly caloric wonder food. While it's possible you might have to buy something in order to justify grabbing some, 3 cookies only cost a dollar :)


9. Jars!

Repackaging in order to maximize your space is an essential aspect of ultralight backpacking. It allows us to only bring along the exact amount of something that we need! Nothing helps quite like a handful of small, durable, and transparent jars. From food and powdered toothpaste to first aid supplies and repair kits, these little jars keep your stuff safe, dry, and organized. They come in a wide range of sizes and are available through GGG.


10. Bic Mini Lighters

Lighters are pretty much essential, and they are a piece of gear that should always be stashed in your stove back or repair kit (or both). I keep one in my stove kit and my fanny pack! Unlike many other pieces of gear, the cheap option, a Bic Mini, is also probably the best option. Small and reliable, just pop the safety off the top and it's ready to go! Available through GGG.



11. Cross Bands

In the never-ending quest for an organized and function pack, cross bands are a wonderful tool. Simply put they keep things together like a pair of crisscrossing rubber bands. Pots and potlids, sleeping pads without sacks, clothing bundles, and much more. Keep them around your water bottle when not in use!

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Chopsticks 🥢 all day, all the way!
Jeffrey Suber

Jeffrey Suber

Two words: Dollar Tree
Visit one before you kit up and everything is $1.00.

Ian Armstrong

Ian Armstrong

My solution for many years for river and canyon trips, without need for replacement, was a standard large plastic garbage bag combined with 2 cheap home-made nylon bags which were longer and a bit narrower than the plastic bag. I packed nylon/ plastic/ nylon so that plastic bag was protected from tearing and puncture from outside and inside. This made packing easy and a single plastic bag lasted forever. The length of the nylon outer, tied off, combined with a roll/tie of the inner plastic bag and it never leaked in waterfalls or being thrown into rivers.



Plastic or Tyvek mailing bags are great as pack liners and stuff sacks. More durable than zip-locks, and come in larger sizes.

Bernard  Adelsberger

Bernard Adelsberger

I never thought/heard of a couple of these. Good suggestions. I re-usedthe plastic tube-shaped bags my newspaper comes delivered in as gear and clothes organizers. For example, a T-shirt, socks, underwear and hankerchief — a clean change for the next day — slip right in if rolled up.

Kim Kremer

Kim Kremer

Instead of asking for the canola oil packets at Subway, why not purchase packets of high-quality oils? I did an online search, and olive oil & avocado oil packets are available.

Larry Rogers

Larry Rogers

Never could see the expense of titanium sporks. I have always used a wooden spoon made out of bamboo I picked up at an Asian market for $1.00.
I still use a plastic bowl from a steamer meal that is only 1 oz and serve me well.
There are a lot of creative ways to cut cost and weight.

Bill Horton

Bill Horton

How would you compare the Nylofume bags with trash compactor bags?

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