Ultralight and ultracheap

When you think ultralight it’s easy to also think ultra expensive Dyneema composite fabric cottage gear. And you could spend a fortune to get a light gear setup. (Trust me I know. I’ve done it)

However, there are ways to get a cheap descent lightweight kit. Maybe for family members who rarely, but occasionally join you on hikes. Or friends that are showing an interest in hiking, but don’t want to spend a small fortune before they even know if is for them. On Reddits UL-forum there is a constantly changing lighterpack gearlist with ultralight affordable alternatives.

I put together a version for a somewhat complete gear list for a price of around $300 and a weight around 3000g using parts of the Reddit gearlist.

Weight: 465g     Price: $61
– Innertent: 3F pedestrian
Weight: 450g     Price: $26
Weight: 270g     Price: $17
Weight: 67g        Price: $7
Weight: 950g     Price: $52
– Sleeping bag: Aegismax Mummy bag
Weight: 692g    Price: $96
– Sleeping mat: Naturehike (Z-lite copy)
Weight: 436g    Price: $14
– Pot: Imursa ~700ml
Weight: 71g       Price: $6
– Burner: BRS-3000T
Weight: 25g     Price: $11
 – Water treatment: Sawyer mini
Weight: 70g   Price: $20
Weight: 2g      Price: £16
– Hiking poles: Alpenstock
Weight: 270g  Price: $24
Most of it is from AliExpress. I’ve bought both an Aegismax Wind Hard quilt (496g / $80) and an Aegismax G1 mummybag (692g / $94) for the occational times my wife or any of my kids join me.  Concerning the ethics I read a post on backpackinglight.com earlier this year that they are supposed to use down from the same source as the rest of the major companies that have their manufacturing in China.
Aegismax G1 with 380g 800 cuin down, Naturehike sleeping pad, 3F UL backpack and Windhard quilt with 290g 850 cuin down

I also bought a down puffy ($21), a foldable sleeping pad ($18) and the 3F frameless pack (950g / $43) for my wife.

You do however skimp on quality. The low cost comes with that. There have been reports that the fabric in the sleeping bag and quilt doesn’t breath well, which makes you sweat, and in the end will leave you colder. They’ve changed the fabric on the sleeping bag, but it didn’t appear to be fully down proof as down seems to seep through the fabric. The quilt also has sewn through baffles, but I plan to use these primarily during the summer. But I might also use the quilt over my winter sleeping bag if the temperatures drop as much as they did on my January overnight trip.

In most cases I’d say that more expensive gear from known quality brands will give you better products. And I like to support the cottage industry. But if you, like me, want to get a lightweight setup for family members without having to spend a fortune on gear that seldom gets used, it’s nice to have a cheap option.

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Why hike lightweight?

When it comes to pack weight there are certain labels depending on how much the base weight of your pack is. Lightweight (5-10 kg), ultralight (3-5 kg), super ultralight (1,5-3 kg) and extremely super duper ultralight (sub-1,5 kg). I guess my base weight falls in the category Lightweight. So what does it mean and why does it matter?

To me, it’s not important to get below a certain weight level for the sake of it. So what if I don’t get to call myself an ultralight hiker because my base weight is 6,5kg and not below 5kg. But I still don’t think that the weight limits and labels are useless. The weight limits can serve as a way to show that gear that keeps you warm, dry and well fed doesn’t have to weigh more than that. You don’t have to reach below a certain weight for the sake of it, but you can use the weights as a guide when you plan your gear purchases. Of course you have to make sure that the gear you have is sufficient for the conditions you plan to use them in. It’s only natural that your base weight is higher if the conditions are are tougher and colder.

To me, the goal with my gear choices is to be comfortable. Comfortable while hiking and comfortable in camp. Having a low base weight is not a goal. It’s means to an end. The goal is to be comfortable, and a low weight helps me keep the hiking part comfortable. But having a too low weight would impact on the comfort of the camping part. I like to have a spacious tent, warm food and coffee, a sleeping bag or quilt that’s rated a little warmer than the expected temperatures and a thick inflatable sleeping mat. This is where you have to find the perfect balance with that works for you. Different people have different comfort levels. Some like to have a thermos and a camping chair, or bring a Murrika, and some sleep with a to-thin quilt in full clothing under a poncho-tarp, and go stoveless. I guess everyone have to find out what works for them. But I do think that everyone benefits by, at least to some degree, minding the weight. If you like to bring a cast iron frying pan when you go hiking, then bring it. But let it be an active choice, not just something you bring out of old habits without really knowing why. And if you keep the rest of your gear as light as possible for your needs, it won’t break your back.

My experience with the regular outdoor stores in Sweden is that they don’t focus that much on weight. They sell what they’ve always sold, and ultralight backpacking isn’t that big of thing here. But there are lot’s of smaller gear makers that you could buy lightweight gear from without breaking the bank. Cumulus and Roberts are two polish sleeping bag manufacturers that produce high quality gear at a descent price. Luxe Outdoor makes cheap lightweight tents, and I do recommend their Sil Hex Peak.

And then there are all the cottage makers that many  people have never heard of. Locus Gear, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ZPacks, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, Superior Wilderness Design, Tarptent and Enlightened Equipment to name a few. Some of these will break your bank though 😀.

Here’s another list of a lot of cottage gear makers.