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10 Affordable Lightweight Gear Options for Backpackers and Thru Hikers

“Watch the ounces and the pounds will take care of themselves.” Here are ten lightweight and affordable gear options for your next backpacking trip or thru hike.

Paul Bodnar       Tech on the Trail       11/5/2018
Paul Bodnar
Tech on the Trail
11/5/2018

For a lightweight backpacking or thru hiking experience, you should pay attention to the weight of the “big three”: your backpack, sleeping bag, and tent. But don’t forget about the small stuff that makes a big difference in total pack weight. Here is my list of ten affordable lightweight items that I think are a must for any backpacking trip or thru hike.

1. Mini Bic Lighter

This lighter is half the size and weight of a common lighter and will likely last an entire thru-hike if you are just lighting your stove. $6 for 3-pack

Mini BIC lighter

2. Swiss Army Classic Knife

Avoid single blade knives because they lack functions. This small knife contains a blade, tweezers, toothpick, scissors and it weighs only 1.3 ounces. $10-20

swiss army knife

3. Sawyer Squeeze

I recommend the Sawyer Squeeze because it has a fast flow rate, (1.7 liters/minute), is lightweight (~3 oz), and doesn’t have moving parts that can break. I do not recommend the Sawyer Mini because the flow rate is about half and the filter life is much shorter. $40

Sawyer Squeeze water filter

4. Smart Water Bottle

The Sawyer brand bags are notorious for getting leaks when forcing water through the Sawyer Squeeze. The Smart Water bottle threads match up with the Sawyer Squeeze water filter, resulting in an almost indestructible bladder. $2

Smart Water bottle

5. The Deuce Potty Trowel

The Deuce utralight potty trowel is durable and only 0.6 oz. The only complaint is that it puts a lot of pressure on your palm while digging in tough soil. $16-25

Deuce Ultralight potty trowel

6. Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets

Use these tablets when you believe the water could be contaminated with viruses. Stagnant water, such as a pond or lake water has a higher chance of containing viruses than flowing water. Viruses are so small they pass through any water filter. You only need to carry a few tablets between resupply. $11 (for a package of 20 tablets)

7. Darn Tough Hiker 1/4 Cushion Socks

You want light and breathable socks that can handle hundreds of miles of abuse. Darn Tough socks are one of the most popular socks on long-distance trails for good reason: Darn Tough will replace worn or damaged socks at no cost, making this a great value. $18

Darn Tough Hiker Quarter Cushion Socks

8. Resealable Plastic Bag

A plastic bag has many uses: food container; wallet; waterproof protection for your phone and other electronics; water dipper for lakes; and even a small container to wash your clothes. $3/box

9. Balaclava or Beanie

You lose a lot of heat from your head. By wearing a warm hat, you can dramatically reduce heat loss and avoid upgrading to a heavier sleeping bag or jacket. $10-50

a woman wearing a balaclava

10. Small Roll of Duct Tape

Duct tape has so many purposes out on the trail: a band-aid replacement or repair of just about anything you wear or pack. $2

a roll of duct tape

BONUS TIP: Standard Plastic Trash Bag

A plastic bag works better than a backpack rain cover and is much lighter. Some people recommend a thick trash compactor bag as a pack liner on rainy days, but I don’t agree. A lightweight standard trash bag works fine if used only when you think it will rain. Don’t pack your stuff in it every day. If you do get a hole remember you have duct tape to make a repair.  You can always replace the trash bag in town during your next resupply.

plastic trash bag

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Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association
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Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 40 guides for trails around the world.