Budget ultralight backpacking gear list

This is going to be a very minimalist ultralight backpacking gear list by most definitions but I honestly think a beginner can use this exact gear list for temps over 40 degrees and have a great time. More than expensive gear, having good judgement and flexibility to deal with anything that may come up can make minimalist adventures in the backcountry a wonderful experience. Check out my 3 principles of ultralight backpacking to better understand why I chose these pieces of gear and what it takes to succeed with such a bare bones gear list.

Pack: $35, 4 ounces, 18 liters

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack  (Any small backpack will do)

Sleeping pad: $20, 9 ounces

Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest Sleeping Mat

Quilt: $215, 13.5 ounces

Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt


Shelter: $70, 7 ounces

Rab Siltarp 1 – Grey

Stakes: $18, 2 ounces

MSR Mini Groundhog Tent Stake Kit

Groundsheet: $10, 1.6 ounces

Liberty Mountain Poly Ground Sheet (10 x 12-Feet)


Running shoes, sneakers, really anything that covers your toes and keeps your feet from getting beat up. 75 year old “Grandma Gatewood” thru-hiked the AT in Keds. You should definitely read more about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grandma_Gatewood

Socks: $17, 2 ounces

Darn Tough Men’s Merino Wool No-Show Ultra-Light Cushion Athletic Socks, Black/Gray, Large

Headlamp: $25, 2 ounces

Black Diamond Ion Headlamp

Water treatment: $15, 3 ounces

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops


Pick up a lightweight synthetic shirt at a thrift store if you don’t have one. Wear some running shorts or really anything synthetic that you might wear to the gym. Carry a fleece cap and a light fleece jacket like the The North Face TKA 100 Glacier Fleece or something heavier depending on the weather and time of year. Carry a light rain jacket like Frogg Toggs or even just one of those disposable plastic ponchos they sell for SOL people at amusement parks and sporting events. Take a toothbrush and a travel size bottle of toothpaste for hygiene. Roll up a couple of yards of duct tape on itself for first aid. For burying poop use the heel of your shoe to dig a hole and wipe with leaves, rocks, sticks, pinecones, etc. Line your pack with a plastic trash bag to keep everything dry. Put food in a grocery store plastic bag or a Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack. Use a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sacks if the pack is too small. Carry a phone to take pictures and in case of emergency. Leave it on airplane mode during the day to keep the battery from draining while looking for signal. To store water carry a couple .5 to 1 liter disposable plastic water bottles. I promise, they won’t give you cancer. Take a Platypus Platy Bottle 2-Litre for more storage in camp. Carry your health insurance card, a credit card, ID, and up to $100 in cash wrapped in a rubber band for a wallet. Carry a small Bic lighter for emergencies. For most places on the east coast you can get away with a simple park map downloaded to your phone but a few pages from a guidebook on the area that you’ll be in is always helpful but definitely not a necessity. Just make sure to put them in a plastic ziploc sandwich bag to keep them dry. Carry 50 feet of lightweight paracord for hanging a bear bag if you’re heading into a high-bear activity area. I leave out cooking supplies because cooking adds an element of complexity that could keep someone from getting out into the woods for their first time.

This is a base pack weight of around 4-8 pounds and around 10-15 pounds with food and water. It ends up being less than $500 to create an entirely new setup. For an alternative to the Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt, EE makes a synthetic version which is significantly cheaper and only slightly heavier but I wanted to put gear on here that I would buy and for me, the cost of down is worth it. By all accounts this is actually a gear list I would use and is very similar to what I have used in the past. It’s super light, affordable, safe but also minimalist. It fully embodies the principle of not fighting against the elements but rather working with them. To see how it compares to my actual gear list click here and to see some ideas for food items that don’t require cooking, click here.

If you have any feedback or recommendations, please feel free to post them in the comments section below!

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”

-John Muir

7 thoughts on “Budget ultralight backpacking gear list”

  1. Do you carry anything for first aid, other than duct tape? I am planning a thru hike of the AT and want to try to keep “treasures” and pack weight to a minimum.

    1. Hey Cheri, thanks for checking out my site! I do not. My mentality is that learning a few tricks and how to use resources found out in the backcountry saves a lot of pack weight. Also, not to sound uber dependent but the AT really is a community and you’re never far from another hiker. And chances are if you need something, everyone would be happy to pitch in. If I were hiking on a more rural trail away from roads and other hikers I’d probably be more worried about first aid.

    2. I thrued 2016. The med kit is one place where you don’t discard what you haven’t used in a week. When you need it, you will be so glad to have it. Easier to prevent than treat. But if you can’t prevent the fall, prevent the infection! I didn’t feel isolated once on trail until I was injured, then seven short miles to the next crossing felt like deep backcountry.

  2. Have you found weights for the various Frogg Togg rain jacket choices? They don’t list many weights for their products on their site. Thanks!

  3. I know this is an older thread, but I use the 40l modase pack (probably closer to 35l) and it is a much more realistic pack volume for this kind of setup. It is also super lightweight and cheap at ~$30 US.

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