10 Affordable Lightweight Gear Options for Backpackers and Thru Hikers

Lightweight gear matters a lot. For a more enjoyable 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.

The Ten Hiking Essentials

5 Mailing Tips

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. A lighter is an essential piece of lightweight gear.$6 for 3-pack

three affordable disposable Bic Mini lighters

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. $20

Affordable Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife with scissors, tweezers, knife blade, great weight savings

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 poor and the filter life is much shorter. $40

4. Smartwater Bottle

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

a very affordable 1 liter SmartWater 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. $25

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

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

Affordable and very useful Ziplock bag

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. And it is extremely affordable. $2

BONUS TIP: Standard Plastic Trash Bag

A plastic bag works better than a backpack rain cover and is much lighter and more affordable. Some people recommend a thick trash compactor bag as a pack liner on rainy days, but I don’t agree. A thick compactor bag is more expensive and weighs about twice as much. A lightweight standard trash bag is easy to find and 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.

a very affordable and lightweight trash bag can keep your sleeping bag dry