Q:

Help! I need cheap, lightweight gear.

I need to update my gear closet for a weekend backpacking trip in Arizona. I can't afford to spend much, but my husband and I are aiming to hike upward of 15 miles each day and I don't want to be weighed down. Any suggestions?

Nov 9, 2011
Outside
Outside Magazine
Kelty Cosmic Down 20

Kelty Cosmic Down 20    Photo:Courtesy Kelty

JetBoil Flash stove

JetBoil Flash stove

Sierra Designs Lightning HT tent

Sierra Designs Lightning HT tent

SteriPEN Sidewinder

SteriPEN Sidewinder

Lunatec Trekr

Lunatec Trekr

A:

Yes! While it's true that there's no limit to how much you can spend on ultra-lightweight gear, products on the lower end of the price spectrum have been shedding ounces and growing increasingly reliable. These six products performed beautifully for me on a recent trip to Utah's Canyonlands.

1. Jetboil designed the 14-ounce Flash Java to function primarily as a coffee maker—it can brew two cups of coffee in two minutes flat—but it also works as a cooking stove. The Flash looks like a giant coffee mug swathed in a neoprene cozy and screws directly on to a canister of “Jetpower” fuel (a 100g can sells separately for $4), which sits on a balancing tripod. As long as your cooking plans aren’t much more complicated than adding hot water, it's a fast, simple way to prepare a warm meal. I was able to figure out the click-of-a-button ignitor system in about 30 seconds, and a heat-change indicator let me know when the water was boiling. A word of warning: As with any stove, the Flash emits carbon monoxide, so don’t use it in your tent.

2. At three-pounds, 14-ounces, there are lighter tents than Sierra Designs's two-person, two-door Lightning HT 2 ($280). But there are heavier tents, too, and it's hard to beat the HT 2's roominess. Its layout (28.5 square feet) is amplified by an H-shaped pole pattern that gives the tent steep walls. With the fly on, you get two 6.5-foot vestibules at each end. Without it, you get glorious, uninhibited views of the night sky through its full-mesh siding.

3. Kelty's 550-fill Cosmic Down 20: ($100) is a super value for what it provides—namely, all the protection you need for a cool fall evening. Its insulated hood, top baffle collar, and zipper draft tube retains warm air kept me toasty all night. Tall ladies take note: The women’s Cosmic Down is designed for a 5’6” body.

4. I can't think of many good reasons to hike without the SteriPEN Sidewinder ($100). It's a slick, parts- and battery-free purifier that uses ultraviolet light to zap viruses, protozoa, and bacteria. Just fill the included one-liter bottle with water, attach it to the Sidewinder, flip the bottle and the unit upside down and start cranking the handle. In 90 seconds you’ll have a liter of purified water, and you’ll never have to clean a filter again.

5. Treksta scanned 20,000 feet to create the “NestFit” last for the Women’s Evolution II ($115). The result? An assymetrical-shaped shoe with a roomy toe box that allows your digits to splay out for a more natural, comfortable stance. At 11-ounces, they're as light as many road-running shoes, but the triple-density EVA insole will keep your feet protected in off-road terrain.

6. True minimalists will balk at bringing a washcloth on a weekend getaway, but the Lunatec Trekr is odor resistant, quick-drying, and squishes down to the size of a roll of film. Two Trekrs go for $8, and they're made of a nylon-polyester blend that both cleans and exfoliates. That'll be especially helpful with dry skin on a desert hike.

—Stephanie Pearson
@OutsideGearGirl

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