Kelty Cosmic Down 20
Kelty Cosmic Down 20 (Courtesy Kelty )

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?

Kelty Cosmic Down 20

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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.

JetBoil Flash stove

JetBoil Flash stove JetBoil Flash stove

Sierra Designs Lightning HT tent

Sierra Designs Lightning HT tent Sierra Designs Lightning HT tent

SteriPEN Sidewinder

SteriPEN Sidewinder SteriPEN Sidewinder

Lunatec Trekr

Lunatec Trekr Lunatec Trekr

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

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