Budget Backpacking?

Budget Backpacking

I wouldn’t call backpacking a budget friendly sport due to the amount of gear that has to be purchased if you’re starting from scratch. However there are some more “budget backpacking” friendly options out there for you to purchase if you’re not trying to become an ultra-light backpacker right from the start. Some of the ultra-light backpacking equipment is insanely expensive (like a $600 tent).

I have been a tent camper all my life, and what I mean by tent camper is… drive the truck to the campsite and unload all my heavy gear which happens to include my tent.

Now at age 45 it is time to embark on a new journey. One that includes me getting off the ground, and out into the wilderness. Sadly, most of my gear is way to bulky and heavy for backpacking. This lead to a lot of research on gear, and hopefully it will help you with your budget backpacking choices.

Backpacks

There are a whole range of budget backpacks on Amazon. It’s almost enough to make your head spin (thank goodness for YouTube). I would go to YouTube and check out review videos after I found one that I was interested in. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I almost bought a pack because everything looked good on Amazon. The video reviews however told a different story. The biggest grip all the reviewers had was the zippers were of low quality and hard to operate. Thank you YouTube for saving me that hundred bucks!

There were several that I had checked out, but for my needs one stood out from the crowd. I ended up going with the Mountaintop 80L Internal Frame Backpack with Rain Cover. At first I was looking at 65L options, but I couldn’t find one that had the features I wanted. I am glad that turned out to be the case. After getting the 80L, I don’t think a 65L would have been big enough with the gear that I plan on carrying (along with a weeks worth of food). Maybe that will change as I gain more experience and ditch gear? I guess it’s possible, but I will also be carrying a lot of camera gear to document my trips for both the blog and our YouTube Channel.

Why did I choose this pack?

  • The biggest reason is it had both top load, and front load. There is a large “U shaped” zipper on the front that opens up into the main compartment. The benefit is you can access items in the bottom of your pack without having to unload the whole pack.
  • YKK zippers and buckles. They are of high quality, and easy to operate.
  • Separate sleeping bag compartment on the bottom. In fairness, I don’t plan on using this for my sleeping bag. Instead it will be where I place anything that could get wet (tarp, rain gear, hammock straps, stakes, ect…). Think about this for a moment. If you’re breaking camp in the rain then the last items into your pack will be the wet items. If you place them into the top of your pack then gravity will pull the water down through your pack. However if it is in the seperate compartment on the bottom, then the rest of your gear wont get wet from it.
  • Adjustable suspension that can be adjusted to fit any body type.
  • The one CON is the weight. It is not light, and comes in around five pounds. Considering it is made of thicker material, this doesn’t bother me. I will be doing a lot of hiking where there aren’t any trails, and the potential of it getting beat up from limbs and briars is pretty high. It should hold up better than a lighter weight, thinner material.

Shelter

As I mentioned above, I am getting away from tent camping. Everywhere I plan on backpacking in Arkansas is covered with trees. Whether it is a State Park or National Forrest, there will be trees to tie my hammock to. One of the major benefits of going with a hammock is it opens up so many more dispersed camping locations. You never have to worry about sleeping on an incline, or the rocks strewn across the ground. They will never puncture the bottom of your shelter, and you don’t have to worry about your bed getting wet (at least from water running along the ground).

I decided to go with the Everest Double Hammock with Integrated Bug Net.

  • Double vs. single. After watching countless videos it became apparent that I needed a double hammock. The double gives you more room to lay diagonal, thus allowing you to have a flatter lay. For me this is important since I am a side sleeper.
  • If your camping here in the south you better have a bug net of some sort. The mosquitoes here in Arkansas will pick you up and carry your off!
  • Bug net has two tie outs vs. four. This will simplify the process of putting it up and taking it down.

I probably went overboard with the FREE SOLDIER Tarp, but various features appealed to me.

  • A multitude of tie out points for different tarp configurations (see the last photo on Amazon).
  • Large enough to create a place to get in out of the weather to cook.

Sleep System

I went with both budget, and higher end for my sleep system. When I was setting it up, I wanted to be able to use the items for more than just one thing (hammock, tent, or sleeping in the bed of the truck). I have plenty of lower end synthetic sleeping bags. They do a great job, but they are heavy and more importantly… bulky. Most will say don’t use a sleeping bag in a hammock, but I can also unzip to use as a top quilt. Yes, it adds a little more weight to my overall setup, but as I mentioned, I am going for multi-purpose.

I went with the AEGISMAX UL 800 Fill Power, Goose Down, 23°F ~32°F Large Sleeping Bag.

  • A fraction of the physical size of my synthetic bags.
  • Goose Down is supposed to be better than the lower priced Duck Down
  • Down filled is a LOT lighter than my synthetic bags. Perfect for backpacking.
  • They also offer bags for both warmer and colder climates.

In the off chance that I need more warmth than this bag can provide, I also have a S.O.L. Escape Bivvy to use in conjunction with the bag.

  • Reflects 70% of radiated body heat.
  • Allows me to add more warmth without having to invest $$$ in multiple sleeping bags (depending on season).
  • Can remove from pack in summer, thus saving weight.
  • Fully featured side zipper, draw-cord hood closure and foot box for comfort and durability.

Underquilts are expensive! There are some budget friendly options from OneTigris and Snugpak, but they only provide one function. As I mentioned… I am after multi-function when I can. While watching reviews on the above name brands, YouTube recommended another option. DIY underquilts using the Double Black Diamond Ultra Light, down throw blankets. One of the guys used KAM Snaps for an easy no-sew option. This appealed to me for a couple of reasons.

  • First and foremost… NO SEWING.
  • Using the KAM Snaps I can double up the quilts for a thicker underquilt.
  • When I don’t need a double thickness underquilt in the winter the second one can be used as a top quilt.

For a little added comfort I chose an Inflatable Camping Pillow. This thing is very compact and lightweight, and for added comfort it is covered in some sort of felt so it doesn’t feel all plasticy (is that actually a word?).

Food & Water

A lot of Thru-Hikers use the Sawyer Squeeze water filter. I however chose the Survivor Filter Pro water filter. It does weigh a little more, and it’s a little more bulky but I feel it has it’s advantages.

  • Filters down to 0.01 microns vs. Sawyers 0.1 microns.
  • 3 stage replaceable filters.
  • Filters 17 ounces (500 ml) per minute.
  • You don’t have to scoop water, filter straight from the source.

For my camp kitchen I went with a backpacking staple… Toaks Titanium. It’s a little pricier than aluminum or stainless steel, but well worth the money. The Toaks Long Handle Spoon will easily get into the Mountain House meals. I boil my water in a Toaks 750ml pot, and my Toaks 450ml cup (gotta have my coffee) nests nicely inside for a compact storage solution. I’ve even added a Hot Lips to my cup for added comfort.

To create my cooking fire I have two different stoves. The first one is the Dpower Foldable Stove. I looked at several gas stoves before settling on this one. Once again YouTube came to the rescue.

  • It folds down and will fit inside my Toaks cook system.
  • Has a Piezoelectric Ceramic Ignition.
  • Remote canister operation so you can use it in 4-seasons.
  • With the G-Works Butane Adapter you can use the cheaper butane canisters.
  • With the G-Works Propane Adapter you can use the stove with the one pound propane camp bottles.

I also use the Outon Foldable Wood Stove. This is my primary stove for cooking, and there is a smaller version available as well. They both fold up flat so they don’t take up very much room in your pack. There are several reasons I chose this as my primary stove.

  • Free Fuel! 99% of the time I will be hiking around trees, and it doesn’t take very many twigs to boil water.
  • National Forrest doesn’t really want you to have an open fire. This lets me have a small contained fire while I cook.
  • Also multi-fuel. Can use the provided plate for alcohol burners (both stoves) or the provided dish for solid fuel tabs(small version).

Most of the items listed here fall into the budget backpacking category. Some like the sleeping bag don’t, but the weight and size savings make it well worth the extra money if your backpacking.

Do you have ideas on how to backpack on a budget? How about leaving a comment below, and lets help each other enjoying the world around us.


Until next time…
head out and explore your world,
and maybe, just maybe
you will stumble across the
ol’ Turtle on the trail!

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