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5 Under $5 Must-Have Ultralight Backpacking Gear

If you have been backpacking for some time you know that weight matters. If you are looking to get into backpacking for the first time, then you will quickly find out that weight is not your friend! Reducing the weight of items on your pack list is critical to ensuring that you have only what you need. Further, what you do take is light in weight. Unfortunately, the lighter you go with some items the heftier the price can become. Ultralight backpacking gear is expensive, but parts of it don’t have to be. So you can get crazy counting calories, I mean grams, or you can start filtering with these five out-of-the-box thinking, must-have ultralight backpacking gear under five dollars!

Bexar Outfitters and Outdoor Gear Web have teamed up to bring you this video and companion article outlining five must-have ultralight backpacking gear items for under five dollars.

Video by BexarOutfitters

1. Trash Compactor Liners

The first piece of must-have ultralight backpacking gear we’re going to talk about is the trash compactor liner. I know you are probably thinking right now something to the effect of, “Why would I bring a trash compactor with me backpacking?!” Well, this is a fantastic way to add a multi-purpose item into your pack without having to add tons of additional weight. The trash compactor liner weighs only about 49 grams!

must-have ultralight backpacking gear
Trash Compactor Bag, 18 Gallon

So what can you use this lightweight, multi-purpose tool for? It is basically a pack liner. The thickness of the material makes it superb for keeping water out. If it can keep trash juices in, just think how well it will keep water out! It’s a really great waterproof piece of gear and you can use it as a poncho in a pinch! It could be used to collect water, as a pillow by stuffing leaves/pine needles into it, or, for shorter trips to collect, you guessed it, the trash that others have left behind. It’s a great piece of gear to keep around. Being one of the most inexpensive pieces of gear that you can get out there at around 54 cents per bag! A cent per gram is not half bad when it comes to ultralight backpacking gear!

2. Flashlight

Have you found yourself waking up in the middle of the night to find that you can’t find that one little thing you need out of your pack? Wouldn’t having a small lightweight light be just the ticket for finding what you need in your pack without waking up everyone else in your camp?

The next must-have ultralight backpacking gear to recommend is this dollar flashlight. The one shown in the video is from Walmart and it is only 27 grams! This is one of the easiest pieces of gear that you can find that’s ultra-light. Basically, it’s a great little light to have as a backup or to do stuff around the camp. You are going to want something more powerful for night hiking or spending a lot of time doing stuff at night. However, for reading a book or spending some time in camp this is a great little light to have at a dollar.

These two options below are similar to the one in the video. They also come in multi-packs. Therefore, you will have backups in case something happens to one during a trip. Having a handy ultralight flashlight like this handy will make nighttime in the camp that much easier.

3. Plastic Long Handled Spoon Spoon

Now a lot of folks will spend a bit of money and get a long-handled titanium spoon. What if I told you that there was another option out there that was about a third as expensive. Not to mention a lot lighter. Presenting the long-handled Blizzard® spoon. For about three dollars you can get a Blizzard at any Dairy Queen in the country and get a couple of long-handled Blizzard spoons. These weigh in at just three grams! They do exactly the same job and they’re almost exactly the same length. Having one of these plastic spoons on hand will let you get down to the bottom of those freeze-dried food bags just as easy as a long-handled titanium spork.

Must-Have Ultralight Backpacking Gear Long Handled Spoon
Image originally from Dairy Queen posted to Brand Eating

So why spend the money on titanium when you can use a readily available plastic version? Some of you out there are thinking, but plastic is bad for the environment. I’m in total agreement with you. I know that single-use plastics get a lot of bad rap, but you can use one of these several times. They are sturdy enough to hold up through multiple trips if you treat them right. Just keep track of it so it doesn’t end up somewhere on the trail! Still not convinced, here is a silicone wrapped long-handled spoon that is also under five dollars that will carry you through your next set of trips!

4. Sand Stakes

One of the biggest underestimated pieces of must-have ultralight backpacking gear is your trowel. No matter what you’re using to dig a cat hole this next item is sure to replace it. Now some people like to use a trekking pole and others, a fancy Spade. However, at just 26 grams you can get one of these bad boys for a couple of bucks. You can pick up a sand stake at pretty much any outdoor outfitters like REI or even on Amazon. These sand stakes are great and they’ll double up as a spade. You can also use it for one of your tent stakes. So in fact, when replacing a tent stake, you are really only adding the small difference in weight between the two stakes! So for just a couple of bucks, you will get a stake that fulfills multiple purposes and it’s going to be cheaper than an expensive trowel. Honestly, it will be cheaper than probably buying some ultralight stakes so it’s a win-win-win!

When digging your cat hole make sure not to leave TP Flowers! Want more hiking and camping etiquette advice? Check this out!

5. Smart Water Bottle

The last piece of gear is the Smartwater®bottle. No brand loyalty here as any water bottle with an athletic tip will function in a similar fashion. So if you do not prefer Smartwater reuse that plastic bottle you have on hand! Now the one-time-use plastic bottle has gotten a bad rap mostly because, again, it’s single-use plastic. However, if you use the water bottle in conjunction with your filter then you’re using it multiple times. If you think about it you are really trying to eliminate that piece of garbage from the landfill. So if you are going to have one of those smart water bottles laying around your house anyways you might as well reuse it and give it a second life!

must-have ultralight backpacking gear reusable water bottle
Give a second or third life to those one-time-use water bottles

The nice thing about this type of water bottle is it’s got this athletic tip and you can use this to backflush your filters. So when you’re going out and getting ready to buy a filter set don’t go superfancy and costly. These generally have a proprietary bottle to go along with them. Instead buy a Sawyer Squeeze or a Sawyer Mini and it will thread right onto this kind of bottle. Then you can save some weight by not bringing the syringe along and using this athletic tip to backflush your filters. So the Smartwater bottle, for about two dollars is going to weigh in at 33 grams. This is going to be one of the easiest pieces of gear to find as it is in pretty much any store. At the very least you should find a comparable plastic water bottle.

Must-Have Ultralight Backpacking Gear Final Thoughts

I hope that you’ve enjoyed five pieces of ultralight gear that you can find for under five dollars. Finding backpacking gear can seem daunting. It is likely that you have some items that can easily be repurposed for much less money then buying ultralight branded gear. So instead of counting up all of the grams use some of these ideas. They will lighten you load quite a bit while also pulling multiple duties on the trail! Good Luck on your next backpacking trip!

What items would you add to this list? Are there other items under five dollars that round out your ultralight backpack? If you have suggestions for another piece that you found inexpensive and beneficial drop it into the comments below, on the Bexar Outfitters youTube video, on our Facebook, or on Reddit!