How to go Backpacking on the Cheap

In the summer of 2017, my son and I were invited to go on a three-day, two-night backpacking trip with a group of friends.  However, there was a small problem: we didn’t have any backpacking gear.  Yes, we had camping gear, like cozy sleeping bags, a large tent, a cooler, and a some cast iron cookware. But everything was too heavy for backpacking.  So we had a couple of months to get a full set of backpacking gear for the two of us, and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  So we did some research, browsed around Amazon, and settled on some reasonably priced items with decent customer reviews. We’ve gone on several backpacking trips between then and now, and we have been pleased with most of our choices, and not so much with other ones.  So, for the benefit of our readers who might want to go backpacking without breaking the bank, here is an item-by-item review of our gear. Note: This website may receive a commission from purchases made using the product links in this article.

Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Price: $64.99

After taking some time looking over the options, I chose a 55 liter backpack from Teton sports. I originally ordered one for myself, thinking I’d need to find a smaller backpack for my 10-year-old son.  However, to my surprise, the torso adjustment on the Scout 3400 allowed me to adjust it small enough that it worked fine for my son, so I purchased another one for him.

iCorer Backpacking Tent
Weight: 4.8 pounds
Price: $41.99

This tent measures 6.5 ft square , making it suitable for three children or two adults, or so says the description.  In reality, two larger-than-average adults (in either height or width) might find the tent a little small.  I’m 5 ft 8 inches, and I find it pretty hard to keep my sleeping pad or bag from touching the sides of the tent unless I position myself diagonally. However, on one occasion I did sleep in this tent with my three sons ranging in age from five through 10.  It was tight, but we survived. We’ve used this in several downpours and didn’t have any water leak through the roof.  In one case my poor placement of the tent cause some water to pool underneath and some of it leaked up through the floor.  For the price, I’m pretty happy.

Outdoorsman Lab Sleeping Pad
Weight: 1 pound
Price $39.95

This pad rolls up to a size a little larger than a 20 ounce soda bottle, and I found it surprisingly comfortable. I’ve used this on several trips and so far no leaks.

Outdoor Vitals OV-Light 35-degree Sleeping Bag
2.5 pounds
Price: $44.97

This sleeping bag packs small and light.  No complaints.

BESTEAM Ultra-light Warm Weather Sleeping Bag
Weight: 1.6 pounds
Price: $26.97

I purchased two of these for the boys and they work well.  They are very light and pack small in the included compression bag.  But plan on a second layer of clothes or a sleeping bag liner if you will be in cool weather.  Two of these bags can zip together to make one two-person bag.

Wealers Wood Stove
Weight: 13 ounces
Price: $19.99

I wanted (and tried) to like this stove, but I’ve moved on to other ones.  It works great until the ashes start plugging the holes in the bottom of the stove and restrict air movement.  Unfortunately, that is usually about 15 minutes after you get it going, which means you still have more cooking to do.  You have to take the cooking vessel off, figure out how empty the ashes without getting burned, and then start a fire again.  I’ve found a better wood stove is one like the Lixada Camping Stove. It allows you to add sticks more easily and scrape out the ashes whenever you need to, without putting out the fire. If it looks like the weather will make it hard to find dry tinder, I sometimes just use our own Great Cove Solid Fuel Stove, along with some Coghlan’s Solid Fuel Tablets.

MalloMe Cookware Set
Weight: 1.2 pounds
Price: $19.99

The set contains all the cookware you need for one or two people.  It only comes with one spork (spoon/fork combo), so you’ll want to take along any additional utensils needed.

Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
Weight: 2 ounces
Price: $19.99

This water filter worked fine, but the next time I purchase one it will be equipped with a built-in pump. In many cases, I’m trying to fill up several water bottles with purified water.  The process for doing so with this system is a bit clumsy.  You have to fill up the squeeze pouch, which can be tricky if you are working from a shallow water source, and then squeeze the water through the filter.  The models with a pump are much quicker.

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