Here's how to build a budget lightweight pack.
Im going to go step by step in how to construct a lightweight hiking pack on a tight budget. I used this equipment on the AT, so it will work.
Here is a list of the ten essentials that should be in EVERY pack you go hiking with.
Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Extra Food and Water
First aid kit
Now many hikers are hiking with 30-60lb packs. A typical lightweight pack is 30lbs or less, and with ultra lightweight being 15lbs or less.
Advantages to hiking lightweight are numerous, but mainly consist of being able to go longer distances, less strain on your body.
As we all know buying lightweight gear can have higher prices. So what are you to do if you want to go lightweight but cant afford high end stuff.
Well, the first thing to do is look at your boots.
Each 1lb of boot is like 15lb's on your back. Start by looking for light weight hiking boots. Ive found that Merrill boots tend to be lighter than many other brands, and come in a wide variety from low tops, sandals, and high tops. Search for a good lightweight hiking boot or shoe, and that is one way to shave off some weight.
Next look at your pack. Ditch the old army surplus stuff. You dont have to have a expensive 14oz pack. Just buy the lightest pack you can afford. Id recommend a pack with between 2000-3000ci. This is sufficient for anywhere from a 3day to 5day hike. Im using a wenger nomad pack.
The heaviest things in a pack are:
the pack itself.
the sleeping bag.
Sleeping bags. Many manufacturers are now offering lighter weight sleeping bags. Id recommend synthetic, its just easier to deal with. I use a Igloo Tracker. Its a 2lb mummy bag good for 25degrees. Not super lightweight, but its a good compromise. If you are hiking in warmer climates, consider using a simple fleece sleeping bag.
Tents..oh god tents. The most widely debated and biggest pain in the butt. There are countless thousands of lightweight tents out there. Tarptents, etc. Here is a trick. Childs dome tents. Yup, you heard right. A childs dome tent. These are available for around 16 bucks at walmart and are usually 6ft x 5ft. They are extremely lightweight. Im 6ft3", and Ive found that by sleeping diagonally in the tent, Im quite comfortable, and can even bring my pack indoors with me. Now you dont have to get the Barbie tent, they come in standard colors. Get some seam sealer and go over all the seams in the bottom. Mine is made by some company called Timber Creek. The great thing about them is that they are so small you can stuff the entire tent into a side pocket on your pack. I used mine on a recent AT section hike, and it worked flawlessly. If you dont think thats enough room...buy one, set it up in the living room, and test it out for a night. You'll probably find it works just fine.
Clothing. I prefer hiking in late fall to early winter. So temps are between 29-80 degrees in my hiking spots.
My standard outfit is some lightweight synthetic pants with zip off legs. These work great. Long pants when its cold, and shorts when its hot. Remington makes some really nice synthetic longjohns for the colder weather that are much lighter than standard longjohns, you can get them at wally world too. For the top, I like a nice microfiber shirt, Columbia fleece, and a Lightweight Columbia Windbreaker/rain jacket. Just take off or put on to adjust comfort.
Flashlight...I just use a shakelight. No bloody horrible batteries to deal with. Shake and go. Cheap and effective. For a stove, I take 4oz of denatured alcohol, and a pepsi can stove. Pepsi can stoves are great. For cookware, I just take a lightweight aluminum cup, and a heavy duty metal spoon, and a small square of scotchbrite with the sponge on the backside.
Food. Mountain House usually, and a bunch of oatmeal packets for breakfast. Oatmeal doesnt weigh squat, take lots. That first warm cup of walmart brand cinnamon roll flavored oatmeal in the morning is WAY better than muesli. Stop for a break, fire up the alcohol stove warm up a little water, and have a nice snack. As far as water...I carry a 3qt camelbak, and a Katadyn Exstream waterbottle.
Id highly recommend the exstream waterbottles. Its basically a water purifier inside a standard waterbottle. Just dip it into a stream, screw the cap back on and take a sip. As you drink it filters and purifies the water with a iodine cartridge. NO waiting on tablets to activate, or boiling water...just dip and sip. This one little bottle, can drastically help your hike. Say you are hiking and getting low on water, its late in the day, and you know if you stop to filter,tablet,boil water you might not make it to the next shelter before sunset. If you've got one of these things, just fill it up and TAKE OFF!!. The cartridges are good for 200 refills. I just love mine. Easy convient and super fast!
Firestarter. I use the standard magnesium block and flint. Its kinda a pain to use vs matches, but it works even when wet, and is the only thing that gets hot enough to fire off wet kindling.
Using these techniques and equipment, a 5day pack is 28lbs, and a 3day pack is around 26lbs. Im working now on creating a ultralight pack that Im hoping to get down to 15lb for 3days, in a 1500ci pack...wish me luck.