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Raffle: Enter to Win a Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Extreme Insulated Sleeping Pad

Etherlight XT extreme sleeping pad raffle

The Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Extreme is a very warm and comfortable sleeping pad for year-round camping adventures. The extra thick (XT) construction provides deep cushioning, perfect for side sleepers. Individually conforming air-sprung cells allow uniform distribution for bed-like comfort while a high flow-rate value and inflation sack provide rapid inflation and deflation. The 30/40D laminated nylon exterior is highly durable with a unique TPU lamination method that virtually eliminates delamination.

Deadline to Enter: Thursday, March 14 at midnight EST. The winner will be contacted by email (so leave a real email address in the comment form below).

Who Can Enter: USA (lower 48) residents only

How to Enter:  Leave a comment in the form below that describes your view of the current cost of ultralight backpacking gear. Be as specific as you can. Provide examples of your own experience(s) – name specific products and how much they cost – and how you justified or didn’t justify the expense.

  • Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
  • Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
  • What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

The goal is to share your experience with others. I hope you enjoy reading the comments below and feel free to reply to them.

114 comments

  1. 1) Yes, Ultralight gear is worth the cost. You just have to be judicious in what gear you spend your money on. Spend it on the big 3 others yes, get the weight down as much as possible.

    2) Yes, I have considered buying used gear many times.

    3) The chief characteristic I look for is weight vs longevity. This differentiates between sleeping bags, tents, etc.

    • I am relatively new to ultra lite gear. I backpack with my dog so I am carrying a little extra gear and weight. I feel the weight reduction I have realized is worth the price of the gear.

      I have thought about buying used gear, partly because I have used gear that I would like to sell or trade for some lighter gear.

      I am interested in the weight savings but my greater concern with durability. Camping with a dog can put some extra stress or wear on some equipment so I want it to last under those conditions.

    • Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?

      Cost can be prohibitive but I can understand the cost to an extent as many of the most desirable items are produced by small manufacturers whose prices are driven up by lower volume. I prefer to purchase from small US based manufacturers. However, if ones budget restrictions can’t support this, there have been a lot of new overseas options such as 3ful. These products are viable low cost alternatives and if the outdoor industry continues to grow I would expect to see overall cost reductions.

      Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

      Personally, no. Ultralight gear can often require delicate or specialized care and it is hard to determine if best practices have been followed by previous users. I would prefer to lay eyes and hands on used gear before purchasing.

      What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

      Quality of materials and construction
      Proven designs that offer known performance
      Customer service

      • How are you all doing?.well l was a thermarest man until l was at Loch Treig with my freind we both pitched up and were chatting and he should me his new mat a STS mat l was blown away because of the pack down size weight to end product. I am a side sleeper and it had me thinking l would love to get that mat .At the moment l am saving up my first payment to get one on credit. I am getting my 10 year old into walking more we always do bothy and day walk he sleeps on the thermarest and l am o my old military foam thing .

      • I am a frequent backpacker both in Tahoe area and along the Norcal coast. Am not currently an ultralghter. That being said i would love to try the Sea to Summit pad to replace my Thermarest.

  2. As someone deeply passionate about ultralight backpacking, I’ve come to realize that while the cost of ultralight gear can initially seem prohibitive, the value it provides in terms of weight savings and overall backpacking experience often justifies the expense. For example, I invested in a Zpacks Duplex tent, which set me back around $599. This tent is incredibly lightweight, tipping the scales at just 19 ounces. The weight savings have allowed me to cover greater distances with less fatigue, enhancing my enjoyment and connection with the wilderness. Another significant investment was my Western Mountaineering Alpinlite 20-degree sleeping bag, which cost me approximately $540. This sleeping bag is a prime example of “you get what you pay for.” Its warmth-to-weight ratio is exceptional, offering comfort in various conditions without weighing down my pack.

    Admittedly, these prices are not for the faint-hearted, and I deliberated for quite some time before making these purchases. For those on a budget, considering high-quality used gear can be a viable alternative to achieve the same ultralight goals without breaking the bank.

  3. Ultralight gear is often worth the cost but not always. In addition to the up-front cost differential, the equipment is often more fragile than heavier gear (made with lighter fabrics). I don’t have a problem purchasing used gear but would be hesitant to do so sight unseen through the internet unless it was from a company with a judicious return policy. A stain here or there on something isn’t going to bother me but buying a used tent to find out there’s holes in the fly is a different matter.

    I hike to enjoy myself and every bit of weight over ~20 pounds detracts from that enjoyment. I also want to be comfortable in camp so any weight I can save off my core gear allows me “luxury” items or the ability to go lighter and put in more miles/elevation.

    When I started backpacking I bought a cheaper REI inflatable pad that while comfortable, weighed close to 2 pounds (long/wide) I believe the cost was $80. When I started putting more miles on I realized by buying a Therm-a-Rest pad ($219) I could shave almost a pound off my back at little difference in sleep comfort.

    A few years back I was in need of a 20 degree bag. I splurged and purchased a Feathered Friends (Swift?) at close to $600 but I know it will last me a lifetime and at ~2 pounds it was at least a couple pounds ligther than anything I had. I know there’s much less expensive options that might only be slightly heavier but felt the FF was worth it and if I ever stopped using it, the highly regarded brand was likely to maintain some value for sale to someone else.

    Some ultralight items I think are silly and not worth it. Shaving half an ounce by spending $40 to buy a titanium pot over an $12 aluminum one for example. Some of the minimalist headlamps too

    I was in the market for a new pack. I bought a Osprey exos 58L. Under 3 pounds and for my frame, very comfortable. I believe I also got it on sale for $180 (currently $260). I could have saved myself maybe another pound of weight – at a bit more cost – by going to a HMG pack but the features and fit of the Osprey were just so much better.

  4. I find it is sometimes worth spending lots of money for high-tech backpacking gear, but that at times you can find pretty good substitutes for much less cost and occasionally for a lower weight. For example, I love my MontBell Versalite rain jacket — despite the $260 cost — due to the 6.4 oz weight and long pit zips to vent heat. I usually pair it with Montane rain pants costing $120, due to full side zips and weight of 7.6 oz. Nonetheless, when advising new backpackers what gear to buy, I commonly suggest the Frog Toggs rain jacket and pants suit, which you can find on sale for as little as $20 and weighs a combined 9.6 oz. Likewise, the Showa TemRes waterproof gloves I wear in wet weather near the freezing mark, cost only $27. That’s a fraction of what fancy Gore-Tex lined gloves cost, and the Showas are actually waterproof. I’ve never bought used gear, but I borrowed gear from fellow backpacking club members as I was learning the ropes, and now I commonly lend gear to others. Since I’m older than most backpackers, I tend to prioritize comfort above cost or weight. But, of course, low weight provides comfort while walking, so there are always trade-offs.

  5. Prices of UL gear are reasonable, especially from the cottage makers. All of my hobbies have gotten expensive. The demand is high and supply is somewhat limited. I firmly believe in buying the best I can afford. Quality, so long as it is also functional, is expensive and worth it.

    • Too expensive? If a small independent maker, like Mountain Laurel Designs then yes.I am willing to support their start up costs. Huge company like Sea 2 Summit, less so as they’ve been in business long enough to streamline production costs. That said, it’s always about the quality of the product and what weight saving gains it may offer. I generally replace gear as it ages out with it’s latest lightest version.
      Used gear: yes. Use Worn Wear by Patagonia and others for lightly used outer wear.
      Chief qualities when replacing expensive gear, of course industry standards and real life user reviews are important to me now. I like the Radivist newsletter, real life experience when out with others who may have the piece. As a member of an outdoor leadership team there’s ample opportunity for field testing before investing, thankfully!
      In summary, multi national corporations overcharge and the little folks are just trying to innovative to pay the rent. Lighter materials, smart designs, warmth to weight ratio, durability are definitely worth the expense for me.

  6. I think ultralight gear MAY or MAY NOT have value to you depending on the type of hiking you do. I’ve bought more gear than I can even recall over the past 10 years, from value brands like Kelty and Columbia to the highest end tents, backpacks, clothes and stoves. As many other people have blogged and wrote about in reviews all over the internet, there is often a big compromise between weight and comfort. I think this is particularly true of sleeping pads, water filters and tents. Your personality, general health and overall hiking trips/style (i.e. day hikes, backpacking, through hikes, etc) I think is the ultimate factor in how worth it expensive ultralight gear is. About 5 years ago I went through an “ultralight phase” and swapped out my tent/backpack and sleeping pad for the latest and greatest lightweight gear and found the reduced comfort, more restrictive storage space and increased sensitivity to damage made for less enjoyable outings. It only took about 2 season before I backtracked to an freestanding tent (an ultralight one at least) versus my trekking pole shelter and went back to a plush, comfortable and heavy sleeping pad. I also ditched the Sawyer Squeeze and went back to my more versatile Katahdyn pump model and often a gravity fed model (when I know water sources will be abundant) that I feel is ideal despite the bulk. For my experience, expensive ultralight gear was not the answer. It was lighter and smaller but it involved compromises.

    On the other hand, I think clothing, footwear and sleeping bags/quilt innovations like water phobic down, polartec Alpha, Gore Tex Infinium, trail runners and many other improvements make expensive ultralight clothing worth every penny for reduced weight, space savings and performance. This is an area I have invested heavily in and feel it was well worth it.

    The “best” piece of gear is not always the lightest or the most expensive. This is a subjective decision based on the type of person you are and how you go about things. My current gear choices were arrived at over many years of buying and rebuying. Some of my favorite stuff is high end and quite expensive and light. Other stuff is generic and low end items that really fit with how I like to go about doing things. I’ve never really considered used gear because I really prefer to start with a new item and a warranty. I’ll pay extra for that. The ultimate deciding factors for me are comfort, ease of use and simplicity. I’ll spend some extra cash and pack a little more weight and bulk for this.

  7. Backpacking is my passion. I don’t go to Vegas, I don’t drink, or do drugs, I just like to get out in the wilderness. So I don’t mind spending money on good quality gear. I’ve learned it is better to spend the money once and buy what you want. In 2021 I purchased a Zpacks 7×9 DCF tarp. It weighs about 5.1 oz. If I recall, it cost around $300. It is the single most expensive piece of gear I own. I absolutely love it. I would immediately replace it if was damaged. I would consider buying used gear if I knew it was in very good shape and reasonably priced. The main things I look for with backpacking gear are quality, performance, and cost.

  8. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost? – Yes and No! As a new backpacker, I have researched and researched gear. And since I am buying everything to get started I have had some sticker shock. I do not plan to thru-hike the AT, so I decided to not go Ultralight and I have purchased more budget friendly gear, and plan on replacing it with better equipment as things wear out. I don’t think it is worth the cost to the average weekend backpacker like me as I am more concerned with durability than weight.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear? – Yes, but I think about durability and warranty issues. I would have to touch/feel/see something used first before deciding to purchase.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts? – Quality and durability are at the top of my list.

  9. I have got back into hiking and camping again. Man, things have changed . Along with names and product. But light weight can be stupid expensive and really not on my radar since it is so expensive.
    I am stoked to see the lightweight products be more durable and functional. I do shop and compare a lot. And here is what I have found after researching on here . Then shopping to see you had best pricing and if any on sale.
    I am completely floored how expensive a therma rest pads have become. Say for instance, the neo air xlite nxt max is $ 249 . Three inches in thickness and. R value of four. Seems really pricey. For what you are getting . If you shop around I found exped has some of the ultra 5 on sale . Half the cost of Nemo and therma rest. And lighter. At rei .
    Now for the kicker. Big Agnes rapide sl. Lightweight, r value 4.8 and on sale at rei for 150 for long version. Lightweight , less expensive and 4.25 inches of plush sleep. Compared to 3 inches on the therma rest and exped. If this was not an option exped. Would be my second choice . Factoring cost , r value, weight and thickness. Sea to summit has great products just could not find any on sell since regular price is lofty.
    Now most can be fine with a smaller thinner pad. Cool, but I am older and will give up a few ounces of weight for comfort.
    As always do your research and figure out what’s for you , your application and your budget.

  10. I think some ul gear costs are ok. But some are ridiculous. Paying several hundred for a few oz doesn’t make sense. And things like TI pans that don’t heat as evenly as aluminum don’t make sense.
    But, going ul has helped us go further with fewer injuries, so the investment in ul tent, quilt, pad.. is worthwhile.

  11. 1) I think ultralight gear has the greatest value for thru hikers and long distance backpackers. For weekenders and people who go on 3-5 day trips, I would find a happy medium. If you can afford the gear, then go for it. I’ve had to pick my battles with gear weight. Dyneema isn’t in my price range. Also, it doesn’t have to be top of the line gear to be very sufficient for several weekend trips per year.

    2) I have purchased “scratch and dent” gear and it’s been fine. I would be open to purchasing used gear, especially tents. A used sleeping bag or quilt is a little gross?

    3) Price is very important. Next would be weight. Then I would look at ease of use and functional characteristics.

  12. I feel the price of DCF has gotten out of hand. Especially when the durability of the fabric is taken into account.
    The newer fabrics have really energized the UL market.

    • Good point about durability of DCF dynama tents. Holes are easy to repair but “UV rot” is a real thing. My dyneema tent just started shredding in too many placed to patch. Admittedly, I replaced it with another DCF tent. Love the low weight but also that water just shakes off prior to packing it away. Sil-nylon seems to hold onto water. I am old enough that the new def tent will outlast me :(

  13. Being ultralight doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. It’s possible to get serviceable gear on a budget. It may not be as nice as the premium stuff, or may weigh a few ounces more, but it works and beats some of the traditional gear regardless.

  14. Ultralight gear is expensive and only worth the cost if it’s comfortable enough for the individual to have a good time in the backcountry. A lot of ultralight culture seems to be “ultralight at any cost” and forgoes comfort and enjoyment for saving a few ounces.

    I haven’t considered used ultralight gear and probably won’t because I worry about durability enough as it is, and buying used gear just enhances that worry many times over.

    The biggest thing I look for is comfort when purchasing ultralight gear. I will happily pay a little more or add a little extra weight if it means I get a decent nights sleep in the backcountry. A good example is my Zenbivy 10 degree bed. It’s definitely heavier but it’s the most comfortable sleep system I’ve ever used while camping so it will always be worth it to me.

  15. Ultralite hiking gear can be super expensive. However, at my age it is worth the cost. I started my hiking and backpacking the US Army way with a standard 9 lb ALICE pack and another 35lbs of gear. On any given day in Iraq or Afghanistan I would carry anywhere from 40-100 lbs of gear, ammo, food and water. I kept up with the “two is one and one is none” mentality until I got to the GSMNP while on the AT. I realized quickly that 50lbs of gear isn’t a good thing for my body or for the amount of miles I was wanting to cover per day. At Clingmans is where I changed my mind to go ultralite. It made it sooo much gooder on my body, but was beating my pocketbook up. I started shopping for used equipment online and looking through hiker boxes. Eventually I sprung for a Zpacks pack, a Durston Xmid 2, a Hammock Gear quilt and.a Thermarest Neo Air Xlite. I had reduce the weight of my big four from 20 Army pounds to 4.75 pounds. I take care of my gear so it lasts longer. So long to 38lb base weights, hello 10.2 lb base weight! My thru hike of the Pinhoti trail I had a total pack weight of 24lbs with four days of food and water. I gave all of my super heavy gear to to two grown sons. They need to pack some weight on the trails so they can appreciate the weight and the cost of ultralite gear in the future.

  16. Ultralight gear and cost … I think there is a way to hike comfortable without shelling out thousands of dollars to save an ounce or two. There is a middle ground of good enough, so it’s up to everyone to weigh (pun intended) their cost to value. Personally I can crush just as many (few) miles with a 19lb base weight as I can with a 15lb base weight, so is getting to 14lb worth $500? ? Am I sick of comparing weights? ? Do I want to stop shopping and start hiking? ?

    Used gear? Yes please. Anything except sleeping pads, since I don’t fancy dealing with someone’s worn out gusset popping a giant ballon into my pad 50 miles from nowhere.

    What I look for in ultralight is does it perform as well as its heavier counterpart. Sacrificing R-value for weight in a puffy is useless to me because I’ll be packing an extra fleece. Inviting condensation to save a few ounces on a tent just adds water weight in the morning. Weight isn’t the metric, function is the critical parameter that moves the needle.

  17. 1) I think some ultralight gear is worth the price, but some of the super expensive stuff is uneccessary. I generally only buy things on sale, and have managed to get good lightweight base gear for good prices.
    2) I haven’t really looked into buying used ultralight gear. I’d be willing to consider a lightly used tent, but not a used quilt or sleeping pad.
    3) When looking for ultralight tents, sleeping pads or quilts, I generally look at features and weight first. Then I look for items I’ve considered on sale. When I was looking for a lighter pack, I made a list of 3-4 packs of was looking for. Then I happened to find one I was considering on sale for under $75. It may not have been my first choice, but for the price its worked out well. As long as you’re not desperate for new gear, you can find a good balance of weight & price

  18. Ultra light can be ultra expensive if you go to far down the rabbit hole shaving grams to make your spreadsheet look better. If you are going to spend months at a time putting in big mile days then it makes sense to go as light as you can without sacrificing safety or quality.
    I have always looked for the most value for the money and found that a mix of products at closeout and clearance prices is worth hunting for deals.
    Knowing what best suits your needs and what you actually do or don’t need is where most people can potentially save money. If everyone reading this had bought the best product for their specific needs the first time we would all have money to spend at Z-packs.
    Research helps with resources like your reviews and the ultra light for ultral cheap list that Pmags has.
    It’s expensive if you get caught up with newest items and chase the most popular items on lighter packs.
    There can be great deals from some of the cottage companies if you look for them. Lots of value from products offered by Durston, Gosamer gear runs some great deals on packs., good value on six moon shelters, basic 100-200 weight fleece provides great warmth to weight to price ratio. Keeping it minimal and knowing what works for yourself is key.

    • 1. I think it’s worth the price if you use it frequently like I do.

      2. I have considered buying used, but prefer to buy new that way if there’s any issues with any it the gear I can return it under warranty.

      3. My main thing when looking for the gear is keeping it all lightweight and compact to fit into my ruck. I don’t like having stuff hanging off all the sides and having it weigh an absurd amount. If I can have my tent, sleeping bag, tarp, clothes, food/water for a few days be less than 50-60lbs I’d be pretty happy with it.

  19. I obsess daily about way to get my base down but I am handcuffed by the astronomical costs. Could I splurge on a 600$ Duplex, sure. But I am a weekend warrior and have a hard time justifying the cost. I make due by buying low cost REI brand gear and supplementing with ultralight supplies. But I find myself handcuffed from achieving true ultralight status because the big three are simply out of reach for me. S2S replaced one of my pots when I burned the bottom so I will forever be loyal!!

  20. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    It is expensive and while worth the cost in my opinion it makes sense to prioritize. Sure my sleeping bag and pad cost top dollar but my clothing is bought on deep discount, my pack is 2.5 pounds but carries any weight, is versatile 4 seasons overnight to a week. I use a tarp with used bicycle but will by a duration c-mid for quality and value.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

    Yes! Great deals to be had!

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts? I want it to be UL, versatile, and good value. Sometimes good value is used or deep discount but sometimes like my sleeping bag and pad it is top shelf but carefully shopped for to get best possible deal.

  21. 1- yes. Worth the cost but there is a point of diminishing returns. You may pay one or two hundred dollars more to save a few ounces. I just purchased a new sleeping bag that was two hundred dollars cheaper but four ounces heavier than the runner up. Four ounces is half a cup of water and yes they add up but so do dollars.

    2-yes and I have. I love REIs re/supply section with used and traded in gear. Huge savings which I need while trying to outfit my family.

    3- Because I am trying to outfit a family of 6 (40yo to 11yo) I am mainly focused on comfort, durability and price. Although the main focus is always gonna be having fun and creating memories. If the gear will allow that it is often justified.

  22. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    Yes. Companies spend a lot of money in research and ultralight materials

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    Yes, slightly used dcf tents for example or pads

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    More comfortable, lighter, easy to setup and use.
    Durability is important also

  23. I am 70 years old.
    I still backpack.
    My base weight for my main gear is less than 6 pounds.
    ZPacks, Durston, Neo lite.
    I went UL so I can get out.
    And, so I’d be able to have nice tasty food.

    As I began to backpack again after many years I would resell gear to upgrade. So I buy good stuff and went UL, which is expensive. But, to me, it is the only way to go.

  24. 1. Yes, much of the ultralight gear is worth the cost to me. That’s the key…to me. The good thing is that there are so many products, that a good quality product is available at practically any budget. An item costing half the price of the top-end lightest product is still a really good product for the majority of people.

    2. Yes, I have considered buying used gear, but I’m picky about what I will buy used. Used clothing is usually quite acceptable, but I want a new sleeping bag for example.

    3. The chief characteristic I look for are longevity, weight and comfort.

  25. Like any niche product you will pay more for marginal gains. The fanciest-of-fancy gear will cost you a fair bit but there are deals to find if you look hard enough. The BRS-3000T stove with a Toaks 700ml pot is a great ultralight cook set that doesn’t break the bank. It’s tough to beat a Z-Lite pad for price and weight (comfort on the other hand…).

    When I was ready to move on my from Gregory Z55 pack and into the world of “ultralight” gear, I wasn’t sure what pack would be best for me. Rather than choosing the “best” pack based off of internet gear reviews I bought a couple of different packs from eBay. I settled on a ULA Circuit, which wasn’t originally on my radar. The pack I understood to be the “best” – an HMG 3400 – didn’t work out for me. I’m glad I didn’t drop $3-400 on it!

    I’ve since bought two more ULA packs – both at a discount because they were custom returns. Basically brand new packs, but sent to me at a discount. Again, deals exist if you are willing to be patient and don’t have your heart set on a certain color.

    I have paid full price for ultralight quilts and sleeping pads. Sometimes things cost what they cost and you just need to pony up the dollars for where you perceive value to be. For those next-to-skin items I’d prefer to buy brand new.

  26. 1. I have switched many parts of my gear to ultra light as I have gotten older and don’t want to carry as much weight on my trips. UL gear is expensive but if it allows you to get back into the great outdoors and do what you want to do it is worth every penny.
    2. I have considered buying used UL gear, but I’m particular about what I buy and have not found any used UL gear that met my requirements.
    3. when looking for UL gear I look for durability and weight considerations. I find your reports of immense help when considering these purchases.

  27. Ultralight equipment can be too expensive, but the cost is usually worth it, depending on frequency of use, durability and functionality. Web forums and reviews, such as this blog, are very helpful, and I typically make a purchase anticipating it will last me for many years, if not decades, although at 72, that may be wishful thinking. I had to make changes about 8 years ago, when I threw out my back about two days in at a remote area in NW Yosemite. Then, I made an effort to lose weight, along with replacing my pack, sleeping pad, shelter, cooking kit and bag; my big three were close to 20 pounds, and had lasted me for decades. I look for middle range and sales, and try to guard against consumerism as much as possible. For example, I have a Sierra Designs HR 1 (Skurka) tent I purchased on sale, and use only the outside shell at around a pound. I would like to replace it with something nicer or exotic, but it works just fine. My Hammock Gear quilt was breaking down and I found they would add a few ounces of fill, which was cheaper and more practical than replacement. I was able to get an Exped pad at the return rack at REI. The pack is a ULA Catalyst, and it works so well that it doesn’t make any sense to replace it in order to save a few ounces. Finally, I don’t have a problem with people who have nicer equipment, whether they are casual or intense with its use; even the best of what is on offer is much less expensive than a few nights at a nice hotel.

  28. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost? Some is too expensive, some is worth the cost. The point where value exists varies from person to person, situation to situation. I’m not a thru-hiker, nor am I in the race for lightest pack, but I do appreciate the weight/bulk savings of some that I’ve purchased. I’m happy with my Hilleberg tent and my Durston X-mid; they each have advantages and disadvantages. I like my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag, and my Thermarest Neo-Air X-Therm. Some was bought at a discount up to 40%. It must be adequate to the conditions one may encounter – even Skurka has admitted to “stupid light” – and these have met that test, reduced weight, added comfort. I like my JetBoil stove vs. my alcohol stove, twig stove, etc. because it’s simpler and easier to use easier to use for only a slight weight penalty. Same with water filtration, camp mug, headlamp. For a few grams or ounces, or dollars I prioritize simplicity, ease of use, reliability.

    I have bought/sold some gear, but not high end ultralight stuff.

    The main things I look for are adequacy, ease of use, reliability, value.

  29. Note: I use UL gear to do lightweight (not UL) backpacking.

    For me, ultralight gear has gotten expensive relative to its value. I don’t currently get out enough to justify the cost, but that is a life priorities issue. IF I were hiking more on my own, UL gear would be worth it. Most of my backpacking is as a Scout leader in the mid-Atlantic. The UL gear I have makes my hiking better but I can’t leverage the advantages enough.

    A few good, thoughtful purchases early on make UL gear easier to justify. The easiest in that vein is sleeping bag/quilt/pad and tent. Sub-3 pound backpack is pretty mainstream now.

    Used gear – I have bought some used ultralight backpacking gear, and look to sell some too – are people mainly doing this on eBay and Craigslist? Poor choices early on have led me to accumulate some gear that is “stupid light” for me. On other stuff, I’m not rough on my gear so I don’t have a use/purchase cycle.

    The chief characteristics I look for when purchasing ultralight:
    – Backpacks – flexibility (so larger volume/weight capacity) and durability. I am facilitating others’ backpacking experiences much of the time, and end up lending out backpacks so others can “try before they buy”. I’m frequently Sherpa-ing group gear for young Scouts, so 60L/40# is a reasonable capacity. I’m looking forward to the newer fabrics. Love my external storage, also love a lid/brain. With primarily East Coast hiking, back ventilation is important. Carrying ability trumps weight, I would rather have a pack weigh a pound more and carry like a dream than be lighter and have indifferent support.

    – Sleeping bags/quilts – spots in my “quiver”. I love layering quilts for colder weather, draft management is the big issue there. I wish I had gone 10F lower with my main quilt and 10F higher with my warm weather quilt. Build quality, reliability of temperature rating, pad attachment options are key for me. Features like draft collars have workarounds but are becoming more important as I move to more all-in-one solutions from the fiddly.

    – Sleeping pads (not part of the question but important I think) – comfort is king! I like my 3+” thick mattresses. Increasingly I care about noisiness (doesn’t bother me but bothers others, I move around a lot). Durability is a factor I mitigate with a GG Thinlight. Weight/packability are lesser concerns, without good sleep the rest goes out the window.

    – Tents – Simplicity of use and setup combined with feature set (usable area/weight, freestanding preferred, doors/vestibules). I prefer trekking pole tents for longer solo backpacking; when I can’t choose my sites as much (again Scout context), the ability to easily set up on for example gravel matters. Sufficient room for a 25″ wide pad plus gear, sufficient head room for a 6’/185cm camper.

    Over time I have moved away from complex/flexible combinations of gear to fewer, less fiddly pieces. I just want the gear to work in the contexts I’m using it.

  30. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    I am recently retired and have relocated to western Rockies to enjoy life. I am willing to pay the high cost for new ultralight gear when there is a need, but I try to optimize purchases by buying from Montbell in yen and/ or otherwise buying gear during seasonal sales. Your site is very helpful in identifying quality gear.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    I have not considered buying USED gear.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    I prioritize comfort, including weight, convenience, longevity and applicability to the job rather than price, subject to my budget constraints.

  31. I agree with the many comments before me, that it’s worth paying more money for well made UL gear. As I get older, I see the value of buying 1 good quality item that will last many years verses several lesser quality items which when you add them all up, may end up costing more in the long run. I am a frugal shopper and watch for sales and closeouts. Based on the terrain I have hiked in, I prefer a free standing tent so I have the BIg Agnes 1P bike packing tent that packs down small and for me it is worth the weight. I am also a cold sleeper so the 1 pound bags won’t keep me warm enough. Also, being older, I want my pack to have the support and breathability against my back (I sweat a lot) so I could use some input from others about a good pack. I currently have the Osprey Aura. I developed sores on my hips under the waist/hip belt.
    I have purchased some used gear but it’s not UL. Is there a website for used UL gear?

  32. Generally the cost of ultralight gear is too expensive, but I’m primarily thinking of products that use DCF or Ultra. Often times cottage manufacturers double the price for these fabrics, and they’re cost prohibitive for me. I’ve been using a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 tent for many years, which is a hair under 3 pounds. If I want to buy an ultralight tent/shelter from Zpacks, Tarptent, HMG, MLG, etc., I would have to pay over $600 to cut my weight in half. I would much rather buy a silpoly tent from Gossamer Gear, Durston, Big Agnes, NEMO, etc., that cuts my weight by maybe a pound and costs under $300. The difference in weights between ultralight DCF tents and ultralight silpoly tents does not justify paying double the cost.

    Similarly for backpacks I’m perfectly happy with my lightweight Granite Gear Crown2 I purchased new for $120. Sure, I could get a pack half that weight, but I’m paying $300+ to do that. I think companies like Granite Gear, Gossamer Gear, Durston, ULA, Osprey all hit the sweet spot of good lightweight backpacks that are still affordable. If I had to choose one major purchase to lower my weight, I’d choose an ultralight tent. I don’t see a reason to buy an ultralight pack for the type of hiking I do. I think ultralight packs are primarily for thru hiking and fast packing, and not suited for varied backpacking trips or bushwhacking. When I’m doing something more rugged or requiring more weight capacity, I ditch the Granite Gear Crown2 and opt for one of my older Osprey or Mountainsmith packs. I’d much rather beat up a cheaper, heavier pack than risk using an expensive ultralight pack.

    For sleep systems, ultralight makes more sense. There is not as much of a cost difference to get better insulated quilts and lighter sleeping pads. You get two major benefits of paying for an ultralight sleep system: warmer gear in a more compact package. And you will pay less for upgrading a bag/quilt + pad than you would a tent upgrade.

    I have bought used gear in the past, but it’s a lot of effort to sift through listings on eBay or Facebook. The only time I consider used gear now is through a company reselling returned gear, like REI Garage.

  33. Emilio Barrientos

    Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    – I wish everything was cheaper than it is, but I am willing to spend the money in these cases. I am very into landscape photography and whatever lightens the load and makes carrying my camera gear more comfortable is worth it to me.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    – Whenever I can I try to buy used. Not only to offset the cost, but to try to not be wasteful.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    – I like for things that will fit my use cases and lighten my load. For a while I was obsessed with getting as light as possible, but trended into “stupid” light territory. Instead I try to look for things that fit my use cases, specifically around landscape photography. For example – I bought the HMG Camera Pod cause it added some water protection to my camera and carries more comfortably than the peak design clip. I also camp in places where a bear can is required and tend to stick towards backpacks that can comfortably fit one inside.

  34. 1. Cost. If it performs the way I hoped then the price is worth it.
    2. Used. Definitely buy used for many things. Packs may be the exception since fit is so important and a failure is catastrophic. Used sleeping gear- definitely. Tent-yes if it its “low miles”
    3. Characteristics. Pack: Weight is more to narrow the field but not the final determinate. To be useful, it has to be comfortable and reliable I would accept an extra pound on my back to get those things.
    4. this is an interesting process. Thanks

  35. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?

    Can be worth it if UL is critical to your trip plans. Costs of production for a niche product area will always be high. You must pay the premium for hand-made low-volume gear. I like that REI is expanding their UL gear choices. With their generous return policy it’s easier to take a chance on UL.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

    Yes, especially in planning treks over 100 miles.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

    As much as can be expected, durability. Super lightweight means nothing if gear breaks easily.

  36. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    -Depends on the item. I have been selective on what I will spend more money on, sleep system, shelter, some clothes. Other items I think are less important to go ultralight and enjoy the comfort over ultralight.
    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    -I usually buy new for my items, but it is something I have considered buying used. If it is still in good condition it would make sense to buy used.
    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    – Reputable brand and supporting local cottage companies. I am from Minnesota and we have a lot of smaller quality companies when it comes to some ultralight gear.

  37. The cost of the lightest ultralight backpacking gear is pretty impressive (tents, quilts, and to a lesser extent backpacks). I think the biggest challenge is in balancing the benefits of the lightest gear possible with those costs, in the context of uses and needs.

    For most people, the most expensive ultralight backpacking gear is a luxury not a necessity. I’ve honestly been afraid to buy used ultralight backpacking gear for hygenic (sleeping bag) or waterproofness/wear (tent) reasons, but for backpacks, I think it’s a nice way to balance less cost with some wear, until/unless one knows exactly what one wants and is ready to spring for full cost.

    Chief characteristics I look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts is that trade-off: Can I justify this cost for my likely uses and value relative to other things I want to use my money for.

  38. If the trip is low and short, light weight gear is OK. But high mileage and/or high altitude , then UL is worth the cost. I have to admit, a lot of my gear is used or bought on sale. I also limit myself to one big ticket item per year. My gripe about a lot of UL equipment is it’s expensive and doesn’t do the job. Most of these UL packs are very uncomfortable over 15 lbs. Most trekking pole tents are worthless in wet and windy weather. And the question about 20 degree quilts is, are they warmer than a 30 degree mummy ? They weigh the same. But it is nice to have enough equipment so you can have choices. Every trip is different. I usually mix up UL gear with lightweight gear for the compromise.

  39. For the most part it’s worth the cost as it really lightens the load. I just think you have to find a trade-off between the lightest and what you can afford. I personally have bought used several times with good results. I think it’s a great way to gain entry into an expensive space. What I generally look for.is.light weight at a cost that I find makes sense. I’ve paid more for my pack and quilt and less for other items.

  40. Many pieces of ultralight gear are certainly expensive, but expense is a relative term. Some people have a lot of money and a lot of people only have some money, so our disposable money is often budgeted. New ultralight gear can be pricey but come down over time. New products take research and development before they can even be put to market and make a profit. Many gear makers are small companies, sometimes only a couple people, maybe even one. I just bought a Miles Uber bivy. Cheap? No. The cost of the materials? Not a lot really, but it takes time to make it, and Dave did a great job. It is very roomy, and that is what I needed. Noisy, as Tyvek is just that. But it met my needs, or wants, and he is getting ready to stop making them. Is it worth it? I hope so. Reviews have been good. But we have seen the advent of Chinese manufacturers making copies of most all gear these days, and while it may be true that some of the ultralight gear sold by American companies, large or small, is made in China, we now see the inexpensive knock-offs harming those companies. I know a lot of small cottage makers are being hurt by this.
    Is the gear worth it? Well…. Does it make the buyer happy? Pleased? Is it about ego and who has the lightest load, or about getting Out There and enjoying the outdoors in a way that satisfies one’s desires, and having a light load that does all it needs to to is a great benefit. Cost is relative. Being in nature is priceless, or nearly so.
    I do shop on ebay and I do go to thrift stores, garage sales, online sites, sell and buy among friends, and there is always a desire to save money when we can.
    What I look for in my gear is reliability first. It doesn’t matter how light it is if it doesn’t do what I need it to do. For that I will carry more grams or dare I say, ounces. I read reviews all the time. I may wait for more tests to come in, and that is one of the things I love about Sectionhiker! Learning not only skills and living vicariously through Phillip’s adventures, but finding about about both new and older gear and how well they can be counted on. We hope not to pay too much but at times it is about timing and cash on hand. Some pieces of gear can be hard to find, hard to get, and there may be a premium to pay, but it is our choice to select carefully after gaining some knowledge through word of mouth, reviews, and well regarded among those is Sectionhiker.
    It doesn’t matter how light gear is if it can’t be counted on. We may have to be more careful with our ultralight gear but that is a price we pay to tread lightly in nature…. and it’s easier on our feet, knees, backs, shoulders…. and so on, if not our wallets at times!

  41. Ultralight gear is worth it if you hike a lot. The more you hike the more the investment pays off.

    I have purchased used wind pants that were in perfect condition. Mostly I prefer dealing directly with those that make the gear.

    For the warmest three seasons, I would choose a quilt over a sleeping bag, and a tarp over a tent almost every time. Though I do add a ground sheet that has a bathtub, and a bug net as necessary. I’ve hiked maybe 10k miles in the past 9 years, and these items feel natural to me. I think they do the job much better than bags and tents in benign conditions, and only really require a little extra attention/care to achieve good sleep when the weather is foul. Ultralight packs, however, do often make too many sacrifices in search of low weights. It’s the trickiest piece of gear to optimize, and you won’t truly know your preferences until you’ve hiked many miles. If you have a pack that fits and works for your trips, stick with it until you have finished upgrading the rest of your gear.

  42. Fun read. I learned to back pack in my teens back when a 65lb pack was standard practice. But like many above am old now and enjoy hiking allot more with less weight. I recently upgraded my gear and bought a Nemo firefly tent, deuter air contact ultra pack and western mountaineering down bag, total big 3 is ~9lbs, and this set me back ~$1,400. My thoughts at the time were on kayak camping, but then added backpacking. I love the sleeping bag, like the pack and tent is fine. But my full up pack for 3 day weekend trip comes in at ~32lbs.

    I want to drop it to 25lbs, and could spend another $1,500 to drop at least 3lbs. I can afford to do this, but it seems very wasteful as a weekend warrior. So far my plan is to just diet a bit and drop 5lbs, pack less backup food and clothes, and maybe try a cheap bivy sack to drop tent weight. I am still waffling on the 1lb chair.

  43. I would be hesitant to drop a big pile of money on a full load out these days. I’ve accumulated a decent gear closet, but have done it a piece at a time. I started with a 30 year old dome tent from my childhood and a big, heavy backpack from Cabela’s. I’ve slowly replaced all that gear with lighter, better gear. I rarely pay full retail. I wait until I can find a bargain to replace older, heavier gear. The exceptions to this are the two Tarptents that I bought directly from the cottage manufacturer.

  44. My introduction to backpacking was in the early 1980s as a boy scout, when gear choices, at least to me, were limited but relatively affordable, fairly heavy, and primitive. I carried a small external frame pack, an oversized rectangular sleeping bag wrapped in a trash bag – bungee-corded to the frame, a Sterno stove, an aluminum mess kit, steel knife-fork-spoon set, a heavy plastic rain poncho, and slept in troop-owned tents that weight way too much. I upgraded that kit a few times, then got away from hiking for around 15 years.

    After resuming backpacking later in the mid-2000s, the world of gear had grown exponentially – as did the means of researching it – I was no longer limited to the Campmor catalog and trips to the Army-Navy store. Thanks to sectionhiker, backpackinglight, and others.

    My current kit is a mix of lightweight and ultralight gear – some new, some used. For a few weekend trips a year, it’s hard for me to justify high-end ultralight gear – so my gear list has become fairly static:

    – Tarptent Rainbow 1 (silpoly) for milder weather – which I’ve shared with my wife. ~2lbs and $225 when I bought it new in 2010

    – Mountainsmith Haze pack – 2 lbs and comfortable to carry. ~$80 to $90 new on sale, or closeout

    – 2lb floorless pyramid for winter camping – around $200 when I bought it new

    – Exped Synmat pad and Schnozzel bag – might have been $150 when bought new

    – Snow Peak canister stove, used on eBay

    – Feathered Friends Winter Wren sleeping bag – used but like new condition at half price at around $200

    – Various other gear – new and used – that I pick and choose from dependent upon season, trail conditions, weather, and distance I’m hiking.

    All-in, I’d say I’ve spent $1200 to $1500 on backpacking-specific gear in the last 15 years – some bought, tried-out, then re-sold, some kept, some given to my son, some donated to his old scout troop.

    My typical carry weight on a weekend trip is between 20 and 25 pounds in fair weather, up to 30 pounds in colder weather. Not ultralight, but light enough, at least for now.

    As others have said above – I will likely buy lighter gear as I get older so that I can continue to backpack as late in life as I’d like to.

    I value durability and functionality a little more than weight savings.

    Buying used mitigates the sting of retail pricing – so that’s always my first choice – except for food, underwear, and socks. :/

  45. – Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost? For the most part, yes. You get what you pay for, or in this case it’s what you don’t get.
    – Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear? Yes, but haven’t yet so far. I will have some to sell, as I tweak my kit.
    – What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts? I look for quality, good reviews, especially when the reviewer gives specific reason why they like or recommend an item.

  46. Some of my equipment was considered ultralight when I purchased it, but may not be now. As I have
    not been able to backpack as much as I would like due to caring for my elderly mother, I have waited to upgrade some items as every year something better comes out. I look for a compromise of weight, comfort, and durability when shopping for new gear. Never been one to shop for used gear.

  47. 1). Ultralight gear can be worth the cost. I do think that the cost for ultralight gear can ‘outweigh’ the benefit you get. It definitely depends on what you value (and, I think where you recreate). Being in the mid-atlantic, my weather is pretty mild and I don’t often feel the need for the lightest gear. I also find, because of the temperate conditions, that I can use gear that might not be ultralight, but lowers my pack weight and improves my experience. I’ve largely shifted to using a tarp rather than a tent and have gotten away from a hammock. These shifts have lightened my pack but I don’t need to get a dyneema tarp. I did purchase a quilt from Hammock Gear that I use very frequently and is lighter/more comfortable than other sleeping bags I own. Not the lightest quilt ever, but it provides me the benefits of light/ultralight gear without a commensurate price tag. Given that, I tend to think that gear labeled ultralight is more expensive than required – but it is usually very high quality and therefore ‘worth it’. A long-ish answer to a simple question…

    2). I have considered and have purchased used ultralight backpacking gear – especially sleeping bags. Obviously there can be a durability for weight trade-off; so that should always be a point of concern when buying used ultralight gear, but it’s often a great way to make the jump without breaking the bank. I purchased a used Marmot Helium bag ~7 years ago and it’s still going strong.

    3). As with most purchases, I try to look at them through a lens of value rather than absolute cost. If it will enable me to go out and enjoy the outdoors; then it’s often worth it. Quality, durability, and flexibility are the three qualities I look at most for ultralight gear. It should be good, it should last, and it shouldn’t be limited to use in one season or for one niche use-case.

  48. My view of the current cost of ultralight backpacking gear is that, like most backpacking gear, costs more than it should. There’s a lot of competition for the products, and the label of ultralight tends to increase the cost. Things like toothpaste tabs are ridiculously priced per ounce, but PT Barnum said it best.
    But it’s lighter the less you buy, and it gets cheaper the more you use stuff you already have.
    A way to get around the premium is to generally try to substitute non-backpacking gear. For example, trial size toothpaste. A DQ blizzard spoon. Ziplock bags. Smart Water bottles. Tykvex. Garbage bags. Goodwill rain coats. Cold soaking meals versus a kitchen setup. I justified the extra cost of the Sawyer squeeze vs something like Aquamira due to reviews and the instant use versus waiting for the purification process.

    I have considered buying used ultralight backpacking gear, but it’s really just economics at this point of doing without. Plus, I get outbid, ha.

    The chief characteristics I look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts generally is price vs. weight &, relatedly, volume. But, the purchase price is the major one. Would an extra $100 premium really make my tent or sleep system more noticeable (while my eyes are closed zzzz)? Not likely. I just try to remember most of it is up-selling and marketing.

  49. I am just getting back into backpacking after many years so I am having to purchase all new gear. In my experience, the light gear isn’t that much more expensive that much of the regular stuff. I am carrying a Durston Kakwa 55 that is in the same price range as many of the big name standard packs that have a manufacturing advantage of scale. Being 60 years old, I want to be able to continue hiking and backpacking for many years so paying a little bit more for lighter gear is definitely worth it. And to the extent I’m going to carry extra weight, it’s going to be in food — I’m over the ramen diet!

  50. I have the Montbell Versalite Jacket and pants, $260 and $160 respectively. Are they the best? They sure were expensive but their weight means they are always in the pack. I went out too often this winter without my sleeping bag. Perhaps if I had a warm totality bag I wouldn’t make excuses for carrying even for short forays.

  51. I find if you just go seeking the absolute “ultra” light gear, you can spend some money fairly quickly, but if you get the next step down the costs come way down. A 20oz Dyneema tent might be $700, but the same tent in silnylon/silpoly weighing 28oz might be $300. Same story in most adventure/action sports, that last few ounces is going to cost big money. Need to decide what level of “ultra” you want to be.

    One place where you can save weight without a huge cost penalty is packs. Some of the ultralight packs are in the same ballpark as some of the heavier full-featured packs – so if the UL pack fits ok and works for you, definitely go that way, you can save multiple pounds there. Packs also seem to go on sale more frequently than other gear.

    Best tip I have is to make a spreadsheet or list of the various items you’re considering with name, weight, and cost, then do a sort by weight, then look at costs. Make sure the list includes all accessories like stakes, ground sheet, etc.

  52. Wow. You’ve certainly achieved the objective of this giveaway of generating reader discussion of their experiences. What a gold mine.

  53. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?

    I was going to say no but some of the gear I use most often is ultra, or maybe just very light. So the answer is a qualified yes when it reduces volume and adds functionality.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

    No.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

    Cost to weight savings. Durability, functionality.

  54. 1) If you strive for the very lightest Ultralight backpacking Gear it really is too expensive for me. And you are chasing diminishing returns. If I drop 5lbs or body weight by dieting, it’s a lot cheaper and healthier for me. Plus some of the lightest equipment can start to get less durable, making it even more expensive in the long run.
    2) I have consider buying used equipment, but often find the gear is either much more worn out than advertised, or the seller wants close to full/new price for the used gear. Would ONLY consider it if I could inspect the gear before buying.
    3) I look for gear that will be durable, and light weight. I like down for bags and quilts; but am not going for 900+ or 950+. One the higher cost, and two, It seems like the 900+ down can collapse easier compared to say 650 or 750+ down. So sometimes the higher quality down does not keep me as warm. I am still looking for a tent made from UV stable (durable), high strength fabric that does not stretch when wet/moist or overnight. Nemo might have one, but have not seen/tried that yet. Hate that tent fly’s don’t last that long. I’d love to get 10 years out of each piece of gear. LOL

  55. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost? Ultralight as a branding term barely means anything at this point, same as “backpacking” which includes a lot of gear that can fit into a backpack, but that you wouldn’t take backpacking if you knew of the better options in the same price range. SOME ultralight gear is certainly worth the cost. My experience using an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 30 degree quilt has completely changed my opinions on how packable and comfortable a sleeping bag can be. I went from a older $80 box style synthetic sleeping bag in my teens and twenties, to a $120 “backpacking” 45 degree mummy bag that was a cocoon to sleep in and I couldn’t move my legs in, to a pre-made $300 Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt which is warmer, lighter, smaller packing, and muuuuch more comfortable to sleep in in my 30s. The price is higher, but that brings benefits and enjoyment I didn’t get out of the other materials, but inflation and new materials have also had incremental increases in the price. I have been replacing parts of my camping gear as they wear out or I realize it would be a notable improvement for my preferred camping experience. I’m much less likely to spend large dollar amounts on ultralight shoes or clothing, but I have found value in lightening and improving the comfort of my base backpack, sleep system, tent.
    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear? I have considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear and I would love to have a trusted source, like a used section on Garage Grown Gear or the manufacturer (Enlightened Equipment, UGQ, Hammock Gear, Dutchware, etc.) for a standard condition, cleanliness, and repair for used gear, like REI and Patagonia have started for the items they sell. I have EBAY searches for specific items I’m interested in upgrading or adding to my kit, but I don’t want to have to deal with a significant tear/wash job needed for used sleeping gear or risk a poorly stored tent with the PU/silicon peeling off the fly.
    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts? I primarily look at what characteristics the new purchased gear brings to my existing kit, or improves over the item I already use for the purpose. I have a couple comfort items that I make exceptions for like a pillow vs a stuffsack with clothes in it, and a foldable chair and a spare hammock tarp for shorter trips during shoulder seasons or when perfect weather and a good log to sit on by the fire cannot be certain. I’m 6’3″ 220lbs though, so the trade off with most ultralight items is sometimes the size/durability, or in the case of ultralight folding chairs, the ability to hold up 220lbs without breaking after a year. Saving a couple ounces on an item isn’t worth a huge amount to me at this point, but increasing comfort, making my current kit work better together, or adding flexibility while being ultralight is worth the money.

  56. I don’t worry too much about gear weight.

    How many of us could lose more than a few pounds of our own weight before spending significant money to shave a few pounds from our packs?

  57. Z-Packs Arc Blast
    Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2
    Sea to Summit Comfort Lite Insulated Pad
    Kammok Roo Double w/UL Straps
    Dutchware Bonded UL Xenon Winter Tarp
    Enlightened Eq. Revelation Top Quilt
    Outdoor Vitals Stormloft Underquilt
    Black Diamond Carbon Poles
    Vargo 900ml Bot
    Keith 450ml Cup
    Toaks Ti Long Spork
    Snow Peak GigaPower Stove
    Katadyne BeFree
    Cnoc Vecto 3L Bladder
    Cnoc Vecto 2L Bladder

    I started collecting ul gear 20 years ago because I was overcoming some health issues and didn’t want to stop hiking and backpacking. I had to be selective as I didn’t have a lot of cash. My first purchase was a set of Black Diamond carbon trekking poles. I forced myself to learn how to use them correctly and they have been a god send. Next I got a Snowpeak ti cookset (which I have since passed on to my nephew) and started saving for a backpack to replace my super heavy and clunky ancient Osprey. Then I got a tent and pad. My nephew convince me to try hammock camping and I do that as much as I can. I don’t live where there are lots of trees so I still use the tent occasionally.

    I had to be patient but I knew the wait would be worth it. I shopped sales, did credit card and retailer reward points, asked for gift certificates for presents… whatever I could to get quality ul gear. When I found out about Ripstop By the Roll I bought some dyneema and made my own sacks. It’s been totally worth it. UL gear was the difference between being able to hike and backpack (and retain my sanity and continue loving life) and not being able to. I can’t imagine not being able to be outside in nature and the further in the better.

  58. 1. It is possible to find great deals on ultralight gear. Doing research into what you really need and look at various resources for reviews. Don’t always jump straight in.
    2 yes I have bought gently used or unused gear. Last year’s model deals are worth considering too
    3.. quality. Good reviews. Deals if available Something that works with the other gear I have and the type of hiking I am doing

  59. Buy once, cry once. Good gear has a price premium but is built to last.

  60. 1. You know what they say, you get what you pay for.

    2 no, not an option

    3 I look for value in a product. Made in America of course!!

  61. I feel pretty good about the increasing affordability of ultralight gear. In fact some of the lightest options (like a tarp or Airmesh) are quite a lot cheaper than their premium equivalents. Quality bags/quilts and sleeping pads are still quite expensive. I feel like the REI Flash 55 pack, with its frequent discounts, has been a game changer in the mainstream market. Gossamer Gear and Montbell Japan site are also reliable bargain sources. And maybe the best development is the increased availability of used gear through REI and Patagonia. I just put together a backpacking gear guide for my daughter’s Scout troop and was able to find decent budget options for the entire packing list.

  62. 1) I am relatively new to ultralight gear but it seems worth it. I do worry about durability though. So far I’ve only bought stuff sacks.

    2). I would consider used.

    3). I would look at the features and the reviews. The features would be especially important in a backpack. It seems like the ultralight backpacks don’t have many features.

  63. Vedat Odabas-Geldiay

    Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    Some brands are outrageously and unjustifiably expensive, others are manageable. Considering how fast the technology evolves, today’s top rated sleeping pad will be history in a year and a half so making very expensive purchases are not always the best decision as without getting a chance to use the gear much it will already be outdated.

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    Yes I have, and will do so if I am able to find gear that is in relatively good shape and price is low enough that buying the new version doesn’t make sense.

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    Number one characteristic I am looking for is the performance, if it can’t perform to its rated specs, I will not buy it. To help with that I follow and watch most of the YouTuber reviewers and weigh their opinions against one another for the same product and then make a decision. After performance comes the weight and volume. Quality is obviously the next, a product likely to fall apart after a few uses is not something I would pay a fortune. I would say the price is the next factor. I would be willing to sacrifice the dollars if it’s going to be a high performance gear likely to last many years.

  64. There’s not much that hasn’t already been said in all these great comments, but for me personally being neither rich or poor I have struggled to justify the value of UL gear. At the end of a long day, I am usually feeling some weight-related pain and thinking about how to get lighter, but after being home for a day or two the memory fades and my ultra frugal nature usually wins out. The battle of UL vs UF! Lately though, when I need to replace something, I am more willing and likely to shell out for lighter gear than I have ever been because I realize that even if it isn’t absolutely required now, it will be soon if I want to stay on trail and not be miserable (I’m 62). Will being heavier keep us off the trail, or significantly detract from the experience? What value do we place on being out on the trail? I think that’s ultimately how we all have to decide if UL is worth it for us.

    I prefer to find discounts on new gear as opposed to buying used. If you don’t wait until the last minute to gear up, you can usually find new discounted stuff for close to the price of used stuff. I like having a warranty, but it’s more because I like knowing I’m the only one to have sweat, farted, or drooled on my gear! Yes, I occasionally drool in my sleep ;-).

    Experience with a manufacturer’s products, their reputation, and opinions of those who know (like your gear reviews Phil) is where I start when researching a gear purchase. After that, it’s all specific to me and my use cases. For example, I recently purchased a Nemo Dagger OSMO 2P tent, and while it wasn’t the lightest (weight or price), it struck a good balance. 99% of the time there will be two of us using it and so the length, width, and having two doors were critical aspects. Coming from a three-person tent, I would not have considered how important a non-tapering floor plan was for us and our 25 inch mattresses without reading your review. Like you, I am a four-season, White mountain hiker and your reviews are gold when researching gear characteristics that are important to me.

    I’ve read every comment on this post, and have really enjoyed the different perspectives. I’m hoping this type of “discussion post”, with or without a raffle, is something you’d consider doing more of. Thank you.

  65. I think that ultralight equipment is to expensive, but I also think the ultralight movement has to be taken with some realistic expectation. Most people are not going on a thurhike , most consumers are like me . Hiking for a week at most . But mostly 3 to 4 day hikes that are not 20 mile days but rather 6 to 12 mile days . In my opinion 75 percent ( just a guess based on the people I know that backpack) are weekend backpackers that are drawn into the buying the lightest most expensive new gear on the market. I am a 70 year old male that has come to the realization I can’t afford to have a 10 pound base weight.Nor do I need to spend thousands trying to get to that 10 pound base weigh.But I have invested in quality lightweight equipment that gives the best experience and at the same time allows me to achieve a base weight down to 14 to 16 pounds. I also think that there are enough less expensive lightweight equipment that can fill that void for people that don’t have thousands to spend getting to that magic 10 pound base weight that so many people chase .

  66. Being fairly new to backpacking but seasoned with camping etc in general, I am answering based on someone entering an overwhelming market of gear and weighing the trade offs between shaving weight and durability. From my perspective:

    1. Ultralight gear is generally too expensive I think but for some elements, worthy of the expense. I have focused my pursuit of ultralight gear to specific areas, I prefer the comfort of a heavier pac ( Osprey Aether AG 65 and Mystery Ranch Bridger 45) , the durability of a heavier tent (Nature Hike Mongar 2p), but do stick with ultralight sleeping bags (Thermorest down), S 2 S pads, Toaks cooking gear, ultralight clothes, Hoka Speedgoat shoes and some other support items. I try to offset the cost impacts by purchasing past models, clearance gear and such. I also use ccard rewards from business expenses to offset costs when able. 80-90% of my expensive gear has been bought during clearance sales or when have coupons using the rewards have which has allowed me to pursue items I would normally pass on due to the elevated costs.

    2. I have considered used for certain things, mostly tents, but have not purchased used to date. Seems often times reviews / descriptions indicate repairs on many of these items which is where I question the durability of the lighter weight, costly fabrics. I currently use a knock off tent (Nature Hike Mongar 2p), is double the weight of some of the popular models out there but very similiar to the big brands feature and have had zero issues with many trips. Cost was 1/4 to 1/3 of a similar name brand tent (Copper Spur) and love the tent. Room, easily to set up and vents great. Poles are a bit longer but doesn’t affect the packs I am using. The cost savings is worth hauling a couple lbs in my opinion. I would purchase used for the right product, in top or new condition and for the right price. With some gear have reviewed used options, the minimal savings isn’t worth it and I can find as good or better deals on new/discontinued. I plan to purchase a BA Copper Spur, Nemo or Hubba but just haven’t yet. Also very interested in a Durston but haven’t had any experience with that type of set up but exploring it and like what I have read research wise.

    3. For me, comfort, durability, and functionality of the product are paramount regardless of the weight. It doesn’t seem to make sense to shave some ounces for something that is lacking any of these or that your having to deal with repairing or stressing while outdoors because having to baby a product. I think generally, with what I have now in my equipment and what I am researching to purchase, those boxes are checked for the most part.

  67. Christine Ratcliffe

    I’m retired and on a fixed income so I do lots of research before spending money. I agree that UL gear is very much worth the investment to keep the weight down.
    I will look at reviews from several different sources until I make a decision on which brand to go with. Often, I can be patient enough to check several places for used gear. I have had very good luck doing this.
    My best score was a Katabatic quilt with 800 down fill. I sleep cold but have been very comfortable down to 29° using this in combination with my Haven Hammock. ( which I also bought used).
    My next goal is to do the Grand Canyon before I get too old!

  68. I started backpacking at 13, mostly to get away from bickering parents. A US Army shelter half, canvas with wood and metal poles, weighing maybe 20 lbs, from an army surplus store, and an old cotton blanket. For vittles, mac n cheese, can of chili, an old pan. 60 years later, my Darn Tough socks cost more than my first camping outfit Everything’s relative, worth is subjective. It’s worth it to me to go ultralight, at least my back and knees think so. I do look for bargains, used, whatever, but to be honest saving 10% off a used uberlight pad doesn’t sound like a deal to me. Besides, the less you spend, the heavier your gear. I went All-up Dan Durston (#notacult) stuff last year, dropped 12 lbs off my back. So, yes, to me the extra cost of ultralight weight gear is well worth it, since at my age I doubt I’d be able to lift heavier backpacks.

  69. Specialized gear can be pricey. Look at it this way. You rent an oceanfront room at the beach for 300.00 a night.
    Two nights will pay for a Zpacks tent, and you have something besides memories.

    I don’t buy used gear because I don’t need anything.(Sad, because I love shopping) But that would seem to be a good alternative.

    I look for quality, design , and weight.

  70. About five years ago I picked picked up the Granite Gear Crown2 60L Pack and the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 Tent. I got both on sales. Not bad and reduced some weight from what I was using. I section hike so got my weight down to around 40 lbs at start for a 7-10 day hike. I was pretty happy with that, because I like to carry A LOT of food. I’m 6’3″ and weigh 235 pounds, so a few extra pounds don’t bother much. Everything else I use I’ve been using for years because I like it and am comfortable with the performance. Shoes are my biggest expenditure. Your reviews have turned me on to some good ones since Merrell changed it’s “Men’s Moab Ventilator”.

  71. I have been selective in my choices of ultralight gear. I am willing to pay up if its something I want, but often there are less expensive alternatives. I am concerned for quality, durability, and function.

    Twenty years ago I was inspired by Ray Jardine’s books to begin making my own gear, mostly in silnylon. I made the Ray Way tarp (1 pound 9 ounces for the tarp and pegs) and net tent (13 oz. (about $116 for the two), the Ray Way backpack and waterproof liner (75 liters and about a pound), and a Cliff Jacobson tarp (10’ X 10’ and about one pound seven ounces).

    In 2012 I did buy the Mountain Laurel Designs Super Tarp (dyneema, 8 ½’ X 10’, $355). Ultimately that was not a big weight saving. With Poles, pegs, ground sheet and TiGoat bivy (8 oz.) the total rig weighed about 29 oz.

    In 2017, seeking light weight and ease of set up, I bought the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo for a very reasonable $225 with seam sealing and postage. It weighs in at 34 oz.

    I also have purchased Hilleberg tents (neither ultralight nor inexpensive) for winter conditions and canoe camping.

    I use high capacity portage packs for canoe camping and for overnight backpacks in winter and wet weather.

    In 2002 I bought a 20 degree Campmor down bag, two pounds seven ounces and $115 (Those were the good old days.) It is still going strong.

    In 2012 I bought the western Mountaineering Summerlite sleeping bag, 32 degrees and one pound three ounces for $355.

    In 2013 I bought the Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag, 10 degrees and two pounds for $480.

    I tend to use closed cell foam pads for cushioning under my sleeping bag. They are light weight and durable. In winter I use an Exped Downmat Lite 5, R 3.8 and one pound five ounces.

  72. 1. Is UL gear too expensive? Like all things there’s a spectrum. Some things are just crazy for what they are: I’m looking at you HMG.
    2. I’ve purchased used gear on the past and will again.
    3. There’s a weight to $ ratio that that I try to balance, not always successfully. It’s all a learning curve that includes both research (thanks Phil!) and trial and error.

  73. Not all UL gear is expensive, but the leading edge of new materials and manufacturing can be. But I’m at the age where I’ve done enough long distance backpacking that I will spring for the piece that reviewers say has the characteristics that I’m looking for, even if it’s replacing a perfectly good piece. I have three adult children that can take the old one.
    I haven’t really thought about buying used equipment. Not that I’m against the idea but the product is often very newly released and isn’t sold in large numbers, or is somewhat bespoke in that I want the 950fp option over the 850, a specific denier of the fabric, and/or its length and width.
    The chief characteristic I look for is a meaningful improvement over the piece of gear I have, or it solves an issue I’ve experienced while using my existing gear. The new piece has to be lighter. Like a few years ago I replaced my Osprey Exos (a fine enough pack) with a ZPacks Arc Blast. The new pack was considerably lighter but I liked that dyneema would not soak through and get heavier on those inevitable day-long rains on the trail. Or, buying a ZPacks Altaplex for similar reasons to replace my BA Copper Spur. But there is a limit due to diminished returns—such as the issue the Altaplex has, and similar styled tents, where perimeter mesh venting becomes an entrance point for rain when I’ve inadvertently pressed wall outward during the night. The Durston XMid Pro looks like a nice solution but that is not a justifiable enough reason.

  74. I have loved reading everyone’s comments and their great tips. As someone on a limited (very) income every penny counts. I have sometimes spent over a year doing research on a piece of gear. I have gotten some great deals on Gear Trade and I have a few friends where we swap and borrow gear. I have a great friend that I trade her skill with gear repair for yard work. In a very odd way I enjoy the hunt for a great deal and almost everything has a great story of how I got it. If your nervous about used gear I have gotten great deals on “last years model” With Altra 8s out I will get 2 pair of 7’s for the same price as 1 pair of 8’s. Also stock up on Seam Seal.

  75. 1.) Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    It is too expensive for me, now living on SS income. Yes, I am retired now, but still love backpacking
    2.) Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    I keep looking for used ultra light gear, but what I have seen the prices are only 5 to $10 less then if I bought
    new!
    3.) What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or
    quilts?
    How light they are compared to the equipment that I already have. I did buy the REI Flash backpack
    which shaved off a pound from my older backpack. I was able to get the Gossmear 1, single wall 1pp tent
    from a friend, but not so sure I like the single wall , would love to get a lighter sleeping bag,

  76. I was introduced to lightweight gear by watching youtube videos of hikers on the AT & PCT. I eventually bought all the gear i needed for my thru hike of the AT. Being Older (60) i Knew I needed the lightest gear I could get, although expensive, you just have to have it. I got the zpacks Archaul backpack $325. the Zpacks duplex, $649. I think they gave me a discount, it’s usually $699. and i got the thermarest neoair xlite, in 2021 it was only $170.and I bought everything else that was popular on the trail at the time, 2020/2021 ultra lone peak 4’s darn tough and injinji socks, wore them together everyday never had a blister in the 700 miles of my 1st attempted thru hike. OR research rain jacket, loved this, $170. Patagonia R1, loved this also, actually I loved All the gear i chose because it all worked for me and I had the time of my life on the AT. Oh I also had the UGQ 20* bandit $400. and the EE Torrid Apex $170. I am on this website now because I am always thinking about my next hike, and always looking at the lastest gear, this sleeping pad would be a good upgrade for me as I am a side sleeper, if I don’t win it, I will buy it.

  77. Dareth Noren Herman

    1.) Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?
    I think it depends on what your goals are and how much you use it. I think if you are doing many backpacking trips or a thru-hike it is worth it to get ultralight gear. Or if you plan to go fast or have weight carrying limitations. As a smaller female, weight in my pack makes a big difference for me in terms of comfort while backpacking and how many miles I’m able to do without being miserable. As someone on a limited budget (single mom, teacher) who doesn’t spend weeks or months on end in the backcountry, I have to prioritize where I spend my money. I’ve definitely spent some good money to get my big three down in weight. However, I did change out my tent from a single wall (Tarptent Rainbow) to a Big Agnes Copper Spur HVUL2 because I wanted the weather protection (I live in MN). The Tarptent was fine for dry weather when I lived in AZ, but I never felt great about it in the rain. In my Big Agnes I feel much more confident that I’m going to remain comfortable and dry. Though both are great pieces of gear, the trade-off was definitely a higher weight as the Big Agnes is not ultralight.
    I think durability is another factor to consider and one that I’ll really be looking into as I hope to attempt a thru-hike of the PCT in a few years. I’ll be looking to go as light as possible while not compromising comfort or durability. That seems to be a hard balance to find.

    2.) Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?
    Yes, but I’m leery. I take really good care of my stuff, but I have trust issues so I would worry about putting a lot of money into something (because it seems like used ultralight is still very expensive) and then being disappointed in the quality or condition of the gear. I would love to see some of the smaller ultralight companies offer “test” equipment. It’s hard to pull the trigger on something so expensive when often times (with these companies) you can’t even see it in person before purchasing.

    3.) What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?
    I look for items that have been trail tested and live up to the price. If a product is really solid and does what it claims it will do, I have less issue putting down the $ for it. When it comes to backpacks I’m looking for a pack that is comfortable and durable. We know those things get tossed around! I also like pockets for organization. My current Mariposa fits the bill. I will max out the weight of that thing before I max out the capacity. And it’s been extremely durable for me. For my tent, I want to feel protected from the elements, but also the durability of the materials is high on my list. This is definitely an area I’ll take a weight penalty on. For a sleeping bag – I’m a cold sleeper so if a bag/quilt is rated to a certain degree I want to be comfortable at that degree, not just survive. I’m also looking for something that is light and compacts down to fit in my pack well.

  78. I would say Ultralight backpacking gear gets an unfair rap for being too expensive. Fundamentally, some of the craziest prices out there are just driven by the market — people clearly love DCF, or at least the idea of owning DCF, which is why you can find everything from 3-person tents to poop bags made out of this very expensive material with a seemingly niche use-case.

    That having been said, there is so much rich diversity of gear on the lower end of the price spectrum these days. Some of the best ultralight apparel, tents, packs, and other gear is on par with or cheaper than mainstream offerings from much bigger brands. I backpacked the Wind Rivers last year with a silpoly X-mid, a Granite Gear Virga 2, CostCo trekking poles, an AliExpress sleeping bag (okay this one I regretted) and an alpha fleece I bought for $65. I’m not saying this is budget stuff, but everything I took was UL and all of it definitely compares favorably to anything else on the market in terms of price-to-quality ratio.

    Would I ever consider buying used? The X-mid ($195) and Granite Gear pack ($85) I just referenced were both bought used, as was my sleeping pad (BA Rapide SL, $50). I would have bought the fleece used, if I could have found one. I am pretty comfortable in saying that there is a lot of great used UL gear on the market and that people on a budget would be very well served by making use of that fact. You just don’t need a brand-new DCF Duplex if it’s your first time trying ultralight backpacking! Buy that used TarpTent instead with a couple patches in it. It will not fall apart when you take it outside for the first time, I promise.

    When I’m looking to purchase a new piece of ultralight gear, I’m honing in on a couple things: does this accomplish exactly what I’m looking for this piece of gear to accomplish, and how does the price-quality ratio compare to the comparable options? For example, if I’m in the market for a sleeping pad for winter backpacking, I’m honing in on the two key factors: R-value, and weight. If I want something with an R-value above 6.0 at a weight that’s still reasonable for backpacking (<28oz), I'm quickly down to just 4 options: the Nemo Tensor Extreme, Thermarest Xtherm NXT, S2S Etherlight XT Extreme, and Exped Ultra 7R. From there, I will peruse sales, read side-by-side comparisons, and maybe test the products in an REI before I end up making a purchase. Either way, I try not to get distracted by flashy marketing or unnecessary features that end up not contributing to what I really need that piece of gear to do.

    That just about covers everything, I think.

  79. Ultra Lightweight gear can be expensive, especially if it is Insulated they come in all Shapes and sizes and some of them are not worth the price?. The more expensive pads can sometimes be a scam and one has to be careful, I once purchased a sleeping pad that was over $280 and the quality and material used were subpar and ended up popping on me in the middle of the night. It was ultra lightweight and paper thin the air inlet had tore off the pad rendering it useless.

    What called my attention to the pad was that it was insulated, 4” tall and had a very interesting Honeycomb design. For the Hefty price I was discouraged from taking a gamble and purchasing another Pad.

    Since then I’ve purchased a used sleeping pad off my Co-worker and that’s what I’ve been primarily using for now 2 years. It’s lightweight, about 2” thick, feels Durable and of better quality than my Forst more expensive purchase all in all, It gets the job done.

    I am in the market for a more taller sleeping pad for the Snow. What I seek in a pad is if it’s Insulated, Materials that it is constructed from is comfortable and Durable, R rating of a 4 or higher, packs Easy and is lightweight. ?

  80. Ultra Lightweight gear can be expensive, especially if it is Insulated they come in all Shapes and sizes and some of them are not worth the price. The more expensive pads can sometimes be a scam and one has to be careful, I once purchased a sleeping pad that was over $280 and the quality and material used were subpar and ended up popping on me in the middle of the night. It was ultra lightweight and paper thin the air inlet had tore off the pad rendering it useless.

    What called my attention to the pad was that it was insulated, 4” tall and had a very interesting Honeycomb design. For the Hefty price I was discouraged from taking a gamble and purchasing another Pad.

    Since then I’ve purchased a used sleeping pad off my Co-worker and that’s what I’ve been primarily using for now 2 years. It’s lightweight, about 2” thick, feels Durable and of better quality than my Forst more expensive purchase all in all, It gets the job done.

    I am in the market for a more taller sleeping pad for the Snow. What I seek in a pad is if it’s Insulated, Materials that it is constructed from is comfortable and Durable, R rating of a 4 or higher, packs Easy and is lightweight.

  81. 1) Yes, Ultralight gear is worth the cost. You just have to be judicious in what gear you spend your money on. Spend it on the big 3 others yes, get the weight down as much as possible. And yes I joined the Dan Durston Cult and bought a X Mid2 Pro tent in the race to lower my base weight.

    2) Yes, I have considered buying used gear many times.

    3) The chief characteristic I look for is weight vs longevity. This differentiates between sleeping bags, tents, etc.

  82. I tend towards carrying extra weight as a trade off for “bomb proofness”.

    Longevity, and the abillity to withstand the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” mean more to me than a couple less ounces. Sorry, ultra lighters, but I’d rather come upon your frozen corpse sweating, than freeze myself with you.

  83. After buying a UL tent and new pack….I can no longer afford a sleep pad to go on outdoor adventures

  84. Yeah…the stuff does seem sorta pricey, but if you compare UL backpacking equipment to other outdoor activities it’s not THAT FAR out of whack. Fly fishing, mountain biking, golfing, etc. all hit the wallet pretty hard, too. Especially if you purchase the boutique stuff. UL backpacking equipment isn’t much different in price point to those pursuits, but where I see the pain is in the durability. UL backpacking equipment seems to wear out and need replacing pretty frequently because it is subjected to some pretty rough usage. Fly rods last forever unless you slam ’em in your car door. If you want to increase the durability factor of almost anything or reduce the cost, the weight factor usually goes up. So, if you are gentle on your equipment then UL stuff will probably last a fair amount of time and the cost is only an occasional pain and not a frequently recurring one. If, on the other hand, you feel the need to “upgrade” every year or you need to “try out” the new stuff, then yes UL Backpacking is outrageously expensive. (By the way, I like to upgrade and try out stuff. You should see my gear closet.) In that case though, it’s kinda like beer…the stuff is a consumable purchase, not durable one.

    Also, going UL is a discretionary pursuit. You can still go backpacking with a 30 pound pack weight if you want to and it’s much less of a buy in. We used to do that all the time back in the eighties (says the old man as he shakes his fist at the sky). It’s just that hiking is a lot more enjoyable at 20 pounds than 30.

    One other observation…during COVID I got a sewing machine and started trying to make my own gear. It’s a ton of fun, I enjoy the process, and am generally satisfied with the end result, but make no mistake: MYOG is totally impossible to justify on an economic basis. Sewing equipment costs money and takes up space in my garage. Dyneema fabric, 850 fill wt down, all the specific hardware needed and all the other related stuff you never even think about is pretty expensive in its own right and takes some effort to track down. Initially, my end results were less than stellar (I got better at it, but my mistakes live in my gear closet). It takes a long time to make something like a backpack or sleeping bag or tent. Additionally, you aways run the risk of screwing up the project, wasting material and having to start over. So, when I take all that into account, suddenly the cost of UL backpacking equipment doesn’t seem so bad. Particularly when you consider the quality of the purchased boutique items along with the accompanying warranty IF something you purchase is faulty.

    As always, YMMV

    Steve

  85. I think it’s a time thing with UL, yeah it is expensive when a product is new and the production isn’t on a mass scale yet. So if you need the newest and lightest it will always be expensive. Wait a year or 3 and production across the board will be up and it will drive prices down. Dyneema is an excellent example of that. Originally it was crazy expensive, but now that it is mass produced, in comparison it is waay cheaper. You pay for new and exciting, or you wait and get it for cheaper. Heck half the new stuff can be bought on clearance or used less than a year after it comes out so companies can push new colors to make more money.

  86. It is generally very pricy, hence it took me years to fuly gear up to close to UL status. Since then I’ve discovered Outdoor Vitals and I like their stuff. We do have some Sea toSummit stuff and like it alot.

  87. With resources being limited and in need of a new tent in 2018 and while wishing I could justify the cost of a truly UL tent. I purchased a LanShanII and have been extremely happy with it ever since. Its been to CO, AZ, upper MI and I think even PA. However, this year I was going to have purchase another tent as one of the zippers on my LanShan has literally frozen shut making the 2nd door and vestibule useless. But a very gracious friend gifted me TT Stratospire II Li. If it wasn’t for his liberality I would have purchased another LanShanII. I understand (I think) why UL gear is costly but it obviously prices some people out of the market. I’m not complaining its just the way it is. I don’t need “Lexus” of gear to enjoy the great outdoors. I’m not thru-hiker as much as I’d like to be so I’m good with “toyota” level of gear.

  88. I try to purchase ultra light gear whenever possible. I have a small frame (122) and it definitely pays off to spend the extra cash to acquire good gear that is light. I have several items from Z Packs. I use their sleeping bag, Duplex Tent, ultra light rain jacket. I did attempt to use the ultralight backpack for 2 years, and finally gave in and sold the pack on line to another woman hiker. I went back to Osprey Exos which is built for comfort. It was not worth it to use a backpack that did not feel good on my body just to save a half pound in weight.

  89. For the most part ultralight gear seems to be appropriately priced. Unique and expensive materials, often handmade in low production quantities, and lightweight all add cost for a manufacturer. There are a few companies that seem overpriced compared to the competition but that is part of the free market. While the cost can be scary for a newcomer there are plenty of less expensive (and heavier) options to allow someone to start backpacking on a budget. I have seen the same scenario in bicycling components.

    I am older and not as comfortable with the trust needed to buy on the internet from people I don’t know, particularly items that are expensive even when used. There have been a few times I have bought online because that is the only place to find an out of stock or out of production item I am looking for.

    When buying I start looking for reputable companies that have been around a while. Read reviews and recommendations (Section Hiker has been particularly helpful). I look for quality and durability more so than weight. Any “lifetime” guarantee is only good for the life of the business so I want good stuff out of the box and not have to rely on a warranty to protect my investment.

    Have been very happy with my Warbonnet gear: Diamondback Quilt $350 (warm and light) and Ground Tarp $150 (light and dry). After many failed bear bag hanging attempts in my front yard for the entertainment of my neighbors I decided to get a Bearikade Scout which I would probably put in the overpriced category at $325 but it fits in my pack perfectly, holds all I need and lightest option for a canister. My Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy $110 is light and very competitively priced, used for Cowboy camping or pairing with my tarp. And of course Dutch manages to steal my money every time I visit the Dutchware website since there is always some piece of bling that makes my life in the backcountry easier.

  90. I started backpacking in the late 60’s early 70’s when my gear was primarily canvas and cotton. Cooking on wood fires, and cans of Dinty Moore were the haute cuisine in the mountains. I have incredibly warm memories of these things and I also remember the very cold nights whenever we got wet.
    New lightweight gear and high performance clothing has made an incredible impact on backpacking and camping in general. It has certainly made a difference in my comfort levels and my ability to hike and camp with much greater safety as well.
    As for the cost of these items it’s hard to dismiss the need for certain items and I know I’ve had to put off purchases up til I could find a sale, or better yet find a piece of gently used equipment that was passed along. ( As I too have passed along used equipment to folks just staring out…).
    My biggest new piece of equipment was a Slingfin Portal 2 and I have never looked back. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than some but it is bombproof, and I really appreciated it on the Florida Trail during some of the heavier rain storms. I still haven’t decided on whether to get a quilt or another mummy bag, and the jury is still out on an ultralight pack. I’m leaning towards the 6 Moons Designs Swift V with a vest suspension system. (It sounds great for someone who broke his back…)
    I think I’m in the lightweight camp and still dipping my toe into ultralight backpacking.

  91. You can find some ultralight gear with astronomical prices, but there’s usually cheaper alternatives out there. Lots of trekking pole tent options (especially if you’re willing to go without DCF), some smaller and lesser known backpack brands.Heck, my UGQ bandit cost me less than the fabric and down would have cost me to DIY one.

  92. 1. Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?

    For me, it’s not worth it yet. I’m fairly new to backpacking and still young and in good health, so a few extra pounds on my back is amicable compared to putting myself a few hundred dollars in the hole. I’m currently working on making a lightweight pack — aiming for a base weight around 15lbs — rather than ultralight since materials like DCF are still well outside of my price range.
    In my opinion, ultralight gear is worth the cost, especially from cottage gear manufacturers. You are paying for high-end, quality materials that work great in many conditions while still being functional and comfortable. I think ultralight is more worth it based on needs: long distance hiking, older folks, those with pre-existing medical conditions, etc. benefit more than someone like me who hikes about 10 miles a day during shoulder seasons in the north.

    2. Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

    Absolutely! r/Ultralight and the REI Re-Supply is where I’ve purchased most of my used gear and it all works great! My Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xtherm NXT was bought for $160 used online. Before that I used a Therm-a-rest Prolite Apex I bought for $85 at Re-Supply and I love it! Still use it for car camping or shorter summer trips due to its comfort.

    3. What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

    I try to find a balance in weight, features, durability, and cost. This means looking towards closeout sales or past year items. I recently bought a Granite Gear Crown3 for $145 after combining a sale, a 25% off coupon, and free shipping. Absolutely worth it to me because I want an affordable pack with features like pockets and gear attachment straps that is still lighter than, say, an Osprey or Gregory. For my tent, I didn’t feel the need to have one with tons of interior pockets since I always forget to empty them, hence the silpoly Durston X-Mid 1p has been an excellent addition to my core kit. My Montbell rain jacket cost over $200 but I chose it for its features and light weight. Same with my $90 Senchi. However, I have slept poorly with drafty quilts in the past and still carry a S2S AltII sleeping bag (which weight almost 3lbs) because it’s what works for me. I value my sleep above all else in the backcountry. I also carry a pillow for that reason. It’s all about what works for you. Hike your own hike!

  93. 1. Some of the bleeding edge ultralight gear is too expensive for the amount of weight you save relative to much cheaper options. However there are other ultralight options that are well worth the premium for the weight savings, paying attention to $/oz saved and targeting the big three is key to being aware of when it becomes a better idea to look at leaving things behind to save the same weight.

    2. I have bought ultralight gear because the people on the bleeding edge tend to want to chase the next new thing and are willing to sell lightly used gear for a decent discount. The lighter weight the material is the more careful you need to be if you don’t know the history of the piece.

    3. Weight, size, features, and usability/reviews

  94. Buying gear is like throwing dice. You can read all you want, till you pack it and use it, ya just don’t know. On the Fl Trail and AT I went low end . More weight cheap. Wear was ok
    Won’t do it again. You get what u pay for

  95. Yes. Ultra light gear is definitely expensive. However one can spend some money on an item if they appreciate the value an usefulness of a particular item.
    There are Many small companies which make such gear and I have an impression they are like a fashion and people brag about them.
    I get standard gear from REI mainly due to their generous return policy. Not worth spending hundreds of $$$ for something which may not fit after all and then pay for the return and stocking fees I looked at ULA packs and they only allow a month to return plus 15% fees.

    I have considered buying used lighter gear, but am not sure if it’s really still in good shape. The light stuff is also more fragile so there is a balancing act there.

    I try to be real about my needs and get what I truly need, not just the latest and lightest item. It would be nice to carry less weight, but not at the expense of safety and comfort.

  96. I believe UL is too expensive, as a novice trying to get into the hobby. I own an UL tent and I have to say that I think it was a good investment; but it was purchased second hand and still was over 400$. Attempting to keep pack weight low when you are on a multi day hike seems almost frivolous; when you consider food and water weight. Also I would add that UL does nothing for a person if the gear does not perform well in the given circumstances. Now obviously keeping pack weight below 15 lbs is going to make a significant difference than to say a 40 lb load, but if you are sacrificing comfort and performance to cover more ground; I just don’t see the point. I have had loads pushing 40 lbs that with a proper fitting bag were very manageable, and I have had UL trips that become cumbersome just from the water weight.

  97. The problems with a lot of ultralight gear are the compromises. A tarp is lighter than a tent, but now you don’t have bug protection, and you’re lying down in the mud. Ultralight backpacks don’t have a vented back, so you’re sweating a ton. A down sleeping bag can’t get wet, and is difficult to clean. A lot of sleeping pads are only 20” or 22” wide, which isn’t wide enough for an average person’s shoulders, or they have the bottom cut off, so you’re feet are either on the cold ground or on your backpack. Single-walled tents mean everything is going to get damp in the tent. So there’s a lot of expensive ultralight gear I don’t want, because backpacking is more than just the miles hiked, it’s also enjoying yourself once at camp.

    But cheap stuff can also mean compromises. A cheap sleeping pad isn’t insulated, so you’re either freezing or having to get a heavier sleeping bag. A cheap backpack won’t carry the weight well. The key is finding that balance between getting something that’s decent, will do the job well, but also isn’t so expensive that you’re paranoid that something will happen to it.

    Many times I feel like the weight is just the cost of doing business. I use a Grayl Ultralight Press ($90). It’s on the heavy side, but it doubles as a water container, it filters out EVERYTHING. (I suspect that potential viruses are blamed on food poisoning. If there are people or animals, then viruses can be present. Norovirus can be found in the Grand Canyon.) It also it filters the water very quickly. When I’m thirsty, I want to chug. I don’t want to suck anything, that’s too much work. I can also filter for others in my party, and it’s easy to fill their water bottles from a Grayl. I also carry a bear canister ($80). It’s heavy, but 1) I don’t have to screw with a bear hang, which isn’t even possible in some locations, 2) I’m protecting my food from minibears, and 3) no matter where I go, I know I’m meeting the local requirements. I also carry a Flextail Gear electric pad pump. It’s $40 and 6.9 oz, but not only is it super easy to pump up the pad, but it is also my backup flashlight, as well as my battery backup.

    I haven’t bought used ultralight gear because I’m still buying the middle range stuff. The most expensive piece of equipment I’ve bought are a Durston X-Mid2 tent ($280) and an Osprey Exos Pro 55 backpack ($290). Both of those are less than $300, and you can still find lighter products, so I still consider them a step below ultralight. I haven’t looked too closely on where to buy used gear, beyond REI. I also like the idea of being able to return something if there is something that is a dealbreaker that I overlooked.

    My purchases are first driven by trying to figure out what exactly I want. I buy the cheap stuff first, to get familiar with the pros and cons, and then that drives my intermediate purchases. The Lanshan 2 ($120) was my first introduction to trekking pole tents, and I found that it is too thin for two people. My Durston X-Mid2 solves that problem, but I still have the Lanshan, as it is a good tent for a single user. Once I know what I want, I look at the weight savings. I love my old Osprey Rook backpack, but going to an Exos Pro 55 saved me 1.5 pounds, and it was only $100 more than a Rook, and I needed another backpack anyway for a family member, so I got myself the Exos Pro.

    As far as specific characteristics:
    Backpacks: Does it have a back vent, so I won’t sweat a ton, is it comfortable, and will it hold all my stuff? A lot of ultralight backpacks include the pockets in their volume, so if it won’t hold a bear canister horizontally, it’s a no-go.
    Tents: is it at least 25” wide per person? Does it have a vestibule, and does it have two doors, so no one has to crawl over someone else? I also don’t like single-person tents, because they typically don’t have hardly any headroom, like the walls are on both sides of my head.
    Sleeping bags: This is the hardest to figure out. I own like 10 sleeping bags, so this is a good example where I probably should have just bought the expensive stuff at the start. All of them are synthetic, because I’m allergic to down, and I don’t want to worry about them getting wet. Unless it’s rated for 40 degrees or higher, it better have baffles around the neck. I also like to ensure that it’s been ISO tested, and then I like to measure the height of the loft. I sleep cold, even though I’m a 200-lb man, so I use the comfort rating, not the lower limit. My head gets the coldest, so that’s why I haven’t considered a quilt. I also have found that as a 6’ tall person, technically I can fit in a regular-sized sleeping bag, but I’m much warmer and more comfortable in a large, and it’s only a few more ounces. My two current favorites are the Kelty 20 ($110), comfort rated at 32 degrees and 3 pounds, and the Kelty 0 ($120), comfort rated at 18 degrees and 5 pounds. I’m intrigued by the Marmot extra wide at 3 pounds and 32 degrees comfort rating, but it’s $190, so I haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

    My backpack weighs less than 30 pounds with everything, so I feel like that’s doable. I’m willing to cut weight even more, but I don’t want to use products that are technically worse than I’m using now, or cost more than $300. I also typically hike with my wife and son, which means I’m buying three of everything, which makes the cost more important. If I was a thru-hiker, I would splurge for the expensive stuff (Dyneema), but this is a hobby, not a job. In other words, my toothbrush hasn’t been cut in half.

  98. Ultralight gear was too expensive for me when I was at university and just beginning my hiking adventure. Then I needed cheap and strong gear. Spending time outdoors with friends was much more important then the gear I used.

    Now as I am older I appreciate certain luxuries like light backpack, good weatherproof jacket, warm sleeping bag. And now I can afford those luxuries. For me light and ultralight gear is worth its price. Especially the big items: tent, bag, backpack , shoes, stove.

    I would not buy used ultralight gear from strangers/internet.

    Buying new gear I look foremost at reliability. There is nothing worse then leaky mattress or tent. If my stove breaks I get hungry. So I look first for quality, then for weight and then finally for price.

    Greg

  99. Like a lot of things, some ultralight backpacking gear is too expensive and some isn’t. Is it worth the cost? The answer is, “it depends.” Personally, I think there is a lot of competition right now among manufacturers of the four big items, i.e., shelters, backpacks, sleeping pads, and sleeping bags/quilts. I think that helps keep the prices relatively low, although that is not to say they are cheap!! Used gear in these areas tends to be problematic: few of us would buy used sleeping bags, for example, unless we were really pressed for money. Used tents are fine, as are backpacks.

    However, that brings me to backpacks. In my opinion, most packs are overpriced for what you get, mostly because they don’t really fit and because they aren’t very well designed. I personally have tried many packs over the years, including Gossamer Gear Gorilla and Mariposa; HMG Southwest; ULA Ohm; Superior Wilderness Design Long Haul 50; Z-Packs Arc Haul, Lowe Trek (way back in the 80s), Karrimor (in the 80s), the classic Kelty external frame (60s and 70s), etc. So I think I can speak with some authority. Some of these were downright uncomfortable (Kelty); uncomfortable and flimsy (Z-Packs); some were unstable under load and had such narrow, lightweight straps that they were even hard to handle (SWD, Z-Packs); and most just didn’t fit (when the torso size is in various ranges from 3 to 4 inches and isn’t adjustable, you can’t pretend it will fit all sizes within that range). In my experience most pack manufacturers just don’t understand the physics of how to make a comfortable load carrier; are unwilling to make custom packs that fit the individual customer; and do not otherwise understand efficient, usable pack characteristics. Pack-making expertise and custom fit are expensive, and most people are not willing, or are unable, to pay the price of a custom pack.

    In my case, I finally spent close to $1,000 on a custom made McHale. It isn’t “ultralight”, whatever that means exactly, but it is supremely comfortable no matter how much weight is in it. And all of its features, including side water pockets and waste belt pockets are large enough and easy to use. In addition, this thing cannot be worn out, period. Is it worth it? For me, a resounding “yes.” But once again, that is simply my opinion. When I think about it, I spent a lot more than $1000 in years of trying other packs until I found McHale.

    Beyond packs, my favorite shelter is the super light Locus Gear Khufu (pyramid, 11 oz). But Durston makes a really great set of tents, including both the polyester and DCF models, which I think are very reasonably priced. Tarptent makes great tents too, especially the Notch Li. But with tents, the most important thing to look out for is how well a shelter will stand up to driving rain and high winds. Unfortunately, most shelters sold in the U.S. seem to be designed for the arrid West or the great green tunnel that is the Appalachian Trail. Very few users ever camp in sustained rain and really strong winds (by that I mean, rain and wind that continues for days at a time). In my experience, nothing that is lightweight will do as well in those conditions as a pyramid. Yes, you can carry a Hilleberg dome or an old North Face VE-24 and they will be great. But those are a lot heavier than I personally am willing to haul.

    For sleeping, I have been using Katabatic quilts for the past 8 years — in my view, perfect, although they are expensive. But a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Likewise, I use the Sea to Summit Ether XT sleeping pad. The regular size is about 2 inches wider that the regular size of other sleeping pads, which for me is just enough to keep my arms from falling off the sides at night. Finally, for adverse weather conditions, I also use a Mountain Laurel Designs superlight bivy inside my pyramid. It provides extra warmth, and also helps keep me from rolling off my sleeping pad.

  100. Most ultralight backpacking gear has become too expensive.
    I have not considered buying used ultralight backpacking gear.
    The chief characteristics I’m looking for are quality & durability. I will go without if I can’t find a product with these characteristics for a reasonable price.

    I purchased an ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 2-Person Tent for $71.97 in 2022. Today, the price is $124.99 and it would be difficult to purchase another for that price.

    I purchased a Streamlight MicroStream 45-Lumen AAA Pocket Flashlight for $12.54 in 2023. Today, the price is $19.99. While the 60% price increase is disturbing, I would buy another because it is an excellent flashlight.

  101. Wow – so many great responses here!

    Is Ultralight backpacking Gear too expensive or is it worth the cost?

    Overall, like some other posters, ultralight is a must for me. I’m 60, and my knees are shot, so every ounce impacts my ability to keep going (and going, and going…). I do A LOT of research before making a purchase and I’m willing to spend money for high quality and low weight.

    I invested in a Durston X-Mid Pro 1 tent last year, which saved me about a pound (worth the cost). I also got a 30-degree quilt to use instead of my 20-degree one, which saved weight and volume (worth the cost). I’m a vegan backpacker, so I have the Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX (the only ultralight synthetic option I’ve seen). The quilt is fantastic but bulky. This factor has meant that it’s hard for me to fit everything into a smaller backpack, esp. if I need a bear canister. I’m currently using a ULA Circuit. I love it, but it’s on the heavier side. I’ve struggled with rain gear. I have the Zpacks Vertice jacket, and it didn’t hold up on a rainy day on the Wonderland Trail – I was quite disappointed. I was also using a rain kilt (works well with my Purple Rain skirt), but after that bad day, I’m now considering other options. At this point, I don’t think the jacket was worth the cost. If I’m using a stove, I have a Jetboil Stash. I thought about trying something even lighter, but haven’t seen an option that would save me much more weight, so I haven’t spent money on that. My Nitecore charger and headlamp were definitely worth the cost – good products that save weight. Oh, and I’m forever looking for vegan lightweight boots that are wide enough and not too squishy.

    I recommend lighterpack.com for tracking/planning gear and weight!

    Have you considered buying USED ultralight backpacking gear?

    I would get used gear if I could find what I needed – less waste is good!

    What are the chief characteristics you look for when purchasing ultralight backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, or quilts?

    As mentioned earlier, I look for vegan gear. Overall, I need efficient, lightweight gear that won’t fail out in the wild. Like some have mentioned, there are times when a non-freestanding tent has been a challenge, but it would be hard to go back to carrying the extra weight for a freestanding tent at this point.

  102. David Miller of Massachusetts won the raffle.

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