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Cheap And Lightweight Backpack Alternatives

Ultralight backpackers are always looking for the lightest backpacks. Unfortunately, lighter usually means more expensive when it comes to backpacking gear. There are some ways around this, though, for those on a tighter budget. There are ways to buy a lightweight backpacker cheaper, and also ways to make them. The latter is easier than you might think.

Making A Cheap Lightweight Backpack

There are some, like ultralight backpacking guru Ray Jardine, who sew their own backpacks. I have sewn some backpacking gear and clothing before, and I can tell you from experience that unless you are extremely skilled at sewing, it isn't likely to come how you expect it to. Also unless you want to become an expert at sewing, making a backpack this way takes too much time for the money saved. It would be better to just work an extra shift at your job and buy a good pack.

Don't give up on making a lightweight backpack yet, though. There is another way. I made a backpack that weighs just two pounds even, and it is a full frame-and-hipbelt pack. It started with an old frame pack I have had since I was fourteen-years-old. I removed the old pack, which had been chewed by mice and was beyond repair. Now I was ready to build my new backpack

The straps and hip belt were still good, fortunately. The frame was aluminum, and surprisingly light by itself. I took a large nylon duffel bag, which by itself only weighs eight ounces, and filled it full of my gear. Then I simply used bungee cords to attach it too the frame (zipper out) and it was ready. For the cost of a duffel bag, I had an external-frame backpack that not only held a lot, but weighed just two pounds.

Buying A Cheap Lightweight Backpack

There are several ways to buy cheap lightweight backpacks. Waiting for a good sale comes to mind, but there are quicker ways. Here are five of them.

1. Try backpacking or other outdoor forums that allow people to sell their gear, like Forums are nice, because you can easily ask the owner questions about the pack.

2. Try Ebay or other online auction sites. I have seen some nice backpacks go pretty cheap on Ebay.

3. Thrift stores sometimes have cheap lightweight backpacks. More often, they have day packs and big old packs, but think creatively. I've seen old frame packs at thrift shops, and realized that I could toss the pack, and use the frame with a duffel bag, as described above.

4. Buy used backpacks at rummage sales. Look for ads that mention outdoor gear. If you call first, to see if they have a backpack you want, you may be able to buy it before the sale starts. Shop early, and negotiate. I sold my almost-new Kelty frame-pack for fifteen dollars at my garage sale.

5. Fortunately, unlike with other gear, lighter backpacks are often cheaper than the heavy ones to begin with. Lighten the load, and you can save money too. Frame-less ultralight backpacks usually weigh less than two pounds and are often on sale for under one hundred dollars. My own Go-Lite lightweight backpack weighs just thirteen ounces, and it was also a cheap backpack, on sale for just eighty dollars when I bought it.

About the Author: Steve Gillman is a long-time advocate of lightweight backpacking. His tips, photos, gear recommendations and a free book can be found at

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