Back to Adventure Alan's Ultralight Backpacking Home Page: This contains a wealth of information on backpacking with gear lists, trip reports, backpacking techniques for various whether and environments (cold rainy weather, alipine hiking, desert hiking), etc. While focused on lightweight backpacking, much of the content applies to all styles of backpacking.

2008 Note: This $250 Challenge page is in the process of a complete update for 2008. Please keep checking in as the content is soon to be revised and new content added

$250 Challenge

9 lb. Basic Pack  -  12.8 lb. From the Skin Out (FSO)

Link to $250 Challenge List

I wrestled a bit with this. My goal was to get as light a load as possible (under 10 pounds basic pack weight and under 13 FSO) but still stay within the price limit. I also wanted have solid durable gear with as few “freebie cheap shots” and “never to be repeated closeouts” as possible. I also included clothing worn in my cost if it wasn’t something non-backpacker would normally own. The major decisions towards this goal are as follows:

No stove or cookware

Homemade 1 pound quilt

Tyvek tarp from building site scraps

  (an admitted “freebie cheap shot”)

Select equipment for +45 degree temperatures (per John O)

No stove or cookware. This is how I currently hike but I realize that many may not wish to go this route. A homemade alcohol stove, cheap pot, and plastic bowl and spoon would not add much cost or weight. There are light commercial stoves in the range of $30 - $60.

Homemade quilt - 1 pound - $58. This is the major contributor to my weight and price goals. I would prefer to not have homemade equipment on the list since some of us have neither the time nor talent to sew. But there was no way to make my weight and price goals with any commercially available sleep system. The quilt is easy make and shouldn’t take even a first time sewer more than a day to construct. Food stuff sack is made from quilt fabric scraps. The synthetic bags in this price range are way too heavy (2+ to 3+ pounds) and light down bags way too expensive (from $150 and up). I included some heavier and more expensive bags at the end of my list if you can’t sew. My first bag choice would be a RAB Top Bag at $150 to $175 including shipping from UK. Marmot Arroyo bags, 1.75 pounds, can be found on closeout for as little as $99 but you have to get lucky. Look in my equipment links under Sleep Systems for more info on making a quilt.

REI Alpine Rucksack - $60 - 3000 ci - 2 lb 6 oz.  I have personal experience using this pack for multiple day trips and it is fine. Nice pack with plenty of room and lots of pockets. No structure just a foam back At my equipment weight, this should not be a problem. Any other non-frame closeout backpack/bookpack in the 2500 to 3000 cu in range should work. The price could be as low as $25. There is usually a Kelty pack that meets these criteria on closeout from Campmor. I did not feel comfortable putting a G4 on the list since it is not currently available for the $70 off the shelf price, but only as a $140 semi-custom pack. At $100, the GoLite Breeze would be my first choice as it is readily available and more durable.


Tyvek scraps for a 6x9 sheet bend tarp and ground cloth. My major “freebie cheap shot.” I feel somewhat justified in doing this since I recently obtained enough scraps to do this from a construction site. (I didn’t steal but asked for it.) 4 mil plastic sheet could also be used at minimal cost.  If the shelter must be durable, a Campmor 5x7 nylon tarp at $20 and 12 oz. could also be used at minimal weight and cost impact. Campmor’s 6x8 silnylon tarp would be my first choice but at $55 it was too expensive for the $250 challenge.

Iodine for water treatment. Would prefer to use a PUR Hiker or a SWA inline filtration system but the approx. $60 price for these filter systems was too high.

Flashlight - “Rayovac 2 AAA aluminum penlight” - $1.49 K-Mart. A Pocket Bright or Photon at $20 would be my first choice but again too expensive. Besides, I may use a light a maximum of one to two minutes on an 8 day trip.

-Adventure Alan