Chasing the ultralightweight savings game can be as addicting as….pretty much anything else hunting-related, and equally as expensive. Dang, I thought I was going to come up with a sweet metaphor there. I love getting new gear, but I’m sometimes too cheap to drop the big bucks on the hottest stuff that all the cool kids are into. I’m not always cheap, but I prefer to think I’m putting my dollars where they can do the most damage out in the woods. Plus, selective cheapness provides more disposable income for important things like overpriced microbrews, truck tires, and full body tattoos. So I actually only partake in two of those three things, but feel free to substitute in your own vices. Anyway, I’ve come up with a quick list of some of my favorite lightweight pack items. Some are higher end and some are dirt cheap. I hope you can find a couple to use on your next daytrip or overnighter.
*All weights listed are actual measurements unless noted otherwise.
The Steripen has been around for a while, but is new to me. Not only is it 10 oz lighter than my Katadyn Hiker, but it also comes with the upside of size and time convenience as well. What would you prefer? Slogging water for 20 minutes through a pump-style filter that takes up a quarter of your pack space, or waving a tiny lightsaber for 60 seconds.
The downside? Unlike the pump filter, the Steripen only protects you from microorganisms. It does not control cloudiness, chemicals, or floaters. So make sure you have an idea of the water quality issues you may be facing before packing your gear. It also has a vaguely similar appearance to a medical device.
Weight: 5 oz
Comparison: Katadyn Hiker – 15 oz
Hydrapak Seeker Collapsible Water Bottle (3L)
I love this thing. It’s lighter than a Camelbak, and you don’t have to sip through those annoying rubber straws. It’s not rigid like a conventional water bottle, so finding a spot inside (or strapped outside) of an overfull pack is much easier. The lack of a hose and the wide-mouth design make it much easier to clean and keep sanitary as well. It’s quieter than a conventional water bottle too, since you can purge out the air to eliminate the ‘sloshing’ when the bottle is less than completely full. That’s always been one of my pet peeves when trying to slink through the woods as quietly as possible.
Downside? Like the Camelbak, it’s got that plastic taste.
Weight: 3.3 oz
Comparison: Camelbak 3L reservoir – 8 oz (claimed)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sack (35L)
How many packs do you have already? If you’re like me, you’ve got at least one for week-long hunts, and one for day hunts, or maybe one or two that are supposed to be for both but really don’t work for either. I use these dry sacks to add versatility to my frame pack, and have eliminated the need for a daypack for single day out-and-back hunts. These are actually pretty damn reasonable for an “ultralight” labeled item, as I’ve actually found them for much less than other conventional dry bags. For the burden of a couple extra ounces, my Eberlestock Mainframe pack now has the convenience, organization, and protection of a fully waterproof daypack, while still having the frame to haul meat. Grab a couple different sizes to keep you organized for various hunting trip needs.
Downside? The material for these bags is very thin and could have durability issues, depending on where you hunt and what you’re crawling through in the field. I’ve used them for several years and haven’t had any problems.
Weight: 3.2 oz
Comparison: There are tons of dry sacks out there, and typical weights for 35L are around 8-10 oz or more
Black Ovis Lightweight Game Bags
Although not cheap, they are probably the most reasonable in the lightweight game bag department. The old standard was the Alaska Game Bag, and I still keep those around back at the truck just in case I need some backups. The Black Ovis large bag kit comes with four bags, gloves, a lightweight tarp, a roll of flagging tape, and a mesh carry bag. Pulling out the tarp, gloves, and flagging tape dropped the weight by a few ounces down to 13 oz. But, bigger than the weight savings are the space savings. The Alaska Bags are difficult to fit into a gallon-sized ziplock, and the Black Ovis bags are a little larger than a fist.
Downside? I haven’t found any issues with them yet.
Weight: 13 oz
Comparison: Alaska Game Bags – 1 lb 8 oz
Nemo Fillo Elite Pillow: 2.8 oz
This is a real pillow. I have decided a pillow is a luxury that I will not forego. I used to use the Thermarest compressible pillow, but that thing really doesn’t compress down very well, and it takes up too much valuable pack space (but it’s comfortable). The Nemo pillow is smaller than a baseball when in its stuff sack. It’s inflatable and has a soft, comfortable fabric surface. Ignore the countless lightweight pillows out there on Amazon for $15. Those feel like an old inflatable pool toy, and you would probably be more comfortable resting your head on a balled-up sweatshirt.
Downside? None found yet.
Weight: 2.8 oz
Comparison: Not using a pillow is always an option that many hunters are happy with, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Hunting is hard and strenuous, take care of your neck.
Crystal Geyser Bottled Water (or similar) (16 fl oz): 0.4 oz
This has got to be my ultimate cheapo-yuppy-ultralight-dummy tip. The typical bottled water packaging for brands such as Crystal Geyser, Arrowhead, or any generic store water is incredibly light, since it’s supposed to be disposable, duh. For dayhunts where I won’t need more than a couple liters, I just pack a few of these. They can be squashed down to purge any air from the bottle too, eliminating the annoying ‘slosh’ mentioned above.
Downside? You’re constantly buying bottled water, even though you know tap water is fine.
Weight: 0.4 oz
Comparison – Nalgene (32 fl oz): 6 oz (I used the 32 fl oz Nalgene because it is more common, even though it’s twice the volume of the disposable bottle)