All prices in U.S. dollars.
VauDe's Markill Spitfire ($33; 800 447 1539; www.vaude.com) is a compact and lightweight stove (nine ounces [0.26 kilogram]) that attaches to any screw-on butane or propane canister. The pot supports retract; the windscreen is built in.
The price is so low partly because VauDe relies on word of mouth (no advertising) and sells directly to stores (no distributors). Yes, there are lighter stoves, but they're around twice the price. Though they may be worth it for some outings, most are less durable, and many lack the Spitfire's piezoelectric ignition and adjustability from simmer to boil.
For most camping and backpacking trips, the Spitfire offers excellent performance as well as the best price.
Light Pack, Priced Right
Mountaineers know that lightweight, no-frills packs are often the best ones. Lafuma's Extreme 42 Light ($85; +1 303 527 1460; www.lafuma.fr) costs half to a third as much as its competition, but it's no compromise.
The Extreme does away with bulky side pockets and weighty compartments. More heft is shed through the use of a lightweight foam suspension system.
The result? A rugged rucksack that weighs only two pounds four ounces [one kilogram] but can haul 2,500 cubic inches [40,967 cubic centimeters] of gear.
Even in 2001, goose down outperforms synthetics in warmth-to-weight ratio, compressibility, and durability. Until recently, it also cost more. But smarter manufacturing has lowered prices.
While inexpensive, Marmot's Never Winter Sleeping Bag ($179; +1 707 544 4590; www.marmot.com) is stuffed with 600-fill-power goose down that will keep you warm in 30°F [-1°C] temperatures. Bulkier, more expensive bags are worthwhile for frigid nights, but if you don't need 'em, don't buy 'em.
The Never Winter weighs a mere 31 ounces [0.9 kilogram]; many comparable bags cost a hundred dollars more and add a pound [half a kilogram] in weight.
Getting Fleece (Without Getting Fleeced)
Fleece is a layering mainstay; excellent value is provided by Patagonia's Expedition Weight Capilene Fleece top (men's, $68; women's, $65; 800 638 6464 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.patagonia.com), which switch-hits as both a base layer and a middle layer.
There's no wind-blocking membrane in this fleece, and that's a good thing. Windproof fleece is versatileyou can use it as outerwear in mild weatherbut also more expensive, less breathable, and heavier. In severe conditions, under a waterproof shell, plain fleece works better. For the greatest warmth and least weight, dispense with zippers and pockets, too.
You can buy a fleece jacket at Costco for around $30, but you give up durability. This pullover (the women's is shown) weighs only eight ounces [227 grams] and takes up scant room in your pack.
Headgear of Its Class
The cost of buying separate bike, ski, and skate helmets easily tops several hundred dollars. A ski helmet alone can cost $125. Boeri's Kameleon (distributed by MPH Associates; 800 394 6741 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.boeriusa.com) costs only $100, and it's a multisport helmet that's designed for skateboarding, in-line skating, biking, and snow sports.
A cold-weather liner pops out for hot weather. Reducing the plastic over the ears has made for a helmet that's lighter and less claustrophobic than most ski helmets yet tougher than the standard bike helmet. And the Kameleon weighs just 14.5 ounces [411 grams].
Take Your Pick
Unless you're attacking vertical frozen waterfalls, you don't need a technical ice ax. Rather than pay upwards of $200 for a short-shafted, curved-pick model, buy Climb Axe's Kong Raid Axe ($55; +1 503 236 9552; www.climbaxe.com).
Lightweight mountaineering axes like this are better suited than heavy technical tools for hiking Colorado's Fourteeners, preparing to ski Tuckerman's Ravine, or climbing Mount Rainier. The 65-centimeter [26-inch] version weighs just over a pound [half a kilogram]; the company's aluminum 65-centimeter Iper Light weighs a mere 6.5 ounces [184 grams], for about $10 more.
While they're not full-blown technical tools, these CE-certified axes are plenty competent at cutting out steps and boot belays.
Photographs by Michele Gastl