December 14, 2015 / Comments (3)

Ten Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

It’s no secret that backpacking gear can get expensive quick, no matter how long your trip is. Here are ten tips for backpacking on a budget to get you on the trail without breaking the bank.

Go For Cheap or Free

Sometimes the gear you need for a hike is right under your nose. If I’m going to use a waterbottle, I prefer using a Smartwater bottle. This is for a couple reasons: a Sawyer Mini threads perfectly onto one, it’s much lighter than a Nalgene bottle, and it comes with free water! 😉

Another biggie is your first aid kit. Stop dropping money on pre-made kits. You likely have everything you need already in your medicine cabinet and they do just fine in a Ziplock bag.

Less is More

By committing to a lightweight setup, you’ll automatically reduce the number of items you’ll need to buy. For me, that’s going without camp shoes, pillow (use a stuff sack with extra clothing for one!), multiples of everything, cups, bowls, and that big first aid kit- to start! You can use that budget you would have spent on that gear to upgrade your more valuable gear items or just pocket it.

Do Your Research

The big three (sleep system, shelter, and pack) can be expensive. What’s worse is saving $100.00 on a sleeping bag and realizing it doesn’t keep you warm at night or your pack is way too small. Do your research first: try on gear in stores, read tons of reviews online, and borrow from a friend before you make a purchase. There is nothing worse than buying something only to have to replace it a year later because it failed or you simply didn’t do your research and found something better.

Get a Deal

This may sound obvious, but many people are trigger happy when shopping online. Be sure you are getting the best deal possible. Many companies have sales for major holidays or coupons when you sign up for their newsletter/email list. Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well as Labor Day Weekend, and the 4th of July are big sale dates, even for some cottage manufacturers.

Rent or Borrow

If you’re going backpacking for the first time or to an area you don’t have the right gear for, to rent or borrow some items. Instead of investing in a 15 degree sleeping bag for a one week trip or buying a bear canister when you live on the East Coast, rent from your local outdoor shop or borrow from a friend.


It won’t help you save money now, but if there’s gear laying around your house that you don’t have a use for, sell it! There are multiple Gear Flea Market Facebook Groups for this as well as GearTrade or Ebay. There’s a good chance that there’s someone who is just starting out that would love your old pack, heavier sleeping bag, or freestanding tent.

Shop Last Year’s Styles

Like everywhere else, the outdoor industry has its own styles and trends that cycle year to year. Here is where attention to detail is key. You may be able to score big on an item from sites like Backcountry.com or REI’s Outlet store simply because the colors have been updated. Often there are bigger changes such as technical improvements, additional features, or lighter materials. Compare the item you stumble upon with the newer version and made sure when looking at the specs, you’re not missing out on a great new feature.

When I bought my camera- a Sony Alpha a5000 I compared it to the a6000 and decided for me, I wouldn’t miss out on the features the a6000 had and opted to save $150.00!


Making your own gear might be a big flop if you aren’t crafty or lack patience, but it could pay off big time. You can also make smaller items like firestarters, a pot cozy, stuff sacks, or an aluminum can alcohol stove!

Gear Up Outside of Gear Shops

You may be surprised by what you can find outside of the stores you typically find outdoor gear at. A window insulating sheet from your local hardware store can be used as an ultralight ground sheet, pack liner, or rain skirt. If you’re looking for baggies to hold small items, the craft store will have you covered- plus there’s always a 40% off coupon available at a Michael’s or A.C. Moore store.

Of course, just about anything you may need can be found on Amazon!

Buy in Bulk

This goes mostly for trail food. If there’s a bar you like, get a box instead of individual bars. For example, a PROBAR Meal Bar costs $3.00 a piece at REI, but you can get a whole box of them on Amazon for $2.37 each (prices may vary). I recommend doing the same for dry ingredients if you’re looking to dehydrate your own food.

Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments section below!

Last modified: September 1, 2017

3 Responses to :
Ten Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

  1. Normand Bourque says:

    They forgot to mention facebook groups. I manage a gear group where you can buy and sell used gear. It’s a great community and great deals can always be found. There are tons of groups on Facebook that serve the same purpose! NH Camping Swap

    1. allison says:

      I did under the Resell section!

  2. Melanie says:

    Great tips! Never considered buying whole boxes of bars but they last a long time and would definitely be a money saver long term. Thanks!

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