Many people might think that in order to go backpacking they need to have all the fancy gear… the top name-brand hiking boots, backpack, tent, water filtration system, etc. While having these top brand items is a luxury, it is not a necessity to start out your backpacking journey. There is no doubt that once you’ve become a seasoned backpacker you may catch the “gear junkie” bug. However, for us, Sarah and Andy of Hiking Thru Life, backpacking started with basic gear – off brands from Amazon or hand-me-down gear from both of our families. The gear we started with was a bit bulky and heavier than the ultralight gear we dreamed of, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Check out the tips below on how to find backpacking gear on a budget!
The most inexpensive way to get out backpacking is FREE!!! When it comes to finding backpacking gear on a budget there are a few ways to score free stuff.
1. Borrow gear
If you already know somebody that has all of the gear for backpacking, see if they will borrow you the gear. This is a great way to begin without worrying about the financial commitment of purchasing gear.
2. Use things you already own or that you find in nature
Consider things you may already own or that you can find out in nature. For example, instead of purchasing trekking poles you can use a couple of longer sticks. You can use cookware you find around your kitchen. Dental floss or shoelaces can be used if you don’t have any rope. The possibilities are endless, especially with some creativity!
3. Attend promotional events at your local outdoor store
These events often have giveaways, whether it is a small item just for attending or larger items that are raffled off. We love attending events at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis. These events also allow you to connect with fellow outdoors people. There are sometimes even gear swap events where you can come in and trade or sell your gear with others. One of our personal favorite events is the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo… save the date April 24-26, 2020!
Used gear can be amazing! A lot of avid backpackers tend to upgrade gear every so often which is great for people looking to get some higher-end gear at a fraction of the cost. Here are some different ways to score used gear for backpacking on a budget.
1. Thrift/second hand stores
We have bought most of our clothing for hiking/backpacking at thrift stores. We warn you to be in the right mindset and have patience when going through the racks of clothing. However, it’s a high probability you can find some budget clothing at your local Goodwill, Savers, or similar type store!
2. Online marketplaces
You can often find people selling nearly new items on here. It’s always worth a browse if you have a specific item in mind. Look for pictures that show the object at every angle and quality brands that are known to be consistently made to last.
3. Garage sales
There are the traditional garage/yard sales that you can find around your neighborhood. Most outdoor stores also have “garage sale” days a few times per year. These are perfect to check out if you are looking to purchase gear on a budget.
EcoElsa Tip: Check out the scratch & dent or clearance section at outdoor stores sometimes you can find a great bargain. My favorite was a pair of used hiking boots returned at REI that normally were $200 and were on sale in the scratch & dent section for $80. I have had them for 6 years now and other than replacing the arch support last year they are still in as great quality as when I got them!
4. Rent gear
The sticker price of new higher-end gear is what might be holding some people back from getting into backpacking in the woods, especially if you are new to it. Fear not, there are still ways to get new gear for a good price.
1. Shop sales
This is the most obvious. Watch out for those sales and coupons. The easiest way to get sales info is to sign up to receive emails from your favorite stores or online shops.
2. Shop end of season clearance/closeout sales
Check stores towards the end of the camping season. There are often sales on summer items to make room for the winter gear. Also, checkout stores in your area that are going out of business for great deals.
3. Shop smaller or lesser known brands
This is one thing we do often. When we find a name brand item that is beyond our budget, we search for a similar item on Amazon or elsewhere online. You can usually find very similar items from a lesser known brand at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to read reviews of these products so you still buy a quality product.
There are numerous ways to find backpacking gear on a budget for your next adventure without breaking the bank. Sometimes it takes creativity or a bit of patience when searching for gear. It’s not about the name brands or the top-rated gear when you first start out, or even after years of being out there. It’s all about the memories you make while out there. Here’s to getting out on the trail and making memories!
About the authors: Both Andy and Sarah grew up camping with their families and have plenty of experience in Minnesota’s outdoors. Andy has been backpacking since 2014 and Sarah since 2015. Our dog Daisy joined the pack in 2015. Together, backpacking and the outdoors has become a core foundation in their relationship. Hiking Thru Life started as a way to share their love of the outdoors with others. Visit https://hikingthrulife.net/ for more information on backpacking and outdoor adventuring!
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