Getting out on the trail is a great way to decompress and rejuvenate. Backpacking is a way to get deeper into nature for a truly immersive experience. It is a hobby that can be done on a small budget allowing you to enjoy doing it more often. Sometimes gas to get to your backpacking destination can be the biggest expense. Planning a backpacking trip on a budget can be broken down into three main parts: destination (trail and campsites), food, and gear. Below are some helpful tips for planning a backpacking trip on a budget.
The trail is probably the least of your financial worries as you sit there dreaming of a backpacking trip. Fortunately, nature is free! Most trails are free to hike, however, some may charge an entrance fee like a state park or an overnight camping permit fee like the Boundary Waters during the summer. These fees are relatively inexpensive and we often don’t mind paying them knowing that the money is going towards the preservation, maintenance, and staff of these beautiful places.
Join the MN State Parks Passport Club and you will earn a free night of camping once you reach certain goals. If you join the MN State Parks Hiking Club you can earn free camping too. By joining these, you are being challenged to visit state parks and eventually earn all your money back with free nights of camping! What’s not to love about that?
There are also plenty of free options out there if you are looking to not pay for a campsite. Some of our favorites include the Superior Hiking Trail, state forests, and national forests. We often use freecampsites.net when searching for free camping. Wherever you choose to go backpacking, please familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the trail and campsites.
We know the freeze-dried backpacking meals are delicious and full of nutrition but they can be expensive. Consider grocery store alternatives to freeze-dried meals and look for types of food that require minimal cooking equipment. Here are some of our favorite cheaper alternatives to those delicious freeze-dried meals.
- Knorr Sides Select is a great alternative. We like to add a protein to this such as a hot dog or brat if it’s just a weekend trip. For longer trips, we might have a side of beef jerky for protein.
- Oatmeal packets are an easy breakfast. For ease, we simply pour the hot water into the packet and eat straight from the packet. Yes, those packets can stand the boiling water!
- Ramen noodles or instant mashed potatoes are quick and easy.
- Peanut butter in a flour tortilla with a side of cheese, makes for an easy and calorie-dense lunch. We like to prep the tortillas at home and wrap them in wax paper and save the wax paper as a fire starter.
Keep your eyes out for sales on dehydrated meals. This past spring, Mountain House brand was sold at Costco in packs of 13 meals at $60 a box. That’s roughly $4.50 per meal… a huge savings compared to $9-10 per meal!
Gear – Reuse Items
Check out our Backpacking Gear on a Budget post for more on ways to save on gear. Here, we will focus on some reusable items that can save you some money over time. These will also help the environment by reducing plastic waste.
If you’ve spent any time on a trail you know the pack it in, pack it out rule. We save Ziploc bags after use and reuse it once or twice to pack snacks or garbage when out backpacking. It often just takes a quick rinse to clean the bag out. They also make great poop bags for cleaning up after your dog.
Another thing you can do is buy a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water! This can save you money and keep you hydrated off the trail as well. Nalgenes are awesome because they are durable, leakproof, and have measurements on the bottles that you often need for cooking meals too! Need to purchase a Nalgene? We sell Hiking Thru Life water bottles! They are bright orange so you will never lose it and if you find yourself in an emergency in the woods the bright color is perfect for flagging down emergency responders.
The most important thing is to have fun while you are out there. Remember you are going out there to “get away” from the daily grind of life and immerse yourself in nature. If you still aren’t sure about backpacking, we suggest you reach out to Hiking Thru Life with questions. We are happy to answer questions for people trying out this new adventure! See you on the trail! Peace, love, and hike thru life!
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. Their 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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