Even throughout the out of doors neighborhood, backpacking is commonly characterised as a pursuit reserved for the privileged few. It’s straightforward to know why — picturesque Instagram photographs of colourful, top-of-the-line gear, tales of far-flung mountaineering locations, and the phantasm of limitless time away from work all contribute to the notion that backpacking on a funds is difficult or inconceivable. Along with affording that fancy DCF shelter and pack, affording the misplaced earnings can appear out of attain.

Am I responsible of spending far an excessive amount of on a chunk of substances I need however don’t want? Yeah, wonderful. You bought me. Nonetheless, I actually consider that backpacking may be accessible to anybody, no matter their monetary scenario.

All through this text, we’ll delve into the world of budget-friendly backpacking, beginning with debunking some myths about disposable earnings being a prerequisite for journey and ending with a few of my favourite budget-friendly backing gear.


Delusion #1: You Want Costly Gear

Let’s begin by addressing some of the persistent misconceptions: In an effort to be an achieved backpacker, it is advisable to have the most recent and lightest gear.

Whereas it’s true that high-quality gear may be pricey, backpacking is about a lot greater than that. It’s about connecting with nature, testing your limits, and discovering the great thing about your individual resilience. The basic essence of backpacking stays the identical, no matter your base weight and which manufacturers you’re rocking.

Me on my very first backpacking journey. I had no fashionable gear or trendy garments and had an exquisite time.

Listed here are two of my favourite methods to interrupt down the associated fee barrier in terms of gear:

1. Lease, Borrow, or Purchase Used Gear

As an alternative of splurging on brand-new gear, contemplate renting, borrowing from associates, or shopping for used gear. Many out of doors retailers provide rental companies for necessities like backpacks and tents. You too can discover economical choices on on-line marketplaces and boards, like Fb and Reddit, the place seasoned backpackers usually promote their gently used gear.

Lastly, for those who’re a scholar or stay close to a college, verify and see if the college has an out of doors membership. Some universities will mean you can hire gear from them, even in case you are not a scholar or a member of the membership itself.

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2. DIY Gear and Repairs

With correct care and upkeep, many backpacking gadgets can final for years. The notion that gear should be continually changed could be a pricey false impression. Repeatedly inspecting and sustaining your gear can lengthen its lifespan considerably. Nonetheless, even with correct care, typically issues simply break.

Embrace the do-it-yourself spirit by creating your individual gear or making easy repairs. YouTube and on-line boards are treasure troves of DIY backpacking hacks that may prevent a major sum of money. 

Whereas not probably the most advanced DIY, I opted to chop my very own groundsheet for my tent out of Tyvek as a substitute of buying one. You’ll be able to see it wrapped round my tent on the again of my pack. This saved me over $50!

Is it scary to take a pair of scissors to a chunk of substances? In fact. Have I by accident broken one thing whereas attempting to make a easy change? Completely. Nonetheless, with a bit of persistence and a few trial and error, you’ll discover that repairing your individual gear not solely saves you cash in the long term, however teaches you a brand new talent each time.

And, in a pinch, there isn’t a lot that duct tape can’t make higher.

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Delusion #2: You Have to Journey to Discover Good Backpacking

One of many largest bills in terms of backpacking may be wrapped up within the journey to the place you’re going. Nonetheless, I might argue that nearly everybody has a spot near house to discover.

You don’t need to jet off to faraway locations to expertise the enjoyment of backpacking. Begin with native or regional trails, which require much less journey and fewer bills. Go along with associates, for those who can, to separate any bills like a rental automotive or gasoline. Discover campsites which can be free, and wilderness areas that don’t require a paid allow.

I do know it may be onerous to search out folks to go backpacking with in case you are simply breaking into the interest your self. Strive looking for Fb teams titled “’Your Metropolis’ Mountain climbing Buddies” or “Girls Who Hike ‘Your Metropolis’”. You might be shocked how many individuals you find yourself befriending!

After I lived in Chicago and didn’t have a automotive, I joined the ‘Chicago Backpacking Meet-Up’ Fb group. Not solely was I in a position to make associates, however I additionally obtained rides out to chill hikes!

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Delusion #3: You Have to Give up Your Job to Take Cool Journeys

I don’t learn about you, nevertheless it appears like each single individual in my Instagram and TikTok feeds is taking months at a time away from work to thru-hike America’s longest trails. Whereas that’s nice for them, it typically gives the look that you may’t break into backpacking if in case you have work or different obligations that take up a whole lot of your time.

The reality is, backpacking may be woven into the material of your life, even with a full-time job. Listed here are some sensible suggestions that will help you embrace backpacking with no need to drop every part:

  1. Grow to be a Weekend Warrior

    Begin small by planning weekend getaways to close by trails. These shorter journeys mean you can expertise backpacking with out taking prolonged day off.

  2. Make the most of Trip Days

    If in case you have restricted trip days, strategically use them for longer backpacking journeys. Mix weekends or a vacation with a couple of days off to create a mini-adventure that matches your schedule.

  3. Native Trails

    Discover native trails and parks that you may go to after work or on weekends. You’d be shocked on the wilderness gems yow will discover in your individual yard, even in massive cities!

This previous 12 months I used to be in a position to thru-hike the John Muir Path by conserving my PTO days from work and using Labor Day/weekends to get sufficient day off.

Keep in mind, backpacking is about profiting from the alternatives accessible to you. It doesn’t require drastic life-style modifications or lengthy sabbaticals. You’ll be able to immerse your self within the backpacking expertise whereas nonetheless managing your work and different obligations. The paths are there so that you can discover at your individual tempo and by yourself phrases.

Funds-Pleasant Gear Suggestions

I need to preface this part by saying that, if in case you have the facility as a shopper to assist native outfitters, please achieve this. A few {dollars} saved for you will not be a make-or-break scenario prefer it might be on your native companies.

Nonetheless, backpacking ought to be accessible to folks in all monetary conditions, so I will probably be sharing a number of the most budget-friendly gear I can discover from bigger shops. Take inventory of your individual monetary scenario, and do what is required inside these constraints, however don’t overlook about your native shops!

Sturdiness disclaimer: Whereas funds gear isn’t assured to disintegrate in a single weekend, sturdiness is value contemplating. There’s a whole lot of sturdy, low cost, high quality gear on the market, so search for the stuff that can final some time, particularly for those who’re planning an extended tour. This can prevent cash in the long term, and maintain a bunch of rubbish out of the landfill.

Security disclaimer: Additionally, don’t skimp on security options, even when it means saving a couple of dollars. Be ruthless when sniffing out offers, however don’t depart security out of the equation. Get stuff that works. Interval.


Whilst you do need your backpack to be comfy and durable, it is a place the place you don’t have to splurge on the top-of-the-line, lightest possibility. If it carries your gear from Level A to Level B, and doesn’t chafe you within the course of, you’ve discovered a great backpack. 

The primary pack my associate ever took backpacking was a pc bag with issues lashed to the surface with shoelaces. The dangling sleeping pad didn’t look fairly, nevertheless it labored. Would I like to recommend that for you? No. However, my level is that there’s a lot of leeway with backpacks relative to different gear classes.

Might ‘gear tied to the surface of a laptop computer bag with shoelaces’ be the subsequent massive backpacking hack? (No. Don’t do this. It didn’t actually work too nicely.)

Funds-Pleasant Pack Suggestions:

I might advocate scooping up a backpack throughout a sale, at an REI Storage Sale, or used by way of a Fb or Reddit group. Packs don’t should be excellent, and are often totally practical even with many miles on them.


I might argue that tent high quality is barely extra important than backpack high quality, however you’ll be able to nonetheless get away with quite a bit. For a backpacking tent, I might advocate attempting to remain round six kilos or lighter. Any heavier, and chances are you’ll discover it onerous to hold. That stated, if in case you have a heavier tent and also you need to give it a go, then please do and know that you’re merely stronger than I’m.

Funds-Pleasant Tent Suggestions:

I consider the Durston Gear X-Mid 1 to be not solely the perfect funds ultralight tent, but in addition among the best ultralight tents on the market, interval.

Sleeping Pads

Now, we transfer into an important and ignored a part of your sleep system. Possibly I’m simply cranky when drained, however I are likely to splurge a bit of extra on something that helps me get a great evening’s sleep within the backcountry. Nonetheless, there are many heat, comfy choices on the market that don’t break the financial institution.

If potential, attempt going to the shop and mendacity down on a pad earlier than shopping for it. Think about changing your mattress with this pad as a result of, basically, that’s what you’re doing whereas sleeping exterior. I might strongly advocate saving a bit of cash in your backpack and tent picks and placing that in the direction of a cushty sleeping pad.

Funds-Pleasant Sleeping Pad Suggestions:

I exploit the NEMO Switchback when mountaineering out East, the place it’s sometimes a bit of hotter. In colder seasons, or on journeys at larger elevations, I are likely to lean in the direction of an insulated inflatable sleeping pad.

Do not forget that a great evening’s sleep is crucial for an satisfying backpacking journey, so put money into a sleeping pad that meets your consolation wants whereas nonetheless staying inside your funds constraints.

Sleeping Luggage

Identical to your sleeping pad, your sleeping bag can have a serious affect in your high quality of sleep exterior. Be sure you have a full understanding of your bag’s temperature score, and if that score is assigned for ‘consolation’, ‘restrict’, or ‘survival’. By trial and error (and a number of other chilly nights) I’ve discovered that I sleep quite chilly. I’ll use a 20-degree bag year-round once I’m within the mountains, even when the forecasted low is quite a bit hotter.

With regards to value financial savings in a sleeping bag, think about using artificial fill as a substitute of down. These baggage will sometimes be extra reasonably priced, whereas nonetheless providing glorious insulation. 

Funds-Pleasant Sleeping Bag Suggestions:

Thank you to @madelyn_meanders for the lovely photo!

Having fun with a backpacking journey in Colorado whereas staying heat in our Hammock Gear Quilts.


My greatest budget-friendly tip in terms of garments will disappoint those that get excited when shopping for new gear: simply use what you have already got! I do know you’ve got some moisture-wicking, athletic t-shirt in your closet from that one camp in highschool. The identical goes for any pair of quick-dry shorts. For layers to put on at evening, I nonetheless simply convey an previous pair of sweatpants and a hoodie.

In case you are in search of extra garments to put on whereas mountaineering, try your native thrift retailer. Most have sections for athletic garments. So long as you’re not sporting cotton, and what you put on can deal with a little bit of sweat, you’re good to go. Opposite to what many individuals will attempt to inform you, the path shouldn’t be a trend present. What issues is getting on the market, not what you put on whereas doing so.

I had a stunning time backpacking in Acadia Nationwide Park in a shirt from my highschool swim crew and shorts I’ve had since 2016.

The exception to this rule is your heat insulating layer, or coat. A very good one can save your life for those who get caught exterior or in a scenario that finally ends up being colder than you deliberate for. I personally choose a hooded possibility to assist preserve warmth round my head, however it is best to be at liberty to put on a hoodless puffy and complement it with a hat.

In the event you aren’t pressed for house in your bag, simply convey your heat winter coat! On my first few backpacking journeys I introduced my cumbersome, metropolis coat. It was typically too heat, however that’s higher than being too chilly, and I may at all times tie it round my waist. Who stated this wasn’t a trend present? It wasn’t probably the most comfy or fashion-forward transfer, however I had no cash to drop on a specialised, fancy, backpacking puffy. 

Funds-Pleasant Puffy Suggestions:

There’s No Common Answer

Maybe that is apparent after studying this text, however I really like every part gear-related. I get excited to attempt new issues, learn up on new developments, and speak the ear off of anybody who will hear in regards to the professionals and cons of assorted manufacturers, types, colours, and so forth. If in case you have any gear-related questions, particularly about discovering good gear on a funds, depart them within the feedback under! Nothing in backpacking is one-size-fits-all, and I might love that will help you slim down your selections to search out the perfect factor for you, your physique, and your funds.

Backpacking on a Funds: The Backside Line

Backpacking needn’t be an exercise reserved for the rich elite. It’s a pursuit that ought to be accessible to everybody who craves journey and a deeper reference to nature. There’s a variety of socio-economic elements that restrict entry to our shared out of doors areas, and the underrepresentation of minorities within the backcountry runs rampant.

Funds is only one aspect of this exclusionary internet, and the bigger points are deeply seated and oftentimes self-perpetuating. Nonetheless, if we’re in a position to dispel the parable that backpacking requires limitless pockets and time away from work, we will chip away at this important barrier and encourage a extra numerous group of people to embrace this excellent interest.

The world we stay in is so stunning, and each single individual ought to really feel enabled and inspired to discover it.

Whether or not you’re a scholar, a part-time employee, or somebody with restricted disposable earnings, I hope you’ll be able to be part of the ranks of budget-conscious backpackers and uncover the great thing about the good outdoor.

So, lace up these boots, pack up your (hopefully cheap) backpack, and head out on an journey! The wilderness is ready for you and is open to everybody prepared to discover it!

Featured picture: Katie Jackson photograph. Graphic design by Zack Goldmann.



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