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Backpacking on a Budget

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A common barrier to enjoying the wonderful world of backpacking is the cost associated with purchasing the necessary equipment to have a safe and enjoyable trip. Just look at the example below.

Common big ticket items and what you can expect to spend include:

  • Tent ($150 – $200)
  • Sleeping Bag ($80 – $150)
  • Sleeping Pad ($40 – $80)
  • Backpack ($150 – $200)
  • Boots ($90 – $150)
  • Stove ($20 – $80)

Throw in other commonly used items such as a compass, layers of clothing, a water bottle and filter, a first-aid kit, and you’re looking at a minimum spend of $600.  Again, that’s the expected minimum.  You’ll more likely end up spending closer to $1,000.

That alone can cause many to shy away from backpacking.

There is hope! Here are a few suggestions to make backpacking more affordable for newbies.

  1. Borrow – Do you know someone that is an avid backpacker? Chances are they have accumulated excess equipment over the years and could lend you something. Typical items include a tent, a sleeping bag, or a pack. These are among the pricier things you would need to purchase otherwise. The benefit of borrowing is you get a chance to test drive the backpacking experience. If you try it out and decide it isn’t your thing you’ve learned that with minimal investment lost.
  2. Buy Personally From Others – Maybe that avid backpacker you know doesn’t like to lend out their backpacking gear. That doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to part ways with some of it. Ask them if they’re willing to sell you something. Work out a price and begin building out your backpacking inventory. You can also try joining a local hiking group. Often you’ll find some crossover between those that like to hike as well as backpack. Ask others if they have any equipment they would be willing to sell you.
  3. Rent – Check with your local outfitter to see if they rent equipment. You can also visit Outdoors Geek online. They offer a handful of backpacking packages you can rent. The base package includes a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, single burner camp stove, water filter pump, set of cookware, and a trowel. Like borrowing, this allows you to keep your costs at a minimum while you decide whether or not backpacking is for you. The caveat to renting is that you have nothing in your possession when your trip is done, other than memories!
  4. Buy Online – There are established websites that sell used gear. A couple include Gear Trade and REI.  Gear Trade allows hikers to post their gear for sale while REI takes “gently” used gear, inspects it for quality, and puts it up for sale. In addition, you can find gear on eBay and Craigslist.

Armed with this information I hope you take the next step toward backpacking!

Feel free to post questions or suggest additional feedback for others.

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