6 Ways to Put together Your Backpacking Kit on the Cheap

All the gear you can buy for a backpacking trip. Courtesy of J Bradley Snyder on Flickr
All the gear you can buy for a backpacking trip. Photo: Courtesy of J Bradley Snyder/Flickr
You’re starting to get the backpacking itch. After a few day hikes to some local parks, you’re ready to make the jump into a multi-day trek into the backcountry and get outfitted with everything from a GPS unit to a camping stove and a backpack with the latest features. Then you add up what all that will cost … Ouch.

Thankfully, if you’re really looking to spend some time sleeping under the stars this year, with a little planning and some patience, you’ll be able to find what you need at a decent price.

Here are six cost-saving tips for buying backpacking gear that will help you make some big memories without making a big dent in the bank account this season.

Invest in a National Park Pass

For $80, a National Park Pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. A pass covers entrance fees, which can run up to $20 each visit, and standard amenities at national parks, national wildlife refuges and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Buy used

I mean, once you've taken your pack out on its first trip, isn't it "used" anyway? Photo: erubes1/Twenty20
I mean, once you’ve taken your pack out on its first trip, isn’t it “used” anyway? Photo: Courtesy of erubes1/Twenty20
Don’t be afraid to buy used gear; there’s a lot of good stuff available online. Amazon, eBay and Craigslist are great places to get started, and backpacking-specific websites like Whiteblaze.net and BackpackingLight.com have forum sections where readers can buy and sell used gear.

Rent or borrow gear

If you have friends who backpack, chances are they have extra gear for you to borrow. Also, many outdoor retail shops such as REI have gear rental programs where you can rent just about everything needed for a trip.

Get crafty

Andrew Skurka making a backpacking stove from a can of cat food.
Andrew Skurka making a backpacking stove from a cat-food can. Photo: Courtesy of Elise Askonas/Pinterest
For those who enjoy more of a DIY approach, making your own gear might be the best cost-saving option. Even if you’re not an experienced backpacker or DIYer, you can still make a few pieces of gear on your own. For instance, in less than 10 minutes you can make a backpacking stove for less than $1 out of a can of cat food.

Shop the discount sites

If there is a piece of gear you’re really interested in buying, sites like The Clymb, Sierra Trading Post and Active Junky sell a wide range of backpacking gear at deep discounts. Sign up for those alerts and strike while the deals are on.

Make your own meals

Example of healthy, homemade backpacking food Courtesy of The Socially Awkward... on Pinterest.
Healthy, homemade backpacking food. Photo: Courtesy of The Socially Awkward…/Pinterest
Buying premade meals might seem like a good option because they are easy to make, but spending the time to shop and prepare your own food will not only save you money, but you’ll have healthier and better-tasting things to eat. Don’t be deterred by some of the high prices on backpacking gear; there are any number of ways to find pieces that fall within your price range.

While saving up money to buy the gear you really want, take that time to try out different products and brands so when it comes times to shell out the big dollars, you’ll be able to buy something you can happily use for many years to come.

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