The perceived high cost of camping and hiking equipment is often an obstacle for many people looking to start on their first hiking trip. Cheap gear has a reputation of poor quality, while usually not being exactly lightweight, either. While this may be true in many cases, there are some ways to get what you need without spending a fortune on your outdoor gear!
Find the right budget brand
This seems obvious, of course. But there are brands out there that make good camping and hiking equipment in a low price range. For example, Decathlon, one of the largest sport equipment stores in the world, has quite a lot of clothing and basic gear options for relatively low prices. Some of them are actually really good; I still use their ‘Forclaz’ hiking pants!
Granted, not all of it will be extremely durable, comfortable, effective or lightweight. But with some careful shopping you’ll at least have the basics down!
Spend on what you really need
Speaking of the basics: shoes, backpack, tent. In that order. If you’re going to spend a little extra on one or a few items of hiking equipment, spend it on those three things. In fact, you should spend extra on those items, especially your shoes. Good hiking boots usually aren’t too cheap, but if there’s one item you’re going to be depending on the most, it’ll be your shoes.
A good backpack or tent can save you a lot of aches and discomfort, but in the end it is up to you and the limitations of your budget. Just don’t compromise and get those slightly uncomfortable shoes just because they were on sale, please.
How much do you really need? A good way to compensate for the often heavier weight of cheap camping and hiking equipment is to simply take as little as possible with you. Figure out what basics you’ll not be able to do without, and only leave enough room for food and water. Less equipment also means you can get a smaller backpack, which are usually cheaper!
Consider your hiking trip
Some of the best and most expensive gear is able to do it all and perform under any circumstance. Most of the cheaper camping and hiking equipment usually doesn’t fit this profile. Not to worry though, as long as you know what type of environment you’ll be hiking in you’ll be fine.
Hiking equipment for summer hiking in temperate climates and lower altitudes will be cheaper than, say, anything used for braving the elements on an expedition to the North Pole. Pick your battles and figure out what type of hiking adventures will suit your budget the best. Usually, the milder the weather, the less specialised (and expensive) your hiking equipment needs to be.
Go for used hiking equipment
Apart from your shoes and backpack, most of your gear doesn’t have to be a perfect fit. Tents, headlights, tools, clothes and accessories can all be borrowed or bought from any second-hand source if you look long and hard enough.
Only promise me you’ll buy your own underwear, please.
Build your own!
Besides buying or borrowing equipment, there are plenty of ways you can build your own gear! From a DIY tuna can stove to your personal carved walking stick, if you’re a person that can work basic tools and have some practical skill you can teach yourself to make pretty much anything!
Oh, and unless you are a professional shoemaker or tailor, I do recommend leaving the most important gear items like shoes, backpacks and extreme-weather clothing to the professionals. Better to be poor and safe than cheap and in trouble!
Get to know your local outdoor equipment store
As a former outdoor store employee myself, I know what great discounts can be had for those who are patient or lucky enough! Larger store chains often have seasonal or yearly recurring sales, allowing you to get quality gear for a great price.
More specialised and expensive stores might still be out of reach for your budget, but try to visit every now and then anyway. Apart from scooping up items on sale or browsing to feed your growing gear addiction, the staff in these types of stores are usually well-informed outdoor enthusiasts themselves who can help you find what you’re looking for in any price range.
So, to summarise: this is how you can save money on your camping and hiking equipment:
- Find quality budget brands
Decathlon is a good place to start.
- Only spend on what you really need
Hiking boots, backpack, tent: in that order!
- Go minimal
Less hiking gear means a larger hiking budget!
- Consider your hiking destination
Don’t forget to plan around seasons as well.
- Go for used camping and hiking equipment
Know anyone with an excess of hiking gear?
- Build your own!
Do It Yourself and develop some skills while you’re at it!
- Get to know your local outdoor equipment store
Store employees are people too. Talk to them!
And that concludes this little guide. Have any tips or ideas on cheap camping and hiking equipment yourself? Let me know in the comments below!