Cheap Backpacking - Seven Tips
By Steve Gillman
Why do I so often focus on cheaper backpacking? Well, one
of the reasons for backpacking versus a resort vacation is that
it costs less to begin with. So why not look at how to keep it
even more affordable? There are two basic ways to do that. They
are to cut the cost of the trip and to spend less on equipment.
Cheap Backpacking Trips
1. Go to free places. This is an obvious idea, but many people
automatically think of national parks and places that have fees
when they think of a wilderness experience, even though there
are many places that are just as beautiful and free. Look for
national forests with hiking trails, or BLM (Bureau of Land Management)
land, or state forests. An added advantage of this approach is
that you'll likely find fewer people there.
2. Design your own trips. Guided backpacking trips can be
nice, but they can be expensive compared to doing it yourself.
Pick a place, do your research online, and start looking for
the cheapest plane tickets you can find.
3. Stay close to home. The biggest expense of many backpacking
trips is the cost of getting to the area where you are going
hiking. Are you sure there is nothing interesting to see within
an hour or two of where you live? Why not hit those areas first?
Cheap Backpacking Equipment
4. Skip the high-tech clothing. Do you really need a super
wicking poly-fiber t-shirt? Not likely if it is the middle of
summer. A regular t-shirt bought on sale for three dollars will
do just fine. Now, I wouldn't recommend jeans, but for pants
you can see the next tip.
5. Buy used clothing and equipment. I would never buy used
shoes, but thrift stores always have plenty of used jackets that
work just fine. You can even find decent lightweight hiking pants
at times, as well as aluminum pans that are really light and
some other backpacking gear.
6. Make your own backpacking equipment. Some backpackers make
their own sleeping bags and even backpacks. I wouldn't go that
far (and I'm not sure that the savings would amount to much anyhow),
but I have modified cheap pans for backpacking, made hats from
old thermal shirt sleeves, and bivy sacks from garbage bags.
Come to think of it, I did make a backpack once, using an old
aluminum frame and a duffel bag (and it weighed less than any
commercial frame pack out there).
7. Shop sales. Another obvious tip perhaps, but it is easy
to forget. Hiking shoes in particular can be bought really inexpensively
if you watch for the deals. For some reason people don't want
last year's styles, so those $100 shoes go on sale for $40 fairly
often. Check the closeouts from online vendors and local shoe
stores. Clothing in general is most likely to go on sale, although
tents and sleeping bags are sometimes half-priced when newer
models replace them.
Apply all these tips at once and you'll have a really inexpensive
backpacking trip. Create your own trip, and make it to a free
place close to home. Outfit yourself with basic clothing and
gear bought at thrift stores or bought on sale - or make a few