Hiking Gear On A Budget: 12 Ways To Score Top-Notch Gear Without Breaking the Bank

Hiking Gear On A Budget

This is a guest article written by Dirtbags With Furbags

So, you’ve caught the hiking bug, huh? There’s nothing like hitting the trails, breathing in that fresh air, and soaking in the beauty of nature. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just getting started, one thing’s for sure: gear can get pricey!

From boots and backpacks to tents and tarps, a lot goes into hiking, and even more, if you decide to go on backpacking trips and camping. Luckily, there are several ways to snag top-notch hiking gear on a budget.

And don’t worry; you don’t need to sacrifice quality when you find a good deal. It’s possible to have both a reasonable price and solid-quality gear.

Assessing Your Needs vs. Wants

When it comes to popular gear shops like REI and Cabela, you may find yourself surrounded by gear, gadgets, and gizmos and wondering if you really need them. Before you start filling your cart (virtual or real), let’s chat about needs vs. wants.

When buying gear, keep the three essentials in mind:

  • Safety
  • Comfort
  • Enjoyment

If the shiny gadget you’re looking at doesn’t improve your safety, comfort, or enjoyment more than anything else you have, it’s probably a ‘want’ masquerading as a ‘need.’

Once you establish what you need, you can slim down your hiking gear list to only the essentials. This is super helpful when you’re backpacking, as you want to cut all the unnecessary ounces to reduce your overall pack weight.

The Basics for Beginners: Your Trail-Ready Checklist

Now that we’ve navigated needs vs. wants let’s discuss the essentials. This checklist is your starting point, the non-negotiables for hitting the trails with confidence:

  1. Proper Hiking Footwear: Whether it’s trail runners for those light, fast days or sturdy boots for rugged terrain, your feet are your best friends out there. Treat them well.
  2. Weather-Appropriate Clothing: Think moisture-wicking layers. Conditions can change quickly, so be prepared to strip down or bundle up as needed.
  3. A Reliable Backpack: Size matters, and so does fit. Make sure it’s comfortable and big enough to carry your essentials but not so big that you’re tempted to bring along that kitchen sink.
  4. Water and a Way to Purify More: Hydration is critical. Carry enough water for your hike, and consider a lightweight filter or purification tablets for longer treks.
  5. Snacks/Energy Food: Keep those energy levels up with some nutritious, easy-to-carry snacks. Your future self will thank you.
  6. Basic First Aid Kit: Because scrapes and blisters happen. Be prepared to handle minor injuries on the spot.

These are the bare essentials, but you may need to adjust them depending on your hiking location. For example, if hiking in the backcountry overnight, add a bear-proof canister, sleeping pad, fire starter, and cooking utensils.

For a more comprehensive look at what you should bring on a hike, check out this guide on what to pack in your hiking bag.

Savvy Shopping Tips for Scoring Stellar Hiking Gear

Let’s dive into the art of savvy shopping. This means knowing when the seasonal sales are, perusing the clearance racks, checking the online marketplaces, and avoiding those impulse buys when you could instead rent.

Seasonal Sales & Clearance Racks

Seasonal Sales & Clearance Racks

If you prefer brick-and-mortar stores, seasonal sales can be a lifesaver for hikers. All you have to remember is this golden rule: Shop for warm-weather gear in the winter and cold-weather gear in the summer. 

It’s basic supply and demand. In the summer, most shoppers buy sunscreen, sun hats, lightweight layers, and hiking shorts. This drives up demand, which drives up prices. Instead, shop for off-season gear. Retailers tend to mark them down in anticipation of next season’s inventory.

Seasonal sales typically occur in February and March for hiking gear that is not weather-dependent (such as boots and backpacks). Prices start to creep up again in May and June when the hiking season kicks back up. So, if you’re looking for budget backpacking gear, start looking in February!

Don’t forget about your furry sidekick! If you hike with your pup, their hiking gear sales usually follow the same pattern. Read our guide on dog hiking gear essentials to figure out exactly what you need.

Bargain Websites

If you’d rather scroll your computer screen for hiking gear, using a bargain website is a fantastic way to save money while still purchasing quality products.

Steap and Cheap is a very popular online retailer with fantastic sales on hiking gear. The items are typically last year’s models or older, but the prices more than make up for it. They have everything from cheap backpacking gear to trekking poles, sleeping bags, and running shoes—basically anything you would need on the trail!

You can read about specific hiking gear on the Dirtbags With Furbags Hiking Blog!

Online Marketplaces & Outdoor Forums

Sites like eBay, Craigslist, Facebook, and specialized outdoor forums are gold mines for gently used, high-quality hiking gear at a fraction of the retail price. You can find used gear and clothing from the top brands like Patagonia worn wear and used Osprey backpacks!

  • Out&Back Outdoor
  • Gear Trade

The key to success here is knowing what you’re looking for and doing your homework. Check out product reviews, know your sizes, and don’t hesitate to ask sellers questions. You could score a super cheap rain jacket that’s barely used or a lightweight backpacking bag for your next overnight adventure.

To Rent or Not to Rent: When Buying Isn’t Always the Best Option

Many local outdoor shops offer rental options for everything from backpacks to technical climbing gear. This approach not only saves you money but also gives you the chance to test out gear before committing to a purchase.

Here are two places you can rent hiking gear:

  • REI (brick & mortar store)
  • Kit Lender (online)

Renting is particularly handy for newbie hikers still figuring out their preferences or those embarking on an adventure requiring specialized gear. Remember to reserve your rentals well in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Other Ways To Find Hiking Gear On A Budget

Besides finding the best deals, there are a few other clever ways to find hiking gear on a budget.

Become a Brand Ambassador or Land Sponsorships

Did you know your passion for the outdoors could help outfit your adventures? Many outdoor brands are looking for enthusiastic hikers, climbers, and globe-trotters who love to share their experiences on social media or blogs. 

By becoming a brand ambassador or securing a sponsorship, you could score free or heavily discounted gear in exchange for showcasing the brand’s products in your outdoor exploits. 

So, how do you do it? It’s not just a walk in the park, so follow these steps to try to get sponsored:

  1. Make a list of the brands whose gear you love and use.
  2. Follow these brands on social media.
  3. Reach out to the brands with a proposal highlighting why they should choose you.
  4. Try to offer something unique. Maybe it’s your adventurous spirit, your engagement with the outdoor community, or how you plan to promote their product. Or maybe you wear a silly hat. Hey, it’s memorable and unique!

Authenticity is vital—showcase your unique voice and how it aligns with the brand’s ethos. With some persistence and a bit of creativity, you could find yourself decked out in the latest gear, ready for your next adventure.

Loyalty Programs and Newsletters: The Insider’s Edge

Another treasure trove that’s often overlooked is the world of loyalty programs and brand newsletters. Brands love to reward their loyal adventurers with members-only sales, early access to new products, and special discounts.

Moreover, subscribing to newsletters from your favorite outdoor retailers or gear manufacturers can give you a heads-up on flash sales, clearance events, and even contests where you can win free gear. 

Joining a Hiking Club: Community and Gear Swaps

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the power of community. Joining a local hiking club or online community can be like finding your tribe—fellow outdoor enthusiasts who get your quest for the next peak or hidden trail. 

These groups are not just incredible sources of inspiration and friendship; they’re also fantastic for discovering gear swaps and sales.

Make Your Gear Last: Maintenance Tips

Maintenance Tips

Have you ever considered that your trusty hiking boots, the backpack that’s been through thick and thin with you, or that tent that’s sheltered you from the elements could be golden tickets to saving some serious cash? 

The secret isn’t always in snagging the latest deals or cutting coupons—it’s in the care you give your gear. The longer your gear lasts, the less money you have to spend! So, let’s learn some tricks for keeping your gear top-notch.

Cleaning And Care For Gear Longevity

Keeping your gear clean isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about extending its life so that it can join you on many more adventures. Dirt, grime, and moisture can degrade your gear, leading to wear and tear that can shorten your equipment’s lifespan.

After your outdoor adventures, set aside some time for a gear-cleaning session. Most items can be cleaned with warm water and gentle soap, but checking tags or scouring the internet for specific cleaning tips never hurts.

  • Backpacks: Backpacks can be cleaned with warm water and soap. Be sure to empty your bag of all items beforehand! To dry, hang your backpack up and let it air dry.
  • Tents: Most tent materials are meant to withstand the elements, so while cleaning can extend some items’ longevity, over-washing can harm your tent! Consider washing it twice per year or after particularly muddy camping.
  • Hiking shoes: Allow the mud on your boots to dry, and then use a stiff brush to remove it from your shoes. Once all the dirt is removed, consider wiping the boots down with gentle soap and warm water and letting them air dry.

Embrace the Art of Repair

Basic repair skills are the second golden ticket to making your gear last longer and spending less money on gear. Instead of throwing away a backpack with a small tear, repair it. Got a tear in your favorite hiking pants? Sew them!

Learning to sew clothes and materials takes some extra work, but this simple act can save you tons of money when you’re on a budget. Countless online resources, videos, and forums can teach you how to sew and mend your hiking gear.

Proper Storage Techniques

Utilizing proper storage techniques is the final way to make your gear last longer. If your adventure included rain or snow, air your gear out before storing it in the closet. Storing wet gear will only degrade them faster.

Another tip is to store your gear in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or moisture. Consider hanging your backpack and tent on a hanger in the closet instead of on the floor. Make sure the area where you store your gear has good airflow.

Lastly, make sure critters do not have access to your gear. For example, storing your hiking gear in a shed can attract mice that will chew through your precious tent material or build a nest inside your backpack. Instead, choose a secure location with minimal temperature fluctuations.

Hiking Gear On A Budget: Conclusion

There are many ways to find and buy hiking gear on a budget. There’s no need to spend top dollar on quality gear if you know where and when to look!

Here’s a recap of the 12 best ways to obtain hiking gear without breaking the bank:

  1. Assess your needs vs wants and eliminate your wants.
  2. Buy in the off-season.
  3. Check the clearance racks.
  4. Utilize bargain websites like Steep & Cheap.
  5. Check out online marketplaces for gear swaps and hand-me-downs.
  6. Rent equipment that will only be used once or twice a year
  7. Become a brand ambassador.
  8. Sign up for loyalty programs and newsletters.
  9. Join a hiking club for gear swaps.
  10. Clean your gear after use to prolong its lifespan.
  11. Repair gear when able
  12. Store your hiking gear properly for longevity.

With these savvy shopping tips, you can get the high-quality gear you want without sacrificing your adventure fund. Happy hiking!

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