A Guide for Cheap and Affordable Hiking Gear
I decided to hike the trail only two months before leaving for Georgia. I got a second job and saved as much money as I could. I had no other choice but to buy used gear, discounted gear, and little known gear brands.
Did I still make it to Katahdin? You bet I did!
Gear is important but there have been many hikers to reach Katahdin without the most expensive pieces.
Think of Grandma Gateway. Think of Earl Shaffer. Think of the Barefoot Sisters.
I’m not recommending going to these extremes but these thru-hikers completed the trail without expensive gear or clothing and you can too! Seriously, you won’t walk your first steps on the Appalachian Trail seeing everyone decked out like a Patagonia catalog. I promise.
Gear doesn’t get you to Katahdin, you do. However, good gear does make things a bit easier and can boost morale. Take some time to search for gear. There are so many cheap options available. Good gear does not necessarily mean the most expensive. However, cheap gear might not be the lightest.
DON’T BOTHER SPENDING TOO MUCH MONEY ON…
Whatever rain gear you decide to go with, you will either be complaining about the weight, the lack of ventilation, or the lack of resistance to rain. I don’t recommend forgoing rain gear but I do recommend against buying the most expensive set. Frogg Toggs can grant you the exact results as a brand worth five times as much. Also, some hikers choose to not carry rain pants. This could save you some weight and some cash.
Cheap but Worthy Rain Gear Options:
Frogg Toggs and Campmor have cheap rain gear selections. Also, some ponchos seem to cost less than a set of jacket and pants.
Trekking poles are absolutely wonderful but I did not buy the most expensive pair. However, I would recommend looking into the brand you are about to buy to check on their warranty policy. I might have bought cheap poles but the company offered free repairs.
For trekking poles I recommend choosing ones with a strap. If you are using your poles as tent poles as well, choose your poles carefully. You might want to invest if this is the case.
Trekking poles with flick locks instead of twist adjustments seem to last in the long run. My twist adjustments seemed to stick or malfunction after a few months of continuous use.
If you are considering going for Walmart’s Outdoor Products or Costco’s Coleman trekking poles, I have seen these poles work for others. However, the quality of these poles are not made to withstand heavier body weights.
Cheap but Worthy Trekking Pole Brands:
Komperdell, Mountainsmith, and Black Diamond have poles online for $60 or less. To find these prices, expect to use one of the discounted gear websites listed below. Don’t doubt big stores like Cabela’s or Dick’s Sporting Goods. These retailers carry cheap poles as well.
I’m sure you know not to purchase cotton clothing. Besides this characteristic, no need to purchase an $80 hiking shirt. Evaluate what you already have or hit a local thrift store for great poly finds.
BUY USED GEAR
Used gear can be found anywhere from your local thrift store, online auctions like eBay.com, used gear sites like Geartrade.com, the Bearfoot’s Hiker Gear Flea Market on Facebook, or local sellers from Craigslist.com.
Resist the urge to buy damaged used gear. Do not be shy to ask the seller further about the condition of the piece of gear you are thinking of purchasing. If you are looking on Craigslist.com, be bold and offer a lower price. It never hurts to ask.
HERE is a the top 10 used gear stores in the U.S. compiled by Backpacker.com. If you don’t live near these great stores, a simple Google search could guide you to your nearest used gear haven.
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
No need to purchase a new pack or sleeping bag if you already have these items. Evaluate what you have at home especially for clothing and shoes. Get creative. Use a Gatorade bottle instead of buying a water bladder. Use your old bandana instead of buying a Buff. Use a spoon from home instead buying an outdoor cookware spoon. Hint: Wendy’s spoons are quite durable.
THE BEST WAY TO AFFORD GEAR IS TO GO WITHOUT
To go without a shelter, town shoes, or pillow can lighten your load while still keeping your wallet full. Forgoing some gear options might not be recommended for some pieces (pack, sleeping bag, etc.). This option can only be based on preference and how you would like to hike your hike.
BUY BRANDS WITH GREAT WARRANTIES
Before buying an item, look into the brand or company’s warranty policy. Your item might receive free repairs or replacements.
The art of communication with gear companies can be hit or miss. Depending on the employee you speak with, your story, and your gear, you can get exactly what you want or you could completely strike out. This list includes gear companies that have a reputation for great customer service toward hikers. I can’t promise you anything but their policies. Every single company on this list has stated no free repairs or replacements if damaged from normal wear and tear. However, flexibility has been seen in all of these companies, good luck.
*These brands seem to be cheaper than their competitors while still upholding top quality.
Please feel free to comment on this post with any other gear companies with outstanding warranties.
MAKE YOUR GEAR
Make your stove or summer blanket or (if you are feeling ambitious) your pack. Do be aware of how expensive some fabrics can be and price accordingly.
The most popular DIY (do it yourself) gear item would be the tuna can stove.
BUY DURING OFF SEASON
Since I decided in February to hike the trail, I obviously didn’t have this option. However, prices for summer gear will fall during the winter.
BUY ONLINE INSTEAD OF AT AN OUTFITTER
Online prices seem to be cheaper than buying at an outfitter. However, do keep your options open for some outfitters that host major sales or ‘garage sales.’
Best Websites for Used Gear:
Finding cheap gear online is never hard. Google Shopping provides great options from all over the web. Do beware, some websites provide a discount on a piece of gear but only for a certain size or color. Other websites will only offer a discount on a certain piece of gear during a specific time frame. I recommend signing up for these websites because these companies will sometimes email coupons. Online products also provide user reviews which can be very helpful.
These are my favorite options to find cheap gear online (there are plenty more so I still recommend Google Shopping):
Feel free to leave a comment for your favorite online gear site and I’ll gladly add it to this list.
Quick List of Quality, Affordable Online Items Worth the Money:
Petzl Tikka 2 Headlamp, $25 plus shipping
Portable Aluminum Alloy Outdoor Camping Cooking Pot, $15 with free shipping
Sea to Summit Waterproof Dry Bag, Price depends on size (This brand is not always the cheapest but it is the best quality especially for a waterproof sack. The link takes you to a site selling them for cheap)
As mentioned above, many online retailers will email coupons to those a part of their mailing list. If you haven’t received any coupons directly, I recommend searching online for online coupon codes. Websites like Retailmenot.com, Coupons.com, and Vouchercloud.net provide coupon codes for a variety of retail websites.
Searching for cheap and affordable gear can be work but isn’t an impossible task. Stay on top of local outfitter sales and online website sales, especially around holidays like Black Friday or Memorial Day.
Good luck my frugal friend, may the discounts be ever in your favor.
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Awesome gear hunting tips Madison. I spend my days hunting gear deals for others (any myself) to enjoy. Would you mind including https://bc25.com under your coupons section? We only post outdoor coupons and deals and often have exclusives. You might also like the outdoor gear price checker: https://bc25.com/outdoor-gear-price-checker/
I’m all for saving money, and I shop online as well, but your comment on going to an outfitter to test your poles, try on boots etc. The buy them online? Seriously what do you think keeps these outfitters in business? I feel sorry for future generations when there are no more niche market stores because of mentalities like this. Shopping local and with the businesses that put money into the activity you love, is where the new gear comes from, how much I novation have you seen come out of dicks sporting goods.
“Seriously what do you think keeps these outfitters in business?” Exorbitant prices and taking advantage of circumstances, simple. This is exactly why many people have the same shopping strategy as the author. Innovation doesn’t come from outfitters either. It comes from enthusiasts and manufacturers working together. Outfitters are nothing more than a retail outlet, just as Dicks or REI but smaller. Get a grasp on reality.
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GearAroundHere was started to help address this issue! I’ve had a lot of good luck “renting” out my old gear. You know, the stuff that I needed 10 years ago and have since upgraded but still can’t seem to fully let go of. They are a locally based company out of Virginia with a really good team.
Think about what you have that others may want to rent. Maybe you have a fancy 10 person tent or a backpack that can haul food & gear for 15 days. GearARoundHere is sure those cost you an arm, a leg and then some. Get a list and pictures of the outdoor gear that you have (maybe you purchased it on an impulse) and list it on GAH. List just one item, or list them all; the choice is up to you! Right down to how much it costs to “rent” the item and when it’s available. By adding in when the item is available, you have the flexibility to block out dates when you know you will be using the item, say for a family camping trip or a trek in the Alps, but it’s still available for those who would really love to use it for an adventure.
You forgot Screamer. He went without a lot on the AT and legend has it that he made it to Katahdin. LOL.
This is very helpful. I appreciate and thankyou for putting this together. I’m hunting for good lightweight gear for a 2017 AT thru hopefully! TY TY TY!!!
Poles….only one choice for me. Amazon has the flip lock, , lifetime warranty, 8 ounce each composite poles for less than $45. They are Cascade Mountain brand. Excellent choice.
Truly discussing your awesome hiking gear tips Madison is useful getting investigating and enterprise. Your post is useful and enlightening for climbing gear. I value you. Would you fret I including http://www.outdoorgearland.com/for audit and taking the correct choice for choosing hiking gear?
Go check out roadeavour. They pretty affordable good quality gears as well.
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I don’t own a tent. I use a tarp instead, and a small ground sheet. $500 saved there. In 1200 nights I’ve yet to get seriously wet.
Trekking poles. Not sure what you mean by flick locks, but if they are like the length adusters on my monopod, they tend to catch on brush. I usually just bring one pole and use it only for balance in creek crossings, and when working a scree slope or really rough terrain. Most poles are NOT designed to hold a lot of weight. Balance, not support.
Shoes: I’ve done trips (>100 mile) in the Canadian Rockies in cheap canvas top running shoes. But I prefer a low cut walking shoe. Currently I like Merrell Ventilators, as I have wide feet. I don’t bother with the ‘waterproof breathable’ ones. In the Rockies here, we have frequent stream crossings. Waterproof = keeps the water inside longer. (On the north side of Mumm Pass you cross the creek 68 times in 3 miles. This is extreme, but crossings are seldom far enough apart for your socks to dry.)
With wet feet all day, I want to have dry feet in camp. I carry a cheap pair of knock off crocks.
Thrift stores. Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Value Village. Good nylon walking shorts with solid pockets $2.49. Polyester sport tee shirts 1.49. I picked up a Sierra Designs goretex parka for $10. The deals aren’t there everytime, and it takes time to search.
Socks: Wool nylon blend work socks. I don’t like the grey ones with variable white and red stripes at the top. The mesh allows too much sand in. I prefer a tighter knit.
Hat: Cheap acrylic watchman’s cap, or toque. These are at our local dollar store for between 1 and 2 bucks.
Avoid black as a colour. It makes you hard to find, and it makes clothing hard to find if you get up before dawn.
Food: Bulk barn is your friend if you are here in Canada. Zillions of kinds of nuts, dried fruit, soup mixes, flavourings, pasta.