How to Cut Costs on Your Gear List
For the majority of thru-hikers, accumulating the gear needed for a PCT thru-hike is the most costly expense (between food, travel, gear, and town). Ultimately, your expenses will depend on what you already have. But for most, new gear is needed to cater specifically to the PCT. You need versatile, light weight, and very durable gear. Most hikers don’t already have this.
Yes, you have the option to cheap out on gear, and sometimes that works. For example, you don’t need a super expensive rain cover. A contractor bag will do. Fancy stove, or tuna can? I’m not here to make those decisions for you. This article will tell you how to get the big-ticket items, the expensive gear, on the cheap. You can substitute all you want, but if you save a few hundred dollars on a discount sleeping bag, you could be putting yourself in danger when it’s 20 degrees at night.
Pick Your Battles
There is some gear that I will be buying new, full price. REI is great because of their one-year return policy. That means, if I spend $100 at REI on a stove, I get $100 back if the igniter breaks. If I bought it used, I would lose that money if anything malfunctioned. For gear that’s likely to break or defect (sleeping pads are a big risk), you might want to consider paying full price. For things that are easily repairable without replacing (tents and sleeping bags will be fine with a bit of duct tape), here are my tips to save hundreds.
REI Garage Sales
If you read my last post, you know I’m a fan of the REI garage sale. This is the best source of discounted gear because you can knock out so much of it in one day. The down side is that no gear from the garage sale is returnable. Below is what I’ve collected from these sales.
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1: $80
- Savings: $300
- Big Agnes Sidney 25 Sleeping Bag: $160
- Savings: $110
- BearVault BV 500 Canister: $40
- Savings: $40
- Deuce of Spades Trowel: $9
- Savings: $11
- Cocoon Hood Pillow: $10
- Savings: $16
Total savings from REI Garage: $477
The internet has a ton of used items. I think it’s a win-win if it’s done right. The previous owner gets some extra cash out of something they didn’t need, and you get to save some money. The biggest risk here is condition. Ask all questions you have about condition before you purchase an item online, and make sure you know the return policy if you don’t get what you wanted.
Poshmark is an app designed mainly to sell clothing and accessories. It’s not common to find backpacking gear there, but I got lucky and you could too. Mercari is another resale app. Other great platforms are Ebay and – if you’re willing to meet someone in person – Letgo, Offerup, and Craigslist. Here’s what I scored online.
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400: $83
- Savings: $260
- Columbia Omni-Shade Shirt: $7
- Savings: $20
- LifeProof case for iPhone6s: $10
- Savings: $50
Total savings from online resellers: $330
You may have noticed the obnoxious trend of thru-hikers wearing thrifted “dad shirts”. You know the ones; loud patterns, soft loose nylon, chest pocket. I personally would never seek one of those out to wear on my body, but I do appreciate a good deal on a shirt that won’t last me the whole trail. Especially because clothes arguably wear out the fastest, and I’ll likely find myself hunting through another thrift store for replacements. Here’s what I’ve found:
- Sun hat: $6
- REI Zip-Off pants: $15
- North Face pants: $7
- Nike Fleece Hoodie: $11
- North Face Summit Series down jacket: $25
Enjoy the hunt!
So there you have it. This is just a portion of the things I’ve found by being a little thrifty. You don’t have to spend thousands on your gear list, even starting from scratch. I shaved hundred off that dreaded amount by being patient and keeping an eye on a lot of different sources. Just before my hike, I’ll purchase all that’s left of my gear list.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve gotten any great deals on gear from these unexpected sources!
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