The Budget Backpacking Gear List

For the budget-conscious hiker, buying long-distance backpacking gear can be an intimidating prospect. Sleep systems, backpacks, trekking poles, clothes … the choices are endless, and the less it weighs, the more expensive it tends to be.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that a new set of backpacking gear runs $1,200 to $2,000 or more, and for a thru-hike, that’s on top of an average of $1,200 per month in trip expenses. Most respondents to our 2023 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker survey reported spending between $1,000 and $3,000 on gear.

So many gear choices…

But does backpacking gear need to be expensive to work for you? Not at all!

Below, you’ll find a list of budget-friendly options compiled from our 2023 Best Gear lists. These gear choices are not necessarily the cheapest in their categories; instead, they are what we consider to be the best balance of affordability and functionality.

As you can see, it’s realistic to outfit yourself with quality gear from scratch for around $1000 and still come out with a modest base weight. Do note that this list doesn’t include luxury items, consumables, or specialty gear like a bear canister or microspikes.

The Budget Backpacking Gear List

ItemRecommendationWeightPriceAlternate ItemAlternate SuggestionWeightPrice
BackpackGossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack24.7 oz$195
Tent3F UL Lanshan 1 Pro Tent26 oz$169 (3-season)
Sleeping BagKelty Cosmic Down 2040 oz (depends on size)$160 (regular)Sleeping QuiltFeatherstone Moondance 25 Quilt23 oz$230
Foam Sleeping PadNEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad14.5 oz$45Inflatable Sleeping PadKlymit Insulated Static V Lite20 oz$110
Synthetic JacketDecathlon Forclaz MT100 Men's | Women's12 oz (depends on size)$70Down JacketDecathlon Forclaz Trek 100 Down Jacket Men's | Womeen's10 oz (depends on size)$100
Rain JacketFrogg Toggs Ultra-Lite²6 oz$25
Base Layer TopREI Co-Op Lightweight Base Layer Men's | Women's6.1 oz$40
Base Layer BottomREI Co-Op Lightweight Base Layer Bottom Men's | Women's6 oz$40
Fleece MidlayerDecathlon Quechua MH100 Men's | Women's7 oz (depends on size)$29
Stuff SacksZiplocks, trash compactor bag to line backpack--
FootwearWhatever trail runner or boot fits you best *--
Trekking PolesCascade Mountain Tech Aluminum Quick Lock Trekking Poles20.8 oz (pair)$30
HeadlampPetzl Tikkina3.2 oz$25
StoveBRS 3000T0.9 oz$17
Cooking PotGSI Stainless Bottle Cup/Pot4.6 oz$14
Water PurificationSawyer Squeeze3 oz$40
TrowelREI Co-op Snow Stake1 oz$6
First Aid/ToiletriesDIY--
GPSSPOT Gen45 oz$150 + service plan ($12-$15/month)
Power Bank10,000 mAh Anker Portable Charger7.5 oz$17
TOTAL188.2 oz (11.8
$1,072174.8 oz (10.9 lbs)$1,237

*Note on footwear: When it comes to shoes, fit and comfort are priorities. Everyone’s feet are different, and keeping yours happy should be your main consideration. They are rather important to the whole business of walking, after all. That’s why we’ve refrained from recommending a budget option. It really is important to get the pair that works for you rather than the pair that costs $25 less.

Buying the cheapest available shoes can lead to injuries if they don’t provide you with enough support/create too much friction/pinch parts of your feet/etc. Once you know which shoes work best for you, it’s possible to save money by buying them during seasonal sales or looking for them at REI garage sales.

Don’t forget to budget for replacement shoes every 400 – 700 miles.

budget backpacking gear

PSA: Don’t Blindly Follow the List

No matter what gear you choose, it needs to work for you. The list above is one example of a packing list that won’t drain your bank account while simultaneously obliterating your soul. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other affordable options out there that could work better for you.

Research is key! You’ll want to read up on tech specs and reviews to get a better idea of whether or not a piece of gear is likely to fit your needs and preferences. Test your gear before embarking on a big trip to make sure you like it.

Save Money by Investing in Quality

While backpacking doesn’t have to be expensive, keep in mind that if you pick gear based solely on up-front price, you might end up needing to replace it sooner than you’d like with something more comfortable and/or durable.

You can actually save more money in the long run by investing in quality gear that won’t wear out quickly and won’t need to be replaced as often. “Buy once, cry once,” as the saying goes.

For a great place to start researching, check out our Best Gear lists. We provide information on a wide range of options in each category to help you build your backpacking setup:

Save Money by Carrying Less

You can also save money — and weight — simply by carrying less. Luxury items such as inflatable pillows, camp chairs, electronics, etc. can add up quickly, so it’s worth considering what you can live without.

For instance, depending on the location and length of your backpacking trip and your level of experience, it’s possible you won’t need a power bank or a GPS device. The power bank and GPS recommendations in the list above add up to about $170, so if you’re planning a shorter trip on a well-marked trail, you may not need to spend that money.

Likewise, three-season hikers probably don’t need to carry an insulated jacket and a hiking fleece and can save significant weight and money by just choosing one or the other.

READ NEXT – How To Afford a Thru-Hike: Expert Advice for Saving Money on Gear, Logistics, and Town Expenses for a Long-Distance Backpacking Trip

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on gear to hike successfully. Budget backpacking gear can take you a long way, and this list is just one example of how to outfit yourself without taking out mortgage. By doing your research and finding the balance between affordability and functionality, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and budget-friendly backpacking experience.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm.

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Comments 2

  • d20 Marsh : Apr 14th

    The Stanco Greasepot and the IMUSA aluminum cups .7 liter and 1.2 quart) are lighter and much less expensive for cooking with.

  • Mike : Apr 22nd

    Granite Gear Crown is a great budget pack, often found for well under $150.


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