12 Ways to get into Hiking & Backpacking on a Budget


Have you ever wanted to go backpacking but thought it wasn’t possible to do cheaply? Have you had a desire to pack up a few things on your back and set off into the woods or the mountains and just disappear for a while, but just the thought of the cost of all the gear you need to buy was enough to put you off? In this article we’ll explore ways of getting out and about for a minimum outlay.

1. Keep Travel Costs Low

One of the biggest costs to any backpacker is the cost of travel. To many people backpacking is jetting off to somewhere like south-east Asia, where the cost of living and travelling around is really cheap. The problem is that it’s far from cheap to get there. Well why do you need to go all that way? Have you explored your local world? This country is so big, you could spend your whole life here and not get to see even the best bits, and we have some of the greatest sights and scenery anywhere in the world. Sure you could fly across the country to go and explore a completely different part of it, but that will cost a bit so why not start with your local area? How many of us can truly say we’ve even really explored within a 100 or even 50 mile radius of our own home? Depending on where you live and your interests, this could involve visiting local towns and cities or getting off into the wilds. Not only can you do this cheaply but you can do it in small sections, even doing weekends in different parts whilst maintaining a full time job enabling you to cover the costs of the trips and maybe even save up for a bigger trip.

2. Join a Local Hiking Group

If you’re starting off on your new hiking hobby alone, it may be worth considering joining a local hiking club. It’s not likely to cost much and you’ll meet lots more like-minded people. This will help your confidence if you’re not sure about heading out into the backcountry alone, and they’re sure to have some tips for you. You may also meet someone you get on really well with and who you could team up with to go off hiking together. The group will organise hikes so you can get out into the wilds with others and see what it’s like. They may also organise activities with transport and accommodation included where you can benefit from group discounts, and do it cheaper than you would be able to by yourself.

3. Hostels

When visiting towns and cities you should consider staying in hostels rather than hotels and motels. It will be cheaper and you’ll also meet other likeminded backpackers. For the cheapest rates you’ll be sharing a dorm room, but that’s one of the best ways to meet other travellers. There will usually be communal areas too like kitchens and lounges which are also great places for meeting people and swapping stories. You can buy yourself a guidebook, but the best information on an area comes from the experiences of someone who just been there and done that. You can be sure to pick up some great tips, and given that many of the people you meet in hostels are trying to do as much as possible for as long as possible for the lowest cost, you should be able to get some great money saving ideas.

4. Camping

This might sound obvious but if you’re going hiking in the back country you’ll probably need to camp. This is a great way of saving money, as camp fees, if any, are never going to be very much. Not only is it a cheap or even free experience, but camping in the wild, far from civilization has to be one of the best things in the world. Give me that over a five star hotel any day. Be careful to heed any local warnings however about where you can camp and where it is safe to camp, particularly with reference to wild animals, and how you should look after your provisions so you don’t get a bear in your tent in the middle of the night searching for food. For instance some campsites may provide critter-proof metal containers for food. Another option is to suspend your provisions on a rope from a tree branch. You’ll have to rely on local knowledge, signage and guidebooks for this.

5. Cook

If you’re hiking away from civilisation, chances are you going to have to cook for yourself, but even if you’re visiting a local city, then rather than eating out, preparing your own meals will save you blowing your budget. This is another great advantage to staying in a hostels rather than hotels as they will almost always have kitchens where you can cook your own meals, and meet other backpackers. Unless you’re an expert hunter-gatherer, when you’re camping in the back country you’ll need to carry your own food, a small stove, and possibly water. When it comes to water, again you should heed any local advice regarding the drinking quality of streams or other water sources, or consider buying a water purifier, or water purification tablets. For food you have a number of options. You could go to your local outdoor store and stock up on as many ready meals as you’ll need (and maybe an extra one or two in case of emergency.) You can get all sorts of dehydrated meals which just need water and heat. However you could end up spending a fortune this way. A far cheaper way is to take some rice, and/or pasta and get some packets of dried vegetables; nuts muesli bars, and maybe some dried or cured meat and/or tinned fish from a supermarket. Whatever you take you have to carry of course, so you really need to plan in advance what you need, and you’ll also need to bring out all you rubbish and empty cans, to dispose of responsibly.

6. Travel Light

Whether backpacking or hiking, for at least some of your trip, you’re going to be carrying all your own gear, including some food. It therefore pays to travel with as little gear as possible in order to be comfortable. You should always make sure you have adequate gear for the conditions you might encounter, particularly if you’re heading into remote or mountainous areas, but don’t overdo it. There’s no need to go out and buy lots of hiking gear for instance. Depending on where you’re going and the time of year, a waterproof, maybe a warm top, and some base layers and underwear may be all you need. Depending on your plans you may also need a stove, sleeping bag and mat, and a tent too. By taking layers of clothes that you can put on or take off as required, you’ll save on having to buy lots of different items, saving money and weight to carry. The flip side of a cold wet day is that you have less to carry as you’ll be wearing more! Whatever you do, only pack for a few days, a week at most. You can always wash stuff! In fact if you’re going to be away for more than a few days you should plan to.

7. Short Trips

If you’re just starting out on hiking and backpacking, then begin with short trips, maybe just a weekend at first or even a day trip. This will help you get used to what to expect, what gear to take, and whether you’re actually going to enjoy it. You’re not going to travel far for such a short trip and your accommodation costs are going to be minimal or non-existent so it’s going to be a really cheap start!

8. Find a Travel Buddy

Perhaps you’re in a relationship and your partner wants to go with you? Maybe you have a friend with similar interests who will go with you? If you were planning to set out alone, maybe you should reconsider. There are many advantages to travelling with someone. You have someone for company, to, share ideas, share the load (one tent will be enough for two or even more,) help with the cooking, look out for wild animals, or just look after your stuff whilst you use the bathroom, and so forth. Whilst it may not be quite true that two can live as cheaply as one, there are certain economies to be had from travelling with a buddy. At proper campsites for instance, two people sharing one tent will usually cost less than two people with a tent each. If you’re backpacking and don’t fancy a dorm room, a twin room split between two will almost always be cheaper than a single. You may also be able to take advantage of discounts and two for one deals on activities.

9. Couchsurfing

First up, this is a suggestion, not a recommendation. Now this is not about getting out that old sofa and taking it down to the beach. Couchsurfing is a concept where you can stay with local people for free anywhere in the world. How is that for saving on accommodation costs? This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it can be an incredibly cheap way to visit towns and cities locally or in fact anywhere in the world. Whilst it is free, you are expected to offer some kind of gift or cook a meal or do something special for the host. You can also give back to the community by becoming a couchsurfing host. What do you get out of it? Well you potentially get to meet lots of other interesting and likeminded people from all over the world and form some great and lasting friendships.

10. Back Country Hiking

This really is one of the cheapest activities you can do. Once you have the necessary equipment, your only cost might be getting there, and if you’re fortunate enough to live on the edge of some great country, then this needn’t be much at all. You may have some small park entry or permit fees, and okay you’ll have food costs, but you’d be eating even if you stayed home right? By not being home you’ll also be saving on your power bills. In fact by taking off into the wilds at the weekend, you may be saving money since you’re not paying for nights out, meals, drinks or entertainment.

11. Lunches

Make your own lunches. Okay, so if you’re out hiking in the mountains, you don’t have much choice. However, visiting a local city, you could be tempted by all those new places to eat out. This could end up turning your short cheap trip into something quite different. So if you want to keep the costs to a minimum, consider making your own lunches. A few dollars will go a long way with a hunk of cheese or a few slices of cooked meat, some bread and a piece of fruit.

12. Buy Some Cheap Gear

One thing you will need for your trips, hiking or backpacking will be some great gear. You could go overboard but you don’t really need that much when you’re starting out. A decent backpack and a waterproof jacket may be all you need, but also maybe a small stove, tent, and sleeping bag and mat if you’re going hiking for more than a day two. What you do want is to pay as little as you can. For the best gear at rock bottom prices, there is only one place to go. At we have just about everything for the outdoors at low low prices. That’s because we search all the top outdoor sites to find the lowest prices for you. We do all the hard work so you don’t have to.