Backpacking offers many benefits… from keeping us fit and healthy, to allowing us to experience things which have the potential to enrich our lives. Unfortunately, it can also be a very expensive endeavor… especially for those just starting out. A prospective backpacker can easily spend over a thousand dollars when purchasing his or her pack and all of the goodies to fill it. For many, the investment required can be prohibitive. Whether out of necessity or by choice, it is possible to acquire all of the gear required without breaking your budget.
Let’s take a look at some options for getting geared-up “on the cheap”:
Yard Sales: You may have to invest a couple of weekend mornings, but yard sales are often an excellent source of backpacking and camping gear. It’s best to do a little research before heading out so you don’t spend all day sorting through baby clothes and used paperbacks. Most people advertise their upcoming yard sales in the classifieds or through online sites such as Craigslist. Find the ones that have what you’re looking for and then head out early to beat the crowds.
Craigslist: This is a great way to find more specific pieces of equipment. Simply type in a search for the item you’re looking for and you then have a list to choose from. Another benefit of Craigslist is that you have the ability to haggle… so go ahead, make an offer!
eBay: Yet another great online option to score the deal of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for a new or used item, eBay probably has it. While generally not one of the cheapest places to find gear, you very well may score big here. Just be wary of shipping charges.
Thrift stores: From that expensive pair of hiking pants to the perfect lightweight cook-set, it’s hard to beat thrift stores for huge savings. The trick here is to visit often, as they usually have a fast turn-over of merchandise (you didn’t think you were the only one looking for a great buy did ya?). This is probably one of the biggest money saving options of all. I once scored a nice North Face pack for 3 dollars at a local thrift store!
“Hand-me-downs”: Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or even a co-worker, someone you know may have some gear just lying around in the basement that they no longer use and would be eager to part with… just ask.
DIY: Personally, this is my favorite option of all. With a little creativity, effort, and practice, you can make anything from simple stuff sacks for your gear, to alcohol burning stoves, all the way to an ultra lightweight tent! One thing you’ll need for more elaborate projects is a sewing machine, as well as the ability to use it (unless of course you can convince someone else to help out). Otherwise, you can get by with basic tools that you probably already have around the house. There’s not much that compares to the satisfaction of carrying a piece of equipment that you made yourself if you ask me.
While these may not be all of the ways that you can backpack for less, it is a good place to start. The point here after all is to be creative. In the end you will find yourself just as well equipped (and with alot more cash left in your wallet) as the person who spent the kid’s college savings on their pack system. Happy bargain hunting!