Backpacking on a Budget: Best Cheap Backpacking Gear of 2024

Looking for budget outdoor gear that won’t break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear plus top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Woman hiking on trail in high alpine terrain carrying backpacking gear and holding trekking poles

When I first started Bearfoot Theory in 2014, backpacking was one of the ways that I became immersed in the outdoor world. Each backpacking trip I went on pushed me to grow beyond my comfort zone and I always came back with a greater perspective.

I believe that these experiences in the outdoors should be accessible to all people, regardless of who you are and where you come from. So over the years, I’ve asked many people about what obstacles stand in their way of getting outside more. A good majority of the answers I received revolved around one thing: money.

I get it, money is a real and necessary part of our society, but I don’t want it to stop you from exploring our public lands and beautiful places. While there are certain items necessary to stay safe and comfortable on a backpacking trip, it’s not always necessary to buy the newest, most high-tech outdoor gear on the market.

Below is my list of the best cheap backpacking gear to help you acquire the necessary gear you need to stay safe and feel comfortable without breaking the bank.

Budget Backpacking Essentials

Backpacking Tent

The REI Co-op Trailmade 2 is a great 2-person budget backpacking tent option that’s under $200. At 5lb 7 oz, it’s not as lightweight and full of features that more expensive backpacking tents have, but it has everything you need for several nights out on the trail. I love the mesh top, which provides great ventilation as well as stargazing on clear weather nights with the rain fly off.

This tent has two doors and two vestibules so you and your partner each have your own entry/exit and gear storage space. Plus it even comes with a footprint, which is an extra purchase for most tents. If you’re also in the market for a sleeping bag, you can buy a Trailmade Tent + Sleeping Bag bundle and save additional money.

Shop REI Co-op Trailmade 2 at:

Sleeping Bag

A 20-degree bag for under $100 is hard to beat which is why the Stoic Groundwork Sleeping Bag is our top pick for budget backpacking sleeping bags.

This mummy-shaped bag has a draft collar at the neck level to help keep warmth in on cold nights and its water-repellent shell sheds dew and moisture to keep you dry. It’s important to note that even though this bag is rated for 20 degrees, it’ll likely be too cold for temperatures under 30F (a 10 degree comfort difference is common for sleeping bags).

Shop Stoic Groundwork Sleeping Bag at:

Backpacking Pack

The REI Co-op Trailmade 60 is a solid budget backpacking pack that offers a great combination of functionality, durability, and affordability. This pack has a streamlined design with plenty of pockets and compartments for storing all of your gear and includes a built-in rain cover, making it perfect for all-weather adventures.

It’s hard to find a backpacking pack with as many features as this one at such a reasonable price point. While it’s not the heaviest backpacking pack on the market, it’s not the lightest either, weighing 3 lb 4oz.

Shop REI Co-op Trailmade 60 at:

If you want a slightly lighter pack and don’t mind spending a little more money, the REI Co-op Flash 55 is another solid budget-friendly pack option that we see out on the trails often.

Sleeping Pad

The NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad is a classic favorite for many backpackers. It’s super lightweight and doubles as a seat or a yoga mat while you’re out in the backcountry.

This budget sleeping pad provides moderate insulation between you and the ground and the aluminized surface is designed to reflect your body heat back onto your sleeping bag to keep you warm.

For easy storage, just fold it up like an accordion and strap it to your pack. At less than 60 bucks, this closed-cell foam pad is ideal for any lightweight backpacker looking to save some money on cheap backpacking gear.

Shop NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad at:

If you prefer something with a bit more cushion, the Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout sleeping pad is a comfy self-inflating budget choice. It’s lightweight and has a higher R-value than the foam pad above, so it will keep you toasty on cold nights.

Bearfoot Theory community member Mary Kathryn used this sleeping pad on all of her backpacking trips for many years and loved it. While it doesn’t compress as small as other pads on the market, it’s a solid option for an inexpensive and comfortable sleeping pad. It also comes in three lengths: regular, long, and short.

Shop Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad at:

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Budget Kitchen Gear

Backpacking Stove

The Snow Peak GigaPower Stove isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it is the most reliable budget backpacking stove — and that is really important! A cheaper stove might save you money in the beginning, but you’ll pay for it over time with broken parts or by it failing in the backcountry.

At $50, the GigaPower stove is a personal favorite for a lot of backpackers because it’s lightweight, compact, and easy to use. In just 3 minutes your water will be boiled and ready to brew that morning cup of coffee or tea.

I recommend this lightweight, affordable backpacking stove for all your backcountry cooking. Plus, it fits in the palm of your hand so it’s the ultimate space saver, something that can’t always be said for most budget gear!

Shop SnowPeak GigaPower 2 at:

Backpacking on a budget? Here is my favorite cheap backpacking gear, including the best inexpensive stoves for your backcountry adventures.
Kristen cooking on the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove

If the Snow Peak stove is out of the budget, the next-best option is the GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove for $30. It’s designed for fast cooking and can hold a pot up to 5 inches in diameter, although it gets mixed reviews on the longevity of the product.

Cooking Pot

The TOAKS Titanium 750ml Pot is an ideal choice for backpacking due to its ultralight weight, durability, and efficiency. Despite its durable construction, it’s still a budget-friendly choice under $30, perfect for those looking to save money without compromising on quality.

Shop TOAKS Titanium Pot at:

Water Filter

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is hands-down the most affordable and efficient choice for around $25. Weighing in at just 2 ounces (yep, 2 ounces), it’s super compact and lightweight. This 0.1-micron filter removes 99.99% of all bacteria, including salmonella, cholera, and E.coli as well as 99.99% of all protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

It comes with a 16 oz squeeze pouch to fill with water to filter, but many reviewers note the pouch is hard to fill up and breaks easily, so we recommend packing a plastic Smart waterbottle (which the filter thread attaches to).

Then just filter water right from the bottle into your hydration bladder or clean water bottle – it’s that easy. You can even attach the filter to your hydration bladder hose so you can sip away while you hike.

If you want something with a higher flow rate that can filter more water at once, the Sawyer Squeeze is another budget-conscious option.

Shop Sawyer Mini at:

Eating Utinsel

The humangear GoBites Uno Spork is an excellent cheap backpacking utensil due to its lightweight and compact design, plus it comes in a ton of fun colors! With a spoon on one end and a fork on the other, you’re covered for all types of meals in the backcountry.

Additionally, the durable and BPA-free nylon material ensures that it can withstand the rigors of outdoor use and is easy to clean.

Shop humangear GoBites Uno Spork at:

Cheap Backpacking Clothing & Accessories

Trekking Poles

The Montem Ultra Strong trekking poles are well-made and built to withstand rugged adventures in the backcountry — plus they’re half of the cost of other trekking poles. With 99.9% 5-star reviews, you know these are legit.

I’m a big fan of trekking poles to maintain balance and protect my knees while hiking. It’s like having four legs on the ground instead of just two. So, your body weight gets dispersed more evenly across the four points of contact.

Shop at:

Hiking Boots

Ok, I’m not going to lie. These are not “budget” hiking shoes, but that’s because I don’t believe you should ever skimp on your hiking footwear. Investing in proper footwear is essential to prevent injuries and blisters on the trail and keep your feet happy.

If you have a pair of worn-in tennis shoes, that’ll get you by in a pinch, but I truly believe that investing in a good pair of hiking shoes is a worthwhile investment. My go-to hiking boot brand is Oboz, and I love the Oboz Sypes Hiking Boots. They’re extremely comfortable, require little break-in time, and will hold up for hundreds of miles.

Shop Oboz Sypes hiking boots at:

Insulated Jacket

The REI Co-op 650 Down Jacket 2.0 is a great budget buy for backpacking due to its excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and affordable price point – you’d be hard-pressed to find another down jacket under $100 that feels this good! This is BFT team member Courtney’s jacket of choice and it’s super warm and comfortable.

The 650-fill-power down insulation provides ample warmth while still remaining lightweight and compressible, making it a space-saving option for backpackers.

Shop REI 650 Down Jacket 2.0 at:

Hiking T Shirt

The lightweight and breathable REI Co-op Sahara T Shirt is a hiking shirt that will last you season after season without breaking the bank. Made from a blend of polyester and spandex, this shirt is both moisture-wicking and quick-drying, making it perfect for hot and humid weather. It also comes in a ton of fun colors!

Shop REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt at:

Hiking Shorts

BFT team member Courtney has been rocking the REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts this season and they’ve quickly become a favorite on and off the trail. Made with a blend of polyester and spandex, these shorts offer flexibility and comfort on the trail and have a comfortable elastic waistband with an elastic cord for fit adjustment. They also have ample pockets for storing small items like your phone, keys, and other essentials.

Shop REI Co-op Trailmade Shorts at:

Headlamp

Just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean the night’s over: headlamps are essential for nighttime hangouts and that late-night bathroom run. The Petzl Tikkina Headlamp is an important addition to your backpacking gear collection and will only set you back $25. It delivers 250 lumens of brightness and has three white lighting settings: proximity, movement, and distance, and runs on AAA batteries.

The only thing I don’t love about this headlamp is that it’s not rechargeable (unless you use rechargeable AAA batteries).

Shop Petzl Tikkina at:

Factors to Consider While Shopping for the Best Budget Backpacking Gear

Buying the best backpacking gear comes down to a few key factors: weight, comfort, durability, and price. Generally, the higher the quality, the lighter weight the gear will be. But, there are exceptions to this rule with a few reputable outdoor gear brands. As I said, I’m a believer that you don’t need the top shelf, most expensive gear, though there are some important things to keep in mind when you’re bargain shopping for affordable backpacking gear.

Weight

One common beginner backpacking mistake is overpacking and carrying a way-too-heavy pack. While this may not make much of a difference on a short walk to the campsite, it definitely makes a difference on a rigorous trail and in long-distance backpacking.

What’s in your pack and on your back can make or break your experience. The guideline for backpacking is that your total loaded pack weight should be no more than 20% of your body weight.

Regardless of how many nights you’ll be out, you’ll need to keep this in mind when it comes to what you pack. Shopping for lightweight backpacking gear is a wise thing to consider – your future self will thank you. For tips on how to shave off some weight, check out this blog post.

Comfort

This one’s a no-brainer. You want to be comfortable even in uncomfortable moments, right? Buy gear and apparel that fits well and feels good not just while you’re trying it on in the store, but also when you’re hiking uphill or scrambling over a rocky section.

It’s smart to get fitted for items that you’ll be wearing on your body, like a backpack. Backpacks are not universal; each brand designs its packs differently, so what works for one person might not work for another person. Wearing a backpack that doesn’t fit properly can hinder your experience and performance on the trail. To prevent this, head to the nearest outdoor gear outfitter, like REI, and get fitted for a backpack so you know what brand and size works well for your body.

Hiker walking down narrow section of trail with rock wall on left side and steep rock slab drop off on right
It’s important to find gear that is comfortable and fits well so you can enjoy your time out in the backcountry

Durability

Whether you plan to do short backpacking trips or you’re a deep backcountry explorer, purchasing outdoor gear is an investment and you want it to last. It’s vital that your gear holds up to your needs on the trail, especially if you’ll be out in the backcountry. Plus, it’s more environmentally friendly to buy gear that will last for many years rather than purchasing new items year after year. Quality backpacking gear will ensure your adventures are a success, so look for quality-made products made with strong materials that can withstand wear and tear. Also, be sure to take proper care of the gear that you own to make it last as long as possible.

Check out our gear maintenance and cleaning tips to extend the life of your tent.

Price

I’m sure you’ve seen backpacking gear within a wide range of prices, and you might be wondering if cheap price = cheap gear. Price matters, and if it didn’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this. But, that doesn’t mean that discounted or cheap backpacking gear is of poor quality. In other words, affordable backpacking gear doesn’t automatically mean low quality and high-cost gear doesn’t always equate to better quality. High-quality backpacking gear is more accessible than you might think.

First, I suggest you determine your budget for backpacking gear based on the basics you need to be safe, comfortable, hydrated, and warm. These are the basic essentials for the backcountry: a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, water filter, backpack, headlamp, and trekking poles (check out our complete 3-Day Backpacking Checklist for more). Eventually, you can integrate other items into your gear collection down the road. But for now, we’ll focus on the necessities that will get you where you want to go.

It’s important to note that buying new backpacking gear isn’t the only option. Buying used outdoor gear is a great way to save money on your backpacking setup, plus it’s more environmentally friendly. Nowadays, there are lots of great used gear shops that make sure products are still in good condition before they’re sold. Here are a few places that offer used outdoor gear:

Also, a lot of backpacking and camping gear often goes on sale. Figure out what items you need and which ones you’ve got your heart set on, then keep an eye out for sales so you can snag them when the time is right. You can save some major cash that way, especially on the bigger items like tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and backpacks. Read our roundup of 17 Places to Buy Discounted Outdoor Gear for a complete list of places to search for discounted and used outdoor gear.

Another option is to rent backpacking gear from a local shop or REI. Renting backpacking gear is a smart move if you’re new to backpacking and aren’t sure you’re going to like it, or if you want to try out various items before making the investment.

With these recommendations for the best cheap backpacking gear, I hope you feel closer to hitting the trail on the backpacking trip of your dreams.

Have you found any other good-quality, cheap backpacking gear that you’ve loved? What is your favorite budget backpacking gear item that you currently use? Share with us in the comments below!

Get ready to hit the trails without breaking the bank! We've rounded up the best budget backpacking gear for your next outdoor adventure. From lightweight tents and durable backpacks to comfy sleeping bags and efficient stoves, we've scoured the market to find high-quality gear that won't cost you a fortune. Whether you're a seasoned backpacker or just starting out, we've got you covered with top-notch gear that will help you tackle the wilderness with ease.

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5 Comments

  1. Great article. I found this much information, as to what I was looking for exactly. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.
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  2. I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve found Wal-Mart has headlamps for $1.00! They’re not very rugged, but they do the job!