Best Cheap Backpacking Gear of 2020

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

BEST CHEAP BACKPACKING GEAR OF 2020

When I first started this blog 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 for all people, regardless of who you are and where you come from. So, I’ve asked people over the years what obstacles stand in their way of getting outside more. And, many 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 public lands and beautiful places.

So, in this blog post, I rounded up the best cheap backpacking gear for tight budgets to help you acquire the necessary gear you need to stay safe and feel comfortable without breaking the bank.

While there are certain items necessary to stay safe and comfortable on a backpacking trip, it’s not necessary to buy the newest, most high-tech outdoor gear on the market. Down below, I’ll share my top suggestions for inexpensive, quality backpacking gear, plus what to look for when shopping for the best cheap backpacking gear. If after going through this list of cheap backpacking gear, you want to shop around more, check out this blog post where we share a number of discount outdoor gear shops where you can score amazing deals.

Here’s my list of the best cheap backpacking gear for tight budgets in 2020!

Best Backpacking Tents on a Budget

Kelty Salida 2

The Kelty Salida 2 backpacking tent is a lightweight 3-season tent weighing in around 3 lbs 14 ounces. It’s available in a 1, 2, or 3-person tent and has one door. The 2-person tent is a little tight for two, but it’s a solid option for an inexpensive backpacking tent around $100.

Here are some of the Kelty Salida tent features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 3 lbs 14 oz
  • 3-season compatible
  • One door + one vestibule
  • Canopy fabric: 68-denier polyester/40-denier mesh
  • Floor fabric: 68-denier nylon
  • Price: $

Kelty Salida Tent // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Moosejaw / Amazon / Campsaver

The North Face Stormbreak 2

The North Face Stormbreak 2 backpacking tent is another quality tent available for 1, 2, or 3-persons that costs around $150. This is a great option for backpackers on a budget, but it’s pretty heavy so I’d recommend divvying up the weight if you’re trekking with a friend. I love that it has two vestibules, which means you don’t need to climb over the other person when duty calls in the middle of the night.

Here are some of The North Face Stormbreak tent features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 5 lbs 5 oz
  • 3-season compatible
  • Two doors + two vestibules
  • Canopy fabric: 75-denier polyester taffeta
  • Floor fabric: 68-denier polyester + 3000mm polyurethane coating
  • Price: $

The North Face Stormbreak // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Amazon / BackcountryREI / Moosejaw

Best Affordable Backpacking Sleeping Bags

REI Co-op Helio Sack 55 Sleeping Bag

*Sustainable* The REI Co-op Helio Sack 55 Sleeping Bag is a lightweight, inexpensive sleeping bag for warm-weather adventures. Rated for 55°F, this synthetic mummy shape sleeping bag is made with sustainable materials that meet bluesign® criteria. It’s coated with a Durable Water Repellant to resist moisture and stains. It has two zippers, one that opens the bag into a quilt and another for nighttime ventilation. For $60, you cannot beat this price for a lightweight, affordable backpacking sleeping bag. But, because of the high-temperature rating, it is only suitable for warm-weather backpacking.

Here are some of the REI Helio Sack 55 sleeping bag features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 1 lb 9 oz
  • 2-season compatible
  • Fill: synthetic
  • Shell: polyester taffeta bluesign® approved
  • Compressed volume: 3.1 liters
  • Price: $

REI Helio Sack 55 Sleeping Bag // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: REI

Marmot Trestles 30 Sleeping Bag

For cooler weather adventures, the Marmot Trestles 30 Sleeping Bag is built to withstand cool, wet weather. Weighing 3 lbs 7 oz, it’s not an ultralight sleeping bag, but it’s a great price for the quality. It’s insulated with durable SpiraFil™ polyester for warmth, softness, and packability. I like that it has a little stash pocket on the outside for chapstick or earplugs. Check out the men’s model here, and for even colder weather adventures you might need the Marmot Trestles 15 sleeping bag.

Here are some of the Marmot Trestles 30 sleeping bag features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 3 lbs 7 oz
  • 3-season compatible
  • Fill: SpiraFil LT polyester fibers
  • Shell: polyester
  • Compressed volume: 11.7 liters
  • Price: $

Marmot Trestles 30 Sleeping Bag // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Steep & Cheap / REI / Backcountry / Moosejaw

Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad

The Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite sleeping pad is one of the all-time favorites for many backpackers. It’s super lightweight (hence the name: SOLite) and doubles as a seat or a yoga mat. It 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 just 20 bucks, this closed-cell foam pad is ideal for any lightweight backpacker looking to save some money on cheap backpacking gear.

Here are some of the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite sleeping pad features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 9 – 14 oz depending on the length
  • 3-season compatible
  • Sleeping pad type: insulated closed-cell foam
  • R-value: 2.1
  • Price: $

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Amazon / Backcountry / REI

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Inflatable Sleeping Pad

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

Here are some of the Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout sleeping pad features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 1 lb 6 oz
  • 4-season compatible
  • Sleeping pad type: inflatable open-cell foam
  • R-value: 3.4
  • Price: $

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Amazon / REI / Moosejaw

Best Backpack for Backpacking on a Budget on a Budget

Granite Gear Crown2 60L Backpack

Shopping for a durable, comfortable backpack on a tight budget can be tough because you don’t want to sacrifice quality and comfort. I suggest the Granite Gear Crown2 60L Backpack – it’s ultralight and made for rugged adventures. This pack weighs less than 2 1/2 lbs and is designed for maximum ventilation, comfort, and ease. The hip belt is fully adjustable and has two pockets for your quick go-to items, like a map, snacks, and sunglasses. It’s a top-loading pack and the lid is removable, in case you want to go ultra-ultralight. And, it’s compatible with most hydration bladders with an internal sleeve and hose port. It’s important to mention that this pack is made specifically for ultralight backpackers. That means when you load it up with a non-ultralight tent and sleeping bag, it can be a bit uncomfortable due to its 35-pound weight capacity. (Once you get your backpack, check out this blog post on how to pack your backpack for a multi-day trip.)

Here are some of the Granite Gear Crown2 60L backpack features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 2 lbs 4 oz – 2 lbs 5.8 oz depending on size
  • Gear capacity: 60L
  • Weight capacity: 35 lbs
  • Material: ripstop nylon
  • Price: $$

Granite Gear Crown2 60L Backpack // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Backcountry / REI Outlet / AmazonSteep & Cheap

REI Co-op Trailbreak 60 Pack

*Sustainable* If ultralight isn’t ultra necessary for you, the REI Trailbreak 60 Pack is a great option. It’s made with sustainably-sourced bluesign® approved materials on the shell, straps, lining, and bottom. This spacious top-loading pack has plenty of room for all your backpacking gear throughout seven compartments. It has an adjustable torso, so it will fit most bodies. With a padded hip belt, back, and shoulder straps, most people will feel comfortable in this affordable backpacking pack.

Here are some of the REI Trailbreak 60L backpack features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 3 lbs 11 oz
  • Gear capacity: 60L
  • Material: bluesign® approved ripstop nylon
  • Price: $$

REI Trailbreak 60 Backpack // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: REI

Havasu Falls Backpacker // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Best Backpacking Stoves

MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove

The MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove isn’t the cheapest out there, but it is the best backpacking stove on the market for less than $50. It’s a personal favorite for a lot of backpackers because it’s ultralight, 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. And, it’s compatible with most fuel canisters so you can take it on international trips. 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.

Here are some of the MSR PocketRocket 2 stove features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 2.6 oz
  • Fuel type: canister
  • Fuel: isobutane-propane
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 3 1/2 minutes
  • Price: $

MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove //Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Amazon / REI / Backcountry / Moosejaw

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

If the MSR stove is out of the budget, the next-best option is the GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove for less than $30. It’s also designed for fast cooking and can hold a pot up to 5 inches in diameter. It’s about twice the weight as the MSR stove, but is still light enough for backpacking. One thing to keep in mind, it might not hold up well against strong winds. Otherwise, this backpacking stove will heat up your water and cook your meals on the trail for an inexpensive price.

Here are some of the GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 5.9 oz
  • Fuel type: canister
  • Fuel: isobutane-propane
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 4 minutes
  • Price: $

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Amazon / REI / Moosejaw

Backpacking on a budget? Here is my favorite cheap backpacking gear, including the best inexpensive stoves for your backcountry adventures.

Learn How to Choose the Best Backpacking Stove!

Best Trekking Poles for Backpacking

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles

The Montem Ultra Strong trekking poles are well made and built to withstand rugged adventures in the backcountry. 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 bodyweight gets dispersed more evenly across the four points of contact. The Montem trekking poles are adjustable between 24″ – 53″, and have easy flip-locks so you don’t have to worry about twisting them in place when your hands get sweaty. Plus, they come in a bunch of fun colors.

Here are some of the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Pole features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Shaft construction: aluminum 7075
  • Grip material: EVA foam
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 4 minutes
  • Price: $


Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Montem / Amazon

Backpacking with Trekking Poles // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Best Backpacking Water Filter

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is hands-down the most affordable and efficient choice for $20. Weighing in at just 2 ounces (yep, 2 ounces), it’s super compact. This 0.1-micron filters 99.99% of all bacteria, including salmonella, cholera and E.coli and 99.99% of all protozoa, like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The filter threads attach to most storebought water bottles, but it also comes with a 16 oz squeeze pouch. Just filter water right into the pouch and transfer it to your hydration bladder or water bottle. It’s that easy. The Sawyer Mini is your best option as a budget-savvy backpacker.

Here are some of the Sawyer Mini water filter features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 2 oz
  • Filter type: squeeze, straw
  • Filter membrane: hollow-fiber membrane
  • Removes/destroys: protozoa and bacteria
  • Price: $

Sawyer Mini Water Filter // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: REI / Amazon

Best Headlamp for Backpacking

Black Diamond Astro 175

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 Black Diamond Astro 175 headlamp is an important addition to your backpacking gear collection. It has three settings: full-strength floodlight, dim, and strobe, and runs on AAA batteries.

Here are some of Black Diamond Astro 175 headlamp features:

  • Minimum trail weight: 2.8 oz with batteries
  • Bulb type: LED
  • Max light output: 175 lumens
  • Price: $

Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp // Looking for the budget outdoor gear that won't break the bank? Here is the best cheap backpacking gear and my top tips for buying quality, inexpensive gear.

Check price: Black Diamond / REI / Amazon / Moosejaw


Other places to shop for cheap backpacking gear

Buying used outdoor gear is a great way to save money on your backpacking setup. Here are a few places that offer used outdoor gear:

Factors to Consider While Shopping for the Best Cheap 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. Like 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

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 your 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 fit well and feel 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.

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 sustainable 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 products made with strong materials that can withstand wear and tear, like SilNylon, polypropylene, and polyester.

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. By the end of this blog post, you’ll see that 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. 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. I’m a big fan of buying used outdoor gear whenever possible. It saves you a chunk of money and keeps more stuff out of the landfill. Check out my favorite places to shop for discounted outdoor gear, and don’t forget about hitting up your local gear exchange stores, thrift stores, and community forums.

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 backpacking gear on a tight budget, I hope you feel closer to hitting the trail on the backpacking trip of your dreams. Where do you want to go backpacking? Share with us in the comments below!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Any purchases you make help to support this blog at no added cost to you. I only recommend products that I stand behind, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on my site, please email me. Thanks! Kristen

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About the author

Hi! I'm Kristen....blogger, hiker, sunset-watcher, and dance floor shredder. I feel most alive in the outdoors and created this website to help you enjoy the best that the West has to offer.

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