Best Cheap Backpacking Gear For Tight Budgets

Here is a roundup of the best cheap backpacking gear plus tips for buying quality, budget gear for your next backcountry camping trip.

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.

Here 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.


Best Budget Backpacking Tents

REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent

Key Features:

  • Weight: 5 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Capacity: 2 people
  • Floor Area: 31 sq. ft
  • 3-season compatible
  • 2 doors, 2 vestibules
  • MSRP: $159

Check Price: REI

REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent

The REI Co-op Passage 2 Tent is a great 2-person budget option for backpacking. 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 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.

Kelty Late Start Tent

Key Features:

  • Weight: 4 lbs 8 oz
  • Capacity: 2 people
  • Floor Area: 29.5 sq. ft
  • 3-season compatible
  • 1 door, 1 vestibule
  • MSRP: $159.95

Check Price: Backcountry | REI | Moosejaw

Kelty Late Start 2 Person Tent

Kelty makes great budget-friendly backpacking gear. Linda (BFT’s Director) and her husband have been using the same 2-person Kelty tent they got when they started backpacking over a decade ago. Goes to show your gear can really last if you take good care of it!

The Kelty Late Start tent is straightforward and easy to set up. It’s got plenty of ventilation thanks to the full mesh upper and comes with a rain fly in case the weather turns. It only has one door and one vestibule, though, so if you’re sharing it with a partner you’ll have to climb over each other to get in and out. But that’s a small price to pay for being able to get out in the backcountry on a budget!

REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2 Tent

Key Features:

  • Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz
  • Capacity: 2 people
  • Floor Area: 31.8 sq. ft
  • 3-season compatible
  • One door
  • MSRP: $89.95

Check Price: REI

REI Groundbreaker backpacking tent

The REI Co-op Groundbreaker 2 tent doesn’t have all the features that other two-person backpacking tents out there have, but if you’re looking to save some cash and get out there it’ll do the trick. It’s easy to set up, it’s super durable, and it’ll shelter you from the elements.

What I don’t love about this tent is that the mesh paneling is minimal so it can get toasty on warm nights, there’s no vestibule for protected outdoor gear storage, and this tent only has one door. But again, if you’re looking for cheap backpacking gear to help you get out there this is one of the least expensive backpacking tents you’ll find.


Best Budget Sleeping Bags For Backpacking

Kelty Tuck 40 Sleeping Bag

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2 lbs 7 oz (regular length)
  • Fill: synthetic
  • Shell: polyester
  • Compressed size: 14×8″
  • MSRP: $89.95

Check Price: Backcountry | Moosejaw

Kelty Tuck 40F sleeping bag

The Kelty Tuck Sleeping 40F Bag is mummy-shaped yet spacious to allow you to toss and turn in your sleep. It’s made of durable polyester and synthetic fill just like the other budget sleeping bag options on this list and it’s lightweight and packable without breaking the bank.

Rated at 40 degrees F, this sleeping bag is best for backpacking in mild weather. If you want something warmer, there’s a 20-degree version that’s available in a women’s model as well.

Stoic Groundwork 20 Sleeping Bag

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3 lb 3.2 oz
  • Fill: synthetic
  • Shell: polyester
  • Compressed size: 15.5 x 10in
  • MSRP: $84.95

Check price: Backcountry

Stoic groundwork 20F sleeping bag

The Stoic Groundwork Sleeping Bag is not the lightest weight sleeping bag option on this list, but a 20°F bag at this price is hard to beat.

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.

Marmot NanoWave 35 Sleeping Bag

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2 lb 2.8 oz
  • Fill: synthetic
  • Shell: polyester
  • Compressed size: 8 x 12.5 in
  • MSRP: $98.95 (regular length)

Check Price: Backcountry | Moosejaw

Marmot NanoWave 35 Sleeping Bag

The Marmot NanoWave sleeping bag will keep you warm on summer and shoulder season backpacking trips. It packs down small and is lightweight for a synthetic sleeping bag. It also comes with a compression stuff sack, which many bags don’t, and the synthetic insulation even works if it gets damp.

If you’re looking for something warmer for cool weather camping trips, Marmot makes a 25-degree version of this sleeping bag as well.

ALPS Mountaineering Blue Springs 35 Sleeping Bag

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz (regular)
  • Fill: synthetic
  • Shell: polyester
  • Compressed size: 17.3 x 7in
  • MSRP: $89.99

Check price: Backcountry

ALPS Mountaineering Blue Springs 35F Sleeping Bag

For mid-spring to mid-fall camping adventures, the ALPS Mountaineering Blue Springs 35F Sleeping Bag is a great budget sleeping bag choice. Weighing 2 lbs 11 oz, it’s not an ultralight sleeping bag, but it’s a great price for the quality.

I love that this bag has a cozy hood and even insulation to keep you toasty and a full-length zip on one side and a half-length zip on the other for versatility.


Best Budget Sleeping Pads for Backpacking

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol Sleeping Pad

Key Features:

  • Weight: 14 oz
  • Sleeping pad type: closed-cell foam
  • R-value: 2
  • Thickness: 0.75″
  • MSRP: $54.95

Check Price: REI | Backcountry

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol Sleeping Pad

The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sol 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.

NEMO Switchback Sleeping Bag

Key Features:

  • Weight: 14.5 oz (regular)
  • Sleeping pad type: closed-cell foam
  • R-value: 2
  • Thickness: 0.9″
  • MSRP: $54.95

Check price: REI | Backcountry | NEMO Equipment

NEMO Switchback sleeping pad

The NEMO Switchback Sleeping Pad is very similar to the Therma-a-Rest Z-Lite pad above, but it is slightly thicker for more comfort on the trail. Like the Therma-a-Rest, it also features a metalized thermal film layer to reflect body heat to keep you warm throughout the night. It folds up into a rectangle, which you can then easily strap to your backpack.

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout Inflatable Sleeping Pad

Key Features:

  • Weight: 1 lb 6 oz (regular)
  • Sleeping pad type: open-cell foam
  • R-value: 3.1
  • Thickness: 1″
  • MSRP: $54.95 (regular)

Check price: REI | Backcountry | Moosejaw

Therm-a-Rest Trail Scout 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. 

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.


Best Budget Backpacking Packs

REI Co-op Trailbreak 60 Pack

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3 lbs 11 oz
  • Gear capacity: 60L
  • Detachable lid? Yes
  • Hydration sleeve? No
  • Rain cover? No
  • MSRP: $149

Check price: REI

REI Co-op Trailbreak backpacking pack

If ultra-lightweight 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.

Osprey Renn 65 Backpack

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3 lbs 7 oz
  • Gear capacity: 65L
  • Detachable lid? No
  • Hydration sleeve? Yes
  • Rain cover? Yes
  • MSRP: $165

Check price: Osprey | Backcountry | REI

Osprey Renn 65 Backpack

The Osprey Renn 65 backpack is a great budget-friendly backpacking pack. With a 65 L capacity, it’s large enough for multi-day trips or cinch the straps down for a quick weekend adventure. This pack is even compatible with the Osprey Daylite Daypack if you need to carry gear or plan to set up a basecamp to do dayhikes.

The Renn is designed with Osprey’s classic tensioned mesh panel which holds the pack off your back for ventilation, a separate sleeping bag compartment, hip belt pocket, mesh side pockets, and space for a hydration reservoir. Plus, it comes with an integrated removable rain cover (sold separately for most packs) so you’ll be prepared if the weather turns. If you want something smaller, this pack comes in a 50-liter version as well. For guys, the Osprey Rook is the men’s model.

Kelty Asher 55L Backpack

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz
  • Gear capacity: 55L
  • Detachable lid? No
  • Hydration sleeve? Yes
  • Rain cover? No
  • MSRP: $139.95

Check price: Backcountry

Kelty Asher Backpacking Backpack

Shopping for a durable, comfortable backpacking pack on a tight budget can be tough because you don’t want to sacrifice quality and comfort. The Kelty Asher 55L Backpack is a good affordable option that is both durable and comfortable. It’s also lightweight – weighing in at less than 4 lbs – with a fully adjustable hip belt, pockets for your go-to items like a map, snacks, and sunglasses, and it is hydration reservoir compatible.

This pack is available in 65 L and 85L models as well.


Best Budget Backpacking Stoves

MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2.6 oz
  • Fuel type: canister
  • Fuel: isobutane-propane
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 3 1/2 minutes
  • MSRP: $49.95

Check price: Backcountry | REI | Moosejaw

MSR PocketRocket Stove

The MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it is the best backpacking stove on the market for less than $50. It is 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.

The PocketRocket is also 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!

Snow Peak GigaPower 2.0 Backpacking Stove

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Fuel type: canister
  • Fuel: isobutane-propane
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 4 min 48 sec
  • MSRP: $49.95

Check Price: REI

Snow Peak GigaPower backpacking stove

The Snow Peak GigaPower stove is another great lightweight, budget-friendly backpacking stove option. It’s compact and comes with a plastic storage case. The adjustable burner allows it to simmer, not just boil, and the built-in ignition can be used for easy lighting, no lighter required (although we always suggest bringing one just in case).

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

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

Key Features:

  • Weight: 5.9 oz
  • Fuel type: canister
  • Fuel: isobutane-propane
  • Average boil time (for 1L of water): 4 minutes
  • MSRP: $29.95

Check price: Backcountry | REI | Moosejaw

GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove

If the MSR and Snow Peak stoves are out of the budget, the next-best option is the GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove for less than $30. It’s designed for fast cooking and can hold a pot up to 5 inches in diameter. This stove is about twice the weight of the MSR stove but is still plenty light enough for backpacking.

One thing to keep in mind before buying, it might not hold up well against strong winds, but that’s the case with most stoves out there. Otherwise, this backpacking stove will heat up your water and cook your meals on the trail for an inexpensive price.


Best Budget Trekking Poles

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • Weight: 1 lb 3 oz (pair)
  • Material: aluminum
  • Grip: foam
  • MSRP: $69.99

Check price: Montem

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.

REI Co-op Trailbreak Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • Weight: 1 lb 1 oz (pair)
  • Material: aluminum
  • Grip: foam
  • MSRP: $69.95

Check price: REI

REI Trailbreak Trekking Poles

The REI Co-op Trailbreak Trekking Poles are another great budget option coming in at the same price as the Montem’s above. They don’t have many bells and whistles, but they’ll protect your knees while you hike and help distribute your weight more evenly.

These trekking poles are adjustable, versatile, and have comfortable wrist straps which is really all you need.

Here is a roundup of the best cheap backpacking gear plus tips for buying quality, budget gear for your next backcountry camping trip.
Trekking poles are a great way to take pressure off your knees while hiking

Best Budget Backpacking Water Filters

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

Key Features:

  • Weight: 2 oz
  • Filter type: squeeze, straw
  • Removes/destroys: protozoa & bacteria
  • MSRP: $22.95

Check price: REI | Moosejaw

Sawyer Mini Squeeze water filter

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is hands-down the most affordable and efficient choice for around $20. 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.

LifeStraw Peak Gravity Water Filter System

Key Features:

  • Weight: 8.1 oz
  • Filter type: gravity
  • Removes/destroys: protozoa & bacteria
  • MSRP: $59.95

Check price: REI | LifeStraw

If you’re looking for something that can filter more volume, the LifeStraw Peak Gravity Water Filter System is a great budget-friendly water filter. This filter works via gravity, so all you have to do is fill up the pouch and let the water run down into a clean reservoir.

At 8.1 oz, it’s still super lightweight and can filter up to 3L of water per minute.


Best Budget Headlamp for Backpacking

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp

Key Features:

  • Weight: 3 oz with batteries
  • Bulb type: LED
  • Max light output: 250 lumens
  • MSRP: $19.95

Check price: REI | Backcountry

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. 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).


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

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!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

5 comments on “Best Cheap Backpacking Gear For Tight Budgets

  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!

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