Budget Backpacking

Have you ever scrolled through MEC or REI or any other outdoorsy store and thought “how will I ever afford to backpack if a lightweight sleeping bag costs 800$?”. Yeah, me too.

I am heading out on my first backpacking trip into Algonquin National Park next week and as I was going through all the gear I had and the gear I needed, I realized that a lot of the expensive items backpackers used were out of my budget. Those Zpack’s tents are super lightweight but I can’t afford to pay more than my rent on a tent!

Since I started planning my backpacking trips for the summer, I have been looking for ways to save weight and money. There are of course some compromises I had to make in order to afford and carry everything but, overall I am super happy with the gear list I have acquired!

Here is my lighterpack breakdown of my gear selection, some things might change over the next week but that’s pretty much it! My baseweight is 12.28lbs but I am adding an extra 2lbs of miscellaneous items or things I missed on my list. Making a base weight of around 14.28lbs.

Buying all of my backpacking gear over the past couple months I spent approximately $663.08CAD. Some of the things I bought could be purchased for cheaper but due to COVID lockdowns and restrictions I was limited on where I could purchase. Luckily, I did already have a lot of items so I did not need to purchase (clothes, sleeping bag, etc.).

Here are a few ways that I saved money while buying gear and some recommendations for other new backpackers!

  • Shop the sales
  • Kijiji/Craigslist
  • Brand names aren’t important
  • Aliexpress
  • Use what you have
Shop the sales

This one may seem obvious, but I scoured through sale section after sale section looking for many of my items! A few items I found for 25% off were my Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner and spork, my Gear Aid knife, and my Smartwool socks! Many large (and not so large) retailers do big sales at the beginning and end of camping seasons. I got all of those items from Sport Check’s Friends and Family event! All items were 25% off and items already on sale were an additional 10% off. A quarter discount makes a huge difference and allowed me to get some of those ‘brand name’ items for less. Great websites to check out that I also used are Backcountry, MEC, Amazon, and Decathlon.

Kijiji/Craigslist/FB Marketplace

There are soo many people that buy a bunch of backpacking gear, realize its not for them after one trip and then resell it on these online marketplaces. You may have to look through a lot of items but I found some great deals while looking. One item I bought from Kijiji was my Merrell Trail Runners! I got them for $55 and they were in brand new condition. People are always selling their old tents, bags, and sleeping bags. With a little TLC most things can be as good as new for a fraction of the cost.

Brand names aren’t important

In the backpacking community you will see a lot of the same big brands repeated over and over again across YouTube channels, blogs, and everywhere in between. Brands like Zpacks, Patagonia, Osprey, etc. are super common among backpackers and hikers but there are way more cost effective options out there. These brands are popular because they have some great items but don’t get bogged down by having the newest, most expensive and flashy gear on the trail. The money you save by shopping with less expensive brands can be used towards longer trips or an extra beer in town ;).


Aliexpress and other wholesale/distributer marketplaces often get a bad reputation for an assumed poorer quality or false advertisement but, there are definitely some great finds on those sites. I was able to buy my 50L backpack from Aliexpress for $24.56, it took about 2 months to arrive but I am super impressed with the quality! For a first-time backpacker on a budget you can’t go wrong. Just always read the reviews thoroughly to make sure what you are buying is actually worth it.

Using what you have

Don’t having hiking boots but want to go for a hike??? Use your sneakers! Worried about hiking in the rain? An old rain coat and a baseball cap will keep the rain out of your face. Hiking clothes? Everyone has some athleisure in their closet. As with the other items in this list, you don’t need the newest and most expensive items on the market! Make use with what you have already.

Hopefully some of these tips that I have used to save money while collecting my gear can give you some inspiration on how to save money. Backpacking does not need to be super expensive! There are definitely some items I would spend more on, like a high quality water filter and a lighter shelter, but most other items can be bought (or even borrowed) for way less than you think.

Will you be trying any of these tips for your next adventure?

Saving money and finding good deals can seem like a daunting challenge, leave a comment down below if you have any questions!

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