If you are going on your first hike, or you just don’t hike that often, these tips for hiking for beginners on a budget will help you save money on your hike!
If you don’t hike that often, it makes sense why you don’t want to spend too much money. Hiking gear can get very expensive, and if you only do it once in a while, there is no reason to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on hiking equipment.
If you are only hiking for a few hours or just for the day, you really don’t need that much. If you are going on an overnight hiking trip, you will definitely need more gear.
This list will focus on budget hiking equipment for shorter hikes. So, if you are just taking a day hike with a friend or your family, these tips will help you save as much money as possible!
Plus, hiking and taking time to spend in nature shouldn’t cost you a fortune! You should be able to enjoy the sights and get some exercise without breaking the bank.
Make sure you check out these day hike essentials and tips for more ideas!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Budget Hiking Essentials
If you’ve previously researched hiking gear, you were probably quickly bombarded by the mass amounts of items you can buy. So, which items do you really need? If you are just hiking for the day, less is more. Hiking for beginners on a budget means packing only the essentials, and finding them for cheap!
Here is a list of the absolute bare minimum essentials you should have for a short hike:
- Backpack or fanny pack
- Water and snacks
- Good hiking shoes
- Comfy hiking clothes and layers
- Sunblock, a hat, or clothes that cover your skin
- Phone to take pictures and to follow the trail map
- First aid – a few bandaids in case of blisters or scrapes will probably be enough
…and that’s about it! No need to get too fancy here. You can find a full list of hiking essentials here if you want more ideas.
Let’s go through a few of these items and where you can find the highest quality, yet cheapest options.
1. Budget Hiking Backpack
If you are looking for a cheap hiking backpack, you have a couple of options! The first option is to simply use a backpack you already own. If you don’t go hiking that often, it could be more cost effective for you to just use a bag you have in your closet.
If you don’t have a backpack, or you are looking for a better one, check out this budget hiking backpack! This one is only about $20, and even comes with a hammock!
Regardless of how you get a backpack, the most important thing is that you have one. You’ll need something to carry all your belongings in, so as long as you have something, you’re good!
I’ve even used a small fanny pack for shorter hikes, which is great for holding all your stuff instead of bringing a huge bulky backpack.
2. Budget Hiking Shoes
Another item you need for hiking for beginners on a budget is a pair of good hiking shoes. Shoes can get pretty expensive, but they are super important especially if you are hiking on rocky terrain.
I have a pair of $100 hiking shoes, and a pair of $20 hiking shoes, and to be honest, they work just as well, so don’t feel like you need to buy a super expensive pair.
I’ve made the mistake of hiking with just a pair of Nike running shoes, and I will never do that again! Hiking shoes keep you safe from slipping and sliding on rocks and dirt, and help protect your feet from sharp rocks.
If you have a Big 5 Sporting Goods store in your area, consider getting a pair of shoes there. I’ve gotten great quality hiking shoes from there for only about $20!
Otherwise, check out these hiking shoes which are budget-friendly!
3. Budget Hiking Clothes
Next, you’ll want to have some comfortable and practical clothes to wear on your hike. Most of us already have clothes to wear for hiking, so you probably won’t need to buy anything new.
Here are the basic clothing items you should have:
- Breathable T-shirt
- Sweatshirt/hoody depending on the weather
- Comfortable gym shorts, capris, leggings, or sweatpants
- Hat to help prevent sunburn
Chances are, you’ve already got these things. You might need to purchase a pair of hiking socks (you’ll want longer socks to keep your feet comfortable, especially if your shoes are new and aren’t broken in yet).
Hiking socks are nice to have, but you can also wear just regular longer socks if you don’t want to buy them.
4. Renting Hiking Gear
If you don’t want to buy brand new hiking gear but you need some new things, consider renting them!
Many outdoor or athletic stores like REI allow customers to rent gear, which is convenient if you only need it for a day or two.
You can rent more than just hiking gear, too! You can rent climbing gear, boots, snowshoes, camping accessories, skiis, and so much more!
Keep in mind that some things might actually be more expensive to rent than to just buy your own. For example, renting a day hiking pack from REI costs $15 for the first day. You could easily buy your own backpack for this amount.
Some items can be worth it though, so take some time to do the math!
If you are going on a hike for a first date, it can be considerate to rent your partner’s gear as well!
5. Buy Used Hiking Gear
Another option for hiking for beginners on a budget is to buy used hiking gear. I love thrifting, and have found some really awesome deals!
Check out your local thrift store and look through the outdoor or sporting section. You’ll be surprised by the amount of gear you can find there for reasonable prices!
We’ve bought a bunch of hiking backpacks from thrift stores, along with camping gear, all which were great quality, so it is definitely worth looking into!
6. Dollar Store Hiking Essentials
Another option to save money on hiking essentials is to check out the Dollar Store! There are tons of Dollar Store essentials that no one ever thinks of. Here are some ideas:
- Get a couple of rain ponchos in case it starts to rain on your hike (it’s happened to us, and we were so glad we had covering!)
- Snacks – the Dollar Tree has tons of good snacking options to throw in your backpack.
- Long socks – if you don’t want to purchase hiking socks, grab a pair of cheap longer socks to protect your feet.
- Baseball cap – if you don’t have a hat to wear, many Dollar Stores have hats to help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays
- First aid – grab some bandaids, pain relievers, antibacterial cream, etc. in case of accidental injuries on your hike.
Hiking for Beginners on a Budget: Other Tips
Aside from getting the right hiking essentials, there are a couple more hiking for beginners on a budget tips that will help you save money! By following these tips, you will save tons of money, and have a great experience on your hike!
7. Budget Hiking Food and Drink
Another hiking for beginners on a budget tips involve food and drink. Packing the appropriate snacks and drinks is critical for a successful hike, and your overall health!
No matter where you are hiking, the altitude is only going to get higher and higher. Because of this, hydration is essential. Not only are you working your body hard from hiking up steep terrain, but the thinner air dehydrates you even more.
Staying hydrated is the number one tip for preventing altitude sickness, so make sure you come prepared!
Many hiking backpacks have what’s called a water bladder, or a water pack. If your backpack doesn’t have one, you can always get one, or simply bring a big water bottle with you!
As far as food and snacks go, it depends on the length and difficulty of your hike. We like to pack a lunch and eat it when we get to the top. However, we also bring other snacks to fuel our bodies along the way. Here are some of our favorites:
- PB&J… a classic!
- Trail mix: called trail mix for a reason!
- Peanut butter and crackers or pretzels
- Protein bars
- Beef jerky
- Fresh fruit
Anything that is full of protein is a great option. You also want to stay away from foods that require refrigeration, especially in the warmer months.
Check out this list of no cook meals that can give you more inspiration of food and snacks to pack!
8. Prepare for your Hike
One of the most important tips to save money while hiking is to prepare! Like anything in life, preparation will lead to success, and hiking is no different.
Here are some things you will want to think about as you prepare for your hike:
- Where are you hiking? Many parks and trails require a fee to enter or to park. Be sure to check the fee requirements so you are not surprised once you get there! Choose a free trail or find free parking (sometimes there are shuttles to popular areas) to save even more money!
Psst.. If you are traveling to Colorado, check out these Colorado Springs hikes!
- How difficult is the hike? You want to choose a hike that is within your fitness abilities. Otherwise, your day might go on longer than you anticipated, which always leads to more spending.
- What are you doing after the hike? Often times after a hike, hikers like to go get something to eat or grab a beer or two. Make sure you make this plan ahead of time (and choose a place to go if that is your plan), so you know how much money to expect to spend!
Hiking in Colorado? Check out these things to do in Colorado after your hike!