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Save 9 Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

9 Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

Backpacking is a great way to explore the world while on a budget. Read this backpacking checklist so you have what you need to save on your travels.

9 Tips for Backpacking on a Budget

There’s a really neat feeling of freedom when you carry what you need for a vacation all on your back. Backpacking is a popular form of travel around the globe, where you pack the necessities for your journey in a backpack and take them with you on the go. There’s no need for bulky luggage or excess travel items. It’s easy to move and explore new destinations, plus save money in the process.

If you’re new to backpacking or want to make your next backpacking trip even more efficient, use this backpacking checklist to guide you.

1. Research your destination

It helps to know as much about your destination as possible so you don’t arrive short-handed or pack extras you don't need. What type of weather will you be experiencing? What’s the terrain like? What will you be doing when you get there – hiking trails, or walking city streets?

Answers to questions like these will help you choose the right clothing, footwear, and tools. If your trip’s in the wilderness, you’ll pack a backpacking tent. If you’re staying in hostels, you can use the extra room in your pack for something else, or save money with a smaller backpack and put less weight on your body. Come up with a list of essential items so you pack what’s needed, but avoid excess materials that can weigh you down and take more out of your wallet.

2. Sign up for loyalty clubs

Most retailers offer savings to customers when you join their loyalty program. For example, visit a retailer's website, and you might see an option to join a loyalty club when you provide your email. Retailers may also share savings on sites like social media channels.

If you have a trip planned, and you're interested in specific retailers, subscribe to their savings clubs and follow them on social media. Keep an eye out for deals on the products you need.

3. Try before you buy

When you backpack, you carry everything you need on your back. That means, the lighter your gear, the better for your body.

However, when you compare costs on items like a tent, lighter could also be more expensive. If you’re able to support an extra half-pound or pound on your back, you could save considerably.

A good way to find the sweet spot between saving and comfort is to test out your gear before a long trip. Stop into a store when you’re shopping for items. An associate can recommend gear that’s appropriate for your environment and your body. Then, you can shop for the least expensive option out of what’s available.

4. Shop off-season

You may be able to save more on gear when you shop for products in the off-season. For example, if you have a summer outdoor backpacking trip planned, look for off-season product sales in the winter. If you’re headed to a European backpacking trip over the winter holidays, look for warm gear on sale in the summer months.

Also, look for sales during typical sales times, like Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, 4th of July, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday saving specials.

5. Think beyond shopping new

Backpacking gear is typically designed to weather a variety of conditions, so sometimes it can last in good-as-new condition from owner to owner. For items like tents, backpacks, and water bottles, research online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for used items that are in good working condition but cost less than brand-new items.  

If you have friends who enjoy backpacking, ask them if they’re up for selling their old gear to you or letting you borrow their gear. Some retailers, like REI, also offer rentals for backpacking gear.

6. Look for backpacking bundles

Some retailers will sell backpacking bundles that include essentials like a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. These are great options for backpacking newbies. They can also help you save versus purchasing items individually.

Ask retailers about bundle options that help ensure you’ve packed what you need and also help you save.

7. Plan, plan, plan

Map out everything you want to do on your backpacking trip so you can pack adequately for each day without overloading yourself. For food, write out a meal plan. Make it a goal to maximize your ingredients and be realistic about what you’ll eat, so you don’t add extra weight with excess groceries.

You can save space, weight, and dollars on water by bringing a water filter instead of bottles of water. Just make sure you know where your water sources are so you can stay hydrated throughout your trip.

You can also save on food by making your own snacks. For example, instead of spending a few dollars each on energy bars, make your own energy balls. Add nuts, dates, and a binder like agave nectar to a food processor, then pulse it together. Roll the mixture into balls for a treat that's as good as packaged energy bars.

8. Take advantage of extra perks

If your backpacking trip involves staying at hostels or sleeping at a glamping destination, compare lodging options to maximize what you get out of them. For example, look for a hostel that offers free breakfast or a glamping site that provides toiletries. You can skip adding these to your backpack to save money and weight.

You might also be interested in booking accommodations that are close to what you need. For example, you could book a hostel with a kitchen that’s near a grocery store. You can shop for food nearby and cook it yourself instead of splurging at a restaurant.

9. Research transportation savings

It may be tempting to hop in a cab to your next destination if you’ve been doing a lot of walking on foot. Before you do, research the public transportation options in the area you’re visiting. Metro and rail passes are typically much cheaper than a cab or rideshare ride. Plus, you can get more room on public transport to stretch your legs as you journey to your next stop.

If you’ll be walking and/or hiking for most of your backpacking trip, you’ll want to invest in proper footwear, even if it’s a little more expensive up-front. Getting blisters or becoming injured due to the wrong footwear can derail your trip and slow you down. Comfortable, strong, sturdy footwear matters for a successful backpacking trip.  

Prepare to save on a backpacking trip

Backpacking is already one of the most budget-friendly forms of traveling the world. You can apply typical savings tips, like shopping during sales or the off-season, to cut down on costs. Thorough planning can also help you pack adequately without placing extra burdens on your wallet or on your back.

Going for a day trip while backpacking? Check out our produce-forward meal planning ideas and delicious budget breakfasts to nourish you as you explore. Dive into your Save mailer for additional savings on food, backpacking tools, and more.