hiking for beginners on a budget

Hiking for Beginners on a Budget

If you’re like me when I first started hiking, then the hiking bug has bitten you hard and you’re looking for ways to get out there on the trails as much as possible. However, if your budget is tight, you may be wondering how to afford all of those gear essentials. Never fear! There are plenty of ways to hike on a budget. In this post, I’ll share some tips for beginner hikers who want to hit the trails without breaking the bank. (Stay tuned for future posts about affordable gear!) So, whether you’re just starting out or are looking for more ways to save, keep reading for some great tips on hiking on a budget!

hiking for beginners on a budget

Myths About the Cost of Hiking

Myth 1: It costs a lot of money to start hiking

The truth is you can start hiking for very little money. You can even start for free, (with everything you need!), if you know where to look.

Myth 2: There’s so much gear you need, even if you get it cheap, it can cost a lot

Truth: You don’t need a ton of gear to hike! You can get started with minimal gear and build your gear arsenal as you go.

Myth 3: It costs over $1000 to get started with hiking.

The idea that you’ll need to spend over $1000, or even close to that, on your first hiking trip is just a myth! It won’t cost anywhere near that. Sure, eventually you may find yourself with a multi thousand-dollar gear closet, but you won’t need to start off like that.

What Do You Need to Hike?

Forget about all of the fancy gear you see on social media. All you really need to start hiking is a backpack, comfy clothes and the 10 essentials. Hiking is an art. It doesn’t matter if you’re just out for a walk or going on vacation to Mount Everest’s base camp – the right equipment will make your experience much more enjoyable and safer!

What are the 10 Essentials for hiking and where can you get them on a budget?

The 10 Essentials is gear that is designed to keep you safe on trail.

Navigation Map and Compass, GPS device or app. Carrying a paper map is important to do as no matter how reliable your electronic version of a map may be, things happen and you may lose service, drop and break, lose the device, or run out of battery.

When you’re trying to hike on a budget though, it may seem like your best bet is to charge your phone and use a free phone app, like Gaia or Alltrails. But paper maps can be free as well.

Find or create free maps with CalTopo

Lumination Headlamp, flashlight, lantern.

There are a dizzyingly huge selection of headlamps and flashlights out there. Headlamps are the more preferred option for hiking since they are a hands free light source.

Budget headlamp I have used and loved: Foxelli LED Headlamp

Sun Protection Sunblock, sunglasses, hat

Possible Cost: $0-$15

First-Aid A bare minimum first aid kit for hiking needs to contain

  • Wound covers like bandages and gauze
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Rubber gloves
  • Medication (Tylenol/ibuprofen, allergy medication for allergic reactions, and anti-diarrheal)
  • Tweezers

Bug repellent also falls under this category.

Possible Cost: $0-$15

Knife or Multi-tool If you don’t already have one, you don’t need anything fancy. You just want it to be sharp. This knife from Smith and Wesson goes on sale frequently.

Possible Cost: $0-20

Fire Lighter, matches, tinder, stove.

If you already have a lighter or matches, you just need tinder. Some of the best tinder can be easily made with two items you most likely have in your house already, cotton balls and Vaseline or petroleum jelly. Just swipe the cotton ball through the Vaseline and you’ve made the perfect fire starter. I keep mine in an old medicine bottle. You can also store them in a Ziplock bag.

Possible Cost: $0-16

Shelter Tents may be the first thing that come to mind when you think of hiking and shelter, but they’re not the only shelter that fits into the 10 essentials. Tents can be costly and/or heavy, and when you’re first starting out you don’t need to spend money on one (or haul one around on your day hike!). There’s a few other shelter options that are lighter, cheaper, and much more packable than tents. *

  • Emergency Blanket You can find 4 packs for under $12 on Amazon. Walmart carries them cheaply as well.
  • Emergency Bivy The Life Tent is a budget friendly, weatherproof shelter that packs down small
  • Tarp

Possible Total Cost: $0-$12

Extra Food In addition to what you need for your hike.

Extra Water

Extra Clothing An extra layer of warm clothes

Backpack: From home

Sample 10 Essentials Amazon Shopping List

Map and Compass: Map from CalTopo and Suuntu a-10 compass

Lumination: Foxelli rechargable headlamp

First Aid: 150 piece kit , add pain reliever, anti-diarrhea, and allergy meds from home (4 of each should be enough for day hikes)

Sun Protection: Banana Boat SPF 50 (3 mini bottles, perfect size for your backpack) or Coppertone Sport 100 SPF

Knife/Tool: TAC force TF 800 series folding knife

Fire: Stormproof matches, cotton balls, Vaseline OR AOTU portable camp stove (I personally own, use, and LOVE this stove)

Shelter: Life tent

Food: From your own kitchen OR ramen (if you take stove) OR wraps/sandwhiches

Water: From your kitchen

After putting all these items in my Amazon cart, the total came to just around $80. This number can be even less if you already have or can borrow some of the items from friends or family.

Amazon prohibits me from listing the exact prices for each product (I believe in case the prices change), however I can say that I added the headlamp, first aid kit, Coppertone Sport, the knife, the stove (not matches), and Life tent and my total came to $82.25.

Finding Budget Hiking Gear and Clothing

If you’re a budget-minded hiker, finding good gear and clothing can be tough. But it’s not impossible! You just need to know where to look. New hikers sometimes get the impression that they need to buy all new gear, but this isn’t always true.

Hiking Gear on the Cheap


Hiking enthusiasts will find a goldmine of outdoor gear on this Craigslist like site, but there’s no need for an in person meet up. You can search through budget friendly pricing on new or used items to purchase what you need at a great price!

Create your free GearTrade account to check out what they have to offer!


Mountain Steals is a discount gear and clothing site by my favorite outdoors company, Moosejaw.

Mountain Steals is the go-to spot for outdoor enthusiasts looking to save on their next purchase.
Buying gear and clothing from Mountain Steals can be compared to kitting out your home with furniture from IKEA, except that you get high-quality gear at a fraction of its retail price!

REI Outlet, also known as REI Garage, is another great place to find discount gear and clothing. I’ve found better deals at Mountain Steals however, so I would price check between REI outlet and Mountain Steals if there’s a specific item you want.

Budget Hiking Clothing

  • Sports/Fitness Apparel Section

  • Your Own Closet

  • Clearance Racks

Read: Where to Find Hiking Gear on a Budget

Hiking Food on a Budget

Skip the Mountain House. Make your own. Get creative. Mix things up.

Cheap Hiking Meal Ideas + Snacks!

  • Peanut butter and jelly. On bread, in a pita pocket, or as a wrap
  • Trail mix
  • Protein/energy bars
  • Ramen (you’ll need a stove for this one)
  • Lunchmeat wraps

Related Posts

Hiking for Beginners

Where to Find Hiking Gear on a Budget

10 Ways to Prepare for a Hike

What Not to Do as a Beginner Hiker

Hiking Checklist + Free Printable PDF

How to Build a Hiker’s First Aid Kit

Winter Hiking for Beginners