How To Go Backpacking for Less Than 200 Dollars


Napali Coast Hike March 2016

Napali Coast Hike March 2016

Many people have asked me how do I start backpacking? What do I need? This learning module is all about getting you started backpacking for less than 200 dollars. Backpacking can be a very expensive endeavor; I’ve probably spent over $2000 dollars on backpacking gear over the years. When I started I was not sure if this was a hobby that I would continue after my first trip into the woods I brought cheap and inappropriate gear and learned many lessons along the way. I still recommend that you start with a budget set up and buy more expensive gear as you discover what is working for you and what is not.

By the end of the this learning module you should be able to:

  • Safely plan a trip into the woods according to your skill level
  • Find a trail near your house
  • Understand the importance of the Big 4
  • Recognize the importance of weight while backpacking
  • Know where to purchase backpacking gear
  • Hit the trail with the appropriate amount of gear

Planning your Trip

The first step in your backpacking adventure is planning your trip. A good place to start is asking your friends or a local gear outfitter where a nice beginner trail is located in your area. Depending on your fitness I would recommend anywhere between 3-10 miles per day on your first trip.

Things to consider:

  • Are you going alone or with friends
  • What are the expected temperatures/weather on the trip
  • Is there water available along the trail
  • How long are you going to be out
  • What is the elevation gains and losses
  • What is your fitness leve

Buying Gear

This is something that far too many people get hung up on. The price of gear should not be a barrier to experiencing the outdoors. I realize that 200 dollars is a lot of money to spend on gear so you can also consider renting the gear from a local outfitter or borrowing gear from a friend. The gear that I’ve reviewed here is not the best quality to be sure but it will hold up for many trips.

Google Sheet with breakdown

Things to consider:

  • What is your budget
  • Weight, weight and weight that is the most important
  • How many times do you think you will use the gear before replacing
  • What time of the year do you like to go hiking
  • What is the climate in your area
  • You're not out there too look cool
  • How much research have you done on your own


Little Sur Campground Los Padres National Forest 2015

Little Sur Campground Los Padres National Forest 2015

There is no better way to experience nature than backpacking, you walk into the woods and you sleep in the woods far from anyone and far from the roads. It can be a simple as an overnighter just a few miles from your house or it can take you 2000 miles along the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. My hope is that after this learning module you will go out and try backpacking for yourself. Good luck out there! And remember "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."-Lao Tzu

You should now be able to:

  • Safely go into the woods on a backpacking trip
  • Buy budget friendly backpacking gear
  • Understand the importance of each piece of gear