One of the biggest shocks for many newcomers to the backpacking world is just how expensive it can be to live on nothing but the “bare essentials.” With many hikers spending thousands of dollars to get the perfect pack full of gear, it’s no wonder that many feel as though backpacking is unattainable due to the cost.
Having top-of-the-line, ultralight gear won’t necessarily make you a better backpacker, but it will make your journey more enjoyable, and sometimes, significantly easier. Each item in your pack should be looked at as an investment. Although it’s more expensive upfront, buying high-quality gear ensures that you won’t need to replace most items for years to come.
With that being said, most of us don’t have a couple grand to drop on a pack load of brand new UL gear, some of you will opt for buying cheaper and less durable items. Others prefer gear from trustworthy companies that will stand the test of time, there are still many ways to get high-quality lightweight gear for a discounted price:
Plan Ahead & Shop During Sales
It’s easy to panic when you get the message in your inbox about a last-minute sale with name-brand gear marked way down. Instead of rushing to purchase gear that you haven’t fully researched yet, go into each sale with an established plan. Chalk out some time beforehand to look into every detail of the new sleeping bag or tent that is on your wish list. Once you make your decision and are confident that the product is right for you, start putting money aside. Now when you get a coupon or see the product go on sale, you can quickly throw it in your cart and enjoy before certain colours or sizes run out.
Don’t Be Afraid of Used Gear
Just starting to get into backpacking? Buy a used pack or sleeping bag for those first few trips. This helps ensure that you really enjoy the activity before dropping a couple hundred notes on something you may only use once or twice. Starting off with used gear is also a great way to figure out what features and styles you prefer for when you go to buy a top of the line product down the road. Worn Wear by Patagonia, and the new “Used Gear” section of REI.com are great places to start, but you may even have some luck by asking the local scout group if you could borrow some kit , a small donation may help
Ask around your inner circles and see if any of your friends have gear laying around that they’re not using, Facebook is quite useful for this, also try your local outdoor shop
Sell Your Old Gear
On the opposite end of buying used gear, selling anything you no longer use is a great way to give yourself a “discount” on future purchases. Thinking of buying a new tent? Sell your old one, and put that cash towards the purchase of the new tent. From used gear Facebook groups, used gear websites, and even your friends on social media, there are tons of places to sell your older equipment. Selling your old items can help declutter your gear closet, inspire new backpackers with low cost gently used equipment, and can help put a little bit of cash in your gear fund making this a win-win-win.
It’s All About Return Policies & Guarantees
One thing that is truly unique about the outdoor industry is that a large majority of brands fully stand behind the gear they make. This usually translates to most gear companies having great return policies, fast and reliable customer service, and sometimes even free gear repairs. Some of the best known guarantees in the backpacking world today are Darn Tough with their no strings attached Unconditional Lifetime Guarantee, REI’s famous no questions asked 1 year return policy, the Ironclad Guarantee paired with a lifetime of free (or low cost) repairs from Patagonia, and Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee where they will repair your pack for free regardless if it was bought yesterday, when they were founded in 1974, or anywhere in between.
The list doesn’t end here – these are just a few of the many big brands that offer killer return and repair policies. If you found a brand and a product you like, be sure to look into if they offer any guarantees or satisfaction policies before you buy so that you will be able to take full advantage down the road.
Discounted Gear Websites
If you’re willing to do a little bit of digging, and you’re not too picky about colour options, there are more than a few online stores that regularly mark down name brand gear. Most of these sites sell overflow inventories or fully functioning gear with minor cosmetic flaws so check often to get the best deals!
Sign Up For Emails
Honestly, we all hate waking up with a ton of junk emails in our inbox. If you’re on a mission for cheap gear though, now might be the time to really make sure you’re only getting emails from companies you are interested in. Go through and unsubscribe from anything you consider “junk”, and instead, sign up for the email lists of your favourite outdoor companies and websites. Most companies send you a small percentage off your next purchase after signing up for their virtual mailing list, plus you will be the first to get notified about all sales, coupons, and their latest arrivals!
The best way to get cheap gear? Patience. Most of these tips work best if you don’t need your new gear right away. So, if you’re planning a thru hike or other big trip, be sure to leave lots of time to acquire any items you may need. After spending countless hours on research, and even longer waiting for just the right sale, you’ll be happily skipping down the trail with your new ultralight gear (plus you’ll now have that much more money to spend on food while satisfying your hiker hunger).
Whilst reading previous hikers blogs, I came across this great piece by Keith Fosset
Keith has some great tips on getting sponsorship and I followed his advice
I suggest you read his article
Basically, you are hoping that companies will sell you equipment at a discounted rate or in some circumstances give it to you free
The saving can be huge and money unspent helps with funding your hike
Once I was happy with my choice I began to use the advice of Keith’s webpage.
You only get one shot make sure you use it, so you need to grab their attention. You can be funny if you like
This is how I headed my email to Berghaus
“Hiking 2,000 miles with bare feet”.
They probably opened it just out of curiosity. It worked and I received three pairs of hiking boots. Well, okay, after a bit of grovelling
you need to be specific in what you want
i) Don’t say I need a tent, state exactly what you need.
I need a seam sealed Tarp Tent Contrail with yellow, reflective spectra cord guy lines, integrated line lighteners and titanium tent pegs.
This makes you sound professional because you know exactly what you need and not just someone who’s making a halfarsed attempt to do a thru-hike (or whatever activity).
ii) Provide details of what you are doing,
Not in 10 paragraphs, use one line. Don’t use words like attempting or going to try. Be positive and tell them what you are going to do:
I am going to hike 2,640 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.
iii) Make your trip sound immense and a true hardship, they love all that stuff.
iiii) Explain why you need the item you are asking for and make them feel good by saying you think their product is the best.
iv) If you are raising money for a charity include that as well.
iiv) Lastly, tell them what you can do for them
Gear companies are after one thing from sponsorship and one thing only – exposure. The more their brand is out there on the trail, or seen on an athletics track, or on the wings of a plane the better. The more exposure they get, the more products they sell and the more money they make. Tell them how you can do this
To my amazement companies were brilliant and I obtained 75% of my kit this way I was chuffed to bits with and more importantly, it saved me a shed load of money which meant I had more funds available for the hike and, therefore, I had more chance of success
What are some of your tricks for getting name brand gear for cheap? Let me know in the comments below!