Skip to content. Skip to main navigation.

Budget Hiking Gear

Budget Hiking Gear


This is an area that is hard to cut corners on. Cheap backpacks will make the trip miserable. A quality constructed backpack can be had in the $100 to $175 range. These packs may not be the lightest but they will be durable and last many years.

For younger scouts I recommend getting an adjustable pack with a size range of 50-60 liters. There are many youth packs out there that are 40 liters. These are fine for weekend trips but if your scout wishes to eventually do longer trips or a Philmont trip, they will need a 50-60 liter pack. The pack should also have nice firm shoulder straps that are at least 2 inches wide. Overly soft padding will make the pads uncomfortable, a sternum strap is also recommended. The hip belt should 3-4 inches wide and designed to fit your scout snuggly as 80% of the packs weight will rest on his hips.

Some brands to look for are REI, Osprey, North Face, Kelty, Granite Gear, Deuter, Jan Sport, Klymit, Alps Mountaineering.

Here is a link on how to properly fit a backpack:

Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags for backpacking need to be light and compact. Goose down is the lightest, and most compact sleeping bag material ounce for ounce but I do not recommend it for younger inexperienced scouts due to the higher requirements for care and maintenance. Goose Down sleeping bags are also one of the more expensive choices for sleeping bags.

For Late spring, summer and early fall where nighttime temperatures do not fall below 50 degrees a sleeping bag liner will work for most scouts. A small fleece comforter might even do the trick, this depends on how “cold” or “hot your scout sleeps. If your scout sleeps cold I would recommend a bag rated to 40 degrees for spring, summer and fall.

Bags insulated with a manufactured fill work well and require less maintenance than goose down. Most bag manufacturers make bags with this type of fill. Brands to look for would be REI, Kelty, North Face, Alps Mountaineering, Marmot, Nemo, Se to Summit to name a few.

The weight of the bag should be in the 2-4 pound range and the bag should be somewhat compact.

Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad is an essential item. Not only does it provide a level of comfort, It provides insulation from the ground. Even in the summer time the ground can leech away body heat, making for cold nights even in warmer temperatures. The good news is a lightweight, durable warm pad can be had for as little as $10-$15 from Walmart, or Academy Sports. The simple closed cell foam pads you find in the camping sections of most stores will do the trick and they usually weight a pound or less.

Hiking Boots or Shoes

Footwear is an individual comfort issue. Many long distance hikers wear trail running shoes. That being said, there is a certain degree of knowledge and experience that go into this being a good choice. I would recommend lightweight hiking boots or shoes. The shoes need to be comfortable and fit well with a little extra room in the toe box since our feet tend to swell as we walk. 

When you try on your hiking boots make sure you are wearing the socks you will be hiking in.

For socks I recommend either merino wool (expensive) or coolmax (man-made fiber that is less expensive). I also recommend a sock liner (a very thin sock made of a nylon type material) be worn under the hiking socks. Sock liners help wick moisture away from the feet and into the sock, they also help reduce friction. Moisture and friction are the cause of blisters.


Avoid cotton clothing! It is heavy and bulky. It also dries slowly and tends to hold odor. Man-made poly cotton blends work well. Shirts made of these blends are available at Walmart, Target, Academy Sports as well as many other retailers. One of these shirts will usually be around $10. I also recommend underwear made from similar material. 

Many people hike in shorts. A good option are convertible pants. This will allow your scout to have both short pants for the warmer days and long pants in the evening. Academy sports sales these for less than $30 a pair. They are lightweight and dry quickly.

Rain gear can be purchased for around $20. Frogg Toggs makes a line of gear called “dry ducks” that cost about $20 for a rain jacket and pants. I personally am not a fan of ponchos as they seem to not keep much rain out. Whatever you purchase I recommend against the cheap $5 rain jackets and ponchos, they will tear quickly and tend to not “breath” very well.

If the nights are expected to be a bit chilly your scout could wear a micro fleece pullover, or his rain jacket could double as a windbreaker.

Many people tend to pack far more clothing than they need for a weekend backpacking trip, all that is really needed is 1 pair of pants, two shirts (one to hike in, one to sleep in). Two pairs of socks, a pair of underwear, a rain jacket and a hat.


Scouts will share a tent. The weight of the tent can be split among the scouts that will be using it. Quality tents are costly but a good investment. A quality tent starts around $130. Troops 75 scouts to share a tent unless they have attained the rank of Star Scout. Once a scout reaches that rank they may tent alone or sue a hammock setup for sleeping.

Trekking Poles or Hiking Staff.

Although trekking poles or a hiking staff are not required, many people find them useful. When going downhill they help take your body weight and pack weight off your knees and transfer some of it to your arms and torso. They help when negotiating rocks, logs and crossing streams. When going uphill they allow you to use your arms to assist your legs in climbing.

I do not have any experience with the poles sold at Walmart. I would advise getting the “flick lock” style poles instead of the “twist lock” style of poles. The twist locks can get jammed or collapse with some age. quality budget trekking poles. Often sold at Costco.

A cut piece of bamboo that has been allowed to dry is a good cheap hiking staff and is very lightweight. If the bottom is the right diameter you can attach a rubber cane tip to make it last longer and drill a hole about six inches from the top so you can attach some paracord for a lanyard.

Sources for budget backpacking gear  This site requires you make an account. They sale discounted gear to scouts. Most of the gear is of good quality.

Academy Sports has good prices on outdoor clothing and camping/hiking gear. Remember to keep an eye toward weight and bulk.

Walmart has some good budget gear. I would avoid the tents sold at most Walmarts. These tents often leak badly and have poor pole construction.

Amazon Some of the camping products on amazon can be of goods quality and at low prices. I do recommend that you research the product first but doing a google search and watching and reading reviews on the product. Campsaver can sometimes have good deals on gear. The gear they sale is of good quality. I would definitely compare prices from other retailers before buying from here. great tips for budget backpacking. more budget ideas.

Basic gear list. This list does not include many brand names. It is just to give you an idea of what is needed for a weekend backpacking trip.

Hiking Boots or shoes


Sleeping pad – The closed cell foam pads are cheaper and can be used around camp or on lunch breaks as a sit pad. They also are puncture proof (the wont deflate if they get a puncture)

Sleeping bag

Clothing – 2 shirts, pants, 2 pair of hiking socks, underwear, rain gear, fleece pull over, hat, sunglasses (if the scout wears them).

Trekking poles or staff (optional)

Cooking Pot – can be made from titanium or aluminum needs to hold around 20 oz. dirt cheap and light use a tinfoil square as the lid.

Stove – Not every boy will need one as they will be cooking in groups of three.

Spork or Spoon – this set would work and they can leave the knife part of the set at home.

Small Bic Lighter

Light Source – Headlamp or small flashlight


Small first aid kit – Should not weigh more than an ounce or two. Bandaids, moleskin, antiseptic, antibiotic salve

Pocket knife

Water Bottles – save money and weight and let them use a 32o.z gatoraide bottle or a Smart Water Bottle. These weigh much less than the Nalgene bottles, are just as durable and can be thrown in the recycle bin when they get home. Tip, if they use Smart Water bottles throw an extra lid into their first aid kit in case they lose the lid on their bottle (any 20 oz plastic drink bottle lid will fit).

Bear bag kit – 6 liter ditty bag, 50 feet or paracord and a carabiner (all this can be purchased at Walmart for a about 10 dollars) Bear bags need to be hung from trees to keep bears and other critters out of your scouts food.

Toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste (travel kits from the drug store work great) small bottle of hand sanitizer, partial roll of toilet paper in a ziplock bag (remove the tube so it crushes flat)

Duct tape – Don’t laugh… has a million uses from gear repair, covering blisters to repairing the bumper on your 69 Chevy.  Roll about 2 feet around a trekking pole or a small rectangle of cardboard or half of an old credit card.

Insect Repellent – a small one once container of repellent. I recommend Deet free but selection is a personal issue. In heavy mosquito country DEET seems to be the only thing that really works.

Water Filter – I generally recommend a mechanical filter since they are simplest to use. The most common brand is Sawyer. They make two models that are commonly used. The sawyer mini (about $20) and the Sawyer Squeeze (about $30). If you need to save some money do not buy a filter yet. We will have several large filters the whole group can use for the September trip.

If you have any questions feel free to ask questions. I am at most of the scout meetings and always have time to answer questions.

Chris Cox