How to Get Hiking Gear on a Budget

woman giving a thumbs up with a backpacking backpack on
All geared up for my first backpacking trip with almost all borrowed or rented gear!
Table of Contents
Why Buy Hiking Gear on a Budget
Where to Get Hiking Gear on a Budget
   - Buy Nothing Groups
   - Shop Store Consignment
   - Sell Back Your Own Gear for Store Credit
   - Online Consignment
   - Rent Gear
   - Borrow Gear
   - Shop Sales
   - Sign Up For Rewards Programs
   - Leverage Your Network

Why Buy Hiking Gear on a Budget

Hiking gear is expensive! When I first went backpacking, there was no way I was willing to commit all that money for gear to something I wasn’t sure I would even like. Gear can absolutely be a barrier to entry for hiking and backpacking so I want you to save as much money as you possibly can when starting out and figuring out what works for your style of hiking.

You don’t have to break the bank to get gear that works for you. I’ve compiled a list of ways to save money on even the most expensive hiking gear. Read on for more ways to get hiking gear on a budget!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. I only recommend things I've tried myself or that a trusted peer has recommended and all additional income goes into keeping this site running smoothly! 

Where to Get Hiking Gear on a Budget

Buy Nothing Groups

Buy Nothing Groups are hyper local groups designed to connect people through a gift economy. Everything shared on Buy Nothing is given freely. It’s not a bartering system and it’s not a marketplace. People post items they want to get rid of and group members comment if they want that item.

They mostly exist on Facebook, though the organization has started created an app for those who want to stay off a social network. Getting items you want off Buy Nothing can be very competitive and, depending on your group, might be a total crapshoot on whether you get what you want. But it’s always worth a shot! Helping save useful items from landfill AND getting free gear? I am all in.

To learn more about Buy Nothing groups or to find a group near you, visit the official Buy Nothing site.

Looking for an in-depth guide on what to take backpacking? Check out my guide to Must-Have Backpacking Gear!

Shop Store Consignment

This is my absolute favorite way to save money on gear! Many outdoor stores have a used gear section, including my local store, 3 Rivers Outdoor Company (3ROC). Shopping consignment is so fun because the selection turns over quickly and items are listed at such a great discount. I can go to 3ROC once a week and find new items in the consignment section. Below I’ve listed some of the awesome items I’ve gotten on consignment.

  • Merrill Hiking Books for $30 (Retail $110)
  • Patagonia Running Shorts for $25 (Retail $65)
  • Travel Dog Bowl for $5 (Retail $20)
  • Columbia Flannel for $20 (Retail $60)
That feeling of joy when you get Columbia flannel on sale for over 50% off!

While there is more selection when shopping consignment online, you just don’t get that *thrill* of finding the perfect item. As you can see from the items listed above, consignment is my all time favorite way to get hiking gear on a budget.

Sell Back Your Own Gear for Store Credit

Many outdoor stores who sell consignment will buy your gear for cash or store credit. At my local outdoor store, you get a better return on your gear if you choose store credit over cash. I always choose store credit and then keep a running list on my phone of gear on my wish list.

In 2022, I consigned a bunch of running gear that didn’t fit me any more and ended up with over $100 in store credit! I used these to buy myself my favorite pair of adventure pants, the Patagonia Traveler’s pant. Consigning old gear is win-win – you get rid of stuff that’s taking up space in order to get something you really want! Now that’s the best way to get hiking gear on a budget!

Looking for a gift for the hiker in your life? Here's a guide to the Best Stocking Stuffers for Hikers!

Online Consignment

Online marketplaces for used clothes and gear have really taken off in the last ten years. Some online marketplaces sell everything, some sell clothes only, and some are only specific to adventure gear.

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite places to buy used gear.

  • REI Re/Supply – This is one of the best places to buy used gear. You can find almost any type of adventure clothing or gear here at a huge discount.
  • GearTrade – Another gear specific site that is great for finding deals on all different kinds of outdoor gear
  • Mercari – This online marketplace sells everything so this is a great place to start. I like to save a search and set an alert if I know what I am looking for. Sometimes good stuff gets buried under the volume of items so you may need to be consistent to find a good deal.
  • ThredUp – Good for hiking clothes if you already know the size and brands you like. This is a marketplace for clothes so the selection can be somewhat limited for activity-specific gear. I’ve had good luck with hiking leggings on here.

Rent Gear

This is one of my favorite ways to try before I buy. My local outdoor store offers gear rentals for backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, and more! A rental can help you try out different brands or types of gear so that you can figure out what you like and don’t like. (If you’re in Pittsburgh and want to rent from 3ROC, check out their selection here!)

For my first backpacking trip on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, I rented a tent and a sleeping pad. It was a great idea because I really liked the tent…the sleeping pad, not so much. I am so glad I didn’t buy the sleeping pad outright because it retails for $200 and it wouldn’t have been what I wanted in the long run. Now I know what I am looking for in a pad and would likely rent again to test a different kind out!

The rental tent in the Grindle Ridge Shelter in Laurel Ridge State Park

Borrow Gear

In 2022, I went on my first backpacking trip. I thought I would like it but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to buy a bunch of gear that would sit dusty in my basement if I didn’t like it.

One of my friends who goes on regular backpacking trips offered to let me borrow some essentials from him. He lent me a water filter, some cooking supplies, and a sleeping bag for the super reasonable trade of one six pack of beer. Bonus: he taught me how to use everything so I wasn’t stressed out by having gear I didn’t understand out on the trail.

This trick obviously doesn’t work if you want gear long term, but it’s a great way to try new items or types of adventuring before taking the team to invest in the gear.

Trying to figure out what clothing to get for backpacking? Check out my Backpacking Clothing Guide!

Shop Sales

Everyone knows the big shopping sale days – Black Friday, Memorial Day, Labor Day. The best way to get a good deal is to be prepared on what you want and how much you’re willing to pay. Like I mentioned before, I keep a gear wish list on my phone and will take a look at the local stores to see what is going on sale. Then I set a reminder to go shop on the day of the sale.

Another way to get a good deal is to shop a sale in the off-season. Buy your summer gear as the season is turning over for Fall on Labor Day or grab a winter coat during a Memorial Day sale. I got my North Face parka for almost 30% off by buying it over the summer! Using both of these tips to shop sales can help you get great hiking gear on a budget.

Sign Up For Rewards Programs

Most outdoor stores have reward programs for regular shoppers. As someone who is always shopping for SOMETHING, signing up for reward programs is a must. Reward program members often get notifications of sales sooner than regular shoppers and are often invited to special events.

  • Public Lands – This up and coming chain has a reward program called The Hub that offers members 1 point per dollar spent and is free to join. Hub Members get access to members-only events and extra discounts. To learn more, check out their site here!
  • REI Co-op – Unlike Public Lands, this membership program costs $30 one time but is totally worth it. Members get 10% back on their purchases at the end of the year, access to exclusive member events, and discounts on rentals, service, group trips, and shop items. To learn more, check it out here!
  • – Members of the (free to join) rewards program earn a $5 reward for every 500 points accumulated in the program. There are three different tiers of the rewards program, based on how much you spend which determines what levels of rewards you earn through each purchase.

Leverage Your Network

This is something that is kind of dependent on your friend/acquaintance group. However, it worked out for me really well once. My BFF knew I was getting into backpacking while she was in the process of upgrading her gear. She sent me her old backpack once she got a new one. It was perfect timing for my first backpacking trip! It’s not the best backpack out there but it is a great starter backpack.

The starter backpack after hiking six miles!

What’s your favorite way to grab hiking gear on a budget? Let me know in the comments below!

Updated March 19, 2024

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