Beginner tips for hiking on a budget

Hiking for Beginners on a Budget: Spend Next to Nothing on Your First Hike

Hiking is a terrific hobby. It combines great exercise with stunning wide-open spaces away from the distractions of modern life. If you’re getting ready to go on your first hike, you probably have a lot of questions about what you’ll need to get started. 

We’ll focus on hiking for beginners and on a budget, going over what you need to plan for and how to keep your hiking trip costs low.

Firstly, we’ll give you an idea of the typical gear that you’ll need on a normal budget, and then go over what hiking for beginners on a budget might look like, in terms of items you can do without and what you might replace with things you already own.

What an Average Hiker Will Need on Their Fist Hike

The following are the items you need to bring with you while going on a day hike on a low budget, as well as their alternatives if you do not have the funds to purchase new gear.

Essential Gear 1: Hiking Boots/Shoes

When planning a trek that would need you to hike for several hours, you must ensure that your shoes are both comfortable and have a good grip.

Hiking paths may be challenging. You’ll be climbing and stumbling over rocks and tree roots a lot, and a decent pair of hiking shoes will keep your feet safe.

You will also be walking for quite some time. This can result in blisters and sore feet. Wearing an uncomfortable pair of shoes that start digging into your flesh by the fifth mile, is the worst thing you can do in such conditions.

A quality pair of hiking boots will guarantee that you have a strong grip on many sorts of surfaces and that you are comfortable while wearing them. Here is a good example:

What to look for in a decent pair of hiking boots

  1. Good grip: The hiking footwear must have a firm grip on a variety of surfaces (rocks, underwater, grass, mud, gravel etc). The better ones feature rubber soles with good tread.
  2. Ankle support: Good hiking boots must provide ankle support, especially in difficult terrain such as loose pebbles and gravel. Make sure to look into the quality of ankle support in the hiking boot you want to buy.
  3. Comfort: Hiking boots should be as comfy as possible. This may not be obvious the first time you put on your hiking boots. The easiest approach to see if your boot will be unpleasant on a hike is to wear it about the home for a few hours and walk around in it for around 2 hours. If you’re still comfortable in the boots after this length of time, you’ll be OK for a long trip. If not, get another pair of boots. DO NOT set off in boots that you feel are too tight for you. If you do, you could have a very unpleasant hike.
  4. Toe protection: You will more than likely need it when walking on rough terrain.

You can read more about what to look for in quality hiking boots, as well as a review of the top waterproof hiking boots for women, in our article here.

Alternatives to Hiking Boots for First-Time Hikers

Specialized hiking boots can be expensive and if you’re not planning on spending too much at the beginning, there are other ways to start trekking.

If you are unable to get a pair of hiking boots, you can use running shoes or sneakers with a good grip. They may not have all of the bells and whistles of specialized hiking boots, but they will do the job. Just make sure they’re comfy and don’t slide easily, and you’ll be OK. 

Essential Gear 2: Hydration Pack / Backpack

Hiking is best done in the warmer months. This means you’ll almost certainly be trekking in the blazing sun, and you’ll need to remain hydrated. When it comes to backpacks and hydration, there are many options available.

When shopping for a hydration pack, consider its durability and ease of transport on lengthy excursions. Reading reviews can help you determine whether the pack is both durable and easy to carry over long distances.

When selecting a hiking backpack, there are a few points to remember:

  1. Breathing and sweat prevention on the straps and back of the bag. (You don’t want to end up sticky on your back and arms as a result of a bag that doesn’t breathe.)
  2. Build quality of the zippers, straps and bottom of the backpack. This can be quickly determined by reading the reviews.
  3. The number of compartments and pockets on the backpack (the more the better). Make sure to look at pictures and videos of the backpack before ordering it.
  4. How well it fits on the back: A well-designed backpack should fit snugly on the back without being too tight. Unfortunately, you may not be able to try this if you’re placing an online order. However, if it is painful while wearing, do not embark on a long trip with it, because discomfort is increased by the fact that it will be on your back for several hours.

An example of a standard hydration pack sold on Amazon is the Oasis 1100 2 Liter Hydration Backpack by TETON Sports. It has excellent ratings, and it would be a good place to start.

Hydration option Hiking for Beginners on a Budget

Hydration and Backpack Alternatives 

Hiking on a budget will include substituting fancy hydration packs with regular ol’ multi-purpose water bottles laying around the house.

Or, if you want to keep the cost as low as possible, you may fill an empty plastic soda bottle with fresh drinking water. The downside is that you’ll have to carry it all the way through your hike, which may be tedious.

Using a regular backpack that you already own is another possible alternative. Check that it is in good condition and that the straps are still firmly attached to the bag to avoid failures or accidents.

If you don’t have a regular two-strap backpack, you can use a sling bag. Although they don’t have much capacity and are hard to carry for long distances, it is better than nothing.

Essential Gear 3: GPS or Map with a Compass

When going on a long hike, you must take steps to avoid getting lost. This is especially critical for hiking routes with no visible signs and several branches and forks in the road. GPS gadgets that do not require internet access are excellent for navigating a lonely hiking trail.

The Garmin eTrex 10 is the standard GPS gadget for those on a tight budget. Even when there is no cellphone service, it can record your current location and steer you in the right direction. 

GPS Alternatives when Hiking on a Budget

Hiking on a budget might be relatively simple if you do not have the funds to get a GPS: your iPhone or Android device. If you have a standard smartphone, you already have an accurate map on your phone to use while hiking.

Because you might not have strong cell reception on your trip, Google Maps could be less ideal for hiking, and you’ll need to install a custom hiking app. Here is the best hiking GPS App available free online.

It can be a good idea to load all of the maps of the trails you’ll be using several days before your trek. This way you can plan ahead of time and prevent being unable to get your maps due to a lack of cell phone coverage. 

Essential Gear 4: Rain Protection

Since you will be heading to the great outdoors, there’s a good chance that you could be rained on. You’ll need backpack protection, leg protection, and a sturdy raincoat or poncho to protect your clothes from the rain. All of them are reasonably priced on Amazon and will do a good job of keeping you and your stuff dry.

Rain Protection Alternatives on a Budget 

Here are some ideas to help you keep you dry on your hiking trip by using items readily available in the house:

  1. To keep your backpack dry, wrap it in a small trash bag and punch a few holes to allow the straps to come through the plastic bag.
  2. To keep your head (relatively) dry, place another garbage bag on top of your head and secure it with a cowboy hat or baseball cap.
  3. To keep your body dry, cut holes for your neck and two arms in the bottom of a big waste bag and turn it upside down to serve as a rain cover.

Essential Gear 5: First Aid Kit and Safety Equipment

During your trek, you will be in remote areas where assistance is difficult to come by. For this reason, you’ll need to have a first-aid kit. In the unfortunate event that you or your hiking companions are involved in an accident, your first aid kit will help you in stabilizing before help arrives.

This isn’t something we want to happen of course, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The 268 Pcs First-aid Kit is a superb survival and emergency kit that has everything you could possibly need and will keep you safe, should there be an emergency on your journey.

Low Cost First Aid Kit Alternatives

When it comes to first aid kits, there aren’t many substitutes, but the following items may assist to ease pain and stabilize someone if an accident occurs.

  1. Honey: helps with burns and disinfecting wounds.
  2. Super glue: can be used to help seal a wound that is not staying closed. However, use with caution and at your own risk.
  3. Duct tape: when combined with gauze, it may be used to cover blisters and to build arm braces and immobilizers.
  4. Toilet paper: can be used to cover wounds and as a bandage gauze.
  5. Antiseptic wet wipes: these wipes will keep your hands clean when handling food or, in the case of an accident, will keep you from infecting a wound you are treating.
  6. Credit Card/Driving License: This helps in the removal of a bee sting quickly by swiping the card on the sting.

Essential Gear 6: Food

When planning a day trek, food is a very important factor to consider. You can get by with items you already have around the house, so if you’re just starting off, you don’t need to go fancy on this.

The following are some meal suggestions for your day hike:

  1. Nuts: such as almonds and cashews, make excellent snacks.
  2. Sandwich: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a good source of protein and carbs to fuel your trek.
  3. Fruits: like apples and bananas.
  4. Energy bars: Larabar is a good option.

Getting Started Hiking on a Budget

As you can see, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have adequate gear for your first trip. The most important thing is to go on the hike. See whether it’s something you’re interested in and if so, you can always invest in equipment later on.

There is no right or incorrect approach to hiking when you’re getting started; only what works for you. Discover what that is on your outdoor adventures, and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Image credit Sinziana Mihalache