The Start-up Costs of Backpacking

The Start-up Costs of Backpacking

The Start-up Costs of Backpacking


If you’re from the US, the best part about backpacking state-side as opposed to going abroad is that you get to save some money. While backpacking may not be cheap at first, especially getting the gear you need, it’s one of those things that pays for itself overtime. Though you might have to dish out on things that may seem overly expensive, the reward you’re getting for it all really is something you can’t put a price tag on. That being said, there are certain things for first-time backpackers that you must invest in from the get-go, so you can be sure that your items are reliable. 

If you want to get into backpacking, here’s what you can expect to pay:

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Basic Gear for You-$300

The price of gear can vary greatly, but if you want to stay on the cheaper side, then plan to pay around $300 or more. This includes your backpack, your shoes, clothing, socks, outerwear,and anything you’ll need to feel comfortable while on the trail. It could be inner-soles for your shoes, Under Armour, a pair of prescription sunglasses, etc.

Gear for the Trail-$300

Once you’ve gotten yourself taken care off, it’s time to invest in gear for the trail. You’re going to need a tent, a sleeping bag, a cooking stove, a means of purifying water, a first aid kit, compass or GPS, fire-starters, etc. Believe it or not, some of these things aren’t actually so expensive on their own, like a tent, which you can get for pretty cheap online. But all of these things together do add up quickly. If you’re going to be climbing or participating in other outdoor activities while out on the trail, then you’ll have to consider that as well.

Food Supplies-$50

When all the gear is set, you’re going to need stuff to put inside your bag, or to use your cooking stove with. This price varies greatly depending on how long you plan on being out on the trail, or how far into the back country you’re going. The more remote you’ll be or the longer time you’ll be out, you’re of course going to need more of everything. Though you can purchase foods strictly for backpacking, we recommend taking the time to prep your food before you go so you can have tasty meals. You’ll also need a way to get your electrolytes, either by adding them to your water or a salty snack. 


There are tons of gadgets out there that are great for hiking. A GPS, knives, lanterns, etc. Do you have to get any of these? No, not really. But, if you do decide to buy one or a few of them to give technology a try, then be mindful of how much that will cost. You might find that buying one of these items could be completely useful or a complete waste of money, so think carefully before investing, especially if it’s your first time hiking.

backpacking, costs, hiking

Medical Expenses-$20+

This is another one of those things that depends on the situation. Any responsible backpacker should put away money just in case something does happen along the trail. Depending on your insurance or lack thereof, it will dictate how much you think you should put aside in case you may need to visit a hospital, or buy some emergency supplies. In some cases, people may need to visit a doctor before hiking. Perhaps you need an inhaler or special brace. Though hopefully, you’ll end up saving money on this one.


If you live close to where you plan on hiking, then this cost you can eliminate. However, some people will need to travel to get to where they want to be. This could involve taking a flight or driving long distances, which can certainly be pricey. Try to investigate the cheapest way, but don’t convenience for price. If you’re eager to hike, taking that two hour plane ride is going to be a lot more comfortable than that two day car ride. Anyway, gas is expensive these days, too.


Permits and passes for national parks are around $15, but if you plan on doing multiple parks on your trip, then consider the costs. Also, if you plan on entering a park with your car and then going on to hike, you’ll need to pay for that too; around $20.

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Although you’re looking forward to connecting with the outdoors, there’s a chance you might want some comforts along the way. This could be anything from a hiking journal and some pens, to a camera, binoculars, a walking stick, a pack of gum, a special blanket, sunscreen, bug-spray, hygiene products, etc. Everyone has different preferences, but this category is something you could make a specific budget on.

That brings the total start-up costs of backpacking to around $905, give or take a few hundred.

Sound too much or too little? Let us know what your budget was the first time you went backpacking, and any tips you have for future backpackers to save on supplies.

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.