Gear on a Budget

If you’ve clicked on this link, and are reading this article, then gear on a budget might be of some value to you.  But VALUE is subjective.  I will not compromise safety. I will not compromise survival.  I will not compromise my sense of adventure for inexpensive gear.  But I also don’t want

Safety, Bedding, and Cooking Gear.

to entirely empty my bank account to have gear I simply cannot afford.

Believe it or not, in season, you can find much of your gear at  Dollorama, Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire.  At least that is here in Ontario.  I also quite like SAIL, Bass Pro-Shop, and LeBarons.  I haven’t been to MEC yet.  but soon.  There is also a wide variety of gear available on-line.

You Get What You Pay For.

A one time trip, just to find out if this is the hobby for you, sleeping pads, $3 or $210.  I went the route of yoga mats.  I went the route of a $70 Thermo-Rest Trail Lite.  Changing that one step,  Wow.  I was impressed.  Initially.  Then I gained some weight, and some years, and now I LOVE my Sea to Summit UltraLight Mat, for $129.  Considering the difference in how they pack, the Thermo-Rest is about 18-20 inches wide when rolled up, but the Sea to Summit is about 8-9 inches wide, and can be stored inside it’s matching hand pump, dray bag.    I’m sold.  I certainly could upgrade further still.  But only as my budget and passion for this endeavour allows.

If you are considering Winter Camping, do your research.  Know full well what you are getting into, and make sure you have a really good sleeping bag, and clothing layers to keep you comfortable. Know your safety limits, and the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia.  Be Safe.

But then again…

Knowing that you are using a $3 folding stool,  you cannot expect it to perform like a $43 folding stool. A $3 multi tool, you know is not going to perform or have the endurance that a$30, $40 or $50 multi tool is going to.  Never mind there are some out there that would be upwards of $75.

But, matches, lighters, hand sanitizer, bandannas, along with, trowels, tent pegs, collapsible water bladders, and TowTabs are all available at a dollar store. Invest in some dry sacks.  A roll top bag, buckle closure, great for food, or clothes, or to hang your food out of reach of bears and other crafty critters.  Add those things up, 8 items at $1.50 each, or the same 8 items for $5.99 each,  You do the math.  I don’t know about you, but I think I’d much rather spend $12 instead of more than $45 for the same gear. Do you think a Coglhan’s mylar emergency foil blanket at $5.99 from Bass Pro-Shop is going to be any different than a Coglhan’s mylar emergency foil blanket you purchased online. There are water bladders too.  That alone, same material, same capacity, different brand name.  $3 or $25.  Considering either one of them is subject to the same wear and tear, the same risk of a crimp that becomes a leak,  and the same lifespan of about 5-10 trips, you know where my money is going.  All of these items are available online.

Backpacking knives.

And what is The Best Knife for Backpacking? That is an endless debate.  My theory is simple. Budget can still play a large part of this decision making.  For beginners, you will likely have a lot of gear to purchase in a very short time.  Get a solid, decent knife and become familiar with it. My idea of what is The Best Backpacking Knife is different , follow the link and see what you think.

D-I-Y Hobo Camp Stove

And there is always D-I-Y.

Penny stoves, hobo stoves and cook kits can be gathered from recycled packaging, from thrift stores, or from re-considered dollar store buys.  A product that was meant to be a small stainless steel canister with a clear plastic lid becomes a cooking pot with a sheet of tinfoil, or a disc cut from a disposable foil cookie sheet as a lid.  either adding some wire to create a pot, or the multi tool to grasp it to remove it from the fire,, there are also pot grips available the weigh next to nothing.

For years there have been instructions for an IKEA hobo stove made with a stainless steel utensil container with holes in it.  That exact same design utensil holder is now available at the dollar store.

There is no compromise,

You do have to be brutally honest here though.  Sometimes there just is no compromise.  A GOOD backpack is essential.  I still got one of mine at a bargain price,$40.  Online, barely used from a local boy scout leader who was no longer backpacking. Another decent quality pack for one of my sons from Canadian Tire on special for $79.  And my original pack, an obus forme pack with lumbar shaping, a thick adjustable waist strap, never for a second have I regretted the $140 for that pack.

But please, don’t think you can just grab a school style backpack.  it is critical to have a good pack if you are carrying any amount of gear for any length of time.  We haven’t found a trek yet that is less than 2 hours from home, and 2 hours from the car.  If your pack is digging in, or hanging lopsided, your body will let you know. Aches and pains do not have to be a part of your adventures.

For further ideas look at my gear list for beginners, and my gear I have used pages. And Please, feel free to leave comments or questions, I will respond. Your feedback helps me.



Shannon · February 3, 2016 at 3:45 am

The old saying you get what you pay for still rings true today. And to get gear that will hold up to time and use is another thing – especially with everything being made cheaply in China. This makes me realize how important it is to get the right pack before heading out on the trail and not cutting corners for a few $$

    Mama Bear · February 4, 2016 at 12:43 am

    I agree, you do get what you pay for. But, with that being said, there are certainly some things you can save on, and some things you really should invest in as priority pieces of gear. The Backpack is crucial, and water filtration is crucial as well as a decent bed pad and working up towards a better sleeping bag. Oh, and decent footwear.

Paul · February 3, 2016 at 3:48 am

Thanks very much Mama Bear for the helpful read on gear on a budget. I actually live in Ontario myself (I assume you’re referring to the Canadian province), and for a long time now I’ve wanted to take a trip up north into a place like Algonquin or the Bruce Peninsula , largely to see the unpolluted sky at night. When I do finally make plans for such a thing, I’ll be sure to reference your page here (and your site). Thanks again!

    Mama Bear · February 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Algonquin is beautiful, as are all of our Provincial parks. I may add some links to other back country parks in future posts.

Rod · February 3, 2016 at 3:49 am

Enjoyed learning about your expertise from years of backpacking. Agreed that there are certain tools or pieces of equipment that are a must. I would think that boots and foot gear would also be something that you have gained expertise in. Will you be adding that to your page?
Since my background is more in secondhand and resale, I appreciate that you added the story about finding a ‘used’ backpack from the scout leader. Thanks.

    Mama Bear · February 3, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, footwear is a valuable piece of gear to consider. I will include pages on that. I may cover some shopping ideas for other things as well. I have a down coat I picked up used as well. It was a sweet score.

    Thanks for the feedback.

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