At its heart, backpacking is a simple pursuit: walk into the woods, sleep on the ground, walk out. You can do that without expensive gear. But you still need stuff, and not cheap stuff that will end up in the landfill after a season or two—that’s no way to save money. Put together a kit that will last with these low-priced picks.
Mountainsmith Scream 55
I start with the Mountainsmith Scream 55 ($120; Buy Now) because it’s minimalist and durable.
Kelty Salida 2
For a tent, I want plenty of floor space for two, even if that means making do with a single door, so I go with the Kelty Salida 2 ($150; Buy Now).
Marmot Trestles 15
I round out my core camp gear with the Marmot Trestles 15 ($109; Buy Now), a synthetic-fill workhorse.
Paria Outdoor Products Recharge S
The Paria Outdoor Products Recharge S ($70; Buy Now) compensates for the heavy bag but still boasts 3.5 inches of cushion (affordable should never mean uncomfortable; just put your lower legs on your pack).
Salomon X Ultra 3 Low
I never skimp on shoes. Salomon consistently delivers value, especially in a low-cut like the X Ultra 3 ($120; Buy Now). It’s also available in a midcut for $10 more.
Marmot PreCip Eco
For layering, the key is getting the function without the fancy, like in the Marmot Precip Eco shell ($100; Buy Now).
Decathlon Trek 100
Synthetic layers are usually cheaper than down, and at its rock-bottom price-point, the Trek 100 is about as cheap as legit, lightweight puffies go ($45; Buy Now).
Mountain Hardwear AP Pant
There’s little that the stretchy Mountain Hardwear AP Pant ($90; Buy Now), which we’ve taken everywhere from Colorado to Jordan, can’t do.
Rab Borealis Jacket
If I splurge on one layer it’s a softshell. I like the Rab Borealis ($80; Buy Now) which performs well while staying affordable.
The Rest: Mountainsmith Rhyolite
The Rest: GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove
The Rest: MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot 1.6L
$0.30; what worked in college will work on the trail
215 calories for less than $1