The Best Bargain Backpacking Gear
Get maximum value for minimum cash with these 14 standout products.
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Let’s face it: Backpacking gear can be expensive. Just ask reader Keith Hepworth, who wrote in to tell us that the prices in one of our Fall Gear Guides left him feeling cold. “Based on your reviews, one could be led to think backpacking is only for the wealthy,” he said. “The $101 average price for the gloves in your review is out of reach for the vast majority [of people].”
We feel your pain, Keith, Most of our coverage focuses on new gear, and the latest and greatest isn’t always cheap. But that doesn’t mean you need a trust fund to upgrade your kit. Read on for 13 of our favorite bargain tents, packs, sleeping bags, and more, all for $160 or less.
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Osprey Rook / Renn 50 Pack
You usually have to wait for close-out sales to get a pack like this at such an affordable price. How does Osprey keep the cost so low? Designers made cuts in key areas: no front stash pocket, a fixed lid instead of a floating one, static mesh instead of stretch side pockets, and one-way zippers. Verdict: small concessions for the price. $155 Buy Osprey Rook 50 Pack Now / Buy Osprey Renn 50 Pack Now / Read the Full Review
Kelty Late Start
It wasn’t too long ago that 4 pounds for a two-person tent was considered light, which means you can now pick up yesterday’s ultralights—like this one—for a song. $160 Buy Kelty Late Start Now / Read the Full Review
Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
You might already know the Z Lite (formerly known as the Z Rest) from one of your first camping trips. The foam pad is cheap, light, and nearly indestructible, making it an easy choice when you’re just starting out. $40 Read the Full Review / Buy Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Now
Adidas Swift Parley Jacket
Happy coincidence: This eco-friendly, two-layer shell was also the most affordable model in the test. $139 Read the Full Review / Buy Adidas Swift Parley Jacket Now
Marmot Lightweight Kestrel/Lana Crew
Dollar for dollar, this is the best top we used this winter. A versatile, no-frills synthetic number, the Kestrel kept us happy through the skiing months and well into hiking season with its quick-wicking and -drying properties and comfortably flexy fit. $40 Read the Full Review / Buy Marmot Lightweight Kestrel/Lana Crew Now
Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack
An ultralight pack like this brings versatility to a new level. It can serve as your food bag, stuffsack, pillow, daypack, laundry bag, and carry-on all in one. $35 Read the Full Review / Buy Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack Now
Flylow Ridge Gloves
These all-leather, work-style gloves will last season after season, whether you’re shredding the slopes or chopping wood—and we’d still buy them at twice the price. $50 Buy Flylow Ridge Gloves Now
Protect your peepers, look good, and save a Benjamin to spend on other gear in this issue. We’ve tested other bargain shades—but none with polarized lenses, wrapped frames, and throw-’em-in-your-pack durability like the Navarros. $58 Read the Full Review / Buy Sunski Navarros Now
Decathlon Trek 100
When we first saw the price of this lightweight puffy, we thought it was a typo. A warm, packable jacket for under $50? Believe it. $45 Read the Full Review / Buy Decathlon Trek 100 Now
Paria Outdoor Products Bryce 2P
Usually, as a tent’s weight goes down, its price goes up. Not so with the Bryce. It’s a tent stake under 3 and a half pounds, has legit space for two, and costs a fraction of what similar models do. $160 Read the Full Review / Buy Paria Outdoor Products Bryce 2P Now
Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 Bag
The only thing cheap about this bag is its price tag. It doesn’t perform like a budget pick and excels in shoulder-season temps. $100 Buy Decathlon Forclaz Trek 900 Bag Now / Read the Full Review
Nemo Forte 35
If you prefer synthetic to down, this low-price, high-performance bag is what you’re looking for. The relaxed shape fits even the most fitful sleepers. $160 Buy Nemo Forte 35 Now / Read the Full Review
Paria Outdoor Products Recharge UL
As sleeping pads have gotten lighter and thicker over the years, prices have gone up commensurately. But if you just want a pad that’s comfortable enough (2.5 inches of cushion) and light enough (1 lb. 4 oz.), this pad delivers. $70 Read the Full Review / Buy Paria Outdoor Products Recharge UL Now
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