When you first consider taking up hiking as a hobby or activity, the cost is minimal. If you have a decent pair of shoes and a good backpack, you can start day-hiking right away. However, if you want to start taking longer, more difficult hikes, you will likely want to upgrade your gear to carry more, explore more, and be more comfortable.
So, how much should you spend on hiking gear? And what should you prioritize when purchasing hiking gear? I wanted to take the challenge of putting together a complete set of hiking gear for less than $1000 that would work for almost any hike. This would include almost any hike during the spring, summer, or fall, from a long-distance thru hike to a shorter weekend hiking trip.
After careful consideration, I found that you can, in fact, have a functional, lightweight hiking gear setup that cost less than $1000 – whether you prefer sleeping in a tent or a hammock. After considering what to prioritize and how to allocate my $1000 budget, I “purchased” the following items to make a complete set of hiking gear:
- Hammock, Tarp/Rain Fly and Hammock Straps, OR
- Sleeping Quilt
- Underquilt (To use with hammock)
- Sleeping Pad (To use with tent)
- Hiking Shoes
- Hiking Socks
- Cook Stove (includes fuel)
- Cooking Pot
- First Aid Kit
- GPS (My Phone)
- Water Filter
- Dry Sacks/Stuff Sacks
I did not include most of my clothing or food in my hiking gear setup for this exercise; the type of clothing you wear on a hike or the food you prepare may vary from trip to trip, but the list above is quite comprehensive for a complete hiking gear set up.
What You Should Prioritize When Purchasing Hiking Gear
When your are putting together a hiking gear setup, I would recommend focusing first on your Big Three: shelter, a sleep system, and a backpack. The Big Three will be the foundation of your hiking trips – items you will inevitably need on every hiking trip and the items that will take up the most space and weight.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve put together two different setups – one with a tent as the shelter, and one with a hammock and tarp/rain fly as the shelter. With these two options, the sleep system does change – I am using a sleeping pad for the tent setup, and replacing it with an under quilt for the hammock setup.
I would recommend that you decide on your sleep system and shelter before you choose your backpack. The size of your backpack will depend on the rest of your gear – you’ll need a pack that can carry your gear as well as your clothing and food.
While I am not attempting to put together an ultralight gear setup, I am definitely shooting for as light of gear as I can. If you can put together a gear setup that weighs less than 15 pounds before food and clothing, you will be all the more comfortable.
A Complete Hiking Gear Setup For Under $1000
As mentioned above, you should probably buy you backpack last, despite it being one of the Big Three and a huge part of your setup. You don’t want to get a pack that is too small (or even too big) for the rest of your gear.
You will want a pack that fits your gear, is comfortable, and is relatively lightweight. Some hikers might prefer an elaborate pack with lots of pockets and compartments, but I think a simple, adjustable pack can do a great job.
With those features in mind, I was able to find the Granite Gear Crown2 38 for a great price. Based on the reviews I have read, this is a really solid backpack, especially for the price. Normally Granite Gear sells this pack for $190, but this pack, in the Blue/Grey variant, is almost half that price.
While the pack is on the smaller side at 38L, I like that it has a roll top and side straps that allow you to expand the size. I also appreciate that you can take the brain (top cover) off and remove the plastic frame sheet can be removed to get the pack to an extremely light 1.6 ounces.
Given these features, and the fact that users have approved on the durability of this pack, I even ordered a Granite Gear Crown2 38L pack for myself.
This backpack should cost about $99.95.
You may choose to use a tent as your shelter for hiking trips. Tents offer a lot of great benefits: they provide good shelter from the elements, they can be set up in all terrains, and they do provide for some privacy. Also, a tent-based gear setup can actually be less expensive than a hammock-based setup.
One of the main disadvantages of a tent is that, generally, they weigh much more than other shelters, such as hammocks or bivys. If you can find a tent that weighs 3 pounds or less, and packs down to a small size, you can nevertheless enjoy the benefits that a tent offers on your hiking trips.
The lighter tents get, the more expensive they usually become. However, I did find the GEERTOP 20D Ultralight Tent, a tent that is only 25% of the cost of other ultralight tents and weighs only 2.6 pounds.
User reviews are quite favorable – it may not have the same level of durability as more expensive tents, but is a good, inexpensive tent to help you decide if you will use a tent or other shelter system.
This tent should cost about $101.99.
If you choose to have a tent-based gear setup, you will also need a sleeping pad to keep you off the hard, uneven, and cold ground, so you can be warm and comfortable at night.
An excellent option for your gear setup is the Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad. This pad blows up in less than 15 breaths, has an inflated height of 2.5 inches, and an R-value of 4.4. R-value measures the level of insulation the pad provides – and the Klymit Insulated Static V can provide warmth and comfort at or below freezing temperatures.
Given these features, plus the fact that it weighs only 1.5 pounds, this is an excellent alternative to more expensive sleeping pads.
Your sleeping pad should cost about 89.99.
Hammock W/Tarp And Straps
Some hikers prefer a hammock shelter over a tent. Hammocks are generally easier to set up and can be set up anywhere you have two good trees. Also, according to many hikers, hammocks also provide a more comfortable sleeping experience than sleeping on the ground in a tent.
If, however, you choose a hammock, you might have to carry a bit more gear, and possibly pay more. You will need to pack hammock straps and a tarp or rain fly as well as the hammock if you choose this shelter.
An excellent hammock is the ENO SingleNest Hammock. Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO) is one the leading hammock brands and offer excellent value for their products. ENO hammocks are durable, strong, and lightweight.
The ENO EXT Utility Straps are a good companion to ENO hammocks, and the Gorich Hammock Rain Fly is lightweight and can be set up quickly above your hammock to provide both shelter from the elements and an extra bit of insulation.
This entire hammock setup, including a tarp/rain fly and straps, should cost about $91.95.
Just as a sleeping pad provides necessary insulation and warmth for a tent, an under quilt is a needed component of your sleep system if you choose to sleep in a hammock.
Under quilts provide necessary insulation for your backside in a hammock. As you lay in a hammock on a sleeping bag or quilt, their insulation is compressed and rendered useless. An under quilt fits around and under a hammock, uncompressed and able to provide a layer of warmth that you will need at night.
Given how important staying warm and comfortable at night is when hiking, you should not sacrifice quality in order to save money. It is difficult to find budget options that will do what you need them to do. The Hammock Gear Economy Incubator Ultralight Underquilt is the best under quilt I could find that balances cost with quality.
This 20 degree-rated under quilt compresses nicely and weights 1.6 ounces – not as light as some under quilts but one that still provides the warmth that you will need when sleeping in a hammock.
This under quilt should cost about $179.99.
Regardless of whether you choose a hammock or a tent as your shelter, your sleep system needs to include a sleeping bag or top quilt. Sleeping bags are the more traditional piece of sleeping gear, but quilts are becoming more popular.
Top quilts, which are not fully enclosed like a sleeping bag, are usually lighter because they have less material. They are also more versatile than a sleeping bag, offering more movement in both hammocks and on sleeping pads and the ability to uncover if you get too warm.
Finding quality, budget top quilts can be difficult, but the Outdoor Vitals LoftTek Hybrid Top Quilt a lightweight, warm option that will work well regardless of what shelter you choose.
The Outdoor Vitals LoftTek Hybrid weighs only 2.1 pounds, and is made with a synthetic blend of insulation that will allow it to stay warm even when wet.
This top quilt should cost about $164.97.
For all the talk of the Big Three, some would argue that there is a Big Four, and that the fourth piece of gear that is vital to a good hiking experience is a quality pair of hiking shoes.
Durability and comfort are key for any pair of hiking shoes or boots. Many hikers want a strong, stable pair of boots, while others are willing to give up some protection for a lighter, more comfortable shoe.
I prefer the Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Runners. These shoes are incredibly comfortable and handle tough terrain surprisingly well. I own a pair of Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Runners and appreciate the fact that I can hike for dozens of miles without getting any blisters.
I also enjoy the zero-drop feature, which means the heel of the shoe is not higher than the toes. This allows for a better feel of the trail and a more even gait. The tread is outstanding, really gripping the trail, and the Lone Peaks even have vents that allow water to drain from your shoes if they do get extremely wet.
These hiking shoes/trail runners should cost about $119.99.
Just because you have a good pair of shoes does not mean you can or should skip a quality pair of hiking socks. You will want a good pair of durable, wool socks.
A good pair of wool socks provides several benefits. First, you will be less likely to get blisters with quality socks. Further, good wool socks will keep your feet warm even when wet, and will dry faster as well.
The hiking sock that most hikers swear by is the Darn Tough No Show Light Cushion Sock. Darn Tough combine great durability with outstanding comfort, and offer a lifetime, unconditional guarantee. If anything ever happens to your Darn Tough socks, you can return them for a new pair, free of charge.
Two pairs of the Darn Tough hiking socks should cost about $31.90.
Camping Stove And Fuel
A camping stove is one of the fun pieces of gear that a hiker can carry – there is something satisfying about having a piece of gear that fits in the palm of your hand yet can provide you with a warm, delicious meal.
The BRS 3000T Stove weighs less than an ounce and is made of titanium. This stove can boil water in less than 3 minutes, and folds down to fit in your hand.
You can find isobutane fuel canisters at Walmart for less than $6 – and they should last you for more than 25 meals.
This camping stove, together with fuel, should cost about $21.54.
Cooking Pot Set
The wuudi Camping Equipment Pot Set is a simple, inexpensive, and lightweight cooking pot that will do everything that you need to make meals when hiking.
Weighing less than 9 ounces, this pot set can cook up to .9L of water. An insobutane canister can also nest inside this pot along with your cooking stove, meaning you can store your entire cooking system in this set – taking up minimal space in your backpack.
This cooking pot set should cost about $19.99.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is essential to any gear setup. While most hikers will not want to carry a large, complicated kit, you can carry the necessary medical basics in a very small package.
The Adventure Medical Kits .5 First Aid Kit weighs less than 4 ounces and includes supplies to treat pain, inflammation, and common allergies. It also has wraps and bandages to assist in immobilizing fractures. It also carries antiseptic wipes and butterfly bandages help clean and close small wounds.
It also comes in a small, reusable pouch that you can continue to use once the original supplies are depleted.
Your first aid kit should cost about $18.99.
Headlamps are a necessary piece of gear for your hiking setup – you will not want to risk hiking in the dark and you will also enjoy the light it provides in the evenings or early mornings while you are still in camp – either cooking or messing with your gear.
The NiteCore NU20 Headlamp charges with a USB cord, instead of batteries. It weighs less than an ounce, and can provide brightness up to 360 lumens. At 220 lumens, which is more than adequate for your needs, this headlamp can run for 6 hours before needing to be charged.
This USB-rechargeable headlamp should cost $29.95.
Your necessary toiletries should include a toothbrush and toothpaste, hand soap, toilet paper, lip balm, and sunscreen. You should also carry a small trowel to dig cat holes for when you need to poop. You can store all of these items in a ziploc bag, and carry a few extra bags as well to carry your trash. If you have any small items you feel essential to your gear setup, they can be kept with these items as well.
Your entire set of toiletries should cost about $22.00.
Water Filtration System
Regardless of the food you choose to take with you on your hiking trips, a water filtration system is an essential part of your gear setup. I prefer a simple, lightweight system that does not require a larger bladder for storage.
The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter is one of the easiest and most effective filters available, and the one that I use on all my hiking trips. It weighs just 2 ounces and removes 99.999% of all bacteria and protozoa, and can clean up to 100,000 gallons, so long as you clean it on a regular basis. The Sawyer Squeeze also has an outstanding flow rate, so you can quickly filter all your water.
To store clean or dirty water along the trail, I simply recommend buying two or three 1L Smart Water or Life Water bottles. The Sawyer Squeeze screws right onto these bottles, making filtering very easy.
Your entire water filtration system, including two empty 1L water bottles, should cost about $33.93.
You will never know when you need a knife, but it is definitely one of those pieces of gear you do not want to be without.
The Swiss Army Classic SD Pocket Knife is exactly what you need for a hiking gear setup. Weighing less than an ounce, it has scissors, a screwdriver, a toothpick, tweezers, and a knife blade. Whether you might need to cut a piece of moleskin or repair your pack, this knife is a great tool to have.
Your Swiss Army Pocket Knife should cost about $15.95.
While you may not think of a rain coat as a necessary piece of gear for your hiking setup, many hikers consider it something that is a must-have for basically any trip. You may be 99% positive that you will not encounter any rain or bad weather during a hiking trip, but the benefits of always having one are too great to ignore.
Most quality rain coats do more than protect you from the rain, even though that should be your first motivation for bringing one. A good rain coat is very compressible and lightweight, making it easy to justify include it in your gear setup. Rain coats also make good windbreakers, and can provide extra warmth if needed.
The Marmot PreCip Eco Rain Jacket is a good option that carries all of the features you would want in a rain coat. It weighs less than 11 ounces, has waterproof NanoPro fabric, and compresses to a very small size to pack away easily into your backpack. It also has a feature that I love – zippered armpit vents that allow for plenty of ventilation.
This rain coat should cost about $74.96.
Much like with a rain coat, you might wonder whether you have a need for a warm jacket during a summer hiking trip. I always carry a warm jacket for two reasons. First, even on hot days, you will get cold when you hit camp at the end of a long day of hiking and sweating. I like to keep my jacket handy just so I don’t feel that cold. Second, once you go to sleep, you usually will want your jacket on, even if you have a good sleep system.
While having a warm jacket is important, I would not say that always carrying a top-quality jacket is vital. That is why I chose the Amazon Essentials Lightweight Hooded Puffer Jacket. This is basically an Amazon stock item, but people love wearing it.
It keeps you warm to about 40 degrees – and you can easily stay even warmer if you layer properly. It has a hood, which will provide even more warmth, is lightweight, and compresses down to a size slightly larger than your palm.
If you couple this jacket with a rain coat, you should have a layering system that will keep you warm and dry for spring, summer, and the fall.
This warm jacket should cost about $45.96.
Stuff Sacks/Dry Bags
One last piece of gear that should be a part of your hiking setup is a set of waterproof dry sacks. Regardless of how water-resistant your backpack may be, you will want to further protect your food and clothing inside your pack.
The Outdoor Products 3-Pack Dry Sacks are simple, extremely lightweight, and versatile sacks that come in three sizes (2L, 4L, and 8L). I use these sacks myself to protect my food and clothing from the elements, and consider them a must have for my own setup.
Your stuff sacks should cost about $9.99.
How Much Does Your Hiking Gear Setup Cost?
So, after considering everything that you would need to have a complete hiking gear setup – one that would suit you on most hiking trips during the spring, summer, and fall – how much would you actually have to spend to have good, quality gear that would make your hikes enjoyable?
Our first option was to center our gear setup around a hammock shelter. This meant including the hammock and its accessories (straps and a tarp/rain fly) as well as adding an underquilt to the sleep system. The total cost for our hammock option was $982.01.
The second option was to sleep in a tent, meaning we lost the hammock and its accessories as well as the under quilt. In their place, we added the tent and a sleeping pad to the sleep system. The total cost for our tent option was $902.05.
You may be surprised to find that it could be cheaper to sleep in a tent rather than a hammock, but ultimately it came down to the cost of insulation. A good-quality under quilt in this case was much more of a cost than finding a good sleeping pad, and the difference between the two really explains the overall differences in cost.
I hope you enjoyed this exercise, and perhaps you can beat me and find an even less-expensive, higher-quality gear setup that will serve you on all your hiking adventures.