How to Save Over $1000 on Your Next Backpacking Trip
I wish I was writing this post from the standpoint of how I saved money on my most recent backpacking trip, but alas, I cannot. I can only write it from the standpoint of how I could have saved money on my backpacking trip. While this isn't the first year that I've gone backpacking with my buddies, it was the first year that required a bit more planning. We decided that Yellowstone National Park was our destination and that involved buying plane tickets, renting a car and paying extra attention to our pack load. Hopefully, for any of you that are planning on going on a backpacking trip sometime in the near future, you can learn from some of my mistakes and save yourself over $1000.
1. Book your tickets in advance.
We knew approximately what part of the month we were leaving, but hadn't narrowed it down to a specific day. When I first had checked plane tickets, about three weeks in advance, round trip tickets were running approximately $220 from Saint Louis, Missouri to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When I checked the flights the very next day, ticket prices had increased from $230 to $260. Initially, I thought it was a typo or there was some mistake, but quickly realized there was no mistake. Airfare rates were increasing that quickly! Within a week of looking at the initial price, tickets were well above $300. By the time the flight was booked, the total round trip ticket cost me $460. I was literally sick to my stomach. Through our procrastination and not being able to pinpoint the exact time and day cost me over $200. I assure you that won't ever happen again.
Could have saved = $200
2. Borrow your gear.
Packing for a backpacking trip is extremely important and will require you to bring "the essentials." Some of the essentials include sleeping bag, hiking shoes, hiking clothes, canteens, water filters, camping stoves, and food. If you've never been on a backpacking trip before and aren't sure if you'll ever go again, I would suggest borrowing some gear to help save a few bucks. A few of the things that I don't own are a sleeping bag, poncho and waterproof bags. Luckily, I have a close friend who's still a member of the National Guard and he had the equipment that I could borrow. He loaned me the items mentioned above and easily saved me another $190 to $250. if you know anyone that's an avid hiker, go to them first and see what you might be able to borrow to save some dough.
Could have saved (and did)= $250
3. Rent gear.
This was the first backpacking trip for one of my buddies and he knew that he probably wouldn't go again, so he didn't feel that he needed to purchase some of the hiking gear. The biggest piece of gear he rented was his backpack from the local REI store. Renting his backpack for seven days only cost him $50, as opposed to $200 for a brand new pack (which I paid). While $200 sounds like a lot to spend on a backpack, having been on a previous backpacking trip, I knew that it was well worth it. But to my friend, the savings of $150 made complete and total sense, and could make sense for you.
Could have saved = $150
4. Buy in advance.
As I mentioned before, paying for the plane ticket in advance could have saved several hundred dollars, but there are also other things that you can buy in advance, too. For example, we purchased Mountain House meals to eat while we were camping. We didn't buy them until we actual got into town, and I noticed that by getting it there, we paid an extra $2 to $3 per meal, as opposed to to buying them cheaper at my local Wal-Mart. We could have purchased other things like beef jerky and nuts at Wal-Mart, too, instead of buying them at a convenience store. These are a few of the items that you can buy in advance to save a buck.
Could have saved = $25
5. Check the clearance racks.
Just like finding a good deal at your local department store, be sure to check the clearance racks at your local sporting goods store as well as the sale section of your favorite online store. I purchased a brand new backpack from REI and spent $200 for the backpack. Having had a miserable experience with a far less superior pack the year before, the purchase was well justified. Although, I did realize that if I bought an older or late model pack off REI's website, I could have saved anywhere from $50 to $100.
One item that I was able to save money on was my backpacking tent. Instead of paying the full price of $300, I did what I should have done with my backpack and checked the clearance section of REI's site. I ended up finding a tent that only cost me $99. I was also able to pick up hiking shirts and pants by checking the clearance racks at the local Dick's Sporting Goods. All in all, I saved about 60% off the retail price for an additional savings.
Could have saved = $100
Did save = $250
6. Use all your resources.
The last night before coming home, we had decided to stay in a hotel because we had an early flight. After many failed attempts of finding cheap hotel rates, it finally dawned on my friend who's a pilot, that there was a hotel that his airline had an agreement with. Initially, the quoted prices that we were getting from all hotels was anywhere from $150 to $200 for one night. Using his employee discount, we were able to book a room at a resort for the low cost of $70. Talk about a huge savings.
Did save = $130
A serious backpacking trip requires the necessary gear to make it a successful one. But that doesn't mean you have to blow the bank to have a good time. Learn from my mistakes and save some serious money and enjoy the outdoors!
Total potential savings = $1105