Long time listener, first time hiker?
You wanna give hiking a try but you aren’t keen on smashing the wallet for something you might or might not like… fair enough. It’s taken 20 years of adventuring with numerous kit changes and a fair chunk of coin to get my system to the ‘lightweight’ category (the journey to “ultra-light” will probably take another 10 years) and even then I’m still currently using the same old sleeping bag I’ve had for 10 years. (hint hint to any sponsors out there).
So in Australia – for this example we will be using popular stores that most people (Perthians) can access:
- Chemist Warehouse
Note: I do not have any arrangement or allegiance to the above businesses, I’m just referring to my local research of the cheapest options (as of December 2017) in my area (I live in the hills so I’m closest to Midland). Please comment below if you know of other shops in the Perth area that sell lightweight camping equipment cheaply. For other distributors including online stores keep in touch for a post on this soon!
To any Americans reading this – the prices might be different but I hear that big evil Walmart of yours probably will sell you your grandma for $12 so still feel free to use this list of goodies. This list will contain not-online prices, only prices of physically walking into a store and buying parts of your kit. This means you can do a little shop and then head straight out for your weekender!
LETS GO HIKING! (or bikepacking – same deal, except you have a your old faithful bike and a tool kit* strapped to it somewhere).
Where should you head? Let’s start with an overnight loop. Somewhere you can park the car and walk to a halfway point, camp and walk out in the morning. Also always make sure someone knows where you are and when they are expecting you back. Some locations for overnight hikes I can personally recommend (marked if they are a loop) here: Adventures. For other information on some of my favourite hiking blogs who may also have hiking options in WA here: Websites I love for inspiration
Things you will need to pack:
- Maps & Phone
- Sleeping Mat
- Sleeping Bag & Compression Bag
- Clothes & Poncho
- Toiletries & First Aid Kit
- Cooking Kit
- Head Torch
- Water & Purification system
- Backpack & Drybags
1)MAPS – free (online)
You want to print out a paper map, maybe some instructions some kind soul has written somewhere on the internet and a copy on your phone. Also GoogleMaps – $0. Yes! Bring your phone! If it’s a smart phone it has GPS that doesn’t rely on signal – it can definitely help you work out where you are and where you should be. Make sure you have it on Airplane mode when not using so it doesn’t chew the battery. I’m not adding the cost of a phone to this list haha. Distance? 10-15km is a good fun time. If you don’t know the terrain, I would say 15km per day is your maximum. Give yourself about at least 5 hours (for 15km) before dark to get started. That allows time for losing the track, stopping for rests, taking in the view (smelling the roses), re-arranging your pack and then setting up your sleeping arrangement once you get to your campsite. Don’t make it a rush, that’s not what hiking is about. I do recommend if this becomes an ongoing hobby to purchase a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for “just incase”.
2)TENT – CampEzi Capocc – 2 man 3kg (Tentworld) $24.87
Are you staying in a cabin? A hut? Most overnight loops probably don’t have that luxury so tent it is! I like to bring a tent anyway – you never know when the local high school has also decided to take the kids out on a camping expedition and you don’t wanna get stuck sleeping in between 30 Year 9 students in a cramped setting. It’s nice to have the choice at least. Thanks to the modern economy (and China) – tents can be quite cheap. You wanna look for something light, packable and has 4 walls, a door and a floor. Also double walled is a must. Single walled tents can have major condensation issues and you will wake up soaking wet with all your stuff also damp. Not to mention what happens if it rains! Tenting it isn’t your only option but it’s a good solid start.
3)SLEEPING MAT – Thermal EVA foam bed (Kmart) – $10
This is probably the most under-rated piece of gear. How comfortable your night is will play a big part on how enjoyable your experience is. A mat does not only help with comfort but also puts a barrier between you and the cold ground. Getting a chill in the hips will significantly decrease your fun meter and possibly your ability to walk out the next day.
I have my reservations about buying a cheap air mattress from personal experience (I now have an amazing air one but it’s pricey). I think if you want to try hiking on the cheap – go with a faithful foam mattress, no potential equipment failure and you can cut it down to size.
4)SLEEPING BAG – $10+ … + compression sack $30 (Kmart or BCF)
This depends on what temperature in normal for your area…I’m happily in a 5 degree sleeping bag for summer and in winter I add a liner which is the reason I can keep the same sleeping bag for 10 years and still going strong (adds 15degC of warmth and increases comfort). You can always get a liner later when you gauge your comfort rating. I run cold so it’s personal preference. Sleeping bags come as cheap as $10 for a 10 degree (Kmart or BCF). The other aspect you are looking for in a bag is how tightly in can compact to – you can do this with a compression sack. They go for about $35 at most camping stores.
5)SHOES – What you are already comfortable in – $0
I don’t recommend buying some new beaut spankers and walking 15km! Hopefully you have chosen a dry time of year and not a crazy loose gravelly climb, your old boots or sneakers should be fine. Take bandaids too if you haven’t walked too far in them before.
6)CLOTHES – In your wardrobe! + Emergency Poncho 90c (Spotlight)
Let’s assume you chose an appropriate time of year to try out this bush adventure where it isn’t stinking hot and it isn’t frigid or wet. Sure we can’t assume too much but your shelter and sleeping bag should protect you from the unexpected.
Wear what you are comfortable walking in. Choose for sun protection (long sleeves and hat) and leg protection. Pack a long sleeve shirt, and jacket for night time and a spare pair of socks. Take some thongs (flip flops) to give your feet a break. I sleep in thermals most times of the year – but this can be just a long sleeve top and thin pants if you choose not to sleep in the pants you walked in. If you get cold, you just layer on the clothes you wore that day. Spare clothes used as a pillow.
A beanie is a must. Gloves too in some weather but I have been caught in cold weather un-expectantly and used the spare pair of socks as mittens.
What you should bring is an emergency poncho. This will protect you and your bag from unexpected rain. They pack up super light and compact like a small notebook.
7)TOILETRIES – What you normally require (free) + a few others that may be overlooked like:
- Toilet paper in a ziplock bag – free
- Baby wipes (for that fresh feel) – $1.50 (Chemist Warehouse)
- Bug Spray – $4.39 (Chemist Warehouse)
- Sunscreen – $3.99 (Chemist Warehouse)
- Small plastic trowel (to bury your business)… I have to admit, I don’t carry a trowel anymore..I use a good stick to dig a hole
- First Aid kit – $up-to-you $5-$205 (Officeworks has a good range) + make sure you add to your kit three pressure immobilisation bandages – handy for so many things including snake bites – $2.99 each. You need to assess your own risk and pack wisely. Highly recommend a First Aid Course regardless of what your activities are.
8)COOKING – Solid Fuel Foldable Stove – $12.99 (BCF), Billy – $10 (Tentworld) , Bowl, Cutlery, Cup & Wash scourer (Kmart) – $4 ,
In WA fires are not allowed in most areas most times of the year for obvious reasons. So we will stick with stove cooking for this example. Youtube shows how you can make your own alcohol stove with a coke can…
But if we are looking at buying a cooking system, there is a lot of options. A cheap beginner level option is to buy a folding Stove with fire starter tablets. I used to use one of these when I was in Scouts as a kid. They are super light, compact and easy to use. Just light a fire starter and you got a flame directly under your pot of water. They might not be the most efficient but great for a hiking beginner.
You also need a pot for boiling water. We aren’t going to talk about food options in this post (blog post on my favourite food options coming soon) but most hikers can get by with just boiling hot water to cook their delicious dinners and for cups of tea/coffee. This pot needs to be small and have a lid and handle. The cheapest I could find is a 1800ml Billy from Tentworld.
Bowl and Cup – $1 each from Kmart. I personally like a metal cup so I have something warm to wrap my hands around when drinking tea at night (extra $2 for metal cup).
Cutlery – its a personal preference. Can you deal with just a spork (plastic fork and spoon in one item) $3 Tentworld or a light flat metal set of fork, spoon and knife clipped into one $3 from Kmart. I have used both items on trips and both work well.
Bring a scourer for washing up. It requires less water to wash your dishes and doesn’t seem to make things as soggy as a wash cloth when packed away. For an overnight trip, I don’t bother with dishwashing liquid. You can washing things properly when you get home.
9)HEADLAMP- $8 (BCF)
Bring a torch. I tend to not use my phone as I want to save the battery. I also find it 10 times more useful if it’s a headlamp. I’ve spent too many nights trying to cook one handed.
Saying that, don’t be afraid to turn the torch off and eat in the dark. Sit in the dark. Enjoy the dark. Some nights you will find you won’t need a torch at all. Our eyes adjust and then we can really experience being part of the environment. You don’t need the brightest one, just something to check if the water has boiled and maybe to get up to pee and avoid tripping over your tent guide ropes.
10)WATER – Aquatabs 50 per packet $10.49 (Chemist Warehouse)
How much water to bring? This relies on many factors including average temperature, how strenuous the activity, likelihood of finding more water etc.
Personally I go on about 1L per 5km plus a 1L for cooking and another 1L for emergencies if easy bush walking in comfortable temperatures. It seems to be double if I bring Tesla my dog with me (and he’s ok to drink out of most natural water sources). I do rely much of the time on finding water during my travels and treating it as carrying it all can be heavy.
- Boiling it & then pouring it into something that can hold hot water
- Water Purification Tablets
- Technology such as UV or mesh filters (expensive but longlasting) etc.
To keep the costs and weight down for a first hike – purification tablets are a great way to get started. Make sure you follow the packets instructions and choose your water sources wisely (for eg. using running water sources only or from water tanks designed for hikers)
11)BACKPACK – $? + plastic and ziplock bags
Last but not least – a backpack to carry all this equipment! I won’t be recommending a specific backpack for your journey because everybody is different. Do you already have one? For an overnighter – I’m sure it will be fine and it’s a good way to determine what works for you for when you are ready to purchase something hiking specific. I tend to pack the heaviest stuff to the back so it’s closer to my body. I also avoid having too much hanging off the outside although you may need to strap your sleeping mat to the outside if you bought the one above. I like bags that have waist straps so I can carry most of the weight on my hips rather than my shoulders (I’ve been told women have lower centres of gravity and its a more natural way for them to carry weight).
Dry bags – I like to use dry bags for separating equipment from each other inside my backpack. Useful to compress your gear, avoid your clothes getting wet from either rain or water spill and great for making a pillow with spare clothes for your sleep setup. I generally have one for food, one for clothes, one for electronics and one for toiletries. For your first trip though, a few plastic bags and some large ziplock bags should do the trick!
If you had absolutely none of the above and wanted to buy in store as cheaply as possible – Brand new = $145.13
Second hand = There are so many options to pick up stuff cheaply whether it’s from your local charity shop, from Gumtree or even a call out on Facebook = $under a hundred dollars
Borrow from a friend = $A six pack of beer to say thanks