Home » Frugal Tips: Hike More, Spend Less

Frugal Tips: Hike More, Spend Less

One of the ways we save money on healthcare is by making sure we implement cheap or free workouts into our week. Hiking is one of our favorites. We’re lucky that our state is loaded with awesome parks that boast miles of hiking trails. This guest post by Mike from ShoeMatters will show you how to hike frugally and have fun at the same time. 

Many people believe that hiking is an expensive hobby, given the gear and preparation necessary. We know that hiking in not just some form of entertainment. Hiking can help you become a better prepper, ready for almost any SHTF Situation. You will build up your stamina, get used to reading maps and using compasses, and learn how to deal with changing weather. After frequently spending time outdoors, you will learn to pay attention to the surrounding sounds and any clues of danger.

Can you really afford to hike more? The good news is that there are ways to save money and still enjoy regular hikes on the trails. It is definitely worth taking the following tips for hiking more and spending less, because nobody likes to pay more than they need too, right?

Keep in mind that hiking does pose some dangers, so hikers need to take all precautions to be able to survive in a sudden turn of the weather, injury, wild animals, avalanches and other possible risks on the trail.

Stay fit, active, relieve the stress and enjoy the quiet, natural beauty on your trail and at the same time save money by doing the following:

Use the internet to plan your hike

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on buying hiking maps, guides and manuals. You can plan your hike on the Internet instead. Use one or more of the numerous online maps, trail guides and other hiking information to plan your next hike. Make sure you print out the trails for reference, just in case. If you can’t find the information on the trial you are interested in on the Internet, you can always check your local library for the maps and guides you need.

Get up early and complete the trail in one day

By planning 1-day hikes, you can save quite a bit of cash from needing to pay for a bed in a hut or hotel on the trail. Also, isn’t it better to sleep in your own comfortable bed after a long and satisfying hike?

Camping is another way to save money when hiking, so if you need more than 1 day to complete your trail, make sure you have all the proper camping gear, and do some research for a suitable camping site beforehand.

In order to be able to complete the trail you have planned, it is recommended that you get up earlier than normal, so that you can reach your destination and start your hike as early as possible. It is a good idea to start your hike at about 8 a.m., so that you make sure that you can return before it gets dark and dangerous out there.

Leaving as early as possible will ensure that the traffic is light and that you can reach your destination faster. Also, the earlier you get to the trail the lesser the crowds will be.

Make sure that you do have some headlamps and flashlights just in case, but if you plan your hike wisely, you should plan a safe margin for your safe return before sundown.

Choose your hiking gear wisely and use the same gear every time you hike

Unless you are planning on going on a very long hiking trip, which will require changing clothes, there is no reason to purchase more than one set of clothes and gear for hiking.

You should choose good quality hiking clothes, footwear and gear, but you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars while at it. Why not wait for sales and clearances at you r local stores or online?

Once you have purchased your hiking clothing and gear and it has proven to be comfortable, there is no need to change it and experiment with new gear. Wear the same clothes, boots and gear every time.


Boots are definitely the most important part of your hiking gear. I often mention on MyBootprint that there is no “one fits all” answer to the question which boots are best. It is a matter of personal preference, as well as the trails and weather conditions there. In general, you should pick boots or trail running shoes which fit you well, provide stability, cushioning and support. Some people prefer the sturdier leather hiking boots, while others are happier when hiking with trail shoes, which are more flexible, lightweight and breathable.

Pick boots which have sufficient toe space, and make sure you break in your hiking boots before actually going on a hike with them!

Low or mid-cut trail shoes which dry quickly and are breathable re an excellent option for day hikes in warm weather.

For longer hikes on uneven terrains and in cold and snowy conditions, hiking boots are better. They will keep your feet warm and dry and will prevent ankle rolling.


Layering is key for hiking. Buy an inner layer made of breathable and moisture wicking material to keep the sweat off. Add an insulating layer from merino wool or fleece to keep you warm. And add a waterproof outer layer which will keep you safe from wind and rain. It is a good idea to wear hiking socks, rather than cotton socks which will trap the sweat and other moisture.

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant, Gravel, 36×30

Columbia Women’s Switchback II Jacket, Miami, Large

Sunglasses, a hat and gloves are the other accessories you should have with you.


You don’t really need too many expensive accessories to enjoy a good hike. A suitable backpack and trekking poles are probably the only accessories you will need, unless you are planning a longer hiking trip or are hiking in extreme conditions.


Buy a backpack which is large enough to fit the amount of hiking gear, snacks, water and other things you carry on the trail. Stay away from the heavy camping backpacks if you are going on a 1 day hiking trip.

Also, get a comfortable backpack with padded, wide and firm straps for the shoulders as well as for the chest and hips, so that the weight is distributed. Choose a backpack with quality stitching and a durable material. External pockets can be handy if you need to get something out quickly without needing to remove the backpack.

This highly rated hiking backpack comes in a variety of colors. Venture Pal Ultralight Lightweight Packable Foldable Travel Camping Hiking Outdoor Sports Backpack Daypack (Fuschia)

Trekking poles

These hiking polls are great for added stability and can prevent falls on the trail. They are great for shock absorption as well as for a better balance of the weight of your backpack, and make walking up or downhill much easier. There are stronger and heavier aluminum trekking poles as well as lighter but more expensive carbon fiber ones. Choose hiking poles which feel comfortable on your hands and are suitable for your height. Make sure you have rubber covers on your trekking pole tips when you do not need extra traction. For people with joint problems – there are excellent anti-shock trekking poles available.

  1. Pack lunches and snacks you made at home

You can save a lot of money by making your own lunch and snacks for your hike, and for the car. You don’t need to splurge on buying all those specialized power bars and other energy snacks. You can cook or prepare just about anything you want to eat on the day before the hike. This is a lot easier if you have prepared some extra food ahead of time. Light and yet nutritious snacks will keep your energy levels up during the hike. You can make some sandwiches with peanut butter, honey, or whatever you prefer. Bringing along some dry fruits and raw nuts is also a great idea. They are delicious, nutritious and are lightweight.

Plan meals in advance

Planning or preparing your meals for after the hike ahead of time will save you money for needing to go to a restaurant or ordering food. A simple sandwich, some fruit or veggies and some water will make a light yet filling meal to replenish your energy after your hike.


About the author: Michael Pierce is an outdoor enthusiast and footwear fanatic who loves to spend his time outdoors either hiking or camping. On his site MyBootprint he recommends the most suitable boots for different professions and on ShoeMatters, he shares tips how to choose the best footwear according to your needs.


  1. I’ve never understood those that spend a fortune on hiking. Other then maybe a few hundred dollars once we’ve never spend much on hiking. Not only that most of our gear is just ordinary stuff. If you need higher end army surplus is a good route but most of the time a good pair of boots and a normal backpack is all you need for day hikes. Less someone read this and think I’m not a serious hiker, it’s probably our families only serious hobby. We do so at least once a month.

  2. Great idea! And if the idea of hiking is daunting, you can just check out walking trails in parks or go for a walk in a hilly neighborhood. The point is to get outside, have fun, and exercise a little. If you’re on a super-tight budget that doesn’t account for hiking boots, you can still have fun outside. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Personally, we just wear our tennis shoes and stay on the less rugged paths. Works great. Is cheap. 🙂 However, if you are doing serious hiking on more rugged paths, I absolutely would not go without a quality pair of hikers.

  3. Great timing. We just (today!) got back from 8 days on our RV in NW GA and WNC. Hiked quite a few miles each day. We love casual hiking. Used to do backpacking (everything needed for a week+ ‘”stroll”) but basecamp hiking is more our thing now.

    Something I definitely noticed, during those 8 days when we were mostly outdoors and super-active, we spent less than if we were on a “normal” vacation – and less than if we were just at home. That’s certainly something we plan to track moving forward as we continue to do more trips.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s awesome, Brad!! Both from a money and a health standpoint. 🙂 We’re more into the basecamp hiking like you guys are. We like to balance exercise with relaxation ;-).

  4. Ty Roberts says:

    I should be ashamed of myself for not hiking more than I do. I have 30+ miles of wooded trails about 30 steps from my front door. I live a short drive from some of the most popular hikes in my area. I could even do a bunch of “urban hiking” around the burbs, since my town has done a good job of incorporating walking trails throughout the neighborhoods. All that said, I just don’t enjoy hiking that much. I feel like I want to, and that I should, but if I’m honest, I’m just not that into it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Laurie says:

      Oh my gosh, Ty!! Get on it!! What a great frugal activity for your family! I’ll bet if you give it some time you’ll grow to like it. 🙂

  5. I have been looking at trail running shoes online but I want to try on a couple of pairs to get a feel. Like you said, you never know how they’ll feel until you put them on. Thanks for sharing your perspective!!!

    • Laurie says:

      I agree – trying them on is important unless you’re familiar with how a brand feels and know what your size is. A good pair of hikers makes hiking all the more fun!

    • Laurie says:

      That sounds so fun! We actually have friends who are in Canada right now that are planning on doing some hiking!

  6. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Thanks for the information! I have a pair of good Merrell hiking boots but we walk a lot and do some local, easy trails where we just need sneakers. Is there a way you’re supposed to store hiking boots if months/years go by between uses? Mine are gathering dust and cat hair in the back of my closet. At the very least I’m thinking a shoe box like ones I’ve bought from the Container Store. FYI we’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park where I intend to wear them!

    • Laurie says:

      “Dust and cat hair” – that sounds like our house!! We always store our good shoes in their original box, or you could use a plastic one too. Glacier is SO beautiful. I’ve been there, but Rick and the kids have not. We would love to go there one day.

  7. Bill says:

    We enjoy hiking too and it is definitely a healthy, easy and inexpensive form of entertainment/exercise. But I would say it isn’t necessary even to spend as much money as the article recommends. There are lots of hiking opportunities for example that don’t require trekking poles or special hiking pants. Trails around here are often marked “easy,” “moderate” or “difficult” (or words to that effect). We often just pack a blanket and a lunch and choose a trail that we can handle–no special gear other than a backpack and hiking shoes/boots required.

    • Laurie says:

      We do a lot of the easy and moderate trails too, Bill. With the kids it’s easier and safer. But for those wanting a more serious hike I’d definitely recommend getting the right equipment.

  8. I’ve never been hiking before, but I do enjoy looooong walks. Just last Wednesday I walked for about 3 hours in a park I’ve never been to before. I had a map on my phone and just walked around trying to find different spots highlighted on the map. It was great exercise! Although I should have packed more water 😛

    • Laurie says:

      That’s awesome!! Yes, we do walks and hikes quite often. Such a great way to get exercise but yet it doesn’t feel like work. 🙂

  9. katscratch says:

    As much as I love riding my bicycle, I really love hiking and so does my elderly dog. One of the things that motivates me most about achieving financial independence is being able to have time for both!

    Have you looked into the Passport Club and Hiking Club options in the MN State Parks? They look like so much fun – but I don’t want to spend the (small amount of) money 😀 so haven’t done them yet, ha.

    • Laurie says:

      I haven’t heard of them! I will have to look into that stuff. We do buy state and county park stickers every year though. A great form of reasonably priced entertainment!

  10. Agreed.

    Hiking, bike-riding, and reading are the three ways I spend almost all of my free time.

    They’re calming and 100% free. I don’t understand anyone who chooses to spend money when there are still parks — which might not be around forever.

    • Laurie says:

      I agree, Phil – you just can’t beat those ways of keeping fit in both mind and body. And the “free” part is an added bonus. We went on a long bike ride last weekend and it felt great!

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