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11 Cheap Gear Alternatives Thru-Hikers Love

It sounds silly, but you can lighten your pack a lot by trading out heavy gear for garbage. Here are some low-cost accessories thru-hikers swear by.

Yeah, having the latest and greatest gear is nice. But you know what’s even nicer? Saving that cash and putting it toward the hike of your dreams. With a little ingenuity, you can turn that well-loved Goodwill gear, the bargain-bin Target purchase, or even your recycling into equipment that performs on the trail. Start with these 11 thru-hiker hacks, and get creative from there. —The Editors

A SmartWater bottle (instead of a Nalgene)

Disposable bottles weigh 1/4 as much as Nalgenes, cost about 1/18th as much, and come with a free drink. A lot of hikers also prefer SmartWater bottles because they fit on a Sawyer filter (arguably the most popular water filter), and because their tall, skinny design makes them more packable. But they aren’t as durable as Nalgenes and you can’t do the old ‘boiling water in a bottle’ trick to heat up your sleeping bag on a chilly night—unless you want melted plastic and water in your bag.

Read more cheap gear alternatives thru-hikers love, written by Maggie Chuckles Wallace here.


May 7, 2022

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Depending on where you travel, you may want to pack bug spray, too. In places like Florida and North Carolina, summers get buggy, and you’ll be happy to have packed a spray on nights when you want to sit on the porch or dine outdoors.

Madison Flager and Meaghan Kenny


As a veteran of the Iraq War, I found myself struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder from which greatly impacted my mental health. In 2016, I came across the film “Wild,” an adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about healing by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

LeAura Luciano


Sawyer Permethrin Premium Insect Repellent is used on clothing, not skin, and it provides long-lasting protection against ticks.

Media Mentions from Wirecutter