Hiking is an activity that many associate with fresh air, freedom and fitness. We believe that it’s an inclusive pursuit that is open to anyone that’s willing to walk, but does hiking cost money?
Well, the answer might not be so simple. The type of hiking you’re attempting will have a big impact on the cost, as will your personal equipment requirements.
Either way, SnowSunSee is here to tell you if hiking actually costs money. We will give you some tips on how to hike for free and what expenses you might face otherwise.
So, Does Hiking Cost Money? Quick Answer!
Well, the answer here is yes and no. Yes hiking doesn’t technically cost money, but it probably helps to spend a few bucks…
Hiking is a broad term that encompasses everything from a 2-hour stroll on flat ground to a 7-month journey across the Appalachian Trail. Each of these hikes have significantly different requirements and budgets.
The simple answer is that basic forms of hiking don’t cost money, but longer excursions might require significant one off expense. Anyone can get out for a short summer day-hike in just a pair of trainers, but a backpacking trip will require purchasing heavy-duty boots.
Either way, the beauty of hiking lies in its inclusivity. The expense to get started is minimal, if not zero. If you’re thinking of making it your new hobby, put on your most athletic shoes and walk along a well-trodden path for a few hours! You might as well try, it won’t cost you a penny!
Does Day-Hiking Cost Money?
Day-hiking is the most common type of excursion. It includes any type of walk that can be completed in a single day.
How To Day-Hike For Free
It is possible to perform a basic day-hike for free. If you keep the time short, stick to even ground and encounter perfect weather; it can be done without spending any money.
Most new hikers will start by walking across easy trails that require little equipment. It can even simply be in your local park, providing they have a long enough path you can follow.
The necessities to perform a basic day-hike are athletic shoes and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Comfortable clothing that’s suitable for your environment is advisable, but probably not essential.
We also suggest you take a backpack filled with refuelling supplies and personal effects. Any old rucksack will do at this stage, negating the need to purchase an expensive ‘hiking pack’.
Whatever your financial situation, day-hiking is an accessible way to enjoy the outdoors. Simply head to any natural location, walk around and then head home.
Simple, fun and free.
When Does Day-Hiking Cost Money?
If you plan on heading over rough terrain, or your hiking trip will last more than a couple of hours; you will need to get some gear. Although the amount of products on the market can feel overwhelming, most day-hikers only require basic equipment.
In order to get you started, you really only need a couple of items. In order to make life easier, we have also included the estimated cost of a ‘beginner budget’ version of each product.
- Day-Hiking Boots: $40 – $120
- Hiking Daypack: $40 – $80
Once you’ve got these two items, you’re pretty much set to go. A good pair of hiking boots that will support your feet should be the priority. Following this, a good daypack is essential for carrying your refuelling supplies.
As you continue to become acquainted with the outdoors, you will likely start to see the benefit in further hiking clothing. Hiking socks, pants, shorts, shirts and jackets will all be on your shopping list sooner or later.
The amount of gear each hiker requires is individual, but all you really need are shoes and storage.
Does Backpacking Cost Money?
Backpacking is essentially a multiday hiking trip. It could involve camping outdoors, staying in lodges or stopping at towns. Either way, the idea is to follow a trail for multiple days.
Unlike day-hiking, it’s hard to escape spending money on a backpacking trip. Spending back-to-back days on difficult terrain poses a much greater challenge than a simple day-hike.
The expenses that come with a backpacking trip include food, transport (to and from the trail) and lodging or camping fees. Depending on whether you’re hitting a nearby trail or heading to the Andes; costs could range from $100’s to $1000’s.
The other major expense that new backpackers face is the sheer amount of gear required. It’s a big step-up from day-hiking, and that shows in the equipment list.
To help you get a feel for how much backpacking kit can cost, we have outlined the key items you will need with an estimate of the price. Each item is pretty much essential for any trip, with quality varying greatly depending on your budget.
- Backpacking Boots: $80 – $180
- Socks: $10 – $15
- Pants: $30 – $80
- Shirt: $20 – $80
- Rain Jacket: $60 – $180
- Backpack: $120 – $200
In our opinion, the items listed here are the absolute minimum requirement for a backpacking trip. Keep in mind that this does not include camping equipment, which will also skyrocket your expenses.
In our experience, getting kitted out with camping gear can be anywhere upwards of $500. A reasonable estimate might be closer to $1000 if you are looking for decent quality products that will stand the test of time.
Overall, the cost of backpacking is significant. However, the mostly costly part of any trip is usually the gear.
Our advice is to invest in quality equipment that is durable and reliable. It will cost you less money in the long-term, while also improving your time on the trail.
How Much Does Thru-Hiking Cost?
The term ‘thru-hiking’ refers to a backpacking trip that goes from start to finish on a long-distance trail. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail is a dream of many outdoor enthusiasts. Both of these trails take several months to complete.
Thru-hiking is a much less accessible pursuit than your average day in the outdoors. It requires serious fitness, the right mentality, plenty of spare time and lots of money.
To put things in prospective; the Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that thru-hikers spend around $1000 per month. Since the hike usually takes 6 months or more, costs can easily become eye watering.
It’s also worth noting that $1000 per month is just your living expenses. It doesn’t include another huge expense; gear.
Heading for a thru-hike requires plenty of premium-quality equipment. Clothing, footwear, camping, electronics and accessories can all equate to high costs.
If you require a total set of new equipment, the total cost is likely to be upwards of $1500. That’s a big outlay for a hobby that many think of as just ‘walking’, although it’s a vital expense to get you through the trail.
So, ‘does hiking cost money?’ Yes it most certainly does if you’re talking about thru-hiking!
Thoughts From The Author
It’s difficult to give a firm answer to the question: ‘Does hiking cost money’. But my honest response would be: ‘Technically it is possible to hike without spending money, but realistically you probably should make some purchases’.
The freedom of hiking makes it easy to get started, with only minimal gear required. As your interest peaks and your ambitions change, you can then build up a closet of clothing and equipment over time.
If you’re new to hiking; don’t feel pressured into spending a fortune before you reach the trail. Take the time to explore the outdoors first. Gauge how much you enjoy the activity before you make any big commitments.
Hiking can cost significant amounts of money, but keep in mind that splashing the cash isn’t compulsory. It’s about enjoying the outdoors, not modelling the clothing.
It’s about getting in touch with nature, which is a world in where materialism doesn’t exist.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.