Going outside does not have to be inordinately expensive. Especially if you are just getting into hiking and camping, you do not need to go out and buy top of the line equipment. Here are a couple of options that allow you to avoid some of the expenses of outdoor gear and get outside!

Microspikes:

So, you want to go hiking on the East coast, in May. There is still snow on the ground, the days are balmy and the sun glistens off of the crisp ridge lines of the mountains, but you don’t have microspikes- a slip on apparatus that gives you more traction on ice and snow. The spikes or nubs are usually connected by a rubber webbing. A solution for minimal snowpack is to simply put screws in your shoes. Substituting nails as traction works because the nail heads provide enough friction to gain footing on light ice. Runners frequently use this method on snowy roads and trails; it is effective to screw in metal screws into the bottom of running shoes, or (recommended) hiking boots.

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I recommend metal screws for this hiking hack. The thickness of your shoe will determine whether to use a pointed or blunt edged screw.

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Insert the screws into the sole of your shoe at a slight angle; again the number of screws you will put in will depend on your needs.

Sleeping Pad:

What seems like it could be your cheapest piece of equipment can get very expensive. The best solution to keep your wallet and back happy is found in any Wal-Mart, Rite Aid or CVS in the summer time. Pool floats are just as effective as keeping your warm body off of the cold ground. The only drawback is that it will be a little heavier than some ultralight sleeping pad models and might be more prone to tear if not laid out on a tarp.

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Fire Starters:

Yes, starting a fire can be an art, but if you do not have the gift there is no need to go buy a fire starting kit from the nearest outdoor store. Some other effective means of kindling are include Doritos (they have a long and slow burn), wiki stix, lint and cotton balls.

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Wiki Stix: If you have some Wikki Sitx lying around from your childhood or have picked them up at a restaurant recently they’re small and work well as a fire starter!

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Lint: Take all the lint from your dryer, place it in a bag into your pack and you will have a ton of sweet-smelling kindling.

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Cotton balls: You can make them yourself by soaking cotton pads in candle wax or cotton balls in petroleum jelly or Vaseline. These can be easily stored in small plastic bags and will become pretty water resistant after sitting for a while.

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To coat the cotton pads with wax, just use a candle; let it burn for a while and then dip the pads into the melted wax until saturated.

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Rain Gear and Waterproofing:

Garbage bags, garbage bags, garbage bags! On your next hiking trip where rain is in the forecast, waterproofing is easy. Lining your backpack with trash bags is a sufficient method to keep your clothing dry. Trash bags also prove to be both fashionable and functional rain skirts and tops! The best thing about using trash bags to waterproof yourself and your gear means you won’t be wasting a lot of ounces on heavier rain gear.

Dehydrating your own food:

Many outdoor stores sell packaged dehydrated food and while it’s not the most expensive piece of gear, it can be less-than-delicious. Using your favorite home recipes for dehydrated food will provide you with a better culinary experience than what appears to be Pad Thai. Most anything that is pre-made (chili, beans, simple soups, fruits) can be dehydrated in your oven at home! For fruits and veggies, thinly slice them and lay them out on a baking sheet. Baking sheets should be placed on the lowest rack in your oven and baked at 150°-200° F for anywhere from 6-12 hours. It is not an exact science and will most likely vary recipe to recipe so the best method is just to periodically check what you are dehydrating and removing it from the oven once the liquid has been baked out.

Stay tuned for the next article on hiking hacks to feature DIY gaiters, tarp tenting and beer can stoves.

Profile photo of Alyssa Rivas

Written by Alyssa Rivas

Californian, runner, tree climbing expert

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