Travel Gear Solutions on the Cheap


Let’s face it – travel gear can be quite expensive. If you don’t have the dough or don’t want to cough it up just for one trip – there are solutions!

Borrow it!

Do you know someone that owns a backpack or suitcase you can borrow? How about packing cubes? Ask around – travelers are generally excited to help out other travelers!

Check out Craigslist, Goodwill, Gear Trade, and Ebay for Deals on Used Gear

  • sells their returned gear on Gear Trade!
  • Goodwill is great for water bottles!
  • If you’re in the Portland, OR area, check out Next Adventure’s Bargain Basement

Peruse Sales and Time Things for Off-Season

REI calendar sales:

  • 20% off for members: Mid-March
  • Anniversary Sale: mid May
  • Summer sale and clearance: late June / early July
  • Labor Day sale: late August
  • Member 20% off coupon and sale in mid November
  • Winter Clearance: early February
  • Member Dividend + 20% off in late March

If you’re an REI member, you can also attend their garage sales (annual, national sale is April 21st) to find used gear for very cheap! These are especially handy if you are a common size – I have size 8 feet, for example, and so do many people, so I nearly always find shoes!

  • Semi-annual sale: early May
  • Black Friday sale
  • I’ll update this list as I notice more sales

Steep and cheap: lightening deals and sales from

Amazon: as a seller of all things under the sun, Amazon will often be the best deal for gear. What’s interesting (and useful for you) is that periodically, some items in certain colors and sizes will be on sale (check to make sure it’s from a reputable seller), so you can get deep discounts. I recently bought a rain jacket from Amazon that was the size and color I wanted…and happened to be 70% off.

Shop off-season: if you’re not concerned with the latest trends, shopping out of season is a great way to get gear that’s on sale. If you want cheap winter gear, shop in February and March (and into the summer). For cheap summer gear, shop in the fall and winter.

Budget Options

Not everything has to be the newest or the fanciest for your trip to be amazing. While there are many name brands that make great gear, there are also many copy cats that are just as good on Amazon, which I link to periodically on this site.

Here are some budget options that don’t compromise quality for commonly used travel items:

Packing Cubes – about $20

Amazon Basics is a good generic brand for many travel and everyday items. They have solid quality for basics – even for things like underwear!


This one for $48 even comes with packing cubes in certain colors!

Or you can opt for fun patterns (or black) on this $49 bag.


If you want something smaller and cuter that just looks like a nice backpack but is still great for travel, check out this doctor-style bag for $40.

Or this fancier-looking one for $29-37 (depending on color).

The doctor-style bags are great because they stand up by themselves and have a wide-opening on top so it’s easy to find your stuff. HOWEVER, this also makes them easy to steal from, so lock your zippers – either with a lock or a locking carabiner clip.

Plug adapter – about $8

Pretty sure this is the exact one I have. You can only plug one thing in at a time though. Keep in mind this isn’t a surge protector. All your USB powered stuff will be fine, but a hairdryer? Check the voltage. This one for $12 has a plug and two USB ports.

Packable Day Pack

This basic one is $10 and comes in a ton of colors

This extensive one for $21 that comes in a ton of colors and is so packed with features that it could be your only travel (and hiking) backpack!

Silicone Tubes for Your Liquids – $15

Travel toiletries are expensive and probably not the brands you use anyway. Save money on your trip by filing these silicone tubes full of your favorite toiletries. This set is neat because not only are the tubes different colors to identify different products, they come with a little label you can set to the name of the product (shampoo, conditioner, etc), they can be hung in the shower, they come with three little jars for small lotions, AND you get your 311 bag. Win!

Further money-saving tip: Buy a gigantic bottle of Dr. Bronners Castile Soap. Use it for anything you use soap for – dishes, your hair, your hands, your body, cleaning, etc. While initially expensive, you can fill various containers with it (including travel containers!) with 1/5 soap and fill the rest with water to make it last forever. Bring one liquid to do all your cleaning needs – even laundry!

Further further money-saving tip: Save your prescription bottles and use them for your liquids and other odds and ends (like earrings, sewing kit, etc.). Most are 2 oz.


As much as I personally loathe microfiber towels (I don’t like drying myself with plastic – it seems wrong!), other people seem to love them. Since they absorb about 3 times their weight in water, you can save space and money by bringing one that’s smaller than a bath towel (these are about 27″ x 52″). They won’t cover you, but they will dry you! Depending on size, they range from about $9 for a teeny one to $17 for a bath-towel size.

What will cover you up AND dry you and is prettier and cheaper is a sarong. If you’re going anywhere tropical, you can find one at your destination for cheap. But if you’re picky, there are tons of beautiful ones on Amazon for about $9-20. Just make sure to get a cotton one or it won’t dry you!

Lock – $7

Staying in a hostel? Bring along a lock to keep your stuff safe in your locker or locked in your bag. I have two of these and they work great.


Some people recommend bringing one for a hostel. Unless you are going spelunking, just use the flashlight app on your phone.

Water bottle

Stainless steel non-insulated for up to $17

Insulated 25 oz for $14 Comes in several fun colors!

More colors and patterns plus a sport lid on this 25 oz insulated bottle for $19.

Realize that you don’t need much

Most of the fundamental travel items are things you already own – like clothes suited to the climate and a comfortable backpack. Borrow, shop wisely, and, most importantly, get creative! Creativity is free. 🙂

What are your awesome budget travel items?

Travel gear doesn't have to be expensive. Here are some excellent budget options and ideas.


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