If you're new to backpacking or find yourself in the situation where you need to update your gear, it can get pricy once you've gotten all the kit. Thankfully, there are some affordable options that you can use that won't break the bank and will be just as performing as backpacking-specific gear.
1. Backpack Liner
Most backpacks are not waterproof, even if they are made with waterproof fabrics. That’s because the stitching used to sew them together creates several tiny holes in the fabric that leak water unless the manufacturer seals them with seam tape* (and that's not common practice). That's where pack liners come in. If the fabric of your backpack is reasonably waterproof, any water that leaks in at the seams will be stopped by the waterproof liner.
Low-cost gear hack: garbage bags (CHF 3.00/10 bags) and oven bags (CHF 4.30/5)
Line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag instead. It's completely waterproof and you can even pack your gear loose without stuff bags and it will stay dry. If you know the weather will be really ugly, you might feel safer having your gear packed in a smaller system of stuff bags. You can use oven bags that are sturdier than Ziplocs. They are also great to protect water-sensitive items like camera and first aid kits.
2. Pocket Knife
Even if you tend to favour a minimalist or lightweight approach to backpacking gear, you probably have a pocket knife as a must have item. Useful for many circumstances from opening packets of food, cutting cord to splitting that yummy mountain cheese.
Low-cost gear hack: razor blades (CHF 8.95/100)
Razor blades are ultra-light at just a few grams and take up almost no volume in your pack. Wrap them in some cardboard and duct tape and you can use them to cut everything from bandages to wood shavings for a fire. Even if you do have a main knife as part of your gear, they make a great back up in case you lose or break it.
3. Carabiners & Webbing Straps
When backpacking you will most likely want to attach some gear to the outside of your pack either because it's too bulky, you'll want to keep it easily accessible, or wet and you need to dry it out. Compression straps on the side of your packs will let you do that without additional attachment. However, in the case of daisy chains - webbing loops sewn to the sides or back of a backpack -- you will need to clip gear to your pack using carabiners or webbing straps.
Low-cost gear hack: hair ties (CHF 1.70/4)
Durable nylon hair ties are great for attaching things like your rain jacket to the outside of your pack. Loop the tie through the attachment points on your pack and stuff the jacket so the elastic band holds it i place. You can also use them to attach hiking poles to your pack.
These next two low-cost gear hacks are about preserving your gear so you can use them longer:
4. Fresh Smelling Hiking Boots
Low-cost gear hack: mint tea (CHF 3.20/25)
Place a dry tea bag in smelly hiking boots when you come back from your trek. It will keep bad odours at bay.
5. Fluffy Sleeping Bag
Low-cost gear hack: tennis balls (CHF 12.90/6)
After washing your sleeping bag, add a couple of tennis ball to the dryer. It will help to fluff up the material in your sleeping bag so it will stay as warm as when you first bought it. Do check the manufacturer's instructions on washing & drying as each sleeping bag is different.
What backpacking hacks have you been using and recommend?