Save Money on Hiking

These are some ways of saving money that we have learned in the past. Most apply to hiking in the Alps but you can use the same principles worldwide!

  1. Camp! Accommodation can cost up to 50euro pp per night in Switzerland, and that’s only for staying in a refuge, in dormitory-style beds. If you’re looking for a place to stay in a less-hiked area your only option might be a hotel. So bring a tent with you! Just be sure to check the local laws, sometimes it’s illegal to “wild” camp below 2,500m. Maybe just check with the landowner whether they’re ok with it! And remember to leave no trace! Camping is also a lot more convenient as you can set up your tent wherever you choose, meaning you won’t have to deviate off your route. (Sometimes it can be worthwhile to splash out on a campsite, especially if you haven’t showered in a few days- hot water, running toilets… Sometimes you can even use their plugs)
  2. Bring food with you! Eating out is way overpriced, especially in touristy areas. Although sometimes it is definitely worthwhile to invest in a warm meal of mountain food after a long days hike. Bring a stove, food that you actually might like, make sure there’s water nearby, and hope it doesn’t rain! You’ll get such satisfaction from cooking for yourself.
  3. Hike in a group! This has many benefits, but for the point of view of this post, you can save on buying food (e.g. buy carton of milk for breakfast between 5 people in the mornings, as opposed to carton of milk for 1), and also on costs such as petrol. You can even split the costs of some of the overheads, e.g. camping stove, first aid kit.
  4. Fill up bottles as you go! Don’t buy bottled water, what an effort to carry it… However, I managed to get an odd infection after drinking glacier water for 2 weeks (some kind of infection of the lymph nodes, very strange altogether). So maybe consider investing in a purifier or whatever. Personally it won’t stop me from doing it again! Just keep an eye out for some clear streams, or fill up near the source of a river. (Platypuses are great for this!)
  5. Don’t get a guide! For us this was one of the most obvious ones. We were all pretty comfortable using maps and compasses, but for trails like the TMB, navigation is barely used. This does not mean that you should set off alone if you don’t know what you’re doing. Visibility can get bad very quickly, and in an emergency a knowledge of navigation is ESSENTIAL. But if you’re a confident hiker, going without a guide cuts a huge amount off your cost- same goes for bus services/luggage transport. Unnecessary!
  6. Shop smart! Gear does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Ask around your friends, family, neighbours, friend’s family’s neighbours etc… It’s worth investing in a decent pair of proper waterproof hiking boots that fit perfectly, but otherwise second hand gear does the job! Just check for tears or rips before you set off. If you need to invest in new gear, don’t be afraid to shop in the sales. Who cares if it’s last season, once it’s waterproof! Also there’s no need to over-indulge. One of everything is enough! For your own sake it might be wise to bring a couple of pairs of socks, undies, maybe 2 tshirts (wash one and wear one) but otherwise you should be good! Your backpack will also thank you. As will your back. And your knees.
  7. Get there cheaply! So far we have always flown Ryanair, to take advantage of the low fares. For those wanting to come to the Alps from further away, try to book your flights well in advance. Use a handy tool like this to find out when is best to book.
  8. Avoid Switzerland! (I’m only kinda being facetious). Switzerland is crazy expensive. I had never been there before, and I was shocked. Groceries were a rip-off, shops were not very well-stocked, and internet on my phone cost 7euro/mb! Just take precautions, try to stock up in Italy/France before you cross the border (and the food will taste better too!)
  9. Go to Decathlon! I swear I’m not being paid to say this (I wish!) but this is my favourite shop for gear. Everything is so reasonably priced, and they will have things you didn’t even realise you needed! Hello biodegradable toilet paper! Find your nearest store here. Also you can’t bring gas canisters on an airplane so buy them here once you’ve landed.
  10. Have common sense! Don’t get lured in by the fancy equipment they have in outdoors shops. You don’t need freeze-dried astronaut pasta! Or super-technological antibacterial antiviral antifungal sun-protecting shampoo. Bring a bar of soap! Don’t buy the pre-made first aid kits, they are designed to rip you off. Invest in a decent dry-bag instead (which will last forever) and buy all the items individually in a pharmacy. Have a google to see what you’ll need to bring. Don’t buy waterproof matches/notebooks, just put the things you’ll need into a ziplock sandwich bag. Voila!
  11. Make sure you’re insured! All EU citizens should bring their E1H1 cards to prove that they have medical insurance. Any non-EU hikers should check their insurance policies before they travel, you don’t want to end up with a hefty bill if you need medical treatment!

3 responses to “Save Money on Hiking

  1. thanks for the tips and trip report! A few questions to clarify:

    My wife and I will be going next week to camp along the TMB, and I have a few questions if anyone has experience. For background, we trekked in Peru on the Salktantay trail (5 days) and last year summited Kilimanjaro.

    -Can we just show up at a refuge and buy dinner (and maybe a shower) if we are camping? I know there are a few that refuse campers, but from what I’ve read, many are fine with selling just a meal. Do they sell lunches to pack? We will probably bring a few freeze dried meals, but just wondering if we wanted a more civilized dinner

    -if weather is awful, do you think refuges will have rooms available? We don’t want to book rooms in advance if we don’t need them, but the problem with weather is that it’s unpredictable!

    -How much cash is recommended to carry? I assume most refuges only take cash

    -Weather right now seems varied, all the way from freezing to hot. We have both 0 degree (F) and 30 degree (F) sleeping bags – I don’t think we’ll need the 0 degree, but better safe than sorry?

    -It seems like water is plentiful along the way and most people carry about a liter at a time. Should we bring a water filtration system or tablets? Since you got that infection, I am thinking we should.

    -anything else we should be thinking about?

    • Hi Chris, I’m very jealous of your trip!

      Yes you can show up for dinner but I’d recommend giving a few hours notice. If you’ll be finished hiking by 3 or 4 then that should be enough. They always let us use their showers (the main reason we went!). Generally we cooked on a small stove which was actually fine and soooo much cheaper. We never bought lunches from the refuges, but I’d say they sell them. Check the Cicerone guide for the locations of shops, there were some great ones with local cheeses/bread. And bring some emergency frankfurters just in case you run out! We bought milk each day which was really important to us (being Irish) but be warned: it’s all UHT!

      As far as I know (I’ve never had to test this) there is a sort of “mountain code” that refuges can’t turn you away in bad weather, but once you descend a bit the weather shouldn’t be so extreme. It can be quite miserable for cooking/drying clothes though!

      We brought 250euro each last year and had about 100 left at the end, but if you’re looking for a more luxurious experience then bring some more. A couple of the more touristy refuges probably take card but best to presume they don’t.

      We used 0 degree (Celcius) sleeping bags and had them open a lot of the time, so personally I wouldn’t bother with the 0 degree (F) ones!

      We carried 2 litres per day (I wouldn’t recommend carrying any less, especially for the stage before Les Houches) and is generally easy to find. Another 2 of our group became sick this year so I’m going to start treating water from now on. I plan on using a pump-filtration system but to be honest I haven’t looked into it much yet! Nobody has been severely ill yet so don’t get too caught up on it, just a few upset stomachs.

      My other advice would be to invest in a dry bag, even a light one, as I did so this year and it’s made a huge difference for me!
      Also bring a deck of cards! It’s a nice way to spend the evenings and to get to know other people.

      Best of luck with it!

  2. Dogan Akarsu

    Hi! I am very inspired of your blog post about Tour Du Mont Blanc because I am also planinng to join this trip with small budget and I am bringing my tent&sleeping bag with me. But what I want to know is, where did you camp during your trip? I am also reading other blog post about tour du mont blanc and some of them said there are some campsites near refuges. How about the prices of these campsites and are they available in every stages? And did you camp on these campsites or wildcamping?

    Thanks in advance.

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