Hike More, Spend Less: Our Tricks For Frugal Hiking

Mr & Mrs FW on the Mt. Pierce summit

Mr & Mrs FW on the Mt. Pierce summit

It’s no secret Mr. Frugalwoods and I are hiking devotees. We’d hike every day (ok, maybe every other day) if we could and hey, we will once we live on our homestead of wooded land! But for the present moment, we’re relegated to hiking on the land of others, which is a wonderful experience all its own. After all, it’s unlikely we’ll ever “own” an actual mountain (although the thought has crossed our minds… ).

I’ve already bored you with touted the fact that we think hiking is the perfect frugal day. So now, I want to divulge our secrets for executing a perfectly frugal hike. Last Friday, Mr. FW and I took advantage of our pre-July 4th day off and drove out to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to scale Mt. Pierce and Mt. Eisenhower–two 4,000-footers in the Presidential Range. These peaks are in the same range as the venerable Mt. Washington, and we had an unadulterated view of that famed mound from the summits.

While it might, at first blush, seem that hiking is a frugal enough pastime already, trust me, as with all things, there are plenty of ways to spend a ton of money doing it. Plus, I realllllly wanted an excuse to share our gorgeous hiking photos with you, so I had to think of some tangential tie into frugality, right? We’ll blame it on Mr. FW, who had this idea in the first place ;).

How The Frugalwoods Execute A Perfectly Frugal Hike

1) Plan your hike on the internet.

Mr. FW scopes out a stream on the ascent

Mr. FW scopes out a stream on the ascent

Ah yes, the magical internet provides all the maps and trail guides you need to route your ideal hiking excursion. There’s a litany of hiking guides, maps, how-to manuals, and books available for purchase, but we’ve never found any of them necessary.

The one hiking-related text we do own, which we received as a gift (thanks, mom and dad!), is a nature guide to New England. We felt we needed this after years of saying things like, “look at that yellow spiny plant-object over there.” Hooray for identifying flora and fauna on the trail!

While we typically use the internet exclusively to plan our trips, you could also check relevant materials out from the library. If you do use the wondrous internet to plan, be sure to print out a few trail maps to take with you–as we’ve discovered, the woods are never quite as straightforward as a map implies.

2) Get a friend to watch your hound.

Mrs. FW on the rocky, steep ascent

Mrs. FW on the rocky, steep ascent

Hiking is decidedly not in Frugal Hound’s repertoire of abilities. We’ve tried on multiple occasions to get her trail-ready, but it ain’t gonna happen. Firstly, she lacks any sort of endurance–after five miles on flat, easy city roads, she’s done. Secondly, she lacks the coordination necessary to scale the rocky terrain inherent to the nearly-vertical ascents in the White Mountains.

Due to the age of these trails, there are essentially zero switchbacks. Hence, you find yourself on an ascent that’s straight up the side of the mountain. Fairly daunting when you’re standing at the bottom; quite exhilarating when you’re at the top.

This style of trail design is decently grueling and sometimes requires climbing on hands and knees. The greyhound body is simply not built to climb in such a way–poor Frugal Hound is extremely top heavy (those lungs!) and not well balanced for anything but sprinting on flat land (and even at that, she’s an awkward one… ).

This is much more Frugal Hound's speed

This is much more Frugal Hound’s speed

For all these reasons and more, we have to leave Frugal Hound at home while we embark on our epic treks. Though we’d always dreamed of hiking with a dog, Frugal Hound is just not that dog, but we love her all the same. Since the White Mountains are a three-hour drive (each way) from home, and last week’s hike took us a grand total of 8 hours to complete, Frugal Hound needed a break during the day.

Our very kind and generous neighbors (hi and thank you, H & B, if you’re reading!) took her out for a midday walk, which we greatly appreciate. In addition to making our trip possible, they saved us the exorbitant sum of hiring a dog walker for the day. A major frugal win! And, we’ll gladly repay their kindness by watching their dog/watering their garden/cooking them food.

3) Do it all in one day.

We typically undertake only day hikes for a number of reasons. Primarily, we can’t leave Frugal Hound alone overnight, so we’d need to impose on someone to watch her. And, if there isn’t a viable spot to camp, we’d have to pay to stay in a hiker’s hut or a hotel. The White Mountains are rife with both, but at $138/night per person just to sleep in an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut bunk bed, it’s not exactly a frugal bargain. Plus, day hikes mean we get to sleep in our own comfy bed.

Camping is certainly an excellent frugal option and, were it not for our hound-related constraints, we’d probably do that a lot more. When Mr. FW treks alone, he camps on the mountain, which is equal parts free and fun. Plus, he gets to live out his “lone man in the wilderness” dreams.

4) Get up early.

For the hike in question, we awoke at 4:30am and left the house at 5am in order to hit the trailhead by 8am. Our early start has a number of advantages. There’s virtually no traffic on the roads at that hour, which makes our drive smooth sailing. And the earlier you hit the trail, the lighter the crowds are on the mountain. Despite it being an idyllic holiday weekend, the trail wasn’t swamped and we rarely passed another hiker. Our kind of hike!

5 months pregnant on the summit of Mt. Pierce looking towards our destination of Mt. Eisenhower

5 months pregnant on the summit of Mt. Pierce looking to our destination of Mt. Eisenhower

Additionally, hiking early in the day is safer. You want to summit and be down off that mountain by the time dusk hits. We always carry headlamps and emergency supplies, but it’s a whole lot easier to hike in the daylight. Despite starting at 8am, we weren’t finished until 4pm. We’d prefer to have a conservatively safe margin until sundown rather than feel rushed during our hike. It’s no fun to be concerned about getting stuck on a summit after sundown.

The fact that I’m 5 months pregnant with Babywoods did slow us down a bit on this hike. Despite my bump not being very large yet, I definitely noticed that my pace was slower. Especially on the steep ascent, I found myself out of breath far more often than is typical for me. I can usually barrel up the mountain alongside 6’3″ Mr. FW, but this time I dragged way behind.

We decided to let me lead and be pace-setter so that we could hike next to each other (our preference as it enables conversation and the occasional trail kiss). Hence, the 10 miles took us a whopping 8 hours, which is far pokier than our usual pace. Another reason to start early–you never know exactly how long a hike will take. And, it’s more enjoyable to take all the rest (and photo) breaks you want. For us, hiking is not a race and the journey is certainly the reward.

5) Pack homemade lunches and snacks.

Enjoying our lunch break, nestled into a rock on the ridge walk between peaks

During our lunch break, nestled into a rock on the ridge walk between peaks

Hiking is another instance where cooking your own food enables you to reap serious savings. All of the fancy power bars, gold bars, Cliff bars, and greyhound bars on the market are probably tasty, but they’re super expensive and totally unnecessary.

One does not need custom hiking food in order to hike. One merely needs… wait for it… food. Yep, you can pretty much eat anything (within reason) while hiking.

We prefer lightweight, protein and carb-laden goodies that are amenable to surviving in a hot hiking pack all day long. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat bread are our #1 choice for lunch and a DIY trail mix of almonds and cranberries (bought separately in bulk at Costco for a fraction of the price of already combined trail mix) suits us just dandy for snacks.

6) Buy the brownie.

The spread at the Mizpah Springs Hut

The spread at the Mizpah Springs Hut

If you happen to hike a trail with a staffed hut on it (which are prevalent in the White Mountains) and said hut is selling fresh, homemade baked goods, buy one. It’s rare that I advocate buying anything, but let me tell you what, this is worth it. On our hike last week, the friendly staffer at the Mizpah Springs hut pulled a fragrant loaf of chocolate chip pumpkin bread out of the oven mere seconds before we arrived…

Being both pregnant and unabashedly inclined towards sweets to begin with, I made a beeline for the picnic table and quickly threw down the $2 the hut charges for the pleasure of a fresh baked delicacy. Best $2 I’ve spent all year as far as I’m concerned :). Plus, the purchase supports the AMC, which maintains and services the trails.

7) Use the same gear every time you hike.

Mr. FW gazing towards our ridge walk from Mt. Pierce to Mt. Eisenhower. Part of the beauty of this hike is how long you spend above tree line.

Mr. FW gazing towards our ridge walk from Mt. Pierce to Mt. Eisenhower. Part of the beauty of this hike is how long you spend above tree line.

A number of years ago when our hiking obsession first took hold, Mr. FW and I outfitted ourselves with appropriate hiking gear, which we’ve used on every single hike since. We bought almost everything new, because it’s imperative to get stuff that fits properly, is comfortable, and isn’t worn out already.

However, we bought everything from either the REI clearance rack using the REI credit card, which garnered us cash back to use on future purchases, or from Amazon, where we have the Amazon.com cash back rewards card. If you’re interested, I outlined the basics of our gear in 10 Shockingly Expensive Things We Own.

With hiking, as with all sports and home improvement projects, you need the right tools for the job or you’ll be in a world of woe. However, there’s no earthly reason to own more than one of any of these things, unless you’re going on a long camping trip and need to change clothes/alternate gear at some point. There’s also no reason to own the most expensive options on the market.

8) Hitchhike when necessary.

Mr. FW packing up our lunch, with a view of surrounding mountains

Mr. FW packing up our lunch, with a view of surrounding mountains

We hitched a ride from the conclusion of our hike last week back to the parking lot where Frugalwoods-mobile was hanging out. We started out walking the 3 mile journey on the road, but some nice hikers pulled over and offered us a ride. Hitchhiking near trailheads is very common (at least here in the Northeast) as it’s almost always hikers helping hikers.

Obviously use caution, but it’s usually fine to hitch with other hikers from one trailhead to another. This can save the expense of bringing a second car in order to spot vehicles when your trail doesn’t make an exact loop. We did see one enterprising fellow who left his bike at the termination of the hike and then road it back to the parking lot–we thought this was a pretty darn smart idea!

9) Bring snacks for the car.

Mr. FW on the Mt. Eisenhower summit. It was very cold and windy up there, so we didn't linger for long.

Mr. FW on the Mt. Eisenhower summit. It was cold and windy up there, so we didn’t linger for long.

It’s an immutable rule that we’re going to want SNACKS (yes, in all caps) as soon as we finish our hike and drag our tired bodies into the car. Rather than pay top dollar at a gas station, we pack treats purchased at Market Basket (our fabulous local discount grocery store) and chomp away. Planning ahead is a golden rule of the frugal weirdo and bringing snacks is a classic example.

Another key to post-hike frugality and happiness? The cooler. We load our little red cooler up with waterbottles and icepacks so that we can imbibe ice-cold bevies as soon as we’re off the trail. Ahhh, bliss.

10) Pay the parking lot or park entrance fee.

Mr. FW on the final ascent to Mt. Eisenhower.

Mr. FW on the final ascent to Mt. Eisenhower

Again, I’m telling you to pay for something! The horror! But, if the trailhead you’re parking at requires an entrance or parking fee, by all means, pay it.

These fees support the National Forest Service and are a small way to help maintain the trails. We happily paid the $3 (which is paid on the honor system by depositing money into a tube) to park at our trailhead last week.

11) Plan dinner in advance.

If we know we want snacks in the car, we really know we want dinner as soon as we get home. After 6 hours of driving and 8 hours of hiking last Friday, we were famished and exhausted by the time we rolled into Frugalwoods HQ. It was clear no one would be cooking and, since we don’t eat out, our age-old trick of frozen pizza came to the rescue! Nothing tastes better than pizza after a hike day. Having this pizza on hand and in the plan saved us from caving to take-out. Know what you’re going to chow on before you set out for the trail.

Hike Stats (If You Want To Hike This Hike)

  • Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire (159 miles from Boston, MA)
  • Distance: 10.4 mile loop, 4,780 feet ft elevation
  • Maps and Other Info: Summit Post, 4,000 FootersThe Appalachian Mountain Club, Hike New England
  • Topographical Maps: CalTopo
  • Parking: We parked at the Crawford Connector parking lot in Bretton Woods, NH located off of Mount Clinton Road, just past the Mt. Washington resort on Hwy 302. The turn-off for Mount Clinton Road is right before you hit the AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch and the parking lot is a few hundred feet up on the left. We put the address of the Mt. Washington resort into our GPS, which worked well.
  • Hike route: Our route took us up the Crawford Path, by way of the Mizpah Springs hut, and on up to the summit of Mt. Pierce. We then embarked on a glorious ridge walk, followed by a sheer ascent to the summit of Mt. Eisenhower. The Edmands path took us back down the mountain. It’s a fairly arduous ascent and descent, but certainly manageable as a day hike.
  • Unique features: The ability to hit two summits, streams, views of Mt. Washington and other surrounding peaks, Lord of the Rings movie set look-alike.
  • Sign seen on our trail

    Sign seen on our trail

    Warnings: A challenging day hike, even for seasoned hikers. The initial climb is taxing and the ridge walk is perilous at times. Don’t hike this as a beginner. Take an insulating layer, a wind shell, hats, gloves, sunglasses, and sunscreen–we were very exposed on the ridge walk and were grateful for this protective gear! Also, check the weather forecast from the Mt. Washington Observatory in advance since, as the sign notes, these mountains have some of the worst weather in the country.

  • Frugal Hound rating: There were a few hearty hiking dogs on this trail, but not many. Frugal Hound was much more content snoozing at home.
View from Mt. Eisenhower of the ridge walk we hiked

View from Mt. Eisenhower of the ridge walk we hiked

Trail Notes

Hiking has made significant contributions to our lives over the years. Its taught us to be more self-reliant, in better shape, more adventurous, more flexible, and less stressed. Stress doesn’t exist on the trail. Sure, our muscles ache and we’re physically exerting ourselves, but there’s nothing stressful about being surrounded by calm, quiet, natural beauty.

The peaceful woods as we descended back below tree line

The peaceful woods as we descended back below tree line

Our love of hiking is what spurred our desire to live on a homestead–to essentially move ourselves to the proverbial mountain. The ability to hike right outside our front door is tantalizing and one of the principal motivators behind our desire to leave the city in the first place. I imagine we’ll start every single day with a quick hike through our frugal woods.

Hiking has also brought us closer in our relationship. Having a joint hobby that we’re equally invested in gives us something to enjoy together that doesn’t involve spending much money. While hiking might not be your thing, I’m an advocate for finding something you’re passionate about that enables you to step outside of yourself and experience the pure bliss of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Do you hike? What’s your favorite hobby?

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112 Responses

  1. Brian says:

    Wow….you guys are far more hardcore hikers that we are. We to hiked in the white mountains over the 4th, but we kept to franconia notch trails that are nice and low and have a river to play in. We had the 3 kids in tow, so its tough to ask much more of them than that! Im sure youll be in a similair camp when babywoods comes along. Sounds like a great hike otherwise!

  2. I don’t really hike, although the views certainly look worth it. It one those things that’s tough to do with a five year old… Also, I’m terrified of snakes!

    One piece of baby gear you’d probably get a lot of use out of is one of those backpack carriers. We got a used Kelty one off Craigslist for $50, and then sold it on Craigslist for $50, a couple of years later. It was like borrowing it for a couple of years!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good call on the backpack carrier–that’s totally like borrowing one! Nice! We actually already have one that a friend gave us as a hand-me-down. Looking forward to putting it to use 🙂

      • I once bought a Kelty at a consignment sale but it didn’t fit either of us! Mr. FP is 6′ and I am 4’11” and it didn’t feel good on either. We were more comfy with soft structured carriers, but I did always wish we had a carrier with a pocket large enough for a couple of diapers.

    • Leah says:

      How early did you start using the Kelty carrier? We use an ergo right now with our one year old and have since she was 5 months or so, with a moby wrap before that. I will say that our carriers have been completely worth it. Got the moby for $15 on CL and the (organic!) ergo for $80 on clearance.

      We actually have two hiking backpacks handed down to us. When we get home from our current vacation, we’re going to try it out and see how she fits. I’ve been anxious about using a pack that could be used for a 4 year old with our little one.

      • Our daughter was about 8 months when we started using the Kelty. I didn’t find it very comfortable, so I only used it a few times, but my husband got a lot more use out of it. I loved our Bjorn, which we got as a hand-me-down. I used that quite a bit, until she got too heavy.

  3. Kirsten says:

    When we move back to New England, I’m hoping to find some easy day hikes and get the girls involved. From there we can up the ante. Have you thought much about how you’ll accommodate hiking when Babywoods is 5 or 6? (I have a backpack carrier, so I know I’ve got the baby covered until she’s an excellent walker).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hiking in New England is glorious! I hope you all enjoy it! We have a hand-me-down backpack carrier to use while Babywoods is still a baby, but not sure how it’ll all play out once she’s mobile :). A whole new adventure for us to explore!

  4. Kalie says:

    Beautiful pictures! We also enjoy hiking but don’t live near mountains, so we aren’t nearly as hardcore as you. We do have some great metroparks which have perfect trails for us to bring our kids along. Hiking is also a favorite free date activity for us. A walk in the woods is good for the soul, and always seems to spur good conversation.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m with you–hiking is absolutely good for the soul and, a wonderful place for deep conversations! And, I think any walk in nature is a perfect hike–mountain or not 🙂

  5. Laura says:

    Great post – I loooove hiking! Definitely don’t do it enough these days. I’m not surprised one bit, but just wanted to say good for you guys for realizing Frugal Houd’s limitations and not pushing her. 🙂

    We went to Scotland on our honeymoon (many, many years ago now) and hiked in the Highlands for two weeks. It was amazing. People were shocked that we didn’t go to the beach or something. 😉 In fact, I still own and use the nice hiking boots and poles I got as a wedding gift from my Mom. And, we thought we were being smart by buying a topographical map of the area while we were there. Turns out the maps weren’t accurate and we almost got stuck behind a huge 15+ft fence and a mature forest that weren’t on the map!

    The hitchhiking point is funny. I’ve hitchhiked exactly once in my life – in Scotland – (we were facing 5+ miles on the road after 8 hours in the hills) and we were picked up by a 85 yr old man and he gave us a tour of the area. My sis-in-law and her hubby hitchhiked down from Mt Washington one year after mis-judging their timing.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yay hiking! Incorrect topo maps are the bane of our existence too :). It’s funny, it always looks so straightforward when you’re looking at the map, and then when you’re actually in the forest… We’ve gotten stuck in the wrong spot more than once too! Your Scotland trip sounds amazing! We’d love to do that someday. What a fabulous idea for a honeymoon! And, sounds like a great hitchhiking experience too.

  6. My favorite bit was the “hound-related constraints.” I LOL’ed. Frugal Hound is adorable, but it’s too bad she doesn’t hike. We LOVE to hike–it’s our absolute favorite activity. We struggle some with the right food to pack for hiking. Thru-hikers tell us section-hikers to just buy Mountain House for every meal. No way! I like the sandwich idea you have since it’s lightweight. Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome you guys enjoy hiking so much :)! The sandwiches work well for us as does the homemade trail mix. Those specialty prepared foods are just so expensive. And, since we’re only on the trail for a day, we haven’t had a problem with not having enough to eat.

  7. As some may already know, hiking is a super big deal for me. Used to be that I hiked every other day (and worked on my blog on alternate days). But recently I’ve found a way to manage my time so that I can hike EVERY day. Love it, love it, love it.

    Glad to see the FrugalWoods folks are big hikers, too. Great minds, and all that…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hiking every day is truly living the dream, in my opinion :)! That’s wonderful you’ve made it happen!

  8. Mrs SSC says:

    I love hiking, and I totally don’t get to do it as often as I want… Houston hikes are um….hot, sweaty, and buggy. But when I lived up in Boston, I would head to the mountains all the time… I remember the food in the huts being so yummy! When I hike, I like to bring a hunk of cheese, apples and some good crusty bread! Food always tastes so good after a great hike!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love that you know the hut food! It really is delicious. That’s too bad the hikes in Houston aren’t more enjoyable–I wouldn’t like hot and buggy either.

  9. Steve says:

    Excellent list, and we follow many of these same tips before we embark on a hike. Me thinks that you’ll probably be adding “child-related constraints” in the very near future to compliment (and perhaps keep the company of) hound-related constraints. 🙂

    Neither of our dogs are hikers either, so we have the same constraints. But, something tells me they also like a nice quiet house to sleep in all day while their weird and rowdy parents are off wading around in the dust somewhere.

    As always, nice photography – that is one of the main reasons why I like to hike so much.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Frugal Hound is definitely happier snoozing at home alone :). Thanks for the photo compliment–I’m an amateur, but I do enjoy taking pictures. Hikes provide the best photography subjects in my opinion!

  10. I would like to get more into hiking in the New England area. Do you have any suggestions for shorter hikes (maybe half day?) that are good for beginning hikers? Also, what are your thoughts on hiking boots? Are they a must have or will sneakers work?

    • Jeffrey says:

      Blue Hills Reservation outside Boston (I think Milton or Quincy) is relatively nice entry level with decent views of Boston and the south coast area.

      Mt Wachusett and Mt Watatic in Central Mass are nice, pretty unintimidating jaunts.

      Mt Monadnock in southern NH is quite popular, though much more strenuous than a lot of inexperienced hikers expect it to be.

      The gf and I spent the weekend of the 4th in northern Vermont, and the hike up Mt Pisgah and the views of Lake Willoughby were outstanding for a shorter (approx 4 hour) round trip.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        I second everything Jeffrey said and also add The Middlesex Fells, which are very close to town (they’re in Medford-ish). I wrote a bit about hiking The Fells in this post: Epic Treks: 7 Hikes That Left Us Breathless (in a good way)

        The Fells and The Blue Hills are definitely our back-up hike spots if we can’t drive out to the Whites. There are numerous trails you can piece together and it’s not too challenging. You could hike the Fells or the Blue Hills in sneakers no problem. But, I wouldn’t venture onto any of the other trails (with lots of elevation) without hiking shoes. Especially in the White Mountains, the terrain can be very rocky and slippery (thanks to streams running across the trails) so you’ll want the extra grip that hiking shoes provide.

        Good luck! I’m excited to hear you’re interested in hiking :)!!

  11. Tawcan says:

    Sounds like we share similar tips when it comes to frugal hiking. Hiking is really one of the cheapest activities you can do. Well there’s the initial “startup” cost but after that the cost is very minimum, especially if you pack home-made food. Getting up early is definitely a good tip. Have done a few 2 AM wake up’s so we can start at the trial at 4 or 5 in the morning.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow–2am! That is impressive! But, 5am is certainly an ideal time to hit the trailhead. And, I agree, after getting your gear, it’s a really inexpensive hobby since there are no recurring costs (expect for new hiking shoes!).

  12. CM says:

    What do you do to prevent tick bites? I moved to the northeast a few years ago, and I’d love to start hiking. But I’m so afraid of ticks! I know that shouldn’t stop me from doing it, though. I’d love some advice from experienced hikers. Do you use DEET or any other products to repel ticks? I wish they would bring back the Lyme disease vaccine!

    • Jeffrey says:

      DEET. Extra strength DEET.

      Seriously, as an avid New England hiker and shore-fisherman, I can say that nothing works as well as insect repellent with high DEET concentrations.

    • I’m with you, CM. We just moved to Wisconsin… the Lyme disease capital! I’m such an outdoorsy person, but I have been limiting my walks to paved paths that don’t have too much overhang. My fear is keeping me from having the adventure I desire. Besides insect repellent, I’ve been told to dress in long sleeves and pants. And then spend a loooooong thorough time having someone else check you all over for them. If you get them out within an hour or so, you should be fine. And not all ticks carry Lyme disease. I got two once and didn’t find them until the next day, so I have a bit of a built in fear. They didn’t carry Lyme though, thank goodness.

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        So we do a couple things. We don’t use any perfumes, scented soaps, hairsprays, make-up, or other smelly stuff. We wear long pants and (usually) long-sleeved shirts and hats. We always wear hats since ticks can drop down onto one’s head. And, we use insect repellant with DEET–Jeffrey is right, you gotta use the DEET.

        We also shower as soon as we get home and do a thorough full-body “tick check” on each other. I don’t want to jinx myself, but in all our years of hiking, neither of us has ever had a tick.

    • I understand the tick fear, but if the real fear is Lyme’s disease, you can protect yourself with a thorough tick check post hike — Lyme’s takes 24 hours of the tick buying you to transfer.

  13. Wow, gorgeous pictures of your hike!! And you go, girl for hiking like that at 5 months pregnant. The perfect frugal activity indeed!! There’s not too many hiking opportunities like this near Chicago, but you’ve got me hankering to make my way out east to partake in one myself!!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! I am so grateful to be able to hike at 5 months! I feel very fortunate that I’m having such an easy time with pregnancy :). Hiking really is wonderful–I hope you can find a spot somewhere near you!

  14. Living in Oregon there are endless amounts of hikes & trails that we can embark on! We absolutely love it (in fact – that’s where my fiance proposed on the summit of one of our favorite hikes in Eugene)! I am incredibly glad you brought up snacks & homemade lunches, because that is one of the best parts. Plopping town at the top, taking in the view, and enjoying our “hiking charcuterie board” of homemade goodies. One thing I have always wanted to incorporate into our hikes around Oregon is Geocaching – have you ever participated in this at all (geocaching.com)?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’d love to hike in Oregon someday–it looks just gorgeous! And, that’s awesome your fiance proposed on a summit–how perfect!!!! “Hiking charcuterie board” indeed :). We’ve done some Geocaching, but not recently. Thanks for the reminder of how fun that is!

  15. Kim from Philadelphia says:

    You two have achieved total billy goat hiking status! I’m
    In awe, Frugalwoods!
    My husband is hard core and has awesome endurance like you both- I’m a stick-to-a-path-please-don’t-let-it-be-straight-uphill hiker!!

    All awesome suggestions- loved this post.

    My sister in law is totally hard core. She often hikes solo ( with her non greyhound dog) in the back country, often a 6 day solo trip per year.
    She and her husband got married in the Cabinet Mountain range in Montana- and we all hiked up the mountain to the ceremony. Only 4.5k foot elevation, though we didn’t need to scramble up boulders like you both!

  16. Thanks for the great tips! I used to hike more when I lived in the burbs, since it was so easy to hop in the car and go. Now car-less living in the city, it’s much harder. I plan to pick it back up when I move out of the city. Currently I enjoy walking along the Hudson or going to Central Park to get outside 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Funny you mention a car–we actually didn’t start hiking until after we got a car. It’s sadly nearly impossible to do it without a car (unless you have friends w/cars who hike!). It’s the one big bummer about it, and one of the main reasons why we want to move to the woods! Walking around Central Park is certainly beautiful though! That and Prospect Park in Brooklyn were favorites of mine when I lived in the city.

  17. I hike at a “do I have sturdy shoes on?” level. No extra equipment necessary! I’ve done several hour long hikes from the highway along the Superior National Forest along Lake Superior. Gorgeous.

    Look at you advocating to spend money! 😉

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Superior National Forest sounds beautiful! I know, I can’t believe I told people to spend money! But if you’d tasted that brownie, you’d know why ;).

  18. Pat says:

    I am an avid hiker. I hike in San Diego’s North County. There are no trees. We have lots of sagebrush…..and even more rattlesnakes. But, it is so beautiful. The different shades of yellow against the beautiful blue sky with the Pacific Ocean in the background.

    I also hike in the morning. The weather is cooler. I hike for two hours on the dusty trails, then head fifteen minutes to my home. It I’d great fun! And no charges for admission!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Gorgeous! We’ve hiked a bit in the San Diego area when visiting my family and it’s fascinating how different the terrain is. You’ve got some good mountains out there! And, how wonderful that it’s 15 minutes from your house–that’s ideal.

  19. Michelle says:

    Love this! We go hiking numerous times a week and it’s definitely one of our favorite things to do.

  20. Hubby and I actually love to hike; however, we haven’t tried anything really challenging yet. We have a great state park near us (1 mile away) so we typically restrain our hiking to that park, but I would like to try something like this one day, it not only looks beautiful but it sounds like a lot of fun too!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      1 mile away is pretty ideal! You guys should totally try out a longer hike! I bet Will is at the perfect age for it now. We see lots of kiddos about his age on the trail and they seem to be loving it.

  21. Rachel says:

    I grew up hiking then got into horses and spent my summers competing with 4h and then haven’t gotten back to it the way I want. Living in Colorado though there are trails everywhere. But around here one has to start longer hikes by about 6-7am and be off by about 2. I buy gear when it’s on clearance and otherwise borrow from my dad who has acquired his gear over the years at clearance sales. And we are expecting baby number 1 and we were given a nice hiking backpack for her for next year. Our only downside is to hike 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation) that the majority of them are a 6 hour drive and therefore require an overnight stay. Those can usually be done at a cheap campground for two nights.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congrats on expecting baby #1 :)!! Someone gave us a hand-me-down hiking baby backpack carrier too, which we’re super excited to try out with Babywoods. I’d love to get out to Colorado some day and hike some 14ers! Mr. FW has done a few, but I’ve never had the opportunity.

  22. I was surprised (a bit at least) to see that you were advocating for buying the baked goods, haha. 🙂 I’m glad it supports a good cause though.

  23. We LOVE to hike. I recommend that your start a hunt for the Deuter 300 Kid Carrier. It is the Cadillac of kid carriers. Baby needs to be able to sit up though. We decided which one we wanted and searched Craigslist everyday for several months before we found a used one. A few weeks ago I carried my 5 year old in it with no trouble. Since we had two kids to carry we have had several carriers over the years and this one is BY FAR the best one and worth every penny.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I love hearing that you’re able to hike with two kiddos! YES! That’s the good news I want to hear :)! We chatted with a couple with a 2-yr-old in a Deuter carrier on the trail and it looks like an awesome set-up. We have a hand-me-down hiking backpack that a friend kindly gave to us, so we’ll see how that one works. But the Deuter definitely looks like the king of carriers!

  24. Jeffrey says:

    Nice post, but I have to ask how much you’re spending in gas over the course of the year driving to/from the Whites from Boston over and over? Do you guys do ride-shares with other hikers and swap off, or is this just one of those unavoidable expenses if you want to hike the Whites?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Great question! Gas is definitely an expense we incur in order to hike. But, we don’t drive all that much otherwise, so we usually get by on just one tank (sometimes two) per month. We don’t ride-share since we really like the convenience of leaving when we want in the mornings and not feeling rushed/held back by the pace of others on the mountain. Especially now that I’m pregnant, I can’t be rushed up the mountain ;). Since we spend $0 on entertainment otherwise, we’re happy to pay the cost of gas every year in order to hike. Definitely worth it to us!

  25. Norm says:

    I identified with you every step of the way until #6… Baked goods on the trail?? What magical world is this? I have never encountered anything like that. I guess I don’t get to NH enough.

    The only piece of hiking specific gear we have is a Camelbak backpack we got for a wedding present and honeymoon hike up Mt. Marcy, and even that we hardly ever use unless we need massive amounts of water. I want to give myself little to no help, so no walking sticks or special clothes are allowed. Unless it is absolutely necessary, I go without it.

    I love peanut butter and apple sandwiches for a snack, and I use a hike as an excuse to bring all kinds of junk food. We brought bacon-flavored potato chips up Mt. Machu Picchu!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I know, I know! We’d never seen baked goods on a trail before the White Mountains either! It’s a magical place :). Super jealous that you hiked Machu Picchu!

  26. Kristen says:

    Hiking is something I love but don’t do enough of. We live in a decent hiking area. We did some hiking on our recent trip to Iceland and I really enjoyed it. (Minus rolling an ankle on a volcano, but at least that happened at the end of the trip).

    I love the car snacks. In our lives, we have made a decision about where to live that gives me a long commute. I couldn’t make it home from work without my car snacks! Because I work in a nut free workplace, I also make my own trail mix type thing for work using seeds etc. from Costco.

    Thanks for sharing your hiking tips and for being honest and paying honorary fees. You are right, it allows everyone access to an amazing experiences. I can’t think of anything else 2 people can do for $3 a day!

  27. Gira says:

    Thanks for the lovely post! My husband and I made two mistakes last weekend when we went hiking for the holiday. We started too late, and we didn’t take any snacks. ugh! We will not make that mistake again!

  28. Hannah says:

    We wear gym clothes and shoes, but I would upgrade to trail shoes if I hiked more frequently. My sister’s backyard is a mountain, and last year she asked if we wanted to go for a little hike. That so called little hike involved scaling snowy rocks for five hours. We were ill prepared to say the least, but she gave us home brewed beer when we got back.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome your sister has a mountain in her backyard! “Little” hike–hah! But home brewed beer sounds pretty great :).

  29. Marion says:

    Just have to mention the Adirondacks, where I live. Hikes for all levels of experience. And then all the lovely mountain lakes for a quick dip.

  30. Looks like an amazing day! Not a hiker, but we camp and I used to hunt with my dad, so have spent many days on a mountain before.

  31. All great tips, for sure. Gear is the big bugaboo with any outdoor activity. There’s always something lighter, more waterproof, better wicking. And the stuff ain’t cheap. Learning to love the good gear you’ve already got is key.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Very true! We’re definitely just at peace with the stuff we own. Someday it’ll wear out and we’ll need to buy another set, but for the time being, we’re pretty content.

  32. We make our own trail mix as well. I wish more people would eschew the convenience bars and all those little cellophane wrappers that come with it! Have you ever read “Eat and Run”, by Scott Jurek? He is an ultra runner, but he doesn’t like all these processed ‘fuel’ foods so he makes his own. He is a vegan and into reducing waste and I know he likes to make bean burritos for his long runs. That will give you a nice boost of carbs and protein for sure. His book has a lot of good recipes. Another one is “The PlantPower Way”, by Rich Roll, another vegan ultra athlete. I haven’t read it, but it might have good ideas for you. I’m not a vegan, but when you spend 14 hours to hike, it isn’t realistic to take animal products.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I haven’t read either book–thanks for the recommendations! Funny you should mention Jurek, he was actually on the mountains we were on earlier in the day. He’s running the Appalachian Trail and we learned he was on Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce! Can’t believe he RAN it… !

  33. Carissa says:

    Gorgeous photos!! I loved getting a peek into your hike. Being a western girl, I really really miss hiking! Arizona and Alaska have some of the most spectacular trails and views in the world, in my humble opinion, and I’d happily hike every weekend if I could. Here in Northern MI, they call hills “mountains,” and the lack of topography makes my heart sad. There is definitely much beauty here (hello, gorgeous lakes!), but canoeing/swimming are just not as fulfilling for me as a good long hike.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s too bad about your hill mountains :(.There’s nothing quite like a real mountainous hike, for sure! But canoeing sounds lovely!

  34. I have never hiked yet. And I want to do this activity this year and with the help of the Internet. Yay! I am so excited and thankful you shared your experience, Frugalwoods! Pictures are awesome, by the way.

  35. Christeen says:

    Hi Funny you should write about hiking today. This article was on an online newspaper in Australia today.


  36. We love hiking! Our kids are at an awkward age for it now that they are 3 and 4–they are too big to carry (well, Little Brother sometimes gets toted part of the way) but too small to walk very far. They can do a few miles if we’re patient, so we are working on growing their tolerance. Snacks are even more key for hiking with tots! We are actually thinking of investing in child-size hiking poles because when you’re talking even the foothills of the Rockies, you tend to come across places that can be frighteningly steep for a tot.

    Our longest with-baby hike was 9 miles up a mountain. Mr. FP was toting Big Brother, then aged nearly 2, on his back while carrying a backpack backwards on his front with snacks and diapers. Little Brother was maybe 6 months old and on my back. We got a lot of admiring looks.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh wow–9 miles up a mountain with two kiddos sounds pretty incredible! I’m not at all surprised you got admiring looks :). It’ll definitely be a whole new adventure with Babywoods and, I’ve been wondering about that in-between age where she’ll be too big to carry but too small to hike very far. We’ll just recalibrate our “hiking” for that stage, I imagine :).

  37. TomTrottier says:

    “quite exhilarating when you’re at the top.” – I’d say “breath-taking” after a big climb!
    You should get a Keeshund – they are the mountain goats of dogs, and just as bright as greyhounds… 🙁

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Those look like neat dogs! Hopefully we won’t be in the market for a new dog any time soon though!

  38. What a beautiful day to be in the mountains! I love that hike. I own the AMC Guide to the White Mountains and think it’s a good investment because of the thorough trail descriptions and handy maps, although I’ve admittedly never tried printing any maps from the internet.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, we have that book on our amazon wishlist… and I’ve checked it out a couple of times from the library. It’s a solid read for sure.

  39. With all of the exercise you get, I predict a very easy birth for you. I really wish I hadn’t gotten so lazy in the last few months of pregnancy. You’re doing it so right! 🙂 Beautiful pictures of a lovely day with the one(s) you love. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much, Kay! I hope I’m doing enough exercise… I’ve heard labor is pretty, well, laborious, so I’m trying to be prepared :).

  40. Man, it seems like I’m behind the hiking times. When did the poles get so popular? I did an 80+ mile hiking trip in New Mexico in 2000 and none of us had them. I still feel like it’s cheating. :-/

    Just came back from a nice relaxing trip in a cabin in Ithaca NY. I took my daughter hiking which was really tiring since she’s not even 3 and couldn’t really walk in the woods that much, especially being close to a gorge. Either way, it was a fantastic trip and I only got one tick which I found very quickly, so no worries there.

    It’s awesome that you’re able to still get out there and enjoy the woods though! Keep on moving and it’ll make your pregnancy go smoother.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I was skeptical of poles, but man do they make an enormous difference in how my knees feel on the downhill. I’m a total convert, and if I forget to pull out my poles on a descent… my knees remind me after about 100 feet 🙂

  41. Debra says:

    After our most recent road trip to Mt. Rushmore/Yellowstone/Many Glacier/Mt. Ranier/Channel Islands/Grand Canyon….the hiking bug has bit me hard. We have two small kids to major hikes are out – the largest one our 3 year old can do is 3 miles, and that was pretty flat (and there may have been moments where mommy had to carry him….that’s rough).

    I want to get better clothes for it, but it seems like even if I get just 1 of everything (hiking pants/hiking shoes/hiking shirt) I’m going to be shelling out $200 up front. That’s hard for my little frugal heart to swallow. Pants are the most important, as mosquitoes in our area are terrible and I’d like to cover up a bit and then spray my pants instead of spraying my skin with DEET.

    Since returning home, we have hiked at home the past two weekends, and are planning our next hikes (darn 5K this weekend is messing with my hiking plans…I’d skip it, but I already paid for it!).

    I should just buy the pants…right? Ugh.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome you’ve got the hiking bug! I would probably just bite the frugal bullet and buy the pants ;). You might also try hiking in pants you already own (sweat/stretch pants) and see if its tolerable. That’s what I did initially, which led me to buy actual hiking pants. But, your experience might vary and regular pants might work fine for you. I wish you all the best on your new hike adventures :)!

  42. Shannon says:

    Great job on your hike with your bump! I’m sure the blood had much more important places to be other than your legs.

    We do hike. We hiked every day of our 9 day weddingmoon (a honeymoon where you get married on the trip). 8km on our wedding day (it was in Canada hence the conversion). We love to backpack and mountain bike too. Someone asked us if any of our vacations do not involve running or hiking. They all do in some way, unless it’s just a biking trip. After dating one month, we went backpacking. All of my gear is from about 1-2 decades ago. However, a new hobby of ours trail running did result in some new gear. Turns out you can’t really run in a hiking Camelbak so we have running vests and also trail specific shoes recently. You can hike in this gear, but it doesn’t work well the other way (convertible zipper chaffing ouch!) I usually hike or backpack in running shoes though.

    For the holiday weekend, we wanted to go somewhere new to us, but not too far away. It had to have few people (we had 2 neighbors all weekend), no fireworks (pretty much all forest service land is illegal for fireworks) and high elevation for cool temps (7,200 feet will do). We used a combination of Strava Heat Map, CalTopo, HillMap and Google Earth to find a lovely place in the Wyoming Range. There wasn’t much in the way of Strava Heap Map (Strava is an app compatible with GPS watches), which was a good indicator that we would see very few people. So I used google.com/books to find a free Falcon hiking guide on Wyoming. At our free dispersed camping site (on a river with views), we had three trailheads to choose from. One day we did a 6 mile family hike with the almost 12 year old pup. The next day we did trail runs individually while the other stayed at camp with the pup. It was nice to not have to move the car once we were set up. Two lovely nights of camping, we brought all of our own food and drink. Bought 4 tacos for $6.25 on our way home. Overall pretty cheap! Our old girl was blissfully content not hearing any fireworks for 2 nights (they go off all of July due to two holidays in Utah).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you’ve had some fabulous adventures! And your most recent trip is making me super envious :). Rock on!

  43. Jenessa says:

    I love hiking! I went out for a nice 9 mile hike in the lovely Ruby Mountains of Nevada on Saturday. We don’t have a whole lot of trails where I live, but fortunately they are really pretty so I don’t mind re-hiking my favorites every summer.

  44. ShortStuff says:

    Hiking in new England is awesome. Coming from a southern state with no mountains, I was drawn to the woods here. Love hitting up Mt. Monadnock and other nearby places, but if staying overnight, I prefer the Whites. A fun spot is Thoreau Falls on Ethan pond trail.

    P.s. mr. FW’s sunglasses look exactly like a pair I’ve recycled after my laser eye surgery. They were free, lightweight, so I use them on my lunchtime runs around Boston. Enjoy the nice weather!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good to know re. Thoreau Falls! Also, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. FW’s sunglasses are in fact the free sunglasses I received after my LASIK surgery two years ago… yeah, we’re that frugal ;). But hey, they totally work! Glad to hear we’re not the only people reusing them :).

  45. Hiking on the East Coast is different than out here in the West! Thankful for switchbacks and hundreds of great hiking destinations less than an hour away (today’s hike was only a 15-minute drive).

    I’m a huge hiking fan (I try to go every week). I don’t have all the gear that I want, but I’m saving up for it.

  46. David says:

    I used to do a lot of hiking in my 20s-30s. I live in a place with many outdoor recreation opportunities including dozens if day and longer hikes. From my front door, if I cross the road and walk straight into the woods about 6 miles I would hit the Appalachian Trail, without crossing another public road. Since my avid hiking days my interests have evolved. I still enjoy a good hike but I’m more into whitewater paddling in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. Both are activities that can be enjoyed on a small budget after the initial equipment is purchased. Anything that gets you outside is better than sitting in front of a computer or TV.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true–anything outdoors is far superior :). That’s awesome you could access the AT right outside your front door!

  47. Michelle says:

    I absolutely hike! I love it and used to hike during my lunch hour at my old job. Hiking is quit simply-awesome.

  48. Kaya says:

    Just curious about the ‘one hiking-related text…nature guide to New England’ that you mention in point #1?

  49. Aaron says:

    I’ve been trying to get into hiking more this summer. The best local place for me to go is the northern unit of Kettle Moraine National Forest. Not exactly mountainous but there are lost of step hills. Every time I get to about the 6 miles mark I have significant pain in my right hip and occasionally in my right knee. I think it’s from all the steep hills without poles. I don’t want to pay full price for polls and haven’t been able to find any used ones. I’m 6’6″ with hiking shoes on so I need long polls or adjustable ones. Do you know where to get good polls at a good price? Is there a price range or a brand name you would recommend?

  50. MC says:

    Have you had any luck at the REI “Garage Sale” – happening next on Oct 3 10 am? REI customers bring their used gear and sell it in the parking lot.

  51. Marianne says:

    Do you have bear concerns in your part of the continent? I’m in the Yukon and I can hike literally walking distance from my suburban house but I need to get more comfortable with bears! Lots of awesome cranberry picking now though, which is a fun add-on activity for hiking and also works well if you have kids in the middle zones (to big to carry, too small to walk distances).

  52. Julia says:

    It’s so funny for me as a British person reading about you driving three hours each way to do a hike! The USA is just so HUGE…. My husband and I kind of fell in love with each other while hiking. He’s now disabled and we’ve had to get into other hobbies instead, but I have such fond memories of our hikes.

  53. We LOVE hiking! I cannot believe once I thought this was a dumb waste of time. Some of our most memorable hikes were in Arizona (Superstition Mountains), New Zealand (Tongariro Crossing), Canadian Rockies (most favorite hike EVER is the Lake Ohara Alpine CIrcuit). Most recently we went to Hong Kong for a ‘city’ trip but as I started searching for a few hikes I discoverd the Dragon’s Back (allegedly one of the world’s best urban hikes) and our most favorite there, the Sai Kung Maclehose trail (I try to document this on my blog as we go and always looking for new ones). Stunning and almost no people and only 40ish mins away from a city with a gazillion people.

    But really any trail at any time makes us happy. At home we find the local trails that connect to parks, etc. in DC we loved going to the Rock Creek park, etc. And even just walking exploring new cities, we usually pull 10-15 mile walks on trips in cities we visit, you really get to experience a whole lot more than going by other means of transportation!

  54. ps. for hiking gear we waited for the 80%+ sale of already decent prices from Sierra Trading Post and slowly but surely secured all necessary hiking stuff that we have had for the past few years.

  55. Patrick McCusker says:

    If you hike a lot in the Whites the parking pass can save tons. It’s $25 and another $5 for a second car. Totally worth it if you hike more than 8 times in a year.

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