Gear Guide: What Gear to Invest In and What to Cheap Out On

3 min read.

Photo by @outdorphins

One of the biggest problems with camping and long distance hiking is that you have to own the gear before you can get outside and do what you love. The problem with being new to this is that you end up blindly buying things before you know anything about what you really need.

I followed the typical pattern where I booked my first overnight trip then went to the store and bought everything the salesman recommended. For the most part, I love my equipment, but there are a few things I would have done differently. There are a TON of gear choices out there, and it’s easy to spend over 1K getting yourself all set up. To help you out, here are some recommendations of where you should splurge and where you can cheap out.

Go big or go home

A tent

Prepare yourself for the sticker shock because tents are absurdly expensive. Be careful not to fall into the trap of buying a garbage tent; packability and weight are integral so you can fit everything you need into your bag. The cheaper the tent, the heavier it is and the more uncomfortable you’ll be when you’re in the backcountry.

Backpacks

Don’t make the mistake of buying base model bags. Paying a little extra for isoform hip belts, extra padded straps and a better fit can be the difference between a good and bad trip. My pack was one of my biggest mistakes in my gear shopping spree. Had I paid a little extra to get a better bag I would have saved myself numerous backpack sores and shoulder pain.

Hiking boots

You only have one pair of feet, be kind to them. I cheaped out on my first pair of hikers and ended up hiking with wet feet too many times to count. Boots are the only gear where I highly recommend Gore-Tex. Dry feet make happy hikers, don’t suffer trench foot if you don’t have to.

Socks

For the love of God, please do not bring cotton socks outside, wool socks are an absolute must. I know $25 sound like a lot to spend on one pair of socks, but socks can be the difference between life and death in the mountains. Warm feet regulates your body heat keeping you safe, plus hiking socks come in cute patterns, so they’re a win-win!

Cheap out

Sleeping bags

It will take time and plenty of experience before you know how extreme you want your sleeping bag to be. Sure you can go nuts and buy a super light winter bag, but will you use it, do you even like winter camping? The price difference between a mediocre and high-performance sleeping bag is astronomical. In my experience, it’s worth the extra weight to save $400, at least until you figure out what seasons you’ll be using your bag.

Shell

This might cause some serious controversy, but from my experience, an expensive shell has never been worth it. I have a $100 and a $400 jacket, after years of using both I have yet to discover what the difference is.

Food

You don’t have to buy overpriced freeze-dried meals, all they are is salt, carbs and protein. A cheaper solution (that’s almost the same thing) is to buy Sidekicks and beef jerky. Over a multi-day trip, you could end up saving yourself upwards of $60.

Before you buy

If you have the opportunity, try borrowing things from friends for your first few trips. You may even be able to rent out the basics from your local outdoors store.

If you don’t have the luxury of trying gear before you invest, it’s best to start with day hiking equipment and slowly move your way up the ranks.

Are we missing something? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below.

Hiker, runner, and amateur climber following the call to the great outdoors. You can follow Samantha’s adventures on Instagram @outdorphins.
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