Archive for December, 2009

Where to save money and where not to skimp

Friday, December 4th, 2009

At a recent presentation on gear choices, a parent asked a very good question:  “If I am buying backpacking gear for my son, where should  I invest in better gear and where can I cut some corners to save money.  I have tried to address these issues in a lot of the posts here, but I will attempt to briefly summarize my thoughts in one place.  For more details, start with the article on that particular type of equipment.  These comments are appropriate to weekend type camping and backpacking trips.  For extended backcountry trips or  “bet your life on your gear” adventures, the answers might change.

Don’t Skimp items: 

Backpack.  I like the Kelty Coyote, which is a mid-priced option.   A durable, well fitting backpack is a must. Rain gear/shells.  Lightweight waterproof breathable raingear, like the Marmot Precip makes a difference.  GoreTex is the best, but is costly.  My thought is that they will outgrow some of the lesser options, like the Precip, before it stops working.  Get full zip pants that can go on over boots and be donned while standing.  If they can’t get them on quickly while standing up wearing boots, there is little reason to have them. Be frugal by buying them large so a growing boy can wear them longer.  Water container.  I am a huge fan of the Camelbak products.  Nalgene bottles were indestructible before they took the BPA out.  We will have to see how the new ones hold up, but get a good water container.  I carry both the Camelbak 3 liter bladder and a Camelbak flip top bottle for use in camp.  It is easier to flip it up and drink from the “straw” than it is to unscrew the top of the Nalgene bottle every time I want to take a sip of water.  If I need another container for more water,  I would add in a nalgene or a platypus.   Save some money on these items: “Warmth gear.”  For backpacking, I like the polar fleece jackets.  There is not a huge difference between a $10 jacket and a $110 one.  Save some money here. Sleeping bag.  You need the right bag, but you don’t need to pay a fortune for it.  A highly compactable, lightweight synthetic bag can be had for $75 or less.  I like the Thermolite fill, but there could be other materials that are just as good or better. Mess Gear.  You don’t need a titanium spork.  A plastic one will do just fine.  The lightweight plastic bowls at Walmart are lighter than anything you will buy at REI, if not as durable.  Buy two and have a spare if you break one.  Get a polycarbonate bowl at Academy if you want to be sure it will not break.  Cheap cups are fine. Boots.  Again, you need good boots, but don’t have to buy the best available, especially when they will outgrow them soon.  An exception is Philmont.  If  you are headed there, better boots are probably warranted.  Get them well enough in advance that they will be broken in, but not so soon that they will be outgrown before you get there. Hiking sticks.  You can save weight and maybe add some durability by spending a lot of money, but my $15 or so a pair from Walmart have served me quite well in a variety of venues.  I would not buy an expensive pair for a young man.  For a Philmont trip, I might consider an upgrade to a midrange set if I could find some on sale.  There may be a few more items that could go on either list.  If you have a concern that is not addressed here,  or if you disagree with me, leave a comment.