Splurging versus Saving: Hiking Gear

When you first get into hiking buying all the gear can become very expensive. Some people may be able to get completely outfitted at REI with all of the best, but if not ,read on. You may be tempted to buy all the cheapest gear just so you can afford to get out there but that would be a mistake. If your gear is garbage it will affect your whole experience. With bad gear you may decide hiking is just not for you and miss out on a wonderful hobby.  Had you had the right equipment, your foray into hiking could have gotten you hooked. So where can we save and what is worth splurging on?

Worth the Splurge:

  • Shoes: Your feet are number one. If they are hurting, not only will you not have fun, it can be dangerous. Get some good hiking boots that feel great, keep your feet dry, and support your ankles over rocky ground. Different brands will cater to different types of feet so try a bunch.
  • Tent: Shelter is a top priority too. Nothing can ruin your night like a bad tent. Whatever the weather you want your tent to stand up to it. This is also one of the heaviest items in your pack so buying a little higher end will significantly lighten your load. Kelty makes some great tents at affordable prices, we love our Kelty Salida 2.
  • Sleeping Bag: You do not need to get the top brands of these but at the very least you should get down. Synthetic bags can keep you warm, but compared to down, they are heavy and bulky. Down is far superior. The Chinese brand Aegismax actually make very high quality down bags at affordable prices. You can read reviews of their M2 and M3 bags in the links. After you get your down bag be sure to treat it with down waterproofing. Learn how to care for your bag here.
  • Sleeping Pad: This is another item with the potential to make or break your trip. We love our Klymit Static Vs which cost about $54. You can get roll or fold-up pads for cheaper but being able to pack away our pads is worth the extra $20 for us. Constantly battling tree branches that hook on your pads that are strapped to your packs is annoying. We’ve tried no sleeping pads and sleeping on hard-packed clay or rocks can really affect your enjoyment of your trip.
  • First Aid Kit: The splurge on this is to have a well stocked one. Learn what you should have here.

Where you can Save:

  • Clothes: No, you do not need to spend $100 on that merino wool undershirt but do pay attention to material. Quick dry, wicking base layers are important. Merino wool and Cashmere sweaters as top layers are great and you can often find them second hand. Wool socks are worth the extra money but they do not need to be the expensive brands. Costco has a 4 pack of women’s and 3 pack of men’s socks for sale for about $12 every winter. Make sure you have a hat!
  • Stove: If you are going ultralight and are only using ready made meals you may want the top of the line stoves but you sacrifice cooking ability. We prefer these cheap foldable stoves with canned heat as it provides a slower burn for even cooking instead of just boiling.
  • Backpack: While you certainly don’t want to go bottom of the barrel here you don’t need to go top of the line. Look for a backpack that is comfortable first of all. After comfort, you want good zippers, a rain fly, enough pockets to organize, and enough room for all your gear. A reasonably good, and reasonably priced, pack is the No Limits Firewalker 50L.
  • Water Filter: Unless you are traveling overseas where their are viruses in the water a $30 Sawyer Water Filter will do what you need and not take up much space in your pack. While we do like the Sawyer Mini we prefer the Sawyer PointOne which is just $10 more and ounces heavier but filters much faster.
  • All the Rest: Pay attention to quality over brand names and get the best quality you can afford.

Happy hiking!