So, the other day I was walking around Wal-Mart and I noticed they sell A LOT of stuff for hiking. They had everything from winter jackets, to hiking boots, to crampons, to backpacks, and I didn’t even get to the sporting equipment section yet! Did I mention how CHEAP this stuff was?
But, knowing what good hikers know about the backcountry, I was wondering…when is it okay to buy cheap hiking gear? And, actually, is it really ever okay to buy cheap hiking gear in the first place?
Let’s talk about it.
The Pros and Cons of Buying Cheap Hiking Gear vs. Regular or Expensive Gear
When it comes to buying cheap hiking gear, your first thought might be “Why not?” It could also be “Heck no!” depending on what kind of person you are. But, the same person who says, “Why not?” is the same one who goes to the outdoor store and says, “Why would I spend THAT kind of money?” While it’s all a matter of perspective, it’s fair to say that no one in their right mind would spend more money on gear if they didn’t have to.
Of course, that means that the ultimate ‘pro’ of buying cheap gear is that, well, it’s cheap. It won’t put a dent in your wallet and that means you’ll have more money to spend on experiences. After all, that’s what outdoorsy people like to spend their money on, right? But, it could put a dent in your foot, or arm, or stomach, or backpack, instead. Cheap hiking gear sometimes means cheap quality, which isn’t going to get you far on the trail. It also may not last long, which means you’ll have to buy more gear eventually. Something to think about.
When Your Options are Limited
Not all cheap gear is actually bad. Will it last forever? Should you use it for a thru-hike? Probably not. But, if you just plan on hitting a trail or campground over a long weekend and you’re missing an item and don’t want to spend a lot, then go for it! You don’t have much to lose. Though, we would recommend you keep the receipt.
Gear You CAN Buy Cheap and Other Alternatives
Cheap gear doesn’t necessarily need to be found in the aisles of a dollar store. Cheap brands are sold even at the most exclusive gear stores and may be described as “affordable” as opposed to cheap. Here’s what we mean.
- You don’t need a “good” pair of everything all the time. For example, some of the most affordable rain gear, like Frogg Toggs, does the same job as something way more expensive. And, while a nice pair of hiking boots may be good, perhaps you don’t need an equally expensive pair of socks right now.
- Do your research. There are plenty of things that are normally very expensive, like tents, sleeping bags, hiking boots, etc., that you can find available from brands at a much cheaper price than others.
- Buy online. Sometimes an item is much cheaper online than it is at the physical store.
- Instead of buying an expensive hiking shirt, just look at the materials. If it’s nylon, cotton, or anything else, you can probably find another shirt made of the same materials, for more than half the price.
- Visit outlet stores where they sometimes have top-notch gear at ridiculously low discount prices.
- Check a thrift store, Craigslist, garage sales, or ask a friend to see if you can buy good quality gear for a cheaper, second-hand price.
- DIY: There are so many gear items you can just make yourself as a means of saving money.
- If you are going to invest more money in a piece of gear, make sure it has a warranty.
Are you bold enough to buy cheap hiking gear, whatever that may mean to you? Let us know about your experience!