Getting ready to enjoy the Great Outdoors may pose a challenge if your bank account’s a little light. But don’t let that stop you. Here are seven ways to save money while gearing up for your next outdoor adventure.
Do I need it?
1) First, limit your purchases to what you need. Make a list. Avoid impulse buying. Have a plan. Be realistic. Set a budget and stick to it. For example, you probably don’t need a backpack designed for a six-week European tour if you’re heading out on a two-hour day hike. (Tip: Load your pack and carry it around the mall for a couple hours prior to your trip. Then reduce and repack.)
Likewise, don’t purchase something just because it looks or sounds cool. Those Amazon-tested, mother approved hiking boots/hip waders built to outlast Armageddon may look pretty chic on the mannequin. Ditto that designer, Alpaca-lined fleece that’d keep a penguin warm inside an igloo. But unless you’re a penguin planning on igloo lodging or outlasting Armageddon, you can probably pass up those painful price tags.
Similarly, don’t assume you can’t live without high-end gear with price tags rivaling a down payment on a tropical island. You don’t want to drop $599 on a Sidewinder SV Arc’teryx jacket and find you don’t like it. A $35 fleece from Big 5 or waterproof boots from the Cabelas bargain cave will do fine. You can always “buy up” once you know what you like and what works best for you.
Know where you can save and where you shouldn’t.
2) DO NOT scrimp on anything related to survival gear or personal safety. For example, if you’re planning on rappelling down El Capitan, you probably don’t want to get ropes or carabiners at Fast Eddy’s Slightly Used Climbing Gear.
Also, don’t scrimp on your base layer, worn next to the skin. Remember, “cotton kills.” That’s because cotton gets soaked and holds moisture next to the body, significantly increasing your risk of hypothermia. Invest in a quality base layer designed to wick moisture away from your body. I recommend Under Armour. Lightweight, durable and reasonably priced.
3) Food. Entire industries have sprung up around designer hiking/ camping/back packing eats. You can practically buy a round-trip ticket to the moon on what some of these fancy, pre-packaged items cost. So don’t. A ziploc of GORP (Good Ole Raisins and Peanuts) is just as good as that dehydrated champagne and caviar. At a fraction of the cost. For more, see The Cheapskate Guide to Trail Snacks and Camp Cooking Made Easy.
4) Hydration. Some “outdoor” beverage manufacturers promise more power than a locomotive or the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound if you drink their product. Fine. But water works fine, too. It’s also free.
5) Shop on-line. Check out sales and on-line discounts. We snagged two pairs of quality waterproof gaiters for less than $10 off eBay (regularly $75), including shipping. Also see: Where to Buy Inexpensive Hiking Gear.
6) Technology. You can drop a boatload of dough on every fancy, new-fangled trail techno doo-dad out there. But you don’t have to. Keep it simple and you’ll save money. I’ll take an old fashioned topo map and a compass over GPS any day. Need an emergency fire starter? Put a couple Vaseline-soaked cotton balls or a piece of bicycle inner tube into an empty plastic film canister + matches in a waterproof container. You’re good to go. And so on.
7) Avoid name brands if feasible (without sacrificing quality.) You can sink your children’s inheritance into North Face, Gore-Tex or Patagonia products. If you have the resources to do so, go for it. But there are plenty of less expensive options. We’ve found Coleman gear – everything from tents and sleeping bags to lanterns and cook stoves – to be reliable, durable, and affordable.
Bottom line: You can wipe out your children’s college fund getting ready for your next outdoor expedition. But you don’t have to. Unless Howard Hughes is a good friend or you’re ready to mortgage your firstborn, a little research, inspiration, motivation and elbow grease can get you well outfitted for the outdoors without breaking your bank in the process.
What would you add?