Hi everybody, Rob here. I want to introduce my friend Chris, AKA Grey Gorilla.
Having always been impressed with his ability to make solid gear choices, I asked him if he would share the method he uses when selecting backpacking gear.
Grey Gorilla - Guest Blogger
So you’ve been looking to buy some new gear. Maybe you already have some older gear that is in desperate need of upgrading to the 21st century or perhaps you are jumping into the hiking/backpacking thing for the first time.
Just start surfing the internet and you’ll soon realize that there are about as many options when it comes to backpacking gear as there are colors under the sun.
Whichever end of the spectrum that you are on…it’s no secret that the process of buying new backpacking gear can be pricy and intimidating. Here are a few guidelines to follow to help make your decisions a bit easier.
A simple four part method - Define, Observe, Purchase & Enjoy
Define - Before you start loading your shopping cart it’s necessary to outline your intentions:
How do you want to hike?
Where will you be spending your time?
Observe - Now that you are thinking about where, why and how you’re going to use this new stuff…you need to do your homework.
Search for the type of gear that aligns with your style, intentions, and expectations.
Social media platforms offer a plethora of information about anything that you can imagine. Use them as a way to reach out and talk to others about what works and what doesn’t. We all love to talk about gear.
In general, lighter gear is better but may also mean more expensive and less durable.
While one hikers 8-pound base weight is great for maintained trails and high mileage days. It may not be so suited for someone carrying heavy camera gear or hiking different climates.
Purchase - Now you can load that cart up!
Websites such as Massdrop and Steep and Cheap may be able to offer discounts.
Remember though, there may be cheaper ways to obtain this sweet new stuff. Check out forum/group pages for used and/or unwanted gear.
Cottage industries offer a refreshing twist to the big box stores and are more likely to have better customer service.
My favorite, if you are slightly crafty, is to make your own gear. There are plenty of vendors available to assist you in all your DIY needs.
Enjoy - Buying new gear doesn’t have to be a mind boggling experience.
With a little bit of thought it is easy to avoid that impulse buy and to purchase the right gear the first time.
Buy your gear to align with your style and you’ll, no doubt, have a more pleasurable, meaningful experience.
Let me share how I used this method to make some of my first purchases and some of the alternatives that I had in mind.
I knew that I wanted to get into shape and cover a lot of miles while doing multi-day trips. I was fascinated by the idea of these long distance hikers on their quest to carry the lightest load possible while still maintaining an adequate level of safety and pleasure. I turned to Andrew Skurka and his extensive knowledge of this subject laid out in his book The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide to get me started.
What I chose:
Go-Lite Jam 50L vs Framed, multi-pocketed ruck style pack
Torso length closed cell Thermarest Solar vs self-inflating sleeping mat
DIY sil-nylon tarp vs free standing pole type tent
DIY down quilt vs expensive sleeping bag
Cat food can alcohol stove vs jet boil cook system
Montrail trail running shoes vs hiking boots
Using the money I saved (by making my own gear) I bought the best clothes that I could afford. In a true ultralight set-up all the gear that’s on your back needs to compliment what's in your pack.
It is this method that allowed me to go farther, faster and still have a good time leading to many amazing memories on the trail.
What did your first load out look like?
Did you follow a similar method when making your gear purchases?
Please leave a comment below sharing what has worked (or not) for you below.
~ Grey Gorilla
Chris is an avid outdoorsman that enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing and hiking. He has used his research and experience in ultralight backpacking to simplify the rest of his life through the adage that “less is more”. He lives in Central New York with his wife and 4 children who together run a small homestead and share a passion for all things outdoors.