Camping and Hiking Gear: Where to Splurge and Where to Save

Outdoor gear can cost a fortune. Learn what’s worth the extra cost and what you can spend a little less on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo by: Jeremy Pawlowski

Jeremy Pawlowski

It's easy to walk into an outdoor retail store and immediately feel overwhelmed. With all the fancy fabrics, temperature and wind ratings and new lightweight gear, it is hard to know where to actually invest your money and what items it may be okay to spend a little less on to make your next (or first) camping trip more enjoyable. I’ll cover the basics below, warmth, shelter and sustenance.

Sleeping Bags

On the high end, you’ll find bags made with synthetic outer materials and stuffed with goose or duck down. These bags will be durable, breathable and most importantly light and compressible. These days you can get a bag rated for 20 degrees that can be stored in something the size of a water bottle. When every inch of bag space counts spending more on a fancy sleeping bag is not a bad idea.

Towards the low end you’ll find cotton bags that are often filled with synthetic stuffing. These bags will be heavy and not be able to pack down anywhere near the size of the high-end bags, but they will be cheap and can keep you just as warm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo by: Jeremy Pawlowski

Jeremy Pawlowski

Tents

Really when it comes to purchasing a tent the main thing you need to think about is if it's something you'll ever actually be carrying on your back. Most of us will never be camping in harsh winter conditions, so let's rule out four-season tents and focus on the more ubiquitous three-season tent. 

More expensive tents will offer you a significant weight reduction over cheaper tents. A lot of time goes into engineering the strongest and most space efficient tents. Designs are always changing to offer campers the most bang for their buck. Higher- end tents will use lightweight aluminum poles and stakes and have a layout that keeps pole use to a minimum in the first place. Spending more will get you a tent constructed with ripstop nylon and weather-sealed seams making it built to last. Also, look for a tent with a vestibule; this will give you a place to store your bag and boots without actually taking up floor space inside.

If you want to spend less money, go to any big-box store and find a great four-person tent for under $100 dollars. If you don’t need to actually carry the tent in your backpack, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these. The main difference between a cheap tent and a higher priced one is weight and size, but if you are just pulling it out of your trunk and setting it up, there is nothing wrong with saving your money on a less expensive one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo by: Jeremy Pawlowski

Jeremy Pawlowski

Clothing/Footwear

Hiking in a jeans and a t-shirt does not make you any less of a hiker. When it comes to clothing you don't need to look like you've stepped out of a catalog to enjoy the outdoors. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and wear what you have. Not having the latest, lightweight or moisture-wicking pair of pants isn’t going to hold you back.

Footwear on the other hand is something you should invest in. Specialized boots will offer you warmth, traction, stability and comfort in any sort of terrain you may encounter. If you think you’ll be doing mostly day hikes a pair of hiking shoes may be the way to go. Leather is always a durable option that will last a lifetime and offer water resistance. Boots made from synthetic materials will be a lot lighter than leather but will also wear faster. No matter what you go with, putting in the extra money for boots or shoes is a great idea; sore feet are a fast way to ruin any trip.

Photo by: JEREMY PAWLOWSKI

JEREMY PAWLOWSKI

Camp Stoves

Cooking, or at least being able to boil water for meals or coffee is bound to come up at some point or another if you enjoy camping. On the high end of the spectrum you have lightweight stoves that can run on different fuels such as butane, propane and even gasoline. Spending more will get you a very lightweight stove and one that can be used at any elevation, which is definitely something to be looked at if you are backpacking and have to carry everything in your pack. If you don’t plan on cooking meals in the backcountry, look into the classic two-burner propane stove, it’s cheap, the propane canisters can be found all over the place, and it is very reliable. If you want to save more money you can even make a single burner stove by poking holes around the rim of an aluminum can and using alcohol as a fuel!

At the end of the day know that people have hiked and camped in conditions that are beyond what most of us will ever experience and they did it before Gore-Tex and synthetic materials were even heard of. 

Keep Reading

Next Up

Tips For Camping at a Music Festival

If you love music but are lukewarm on camping and are considering your first outdoor music festival, get some advice from the experienced, the trod upon and the sunburned.

Car Camping Tips For The Newbie

Know what to pack and how to prep to make sure your camping trip is full of fun and worry-free.

Our Editors' Favorite Camping Equipment

Our staff share their list of must-have hiking and backpacking gear, plus their favorite places to camp and explore.

Tips and Tricks For Cooking on a Camping Trip

They say that food is love, and just because you're sleeping under the stars doesn't mean you can't eat well. Here are some of the things you'll need to be master chef without even being in the kitchen.

How to Find Free Campsites and Keep Costs Down on a Road Trip

Don’t let a tight budget hold you back from traveling. Learn the secrets for finding free places to camp and tips for saving money on the road.

6 Tips For Camping and Traveling With Your Dog

Taking a road trip with your pet can be a wonderful experience. Before you set out, make sure you know what to pack and how to be prepared.

Games and Activities to Keep Kids Busy on a Camping Trip

Camping with kids can create lifelong memories, but if you let them sit idle for too long, you'll soon hear "I'm bored". Don't let that happen. Check out these fun ideas to keep your little ones occupied and enthralled.

8 Tips For a Newbie Backpacker

If you've never gone back-country camping, before heading out into the great wide open, educate yourself on the basics.

Easy Backpacking Meals: Turkey Tacos

All the ingredients for this recipe can be carried in a small soft-sided cooler bag. The only thing that needs to be cooked is the taco meat, which means you can easily cook it on a small packing stove.

How to Make Seafood Cioppino

This one-pot (Dutch oven recommended) seafood stew can be made at home, but tastes even better when made over an open flame at a campsite.

On TV

Music Videos

10am | 9c

Music Videos

11am | 10c

Music Videos

12pm | 11c

Time Capsule

1pm | 12c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Flea Market Flip

8pm | 7c

Flea Market Flip

8:30pm | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30pm | 8:30c

Flea Market Flip

10:30pm | 9:30c

Flea Market Flip

11:30pm | 10:30c

Flea Market Flip

12:30am | 11:30c

Flea Market Flip

1:30am | 12:30c

Flea Market Flip

2:30am | 1:30c

Flea Market Flip

3:30am | 2:30c

Top GAC Shows

Flea Market Flip

Sundays 8pm | 7c

Living Alaska

Tuesdays 9pm | 8c

Top 20 Countdown

Consult Program Guide

Flippin' RVs

Wednesdays 9|8c

Get Social With Us

Let's explore this country together.