Backpacker magazine is here to help. The mag has put together a list of their favorite inexpensive products to help you get over the budget crisis and head out on the trail.
The list contains some of the most important items that you'll need for any backcountry camping or backpacking excursion, including a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. It also offers some suggestions on a couple of jackets to keep you warm and dry on your adventures as well. Just don't expect any major name brands to make the cut, as there is nothing from The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, or Columbia on the list. Instead, you'll find products from companies that you've vaguely heard of that Backpacker says deliver the best bang for your buck in terms of performance and price.
So what equipment makes the cut? For starters, the magazine says that you should forego the more expensive down jackets from the well-known brands in favor of the Uniqlo Ultralight Down Jacket instead. It costs just $70 but comes from a company more well known for its fashions than its outdoor performance. In terms of a backpack, we're told to go with the ULA Circuit, which is 68L model that costs $235.
The rest of the items on the list fall into a similar vein, offering solid performance at a more affordable price, although I would argue in some cases that there are better options out there for less money – particularly if you shop clearance items and closeouts. This list also doesn't offer the prices for each piece of gear within the story itself, which would have saved a few extra clicks when reading about the gear. And, I take a bit of umbrage with them listing "SmartWater" as one of their lightweight pieces of gear, when I think in reality they're telling readers to use the bottle that the brand of water comes in.
Still, for those of us who want to save a little cash and don't need to have the latest gear from the big boys in the industry, the list does have some all-around solid choices. As we approach spring hiking season, and you find yourself needing some new equipment, you might be able to save yourself some cash and go with these items instead.