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Investing in Gear

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FreespiritAZ
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Investing in Gear

Postby FreespiritAZ » Mar 19 2010 4:08 am

So I have been an avid day hiker for the last 5 years, but am now looking to invest in gear so I can hike AND camp. I am wanting to get quality gear without it costing me an arm and a leg.

Does anyone know of any quality places other than REI or Cabella's? Both places seem so pricey to me. Are there any good websites you could refer me to? Are there any brands that you prefer? If so, why do you prefer them?

Until now I have also always just used tennis shoes for my hikes even though I could have probably used a pair of boots. Any tips or suggestions for footwear would also be appreciated :D

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azbackpackr
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby azbackpackr » Mar 19 2010 5:22 am

Trail runners or so-called "approach shoes" would probably be better. A lot of people have quit wearing boots, but some, like myself, feel more comfortable with a little ankle support. I wear a very lightweight boot, but it's barely a boot, it barely covers my ankles. Mine is a New Balance, but there are many brands.

Summit Hut in Tucson has a big outdoor sale and swap meet every spring. There is the clearance dept at REI online. I bought my new GoLite Quest multiday pack via the REI Clearance online. You have to be sure things will fit you, though, if you buy them used or online. Obviously, shoes, but pack fit is so very important. Look at the sizing charts for the packs on REI.

If you have time to go to thrift shops on a regular basis, that is another way to get started. Even an old Kelty or Camp trails external frame pack will work very well for a newbie. It must have a waist belt and it must not be too big for you. Basically, when the waist/hip belt is cinched very tight, the top metal bar of the pack (that the straps are attached to) should be right about even with the tops of your shoulders. If the bar is a lot higher than your shoulders, the pack is too big. You should not have to pay more than $10 for one of those packs. I actually have two of them in my shed. You could have one of them, I would give it to you, but I am 240 miles away. How tall are you?

Post a new thread on this forum that says "Looking for used sleeping bag" and another one that says "Looking for used solo tent" or whatever it is you need. These people will respond, trust me! I have seen a lot of situations with newbies where they were offered loaner gear, also. That way, you get out with the group, you see what they are using, and how they use it, and why.

Arizona Backpacking Club Meetup Group sometimes does beginner backpacks, some of its members post on here.

Hope this is helpful!
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FreespiritAZ
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby FreespiritAZ » Mar 19 2010 5:32 am

Thanks so much! Yes your post was very helpful! There is just so much information to comb through when evaluating outdoor gear for purchase. Your tips will definitely help me narrow my search :)

I have always just taken my old Jansport backpack with me on all my day hikes. I have done quite a few 10+ mile day hikes on pretty rugged terrain, but have always made do with the lack of gear. I am sure with the right gear the fatigue doesn't set in quite as quickly.

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PLC92084
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby PLC92084 » Mar 19 2010 7:16 am

I investigated gear, accessories, etc. and settled on those items I wanted. I then got price comparisons at REI, Adventure16, etal. Once I had a baseline price, I started looking on Craigslist for those items... On average, I saved over 50% on the cost and wound up with new and almost-new equipment. I've done this for everything I currently have!

Example1: MSR Whisperlite International stove - Retails for about $90.00 without fuel bottle, spare parts kit, shields, etc.. I picked up everything including the stuff sack for $60.00. It had never been used.

Example2: MSR SweetWater Microfilter - REI $90.00. Picked up my unit, brand new in box for $40.00

Doing a little homework in advance will save you a lot of money!

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tibber
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby tibber » Mar 19 2010 8:10 am

My advice has to do with the backpack. If you get it online and not from REI or someone with an excellent return policy, you better really like it. I tried on packs at REI and then bot one online at a good discount from another company only to discover that REI measured wrong and the pack didn't fit well. It was past the 30 day deadline of the other company so it was too late to return. Fortunately for me, between Osprey and REI, I was able to exchange it even though I didn't buy from REI. I would consider the backpack like a good pair of boots, a good fit is essential to a good trip. Return policies do matter; you pay a little more but like I said, "a good fit is a good trip".
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writelots
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby writelots » Mar 19 2010 8:20 am

My biggest advice to newbies shopping for backpacking/camping gear is: borrow before you buy! I find that a huge percentage of people are excited about getting their own gear or are afraid that other backpackers won't want to share, so they invest a lot of time and money into stuff that they later discover doesn't really fit their body/activity/hiking style. However, if you borrow someone else's gear for your first few trips, you can get an idea of what fits or doesn't fit before you buy anything. Slightly less romantic, but it saves you a lot of headache in the end. And I know very few seasoned backpackers who don't have extra stuff and aren't willing to let someone else borrow it for a weekend. (I speak this from personal experience, having gone through 2 whole generations of gear before I got dialed in to what I want!)

That being said, gently used equipment is usually a good deal (typically the result of someone who did just what I described above!). In addition to Craigslist, you can try ebay, geartrade.com and practicalbackpacker.com's "for sale" board.

For new stuff, I almost never pay full price for any brand name stuff. There are SO many discount sites out there - steepandcheap.com has daily deals (but watch their % off, sometimes it's exaggerated), backcountryoutlet.com, sierratradingpost.com and campsaver.com all have pretty good deals sometimes. My favorite when I was getting started was campmor.com - they tend to carry lines of less expensive gear, and I've rarely seen their prices beaten.

As for brands, Kelty and Jansport can be good for inexpensive gear, but their stuff is often unnecessarily heavy and doesn't last in my experience. Better to find a better brand on sale, like Golite, Marmot, Osprey or Big Agnes. And always figure that the lighter something is, the more comfortable you will be on the trail (for the most part) - I balked at that idea for years, but now I am a firm devotee. Finally - on shoes, I'm telling folks now to be careful with Merrells. They just haven't been lasting for me like they used to.

There is way too much info out there - you can totally overwhelm yourself. Just keep in mind that it's all about having a good time outside, and no matter what you buy, it's your attitude that counts most! :y:
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby Jeffshadows » Mar 19 2010 8:30 am

I don't know if Phoenix has something like "Play it Again Sports" but that would be my suggestion. Also, check out Craigslist. Lots of people with too much $$ out there buying high-end gear only to use it once and sell it for pennies...
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PLC92084
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby PLC92084 » Mar 19 2010 8:35 am

Writelots: I learned of a couple new gear sources; Thanks! Being a gearaholic ( :o ), those will probably come in quite handy...

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oceanwithin
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby oceanwithin » Mar 19 2010 8:55 am

A definite yes on trail running shoes if you are accustomed to hiking in regular tennis shoes - better traction and takes a beating better than regular tennis shoes.

Some good online stores w/ lower pricing (some have free shipping over $50): backcountry.com (and their outlet), sierratradingpost.com, campor.com. (FYI - I do recommend signing up for the "cashback" program at bing.com (it's part of microsoft/hotmail). There's a whole bunch of outdoors stores that you can buy from that are linked to the program and it gets you anywhere from 3% - 15% cash back on what you buy. Plus you get the $$ back on some ebay auctions too if you do it right. I've made $100 back just from buying stuff through bing.com which of course was turned around and invested in more gear. :) )

I've had great luck with ebay too, you can often find some of the more reliable brands for cheaper on there. There are some brands that generally you can't go wrong with (in my experience) - black diamond, petzl, leki, MSR, etc. There's always people trying to unload their gear on craigslist too.

Walmart has some cheap (small) drybags if you plan on doing any water hiking. DO NOT buy their hiking poles though!

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joebartels
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby joebartels » Mar 19 2010 9:47 am

I never bought into all the boot hype almost fifteen years ago and was ridiculed over and over by "veteran" hikers. Now days the majority have moved to trail runners. A strong ankle will serve you better down the road.

Tennis shoes work fine IMO. They just get rather dirty and wear quick so the trail runners end up being a better value. Aside from cosmetics, the firmer sole of a trail runner is the main advantage.

Keep in mind the firm sole of a boot or trail runner might hurt for a while if you have baby soft feet. When I do back to back 10-16 mile hikes I still wear tennis shoes the second day :)

Personally I don't recommend buying anything for the sake of thinking you'll need it without knowing you need it. You just have to live and learn into it. I used a JanSport waist pouch for years before ever diving into hydration packs. Basically I don't go into REI or whatever to "shop". When I need it, I get it.
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Jeffshadows
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby Jeffshadows » Mar 19 2010 9:58 am

FWIW: If you are brand new to any kind of physical activity it PAYS to get professional advice. Go somewhere like REI and tell them exactly what you want to do and ask what they would recommend for footwear. After that you can get creative; but the chance you will injure yourself or just plain get something you dislike when you're new is high unless you get a little bit of guidance in the beginning.

If you are going to frequent trails that are exposed near Phoenix and have a hot, dry, and rocky track I would suggest considering a mid-height boot. I personally destroy tennis and trail runners in a few short weeks on such terrain but have light boots last around a year. I have also run into at least three people hiking those same kinds of trails barefoot and know guys that swear by Keen sandals, so it is really all just a matter of what makes your feet feel best! ;)
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PLC92084
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby PLC92084 » Mar 19 2010 10:17 am

I can attest to the benefits of better footwear! I switched from standard running shoes to trail runners last year because I was spending more time offroad than on... Used to use Adrenaline GTS 8's then switched to Montrail Mountain Masochist's. BIG DIFFERENCE!! The stiffer "Full foot Trail Shield" really reduces impact pain from rocks and stuff... Not sure how good they'll be against cactus spines though... I'll be wearing boots while trudging through the dreaded cholla fields.

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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby PaleoRob » Mar 19 2010 10:27 am

I love my Chaco low-tops. Unfortunately they seem to have stopped making them, but hopefully they'll come back. Great lightweight trail shoe with excellent arch support.
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te_wa
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby te_wa » Mar 19 2010 2:50 pm

freespirit, i could help you out by giving my personal advice.. but i spare you the finer details. i'll just link you to this site: www.backpackinglight.com and let you follow the rabbit hole down. you dont have to pay to be a member of the forums. if you want advice on trails, come here. if you want advice on gear, go there. mike
:D

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Jeffshadows
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby Jeffshadows » Mar 19 2010 3:50 pm

We don't know anything about gear here, eh? :sl:
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te_wa
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby te_wa » Mar 19 2010 7:24 pm

i dont, thats why i sent her there.. :sl:
:D

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FreespiritAZ
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby FreespiritAZ » Mar 19 2010 10:36 pm

Wow. Everyone is so eager to help! Thank you all so much for the great advice. I will be spending the next couple of days browsing all the websites that everyone posted.

Footwear..... so I opted to go for the trail runners. They are Columbia Techlites (men's). All the women's trail runners were too narrow for my foot. I also added a nice cushioned arch support, so we will see how I like them. The Merrells were a little out of my price range for what I wanted. I have been hiking in tennis shoes for so long that the boots felt too constrictive when I tried them on. I also do a lot of bouldering when I hike, and I thought that boots wouldn't work so well for that. Until I can afford to buy myself a pair of climbing shoes, I have to use something that is more versatile.

I really want a pair of Vibram Five Fingers but they are a little out of my price range. Talk about cool!! Everyone should take a look at this new shoe technology. I saw them at a one of the weekly Phoenix farmer's markets.

http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/indexNA.cfm

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FreespiritAZ
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby FreespiritAZ » Mar 19 2010 10:45 pm

In response to te-wa:

Ummm lol, Hey Te-wa, I took a look at some of your photos and saw one with the Vibrams, lol. I guess people on HAZ have probably already heard of these shoes. Look at me thinking I was all cool :sl: I thought "hey I might have some interesting info to share that no one has heard yet"....yeah no. Silly me.
You all are PROS!!

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azbackpackr
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby azbackpackr » Mar 20 2010 3:49 am

I have very narrow feet. Wish I had a lot of choices in buying shoes, but I just flat don't.

Freespirit, from what I hear, Arizona Hiking Shack is THE place to go for really good gear and info in the Valley. REI has some good stuff, but some of the people who work there are kind of clueless. I have been to the one in Tempe only twice. Both times I received knowledgeable and cheerful help in the backpack department, but when I walked over to the shoe department I received next-to-useless and indifferent "help." I still do order online from them, though. But I miss the old days. I have been a member of REI since 1972, and boy has it changed...
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.

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MtnBart01
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Re: Investing in Gear

Postby MtnBart01 » Mar 20 2010 4:59 am

FreespiritAZ wrote:I really want a pair of Vibram Five Fingers but they are a little out of my price range. Talk about cool!! Everyone should take a look at this new shoe technology. I saw them at a one of the weekly Phoenix farmer's markets.


The only shoes I wear on the trail :)
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