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Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/07/2010 14:37:50 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
longevity on 12/07/2010 14:45:20 MST Print View

i get the feeling that itll last longer than you think ... material wise the fabric is likely as or more durable than a lot of UL gear ...

here's a question ... what was you total base weight with those items and everything else

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Trekking Poles! on 12/07/2010 15:00:00 MST Print View

You left out the Wally World trekking poles.... my favorite cheapskate find! ;-)

I find them as usable as my old Leki poles although the carbide tips wear/round significantly faster. They are adjustable out to 135cm, weight is about 10.5oz each pole and they will set you back $18.88/pr.

Mina Loomis
(elmvine) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
tent on 12/07/2010 17:51:26 MST Print View

"I didn't see any rain on my trip; you will have to rig your own rain protection over the Wenzel as the seams and walls seem pretty thin."

So that's what my customers at REI are talking about (!) when they come in asking for a tent that's "waterproof," that will "keep the rain out." I find myself thinking"duh..." as I assure them that yes, the tents are waterproof, and will keep the rain out, that that is generally what a tent is for...

Kathy A Handyside
(earlymusicus) - M

Locale: Southeastern Michigan
Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/07/2010 18:31:42 MST Print View

I've managed to find some good little finds at Wal-Mart. For instance, I found one of those metal folding trowels for $6.00 - a cheaper knock-off version than the $18 one at a major backpacking equipment store. And I couldn't see any difference between the Wal-Mart one and the more expensive one. At another discount store, I found a great headlamp - a Cyclops Atom for $5.99 and it rocks! It weighs less than an ounce, is BRIGHT, and you can take it off the headstrap and clip it on a hat or whatever. Of course, it is only on or off and doesn't include strobes or Morse-code SOS flashes or anything like that. But it's a great little headlamp and I use it a lot. I also found a neat Sterno-type stove that comes with a windscreen/potstand that sits on top of a can of Sterno-type fuel, but I can also use it as a windscreen/potstand with my Trangia burner. Cost was $5.99.

The thing is, you can occasionally find some useful, cheap things at stores other than the mainstream major backpacking stores. True, you get what you pay for, but you can score some fairly good items here and there. Part of the fun of shopping for me is looking at items in the stores and finding things that might work for backpacking.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/07/2010 19:08:54 MST Print View

I love being reminded how cheap and easy it is to enjoy the great outdoors. You can have just as much fun with cheap gear as you can with custom $$ gear.
here is some from the site:
-Eastsport Mesh Backpack (5.5 x 12.5 x 17.5) $9.00
-Foremost Tarps 8 x 10-foot Brown/Green Reversible Tarp $4.99
-Wenzel Emergency Poncho $6.97

There is a lot more stuff in the store than on the site. Drop cloths can be used as tarps. There are cheaper emergency ponchos ( like a dollar) available. The famous grease pot and aluminum mug, LED head lamps for 20 bucks, SAKs.
You have a lot more options if you get creative and take your scissors to all that over built gear. Rectangle bags can become quilts with a little basic sewing.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Trekking Poles! on 12/07/2010 19:35:42 MST Print View

Yep, the outdoor products trekking poles with black diamond "latch locks" are the most significant Wally World item, IMO.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/07/2010 22:17:36 MST Print View

I'd use a 6x9 or 8x10 blue tarp over a Wenzel tent any day.

Better yet, pair the blue tarp with a frame hunting/hauling pack like this:

Wrap your gear in the tarp and lash to the pack. While it's pushing the $100 budget, I think it's more versatile, comfortable, and waterproof than both a crap shelter and a pack too small to fit your sleeping bag well.

Edited by xnomanx on 12/07/2010 22:25:41 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Durability on 12/08/2010 00:17:45 MST Print View

With regards to durability and product life, I've found that main determinant with cheap products like this is how well it's sewn, rather than the materials used. I was given a Wal-Mart pack a few years ago that I used on a few occasions. The fabric was reasonably heavy and durably nylon, but the stitching was weak and when you tightened the compression straps the seams would tear open or the straps would tear off. I'm not saying this gear is like this, just that you could get good gear or poor gear and not really know which it is if you don't know how well it's been sewn/reinforced.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Re: tent on 12/08/2010 05:43:47 MST Print View

"I didn't see any rain on my trip; you will have to rig your own rain protection over the Wenzel as the seams and walls seem pretty thin."

I bought my 60 yo father that same tent (from Campmor) 3+ years ago (IIRC, it was $25 on-sale). He loves it. We've been through some horrible rain while he used the tent and he has never once complained about it leaking. I'd say he has 15-20 nights in the tent and over a third of the nights (mostly on trips with me) have seen some steady to very, very heavy rain.

We did add another ~6" of mesh to the rear window in order to increase ventilation.

Edited by tlbj6142 on 12/08/2010 05:44:42 MST.

Wallace Hunter
(jeepingetowah) - F

Locale: South Central
Very happy people are positive here... on 12/08/2010 07:35:33 MST Print View

In such hard economic times for many folks out there... many are challenged with deciding what to spend what "little moneys" they do have. I am very encouraged by the positive feedback I see here, and how it really encourages one to know that they can enjoy the wilderness, even in short stints, and maybe only in certain types of weather with reasonable affordability.

I am exteremly guilty of buying high priced gear myself, but I am going on the AT in March and I do not have the current resources to DIY all my stuff right now. However, after my return I have told my wife, that I plan only some of the cheapest items, or I promised to DIY all my gear going forward.

I hope that I can do it, and with this community behind us, I believe it will be in my future.

*my only drawback is that these things all come from China. Not that I dont like the Chinese, but rather I love to give my $$ to cottage companies for hand made high quality gear.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
I love it!! on 12/08/2010 07:53:25 MST Print View

Great concept for an article and I'm sure it will generate some good comments and advice.

Joe Bancks

Locale: Midwest
Good work on 12/08/2010 09:33:15 MST Print View

Wonderful experiment. Thanks for writing about it.

I was part of a similar discussion on a Yahoo hiking forum:

I had found an "Outdoor Products" backpack at Wallyworld for $35, which weighed about 2.5 lbs. The discussion that followed was pretty good.

Someone mentioned seams and stitching. I agree, that's going to be the greatest weakness in cheap gear. And I agree, the key is keeping your weight down, and being reasonably gentle with the gear.

Unlike this guy:

I seem to remember a BACKPACKER article some years back, where they gave three people $100 each to totally outfit themselves, one at Walmart, one at thrift stores, and another on eBay.

Edited by JackPike on 12/08/2010 13:12:46 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/08/2010 09:49:20 MST Print View

I fully agree with the concept behind this article in that an experiment in which one tries to find an inexpensive alternatives to high-priced gear as a means to introduce others to backpacking is a stellar idea. However, I'm personally against the notion of making these purchases from a corporation well-documented for mistreatment of it's employees.

The author has done a great job of setting a goal, meeting it, and beginning to test the results. Understandably, confining the experiment to one store allowed for a somewhat scientific data set but I jones more for an experiment like this to be performed at thrift stores.

* edited to add that this is my personal opinion.

Edited by sharalds on 12/09/2010 13:59:47 MST.

Joe Bancks

Locale: Midwest
Thrifty on 12/08/2010 10:21:57 MST Print View

Thrift store outfitting is a super idea, especially for folks in mountain-west metro areas (Denver, Phoenix, SLC, Seattle, etc.). Harder going in midwest thrift stores. But if you're looking for a gently used Thighmaster, the pickins is easy.

Edited by JackPike on 12/08/2010 11:44:33 MST.

Joe Bancks

Locale: Midwest
Walmart goodies, part 3 on 12/08/2010 11:41:37 MST Print View

Another bit of "kit" (as our English friends say) to be found at Walmart: cheap, lightweight nylon cord. Last I checked, 100' of it sold for $3.

Christopher Knaus

Locale: Northern California
Lessons Apply to New Scouts on 12/08/2010 12:56:39 MST Print View

The description of budget backpacking equipment and shopping at Wal Mart reminds me of experiences introducing Scouts to backpacking and getting them set-up. Some gung-ho parents want to rush off to REI, intent on dropping hundreds of dollars to get little Timmy "the best" before his first event. My counter advice is that an 11 or 12 year old boy should probably start with functional (i.e. moderate weight) but inexpensive Target brand equipmnet, hand-me downs and/or borrowings. He can then learn the basics of proper and care for his equipment (e.g. Goose down and kool-aid don't mix!)with very little exposure. Over time and with discretion, equipment could be upgraded as
a) the boy matures and assumes responsibility for his stuff,
b) both he and his folks are sure that he is really "into it",
c) when or if elements of the budget equipment gives out, and/or
d) there is an occasion such as a Philmont trek or advanced 50 miler which warrants a treat or reward.
Bottom line, equipment selection is a great opportunity to teach a youngster about budgeting and responsibility.

(epilektric) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Lightweight Backpacking, preferably not Wal-Mart Style on 12/08/2010 13:08:08 MST Print View

Not to sound like a skipping record but I agree with Sam H. An article focused on cheap alternatives is especially relevant at this time but there are other retail establishments with a better record of employee treatment than Wal-Mart.

I have had success with alternatives like thrift stores, garage/yard sales, Craig's List ads, and Freecycle. There are also other department stores to choose from with better records.

Douglas Prosser
(daprosser) - MLife

Locale: Camarillo, California (SCAL)
Lessons Apply to New Scouts on 12/08/2010 13:27:32 MST Print View

Chris, you have it right on point. Last night I had these conversations with a number of new scout parents. I told them to come see a number of us leaders & we can outfit a scout pretty well and relax about the gear. We keep small old packs & gear kits for new boys. The boys can try different things and see what works for them. We let them know of really good gear items & sales that come up.

The biggest mistake we told the parents was running out to purchase hiking boots. Every year we have some new boy on a hike complaining of foot pain due to new boots. We told them sneakers will work fine as long as not "skate" sneakers. Trail runners would be even better.

Just keep it cheap & light and the boys will enjoy the experience.

Rebecca Treat
(rebtrea) - M

Locale: the Great Northwest
Walmart on 12/08/2010 18:16:52 MST Print View

But WAL-MART! I would never go in one on principal...there are a few things more important than "a deal"