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Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style
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eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
differences on 12/08/2010 19:30:11 MST Print View

dan ...

i guess we do different things ... my stuff usually goes from abrasion ... rarely from blown stitching ...

all those rubbing against rocks like a cat against a scratching pole must be bad ... lol

im pretty impressed by the functionality and value of stuff i see at wallymart, costco, and other discount stores these days

not tooo long ago costcos had 15$ merino tops ... some store owner who sold dead bird started yapping about all the cheap made overseas goods ... the fact that it was made in canada shut him up pretty well

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Nice Work! on 12/08/2010 21:12:51 MST Print View

Hey Benjamin,

Nice job on the article. It was well written, short and to the point.

I will say though, I don't agree with your thinking. Why would you ever encourage someone to buy disposable backpacking gear? Especially at the cost of destroying the wilderness your planning to hike in. This isn't a backpacking article this is an article on consumerism...

Best Regards,

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
I love Wal-Mart on 12/08/2010 21:54:16 MST Print View

My favorite store. I love all that disposable Chinese stuff.

donald buckner

Locale: Southeast U.S.
Walmart on 12/08/2010 22:56:54 MST Print View

I know there are those that do not like Walmart for various reasons. I hear about the way they treat employees alot. In my experience, the employees enjoy their jobs and are happy and helpful. It is my favorite store, because I am a spend thrift at heart, and I almost always get the best deal there. A few years ago it was "lite my fire sporks" for $2.33. Remington fleece long underwear,(thick,warm, tapered legs, zip neck) after hunting season for dirt cheap. I could go on and on with some of the great deals I've scored there. Walmart is here to stay. The consumers have spoken. Boycott if you want, but that's not my choice. I still spend way too much on overpriced specialty items that really I cannot justify but I do it anyway, ie backpacking light synthetic pull-over, $125! or was it $150(can't remember). So I keep the cottage industry going too!

Daniel Fluri
(dani) - F
ecology on 12/08/2010 23:34:43 MST Print View

funny, all these reactions about ecology. as if all that expensive spinaker, cuben and what-not would last any longer!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: ecology on 12/08/2010 23:50:32 MST Print View

Given the proper skill and knowledge set, I'd wager that cuben, spinnaker, and "what-not" WOULD last longer. Why? Because not only are they tried and tested materials, they are most often assembled into a product by skilled craftsmen. Not vastly underpaid people overseas. I'd also wager that the cuben and spinnaker markets are exponentially less destructive to the environment and human rights than Walmart. There's plenty of merit in being thrifty and I'm not going to judge that. But personally, I'd rather pay the "little guy" 2-3 times as much for a quality, responsibly produced product than the disposable garbage from big box stores.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
disposable on 12/09/2010 02:06:41 MST Print View

some of you guys assume that stuff in big box stores is disposable ... simply not true

as i said costco carried MADE IN CANADA merino for $15 dollars not too long ago ... other stores including wallymart have items that would last through normal usage ... the fabric is frequently as strong as UL materials ... and the warranty is usually no questions asked

its a disservice to all those dim sum eaters to say that things made there can't be of decent quality ... most appliances in the world are made in asia, black diamond makes their cams there, dead bird and other big name brands make their clothes there etc ... companies have been making electronics there for years ... and wages are rising, china is actually become more expensive to manufacture in

how hard is it to make a pack, or a pot, or a pair of fleece pants ... i find the quality of big box discount stores to be sufficient for most cases ... its not like everyone here is summiting denali, or climbing el cap, or bushwhacking the amazon

if you want to buy local or cottage thats up to you ... just don't pretend that things in big retail discount stores arent any good

and yes i do buy made in canada when i like it ...

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/09/2010 02:13:27 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: disposable on 12/09/2010 02:46:39 MST Print View

Perhaps the negative commentary coming from people, including myself, is not directed at the workers who make the products, or even the products themselves (sometimes). My comment above may have been a little misguided in that respect. However, the desire for localizing production, supporting responsible companies, stimulating small business, and scores of other economic and socially related topics are at the heart of the issue.

Socioeconomics aside, most people wouldn't really care where or who made a product, as long as it was a good value and of good quality. Unfortunately, socioeconomics is a HUGE factor in the decisions people make and the viewpoints they take. In the economic climate we're in now, it becomes difficult for people, myself included, to support huge conglomerates when small business are struggling. I admit its tough not to become more polarized as time goes on, especially with the backwards politics and media we're bombarded with each day.

So, while I've nothing against the workers producing goods overseas, I do take exception with the conglomerates. I'll always support my American small business counterparts as much as I can. Yes, I BItch about this country, but I love it as well. Ultimately though, it's really not about being American. It's more about the responsible small business part. I research just about every specialty product or company I buy from. I want to be informed.

I'm not trying to make myself out to be some sort of elitist. I do shop at stores like Target, Home Depot, Sears, and yes, sometimes Walmart. Often those are the stores where the product I need is available. If I know I can get the product from another source, I might defer to that other source.

Bottom line. If a company can present a product that I can feel proud to buy, and I can be proud to support that company as a whole, then I'll gladly be a customer regardless of nationality or location. At this point, for me, I just can't do that for the huge corporations, regardless of the fact that I can buy a tent for $25 that would suffice for a few seasons.

Before I get in over my head with this type of subject, it's time for me to hit the sack. G'night, all!

Todd Miller
(toddkmiller) - F
Re: disposable on 12/09/2010 04:15:46 MST Print View

Good point about Costco Eric. As a scout leader and avid hiker, I marvel at the low-cost high-quaity gear they often carry. I DO buy quality but it never hurts to get a deal at the same time. Costco has had some excellent products in the cold-weather clothing area as well as backpacks, hiking poles, etc. Maybe I will try the $100 challenge there myself...

Benjamin Roode
(bgoeso) - MLife
Wal-Mart issues on 12/09/2010 06:54:27 MST Print View

Hey guys!

Thanks for the comments on my article. I'm relatively new to the site but have been outdoorsing for awhile.

I agree on Wal-Mart: I don't like shopping there. In fact, this is the most recent time I can remember shopping at one (in-store or online), and I wrote the article some time ago.

There is a reason I picked Wal-Mart: the article focuses on cheaper alternatives to ultralight gear, mainly to show those who have been scared off by high prices or who are new to the sport that they too can hit the trail. I hypothesized that a lot of Americans in such a predicament are most likely do at least some of their shopping at Wal-Mart in the first place. Focusing on Wal-Mart, despite its poor reputation regarding employee treatment, meant the article could serve its purpose to the most people possible.

I'm happy for the feedback and really want to try the thrift store idea suggested in the comments. I now live a bit closer to potential opportunities (near Harper's Ferry) to try that out.

Thanks again.

- Ben

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 12/09/2010 08:28:10 MST Print View

Server hiccup/double post-- sorry

Edited by dwambaugh on 12/09/2010 08:30:17 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Responsible consumption on 12/09/2010 08:28:10 MST Print View

I had been thinking about going through this exercise on paper but never got around to it. It is an interesting exercise, but it does point out issues with sustainability and the social-political issues of big-box retailers.

We should take responsibility for the products we buy, in terms of the products and the organization we purchase them from. Everyone loves a bargain, but buying non-sustainable junk from a retailer with documented predatory business practices is not good for the environment or our communities. I think we should support those suppliers who have good manufacturing and general business practices. It makes little sense to tout the need to save the environment and then do business with the likes of Walmart or Monsanto. Please surf to and have a look around. You will be amazed at the scope of the issues involved with Walmart. I would keep in mind that Walmart is not the only irresponsible retailer out there, just the biggest.

I am also opposed to buying cheap gear for kids-- cheap meaning poorly made goods. Raising a family is expensive, but buying poor quality products teaches them the wrong thing in terms of responsible consumerism and may even turn them away from the outdoor experience due to the poor performance of the products we buy for them. I have railed against buying kids cheap musical instruments for the same reasons; I personally found that trying to play a cheap guitar was physically painful and simply didn't allow many techniques to be practiced. Buying gear that fails, wears out prematurely, and has poor performance just adds more to the landfill and gives kids a distaste for what could be rewarding pastimes.

I think it is far better to buy good used gear, which is recycling in its best form and provides good quality gear at reduced prices.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Responsible consumption on 12/09/2010 09:04:49 MST Print View

If we're going to sit and rail against Wal-Mart and the consumption of cheap, almost disposable goods, why don't we open it up, get honest, and look at the big picture?
Shouldn't we be railing against the overconsumtion of high-quality goods as well? What of those that amass mountains of unused, unneeded cottage gear, just to try it out to find the "perfect" system? So what if it's sold second hand; now we've got trucks and trains burning fuel to re-circulate the stuff.

Are Dri-Ducks more durable than Wal-Mart goods?

I'd wager you'd get just as much life, if not more, out of a Stansport Wal-Mart bag than any UL sil-nylon Gossamer Gear or other cottage offering (no offense to GG).

I'm just saying that if we're going down this road, lets at least get honest.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: NoCo
wow on 12/09/2010 09:39:25 MST Print View

I agree with Craig here.

walmartwatch is just a tad biased. Even when walmart is doing what they want they find a way to complain that it isn't enough.

Walmart has done a lot of good and I will happily shop there anytime.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Sustainability on 12/09/2010 11:13:13 MST Print View

Wal-Mart in our community is a blessing and a curse. It is a curse if you are one of the small local businesses that have to compete head-head with them. It is a blessing for the very large sector of society that is at the bottom of the socia-economic ladder. For those who make $20K a year saving a little money and having all their shopping in one location (they ride a bus to shop) is of huge benefit.

In terms of sustainability, I don't think any of us live a sustainable lifestyle. If you take the average American energy usage and resource consumption and translate that to the population of the world it is clear that the globe couldn't support that for any length of time. That isn't an excuse not to change but I think some of the high-horses we climb upon are pretty flimsy.

( - F
Not so simple... on 12/09/2010 11:13:33 MST Print View

While I can agree that Wal-mart has several flaws and I would certainly recommend purchasing used, quality gear over Wal-mart items, Wal-mart fills a pretty important niche. Having grown up in the rural South, I know many people that would have little to no job opportunities if it weren't for Wal-mart. I also know a lot of people that do most if not all of their shopping there because of price (clothing in particular.) They may want to buy better quality clothing and items, but they can't afford it. Sustainable (responsible) or cheap; pick one.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
honest on 12/09/2010 11:18:45 MST Print View

+1 Craig

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Walmart on 12/09/2010 12:39:05 MST Print View

I agree with Craig. Consumerism is the biggest issue here. Having 10 hi-quality tents that you never use is just as bad as buying 1 "disposable" big box tent. In some cases big box gear will last just as long as UL gear but there are other things at play here including every-time you save a dollar at Wal-mart your that much closer to loosing your job.

I personally think the big gear makers are just as un-responsible as any of the big box stores. They might use higher quality materials but they are still building their gear un-responsibly.

All I can say is buy cottage gear.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Walmart on 12/09/2010 13:19:56 MST Print View

Agreed with Craig and Lawson about consumerism. Just take a walk down the aisles of practically any store and you'll see hundreds and thousands of items that are useless pieces of junk (yes, that's only an opinion) that will find their way to the trash or basement or garage sales in 1-3 years from time of purchase. But, people still buy this stuff because it fills some sort of immediate need, and I won't speculate on people's motives for buying things.

Walmart creates jobs, but it destroys jobs. From the linked study below: "On average, Wal-Mart store openings reduce retail employment by about 2.7 percent, implying that each Wal-Mart employee replaces about 1.4 employees in the rest of the retail sector. Driven in part by the employment declines, retail earnings at the county level also decline as a result of Wal-Mart entry, by about 1.3 percent."

The mom and pop bakery that's been there for 40 years is forced to close. Jimmy's toy store closes from lack of sales. Jimbo's fishing and hunting outlet looses business and he has to fire his employees. And Julie's clothing shop takes a hit and closes. All these stores employed people that now have to find work elsewhere. Perhaps at the new Walmart?

Like it or not, Walmart is here to stay. Personally, I don't like it.

Edited by T.L. on 12/09/2010 13:20:42 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: NoCo
well on 12/09/2010 13:43:28 MST Print View

####Walmart creates jobs, but it destroys jobs.

The linked study concludes that the retail job growth is lower than in a but-for world of no Walmart. They didn't destroy jobs so much as lead to less growth of them in THE RETAIL MARKET.

1. They even admit that it only applies to retail sector and that "we suspect that there are not aggregate employment effects, at least in the longer run, as labor shifts to other uses."

2. I am not sure that even that might be ignoring the fact that another big box retailer would have taken Walmart's place. In rural towns the first mover is often the only mover. So Walmart gets the blame even though if they didn't enter, Target or somebody else would. The competitor would have the same effect as Walmart. So I don't believe they adequately controlled for this.

Anyway you slice it, Walmart has bad and good. But in the end they get much more of the blame based on their size.