A couple of friends are getting into backpacking, and I realized they are buying the same things everyone buys when they go to REI with a lack of experience and a full wallet (myself included, got a shed full of unused junk to prove it). I started putting together a list in my head of all the things that have come, through the miracle of advertising, to be viewed as essentials, but don't have a real solid purpose for backpacking. If you had a friend wanting to get into backpacking, what would you put back on the shelf for them? Initial thoughts-
Water Bottles- whether it's nalgenes or kleen canteens, I've certainly spent a bit of money on water containers, only to leave them behind in favor of spring water bottles from the recycling.
Groundsheet- When I bought my first tent for backpacking, I added the $12 or so for the (heavy!) groundcloth, and I still feel stupid.
Fancy Cookwear- it takes a bit of time on the trail, in my opinion, to figure out what works for you when it comes to camp kithen. It's crazy to see people pop out of their first gear binge with $100 in cookwear (usually a big "kit"). Anyone here actually use plates, butter knives, espresso makers, or spatulas on the trail? Me neither. I bought all kinds of titanium goodies off steepandcheap, only to end up with a fosters can and a cozy made out a car window shade.
GPS- I never indulged myself, but a couple of friends keep dragging them on trips where we stay on established trails and have a good map. I think a $10 compass will suffice for %90 of hikers.
Compression Sacks- Guilty here as well, I have a compression sack... full of compression sacks. I can't find an argument for them, and haven't used them in years
Pack covers- Anyone else shell out $30 for a pack cover only to see it quickly replaced by a two cent trash bag liner? Me too.
First Aid "kits"- expensive, heavy, and full of things most people will never use. I'm not saying people shouldn't carry a fak, I'm saying most of the pre-made ones available for purchase are ridiculous, and target the misinformed.
I'd like to throw in multitools, flashlights, pump filters, freestanding tents, $100 canister stoves, and other things, but I'm trying to stay away from personal preference and focus more on a "smart consumer" standpoint. Any thoughts?