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What are your guidelines for buying gear?
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Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 15:39:28 MST Print View

There was some discussion in another thread regarding how people decide whether to buy a new piece of gear or not. I thought it would be interesting to hear from other people what their decision process is for making a purchase or determing it's not worth it. Do you insist on one in, one out? Do you not allow yourself to own more than one of a certain type of item? For me, I ask myself if I honestly think I will use the piece of gear enough to eventually wear it out; if the answer is not a definitive yes, then it will probably sit in my closet more than it gets used and it probably isn't worth it for me to buy it.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:05:34 MST Print View

For me it comes down to a mixture of price, durability and weight, I put a lot of research in to kit (maybe too much) and always try to buy on sale or via Gear swap.

I have dropped some serious coin this week on a new pack, GPS and Plb but other times I would go a long time without buying new kit.

Often If I am upgrading an item I will keep the "old" item until I am happy with the new one and then sell it on gear swap.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:06:54 MST Print View

My decision tree:

Do I want it?
Yes - then buy it!
No - Are you sure you don't want it. Huuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh?

Which branches to:
Yes, I'm sure - don't buy it.
No, I'm not sure - better buy it then until you make up your mind!

Whether or not I'll actually use it rarely enters in to my decision.....

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:13:22 MST Print View

I like to buy the thing, regret the purchase after limited use, and then hoard it in one of the 50 gal storage bins I have dedicated to backpacking gear. It isn't all bad, because I can easily outfit a small group of people from my gear and this has gotten several friends into backpacking.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:17:05 MST Print View

"and then hoard it in one of the 50 gal storage bins I have dedicated to backpacking gear"

That is why my wife calls it the backpacking museum.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:18:28 MST Print View

"I like to buy the thing, regret the purchase after limited use..."

Regret is for sissies.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:39:11 MST Print View

In recent years (within reason) if I have wanted something then I have got it. I usually find that I get good use out of most things over time or I can sell it if I don't. I also lend gear out to people. About ten years ago I got a Squall 2 and didn't use it for about eight years. However I now take it on all my father and son trips and used it on our first family trip. These trips have been amongst my best ever. I now have a pretty good set up all round and will be getting less new stuff in the future.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 16:57:46 MST Print View

I have a weakness for jackets and tops. I try never to have more than one of the same thing but its amazing how specific some of my categories are; for example there's a difference between a pullover fleece hoody and and full zip fleece hoody.

The same goes for other gear, I try not to have duplicates although the categories tend to be pretty specific there too. Poncho tarp is different than a duo cat tarp even though I'm the only one that uses either of them. If I really want to replace something I've already got I try to get rid of the one of I have. I also try to find good deals on used or previous models. My Borah Gear stealth is actually the most expensive single item I've ever bought for backpacking. Even the materials for my MYOG down quilt were less. I feel like I've been spending a lot of money on gear lately but when I come here I feel like a pretty sensible guy. Thanks everyone!


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 17:10:30 MST Print View

Do I need it? Yes, buy it.

Do I want it? Yes, buy it.

The decision tree is actually a little more complicated than that though. For instance, we could just get by with one two-person, 4-season tent, but since we often hike in the summer, and sometimes hike by ourself, we tend to have several tents so that we don't have to carry more weight than necessary for each trip. Ditto with stoves, pots, sleeping bags etc...and I need a bigger pack in winter than summer, plus a pack for day hikes. We have a lot of gear between us!!

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 18:18:49 MST Print View

"Regret is for sissies."

This is why I hide my regret from my girlfriend, and insist to her I need everything in my storage bins, even the 3 styles of pump water filters that I'd never use again; don't want her thinking I'm a sissy. But with you guys, I'm willing to come clean... as BPL is a safe place for backpacking equipment hoarders to admit they have a problem. One day I hope to post an FS, maybe I'll start small and sell off some cathole trowels.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 18:21:31 MST Print View

"as BPL is a safe place for backpacking equipment hoarders to admit they have a problem"

Sure, but you've got to join the program.

Okay, repeat after me: backpacking equipment hoarding is not a problem, it's an alternative lifestyle.....

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 18:30:14 MST Print View

I'm with Lynn.

Need it, get it.

Want it, get it

I allow the gear stockpiling to get to critical mass then sell off a whole bunch of stuff to fund the next wave of gotta have its.

A variety of tools at hand for particular tasks=not hoarding.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Sparkly things..... on 03/04/2013 18:40:35 MST Print View

It's cool!! Buy it!
It's new!! Buy it!!
It's an old stand it!!
Everyone else has it!!
No one else has it!!


Like a lot of other folks, I have enough leftover gear to outfit a troop of scouts. It's how I get people into backpacking (which isn't all that popular here in Chicago...imagine that!) and how I got my father BACK into it. That guy was still trying to use his national guard gear from 1972...

Edited by Jenmitol on 03/04/2013 18:41:15 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Guidelines for buying gear on 03/04/2013 18:41:05 MST Print View

I'm pretty happy with my kit, so more gear mostly feels like just that, more gear. If I felt like there was something I would use often, or something I was lacking that would help me accomplish a specific objective, I'd happily buy it. These days though, I think a lot more about collecting experiences over collecting stuff.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Guidelines for buying gear on 03/04/2013 19:14:10 MST Print View

"These days though, I think a lot more about collecting experiences over collecting stuff."


spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Guidelines for buying gear on 03/04/2013 19:26:57 MST Print View

I'm still at the point where I'm sussing out exactly what I want and need from a kit, so I own far more than I'm comfortable with. I research obsessively, buy on sale or swap, keep a buy list, a sell list, a keep list, and a try list with notes, from which, after reasonable testing, items get categorized as either sell or keep.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Guidelines for buying gear on 03/04/2013 19:57:58 MST Print View

can I make it myself?

yes - great!, another project!

no - hmmmm... I'm kind of a cheapskate...

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Guidelines for buying gear on 03/04/2013 20:38:28 MST Print View

--Travis's guidelines for buying gear--


Nahhh, I kid. I try to keep a minimal gear closet. The only reason I have two or more of something is to accommodate the season change. Most of the time if something comes in, something goes out. Speaking of, keep your eye out for a modular cuben shelter on Gear Swap. Gonna try out a new getup soon. But I make no promises....Muahahahaha.

But, if I made a bit more money, I'm sure I'd have another half-dozen shelters, including that new CB3 Henry has going on over there.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/04/2013 21:30:58 MST Print View

I don't buy new gear unless it's a necessary item to continue backpacking. I can rarely afford to drive places right now.

I find that it's nice to have enough extra gear to outfit a friend who is new to backpacking.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Good question on 03/05/2013 03:28:58 MST Print View

A much needed discussion, thanks to the author of the OP for starting it. I am a very critical consumer, and this is no different with backpacking gear. I try and do a fair amount of research before nearly all of my significant purchases, and very often try and buy used or discounted when possible.

Once I got my first basic UL (under 10lbs BW) gear list finished a few years ago (circa spring 2011), I went out and put it to the test. I made a lot of mental notes and learned quite a lot on trips, then I would come home and do research.

I think it is also worth adding that after going UL I would say my overall experience of going backpacking/camping/dayhikes/etc. went from "good" or say 6-7 out of 10 as a lightweight backpacker (20lb-11lb BW), to "great" or say 8-9 out of 10. My section hikes in summer/fall of 2012 were "excellent" or around 9-9.5 out of 10. I am now in the process of just fine tuning each of my gear systems, mostly focus on the two most used kits: my spring/fall or 3 season, and late spring to early fall 1+ season. Looking to maintain or improve things in the realm of "excellent" or that sweet spot of around 9.5 or over, 10 of course not existing (nothing is perfect, there are no essences--my existential influences are revealed).

A good example was my changes in backpacks. I made a MYOG backpack that was 445g, but was fragile and not the most comfy pack to haul. I did a lot of research and then finally settled on a Golite Jam because it was cheap, tough, and got pretty good reviews. Bought it new because I didn't yet trust gear swap as an alternative marketplace--my skeptical nature now reveals itself.

Took it out on lots of trips, but in doing research on backpacks in general, I learned about lighter ones that got the job done just as good if no better than the Jam. Observed gear swap at and reconsidered it as a way to buy gear. Finally settled on a MLD Exodus that was slightly used and on sale here on gear swap. Took it out on lots of trips, it carried weight nearly as good as the Jam, and I actually liked it much better over all, with certain features I felt were better (such as the shoulder straps and minimalist design). The Jam is now my urban backpack, and is great at it, because it can handle a lot of weight from books, laptop, groceries, etc.

Next problem was that while 50 liters volume is good for me during some trips and seasons, it was far too much for other trips and seasons. I needed a smaller backpack to use on overnight trips and 1+season section hikes, and I had also cut down on a lot of bulk and weight in the rest of my gear list anyhow. Because of several specific factors I wanted to address, and because it was in my price range, I decided to buy a new custom Zpacks Zero. Took it out on lots of trips, and between that and my Exodus, I feel no need for any more packs right now--they satisfy all my present needs, but this of course could change.

So my gear purchases are pretty methodical, and I am not interested in collecting gear or hording it, but putting most of it to frequent use. I recently picked up a Borah Bivy on gear swap after much consideration on fine tuning my 1+ season gear system (355g total for full rain/wind/bug/critter protection using tarp/bivy/ground cover, plus flexibility of being able to use bivy in trail shelters) of and look forward to taking it out and seeing how things go. My hope and expectation is that I can improve my trail section hike shelter system and stay or improve on that sweet spot of a general 9.5 out of 10 experience out there :)

EDIT: fixed typos, as usual

Edited by PrimeZombie on 03/05/2013 03:32:36 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Killjoy on 03/05/2013 07:58:06 MST Print View

Just kidding about that garbage about the experiences. My real strategy is as follows:

Want it? See if Doug buys it.
Wait three months.
Buy cheaply from Doug on gear swap.

Love the cuben duo I got a few years ago, and it even came with a snack

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 03/05/2013 08:15:13 MST Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 06/17/2013 19:56:32 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: on 03/05/2013 08:32:01 MST Print View

Thursday, baby! Gargantua to Devil's Chair.

(Can you tell I'm excited)

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 03/05/2013 08:35:04 MST Print View


Edited by rOg_w on 06/17/2013 19:57:04 MDT.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Rog on 03/05/2013 08:53:48 MST Print View

Usually wake at 1-2 am to make the drive. Planning to be at Gargantua Road somewhere between 8-10 am Thursday morning. I need to be home sometime Saturday before my kids bedtime. You are most welcome to join me. Stephen is unfortunately (or fortunately) celebrating his wife's birthday.

edit- sorry for the thread drift, folks. We'll continue this privately. We now return you to your regularly scheduled gear purchase programming.

Edited by Ike on 03/05/2013 09:01:20 MST.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Rog on 03/05/2013 08:59:46 MST Print View

Yep, wife birthday on thursday and could not get today off work.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Ike on 03/05/2013 09:00:52 MST Print View

Have fun man! Still available for PR?

Elijah Ziemann
(MrBlondyable) - F
Buying Process on 03/05/2013 10:22:39 MST Print View

I usually first realize that I need an item, then buy the best version of that item that I can afford. I generally don't buy any other item in that category. The exceptions are:

1. The redundant item is extremely affordable.
2. Sleeping bags. I sleep in 20 degree weather to 80 degree weather, so I have a 20F bag and a 45F bag.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/05/2013 11:49:31 MST Print View

The careful, conservative accountant's guide to new gear purchasing:
(1) See announcement of new xxx on BPL.
(3) Look at the manufacturer's website and drool over the specifications.
(3) Try to ignore because my current xxx works just fine.
(4) Read more raves on BPL and even on The Lightweight Backpacker, whose members are far less apt to run out and buy the latest thing. Keep doing this for a year.
(5) Recheck the manufacturer's website; keep remembering that the new xxx is almost a pound lighter than my current xxx.
(6) Set up a spreadsheet to calculate dollar cost per ounce of weight saved if I buy the new xxx. Factor in probable selling price of the old one.
(7) Since I haven't quite died of sticker shock from that exercise, order the new xxx.
(8) Set up the new xxx in my living room as soon as received and spend the night in it (while I can still send it back). Decide I really like it so far.
(9) Decide to hang on to the old xxx for a while until I've thoroughly tested the new one in the field. Plan to decide after a season of backpacking with the new xxx which one I want to keep.
(10) While over-training for the following summer, develop severe plantar fasciitis which keeps me off the trails for almost 9 months--so no tent testing in the field.
(11) Over a year after purchasing the new xxx, I still own two xxx's and haven't yet had a chance for thorough testing of the newer one. The one good thing is that the old xxx has been discontinued and is in high demand in the WTB columns of BPL, so I can probably get a higher price for it if I decide to sell. In the meantime I still have two of the darn things sitting here and, thanks to family circumstances (most of them fun, but not backpacking-related), won't be able to do any serious backpacking until mid- July. Hopefully by next fall I can make the decision?

I might as well have ignored the spreadsheet step, but at least the accountant in me is satisfied!

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/05/2013 12:26:31 MST Print View

Thanks for talking about shopping as it reminded me I needed to buy supplies from Pack It Gourmet :-)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
My Guidelines on 03/05/2013 13:03:05 MST Print View

Whatever it is needs to do well what it's meant to do.

Once the above is satisfied -- then I look for compact form, light weight, and simplicity. I am at the age where price is no longer a big factor -- particularly if the item stands head and shoulders above the rest.

I used to be a big gear slut, but not so much anymore. I feel I have my system pretty much "dialed in" for my kind of hikes. But even when I was a gear whore, I was also a minimalist at heart. I hated clutter -- so usually I bought to replace something else rather than adding to.

Edited by ben2world on 03/05/2013 13:07:39 MST.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
a helpful question to ask on 03/05/2013 14:01:11 MST Print View

Just asking the process question is IMO a really good start (akin to "the first step is admitting you have a problem ...").

Being a mostly right-brained anal-retentive type, it's very much about process for me. First is establishing what all of the criteria even *are*, including (in no particular order):

- Price
- Durability
- Weight
- Where/if I can store the damned thing at home
- What niche(s) if fills; how well can I or can I not do without it?
- related to the niche(s) question, is it generally useful outside of backpacking?
- Can I make it myself instead of buying?
- Can I buy a used one or a cheaper alternative that's nearly as good?
- what feature(s) make this unique or better than alternatives and how important are they?

Then it's a matter of prioritizing and weighting the criteria. Doing this on paper (or with electrons) really helps me evaluate stuff more objectively.

Obviously I'm not going through this for buying a couple of tent stakes or the like (probably not ...).

Closely related issues for me are establishing whether I'm even aware of all of the credible alternatives for a given item, and getting objective reviews of the item (and best alternatives) from intelligent/experienced folks.

The downside to all of this is that it's more work; typically if I'm interested enough though, it's sort of fun work. The upside is that I've done pretty well with gear selection, am pretty happy with most of what I've purchased over the years.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Decision making process at the Bloom house on 03/05/2013 14:21:37 MST Print View

"Cool I'm finally ready to order that ULA Ohm 2.0"

"Thing 2 needs goalie skates"

"Goalie skates are different than regular hockey skates? Why didn't I know this?"

Two weeks to a month later...

"Well I think I want the Circuit now so good thing I waited. Purchasing ruck in 3... 2..."

"My car needs a brake job."

"Didn't we just buy that thing?"

"A year ago, used, and I put >40k miles per year on my vehicle due to my job."

Two weeks to a month later....

etc. etc.

BLUF this gives me ample time for product research and I've learned not to hesitate when I have a window of opportunity to pick up new gear.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Decision Making Process on 03/05/2013 14:52:32 MST Print View

My process is first to identify the catagory of items that I need and define the attributes of that category. Then buy 1 item for each category and if buying a new item it replaces an item in the old category. I keep 1 full backup set of kit to lend out of most items.

My gearlists are actually listed in type of product rather than the actual items which makes comparing different options easier.

It also allows me to obsess over spreadsheets in two different ways. First what types of items should be on my gear list and then what item should fill each type. As I write down my thought process it seems a little obsessive.

The other thing I do is keep track of the cost per night of each item. I figure since overhauling to a light wieght kit I have spent about $1200 and gone out about 20 nights each year over the past few years. That takes my gear cost per night to $30. My goal is to have that number drop each year.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
A big change on 03/05/2013 14:57:48 MST Print View

I pretty much locked into my gear two years ago so I only replace items when they wear out. (I but a lot of shoes). I did buy a few items for more serious winter camping but now purchased it will follow the same wear out strategy. I no longer get any thrill out of buying new gear. I guess I'm the party pooper!

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/05/2013 16:50:03 MST Print View

Process goes like this...

1) Want it or need it - buy it. I work hard so I buy things if it suits me. Love a deal though.

2) Big ticket item guidelines - purchase discretely and let it show up at home. Wife's fury lasts 3-4 hours maximum. After the storm has passed, take item to man cave and become giddy. Last item purchased in this manner: WM Ultralight. It was worth it.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 03/05/2013 16:54:16 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: What are your guidelines for buying gear? on 03/05/2013 17:24:14 MST Print View

>"After the storm has passed, take item to man cave and become giddy. "

You need a separate delivery chute or mailbox with instructions to the carrier "leave in man cave repository".

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
simple procedure on 03/05/2013 18:05:00 MST Print View

Now that my son is in college my gear buying guidlelines have become much simpler:
1)Ogle new gear.
2)Remember size of tuition check.
3)Sigh and turn away.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
look for friends with expensive hobbies on 03/06/2013 09:07:13 MST Print View

In terms of getting spousal approval (or at least acceptance) of gear purchases, I find it extremely helpful to have friends with really expensive hobbies. Seek out and befriend one or two people like this just as cover ...

When I point to one friend who races expensive cars, or another who has a big fancy boat, and point out that I could replace all of my backpacking gear with new state-of-the-art stuff annually and not approach their annual $$ outlay, the issue just seems to be put in a different context.

I guess the other idea is to have a spouse who is also a backpacker. The catch there is that occasionally when I find a new piece of gear that I really want, it ends up costing double --- as she gets one too.

But I really do have all the gear I could ever need now. Really.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: What are your guidelines for buying gea on 03/06/2013 10:56:29 MST Print View

I have the same problem as Brian.

My wife and I always go backpacking together, so any purchase means buying two of the same or similar item. I don't think I'd get away with purchasing something just for me.

Come to think of it, I've purchased items just for her, and that was fine...what's wrong with this picture...?

HElinTexas C
(Helintexas) - MLife
Buying new gear on 03/06/2013 17:56:40 MST Print View

Step 1. ....see article on gear or a reference to a piece of gear.

Step2 ......start googling every single reference to the piece of gear, no matter how obscure

Step 3 ..... Stare critically at current version of gear

Step 4........continue reading obsessively about new gear. Study the specs until know them by heart

Step. 5. ......think About how lightweight my kit will now be by cutting that additional xxx ozs.

Step 6 .... Figure the cost per oz. think again that hiking will be so MUCH better with new gear

Step 7..... Break down cost spread over the 10 years I clearly will be using said new pice of gear

Step 8..... Go stare at all the gear that now fills my large walk in closet and agree that new gear will fit perfectly

Step 9 ......reaffirm that hiking will be so much better with new gear

Step 10.... Buy gear

Kelly G
(KellyDT) - F
My guidelines on 03/10/2013 12:17:42 MDT Print View

My guidelines are simple.
1. How much is hubby's snowmobile payment, insurance, repairs and fuel?
2. Buy what I want.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
New stuff!!! on 03/13/2013 15:52:31 MDT Print View

I have a very scientific meathod for deciding if i am going to buy a new piece of gear

First step- look at current gear and decide if I already have said item.
Second setp- If I dont I buy it. If you have it refer to step three.
Third step- If you already have it decide if you want 2

note- If an Item is same model but a new design its not the same item to me :0)