Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style

I love gear, but I hate paying for it. Could I get a lightweight shelter, pack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad for under $100? And if I could... how long would it last me?

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by Benjamin Roode | 2010-12-07 00:00:00-07

Introduction

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style - 1My Wal-Mart test kit.

Part of me loves gear. Lots of me hates paying for it.

When it comes to lightweight backpacking, why is cost so often the factor that weighs down a would-be hiker or torments an outdoorsperson looking for replacement gear? Space-age fabrics and titanium everything do loads to lessen your weight, but do an even better job lightening your pocketbook.

There are ways to skirt the cost, but they aren't always the most efficient. Searching for end-of-season sales might save a few dollars, but puts you at the mercy of the stuff no one wanted for the season that just ended. Making your own gear is preferable, but tough when it comes to fashioning your own backpack, sleeping bag, or tent (if you want one).

I rolled this problem around in my head one day when getting ready for a weekend hike. I was making my food list when it dawned on me: where does everyone go for the cheapest stuff they can find?

Of course: Wal-Mart!

After my epiphany, I set over to Wally World (and to their online store) to see if $100 would outfit me for a good, lightweight hike. I focused on four things: a pack, a tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. Those are usually the most expensive items a lightweight hiker needs on each trip (food, mess, and clothing/footwear are all much more subjective in my opinion).

My mission: outfit myself with these four pieces of equipment for $100 or less.

Method

I scoured Wal-Mart's website and store to find a backpacking outlay that most closely matched my getup for the times I've trekked the Appalachian Trail (no thru hikes, just a few section hikes). I succeeded in outfitting a rig that actually weighed less than my standard getup. I also noted that Wal-Mart's huge stores have opportunities to find alternate items that can easily be converted into lightweight hiking gear.

Initial Findings

Weight is the top priority, and looking at the labels on many of the products I picked up doesn't help. In almost every case, the items I bought at Wal-Mart were mislabeled when it came to weight. For example, the backpack weighed 3.4 pounds instead of the listed 6.4 pounds. A great find, yes, but some of that weight must have come out of the hip belt and shoulder strap cushions. A lack of internal dividers may have also contributed.

Other mislabeled weights:

  • Wenzel Starlight Tent: Listed 3.4 lb / 1.5 kg; Actual 2.8 lb / 1.3 kg
  • Ozark Trail 3lb Sleeping Bag: Listed 3.0 lb / 1.4 kg; Actual 2.6 lb / 1.2 kg

Another thing to note is that Wal-Mart's supplies look like they wouldn't last more than a week on the trail. I guess durability is something you sacrifice when you're looking exclusively at cost.

Comparisons

Backpack: Stansport "Willow" Internal Frame Backpack 75L

Weight: 3.4 lb / 1.5 kg

Cost: $35 on sale, online

Support: Compared to both my Cerro Torre and my modified Columbia day-pack, this bag has little to no support. It's an internal frame, and it has more internal room than my biggest long-hike pack - both things I didn't expect to find at Wal-Mart. The straps will begin to dig in pretty quickly, especially if you overload this bag, which is tempting due to its large single interior compartment. The internal frame itself is light, which is good, but the whole bag seems flimsy, and repeated or long-term use will take its toll quickly. It rests well on the body, but the thin straps mean you have to really tie it onto yourself to get a good feel out of it.

Space: I could fit all of the Wal-Mart gear (tent, pad, bag, mess, stove) into this bag. The thin wall fabric meant difficulty in organizing and balancing the pack, but this fabric also cut down on weight.

Strength: Those thin walls don't inspire confidence for the long trail. This cheap pack will last about as long as you'd think $35 would last for a larger backpack. Zippers are also a concern, but they're not the worst I've seen on a backpack.

Overall: I liked the pack and would use it for a 2-3 day journey. Problem is, I don't see it lasting much longer after that. Good beginner pack that I believe would help a friend get an initial feel for backpacking.

Tent: Wenzel Starlight Backpacker Tent

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style - 2

Weight: 2.8 lb / 1.3 kg

Cost: $24

Ease of setup: This tent needs to be staked and comes with standard pin stakes. You can easily substitute lighter stakes for this shelter. The rain fly is cumbersome to get on with one person. You might get a little frustrated with the classic design (not a dome tent), but we're talking weight and economy here, not aesthetics.

Room: Lots of room inside, though I couldn't share it comfortably with my wife, despite the packaging's assurances that two can sleep in it. Great for a solo hike if you prefer an actual shelter.

Rain: Make sure to seal this tent, and all tents, before use.

Overall: It's a good weight for a good price ($24) if you want to take a tent. Problem is, if you're experienced, you can make a nice tarp shelter for much less weight and less money. A beginner might not want to worry about advanced lean-to-ism, so this is a good option (Note: both Wal-Mart and Target have several backpacking tent options both in-store and online).

Sleeping Bag: Ozark Trail 3lb Sleeping Bag

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style - 3

Weight: 2.6 lb (surprise!) / 1.2 kg

Cost: $9

Comfort: I performed this experiment in the summer, so this bag was not comfortable for me personally – too warm. I'm sure up a mountain this 45 F (7 C) bag would be fine. Easy to get into, easy to get out. Not for cooler weather, as this is a standard rectangular bag.

Compressibility/storage: The bag leaves a lot to be desired in compressibility. The new version has a lot of loft, but it doesn't get much smaller than the bag it comes in (it's not a compression bag, either). Tying it with shoelaces or extra para-cord for other uses helps, but I'd like it to get smaller.

Overall: It's a sleeping bag. If you play your cards right, it can help, but this is an area where going with a more expensive, lighter, and more easily compressible item will pay big dividends.

Sleeping Pad: Wenzel 71x24 inch (180x61 cm) Sleeping Pad

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style - 4

Weight: 1.2 lb / 0.5 kg

Cost: $10

Comfort: This is a standard foam pad without egg crate bumps or inflation. There is minimal support and comfort on ground, pavement, or hardwood flooring.

Compressibility/storage: The pad rolls up just like any other pad and is not very compressible.

Overall: A good simple pad. Another case where, if you're just starting out, you might want to invest a bit more in a lighter pad with more support, possibly an inflatable one. If you're feeling creative, you can cut strips off this standard pad and reinforce the shoulder straps of your bag for more shoulder comfort. You won't be losing much from the pad.

Results

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style - 5

Total Weight: 10 lb / 4.5 kg

Total Cost: $78

The gear performed well on my one-night jaunt on the trail. The tent set up OK and proved to be roomy enough to enjoy. 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. The bag kept me warm (when I was in it) but I tend to be a warm sleeper anyway, so I kept it open most of the night. It was soft and felt like it would insulate pretty well at the 45 F (7 C) rating. The sleeping pad was a standard thin sleeping pad. I normally use an inflatable pad, so this foam-only version was a little less plush. It did insulate from the ground well and kept roots or the odd stone (which I found under the tent after my test) from poking into me. The bag sat well on a SUBSEQUENT three-mile side hike DURING THE TRIP and had plenty of room for clothing, first aid, food, cooking, and even entertainment. The bag was by far the best buy of the kit: I'll be using it until it falls apart, now that I've reinforced the shoulder straps.

I'll be using this set-up for as long as it lasts, which I doubt will be very many trips. As the old adage goes: you get what you pay for. My estimate is that for this set-up, you're paying for about a week's worth of overnight backpacking, maybe two.

That's not to say this is a bad deal. Just as you might not buy long-term furniture or gourmet food at a Wal-Mart, you shouldn't expect top-of-the-line ultralight hiking gear. This is something to consider when weighing the cost versus the utility and longevity of these products. You're getting most of the things you need for a good hiking trip in one, cheap place. They'll work, and they'll last you through the trip. Think of it as paying for one night in a motel room. Here, however, you're getting a week in nature's hotel room.

It's a good set-up for shorter trips where you don't want to worry about ripping your gear or replacing it afterward. It would also be nice for beginner backpackers who aren't sure they are into the sport enough to spend the big bucks to get the better gear.

Wal-Mart Backpacking Gear

Does not include weight for food, clothing, or first aid.

  Listed Weight (lb / kg) Actual Weight (lb / kg) Price
Backpack 6.4 / 2.9 3.4 / 1.5 $35.00*
Tent 3.4 / 1.5 2.8 / 1.3 $24.00*
Sleeping Bag 3.0 / 1.4 2.6 / 1.2 $9.00
Sleeping Pad 1.0 / 2.2 1.2 / 0.5 $10.00
Total 13.8 / 6.3 10.0 / 4.5 $78.00
*Available online only.

Citation

"Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style," by Benjamin Roode. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lightweight_backpacking_wal-mart_style.html, 2010-12-07 00:00:00-07.

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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

kevperro .
(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
(MAYNARD76)

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:
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Allen-Company-Pack-Frame/15206100

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) - M

Locale: Cascadia
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
(JackPike)

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:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/motrails/message/9856

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:
http://www.trailspace.com/gear/outdoor-products/desert-ridge/review/15883/

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
(JackPike)

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
(JackPike)

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
(Knaushouse)

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.

D LARSON
(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"

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

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
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,
Lawson

kevperro .
(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
(toomanyarrows)

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

Eric,
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 http://walmartwatch.com 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: The Palouse
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.

kevperro .
(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.

PAUL RICHARDSON
(p178@aol.com) - 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.

Katharina ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

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

+1 Craig

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
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.



http://www.newrules.org/neumarkstudy.pdf

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

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
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.

folec r
(folecr) - M
other ways to get gear for less than $100 on 12/09/2010 13:44:59 MST Print View

1) ebay
2) build your own
3) thrift store/surplus store

all of them would get you better gear than what you can buy new at walmart/target/costco. With the added benefit that you could probably sell the gear for very close to what you paid for it.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
good point on 12/09/2010 14:17:31 MST Print View

I enjoyed the article. Just shows you what can be done. But the reuse of items is great for a variety of reasons!

I have no skills for myog but secondhand stores are alway a nice stop if you are on a budget. Same principle of looking outside your "box".

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Walmart on 12/09/2010 14:20:46 MST Print View

As seen from well outside America:

'Underpaid Asian labour': Nice rhetoric, but false. Underpaid with respect to American wages maybe, but competitive with respect to local Asian wages. Otherwise the factories would not get the workers - and note that Chinese wages are rising steadily due to labour demand.

'Wal-Mart puts local businesses out of work': That's called capitalism or competition, which seems to be a core ethic of American society - isn't it? Where's the beef?

'Wal-Mart prices are lower': So the bottom quarter of American society can afford a better standard of living by shopping at Wal-Mart rather than more-expensive shops. Where's the problem with that?

'Walmartwatch': why is it that when some company starts to be successful, a certain fraction of society wants to bash it back down?

My own 2c, not representing BPL in any way.

Cheers

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
china on 12/09/2010 14:56:58 MST Print View

just a few popular products among BPL members that are made in land of wokking the doggie ...

- zebralight
- some lightheart tents
- ice breaker
- montbell
- patagonia
- golite
- osprey (nammer doggies)

im sure there are tons of others

now you may say "hey my [favorite] company is different even though they make them in the dim sum factory, they help those poor people afford rice"

well let me ask you this ... have you seen their audit trail? ... how do you know that they arent made in sweatshops

so is it the reality or the perception that drives the attitude

kevperro .
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Other values at Wal-Mart on 12/09/2010 16:38:45 MST Print View

Other finds on the isle of Wal-Mart (I'll repeat my earlier one):

**Trekking Poles: $9.90 for singles with locking levers or $18.88/pr for the adjusting via compression collars.

**Ground Sheets: Painters drop sheets from 0.7mil-4mil

**Alcohol: Heet or denatured alcohol although I've not noticed better prices than some of the big-box home improvement stores. YMMV

**Silicon Spray: The 12oz. spray-on silicon treatment (home made DWR) works great. $4.85/can

**Gortex/DWR/Down Safe Detergent: 18 loads $4.85

**Boots! Yes.... I bought a pair of Herman Survivors for $37 at Wally World and they don't suck. They are certainly not ultra-lightweight but they are very servicable hiking boots. I don't have a ton of trail miles on mine yet but they comfortably replaced my much more expensive boots.

**Insoles: You have to experiment here with what your foot needs. This along with boots is HIGHLY dependent upon your foot, not someone else's.

**Garbage Bags & Zip Locks: I use fresh garbage bags on all my hikes for stuff sacks (one for down, another for clothing) because they are cheap, light weight and they can be good emergency vapor barriers. I also use them as garbage bags after coming home so they don't go to waste.

**Mountain House Meals: Dehydrated meals for $4.88-$7 each. Not a great deal but I always grab several for my hikes because they are easy.

**Bug Juice & Suntan lotion: Both in appropriate sized containers or buy the large size and squirt it into zip-locks.

**Head-lites: They have a good assortment of LED based lights now days that will clip on a hat bill. Cheap...$4-$9 and several versions that use standard AAA batteries for easy replacement.

** Hand Warmers! These are only a couple ounces and if you go out in the cold they can add a couple degrees of comfort to your bag. I throw two in my bag before crawling in at night.

That is all I can think of for now.

Edited by kevperro on 12/09/2010 16:43:32 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Re: differences on 12/10/2010 00:21:01 MST Print View

"dan ...

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


I said my cheap Wal-Mart pack died from blown stitching...not my normal stuff. Well made gear doesn't die from seam failure under normal use but poorly made gear does. The stitching was abnormally weak on this particular wal-mart pack so that even tightening straps to a reasonable tension led to seam tearing on a few occasions. Just something to watch out for if you're pushing the limits of low-cost gear.

As it relates to the discussion on responsible gear purchases....I don't really feel that bad about buying gear and then re-selling it if it doesn't fully suit my needs. Yes reselling incurs some environmental impacts in the form of fossil fuels, but I see the underlying problem here as a problem with our fossil fuel dependent transportation system, not with the practice of selling stuff that isn't quite right for me, to someone who it might be perfect for. Ideally we'd have a transportation system based on clean renewable energy so it didn't matter if we used it. Obviously we're not there yet, but we are moving in this direction (ie. Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf). I'll leave it at that since this is a huge potential discussion.

Edited by dandydan on 12/10/2010 00:23:23 MST.

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Locale: LawsonEquipment.com
Big Box Stores on 12/10/2010 10:57:59 MST Print View

Hey Roger,

>>>"'Underpaid Asian labour': Nice rhetoric, but false. Underpaid with respect to American wages maybe, but competitive with respect to local Asian wages. Otherwise the factories would not get the workers - and note that Chinese wages are rising steadily due to labour demand."

I am not sure what year your living in but there is no such thing as local labor rates anymore. Its just as easy if not easier to have something built in Asia as it is domestically. This means American and Australian workers are in direct competition with these underpaid Chinese workers. Their labor demand is rising while ours is shrinking.

>>>>"'Wal-Mart puts local businesses out of work': That's called capitalism or competition, which seems to be a core ethic of American society - isn't it? Where's the beef?

Its called CORPORATISM not capitalism. These companies grow through corruption, predatory business practices, and handouts from the government. This is the core ethic of GREED not America.

>>>>"'Wal-Mart prices are lower': So the bottom quarter of American society can afford a better standard of living by shopping at Wal-Mart rather than more-expensive shops. Where's the problem with that?

Wal-Mart's "low prices" come at a huge cost to the bottom quarter of American society. Essentially every time they spend a dollar at Wal-Mart they are that much closer to having their jobs outsourced.

kevperro .
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
This is getting Political on 12/10/2010 11:23:35 MST Print View

But since I use labor in Asia for my business I'll state that not all labor is the same. There are many disadvantages to using labor in another part of the world other than the obvious shipping/customs issues.

The cost issue is definitely swinging the other way also (a good thing). The bottom line is that most labor intensive jobs are by definition low-wage jobs in a free market. The only way to make them high-wage jobs is either when they require skill/education or when you artificially make them into high-wage jobs (Union, Govt. etc..). We were simply spoiled by the fact that we were the sole functioning industrial power after WWII and we had no competition. It wasn't a sustainable situation.

Going forward I think the best way for American's to compete is in micro-business entities. I don't think big companies are evil. They have their place in the economy but most of our innovation and job creation will come from small & mid-size companies that operate in niche categories. Big companies will always do best in commodity type practices.... where the size and scale of the company has to be big in order to effectively operate. They provide for an important part of the ecosystem though so don't assume they are just evil.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: This is getting Political on 12/10/2010 11:41:30 MST Print View

'Wal-Mart puts local businesses out of work': That's called capitalism or competition, which seems to be a core ethic of American society - isn't it? Where's the beef?

'Walmartwatch': why is it that when some company starts to be successful, a certain fraction of society wants to bash it back down?
----------------
I encourage competition. Ideally, competition increases quality, standards of business, and improves value. But, we all know that's not how it always works. Still, I encourage competition. Capitalism and competition is indeed a core American ideal. To a point. Here I diverge and continue with opinion and personal feelings that may not necessarily jive with facts or reality.

A healthy economy is one that competes, challenges, and grows. Most everyone benefits from a healthy economy. Yet, there are always winners and losers. Some succeed and some fail. That's a fact of life. When the scales start tipping too far for some business or individuals to even have the chance to succeed, then we start having problems.

When I see bailouts totaling upwards of $10 TRILLION dollars going to giant corporations and financial institutions that have been irresponsible and often downright criminal, but the number of people on food stamps is increasing (around 40 million had received food stamps in February!), things just don't seem right. Though Walmart hasn't received a bailout, the mood is set.

I'm personally tired of giant corporations (and government) having such a large market share that healthy competition ceases and monopolies reign. Small business struggling to make ends meet often fall against the likes of Walmart, which is the largest private employer in the world. They have more employees in the United States than there are Secondary school teachers. Walmart is out-gunning high school education in terms of manpower. And now we know why the likes of Justin Bieber, Sarah Palin, and shows like "The Bachelor Pad" are popular. A de-emphasis on education and an ever increasing emphasis on consumerism makes this a failing state.

"The foundation of every state is the education of its youth." -Diogenes

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: This is getting Political on 12/10/2010 11:48:34 MST Print View

Kevin, welcome to the winter wars! Basically, when winter rolls around, people aren't backpacking as much and there is an increase of heavy topics here on BPL. I'd say that 95% of the time intense discussion is never personal even when there are two or more opposing camps. There are just a lot of really smart people here who enjoy a healthy conversation/debate. We just see more of that in winter.

Well, that's my take on it.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Big Box Stores on 12/10/2010 13:19:02 MST Print View

Hi Lawson

In spirit of free debate ...

> there is no such thing as local labor rates anymore.
Is there no such thing as a 'minimum wage' in America? We have one in Australia.

> American and Australian workers are in direct competition with these underpaid Chinese workers.
True, but that has nothing to do with Wal-mart. It has to do with global communications and global transport. Well, you can't put that one back in the box. And there was a time when America thought that raising the standard of living of all those third-world countries would be a Good Thing: it would reduce the risk of unrest and increase the market for American goods.

> Its called CORPORATISM not capitalism.
I am not sure I can see the difference. It seems to me that it is just human nature to want to expand, grow, compete. And don't forget: these companies do not exist as separate things: they actually reflect the wishes of their shareholders. And ultimately, the 'shareholders' are the American people. Yep: it is Joe Public who ultimately drives the actions of all these companies.
So it is Joe Public's GREED which is driving all these companies. And it was Joe Public's actions in spending more than he was earning which ultimately drove the GFC too. OK, the politicians allowed the banks to reduce their capital requirements and the Fannie Mays to give mortgages to people who could never repay them - but that was pandering to the Joe Public voters as well.

> Wal-Mart's "low prices" come at a huge cost to the bottom quarter of American society. Essentially every
> time they spend a dollar at Wal-Mart they are that much closer to having their jobs outsourced.
I cannot see that the two things are linked that way. The low prices of Wal-mart benefit far more people than it costs: Wal-mart serves far more customers than the number of employees it has.
As to the outsourcing thing: that has nothing to do with Wal-mart per se: as I pointed out above it is a consequence of global communications and global transport. Most American companies are outsourcing to meet the dividend returns demanded by their shareholders - Joe Public again.

My 2c.
Cheers

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
bailouts on 12/10/2010 13:50:42 MST Print View

Travis ...

I don't think any of the big box retailers have received bailouts at all. They are probably some of the more viable american businesses. One should not be buying GM or Chrysler, banking at BOA or Citi (or tons of other banks), etc ... if you are concerned about public bailouts.

The day wallymart goes on TARP is the day america ends ....

justin biebler is awwwwwsuuuuum ... lol

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/10/2010 13:51:16 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: bailouts on 12/10/2010 15:12:57 MST Print View

Nope, I don't think any retailers had bailouts either. I did mention that about Walmart in my other post. However, McDonalds got $203 million of bailout money!

And yeah, we know you love the Beibster! :)

Ryan Longmire
(longmire) - MLife

Locale: Tejas
Re: Re: This is getting Political on 12/11/2010 08:44:36 MST Print View

Way to link Walmart to the rise of Justin Bieber. The logic is infallible. ;)

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
some of the problems with walmart include public assistance on 12/11/2010 09:16:45 MST Print View

Walmart actually has employees tasked with assisting other employees receive public assistance--this is what they have chosen to do instead of paying sufficient salaries and giving sufficient benefits to their employees. Because of their low wages, high percentage of part-time workers, and lack of benefits, a significant percentage of their employees are eligible for public assistance.

Congress completed a study several years ago of the economic impact of Walmart on small town economies. The conclusion was grim. Walmart has a net negative effect on small town economies. Their jobs displace jobs that were and would be higher paying, but more importantly, because of their centralized source and delivery systems, the local Walmart siphons money out of the local economy. Usually, every dollar introduced into a locality passes a certain number of hands before leaving that economy--there is usually a fairly consistent math for this. When I took Economics many years ago, the example number given was seven--each dollar passes seven hands before leaving a community. Money spent at Walmart has a staggeringly disproportionate tendency to leave the local economy right away, a very small percentage of it remaining in the local economy in the form of wages; most of it is siphoned off to Walmart headquarters. Once ensconced in a small town market, it has a self perpetuating effect. As the local economy is continually weakened, there is less and less numerical chance of any competition forming and more chance of any remaining competition going out of business, while more and more people are forced to do a higher percentage of their shopping at Walmart.

Walmart's record of employee mistreatment is now a thing of legend--they have set a new low standard for illegal practices relating to employement standards.

The existence and success of business models like Costco make Walmart's argument that they are only doing what they have to do to compete absolute B.S. Costco continues to remain highly profitable while having a high percentage of full-time employees with good benefits packages. They have very few employee suits or complaints to deal with. Their approach to prescription drugs is a case in point highlighting their wise, ethical approach to business that is in sharp contrast to Walmart's--at Costco, they decided that all prescription drugs would be sold for the same standard profit markup as anything else in the store, rather than the 500% to 900% markup that is standard at Walmart and other pharmacies. They did this in part as a way to help their older clients on medicare, which has a pretty high co-pay for prescriptions. A federal study a few years back determined that prescription drugs at Costco average 40-70% lower cost than at any other pharmacies. As an example, we buy a drug for a cat with a systemic fungal infection that would cost about $90 per month at Walmart or any other pharmacy. It is $12 per month at Costco after the additional $2 discount they give us because the prescription is for a pet.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
If you are really looking for an unbelievable bargain on 12/11/2010 09:59:01 MST Print View

just step right up :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByomIJf5n9w

Dan Feldman
(podin04) - F
Fantastic concept, but worry about recommendation for newbies on 12/12/2010 08:21:29 MST Print View

Allow me to bring this thread back to the article for a sec....

I really enjoyed reading this. It's a topic I've often thought about when wandering the outdoors section of WalMart....Could this $10 nylon jacket perform just as well as my pac-lite? Or will it leak like a sieve and fall apart?

In the world of backpacking gear, cost, quality, and satisfaction don't move in lockstep. This is because, outside of basic manufacturing quality standards, "good gear" is a very much a subjective concept. The most high tech, expensive, brand name backpack may suit one person perfectly and be cumbersome to another. Likewise, a flimsy, cheapo pack might make an ultralighter totally content, while frustrating someone who needs more cushioning to be comfortable. This, unfortunately, adds a lot of complexity to gear shopping for newbies, who must wade through gear reviews and blogs before making an educated guess and hoping for the best. Outweighing this negative, though, is the fact that with a little extra research one can find really great gear for a steal of a price.

I appreciate the cautious conclusion the author makes. Gear at WalMart can be expected to fail fairly quickly. While good quality gear can be had at a low price, I think we can all agree that there is a certain price point for new gear at which quality will be consistently poor. The author is realistic in his view that the gear he bought will probably last no longer than two weeks. With WalMart, you gotta keep expectations low.

I disagree with the point that WalMart gear is a good place for newbies to start. This is because one cold, shivering night in a leaky WalMart tent or a day spent hiking in a leaky rain jacket might be enough to turn a first-timer away from backpacking permanently. My guess is that most newbies don't have the interest or skill in rigging up their own rain fly. I'd perhaps alter this recommendation by saying WalMart is a good place to start to find gear that isn't responsible for keeping one warm and dry.

My suggestion for newbies would be to do some research and then try to obtain the gear on EBay or Craigslist. With either of these methods you might still get stuck with something that is broken (although someone with a good seller rating is pretty reliable), but I think there's a better chance of having a dry night's sleep for a low price than with WalMart gear.

Edited by podin04 on 12/12/2010 08:34:54 MST.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: If you are really looking for an unbelievable bargain on 12/12/2010 08:32:16 MST Print View

Such an F'n unbelievable song Cary, thanks for reminding me.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: Fantastic concept, but worry about recommendation for newbies on 12/12/2010 09:40:07 MST Print View

I've come across a whole Wal-Mart setup on the Lost Coast that someone just left behind. Wasn't worth it to them to carry out the tent, sleeping bag, pad and stove(two-burner). Had to be newbies.

Edited by kthompson on 12/12/2010 13:02:01 MST.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Fantastic concept, but worry about recommendation for newbies on 12/12/2010 12:44:30 MST Print View

Ken,
Though not terribly commonplace, that's the sort of disposibility that I dislike with really cheap gear. I know that is all some people can afford, so much of it comes down to personal responsibility.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
wallymart on 12/12/2010 14:56:15 MST Print View

i actually think that big box stores are the bet place to start for certain things ... like underwear and midlayers and socks and gloves

keep in mind that quite a few folks that work outdoors buy clothes at big box stores ... the clothes should last quite a while ...

ive never had to return any clothing to a big box store yet ... the wallymart and costco underwear is still going strong

home depot gloves last longer than a lot of those fancy outdoor gloves for a fraction of the price ...

i might just have to go buy a wallymart 29$ daypack ... thats weights 28 oz and has an aluminum stay and test it till destruction ...

the one the folks here seem to have no issue with ...http://www.bplite.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2498

someone also reviews their $30 Arrowhead 50L 2.25 lb pack positively here ..

http://at-trail.blogspot.com/2010/03/hiking-backpack-outdoor-products.html

i suspect there's a definite snob factor at work here ... hell there was a snob factor with one of the REI threads a bit back ;)

Edited by bearbreeder on 12/12/2010 14:58:42 MST.

Frank Steele
(knarfster) - F

Locale: Arizona
Great article on 12/29/2010 14:55:19 MST Print View

nice to see that you can drop weight without dropping loads of cash (Wish I had tried that)

As for the wahhh "Walmart treats its employees bad" crowd. If they don't like their job, quit, simple as that.

DAVID DUBE
(zerodaze)

Locale: American Southwest
Keep it real on 01/01/2011 18:28:52 MST Print View

The late Harvey Butchart was a determined explorer of the Grand Canyon, logging some 12,000 miles and 1,000 days, summiting its peaks and finding new ways to get from the rim to the river. He did it wearing K-Mart boots and backpacks. He wouldn't know what to do in an REI.

On principal I abhor Walmart for the many reasons already cited. But let us keep it real. Consumerism is a disease, yet it has lifted many millions out of poverty - at a very high cost to the planet. I visit and hike the Grand Canyon several times a year. It is a ten hour drive each time. I know that the relative merits of my frugal miserly ways of making my own gear and babying it to last me a lifetime (and buying local) hardly makes up for my transportation to get me to trailheads.

Greg Geiger
(ghgeiger) - F

Locale: Appalachian Trail
more goodies on 02/15/2011 13:10:44 MST Print View

I just wanted to chime in with some more goodies that are available at walmart.

- 5/8" CCF sleeping pads for $5

- 250 gram coleman isobutane canisters for $4.50

- Nite-Ize S-Biners in SS and plastic, multiple sizes for $2+ (I've seen these in both the camping section and the hardware section next to screws and picture hangers)

and my personal favorite...

- Sawyer .1 micron water filter element w/water bottle for $40 (I ditched the bottle & use the filter in a gravity setup)

Nathan Baker
(Slvravn) - MLife

Locale: East Coast - Mid Atlantic
Re: more goodies on 02/15/2011 13:18:05 MST Print View

Greg - do you know how much the sawyer filter weighs from the bottle combo? Thanks

Greg Geiger
(ghgeiger) - F

Locale: Appalachian Trail
sawyer weight on 02/15/2011 13:48:36 MST Print View

Mine weighs in at 69 grams or 2.43 ounces.

Nathan Baker
(Slvravn) - MLife

Locale: East Coast - Mid Atlantic
Re: sawyer weight on 02/15/2011 16:45:36 MST Print View

Thank you Greg. It appears to be a bit heavier than the inline, but a few dollars cheaper too.

Greg Geiger
(ghgeiger) - F

Locale: Appalachian Trail
water weight on 02/16/2011 08:46:21 MST Print View

I realized last night that I had stored it wet, so I dried it out overnight and reweighed it. It now weighs in at 62.6 grams or 2.21 ounces. It's possible that there's still a little bit of water in there, but then again, when you're on the trail it's going to be wet anyways.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
more goodies on 02/16/2011 09:08:08 MST Print View

Sams and probably walmart also carry Cuddle-Duds which are technically speaking Ahem.... marketed to women. they are VERY light, comfortable next to skin, and hit the sweet spot for me on adding warmth without too much insulation for high exertion. The V-neck top in a size M which I can wear and I wear a mens lg ( the stuff is very stretchy and I wanted a snug fit) weighs 3.7 oz. A lg hoodie which I've really enjoyed this winter weighs 6.7 oz and we're talking anywhere from $10.00 on clearance at Sams to @$20.00 per piece full retail. Cuddle duds has a very thorough website you can google if interested but no mention of weight. I think pants weigh @ 5oz. I cut a pair off just at the knee and they weigh 3.1.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Cuddle Duds warmth on 02/16/2011 11:00:33 MST Print View

FYI for those that want to try them, my wife says CDs are clearly not as warm as Capilene 2 from 2 years ago.

James S
(HikinNC) - F
Buying the cottage on 02/16/2011 12:10:57 MST Print View

Buy what you can afford and what keeps you safe and having fun. Snobbery is more costly than any gear I'll ever afford. As others have said before me, Walmart isn't even close to being the devil. If you don't want to shop there - don't. Problem solved.

obx hiker
(obxcola) - MLife

Locale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
cuddle duds warmth on 02/16/2011 12:17:08 MST Print View

that sounds right. I first looked at them as a very light sleeping layer, bag liner thing; which btw the mld momentum 50 liner looks like a weight saving temp boosting solution to that concern, but found them fine for a high activity level layer. They are very open, almost like hosiery, and seem to work like a cross between a woven layer and more of a fishnet air pocket effect. Put it this way you wouldn't wear them alone unless it was pretty warm. The cuddle-duds website for ex doesn't really display or expose the sheer nature of the material. If it did there would be modesty issues.

Jim Morrison
(Pliny) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Tarp shelter for less money and less weight? on 02/27/2011 22:05:17 MST Print View

You mentioned a tarp shelter might cost less and weigh less. Can you direct me to a place that advertises one or give me a brand name?

Greg Geiger
(ghgeiger) - F

Locale: Appalachian Trail
Re: Tarp shelter for less money and less weight? on 02/28/2011 16:02:21 MST Print View

I was browsing the camping section of walmart this afternoon and saw a product that I've never seen before. A 5x7 urethane coated nylon backpacking tarp made by Outdoor Products for $9.88. I weighed it (in the produce section ;)) & it came in right at 8 ounces with the stuff sack & tag. I'd say that it was about 7" long and 4" diameter in it's stuff sack. I would guess that it's somewhere in the 70 denier range.

Here's a pic:Outdoor Products 5x7 tarp

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style on 04/25/2011 07:39:51 MDT Print View

Another thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is Outdoor Products 3-pack of dry sacks for $10. I use the larger green one as my food bag with an OpSak inside it. It seems pretty airtight and water resistant at least.

Another find is braided catfish line. All but one spool (and the mason's line) they sell is twisted, but this 1 spool I believe was 100 lb (~1.5mm) and braided.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
3.4 oz, $5.88 Packable Daypack on 06/07/2011 23:23:16 MDT Print View

Outdoor Products Packable Daypack

Wal-Mart Packable Daypack

I spotted this at my local Wally World today. Couldn't resist, at least it's an excuse to take a short hike.

Edited by Coldspring on 06/07/2011 23:29:45 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Polycro on 06/08/2011 06:45:11 MDT Print View

I guess this hadn't been mentioned here before either. You can get window film kits (polycro) near the paint and tool area. The normal window kit should give you 6 sheets of 5x6 for $9. Mine currently has them marked down to $5. They also have large door kits that are 7x10 that could be used as a very light albeit see-through tarp. That was marked down to $4.50.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Re: Tarp shelter for less money and less weight? on 06/08/2011 07:41:31 MDT Print View

I found myself at the 'Mart a few weeks ago and curiosity got the best of me...

Stitching and material is good; grommets are the weak point, it seems.

(My first time pitching a 'tarp' - quick and easy. I can dig that!)

I was actually surprised that there was not more separation from the other
grommets; this was the worst one.
Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Edited by AaronMB on 06/08/2011 07:55:54 MDT.

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
Wal Mart has good finds on 07/27/2011 22:14:37 MDT Print View

Here's what I buy at WalMart:

1) Sturdy cotton khaki hiking shorts- $10-lasts for five years and I wear them nearly every day.

2) Hiking pole- I bought a red, collapsible pole 12 years ago and it has supported my poncho "hooch" many times, walked many a mile, and even regrettably killed a rattlesnake that wouldn't slither away after giving it plenty of opportunities to escape in a campsite loaded with 12 year old Scouts.

3) CA Fishing license- REI and the local sporting goods stores don't sell them. Why not?

4) Coffee percolator-French press coffee on a camping trip is a way too girly-man for me.