Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter

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?

Print Jump to Reader Comments

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


"Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style," by Benjamin Roode. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2010-12-07 00:00:00-07.


Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Remember my login info.

Lightweight Backpacking, Wal-Mart Style
Display Avatars
Sort By:
folecr 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.


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

Kevin Haskins
(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) - F

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

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.

Kevin Haskins
(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.

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 :)

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 T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
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

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.