With all the talk of the 'dirtbag lifestyle', outdoor gear can be eye-wateringly steep price tags. If you only have a limited budget, I've got recommendations on few key items to splurge on to keep you outdoors for longer.
While spending within a budget is important, it is just as important to choose the right outdoor clothing – otherwise it might cause you to end up disliking the sport, not to mention injuries or illness. Listed below are the most important items to spend a bit extra on, followed by items you can be more 'economic' about:
Anyone that spends hours outdoors knows the importance of a waterproof coat. When looking for a waterproof jacket, look for one with a breathable membrane, such as Rab’s E-vent technology or the renowned Gore-Tex. Basically, these jackets have a thin film of plastic-like substance between the inner and outer layers that bears lots of small holes. These holes are small enough that water cannot penetrate it, but big enough that air molecules can pass through, allowing any hot air caused by exercise to ‘breathe’ through the jacket and prevent excessive sweating.
Cheaper jackets will be covered in a laminate coating on their surface. This will cause water to bead and glide off, but is not permanent and will need relaminating after awhile. This also means no breathability, essentially trapping heat exerted through exercise close to your body and producing sopping wet base layers as a result. Unless you are looking for something compact to throw on while walking the dog, don’t be tempted with the cheap prices of laminate coats – you will thank yourself later!
Your feet are what get you up and down those mountains and trails, and they won’t thank you if you force them to do it in shoddy footwear. Hiking boots come in a very wide range of sizes and widths, and walking in the wrong shoes can cause serious damage to your feet. I have written previously on how to choose the right boots, so make sure you give it a read before visiting a store!
Rucksacks can come in a wide range of sizes, features and quality, which also means pricing can vary wildly. Before buying a rucksack, decide how you plan to use it and pick one that contains features that match your needs. Most importantly, choose one that fits well. A poorly-fitted rucksack can cause extreme back, shoulder and hip injuries, and the last thing you want to happen is your bargain-bucket rucksack to break and lose all your belongings in the middle of nowhere.
I can say I have learnt not to scrimp on these items from my own first foray into hiking. Being a relatively poor student and taking on the Ten Tors challenge, I decided to save myself some cash and buy the cheapest rucksack available.
All seemed to go well, until the day before my team were supposed to take on the Ten Tors challenge. In the middle of a field in Dartmoor, the bottom of my bag decided to give, unceremoniously spewing my possessions over a particularly muddy patch of ground. We managed to patch it up, but uncertainty over how long this quick-fix would last loomed like an overcast cloud in my mind as we began hiking.
So where can you afford to save some money on outdoor clothing?
We are talking about basic fleeces here, not the non-pulling, temperature regulating fleeces you will find in the mountaineering and climbing sections of stores. Fleeces are made essentially from the same fabric, but some might be more soft than others depending on the quality of the fabric and whether it’s been treated. Technically speaking however, there’s no difference between the £80 basic designer fleece that you catch non-skiers posing in by the chalet bar, and the bog-standard £20 range you can find in most outdoor stores.
Base layers are important outdoor clothing. They help transfer sweat off the body and through the layers. But these too can cost upward of £40 or more, and if you are doing any multi-day treks then multiple purchases can easily add up. If you need to save a bit of money, then look at wearing any tops you already own that are manufactured from man-made materials. These are more breathable than cotton, and will help transfer it through your layers, but you will be quite smelly by the end of your trek!