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Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ve likely noticed the sky-high prices of most backpacking gear. For example, a high-quality pair of hiking boots can cost twice as much as regular boots, and an outdoor backpack is significantly more expensive than a gym bag or school backpack. So, why is this the case?
The reasons why backpacking gear is so expensive are:
- Ultra-lightweight gear is pricier
- Water-resistant coatings aren’t cheap
- Adding UV resistance hikes the price
- Outdoor gear is durable and made to last
- Popularity drives the costs higher
- Low-end gear is bad, and high-end brands take advantage of it
- Well-known companies increase their prices
- Extra amenities are significantly more costly
Throughout this article, we’ll break down the primary reasons backpacking gear is so expensive. We’ll also provide a handful of suggestions to find better deals and know what you actually need to get started. Enjoy!
Most Backpacking Gear Is Lightweight
Lightweight gear requires expensive materials. Trail and Summit point out that companies often want to cut the weight of their supplies because backpackers don’t want to be overwhelmed with heavy buckles and cumbersome straps. These minor adjustments make a significant difference on the trail.
Ultra-lightweight backpackers often try to reduce their pack weight below twenty pounds. This number includes their backpack, tent, sleeping bag, and everything else they carry. If they want the lightest supplies, they have to spend more money. The good news is that you can buy slightly heavier gear for much cheaper if you want to save money.
Outdoor Equipment Is Water Resistant
Water-resistance is crucial for those who enjoy hiking in the rain or in cold weather. Even if the sky is as blue as can be, the morning dew can trickle into your gear and soak everything to the core. Thankfully, many companies are pre-coating and treating their equipment to save you time, but it comes at a cost.
Again, you can get non-resistant gear if you want to save extra money. That being said, you’ll quickly run into problems if you camp overnight. Everything from rain to dew (or even hiking through mud, puddles, and rivers) can drench your gear. Nothing’s worse than being stuck on a trail with heavy, soaked gear.
UV-Resistance Increases the Price
Much like water resistance, UV resistance is an integral part of backpacking. UV rays can go through the clouds, so there’s no escaping them when you’re on the trail.
If you prefer UV-resistant gear, your two options are as follows:
- Purchase UV-protected backpacking gear and understand that it’ll cost quite a bit more than untreated equipment.
- Use a UV-resistant spray like Nikwax UV Spray for your backpacking setup. Spray it evenly throughout your gear until it’s thoroughly coated.
UV-treated gear has much better protection from the sun than UV spray could provide, which is why it’s so much more expensive.
Backpacking Items Are Durable and Rugged
If you drop your backpack or boots, you don’t have to worry about them wearing down or breaking apart. These items are designed with the best and most durable materials on the market. However, durability and longevity come at a price. Any company that favors grip and protection can rightfully charge more for their products.
Everything from the zippers on the backpacks to the sole of the shoes is made to last longer under heavy pressure. Most trails go up and down in unpredictable patterns and uneven terrain, so it’s important that you have the best supplies at your disposal.
Hiking and Camping Popularity Increases the Cost
According to Link to Nature, the popularity of backpacking is often enough for companies to charge more money. As the hiking season rolls around, people are much more likely to take to the local trails and other outdoor locations.
A rise in demand almost always comes with a rise in cost. If the top brands (TETON Sports, Coleman, REI, etc.) know people will buy their equipment, it’s easy to understand why they’d charge more.
Another thing that occasionally adjusts the prices is low availability. If there aren’t enough supplies leftover because people bought all of the stock, some brands will increase their costs.
Cheap Backpacking Gear Is Awful
If you’ve ever worn a high-end backpack or outdoor boots, you can feel the quality. These items are typically lighter, easier to handle, and more comfortable. Compare them to a low-end setup, and you’ll immediately know why top-shelf backpacking gear is so expensive. The undeniable contrast between the two is enough to raise the prices.
There’s no doubt that cheap backpacking equipment has its place. After all, not everyone wants to break the bank to buy the most expensive items if they only hike or camp a couple of times per year.
Trusted Brands Can Hike Their Price Tags
As with all markets, well-known companies typically charge more for their name and logo. For example, Nike, Adidas, and Reebok can charge more than lesser-known brands, even if they provide similar quality.
If you want the best, you have to pay for the best. Backpacking gear is expensive for many reasons, but one of the most influential aspects is the logo. These trusted brands often include long warranties and proven guarantees, too.
Those who don’t want to pay for the expensive brands should always look for companies that provide multi-year warranties. Also, research their customer support team if possible.
Convenience Isn’t Budget-Friendly
Backpacking gear always comes with the basics, but some equipment includes additional pockets, charging ports, storage compartments, and more. Backpackers show these small features add up to a high cost. On the bright side, pretty much all of the bonus amenities aren’t necessities, which means you can decide if you want to pay less to not have them.
If you want to save money on your backpacking gear, you can take the points found in this post and make the most of them. Consider buying from lesser-known brands with good warranties, UV-proofing your gear with a spray, and asking for fewer amenities. Build your backpacking setup from the ground up and choose what needs to be upgraded down the road.
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