Thursday, 10 November 2011

Buying Outdoor Equipment

There's an amusing debate that regularly gets an airing on the outdoor forums between the kind of guy who maintains: that a dullard GF is every bit as good as a smart one, all whisky tastes the same, and cheap outdoor gear mass produced by democracy protesters in slave camps is just as good as gear made by people who A have free time and B spend it outdoors, and those of us who know better. For some people any old crap will do, good luck to them.

From you-get-what-you-pay-for to good-enough, choices in outdoor gear are seriously contentious with brand loyalty sometimes so strong it can cloud judgement and latest-and-greatest so skilfully marketed that, to read the flowery prose, you'd wonder just how humanity survived so long without the yah-dee-yah-dee-ya-3000 and its attendant benefits.

As regular readers, the observant ones at least, will have noticed I'd rather live on beans and rice, bake my own bread, eat only road kill, and limit dates to 'dead certs' if it meant I'd have the cash to 'buy the best and only cry once'.

1. & 2. Boots and Bag - if you're not in one you're in the other. The only thing worse than a day of cold wet feet, is following it up with a night of shivering in a crappy sleeping bag. I've tried both on your behalf, trust me on this one, don't bother. To me unlined boots make a lot more sence than the insulated ones; as they are easier to dry out, and when you've worn through the lining lined boots are very hard to repair.

Money no object: I wear Lundhags Rangers which Nordic Outdoor do some great deals on [often not on the website ring for availability]. But if I really had the money I'd have a pair made for me either by Altberg of Yorkshire or Russell Moccasin of Wisconsin.

Bargain alternative:
The Northern Monkey wears Scarpa bought very heavily discounted from a market stall and loves them, I've never heard a good word said about US military issue boots [and lots of words unfit for family viewing] but the lined British army boots have their fans and are a tenth of the list price of a pair of Lundhags.

Money no object: Kifaru Regulator for me. Demonstrated here by Goofy Girl

Bargain alternative: The Northern Monkey has the British army issue bag - warm but big and heavy. Our friend serving in Afganistan sings the praises of the US army issue system of bags.

3. Jacket
Whatever it costs to be warm and dry (or second best damp but warm) is a bargain.

Money no object: I wear a Ventile Arctic smock by West Winds and, when its a bit colder, a Kifaru Parka. It took a lot of patience to get them at a price I could afford. If I'd had the coin I was tempted by having one of Wiggy's Parkas made up for me with a Ventile shell. [Wiggy will make up in any combination you ask for for a small premium].

Bargain alternative: I've also got a US airforce issue Goretex Hardshell which is excellent.

4. Pack(s)

Personally I'd rather have a heavier pack that fits and lasts, than an ultralight that doesn't and won't, how much money you have to spend to find this out for yourself is up to you.

Money no object: Kifaru (my choice). Mystery Ranch, Kuiu, or McHale were also on my list

Bargain alternative: I wouldn't be the person to ask.

My kids have an awesome pop-up tent that cost £70 ($100) and that was for the better model. It doesn't pack away very small but it's streets ahead of the tents we had as kids and they saw out some hoolies in the highlands and very wet weeks in Wales. You can have a really kick-ass hammock and tarp set up for less than £100 ($165). Admittedly up in the mountains the game is played for slightly higher stakes "Your tent is your make or break piece of gear between a hunt turning into an inconvenient adventure or a life threatening event. Choose accordingly."- An un-named pal of Hodgeman
10. Knife Mora of Sweden, and a diamond sharpening stone. Done.

Money no object: Chad has a stunning Charles May, if I had the money I'd have something by Stuart Mitchell. If fact I'd have a drawer full by Stuart Mitchell's to go next to the drawer full of Charles May's!

Bargain alternative: There is no better bargain than a Mora. Anywhere. End of Story.

Six through to nine? I'd welcome your thoughts.

We've come a long way from when buying from the Sears catalog was the only option for outdoorsman supplies.

Here's a round up of other bloggers thoughts on buying gear:

Dave Petzal's been writing for F&S since god was a boy, he's spent a few bucks over the years and has no regrets

"I'm not your investment counselor for goodness sake, I'm a blogger that lives just this side of Timbuktoo. ..." Hodgeman's thoughts on value for money when shopping for outdoor gear

While we're passing The Gear Junkie has complied a mind-blowing list of the most costly tat imagainable

Soon Come

PS I saw this one the other day
"The pleasure of buying really good quality kit is that the pleasure of using it will long outlast the pain of buying them.The downside of buying really good kit is that you don't need to buy it ever again." Heym SR20


Boomer said...


Great blog, been reading it and lurking for too long.

Budget jackets/coats are interesting Love my buffalo pile/pertex one of which I bought as a student years ago and is still going strong despite several major outings (was much cheaper back then as well).
Even cheaper is a german Flecktarn Parka which is great for quietly moving round the winter woods and seems to work well to breakup your outline.

Will have to buy a Mora, opinels make up cheap side of my knife drawer.


Rural Boomer

The Suburban Bushwacker said...


Thanks for commenting, my Bro (BoB) had one of those Buffalo shirts when they first came out (late 80's?) and he too has put many many miles on it and as i remember was a big fan. I dont know if he still has it (he sometimes comments) but if he did/does I bet the bastard would still fit into it! Flecktarn is a great camo, not too dark. For really cheap outdoor clothes - construction clothes are way better than the traditional army surplice, Snickers look expensive in the hardware store but they look pretty cheap against some of the outdoor brands. I'm sill wearing the first pair I bought after a year of crawling about on floors they're still rocking on.