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  1. #1
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    Default Cheap gear, dirtbagging, come as you are hiking.

    This is something that i've been meaning to ask for a very long time.

    Everywhere you look there is mention of top of the line gear that to be frank, costs a hell of a lot of money if you are an ordinary working class joe blow. I'd like to see the opinions of experienced folks on having a setup that is not exactly top notch.

    I'll be the first to admit that i'm cutting it pretty close when it comes to an AT thru hike. My basic outlook is a combination of a long ago military service and a few years of homelessness where i got used to coping with a rather substandard everyday existence. The gear i've secured so far and what i'm looking at for the near future basically falls into the "sorta good enough" category. For example i have a Timberline2 tent brand new in the box since i was able to pick it up for peanuts last year. Also picked up Pinnacle poles for dirt cheap. I'm still waiting to pick up a sleeping bag and actual trail clothes but like i mentioned before, you can bet they aren't going to be top shelf material.

    I have a checklist made out and i'm covering the core equipment but to be brutally honest, i do anticipate at some point(hopefully early on the trail) scrounging better quality discarded gear of sorts. I'm doing what i can moneywise but things are really tight around the homefront and 2018 is beckoning.

  2. #2
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Many people start out with cheap on the trail, either from financial constraints or ignorance. Theu mostly won’t complete the trail, they discard their cheap gear because its garbage, and they either buy better gear, or they quit.

    You can have inexpensive, lightweight, good quality. Pick any two. Thats not saying you cant go hiking with lower quality gear, but it has to be really bad if you expect to upgrade on the trail.

    with that said, Grandma Gatewood hiked the trail with a shower curtain as a shelter and wearing keds sneakers. You don’t need the newest, lightest, shiniest, selling your first born child, costliest gear to hike. There are ways to lighten your load without breaking the bank.

    You can make your own gear. You can shop yardsales for unused hiking equipment. You ccan buy at Goodwill or check the for-sales here on Whiteblaze or other sites. You can take your time and save up money and buy good quality stuff and still go section hiking. Thats what I did. Thats what I do. That approach takes several years, but I’m still hiking the AT and other trails and still enjoying myself.

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Do a search here for the $300 challenge. It was by Sgt Rock. Look at Pmags.com, too, he may have some dirtbagging articles.

    Ditto on getting good stuff on sale (may take a season of waiting) or used/borrowed. Sign up at steepandcheap.com.

    Some savings can be realized by simply not buying accessories. For instance, I hike without a stove, camera, GPS, water filter, or pocket knife.

    (My entire AT kit, including an excellent Marmot Helium 15F down bag, cost $800. I probably spent two times that over the decades trying stuff out, so experience is needed.)
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  4. #4

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    It's easy to acquire cheap & heavy.

    Cheap and light is harder, but HERE's something to get you started... links to some other cheep-n-light ideas.

  5. #5
    Registered User Turtle-2013's Avatar
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    First, you really not need all that much gear ... stay away from the trap of getting things you don't need. Second, how light you need to go is entirely dependent on how young and strong you are, and how fast you want to go. (I'm not the young man I used to be and I've lightened my load considerably). Third, there are lower cost, lightweight options, for almost all of those high-priced gear options.

    Mainly ... you need a pack that rides YOUR back right, with the weight you are going to carry, that isn't too heavy ... you need some sort of shelter, which can be as little as a ground sheet and a tarp ... you need some sort of sleeping gear to stay warm at night, get something fairly light but stay away from down for the AT ... and you need shoes or boots that FIT. Unless they are real, quality, leather boots, you will probably need several pair to finish the trail. And almost no-one uses REAL boots on the AT at this point. (sometimes I qualify as no-one ; ) )

    There are dozens of ways to cook, some very cheap, some not so much ... both options can be light or heavy by today's standards.

    You are more likely to find discarded excess, un-necessary, heavier gear ... than you are to find just-what-you-need lightweight gear.

    In the last 50 years I have "tried it all" ... That said, if you want to get more specific, PM me and we will chat ... I might even have some extra equipment that I'd be willing to throw your way for little or nothing ... depending on what you need. I do try to have enough extra equipment on-hand so that I can take in-experienced friends with me on section hikes ....

    Good luck!!!

  6. #6

    Default

    You can definitely go cheap and heavy. You picked up a tent with a minimum trail weight of 6 lbs. that's about 4x the weight of the expensive tents (ie: duplex) you noted that people use. If all your gear is between 2x and 4x "lightweight", you will make your challenge much greater. Not impossible though

    sleeping pad, stove, accessories, etc, can all be found cheap with a bit of research and patience. Tent as well... there are some satisfactory 2-3 lb tents on places like amazon for 1 person on a budget, or people getting rid of used tents like a eureka solo for $40. Then get your pack last and see if it all fits in there!

    Sleeping bag.. if you can find a sale and spend a bit more here (ie: a couple hundred), it will help your bulk and weight. Synthethic bags take up a ton of space
    Consider these "econ quilts" http://www.hammockgear.com/econ-quilts/
    That would give you a low weight/volume piece without needing to spend several hundred, and then you could get away with a couple other bulkier than ideal pieces

    Also, not starting too early (harsher weather) is friendlier to cheap setups.

  7. #7

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    Folks used to hike the AT with far heavier gear. The trade off is less daily miles and a steeper conditioning curve.

  8. #8

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    even the most ultra light oriented folks donít spend much on clothing. Iíve seen them hiking in thrift store attire, in black dress socks instead of wool. In cheap I sneakers instead of boots. but thatís what they wear. They sleep on the ground under expensive quilts and tarps, and carry it in cuben fiber packs. And donít carry stoves.

  9. #9

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    The problem with cheap gear is not only is it heavy and bulky, it self destructs quickly. Your not going to find better quality gear discarded along the trail (or in hiker boxes). At best you'll find the same crap like you already have.

    Cheap gear is okay if all your doing are occasional short weekend trips and not going very far. But when you want to carry it for 2200 miles and it has to keep you alive for 5-6 months, you want better quality stuff. Not every thru hiker can afford top notch gear. Most of us carry middle of the road stuff.

    You can put together a decent kit if your willing to do the leg work of looking for sales, discontinued items, visiting thrift stores and browsing ebay. If you only hike during the warm months you can get away with a lower quality gear, since you don't need much. Start in May and end by September. That means you'd have to finish in 4 months so you'd have to keep up a good pace. A fast-ish thru hike is also less expensive.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who try to thru hike on the cheap don't make it very far. Of course, having the most expensive, highest quality gear doesn't guarantee a successful thru hike either, but it sure helps.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  10. #10
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    Id take turtle up on his offer. A forum member here on whiteblaze recently gifted me a hexamid tarptent in excellent condition. It weighs 1lb 6 oz. I will be forever grateful

  11. #11
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    Id take turtle up on his offer. A forum member here on whiteblaze recently gifted me a hexamid tarptent in excellent condition. It weighs 1lb 6 oz. I will be forever grateful

  12. #12
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    Default

    Thanks all for the replies and info.

    The "cheap gear" i have so far is not kmart type kit but gear that is usable and durable enough to last quite a while, it's just not top of the line nor featherweight material by the standards of countless gear lists i've seen. It's still early though in the equipment phase and i'm checking out all kind of things that would fall within my budget. The info above is being super helpful and i do anticipate being able to test out and make a final selection well before it's time to head for GA.

    The scrounging part comes from some observation at the National Parks i worked at. People( clueless types tbh) more often than not tend to to pick up high end gear for some "great adventure" in the sticks and when it it sucks being out there, sometimes jettison damn near everything but the clothes on their backs in the haste to get out of the area. The Springer-Neels Gap section really comes to mind.

    I'm not relying on finding stuff at all but keeping my eyes open sure wont hurt.

  13. #13

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    You can manage with LIGHTWEIGHT gear rather than ultralight. I've put up some awesome suggestions before. I've been in your boat. Here are some very good ones. Plan to hike slower, which is fine. You don't need a zPacks cuben fiber this or that. A great sleeping bag available now is the Klymit 20 degree down on Amazon. Use the Honey Chrome extension and sign up for Honey in it. Click the Honey button on the Klymit bag on Amazon and it will email you when the price goes down. It'll go way down at various times, sometimes only for an hour during the day, once a week. It weighs 2.7 pounds and is 650 fill power. Bag accomplished. Your pack. Get one that will last. I like ULA because they have a frame and are very light, but not ultralight, and they stand behind their products. They aren't that expensive, and will last a very long time. Look for a used one. Or second choice is a Granite Gear. Look for a new one being sold on EBay or on Steep and Cheap, which is Backcountry.com's liquidation page. They also have a Chrome extension that will notify you and also have a price lowering notification dohickey. Another site to always check is Sierra Trading Post. They have unreal great prices on last years models. Tents: Anything under 2.5 pounds for one person is manageable, and the cottage industry folks really have this down to a science. Look at Six Moon Designs, they have fabulous tents for very very cheap. As does LightheartGear, and Tarptents. All of those are fantastic and light tents. They stand behind their products. They are silnylon and that is actually more sturdy than cuben fiber anyway, and only weighs a few more ounces. Everything else you can pick up on clearance. Everything. If there is some high end thing your heart desires. Stalk it on Amazon through Honey, on Steep and Cheap and Backcountry through their price-monitoring tool, on Sierra Trading Post and also very very importantly, on Massdrop.com. Sign up for that. I've saved a bunch of money on there already, and I just signed up a month ago myself.

    If you are *very* poor you can also do cheap really well with some creative stuff, look over on reddit at the gear list subreddits for the appalachian trail and ultralite subreddit's gear on a budget. Those lists are on the right hand side of the page. I just posted on the ultralight subreddit about IKEA having cheap and light packing cubes that would work as stuffsacks of sorts, and their poncho that would work in summer over you and your backpack, and now they have packtowels too! Massdrop has Kizan trekking poles designed by users for users that are aluminum and thus will not break like carbon fiber and yet they are lighter than carbon fiber at 5.9 oz apiece and are $59 for the pair. Walmart sells a greasepot that weighs about 3 oz that thru hikers use as a cookpot. It's like $8. Look in the reviews for the correct pot. One of the reviews is from a thru hiker, so you'll know it. The BRS 3300 stove on Amazon is $12 and is a titanium backpacking stove weighing less than an ounce, far less than an MSR Pocket Rocket 2, and works well as long as not overloaded. Great. So you can swing it if you do the research. It can be done very easily once you get the big three out of the way. As for a sleep pad, for the longest time I used a $30 ridgerest and found that very very comfortable and is only 9 oz, and less if you cut it down some, (or cheaper and less weight to just buy the shorter version in the first place). So it can be done with research, very reasonably. But there are some tricks of the trade that are super-helpful, and I hope I've stated a couple of them here for you.

  14. #14

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    Sorry that Klymit bag is $149 regularly, which is cheap anyway. I've seen it go down to $119 during the day. Don't forget black friday and cyber monday coming up, and then all the Christmas sales, after-Christmas sales, and New Years sales will make a huge huge difference. Even the cottage gear sites some of them have holiday sales. I'm hoping LHG may have a sale, but maybe not.

  15. #15

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    Sorry I can't edit my posts. Also look at Granite Gear's clearance page. I also happen to be selling a brand new Granite Gear men's panel loading pack that is exactly 3.5 pounds and holds 62 L. It's my favorite pack and they don't make it anymore. It is considered heavy these days and it originally was $385, and I'm selling this one for $170 or something so it isn't cheap. You could buy an Osprey Exos for that I suppose. It depends on what you want. The Exos is great for thru hiking. The GG Nimbus Latitude is great for having for a very long time. So if you are short on funds you have to weigh your long term goals as well. Better to have gear that will take you past a six-month through. Probably like I said, I'd get a ULA which will take you past a through and you'll be happy with it for a very very long time. My Granite Gear is great but it's more of a second pack kind of bag. I like them for travel trekking as a panel loader. They are awesome for that. Granite Gear makes a 2 pound pack that many thru hikers use called the Crown 2. You probably can find an original Crown, which I used in 2007, and that was great and was around 2 pounds then. Maybe even a new one. Just search every few weeks on Google for it, and look on GG's clearance page for packs.

  16. #16
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    A good way to use your timberline tent...start with just the fly. You can pitch it with just rope and/or hiking poles. It will be a few months before you need to worry about bugs. We did this with a boy scout troop teaching them to go "light". You'll want to experiment with how to pitch it, but it will provide good coverage. Scrounge a piece of Tyvek for a ground cloth, or a good piece of piece of place from home depot.

  17. #17

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    Massdrop's trekking poles are called Fizan.

  18. #18
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    Remember LESS is better!!!! Less to buy, less to carry.....so little is really needed.....buy quality, wether itís new, last years model or used....nothing worse than buying cheap crap and having to re purchase. Many quality cottage gear manufacturers have returned items etc that are basically new....a friend of mine called ULA few months ago looking for a deal on a new pack and they delivered....had a like new circuit about $75 off because was a incorrect size return....another thing to consider is that quilts are cheaper than bags.....EE also sells returns etc at a good discount.....as long as you got time and your patient no need to waste your $$$$ on junk.




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  19. #19
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    NAH... gear is still cheap.

    A decent dinner and drinks costs $100. The crappiest nastiest motel you can find is $40. Hell some campsites cost $35 now for primitive sites.

    You can gear up a pretty nice kit for $1000. That will last you 6 months of hiking. $1000/180 days is $5.55 a day. Not exactly 'the cost of a cup of coffee' to save the starving children but pretty darn cheap for a vacation in America. Pretty darn cheap for anything overall.

    Most people spend more getting to the trail. Sleeping off the trail. Eating or drinking off the trail than they spend on gear.
    The problem is they start with gear so it seems daunting.

    If you want to dirtbag it:
    Buy gear good enough you don't need to bail to town every 4 days.
    Buy gear light enough to keep moving decently to reduce time on trail... or conversely warm enough that you can take your time.

    Don't buy gear... if you are gearing up from scratch for a thru hike. It might dawn on you that perhaps you should do some hiking, overnights at your state park, or actually camp. Not only will you still be working (presumably) while you acquire gear; but you have time to bargain shop. Try things, return things, test things, and generally sort out what the hell you're doing. Many hikers spend nearly as much money replacing gear (at trailside $$$$ outfitters) as they go. A whopping single tune up trip or a few weeks of camping in the backyard would have eliminated most of those costs for many of these folks.

    Learn what the hell you're doing. Read a library book. Just one even. Not AWOL or Bill Bryson but Colin Fletcher, Ray Jardine, Skurka... just one little book that teaches you something about camping or hiking. A how to book. Stop dreaming or reading about peoples adventures and read a book about actually walking in the woods and what that entails, what gear might or might not be needed. How do you that something is a good deal if you don't know what you are buying?

    Hike locally. Cracks me up to hear about 'dirtbag' hikers complain about shelling out $300 for a warm sleeping bag that will last five years who spend $500+ on a plane ticket, shuttle, hostel, and getting to the AT when there is probably a trail near them they can reach for free or close to it. It's a big country. Do you want to be in the woods for cheap or do you want to be ON THE AT.

    If you are poor... the AT is about the worst trail I can think to hike. Hike a trail with nobody on it to drag you to town. No bars to buy beer. No hostel tempting you in to recover from all that crappy cheap gear you got. Hike a trail that doesn't pass through a town every few days or run through some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

    Resupply less often. It's remarkably cheap to live in the woods, quite expensive to live in town. Since you're a homeless dirtbag what does it matter if you do 7-10 days between resupplies? You got no place to go.. stay out of town. If it turns out that you don't actually like being in the woods that much, maybe see if there is a hostel you can work at so you can hang out with hikers.

    Get a job. No offense- that's not in a condescending old man voice... that's in a seriously you can afford to hike for months at a time but you can't manage to stealth camp someplace, shower at the gym, and save up a grand or two? If you're really a dirtbag then be one. Be homeless, work some, buy some decent gear and you can live off that for years. Go be a migrant farm worker, ski bum, or some other drifter type job you can score some money. Hiking is not free. It's not the $1000 of gear. It's eating every day that costs money. Rent might be cheap on the trail but it isn't free. You have enough money to do this everyday somehow... which means you somehow had the ability to earn some sort of money at some point... which means you can probably afford gear.


    Go work at an outdoors store; score pro-deals, learn something about gear. Fix the gear that gets returned for pennies on the dollar. Make some money, pre-buy cases of food on the cheap for your hike.

    Go work at a guide service or outfitter; same deal... plus you're actually camping and nobody cares if you are homeless or smell. You might not even be homeless since they often will put you up in a bunkhouse.
    Get an REI membership and buy REI gear. There is lots of house brand stuff that is cheap, light enough, works well enough... and if it breaks or you change your mind you not only have a year to return it... but actual stores available to return it too. Much of this gear comes with a lifetime guarantee.
    That's great you scored a deal on some internet site from on some gently used gear... until you have a problem. Gear replacement is a huge cost for on trail hikers. Simply having an option to return, get a replacemetn or get a viable replacement is cheap insurance. REI seems happy to let you abuse their policy because it's reflected in the pricing. It's 10% more than amazon because you can't go to amazon after a thru hike and return your tent for a new one just because you felt like it. The garage sale stuff is half off for brand new... even the used stuff gets inspected before it's sold. You can't call amazon and say 'I'm a thru hiker on trail; please help me'. You can call most of the cottage vendors or REI and they will do ridiculous backflips, cartwheels, and make epicly poor business choices just to keep you happy.



    Buy ugly stuff. I hate puke green and blaze orange.
    I have a puke green down vest and a blaze orange down vest.


    Most important of all- The trail isn't going anywhere.
    If all you can scrape together is $1500 bucks by April Fool's day. It's okay to wait until may 1st to start.
    It's okay to wait until next year... or not finish this season... or whatever.

    If you are really there for the trail, and it's really some deep calling;
    Then figure out a way to make it happen right... work hard to make your dream come true.

    If your dream is really in jeopardy because you couldn't sort out how to put together $500-1000 for gear then you probably shouldn't go.

  20. #20
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    Just Bill always nails it. Thanks!

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