Is fancy camping equipment worth the high price?

Give me a couple of tent halves and some cord and I’ll make you a tent that will withstand any weather short of a hurricane. Courtesy of the Army. Hey, it WAS good for me. :slight_smile:

Yeah…I’m going to be going on a week camping trip through the smokey’s in a month, and I’m debating which Army gear to bring, and which commercial gear. I don’t think I’ll do the shelter halves because I’m going to want some protection from the outside world at night. It’s not a big deal when I’m on an FTX, but when camping I’d rather be able to unwind and relax without having to worry about snakes crawling in my tent with me. I think i’m probably going to bring my Army ruck, but only because I don’t have another pack, and I’m too damn poor to buy one for this one trip (I’m a college student…mmmm…cadet meat). Don’t know what else I’ll use out of my Army stuff…I’ll probably bring my pancho. :slight_smile:


Another great thing about Army gear is it’s versatility. I mean, you can take your shelter half and snap it to your pancho and then insert yourself with a poncho liner. Instant sleeping bag!

I still have the poncho liner I got back in 1979. It makes a GREAT blanket.

Off to IMHO. Hope you packed for the trip!

I knew he couldn’t resist

Yea, just having some fun, but OTOH when I go car camping, I state it outright as car camping.

Hiking can get expensive, Most of my hikes are now in the 3-5 day range and carry more real food as opposed to freeze-dryed. Because I am on a low-carb diet it is a dramatic shift to ajust to high carb food - not something you want to get used to in the woods. Bringing ‘real’ food eliminiates the shift, other times when using F.D. food is needed I have to prepare about 1 wk in advance.

One time I was able to extend my stay by catching fish - this was part of the plan but was unpredictable - we got an extra 2 days food from it but the extra gear far outweighted the extra 2 days food if we brought it.

Then again those fish were great

Even if you don’t plan on doing hardcore camping and climbing, quality gear will usually last longer. Not that quality is necessarily expensive. You just have to take your time and buy wisely, then take good care of what you’ve got. It largely depends on the most severe type of camping you’re likely to do.

I still use my 30-year-old expedition North Face down sleeping bag. (This was when North Face was tops in the field and their quality control was unparalleled.) I bought the bag used from a friend in the military; I paid $90 for what he paid $300 (a newlywed, his wife forced him to sell off his climbing gear). Considering the use I’ve gotten from the bag, I would’ve gladly paid the $300–a pretty penny back around 1970.

I also splurged on a Frostline expedition tent kit. It was overkill on most backpack trips, but paid off handsomely when we got hit with hurricane-force winds one night on Mount Shasta (hardly hardcore climbing); by dawn, mine was the last of fifteen tents left standing. (It was since then stolen from my truck. Bastards.)

On the other hand, I’m also still using a cheapie $24 Svea white gas cookstove (the kind that bundles into its own square cookpot). I got the thing 25 years ago and it looks like pure hell, but it still works as well as it did when it was new.

I still buy North Face fleece, but lean towards REI-brand clothing. It’s reasonably priced (such a relative term!) yet durable as the stuff from other brands. Tedster’s right about REI’s yuppification, but there are still good deals to be found there.

Boots are an item I’d never cheap-out on, though I did get a lot of good use out of some Italian heavy boots I got on sale at REI for $25 back in 1975. I still have–and occasionally still use–the boots.

I’ve backpacked with friends who successfully used old-style wood-framed packs that held the load bundled soft or in a large open-topped metal canister on a wooden shelf. That kind of economizing is, to me, a bit too extreme. My preferred practice is to buy good stuff on sale. (I do the same with SCUBA gear, which is even more ridiculously pricey than camping gear.)

That’s a secret we probably shouldn’t let out, folks, I was afraid we’d get to this. Oh Well.

I’ve tried just about every new-fangled lunar lander gasoline cook stove on the market, but always gravitate towards my Svea 123, first marketed in the 1890’s… They just don’t fail.

I have a couple Jansport frame packs that are the most rugged I’ve ever had, I’ve trashed newer and more expensive packs since then. They are also guaranteed for life.

I was able to procure a goose down ejection seat sleeping bag from the military (Once the seal is broken, all the kings horses and all the kings men aren’t getting the bag back inside, they were compressed under 20 tons of pressure)

Lately I’ve become enamored towards wall tents and large iron grates and dutch ovens for cooking. You just haven’t lived till you’ve slow cooked a chicken or a pot of beans all day by the fire. Sure beats freeze dried, and a lot cheaper too.

I think the horse packers have it right, but they just aren’t politically correct these days. Oh Well.

I have a North Face down bag, but I prefer my “intermediate” or “extreme cold” army-surplus bag.

When I was looking at tents, I looked at an REI Geodome (I think – it’s been a while), but there was a North Face Hotel 46 on sale so I bought that. The 46 has gobs of room (it sleeps 4 to 6, but I’m usually alone in it) so I can spread out and have all of my gear inside. But in retrospect, I should’ve bought the REI tent. Not that I’ve had any problems with the North Face, but I think the REI offering was better-constructed and had a couple of features I like. I also have a 2-person REI Nightlite tent that is small and light when I’m riding the motorcycle. The only problem is that it doesn’t work as well as a dome on soft sand. I have a pair of shelter halves, but I haven’t used them yet.

Gore-Tex. Even though I live in the dry climate of So. Cal. (for now), I’ve been wet enough to appreciate Gore-Tex. I bought North Face jackets for skiing, and they have kept me drier than other ski jackets I’ve had. Yeah, they’re expensive, but as much as I like rain I don’t like to be soaked.

I have an REI credit card, so I get dividends on all of the purchases I make with it. I got a “free” pair of Vasque hiking boots with a dividend, and they are great. They’re comfortable and relatively light. They’re getting a bit worn now, but I just got my latest REI dividend in the mail yesterday. Woohoo! New boots!

My stove is a Svea 123 that I bought for my European excursion back in '82. Still works great. I bought an MSR stove and used it on a car-camping trip to Canada. I should have brought the Svea because my espresso pot :smiley: wouldn’t fit on top of the MSR. I’ve since bought a plate that fits on the MSR so I can use the pot. The MSR will run on regular gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, avgas, white gas… whatever. I haven’t run out of white gas, but if I do I’m prepared. Compressed gas stoves are less messy and easier to use, but I don’t like the disposable cans.

I used to use a Coleman external frame pack (also bought in '82), but it has a little too much “flex” for me. I now have a medium-sized ALICE pack.

Wenger is an “official” Swiss Army Knife, but I prefer Victorinox. Both are “official”, but I’ve always used brand-V (except when I was a kid and used a Cub Scout knife).

I used to use a Therm-a-rest sleeping pad, but more comfortable is an army-surplus inflatable mattress. These are hard to get (anyone have a source for new ones?) but they are comfy if you find all of the leaks. I patched mine with a Coleman patch kit I bought at a sporting goods store and then used seam sealer to make sure it wouldn’t leak.

I’m a big fan of REI. I think I paid $5 or $10 back in the '80s for a membership (membership is good for life). I’ve used my dividend to get presents for people, a rack for my Jeep, boots, and now I have another cheque for $230. (I use my credit card a lot.) And I get a dividend on the things I buy with the dividend! I’d say it’s paid for itself. The fee for a new membership is up to $15, but it’s a good deal. Their products are top-notch, and they are generally less expensive than, say, North Face. Since I already have bags, tents and stoves, there really isn’t anything I need to buy from REI. But they do have small items, expendables, and clothes that I pick up from time to time.

Ex-Infantry here, and used to plenty of camping. Also, an avid rock-climber… (maybe we need a rock climbing dopefest…),
Absolutely 100% in agreement on GI gear. If you’ve been enlisted within the last several years, you may have the new sleeping bag with inner, outer and gortex layers. Absolutely wonderful, and stuffable. The inner layer is OD green, the outer thicker layer is black, and the gortex is camo, these snap together in a pinch and theres no need for a tent or shelter with the gortex on, but it gets hot…
So what I do is, take only the inner layer unless I’m going snow camping, then its’ the outer, but never both, all three layers were intended for near arctic weather, not necessary otherwise… I have a $25 Tent from Modells, does me fine when I’m with a lady for the trip, otherwise, I’m keen on bungee cording up a couple of ponchos over myself and tucking into a sack for the night.
My gerber and E-Tool and a mini-mag lite were not too expensive, gerber was about $50 when I got it, true locking, E-Tool and sleeping bags were courtesy the Army, and my mag was a free gift for signing up with Radio-Shack one time. My clothes, Jeans and T-s and a hooded sweatshirt. I have my gortex parka from the Army as well, but I let my GF wear that if it rains, I think it’s too warm in that thing. I’d rather just put on a watchcap and hoodie and keep my samptex boots tight.
Water evaporates,
air dries us,
But I definitely stress/agree on a good backpack that won’t cramp your fun and keep it watertight. I use camelback for water and iodine tablets for purification as well.

No need to spend lots of money, just no reason to buy all the unecessary stuff.


There is an REI in Troy, Michigan. Very yuppie town. Parking lot filled with Beemers and Audi’s. Every time I see REI I just crack up. What in the hell are most of these people buying supplies for? Scaling the refrigerator at home? Climbing the shower walls? Michiganders are the 8th fattest in the union and eating our way to number one. The only expeditions we have around these parts have four wheels and come available with a lease option. Even lawn mowing has be deregulated to some itinerant mexican crew that move like the wind.

Michigan, while we have some incredible outdoor splendor, does not have the extreme sports, other than car jacking and eating at McDonald’s three times a week, that say, Californian’s have. We usually have to leave the state in order to try to kill ourselves.

Now, what in the hell what the OP? :slight_smile:


Why screw around? Get the good stuff. I have a weight fetish because I tour on a bike. My tent weighs just under three lbs., I have titanium cutlery, a boron bike frame, and ridiculously expensive components. The whole rig weighs thirty five lbs., fully laden for a long trek. It was worth buying. If you go on the cheap, you pay the toll of carrying all that extra weight. More expensive equipment lasts longer and you are more likely to go out and enjoy the countryside if it is easier to do it. Besides, how often do you have to replace it? Live a little, mon.

That looks like a good system, but it’s not exactly cheap (unless the government gives it to you). If you have to buy it yourself, it’s about $450.00. Any army procurment types want to send NSN-8465-01-445-6274 to me? Hey, you could say it must’ve fallen off the truck. :wink:

No no no… Wenger is the “genuine” but Victorinix is the “original” ; get it right people! :wink:

I think what happened is Camping/Hiking was an inexpensive hobby largely inhabited by spendthrift cranks w/families and fuddy duddy birdwatchers (I qualify, methinks) years ago, but with the explosion in the popularity of the sport over the last 30 years it’s been hijacked by madison avenue advertising executives, and nobody in their right mind will head into the woods without the latest in high tech gear. For a group that on the whole depends so much on oil based synthetic fabrics…, oh, never mind.

$500 dollar tents, $300 sleeping bags good for -20F and a cell phone to call 911 because they forgot to charge the GPS batteries and that darn expedition pack is too full of gear to carry out. Why doesn’t that helicopter hurry up, anyway? Those guys couldn’t be doing anything on a sunday morning anyway…

There was a column about this. Does the Swiss army really use the Swiss army knife? says:

Put it down as a field loss.
“I swear Sarge, there was a gall-darn bear out there smelled my MRE pack or something, tore through my sack like it was tissue paper!”