I’ve been taken to task this month because in the July issue I reviewed three ‘budget’ raincoats, only some readers felt they weren’t budget at all.
Granted, the Rab jacket that cost $399 is debatable, but I reckon the other two – an Outdoor Research and Marmot jacket that both retail for $199 – are in the budget category.
I like a bargain as much as the next person and I’ve had my fair share of really cheap gear: $4 walking poles that lasted just a few trips before the section clamps started slipping. Then there was the $25 stove that took 45 minutes to get my water luke-warm on a winter camping trip. I had a pair of cheap as chips over-trou that tore when I slipped and became an accidental contortionist. This gear never made me happy while I used it, it wasn’t suitable for the purpose I bought it for and, worse, it all ended up in the landfill a short time after purchase. The world is awash with enough rubbish without me adding to it by trying to save a few bucks.
Modern outdoor gear is lighter, more comfortable, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly than ever before – increasingly, brands are making gear with recycled materials.
I appreciate it can cost thousands of dollars and take years to get all the gear you need or want, so the wise tramper will always look for a bargain. But sometimes buying cheap costs you – and the environment – more in the long run.
An example: the front zip on my more than five years old Patagonia Stretch Rain Shadow jacket broke recently. I thought I was facing a costly repair or would even have to buy a new jacket. But when I took it to my local Patagonia stockist, they shipped it off to be repaired and two weeks later my jacket was as good as new. The repair cost me nothing and though the jacket initially set me back $369, it’s beginning to look like a bargain.
You might be able to get a jacket for $100, or less, but I bet that jacket ends up in the landfill, rather than with the repairer, when the inevitable breakdown occurs.
That being said, I know there’s a desire to see lower-cost gear reviewed in Wilderness, and we’ll do our best to bring it to you. And I’ll certainly think twice before labelling any review ‘budget’.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering how much you should spend on gear, the best advice I can offer is this: rather than hunt out the cheapest, buy the best your budget allows.