You've been bitten by the backpacking bug, but you aren't sure what it's going to take to put together all the gear you need. And boy oh boy, did you see the price of that 900-fill power goose down sleeping bag?
The good news is you have more options than ever to find the perfect gear for you, without being forced to pay top dollar.
There are four big-ticket items every backpacker needs—a backpack, tent, sleeping bag and boots. You can easily spend $200-300 on each, but you can also be just as satisfied spending far less.
If any of those items are on the shopping list for you or your family, here are some tips for your purchases.
Take Your Time
You can head to the nearest outdoors retailer, pull out your credit card and walk out with everything you need in a couple of hours. But you're probably not going to love everything you end up with, and you're going to pay twice as much as you need to. Virtually everything can be bought on sale at one time or another, so if you have the luxury of time, you'll be rewarded with fantastic deals.
Rent or Borrow First
By far the best way to assess a piece of equipment is to test-drive it. If you can borrow a friend's tent or backpack for an overnight outing, or rent one from a local retailer, you'll learn very quickly which features work for you and which ones you would improve if you could. This is not recommended for boots, which, when broken in, conform to the owner's feet and therefore aren't likely to fit you properly.