Whether you’re a family person spending the day outside playing with your kids, the adventurer who wants to accomplish an epic achievement, or simply in search of some solitude – the one constant in any outdoor activity is gear. As researched by the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor industry is a whopping 646 billion dollar industry, with over 120 billion of those dollars coming from gear and equipment. That is a lot of parkas and backpacks, to say the least. With a plethora of gear companies online and in stores, it is difficult to sift through them all. There are even membership stores such as TheClymb which offer you exclusive deals to low priced high quality equipment.
One of the biggest questions we get at The Dusty Camel is how to find the right piece of kit. Whether it is a backpack, footwear, or the right charging device for electronics, there are a few key factors to consider: the brand, the cost, the construction.
This isn’t Prada or Gucci. The labels make more of a difference than the one on that $5,000 suit. It isn’t a sign of wealth or taste. Instead, the labels on your gear are signs of a commitment to creating and testing great equipment. The brands you’ve heard of you’ve probably heard of for a reason. People who either work in or enjoy the fruits of the outdoor industry profess the achievements (or lack thereof) of their gear full-heartily. The brands which extensively test their products, put care and dedication into the design and manufacturing, and overall just live the lifestyle they create are the companies you want to research. Their products will inherently be five steps ahead of the other brand that makes outdoor equipment on the side to make a few quick bucks and wouldn’t even consider stepping foot on a mountain to really test their products.
The Cost –
You get what you pay for. When it comes to gear, that statement has much more weight to it. The $50 tent from the local megastore is great on the wallet, but if you even attempt to bring it on a mountain, the wind will rip it to shreds in a heartbeat to be left exposed without shelter. Not to mention, it probably weighs 12 pounds. The $500 tent from that specialty company will give you a reliable shelter that will keep you safe and lighten your load. Not to mention the company which offers this type of equipment more than likely has a warranty and customer service department that is there for you no matter what. If you are torn between two items, 9 out of 10 times, the more expensive one will last longer, be more reliable, and if anything should go wrong with it – the company will be more than likely to replace it with ease.
The Construction –
With a reputable brand and most likely (but not always!) a higher cost comes quality construction. There are a few things to examine though: the stitching, the buckles and the materials. The stitching should be tight together with a double stitch as often as possible. The buckles and webbing should be sturdy with a heavy grade plastic and not flimsy or easily bendable. The materials should be durable but not heavy and depending on the item, a rip stop grid helps increase the durability while maintain a low weight (that is the box grid patter on fabrics).
If you consider these three aspects of gear, you are in the right direction to begin your search for the right piece of equipment. Now the hardest part is finding where to buy it at the lowest cost. While trying things on in person is always a smart idea, I usually suggest buying online. Once you’ve found the right backpack or tent, play with it, set it up, put it on and see how it feels. Then go home, and noodle the Internet for a while. There are companies like TheClymb that you join and have incredible offers and discounts to quality equipment. The prices online and specials you can find will seldom be beat by brick and mortar stores. It does take some preplanning, so make sure you have ample time before your journey you’re gearing up for.
Remember the most important piece of advice I can offer: your gear keeps you alive; make sure it is something you love.