When you want to hike a 2,600-mile backcountry trail, you need a lot of special gear. This includes clothing (you can’t hike for five months in jeans and a cotton shirt without getting hypothermia), footwear (one pair for every 500 miles or so), shelter (Walmart tents just won’t cut it), a sleeping system (a hiker allegedly tried to use bubble wrap instead of a sleeping pad, and he nearly went insane before buying himself a nice sleeping pad a couple hundred miles down the trail), food (five months of food ain’t cheap), and miscellaneous gear (maps, cooking gear, crampons, etc.).
Zach and I have been amassing our supplies for over a year now, buying things one at a time as we figure out what we want. Some of the things we’ve managed to buy on sale, sometimes at a considerable discount. With everything else (such as our tent, double sleeping bag, my backpack, dehydrator, and other miscellaneous gear), we try to buy the nicest products we can afford.
The biggest money-saver so far has been our membership with Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). Zach paid a one-time fee a long time ago, and now we get 10% of our money spent back at the end of the year. They often run good sales: Zach and I got our sleeping pads for $40 cheaper than normal, for instance. That’s not the biggest payoff, though: the main thing we like to raid are the REI “garage sales,” where members can root through all the returned and damaged gear for the year and get it at a bargain price. We’ve bought several pairs of shoes, a hat, my hiking shirt and rain jacket, a stuff sack, and miscellaneous gear this way.
Food is another thing we’ve saved a lot of money on. We’re assembling and dehydrating our own meals, and we bought a huge amount when Zach was allowed a one-time 25%-off shopping trip at Walmart as a thank-you for working on Thanksgiving. We were able to buy nearly all the food we needed for the trail and saved hundreds of dollars.
Zach is also working on building our own stove system out of soda cans, tent pegs, and a tomato sauce can. He’s still fine-tuning it, but the prototype works great!
In the end, we’re still spending a lot of money. But we’re doing it a little at a time, looking for sales when we can, and spending money on basically nothing else (see yesterday’s blog). With any luck, we’ll be able to hit the trail with all the gear we need. Fourteen weeks and counting!