Rising cost of backpack gear, what are you doing about it?

10:25 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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As time goes by, the cost of backcountry gear keeps increasing to a point where it's not worth buying gear anymore. Recentry I decided that I will make, or modify for backcountry use, whatever I can. I'm surprised how some of the stuff I made is way cheaper, lighter, and has better use than manufactured stuff, here are some things I made(or put to use):

Nalgene bottles and water bladders seem to be the way to carry water in backcountry.  I carry two of those monster 24oz bottles, together they weigh 2.3oz, my old nalgene bottle carries 16oz and a single one weighs 3.8oz. Some advantages of the monster bottle are: you can use a steripen in them and the sun will not reactivate reactivate the organisms. If the water inside freezes, just use fire to heat the bottle, it's aluminum! Worse case scenario you can sterilize water by boiling it inside the can. It's so light you can carry extras.  They cost way less than nalgene or water bladders, and it comes with a bonus drink inside!

I contacted trail designs because they didn't make a caldera cone for my pot, they said it's because the handle contains plastic components.  I watched some videos online and bought some aluminum flashing from home depot ($10), stopped at a gas station got some beer cans($8), and made my own cone and stove! Together they weight 2.2oz, I got enough flashing left over to make a few more also! I put some fiberglass insulation inside the stove to absorb the alcohol and serve as a wick.

While drinking the beer I found another use for the can, why not make cups out of them? I went to publix and bought two of those neoprene beer can sleeves ($0.99ea) for insulation, cut the top of the can and sanded it down so it would not cut my lips in cold weather, two of them with sleeves weigh 2.2oz. Some advantages: It's insulating, so warm coffee in the morning stays warm longer.  It's easy to clean.  You can hold it and will not burn your hands with hot liquids inside.  Lighter and way cheaper than backpacking cups, and it comes with delicious drink inside!

Rubbermaid food containers are dishwasher safe and freezer safe, got four 3.2 cup containers for $1.99, cut the top off, cleaned it with hot water and there you go! It even comes with measure marks on the sides, they are slightly flexible, durable, and can hold just about any backpacking meal I make. Two of them weigh 1.7oz 

In the search for a perfect rain gear, I came across rain skirts/kilts online which will breathe better and be faster to put on than rain pants. The lightest ones are around 1.6oz for $55,  the cheapest ones are around $30, mine came in a box of 20 (hefty trash bags) for $5, are longer and more comfy(see my waterproofing backpack pics) than the light ones online and weigh 1.5oz, take that cuben fiber!

20 two gallon ziplock bag as waterproof sacks 0.7oz ea $6 for the pack, lightest sea to summit 8 liter sack which is the ultra sil nano whatever dry sack .8oz $20 ea.  Fruit mesh sacks weigh less than .2oz, very large, free, no competition. I also use mosquito head net ($3) to keep my clean clothes on and use as a pillow whenever there are no mosquitoes around =).
Some of this stuff I came up on my own, some ideas I took from other people online.  Whatever gear I do buy, I try to buy used if possible, if not then I use gearbuyer.com and other sites to try to find the best price, or take advantage of huge sales such as the Golite sale that is going on. So what have you made, or what have you done to combat this price hike extravaganza? Post pics and specs if you can!

If you want some more info on the things I made or need help to make your own send me a message, I tried to keep things simple here. 

10:41 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Some pretty innovative stuff here and I commend you.I am not nearly as patient as you, however, so what I did about the rising cost was diligently search sales and SAC deals so that I could save hundreds and hundreds off the gear I have purchased over the last two years. Cloths included. The best and most reliable shopping spots for me were SAC and REI Garage sale.

10:49 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I find all kinds of good stuff at my local salvation army. Boots,tents, a backpack and endless merino wool clothing. I also found a old boyscout mess kit, the one with cleat on the frying pan. Gear prices are getting crazy. I am making a dyneema poncho, inspired by your other thread. Its gonna go over my pack and have some type of belt but im gonna figure some way to hold it out away from my body so I get maximum air flow from the bottom. Then its gonna do double duty as a emergency shelter using my treking poles.

10:53 a.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Kudos to your innovation and sharing your ideas!

I use a mix of high end gear, good used gear & cheap DIY gear that performs.

I save money and weight where I can (personal choices that differ for us all) so that I can afford expensive gear, or have a weight savings to offset a 2 lb book I want to bring.

I do have a very light and minimal kit I can throw together that is a lot of DIY or modified gear so I can move fast if I need to, but most times I mix it up between lightweight & comfort.

You offer some great ideas. In my experience you can't get much more light weight & efficient than a Caldera Cone (or clone like you have) for short trips.

I have a clone too, I use a Minibull Designs Mini Atomic for the stove.

Good stuff to think about and I see nothing wrong with this approach as long as we all remember to keep our safety and well being paramount and don't send newbies off into the hills with a plastic bag shelter, duct tape, and two sticks to rub together.

I know that's not what you are implying here, and I like your monster drink can idea. I don't drink it and hadn't thought of that.

Mike G.

12:20 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I made a backpack to carry kites into kite festivals.


It is much over packed now, and we have to carry stuff by hand. So I'm working on large stuff sacks now.

12:25 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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As far as the rising cost of gear I've been doing what Gift has.  Steep and cheap, geartrade.com and watching for bargains.  (got my jetboils for for $49 apiece at Gander Mountain)  One trick is to watch for model changes. Manufactures seem to dump their old inventory on SAC and its sister sites. Black Diamond changed their locking mechanism recently and I picked up two pairs at the price of Stansports.  If you want to try the SAC route you can use sacalerts.com to setup alerts for items you are interested.  PM me if you want details on how to setup SMS/Text alerts that are reliable as the ones from sacalerts are not.

Nice cone and stove!  I've been thinking about making a beer can alcohol stove to use with my jet boil pots. 

I've used the Gallon zip locks, they are perfect for food and other stuff.  Probably not as durable but I don't have to clean them and everybody can have one.

I use disposable plastic containers as bowls and plates, lighter and cheaper than the backpacking equivalent.

12:33 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Good on Ye', Franco (maxx) !

Splendid ideas.   Will try implementing ....

I, too, shudder at the rising-cost of gear these days.   Like Mike (trouthunter), I use a mix of modern and vintage gear; some acquired on-the-cheap ... some via 'paying-out-the-wazoo'.

  Some things are more recently 'discovered', and work so well, I just cave-in to whatever the cost might be to have.   Example:  I have about a dozen-or-more merino wool T-shirts; both long-sleeve and short-sleeve.   Ditching the fleece, almost entirely.  'Stinky-poo's' are inherent with fleece.

I tend to use well-tried and trusted vintage gear.   Paid for decades ago, the pro-rata cost per usage is waaaay under the radar.

Bottom-line:  the stuff works.

I understand this forum and this website is driven by interest in new gear and latest technology.

BUT ... there are those that somehow make it all rocket science .

I mean, GOOD GRIEF !   Humankind has been walking, hiking, living in what WE now call the "backcountry" ... for thousands of years.   WITHOUT the so-called 'benefits' of uber high-end technology gear.

Word for the day: KISS  (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Rant over.   Return to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

                                 ~ r2 ~

                            frugal dude

1:30 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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2:36 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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mikemorrow said:

I made a backpack to carry kites into kite festivals.


It is much over packed now, and we have to carry stuff by hand. So I'm working on large stuff sacks now.

 That's cool!

I have always had an appreciation for things made by hand.

2:43 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Ocala said:

"One trick is to watch for model changes. Manufactures seem to dump their old inventory on SAC and its sister sites. Black Diamond changed their locking mechanism recently and I picked up two pairs at the price of Stansports".

I agree, I try to buy last years stuff, or model change leftovers.

This does mean that some of my gear is not "state of the art" but the money I save lets me buy current high end stuff like the Delorme GPSR I just bought that I wanted for months.

I also enjoy tinkering and making or re-purposing things like Maxx.

Mike G.

3:09 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I have been sniping on ebay for deals. I also shop at army surplus stores instead of backpacking stores. Thrift stores also offer up some bargains. Garage sales also produce some of the best deals.

3:24 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I save my money for large purchase's or I use it till it has no life left in some gear. But most of my gear is a cross between light weight to older gear. I now started checking goodwill and other thrift stores for deals.

4:32 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I use the same gear for years and years before I replace it. My last tent lasted me 27 years before a Grizzly bear in the Wind River Mtns of Wyoming destroyed it. My sleeping pad (ensolite) is 34 years old. My stove is 10 year old, my cook pot 20. My pack is the youngest at 4 months, bought at Goodwill in Tucson for $20, a Jansport 46 liter pack. My current tent is 4 years old. My mountaineering boots are 4 years old and barely worn. I hike in sneakers.

I only buy my socks new, my clothes come from Goodwill and other thrift stores, including my hiking/cycling shoes. My mountain bike is 6 years old. I just replace the tires and get it tuned up every spring, replacing components as needed.

I live on a very tight small budget or less than 2500 dollars a year. I camp to save paying rent or exchange yardwork for rent as I did this past November to April.

I live on my bike and last time I bought gasoline was in 1972 when I bought it for my lawn mowing jobs. I have NEVER owned or learned to drive a car. I had a Moped when I was 16 forty years ago.

4:38 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Robert Rowe said:

BUT ... there are those that somehow make it all rocket science .

I mean, GOOD GRIEF !   Humankind has been walking, hiking, living in what WE now call the "backcountry" ... for thousands of years.   WITHOUT the so-called 'benefits' of uber high-end technology gear.

Some of us 25 year olds don't have the benefit of having older gear though Robert, I just started backpacking a few years ago really, but I can predict I will be amazed at how things would change compared to when I started packing. 

And to make clear to all you guys, I'm not trying to imply minimalist or ultralight ideas, just replacing something expensive for something cheap or free, or finding a good deal on it.  I do believe lighter gear is better than heavier gear though.  My first backpacking trip, long before I knew about this forum or even cared to search much online about gear, I carried a 50 pound bag on a two night trip, even though I was in shape and ended up loving backpacking, I did think I took too much and too many extra things. Now I can go on a week long trip with 28lbs on my back full of luxurious gear such as a deck of cards, extra food/snacks, two ways to treat water, extra clothes, gps and camera (my wife carries an SLR with a 3lbs lens...) and other things that would make a ultralight backpacker write an essay bashing my gear.  Anyhow, I have a mix of newer gear, self made gear, used gear, heavy gear, light gear, whatever it takes to make my trip comfortable, safe, and enjoyable!

Another way to save on gear is reselling extra gear on classified sites such as craigslist, here on the forum etc... and buying from there as well! 

5:26 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Buy gear thats designed for the high mountains of the world and it'll last you the rest of your life hiking the weekends and months you have off. I have stayed outside in my tents,sleeping bags for nearly 10,000 nights these last 35 years. I am currently camping to save paying rent while working a month in Flagstaff for my next bicycle ride to Utah and beyond...

7:08 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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MAXX..I can appreciate that you are just getting your life long kit together and think it is great that you are inventing things useful for you.I am 51 and have items I have owned for 30 years. One day you will to, like Gary. So the topic is really valid for both those who are building and those who are refining. Thanks and keep it up! AND there are many of us who also like to buy stuff and it is fun for us too!

10:14 p.m. on May 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Some items can be "cheated" and some HAVE to be brand name so that you don't have cheap gear that gets you killed.

For the brand name stuff, I've never paid full price once. I got a $120 ice axe for $50 shipping included, brand new. I got 2 ice tools, normally valued at $279 each, for a total of $189, brand new. The ice axe was an ebay sale, the woman selling it used it for a photo shoot for granola bars and it had never been used otherwise.

I got a 100 foot rope for $7, nylon and 2 rappel rings, 3 caribiners, and 2 quick draws, for $35.

I bought a $250 shell jacket for $65, and a $105 ice climbing fleece jacket for $15.

I have entered countless contests through various memberships and events, and have won a backpack worth close to $200 and a sleeping bag worth $120.

I have also bought items from walmart because quite frankly, some things don't NEED to be brand name. Buy base layers made of spandex and nylon from walmart for $10 instead of from North Face for $75. I bought telescopic hiking poles from walmart for $13 for the pair, and they have lasted me for 3 seasons and have literally kept me from serious falls on sketchy trails on a few occasions.

It has taken me almost 3 years to acquire all of this gear, and I have spent about 1/4 of what I would have if I bought it all full price peak season in order to get it faster. 

Look on ebay, look on craigslist, look for deals on off season gear. There's no need to pay full price for anything. The companies still make a profit on it when it's clearance, so just wait.

It shouldn't stop there. I do the same for my regular clothes. I bought 7 brand name suits for $35 recently.

9:21 a.m. on May 6, 2012 (EDT)
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New, Old-stock items (NOS) on eBay are my best friends.  Just snagged a $300 Golite technical softshell for $70.  I have never owned a nicer coat and the price easily supports the quality and durability.

It takes some research and digging on eBay to find the NOS items.  Focus on a brand you like and works well for you.  Then, search it broadly, research any items that look interesting.  

1:31 p.m. on May 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Some cool ideas with customizing and re-using old gear.

1:36 p.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
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Max, way to go! Good gear you've made.

I'm a "modder" of gear. Most gear I buy never is exactly what I want so I modify, sometimes extensively, like taking a large (3,800 cu. in.) Camelbak hunting pack and adding:

1. 2 flat, pre-curved aluminum stays bolted into the framesheet

2. cutting off original belt & adding REI Ridgeline padded belt behind the lumbar pad. (Oh the comfort!)

3. sewing on sleeping bag straps &  QR buckles to the pack bottom

4. replacing a ladder buckle with a Fastex QR buckle on bottom  side straps

5. adding aftermarket side pockets to the 4 side straps.

Now I have a backcountry skiing pack that can not only carry my avy gear but emergency overnight gear & food and comfortably support 35 lbs of weight.

But, yeah, rising prices may force me to make gear. After all, I'm a retired geezer on a fixed income. Things like Steripens and GPS gear can't be MYOG'd but most other stuff can. My last purchase was a Caldera Cone titanium Sidewinder stove with the optional Inferno gassifier wood burner and the 3 cup pot that matches. Very pricey but absolutely worth every penny for a 3-fuel stove that does all I want it to in any weather.

I'd REALLY like it if some smartypants made a cottage industry of selling well designed, easy to understand plans/patterns for we MYOGers. Packs, tents, clothing, maybe even sleeping bags W/ synthetic fill, etc.  For ex. eVent or GTX gaiters would be an easy first project. Give us 2 patterns for short and knee high.


Tarptent aleady has plans for making a basic tent. Maybe other vendors could put out one or two basic designs that would not thereaten their sales.



1:59 p.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
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- Goodwill. It's amazing how many people go out and buy good hiking gear, then dump it a year or two later.

- Look for cheaper alternatives. An alcohol stove is less expensive than an Omnifuel - do you really need something that burns jet fuel?

- Watch for deals from big-box stores. When I need hiking pants, I can get really nice ones from Costco for $19.99.

- Buy discontinued models. I got an OR Revel jacket for half price - I guess light gray isn't a popular colour this year.

- Shop the co-op stores like REI and MEC. Their gear is good quality, and if it doesn't work for you, you can take it back instead of wasting the money.

- And, yeah. Make your own if you can or substitute. Gatorade bottles have a no-spill valve, and they weigh very little.

The catch with every method that's been discussed here is that you have to have some idea of what you're doing. You have to know what you're looking for, and you'll spend a bit of extra time finding the right stuff.

I noticed though that in the past year or two, prices have dropped on a few items. One is down jackets, sweaters and sleeping bags - cheap versions made in China have driven the prices for the name brands down substantially. Another is tents. Offshore tents, selling for less than $200 for the same features, have forced down the price of the Hubba Hubbas and similar models by quite a bit.

3:12 p.m. on May 7, 2012 (EDT)
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I don’t agree with your notion that gear prices are out of line, relative to what gear cost in the past.  I will also conjure some of your perception is more a function of a desire to obtain better, lighter, or otherwise superior gear than what used to be acceptable when you were a boy

For example, when I was young a decent 20° down bag was $60, and a good wage was $20K.  Nowadays that wage is $80K, and a similar bag today goes for $240.  The price of a bag has not outpaced the cost of living index.  In fact some gear, tents for example, seem to have become better deals over time.  The equivalent of a NF VE25 dome retailed at over $300 in the 1970s, yet that price has only doubled over the intervening years while the COL index has almost tripled.  External frame packs have gone up in price very little over the past thirty years.  Granted the price of a cook set has dramatically increased – but it helps if you compare aluminum cook sets from then and now, and not aluminum cooks sets from then to titanium sets of today.  You might as well be comparing apples to applets.  Likewise polypropylene, once considered an exotic fabric, is a mere step child to the contemporary tech weaves.  Someone turned me on to $10 Hawaiian shirts back in the day, and I find they still are a good alternative to a $60 tech shirt.  And those Hawaiian shirts are still around $10, making them a great value.  Who needs a $60 tee shirt anyway?  Likewise I use one of those plastic coated green tree stake poles you find in the garden shop as a walking staff.  Compare that at $6 to yuppie trekking poles at $30+ to $$$.  The point being a significant part of price increases is partly the result of desiring more fancy gear.   

But I do feel your pain.  Good gear has always seemed expensive, especially when one is young and not yet established in a well paying job.  Most of us started with army surplus stuff.  I remember my winter issue wool trousers.  Pretty warm but very heavy.  Gave me huge incentive to save for a down bib pant.  Likewise I did my share of home made invention.  Nowadays, however, most of my tweaking of gear is to improve performance unobtainable at any price, versus out of motivation to save some money.  (That wind screen looks like one of my DIY projects.)  Have patience, you’ll eventually have what you need, just make sure your acquisitions are well made.


12:51 a.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Maxx, I was at the grocery store today getting grocerys and a few final items for WCT trip and saw the 24oz Rockstar drinks,  well they had a sugar free, I don't like sugar, so I though what the heck, so I am going to use that for my water bottle and leave the 1 liter bottle at home.  6oz vs. 1.2oz or so?  Great trade, I just hope it hold up. :)

Thanks for the great ideas.


8:14 a.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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I just buy really good gear during my initial investment that is backed by a reputable company therefore saving myself money by not having to replace it nearly as often. 

This goes with my boots, packs, tents, so on and so forth. 

Some people don't see the need to purchase high end gear and that is fine but I personally find that if I buy the "upper echelon" product that I get a substantial amount of more use out of it before it needs replaced. 

It is the initial investment that people have a problem with. But what some do not realize is that by paying more during the initial purchase one may save a lot of money(not to mention headaches) in the long run. 

Another thing that I stress is preventive maintenance such as cleaning/treating boots, outerwear, tents, packs, etc. This goes a really long way in maximizing the lifespan of one's items.

Then there is also the option of purchasing a bomber product through a site like geartrade.com.


...which is another way to save some major coin and still get a great product. 

I also purchase a lot of gear out of season as well as last seasons color choices.

Squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, birds, and bears don't really care what I look like.

12:35 p.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, birds, and bear don't really care what I look like.

Well, there was that squirrel who attacked me last year because I was wearing white after labour day.....

1:15 p.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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Believe it or not I had a phobia of bunnies for the longest time. I thought they were stalking me. Now the chipmunks have taken over...

Blasted chipmunks.

3:05 p.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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They are stalking you, Rick. They told me so.

3:09 p.m. on May 8, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a squirrel chase me for the pineapple on my Hawaiian shirt. 


10:11 p.m. on May 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I have recently started making my own rock climbing holds. I've used pieces of wood that I cut into with saws and hit with hammers, and then sand down smooth so there are no splinters. I also use natural wood pieces. Some branches can be cut just right to make fantastic roof jugs, and since the jugs are always the highest price, I save myself a decent amount.

11:01 p.m. on May 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Nuthin, really...................nuthin.............I just buy the left overs (or unsued) stuff that everyboady dumps by the wayside in an effort to buy the next best thing.................

Really the bast gear for the cheapest prices..............whoooda thunk

1:27 p.m. on May 16, 2012 (EDT)
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rei sale May 18th

1:21 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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Lighter = $$$

I'm gonna pony up and pay. That's the American way!

4:42 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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GaryPalmer said:


I use the same gear for years and years before I replace it.

 Agreed.  I buy gear with durability and longevity as very high priorities.  I'm not interested in buying gear that is known to have a short half-life.  I don't care if it is lighter or faster or XXXX.  I'll probably use what I have until it breaks or until it fails me.  So, what am I doing about it?  I'm not buying new gear.  If it ain't broke, I'm probably not replacing it.

8:48 p.m. on May 18, 2012 (EDT)
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jad said:

Lighter = $$$

 Not if you look at my first post!

And  I agree with everyone who says to get good lasting gear, I try to save as much money as possible by making my own stuff so that whatever I do have to buy I can buy something of good quality, I would hate something to break or fail when I'm days from getting to my car.  Some things can be bought used, some can't, some can be made, some can't, some can be bought cheap, some can't, some should be bought lightweight, some shouldn't, and some are just personal preference ;)

7:33 p.m. on May 20, 2012 (EDT)
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I hike the Catskills for what many may regard as 'off-season' - winter. One problem I've had is using a canister in its upright position with the MSR Rapidfire. By taking a plastic half-gallon milk container and cutting it in half, use the bottom half for a holder. Just insert the canister upside down. Be sure to cut out areas for fuel line and valve access and slide the fuel line through the fuel line cutout before attaching the fuel line to the canister.

11:59 a.m. on May 24, 2012 (EDT)
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Wow, pretty cheap rain jacket there, good quality one too, my wife has the woman version. Golite keeps lowering price for their stuff!

12:03 p.m. on June 6, 2012 (EDT)
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I'd NEVER buy climbing gear used.

I used the neoprene koozie trick, too, but with an Arizona Iced Tea 20 oz. bottle, which I use for my water bottles, as well. I'm of a mind to think a can would crush pretty easily. The AIT bottles fit perfectly, are pretty robust, and cost a buck with the added benefit of coming with an all-natural beverage inside. Also, if you put the koozie on upside down, it makes for a good place to stash some stuff, like FD coffee, salt, sugar, oatmeal packs, etc. Keeps those FBs from getting holes in them. I also use it to store my candle lantern when I bring it.

For my Rapidfire stove, I hacked an inverted canister holder from a half-gallon milk jug - cut it just below the handle, and then make a small hole at the base for the fuel line, and a larger one for the valve.

The bottom half of a gallon milk jug makes a good camp sink. Just fill it with clothes when packing so it won't get crushed.

1:56 p.m. on June 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Mountain Project is all about trading and selling used climbing gear.  Lots of interactions and been doing so for years.  I wouldn't think it would continue if anyone had problems with the gear.  I'd use secondhand gear for climbing if it was coming from the right community of people.

6:58 p.m. on June 6, 2012 (EDT)
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i usually just buy the gear, ride it till the wheels fall off, hope i can rig it up enough to last the rest of the season, then buy another one in the off season. did just find out that my local outfitter has a 3 month layaway so that could help.  now i need to go buy some energy drinks.

10:17 p.m. on June 6, 2012 (EDT)
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bigsilk said:

I'd NEVER buy climbing gear used...

The only time I would consider such is if I personally knew the seller as a person of integrity.  Otherwise too much riding on this gear: my life ain't worth much, but it is worth more than a rope, cam device or whole rack full of hardware for that matter of unknown pedigree.



12:20 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Old Yankee saying from "down east" in New England.

And then there's  the ever-popular, "WASTE NOT, WANT NOT."

But as a gearaholic/tinkerer I usually buy new stuff and "mod" it to suit my own needs. Been doing it for decades, tents, packs, cookware, clothes, etc.


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