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Outfitting at Walmart.

I have toyed with the idea of doing a multiday backpack using only stuff I bought at Walmart.  Say what you like about Walmart, they are cheap, and some of their proprietary brands aren't that bad.  There is no question in my mind that I could find every thing I need there, from my boots to my hat, and everything in between.

I've never gone as far as writing up a list of everything I'd need and then going through the Walmart Website, selecting gear and adding up the cost, but I'm guessing it would be ridiculously cheap.  How bad could it be?  I don't think I'd want to start the AT or CDT with it, but a three to five day backpack?  Hmmm.  I just think it would be an interesting experiment.

I wonder how it would compare, in price, to spending several months combing through Sierra Tradingpost deals?  I sometimes get stuff at 85% off retail, or even more.

What you're proposing is a bit of a thing on YouTube...jusy Google "walmart gear challenge"

I won't say what I will about Walmart because TS is a family friendly site :) Never given them a penny and never will.

Cheap knockoff gear is really popular out there on trail because it is cheap and looks like the real thing. Like the cook set discussed in the other thread, weight is often the price. I'm sure most of their gear is somewhat functional since it is based on proven designs from the products that are being copied.

Cheap and heavy is definitely an option for folks with limited resources. It is enough to get started and then you can work on replacing heavy items with lighter as it becomes more important or money becomes available. Think I'd spend my money at Reny's instead though ;)

I agree that most of their gear would probably work . However on the very 1st hike I took my younger brother ( a simple 6 mile over nite in the mountain) I told him to get a good pair of boots. Well he buys Walmart specials even though he is quite capable of affording anything he wants. Well you guessed it , 3 miles from the truck on on the return the sole began to come off. Inside of a 1/4 mi it came completely off with 2 and a half still to go. His stubborn Tight wad hide had steadily refused to use my keen Sandles . When that sole finally came off I i was laughing so hard and told him after he cussed me for taking him on such a hard hike, that the price of my keens just went thru. The roof !  That got him laughing.

Im just saying, yes Walmart gear will work. But, for how long? Check it out good. JustSaying!


besides that he made so much noise pollution with that clip clap clip clap as that sole was coming off, something like that just completely destroys the peace and serenity of nature. LOL . He finally caved in and put on the Keens. We still laugh about it.

A three to five day backpack can get you pretty deep into wild country, and once you are there, you will be thankful if reliability and dependability were considered to be important when you chose your gear.

"Cheap" gear is actually rather expensive when it wears out quickly, fails to perform (can be life threatening,as a matter of fact), or just plain breaks.

Boots are one item that need to be good (dependable, well fitting, appropriate for conditions).  They don't necessarily need to be expensive, but this is not the category to be cheap.  Similar categories are Bag (sleeping)  - you need your rest at night, and Backpack - you are carrying it and contents constantly.

You can save money in other areas - cook gear can be any old container, etc.  Learn to improvise and adapt.

Before the advent of light weight backpacking we used to mess around with what we called hobo camping.  Just simple, bare bones trips with stuff lying around like a canvas pack with no frame, blue tarp and some blankets. We brought simple food from the grocery store and one set of clothes.  I found it to be liberating and a lot of fun. 

Our traditional backpacking friends would be shaking their heads.  One night we had a bunch of rain.  My friends had just bought a tent footprint ( 30 years ago it was a new idea) and put it under their tent, but some of it was hanging out.  They got soaked.  We were snug and dry under our blue tarp and could see out in the morning. We made a fire under the tarp and made some coffee.   Our friends were out in the rain. 

On summer trips at average elevations you really don't need fancy equipment. 

This is only my personal opinion and personal experience with Walmart gear---

**  Their boots suck.

**  Their Ozark Trail tents suck.

**  Their Texsport teflon pans suck.

All these items have failed me on backpacking trips---and failed me quickly.  The boots pronated so badly they became unusable---but they looked danged special up on the shelf.  I took their Ozark Trail tent out to South Dakota for a 2 week trip and it leaked on Day 1.  The Texsport pot?  I was eating teflon flakes by Day 10.

By buying cheap gear for low prices you are losing money in the long run---so buy high quality if at all possible---unless you want to live under a bridge and push a shopping cart.

i grew up hiking with pretty inexpensive gear except for the backpack and sleeping bag - my dad insisted on either kelty or EMS for backpacks and mummy bags with a full nylon shell instead of water-absorbing poly fiber. phew. basic split leather goodyear-welted leather work boots, whatever layers/hats/gloves we happened to have around, the windbreaker i wore to school and a coated nylon jacket and pants i hated because i'd end up as wet from sweat as i would from rain. sure, i  had some hikes and nights out that could have been more comfortable, and the gear certainly could have been lighter-weight, but i loved being outside regardless. you can definitely outfit yourself at a place like walmart - shop online, though, because stores don't always stock the best choices.  

from my limited experience, you get what you pay for at the budget level. my daughter had the zipper completely pull away from her thirty dollar sleeping bag from walmart within six months of the purchase - that's poor construction, and though the bag only cost 30 bucks, that was 30 I could have put toward a Kelty or REI bag that probably would not have failed. ditto for tents - is it really worth spending 30 for a no-name tent with uncertain prospects over a $99 REI camp dome that will actually last a decade, work right, and that's actually guaranteed for life?

if i were outfitting via walmart, i would at least be a little choosy - opt for coleman products, for example, over some of the lesser-known brands.  maybe look at costco too, as they occasionally do some things right (the cheap trekking poles, some kinds of outdoor clothing are decent and inexpensive at costco), or step up a little to REI or Eastern Mountain Sports branded gear for some items.  

You need to be thoughtul about gear, wherever you buy it.  I did a lot of my early shopping in Army Surplus stores (the 50's) and there was some good stuff, as well as a lot of inappropriate junk.  But not everything has to be high end brand name stuff.  I tend not to cut corners on critical items - climbing rope, harnesses, etc.  Pay the money and get good items.

OTOH, I am using a $30 pair of trekking poles from Costco and they work just great.

Hikermore brings up a good point. In the beginning there was little specialized equipment.  There was Army surplus and some sporting goods houses especiallly after WWII.  The early equipment was heavy and clumsy but it held up. Wood framed packs with canvas bags, canvas tents, balloon silk, Egyptian cotton, down filled sleeping bags.  Also duck down and chopped chicken feathers. 

My Dad and grandfather were backpackers starting around 1905.  They did not it call backpacking then.  I was just talking to my Dad about a solo 10 day trip he did in Washington in 1939.  Trapper Nelson pack, kapok sleeping bag, caulked logging boots and a .22 rifle and a fly rod.  There were some old CCC era lean-tos around for shelter in the rain. Canned food and a frying pan, with cooking on the fire. Plenty of berries, trout and grouse to eat.  His pack probably weighed around 35-40 pounds he was guessing maybe a little more. 

Aside from Walmart, my first summer on the road in 1977 all my gear came from a store called TG&Y. A 6 lb I Pole tent, a orange external frame backpack and my Boy Scout sleeping bag. I ate canned food, used campfires to cook on and lived on the road for 10,000 miles that way from mid June to late October.

I replaced all my gear in the next couple years with name brand gear from North Face.

There is a difference between cheap Chinese crap and sturdy inexpensive equipment. 

If I were actually intent on buying gear from a big box store like Wal-Mart or Target, I think I could do really well.

First of all, I don't use tents, I use poly tarps. Although I prefer better cordage, I could get by with paracord. The Stanley Adventure Camp Cookset stainless pot is good enough for boiling water. I've seen Therm-a-Rest foam and inflatable pads at Wal-Mart and Target, and Wal-Mart is carrying a line of cheap nylon hammocks that would work just fine.

Footwear might be a problem, as might clothing, but so long as you limit yourself to what your gear can handle, there's no reason that you can't have a great time. I would not expect to outfit myself for a cold weather mountaineering trek at Wal-Mart, but a warm/hot weather trail hike? Sure!

Try to remember that most of the "expensive" "high quality" gear is all being made in China, these days, too.

There are wine snobs, car snobs, and beer snobs.  Some people make a big deal about where they live. 

Don't be an outdoor equipment snob. 

I would rather go on a trip with an experienced person with crappy equipment, than a person with fancy equipment that is not good at using it. 

I started backpacking more than fifty years ago with a plastic tube tent, a cheap Dacron Ii sleeping bag, and a backpack I  bought at  U-Save.  Boots were Acme work boots.  

We had a ton of fun.  

Good equipment is nice.  But we still sometimes use a couple of Walmart 45l backpacks we bought years ago  We bought them for a trip to Peru, where we didn't know if they would get "lost" during multiple transfers.  They work fine for overnight trips or as loaners when newbies join us.


I remember a day in the 1970s when I was visiting my logger great uncle up in a little town in Washington State.  We met up with some younger guys that had just hiked a couple hundred miles of the PCT.  I was really into equipment then and poured over the REI catalogue and carried dehydrated food.  Their TR was fascinating to me.  They had no fancy equipment at all. I asked about food- "we brought some oatmeal, raisins, dried apples, rice and spam."  I was floored by that answer and it brought me up short.  Maybe I was going down an elitist path.  It changed my whole outlook right there.  The same thing happened in Alaska and northern BC al the time.  People were out making a living in harsh conditions all the time without fancy equipment.  It was an important lesson to learn. 

Never look down your nose at someone with basic equipment. They may have more skill than you realize. 

The only time I look down on what you call "basic equipment" is when that equipment fails me in the field, as mentioned, or is just too heavy to consider. 

Compare a 0F rated Coleman sleeping bag with a -15F rated WM down bag---well, there's really no comparison unless you want to pay $70 for the Coleman and over $600 for the WM---and then realize you just wasted $70 on a Coleman bag you can barely put in your pack and weighs 2 lbs more---and gets some terrible reviews on Amazon---

And then I think of professional musicians who get the highest quality instruments they can find at whatever cost---you don't find alot of dirtbagging with them.

Which brings up Experts in all fields---they all seem to want the best gear available at the time.  You won't find a microbiologist spending a $100 on a elementary school microscope, and then be proud when they say, "Hey, I'm going old school!!"

Tipi Walter said:

Which brings up Experts in all fields---they all seem to want the best gear available at the time.  You won't find a microbiologist spending a $100 on a elementary school microscope, and then be proud when they say, "Hey, I'm going old school!!"


I'll echo and disagree with a few folks here.

Companies exist to make money. I don't know why we villify Walmart, but applaud The North Face. Yes, some companies say they do more for the environment. But it's all marketing and perception. 

Anyway, to your question. There are 3 things to never go cheap on. 1) Shoes. 2) Backpack. 3) Sleeping bag. You can deal with crap for the rest of it, but those 3 things are the items you will be in contact with the most and in need of the most. Bad shoes, an uncomfortable pack, and a lousy bag can run a trip. Whereas, a so-so cookset is still going to work for you. 

I used to work in the field a lot.  Forty to sixty percent of the time from break-up to ice up.  Sometimes we were out in the winter.  I had plenty of scientific equipment that was professional quallity like stream gauges, water quality sampling meters. etc.  We rode on airplanes some of the time and used straight forward external frame packs to carry gear and inexpensive coolers.  If one got messed up it was not big deal.  After awhile we figured out what worked and used the hell out of it.  

October 29, 2020
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