In a recent article that appeared in The New Republic Ryan Kearney writes at some length about why camping is only for white people, making the point that for something that is the opposite of luxurious, it is prohibitively expensive. He claims “A backpack, tent, and the necessary gear will run you at least $1,000.” That’s ridiculous, of course, and even though it’s sort of off the subject for this blog I’ve decided to call him out on his bullshit. So, without any research, I’ll going to jump over to my favorite outdoor supply website, Campmor, and see what I can find….
For this, I’m assuming a typical greenhorn, dayhiking and car camping in moderate weather conditions.
1. Tent: Coleman Sundome, 9’x7′ sleeps 4. $64.96
2. Sleeping Bags: Too many good deals to choose for under $40
3. Ground Cloth (buy a tarp from WalMart) <$10.00
4. Coleman-Style Stove For Car Camping: Century 20K BTU $44.99
5. Hiking Boots Hi-Tec Ocala Waterproof Boots $69.96. A non-waterproof version of this old-school, simple and reliable boot is actually available for under $50, Just saying.
6. Backpack. Jansport Catalyst $49.97 A real hikers daypack with lots of straps, pockets, loops and adjustments adaptable to a lot of activities and a significant upgrade from the kind of backpack most kids already have, although in most cases a simple daypack works fine to carry water, snacks, and a rain jacket.
7. Rain Jacket. You can spend anywhere from $30 to $300 for a variety of technical rain gear, but for most of my life I’ve employed a simple, $7 rain poncho that I bought at a Penn State football game in 1984. It’s impermeable, but breathable, has a hood, dries quickly, and folds down to about the size of a Pop Tart box. And unlike a regular rain jacket, the water doesn’t cascade down the jacket and soak your pants. Campmor can fix you up with something similar for $4. That’s right.
8. Cookware. We have a bunch of old Boy Scout mess kits picked up for a quarter here, a dime there, at yard sales over the year. Here’s a fancy new version, still a steal at under $8.00, that you can use to prepare, serve, and consume all your meals.
And that’s all you need. It’s more than you need, really. For one person, you’re in the woods and on the trail for $275.00. Add $170 three more sleeping bags and a second backpack for a family of four and you’re still under $500. Most campsites in developed campgrounds cost less than $20 for tents–backcountry is usually free. Pack groceries from home and a fantastic vacation can be had for well under that $1000 Ryan wants you to spend on gear–although, fair warning: Ryan is going to look whole lot cooler than you with his fancy name-brand gear and gee-whiz tech. On the other hand, show a little initiative, look at yard sales, Craig’s List, and similar outlets and you’ll find excellent gear for next to nothing–if you even need gear at all. When I was younger I’d hit the woods in canvas sneakers, an old canteen, and a brown bag lunch.