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Hiking Clothes for Ultralight Backpackers


Backpacking and hiking clothes need to function to a higher standard than everyday clothing, and so they are often more expensive. You can shop all the sales you want, and you will save money, but that extremely expensive waterproof/breathable coat will still be very expensive even on sale. Is there another way? Perhaps. Here are some more radical ways to find cheap hiking clothes.

First of all, consider what you really need for the trips you have planned. If you are going to be scaling peaks in Patagonia for a month, you may have to stick with the best sales you can find on the high-quality stuff. On the other hand, if your trips are fair-weather overnighters, one of those two-ounce, two dollar plastic ponchos isn't out of the question.

In fact, even on the more extreme trips you can often find cheaper alternatives. I didn't take a $400 waterproof/breathable rain suit to the top of 20,600-foot Mount Chimborazo. I took my papery Frogg-Toggs rain suit. You can find these at golf shops, and yes it is waterproof and breaths well too. The cost? It was $49 for the set. I have used it for years, on many rainy trips, with only one duct-tape repair.

If you like to hike in running shoes, as I do, start watching the sales on out-of-style shoes. I have bought brand-name $90 shoes for $25. For savings like that, I'll gladly be out of style.

I stopped getting blisters the day I gave up on high-tech too-hot hiking socks. Now I hike thirty miles without a blister in comfortable, lightweight, white nylon dress socks. They weigh less than an ounce and cost about a dollar per pair.

Used Hiking Clothes

About the only hiking clothes I won't buy used is shoes and boots. All other potential backpacking clothes are worth checking out whenever I can find them at a rummage sale or thrift store. In fact, I have found a Goretex rain jacket and North Face vest at a thrift store for a few dollars each. My thrifty wool sweater weighs in at just 11 ounces, and is almost as warm as the newest models.

My favorite thrift store discovery was silk shirts. Once I learned that they weigh just tree ounces, and show up on the racks regularly for $3, I was hooked. They are comfortable too, although on the trail some of the styles might make me look like I'm looking for a wilderness disco.

Make Hiking Clothes

I generally don't recommend sewing your own hiking and backpacking clothes. Doing so is just too much work, and the results are usually pretty pathetic unless you have some experience sewing. But I have made a few simple things for backpacking.

For example, the sleeve from my old thermal shirt became a one-ounce ski mask with scissors and a few minutes of sewing. I just cut the sleeve off, sewed one end shut and cut eye and mouth holes.

Sacrifice an old pair of socks and you can make nifty hand warmers like I have done more than once. Just cut five holes for your fingers.

I used to wear a four-ounce piece of poly batting like a tunic, as an insulating layer under my Frogg Toggs. I took this to the top of Chimborazo (20,600 feet) and other mountains.

So without too much sewing, you can make a few types of cheap hiking clothes.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Hiking Clothes