Hiking Clothes for Ultralight Backpackers
By Steve Gillman
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
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
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
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