Have you ever wondered why your camping gear is so expensive? Maybe you thought that it would be a cheap way to enjoy your time. But when you saw all those big tickets, you wondered if this hobby would even fit into your budget.
But before you jump to the conclusion that camping gear is too expensive, let’s look at it another way. Expensive gear is often very durable, making it more of an investment than a purchase. A lot of your gear will last for a decade, benefitting both you and the environment.
I admit, paying such a large sum of money always feels a little weird. That’s why I share some tactics to buy your stuff at a discounted price. Can’t wait? Click here, and I’ll take you to them.
Now let’s move on with the main topic of this article: why is camping gear so expensive?
Expensive brands tend to have strict policies
Patagonia, for example, has a fair trade program that many of their workers are involved in. Cheaper brands are less likely to pay a living wage because it’s not that easy to pay your employees a decent amount of money.
The same can be said about environmental policies. Expensive brands are usually more concerned with recycling and minimizing their impact on the environment.
Camping is popular
When studying economics, one of the first things you’ll learn is that higher demand equals higher prices.
If more people ask for the product, it means that people really want to get their hands on it. This is an opportunity for the company to raise the price because they know that people will still buy it.
Popular brands can ask for more money because their community is willing to pay more
People want to feel wealthy and rich and an expensive brand helps with that.
Let’s take Apple’s Mac Pro Wheels-kit for example. You can use these luxuries to move your Mac Pro, and they’ll cost you $700. You can’t deny that these things aren’t worth the money. But it’s obvious that people buy them because otherwise Apple wouldn’t sell them for that price. Apple surely wouldn’t sell anything if they didn’t make a profit on it.
People can also buy the product because it fits well with their personal or professional image. They may purchase an MSR tent to feel like a real backpacker, they may buy a Mountain Hardwear jacket to feel like a real mountaineer, or they may buy the most expensive suit to feel like a real businessman.
This is also a great representation of how economics is closely related to psychology. If this interests you, I recommend reading this article for more reasons why people like to buy expensive items.
High-quality materials are expensive
Even if two products are made of the same material, the quality of these materials can still vary. Not all polyester is cheap and not all polyester is bad. Here’s a quote that I got from this article:
“Most people believe that plastics can be infinitely recycled, but each time plastic is heated it degenerates, so the subsequent iteration of the polymer is degraded and the plastic must be used to make lower quality products,”
So why don’t they just use non-recycled fabrics/materials? Well, you have to keep in mind that raw materials are finite, which is why products were much more durable a few decades ago. Products were still made of raw, non-recycled materials and that’s why they lasted for decades. But nowadays, the availability of raw materials is getting smaller and smaller, making them more and more expensive, and that’s why you pay more for products made of raw materials or materials that have only been recycled a few times.
You should also know that quality is not merely based on the material or fabric. You also need to consider the design of a product. Maybe your jacket has nice pockets or special features, and because the company has to pay the designers, you have to pay more as well.
And if we’re talking about gear such as clothing, backpacks or tents, durability can consist of a number of things:
- It shouldn’t shrink or stretch over time.
- Seams shouldn’t rip, threads shouldn’t come loose and buttons shouldn’t pop.
- The color shouldn’t fade easily.
- It should feel good on your skin.
The weight and waterproofing of a product can also be important aspects to consider. Many expensive brands will use high-quality DWR coatings that do a much better job of protecting you from the rain. The weight of a product is usually lowered by using a special fabric or by stitching the seams in such a way that it saves weight. But all this takes effort, time and money.
That’s what makes these products reliable, and if you’re tent camping, you need your gear to be reliable. Unreliable gear can not only spoil the fun, but it can also bring your life in danger, especially when backpacking through the wilderness.
High-quality products are not scaled big enough
In the camping industry, most high-end brands only produce a few thousand tents of a certain type each year. This is not much in the world of economics. And since expenses such as design and research are assigned to one specific type, it would be more profitable for them to scale it up, because then they would be able to spread these expenses.
Do you even need camping gear?
Prior to purchasing a complete cookware inventory, you may want to ask yourself if you really need it. You can easily bring things like cookware and dishes from your own kitchen. The same can be said of a sleeping bag. Just bring some blankets from home.
It’s not necessary to buy everything you think you need. Start with buying the basic necessities and expand your inventory over time if you feel you really need a certain item. After all, you’ll probably be overweight and under-prepared for your first few trips anyway.
You’re better off buying expensive quality than buying cheap trash
This is true in most cases. Maybe you’ve heard about the Samuel Vimes Boots’ theory. Samuel Vimes is a character from Terry Pratchett’s books. He claimed that the reason that the rich were so rich is because they managed to spend less money.
If you can afford to spend your money in a way that saves you money later, you’re much better off. This tactic allows you to save more money over time. Not only that, but your boots will also perform better, be more comfortable and don’t need to be replaced every two years.
Supporting the throwaway society is hardly ever a good idea
Choosing quality over price not only benefits you but also the environment. It eliminates waste, improves efficiency and supports businesses that put quality above quantity.
The throwaway society is not sustainable because we keep growing our population. Our garbage dump will only continue to grow, and the only way to solve that is to start buying durable products.
How to get quality gear cheaper
Besides doing proper research, there are many other ways to get quality gear at a price as low as possible.
Here are some of my favorite tactics:
- Take advantage of end-of-season sales. Visit your favorite websites in December, January and July. Chances are that you will stumble upon decent discounts. For more information, please read this end-of-year sales guide.
- Don’t forget about anniversary sales. REI, for example, is known to discount their products sometime in May.
- Take advantage of major sale days like New Year and Black Friday.
- Buy used gear. Don’t underestimate second-hand products. In most cases, they’re in excellent condition and well worth your money. Here are some of the best websites to buy second-hand items:
- There are so many websites that have a sales page filled with underpriced items. You can easily find these by Googling your favorite brand followed by “outlet” or “sales”. Here are some examples:
- Rent your gear. This is also a great way to test a product prior to making a purchase. Here are a few websites where you can rent gear at:
So now that you know why a lot of camping gear is so expensive, I think you also understand why it’s so important to support this way of working. It benefits you, the environment and the factory workers.
But of course, getting it cheaper is always better. So make use of the websites I’ve given you, and enjoy camping in an affordable and responsible way.