By Mary Dougherty and Noah Haber, HPIC Staff
Perfect gear doesn’t exist. While some items may be more quality than others, we think that issues like budget, your itinerary, and personal preference are more important to consider. To help you find what works best for your needs and interests, let’s address 5 myths about outdoor gear.
Myth #1: You need to dress like a hiker
There is this prevalent image of hikers in pop culture as wearing zip off pants, a button up shirt, and a wide brimmed hat. This is just a look. What’s unfortunate, though, is that sometimes we hear folks judging others for not “looking the part”. The most important thing is that you a) bring clothes that are non-cotton, and b) have layers, like a sweater and a raincoat, so you can handle changes in weather.
Myth #2: You need to spend a lot of money on hiking gear
This one creates a lot of barriers to entry in the outdoor industry, particularly for folks with a tighter budget. The fact is that you don’t need “hiking specific gear” to go hiking. Just ask yourself: do I have non-cotton clothes? Do I have a backpack with straps and a zipper? Do I have footwear with a decent tread? Do I have the ten essentials? Even if you’re new to hiking, chances are you have most or all of these items on hand.
And while it is true that more expensive gear is generally more durable, it’s important to ask yourself just how often you plan to be out in the woods each year. If you’re a hiking guide or a regular weekend warrior, then it might be worth the investment. But if you are hitting the trail only a few times a year, you don’t need to break the bank.
Myth #3: Ultralight is always right
This one is related to the last point but is worth noting on its own. Oftentimes we will see ultralight gear penned as the crème de la crème of outdoor gear. While some of this stuff is really nice, ultralight gear can cut some corners—particularly as it relates to comfort and durability—that could really impact your experience. You are also, in effect, paying more for less.
We have personally found ultralight cook wear and water filtration to be fantastic but have not had great experiences with ultralight backpacks and footwear. We will leave this one up to you, but we encourage folks to look at ultralight gear as an option, not a requirement.
Myth #4: Waterproof gear will always keep you dry
While waterproof gear is great for holding the elements at bay, it actually makes you sweatier because it traps your body heat better than other kinds of layers. This applies not only to rain shells and pants, but also waterproof boots. They’re real nice while they are dry, but as soon as you start sweating in them or get water over the top, you’re going to have wet feet for a while. Depending on the situation, sometimes it is best to opt for breathable gear and footwear, rather than their waterproof alternatives.
Myth #5: Cell phones replace some of the ten essentials
Smartphones have a lot of useful features built into them. You can use them as a GPS, an emergency beacon, a flashlight, and to pretend like you’re busy to avoid conversations with other people on the trail. But they have two key weaknesses that make it unreliable for backcountry use: battery and breakability.
If this is all you have for getting around in the dark or finding out where you are on the trail, and it breaks or dies, you’re in a bad spot. It’s fine if you use your phone for any or all of these things, but always make sure to have a dedicated light source and a paper map in your backpack in case your phone goes belly up on you.
Remember: gear is there to help you stay safe and maximize your experience while enjoying the backcountry. The “perfect” gear are the items that will fulfill your needs, not the expectations set by others. We hope this helped you prepare for your next adventure!