Lightweight on a Budget

By Mark Burge

One of the big roadblocks Scout parents have when sending their kids to Scouts is the cost of the camping gear they’ll need.  It’s easy to see why- walk into any outdoors store and you see rain jackets for $500 and backpacks for $300. Obviously there is some sticker shock there.   Our job as Scouters is to help inform Scouts and Parents out there that there are options to make sure Scouts get camping while being prepared. 

Derrick Story Via Flickr-

Derrick Story Via Flickr-

Getting outside does not need to be expensive, it doesn’t need to be fancy, just practical.  So I went hunting for the essentials of three season camping- a Backpack, a Sleep system, rain gear and footwear. Many of the selections can either be found online and shipped, or picked up at your local outdoors retailer.  They’re also not set in stone as the outdoors industry is quickly moving to lighter cheaper gear. 

Lets get to it, shall we? 

Backpack- Mountain Equipment Co-op’s Spirit 50.   Weighs 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 Pounds.  $129.00

It’s not the lightest pack on the market, but it has enough of the basic features a new Scout will need for their first couple of years- pockets for water bottles on each side, some straps to throw their mattress on it, and enough space for their sleeping bag and clothing plus some for group gear. 

Mattress- Cascade Designs’ Therm-A-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping pad.  Weigh’s 290 grams or 10.2 ounces (just over half a pound) $33.50

I recommend this over a generic blue foamy for two reasons: Durability/perception of value-  I find that blue foamies because they’re so cheap often get left behind or forgotten because they aren’t valued.  I’ve also seen many blue foamies torn on the trail.  The second is that the Z Lite Sol has a higher “R-Value.” R-Value is what we call how well it insulates its users from the ground, thus keeping your scout warmer at night.  The Z Lite Sol has a R Value  of 2.6 which can handle temperatures down to about zero degrees Celsius. 

 Ken Kanouse-Via Flickr

Sleeping bag- Kelty’s Cosmic Down 41 Degree Sleeping Bag It’s rated to about 4 degree’s Celsius.  Weighs 1 pound 12 oz or about 800 grams. and is listed for about 105 dollars.

It’s linked through REI, but it’s also available on Amazon.  Sleeping bags are not something to skimp out on both in weight and temperature rating. Most often the camps I remember most are the ones where I got the most sleep.  I remember many a night at camp where I’ve been a little too chilly to go to sleep and as a result I was not a happy camper. 

Rain Gear-  Frogg Toggs Ultra-lite2 Rain Suit  Weighs 10.4 ounces, and costs $17.20. 

This is probably the most controversial item on my list, mainly because it’s not made of Gore-Tex or various similar materials.  It comes in child sizes as well and tends to fit large. But remember when we’re wearing raingear, it’s usually cold outside, so it should work out.  In any case they offer significantly more protection than a garbage bag at a fraction of the cost of the big name gear. 

Total cost for these items? About 300 dollars. But keep this in mind- 

All of this gear will last your Scout 10+ years. Camping gear is an investment, and if you factor in all the camps, events, canoe trips, expeditions, suddenly the cost becomes completely reasonable.  I still have(and use) my original Therm-A-Rest that I got in 1998, my three season sleeping bag, and my backpack I’ve recently given to another Scouter as they build up their collection of gear.  And hey, if your Scout doesn’t want to continue- most outdoors stores have gear swaps, so you’ll be be able to get good return if its in good condition. 

As for clothing- it really depends on what the Scout already has, but I’ve found that often you can find what you need for camping at thrift stores.  It may not have a fancy logo, but I’d rather that, than being unprepared at camp. 

Here’s a full list of gear using that a scout should probably get together in their first couple of years. Remember, they don’t need everything all at once, and these are just suggestions and your results may vary. I’ll be monitoring the comments for suggestions or questions about particular items. And if you have something better than what I’ve listed let me know and I’ll update the post! 

Now get out outside and enjoy this beautiful weather! 

I took this! Scenery on the Elsay Lake Trail June 2015.


One Response to “Lightweight on a Budget

  • you are right, you not need to be fancy, when going backpacking. do not spend much money on expensive equipment. just take simple equipment and go for camping with full energy.

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