The Cost of Gear is Too Dang High

The Path Less Traveled #055: The Cost of Gear is Too Dang High

Jimmy McMillan went camping last week and told me the cost of gear is too dang high. If some of you were born before this century, you’d know who this guy is. If not, don’t worry because it is true!

Welcome to our recurring series of “The Path Less Traveled.” In this series, we want to take you along for our exploits out in the wilderness while hiking, camping, exploring, and general adventuring. This will include our small daily victories, foibles, tips, tricks, and reviews of gear we authentically appreciate and frequently utilize. While a well-worn trail can often be the pathway to a leisurely day, the paths less traveled can often spur on some of the greatest memories, misadventures, and fun we could imagine. Join us in the Comments as we share our travels and hopefully, we can all come together for a greater appreciation of the outdoors.

The Cost of Gear is Too Dang High – Backpacking Edition

I’m not an economist, and there’s a high chance you aren’t either. In the 2022’nd year of our Lord, we have been facing worldwide illnesses, conflicts and political disruptions that have resulted in undesired inflation levels. On top of this, with fuel prices continuing to go up it feels like the late 70’s when that Peanut Farmer was in office.

I’ve been looking at data related to thru-hike costs lately. Most claim it takes about $1.00 to 2.00 per mile to complete any of the Triple Crown hikes. This expense does not include any off-trail expenses like health insurance, phone bills, or gear purchased before stepping foot on-trail.

These same guides mostly start out with a base number of $1000 USD to cover gear expenses for a thru-hike. I find this number to be absolutely preposterous when considering gear lists that accomplished thru-hikers post.

Lastly, we are going to look at whether the cost of being outdoors being dang high has any benefits. Don’t worry, this isn’t me telling you to stop being poor all the time. 

hiking gear expensive thru hike appalachian trail cost too much
Photo from ?2015? when I was building some things in the woods and cutting down some saplings.

Hiking Guides and Their Gear Prices

Looking at reliable sources for recommendations on expenses of hiking should be moderately accurate, but when times are changing faster than the sites are being updated, you have pages like these:

price of being outdoors is too dang high price of rent is too damn high

This is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy organization’s information above. They are the governing body for the AT. These are individuals who have potential access to thousands of beginners and hundreds of 2000-miler individuals. My assumption is they place these numbers to be a bit low to prevent people from being spooked from wanting to start. I could be wrong.

hiking gear costs appalachian trail gear costs expenses

REI cites the ATC’s base numbers, but goes further into depth that you may be lugging around a four pound tent if you’re doing a $1200 gear loadout. REI even makes note for those who want to do an ultralight setup.

backpacker website gear too expensive liars

Backpacker Magazine states gear costs will range from $1000 to $2000, which we’ve pretty much seen at the other two sites so far. The funny thing is, if you look at their recommendations for backpack, tent, sleeping bag quilt, and pad – these four items alone reach nearly $1100. Adding shoes, and all other clothing would throw you above $2000 about as fast as your momma can slap when you say a curse word.

Popular site TheTrek has been collecting data for a good while on various topics. In 2016, 45% of respondents claimed they spent $1000 to $2000 on gear. 2017 saw 47% spending the same on gear. 2019’s data was a little more specific with their X-Axis numbers, showing 86% of respondents spent between $200 to $3000 on gear. Lastly in their 2021 data, nearly 33% of respondents spent $1500 to $2499.

Funnily enough, their “Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Gear List” gives various recommendations for gear for each category. I chose the first item from each category and the price came out to $4,581.

What It Really Costs?

So to determine what the going rate of what it would cost to hike a Triple Crown (specifically the AT), I developed a spreadsheet from three various sources.

The Trek

Packweights : The Trek At Thru Hike

Gear Type Purpose Item Weight Price
List Maker:

Pack System

Backpack Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 – M 914 g $305
Waterproofing Did not Indicate – Trash Bag 35 g $1
Stuff Sacks Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack 170 g $103
Total 1,119 g $409

Tent + rainfly/guylines

1,133 g $400
Stakes Came with tent
Total 1,133 g $400
Sleep Bag/Quilt Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 822 g $540
Sit Pad Sit Pad 31 g $10
Pillow Sea to Summit Aeros Premium 195 g $65
Pad Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad 340 g $200
Total 1,388 g $815
Kitchen Stove + Canister MSR Pocket Rocket 2 + Fuel Can 445 g $57
Pot/Mug Vargo 750 Mug 117 g $55
Cup Sea to Summit Cool Grip X-Mug 71 g $15
Utensils TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon 19 g $11
Ignition Bic Lighter 1 g $2
Totals 653 g $140
Hydration Bottles Smartwater 1L x 2 96 g $4
Water Treatment Aquamira Drops with pre-mix bottle 75 g $15
Total 171 g $19
Hygiene Dental Toothbrush, Floss, Toothpaste 70 g $5
TP TP 28 g $1
Soap Purell 1oz bottle 28 g $1
Trowel Vargo Dig Tool 34 g $25
Skincare lip balm / foot balm / sunscreen 100 g $10
Total 260 g $42
Tools/Gear Light Black Diamond Spot 400 77 g $45
GPS Spot Gen 4 141 g $150
First Aid + Foot Kit See Original List 100 g $15
Repair Kit See Original List 30 g $15
Bug Spray Repel Sportsmen Pen Pump 56 g $5
Pen + notepad Write in the rain + pen 75 g $8
Guide Book AT Hiker’s Companion 436 g $15
Umbrella Silver Shadow Ultralight Umbrella 255 g $35
Trekking Poles 552 g $110

Phone Charger + cord

Anker Charger 204 g $44
Phone iPhone 13 Pro Max 240 g $1,099
Total 2,166 g $1,541
Clothing Clothes Worn See Original List 278 g $110
Footwear 1,133 g $248
Underwear 2x pair ExOffocio 113 g $45

Hat + Gloves + Glasses

See Original List 200 g $74
Weather Clothes See Original List 878 g $663
Sleep Clothes See Original List 220 g $75
Total 2,822 g $1,216
Final Total 9,712 g $4,581
21.41 Lb
USD per gram $ 0.47
USD per ounce $ 13.37
USD per pound $ 213.97

Five thousand dollars for a gear list is inconceivable for many. Five thousand dollars is three grand more than my first car.

Andrew Skurka

Let’s check another with Andrew Skurka. This man is a well known athlete, writer, and publisher of The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Tips to Hit the Trail. He knows his stuff, and no doubt knows what would be best for him on trail. His five day pack list is shown below:

Packweights : Andrew Skurka

Gear Type Purpose Item Weight Price
List Maker:

Pack System

Backpack 1,122 g $200
Waterproofing Brute Super Tuff Bags 20-gallon 119 g $2
Food Storage Bag LOKSAK OPSAK – 21×12 170 g $2
Stuff Sacks Assorted, simple LW nylon (5x) 62 g $20
Total 1,473 g $224

Tent + rainfly/guylines

REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock 910 g $200
Total 953 g $200
Sleep Bag/Quilt Sierra Designs Nitro Quilt 800 35-deg 567 g $250
Pad Sea to Summit Ether Light XT Insulated 490 g $189
Total 1,057 g $439

Stove + fuel container & measure

Trail Designs Kojin 17 g $12
Windscreen Sidewinder Ti-Tri 36 g $80
Cookpot Evernew Titanium Ultraight 900ml 96 g $60
Drink Container Starbucks Reusable Mug ($2 at stores) 43 g $2
Utensils GSI Outdoors Table Spoon 6 g $2
Ignition Bic Lighter 20 g $1
Totals 218 g $157
Hydration Bottles Smartwater 1L 37 g $2
Bottles Platypus Platy Bottle 2L 26 g $13
Water Treatment Aquamira Drops with pre-mix bottle 34 g $15
Total 96 g $30
Hygiene Dental

Toothbrush, flossing sticks, Dr. Bronners

26 g $5
Soap Purell 1oz bottle 31 g $1
Skincare lip balm / foot balm / sunscreen 62 g $20
Total 139 g $27
Tools/Gear Light Nitecore NU25 57 g $20
Knife Victorinox Classic 11 g $16
First Aid + Foot Kit Gear List: DIY First Aid Kit 57 g $20
Repair Kit Gear List: DIY Field Repair Kit 28 g $10
Satcom Garmin inReach Explorer 198 g $300
Bug Spray Sawyer Premium Picaridin Repellent 113 g $9
Pen Ballpoint 6 g $1
Maps in Ziploc Maps in Ziploc 62 g $4
Watch Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS Watch 87 g $300
Compass Suunto M-3G Global Pro Compass 45 g $60
Hiking Poles Unlisted 300 g $158
Phone Pixel w/Gaia GPS 155 g $40
Total 1,176 g $938
Clothing Clothes Worn See Original List 773 g $219
Footwear See Original List 870 g $191
Weather Clothes See Original List 1,326 g $781
Sleep Clothes See Original List 572 g $135
Total 3,541 g $1,326
Final Total 8,652 g $3,341
19.08 Lb
Dollar per Gram $ 0.39
Dollar per Ounce $ 10.95
Dollar per Pound $ 175.15

Skurka doesn’t beat around when it comes to what gear he is using.

So not only does Skurka’s pack list come in 1100 g lighter than The Trek’s, it also costs $1240 less. That’s an entire month’s worthy of trail costs! Now this is half the value of silver on the US market, but if you consider his GPS Watch and satellite communication device is 17% of his total cost, it still shows he can do a lot more with his money than others!


Sintax77 is a guy living in Delaware that doesn’t fall of his bicycle and enjoys the outdoors. He has a website, youtube and has been documenting his outdoor adventures for a few years less than I have. Here’s his list:

Packweights : Sintax77’s Gear List

Gear Type Purpose Item Weight Price
List Maker:

Pack System

Backpack Backpack – ULA Ohm 2.0 978 g $260
Gallon Ziploc Gallon Ziploc 7 g $0
Sandwich Ziploc Sandwich Ziploc 6 g $0
Bear Bag Bear Bag Line, Lash-It 14 g $29

Cookset Stuff sack, Mesh

Cookset Stuff sack, Mesh 13 g $3
Pack Cover Pack Cover – Argon 50 g $40
Total 1,067 g $332
Shelter Tarp Tarp – Hammock Gear Cuben Hex Tarp 241 g $299
Sit Pad Sit Pad 29 g $7
Stakes Tent spike – Titanium 34 g $17
Total 304 g $323
Sleep Hammock Hammock Body – Half-Wit 284 g $109
Suspension Whoopie Hook Suspension (Pair) 99 g $34
Topquilt Top Quilt – HG Burrow 40 404 g $240
Bottomquilt Under Quilt HG Phoenix 30 397 g $220
Total 1,184 g $603
Kitchen Stove Alcohol Stove, DIY cat can 7 g $3
Fuel Fuel bottle, Alcohol + 4oz fuel 235 g $4
Cup Cup – 450ml Titanium 57 g $20
Utensils Spork – Sea to Summit Alloy 7 g $18
Ignition Bic Lighter + matches 25 g $2
Totals 331 g $47
Hydration Bottles Water Bottle – 1 liter, Disposable 56 g $2
Water Treatment Katadyn BeFree Water Filter System 57 g $38
Total 113 g $40
Hygiene Dental Toothbrush, Floss, Toothpaste, etc 57 g $10
TP TP 21 g $1
Cleaning Wet Wipes 21 g $1
Hand Sanitizer Purell 21 g $1
Total 120 g $13
Tools/Gear Light Headlamp, Olight Wave 113 g $30
Compass Compass, Brunton Classic 28 g $17
Knife Benchmade Bugout 535 52 g $220
GPS GPS locator – Spot 135 g $150
First Aid + Foot Kit See Original List 43 g $10
Firesteel Fire Steel – Light My Fire, Mini 10 g $20
Bug Spray Bug Spray – 100% Deet 3ml bottle 7 g $10
Emergency Radio Weather Radio, Sangean 113 g $59
Phone iPhone 13 Pro Max 148 g $699
Total 650 g $1,215
Clothing Clothes Worn See Original List 539 g $60
Footwear Merrell MQM mid GTX + Wool Socks 914 g $167
Underwear Adidas Performance Sport 78 g $13
Packed Clothes See Original List 765 g $163
Total 2,296 g $403
Final Total 6,065 g $2,976
13.37 Lb
USD per gram $ 0.49
USD per ounce $ 13.91
USD per pound $ 222.55

Sintax remains under $3000, but his overall dollar per weight ratio is higher than Skurka’s. If you removed the calculation for the phone, it would even stay under two grand, I think. I’d like to see an updated list to determine whether this guy has maximized anything to a greater level of value.

Pack Weights

While writing this article, I went on several rabbit holes of data scouring One was reviewing decade old pack lists all the way up to today’s. You can notice two things from this; first, costs are going up. Second, pack weights are going down. HalfwayAnywhere, a site that primarily focuses on the PCT and CDT displayed the average starting pack weight in 2016 for a CDT traveler was 18.20 lb / 8270 g. The average finishers spent on gear was $1,001.

Data from 2021’s PCT thru hikers displayed an average 9.72 lbs / 4.409 kg pack weight once out of the Sierras (ice gear). That’s almost half of the weight of the average 2016 CDT pack! (2021 pack average cost was $3,442.) I know that is not comparing apples to apples, but the lists show what items are being used and what gear has been left to the wayside.

This brings up more questions than answers for me, other than it doesn’t.

I recall upgrading my 2007 road bike in 2009 and spending an exorbitant amount of cash to go from 9.31 kg to 7.1 kg. Note, Carbon fiber and titanium were ridiculously more expensive back then and I think my upgraded bike cost double what the prior one did. Was it worth it? Totally, and I’d do it again. Did it make me faster? That’s debatable, but it made riding more enjoyable and let me think going uphill was easier, as if I were a Pro Tour rider…

pack weights thru hike cost appalachian trail
Photo Circa 2011?

In Summary

As time goes on, I believe online access to sites, stores and social media pumping the idea of lightweight gear is ever-present. The average thru hiker, even if never stepping on trail is going to know about DCF and find forums dedicated to making spreadsheets of weights of recommended gear. Consumer acceptance of lightweight and even some ultralight principals are starting to to reach a tipping point. People know that less weight is one of the traits that most successful thru hikers have in common. Wanting to be like a pro happens in other circles of activity too, no?

Less weight is less pain, less pain allows you to potentially move faster. The successful thru hikers that are completing their journey in less than five months on the AT likely have significant more knowledge, experience, fitness, etc. Does weight weenie gear help? Sure does. Will it make everyone great? Nope.

This is where HYoH comes into play. Do what you can, with what you have and hike your own hike.

Could it also be online sites making lists to sell you stuff that’ll make them money? You betcha!

I’ll work on a piece on how to beat the system and have a lighter pack for less money in the near future, but for now… be wise on recommendations versus reality for gear.

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Andrew D

Want to mail me something? PO Box 2285 – Buckhannon, WV 26201

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