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New to Hiking: Hard sell?


Lewisham
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Hi there,

Just joined a local hiking group. It's pretty big and well known in the area but I have a few questions for you all.

A whole bunch of us are new to hiking as they did a drive for new members for the Spring. I'm really excited for it but it's costing me and arm and a leg which I find a bit odd and wanted your opinions. Most of us have joined up to try out some day hikes, a lot of them are between 4 and 8 miles and not terribly strenuous. I guess being newbies a lot of us are trying it out to see if we like it so we all feel a bit hesitant on the amount of gear they are insisting we buy up front.

Here's a few things so far:

- I'm an experienced runner and do a lot of snowsports. I have lots of "cold" gear, base-layers, warm layers, wind breakers, some waterproof gear, etc. Apparently none of this will do for hiking. They are really pushing we buy all new gear from REI and other expensive places. Now if I kept it up and hiked a lot, got to over-night trips, I'd naturally see myself buying more gear but it's essentially what I already have.. albe-it different brand names. Same with running, my first run was in an old t shirt and crappy trainers, as I cotinued I got some good expesive trainers and better clothes, but it didn't kill me to start in an old t-shirt.

- They've put on a few "workshops" such a "bootfitting", etc at local outdoor stores like REI and others. While I totally get that these things are important, as a runner, I agree a well fitting shoe is a must for someone who runs a lot, the same must apply here. However, I feel like these have been thinly veiled attempts at a "hard sell" to buy that stores equipment. Which is on the high-end. I have no idea if the club gets a kickback or not from sales but I'm guessing a big group gets some benefit of driving most members to a particular store.

- The amount of gear: Coming up, we have a local hike. It's basically a family trail. I see people posting pics of walking their dog there, taking their kids there, strolling through it in yoga pants and trainers all the time on Facebook. Now it seems to go on this trip we have to have all our gear. Basically a 60+ liter backpack (which they've told us is minimum for day trip though guy at the store laughed and said it was way too much), full new hiking outfit, rain-gear, rain covers, more first aid kits and bits than I knew existed, recommended snacks (because a few sandwiches aren't the "things"), etc, etc, etc...

I feel it's overkill. There'll be elderly people out walking their dog on the trail and we're showing up like we're going into combat.

Am I wrong to feel this way? I know in the long run they have our best interests at heart and all the "right" gear is important as the hikes get longer and more difficult. But it seems like such overkill for a new person just trying out a few short hikes. The fact they've been sort of hard-selling certain brands or gear has sort of turned me off. The fact I already do a lot outdoors in various conditions and am already well prepared in terms of clothing but they allow me wear it because of the branding... I have to buy from the stores they are sending me too...

It all just seems too much early on. Am I being overly cynical?

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Hi there,

Just joined a local hiking group. It's pretty big and well known in the area but I have a few questions for you all.

A whole bunch of us are new to hiking as they did a drive for new members for the Spring. I'm really excited for it but it's costing me and arm and a leg which I find a bit odd and wanted your opinions. Most of us have joined up to try out some day hikes, a lot of them are between 4 and 8 miles and not terribly strenuous. I guess being newbies a lot of us are trying it out to see if we like it so we all feel a bit hesitant on the amount of gear they are insisting we buy up front.

Here's a few things so far:

- I'm an experienced runner and do a lot of snowsports. I have lots of "cold" gear, base-layers, warm layers, wind breakers, some waterproof gear, etc. Apparently none of this will do for hiking. They are really pushing we buy all new gear from REI and other expensive places. Now if I kept it up and hiked a lot, got to over-night trips, I'd naturally see myself buying more gear but it's essentially what I already have.. albe-it different brand names. Same with running, my first run was in an old t shirt and crappy trainers, as I cotinued I got some good expesive trainers and better clothes, but it didn't kill me to start in an old t-shirt.

- They've put on a few "workshops" such a "bootfitting", etc at local outdoor stores like REI and others. While I totally get that these things are important, as a runner, I agree a well fitting shoe is a must for someone who runs a lot, the same must apply here. However, I feel like these have been thinly veiled attempts at a "hard sell" to buy that stores equipment. Which is on the high-end. I have no idea if the club gets a kickback or not from sales but I'm guessing a big group gets some benefit of driving most members to a particular store.

- The amount of gear: Coming up, we have a local hike. It's basically a family trail. I see people posting pics of walking their dog there, taking their kids there, strolling through it in yoga pants and trainers all the time on Facebook. Now it seems to go on this trip we have to have all our gear. Basically a 60+ liter backpack (which they've told us is minimum for day trip though guy at the store laughed and said it was way too much), full new hiking outfit, rain-gear, rain covers, more first aid kits and bits than I knew existed, recommended snacks (because a few sandwiches aren't the "things"), etc, etc, etc...

I feel it's overkill. There'll be elderly people out walking their dog on the trail and we're showing up like we're going into combat.

Am I wrong to feel this way? I know in the long run they have our best interests at heart and all the "right" gear is important as the hikes get longer and more difficult. But it seems like such overkill for a new person just trying out a few short hikes. The fact they've been sort of hard-selling certain brands or gear has sort of turned me off. The fact I already do a lot outdoors in various conditions and am already well prepared in terms of clothing but they allow me wear it because of the branding... I have to buy from the stores they are sending me too...

It all just seems too much early on. Am I being overly cynical?

lewisham...............

I believe the answer lies somewhere in between your thoughts and the groups rather aggressive idea of proper or required gear.

Now, don't get me wrong. Quality gear from REI (my personal favorite) is totally great. I always recommend those who are new to hiking/backpacking concentrate on shoes/boots, backpack, and tent. If you have quality items for these three areas, you should be good to go. Most other items can be put off to later; perhaps never having the best of everything.

I don't know the dynamics of this group, but if they scare people away from enjoying the outdoors by insisting on up front high dollar investments, I think it's a mistake. You should only spend what you are comfortable with, as long as it does not interfere with your fun and safety on the trail. You can always borrow gear, look for sales, shop around, read TrailGroove, etc until you find what you want. Thousands of people read this magazine and forum, but we don't all buy from the same place or have the same name brand gear.

I can only guess this group is preaching being prepared for the challenge of the wilderness. A family trail is for just about everyone. But some areas do require good gear, it is basically a safety issue. You don't want to be on a cold mountain trail with a cotton shirt and blue jeans. I would consider that as being dangerous.

But from your description, it sounds to me like the group is going a bit overboard. I can tell you how we handled it in the boy scouts as an example. Before a camping trip, we inspected the gear (especially backpacks) of new scouts to insure they could enjoy the trip safely. Kids would show up for a December hike, and not even have a sleeping bag or a water bottle. Sometimes the adults were just as bad. If people were not prepared, we had them borrow some spare equipment. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but I think you get my point. Many people today do not have a good grasp of what is really needed to be in the outdoors for a couple of days.

I can also tell you, if I had to buy a whole lot of new expensive name brand gear, I don't know if I would have ever started on the trail.

Just remember, the whole idea is to have a great time, SAFELY! The trail should never be about "hard sell", buying one particular brand, from one particular store. I can understand why the guy at the store laughed. Proper preparation is key, but you're not going to Afghanistan. We are talking some introductory day hikes, right?

I would like to see hiking groups emphasize getting people get out on the trail and having fun; not having people jump through some expensive hoops.

Gary M

Olathe, Kansas

Edited by Gary M
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Personally I wouldn't join a hiking group that is charging money to be a part of it. There are free options available, especially if you are just trying to find some good day hikes to go on. Check out meetup.com and you can probably find a free group in your area that will provide a lot of hiking suggestions and plenty of people to turn to for suggestions. I'm apart of one in KC that has a ton of people attending the hikes. I've actually never gone to one since I hike for solitude, but it has been the best way for me to find local day-hikes.

I don't think you are being too cynical either. Similar to you, I had all the "wrong" gear on my first backpacking trip. I didn't know any backpackers to show me the right way:

post-1451-143508725436_thumb.jpgLook at all that cotton and monster tent!!!

But I survived and fell in love with backpacking. Also, for them to tell you that you need new cloths, even when you already have synthetic/wool/waterproof cloths for running, definitely raises questions about their motives. I actually just told my cross-country running cousin who will be going on her first backpacking trip next month that she will be just fine wearing her running cloths as long as she has a way to stay dry if she gets rained on.

Save your money; join a meet up group and come to Trailgroove for advice. The people here really know their stuff and are pretty knowledgeable about price/quality/necessity of gear and clothing.

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Shaun Squid

Screw them. For a day hike you can use an old pair of running shoes, jeans, a t-shirt, and whatever warm/rain gear you have just in case.

Are they saying a 60L pack for a DAY hike or an OVERNIGHT trip? 60L for a dayhike would be preposterous and 60L is certainly not the minimum for an overnight, but I personally would say it is a good place to start for overnighters. I bet there are people here that do 3+ night trips with a 40L pack.

Talk to the people here. For backpacking, you can get away with cutting some corners at the beginning in terms of gear. People on here can advise you where to cut and where you shouldnt. For day hiking...it is just taking a long walk. Don't let them tell you otherwise. Shoes with good grip and any old book bag for some water, snacks, and an extra layer will get you there and back.

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I'm sure the people in your club mean well, but I don't think that kind of approach works for anybody. For example, I could see my mother being willing to go overboard in preparation and have some knowledgeable person tell her all the stuff she needs to calm all her fears, and then be willing to humiliate herself carrying a 60l pack on an easy public trail, but she could never carry that much stuff. Any fit person eager to go rough it in the backcountry doesn't want or need that kind of hand-holding. You'll end up with hundreds of dollars spent on crap you'll never use when making your own informed decisions.

If you run and do winter sports, you are already way ahead of so many couch potatoes who saw "Wild" and want to go backpacking. You can ease into backpacking by trail running & car camping to figure out what gear works for you. Then do some short backpacking trips before trying longer ones. Look for local Meetup groups who are going backpacking, or a likeminded person from your club. And have fun with it!

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I'm sure the people in your club mean well, but I don't think that kind of approach works for anybody. For example, I could see my mother being willing to go overboard in preparation and have some knowledgeable person tell her all the stuff she needs to calm all her fears, and then be willing to humiliate herself carrying a 60l pack on an easy public trail, but she could never carry that much stuff. Any fit person eager to go rough it in the backcountry doesn't want or need that kind of hand-holding. You'll end up with hundreds of dollars spent on crap you'll never use when making your own informed decisions.

If you run and do winter sports, you are already way ahead of so many couch potatoes who saw "Wild" and want to go backpacking. You can ease into backpacking by trail running & car camping to figure out what gear works for you. Then do some short backpacking trips before trying longer ones. Look for local Meetup groups who are going backpacking, or a likeminded person from your club. And have fun with it!

Gosh, this is getting way too complicated. Hiking is nothing more than glorified walking.

Trrekkerman

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