There is no easy way to determine how much Scout backpacking costs. Every backpacker has their own list of things they want on the trail and most of it is accumulated over several years, not purchased all at once. Boys can sometimes borrow or rent what they need, buy used equipment at a garage sale, shop online, or simply go without. Many units provide group equipment that has been purchased with money from Scout dues or fundraisers. Consequently, there are so many variables that it’s difficult to say how much parents will spend for the first backpacking trip. The best we can do is calculate some rough estimate of the replacement cost for things in a backpack regardless of whether they were actually borrowed, rented, purchased used, inherited, or given as gifts.
Here are some estimates for buying brand new gear using the pack list published in Backpacking for Boys as a shopping list. Prices are from the REI website that is linked through 50miler.com. You might say this is a worst case shopping scenario.
Backpacks range in price from about $100 to $500, depending on weight, quality, and size. For a basic beginner’s backpack like the Kelty Yukon, plan on spending about $120. Get a Gregory Cover to protect it from rain and snow for $25 more. The most popular sleeping bag at REI is the North Face Cat’s Meow (+20) bag priced at $179. For comfort and warmth, put a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite sleeping pad under the new sleeping bag for $40.
Buy a pair of sturday Merrell Phaser Peak hiking boots ($145) or spend up to $450 for some Italian Zamberlands. (Don’t buy cheap boots no matter where you shop.) For foot protection, two pair of Merino Wool Expedition Socks cost $14.50 each. If you like, get two pair of REI Cool Max Liners for $11. Camp shoes like Crocs are $25.
REI Sahara zip-off pants are nice for $60 and the Sahara Cargo shorts are $40. If you wear underwear, the Capilene Boxer Shorts cost $30. (If you plan to change your underwear, double that.) Two wicking REI T-shirts will set you back $24.50 each and an Ex-Officio Long Sleeve shirt sells for $80. When the weather turns bad, reach for an REI Revelcloud Jacket ($139) and then the Outdoor Products Poncho ($35). Don a Smart Wool Ltd Hat for $25 and pull on your REI Performance Glove Liners ($15).
Find additional room in your backpack for two Nalgene Bottles ($10 each), a MagLight Flashlight ($12) and a small Photon Light for backup ($12), REI Day Pack First Aid Kit ($12), lickable Guyot Bowl and Cup ($15), Spork ($4), Black Diamond Carabiner ($8), MRS Pack Towel ($20), and the important GSI Cathole Sanitation Trowel ($5). About $20 worth of Energy Gel or Energy Bars will be about right for a long trek and a Suunto A-10 compass ($14.50) might keep you from getting lost.
Your Troop can provide the REI Half Dome two-man tent ($199) for you to sleep in and a bunch of stuff sacks ($8.50 each) to hang your food and smellables in trees to keep them away from the bears. The MSR Whisperlight Stove is great for $90 but you have to buy your own fuel ($5) and cooking pot ($15 – $50). A Katydyn Water filter ($80) is an absolute necessity so you can pump clean water into a Reliance Fold-A-Carrier ($8) and hang it somewhere for easy access. There are, of course, kitchen utensils like stirring spoons, measuring cups, and scouring pads to collect; and, if you want a Trek First Aid Kit, look at the REI Backpacker Plus Kit for $47.50.
If your Troop provides tents, stoves, water filtration, and other group gear they will spend about $475 to keep you sheltered and fed. Your parents should budget an additional $1,215 for brand new backpacking clothes and footwear ($720) plus personal gear like backpack and sleeping bag ($495). Add California taxes and get to a whopping $1,859 investment to put a Scout on the trail for his first 50 mile backpacking trip. A group of 12 hikers, therefore, would carry more than $22,000 worth of equipment and clothing if purchased new. (No wonder REI loves Scouts!)
In addition to the basics, you can look at lots of “nice to have” personal things like sunglasses, walking sticks, stool, local maps, mosquito hat, soap, sunscreen, chap stick, and a good pocket knife which altogether might cost an additional $150-200. Trails maps generally run $20 each. Campsites have to be reserved for $7 and more. Food has to be purchased for the crew and gasoline for driving everyone to the trailhead is extra. It adds up quickly.
Of course, very few people will purchase everything at once and a lot of these items (especially clothing) are probably around hanging around the house somewhere because it was purchased for an earlier outing. Still, the cost of backpacking can be a formidable challenge to families who are already struggling to buy uniforms, pay for outings, and finance summer camp for their new Boy Scouts.
Your turn. What advice can you give about saving money on backpacking purchases.
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