Since there are often references to this, and previous explanations are now buried deep in the archive, I wanted to do a quick post, and actually link it to a new “tag”.
I have been living on a very reduced income for quite a long time now. Currently, things are a little bit better, but when I started this blog I didn’t have much in the way of disposable income. As a result, a lot of these posts concerned finding alternatives to higher priced items.
Whether it’s by DIY, $$-store finds, scrounging, substituting, or buying a lower priced version of a high-end item, there are a lot of ways that you can “make do”.
My guideline throughout my gear posts has always been, “if you can get something that provides 90% of the utility for 50% or less of the cost you got a good deal” … I frequently make reference to this as “the 90%/50%”. *
For me at least, figuring out ways to make do is its own reward. Sometimes this could mean doing without, or settling for less. Nearly everybody could throw out about a third of the stuff in their pack and never miss it. Some things are just a luxury that you really want, and you are willing to pay the cost whether it is monetary, weight, bulk, convenience etc. Part of “hiking your own hike” is finding your own balance in that equation.
Most of you’re probably aware of the term “gram weenie”. I’m not one; I am a money weenie. My own parents grew up during the American depression of the 1930s. They knew what it was like to do without. Some of this ingrained frugality passed on to me, and it was increased by my severely reduced income. If you want to cut the tags off of your clothing and gear, hack off the handle of your toothbrush, reduce the weight of your tarp a few ounces by purchasing one made of Cuban fiber… great! [for you]. If that’s what you want, and that’s what you can afford, Go for it! In essence, I do exactly the same thing with my expenses. In everything from my utilities to my “spree” spending, I try to trim every corner I possibly can.
I have the handicapping “luxury” of being 67 years old. I am not going to do a PCT through hike. When I go out, I’m either camping out of the back of my SUV, hiking a limited way into the woods to hang up my hammock, or heading off in my canoe or kayak down a lake. That means I don’t have to worry about that couple of extra pounds. I do worry about having enough money left over to pay for the travel expenses and to provide myself with a few luxuries and comforts to make my time as enjoyable as it can be. Do I have a 27 ounce backpack to carry my gear…? DUH!… but I bought a discontinued model when it went on closeout. This is what 90%/50% does for me.
I buy some of my stuff out of Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong’s Kowloon section. I can find items that are for all intents and purposes identical to those sold by the Cabela’s, Walmarts, LL Beans, and all the other stateside gear outlets…. They just won’t have that branding tag. I might have to wait two weeks or a month for delivery but they mostly come with free shipping included, and at far lower prices. I have almost never been disappointed in the quality. The same thing goes for dollar store finds. I can find sturdy, non-loadbearing, Aluminum carabiners priced at $.69 over at my Fell-Off-A-TruckStop. They are every bit as good for their uses as anything else on the market. I don’t need some fancy, twist lock carabiner to put on the end of a rope and hook up my Bear bag… Why, you know… I could just tie the line right through the handles on that plastic bag the stuff I grabbed at the grocery market came in. It would work just as well.
Like I said, my 90%/50% criteria works fine for me…. Now you know what I’m mean by it.
[ * Just recently I violated my own guidelines by buying a pretty darn expensive 30° top quilt (when it comes, I’ll do a review and explain why I made the exception). I’ve violated those guidelines previously when I bought my AMOK Draumr hammock. In both these cases however, I waited until the items went on sale. But I have also consistently saved money on other things that have made these splurges rationalize-able/ justifiable in my own mind.]