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Gear Guy: What You Want or What You Need?

Most outdoor gear companies want you to think that bigger and more expensive is always mo’ betta. Sure, in some cases that’s true, but more often than not, the cheaper items are just as useful as the expensive stuff.

To help you wade through the sea of gear options and decode the marketing mumbo-jumbo, our own Gear Guy huddled with two former Scouts who now work for Adventure 16, one of the top outfitter shops in San Diego, Calif. Our guest experts are store manager Christo Kuzmich, 38, a former Life Scout from Troop 126 in Los Angeles; and Eagle Scout-turned-assistant manager Chris Koci, 21, of Troop 51 in La Mesa, Calif. On the next few pages, you’ll find our gear gurus’ head-to-toe recommendations for both what you want and what you really need.



A softshell is the type of jacket that’ll get you through 90 percent of weather conditions—everything except a downpour. The 22-ounce Neo does just that, plus it’s breathable and has four-way stretch for maximum mobility. ($99; or 1-800-426-4840)

SHELL Marmot PreCip

Every outdoorsman needs a good rain shell, and the 12-ounce PreCip is “hands down the best product for the price,” Koci says. It’s seam-taped and waterproof/breathable. ($100; or 1-888-357-3262)

FISHING ROD Bamboo Fishing Pole Kit

Food is a necessity on the trail, and nothing is tastier than a pan-fried brook trout that you caught! This super basic eight-foot pole comes with spool, line, hook and sinker. ($4.65; or 1 800 323 0736)

MIDLAYER Columbia Steens Mountain Sweater

For about $30, you can get the Steens midweight polyester fleece that will keep you toasty warm. “A great fleece sweater for the price,” Kuzmich says. ($33; or 1-800-622-6953)

need_watch.jpgWATCH Timex Expedition Camper

This thing keeps track of your time on the trail in water-resistant style. Nothing less, nothing more. ($35; or 1-800-448-4639)

BASELAYER Cabela’s MTP Polartec Medium-Weight Top and Pants

Forget that cotton tee. You need something that wicks moisture away from your skin to keep you warm even when it’s wet. A smart choice is this Cabela’s long underwear made from the same high-performance Polartec fabric you’ll find in more expensive baselayers, but at half the cost. ($30 top, $25 pants; or (1-800-237-4444)

SUNGLASSES Ryders Tangent

What your eyes need is a pair of lightweight sunglasses with interchangeable lenses that can handle a wide variety of light conditions, from hazy to bright, while still providing 100 percent UV protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The Tangent does all that while looking cool. ($60,

HEADLAMP Petzl Tikka

Flashlights are fine, but a headlamp leaves your hands free. The Tikka is a reliable water-resistant single-watt LED that’ll provide 120 hours of light on the trail. ($26; or 1-877-807-3805)

BACKPACK Jansport Carson

Newer isn’t always better. This classic 4,900-cubicinch capacity external-frame pack “has enough capacity for a weeklong trip and can still handle a growing kid,” Kuzmich says. “I did the John Muir Trail with a pack like this four times, and I still have it.” ($130; or 1-800-558-3600)

NAVIGATION Silva Polaris

You need a compass. Period. This classic one has everything you need to find your way and – best of all – it’ll never run out of batteries. ($12; r 1-800-572-8822)

need_stove.jpgSTOVE MSR PocketRocket

“For its size and weight, this stove boils water like nothing else I’ve seen,” Koci says. The PocketRocket is one of the lightest around – just three ounces. For boiling water on the trail, it’s tough to top. ($40; or 1-800-531-9531)

SLEEPING BAG Kelty Chinook 20

Synthetic bags like the Thermolite Quallo-filled Chinook are better for Scouts on a budget because they are cheaper than goose down – and they still keep you warm even when wet. ($90; or 1-800-423-2320)

need_hydrateHYDRATION Recycled Gatorade bottle

Forget those fancy canteens and water bottles. What you need to do is buy a 32-ounce Gatorade. When you’re done drinking it, slap on a makeshift handle with some webbing and duct tape and fill it back up with water. ($4)

PANTS White Sierra Trail Pant

You need pants that can do double-duty as shorts. These nylon pants are quick drying, provide full sun protection and are treated with stain resistance to keep you clean in the field. ($45; or 1-800-980-8688)

BOOTS A boot that really fits!

“Don’t worry about what looks good on the wall, just get a boot that fits well,” Koci says. “Go to a specialty shop and let the professionals fit you. You’ll be a lot happier in the long run.” If it fits, a great starter boot is the waterproof leather Hi-Tec Altitude IV. ($80; or 1-800-521-1698).

Also pick up some Superfeet Green insoles. Or try the new Orange insoles, with an extra shock pad and antistink treatment (much-needed in the Pedro Patrol). “Just buy them!” Koci says. “Especially if you’re purchasing inexpensive boots. Superfeet will turn not-sogood boots into a really good pair. It’s one of the best buys you can make because they will save your knees, back and ankles.” ($35, Green; $40, Orange; or 1-800-634-6618)

need_hat.jpgHAT Columbia Bora Bora Booney

It’s wide enough to block the sun and has mesh paneling to vent hot heads, exactly what a hat needs to do. ($20; or 1-800-622-6953)


What you need is to get those puke-inducing microbes out of your water. You could spend $100 and filter your water through a pump or you could just pop one of these tablets in your drink for purified water in about 30 minutes. “It leaves no taste and works very fast,” Koci says. ($13 for 30 tabs; or 1-800-755-6701)

need_tent.jpgTENT Kelty Teton 2

“All you really need is a tarp. I did the John Muir Trail four times with just a tarp, but first you need the skills to be able to use it,” Kuzmich says. In the meantime, check out the Teton 2, a two-man, three-season tent with durable aluminum poles weighing in at less than five pounds. ($100; or 1-800-423-2320)



The drool factor is high with the L3, a three-watt luxeon lamp that has four modes (from power saver to emergency blinker) and can throw light for more than 200 feet, making it one of the most powerful headlamps on the market. ($110; or 1-800-443-4871)

BASELAYER Icebreaker Bodyfit260 Slalom Zip and bottoms

For the ultimate midweight baselayer, try the all-merino wool Bodyfit. “I bring this with me on every trip,” Koci says. “It still retains its warmth when wet and keeps you cool in warm weather but doesn’t hold smell like polyester baselayers. Last year at Philmont, I wore my Icebreaker for 14 days straight, and it didn’t stink!” ($100 top, $70 bottoms; or 1-866-363-7466)


The Klemm blends street-style bling with no-nonsense performance polarized lenses – some of the best in the sunglass industry. ($200;

wants_navigationt.jpgNAVIGATION Garmin 60CSX

Kuzmich’s favorite compasson-overdrive is the 60CSX, a water-resistant GPS with a color screen, altimeter and expandable memory that even lets you upload your own maps. ($482; or 1-800-800-1020)

BACKPACK Gregory Baltoro

Internal-frame packs with smart suspension systems make carrying heavy loads a breeze. “I went up to Mount Whitney last year and carried over 30 pounds more than is recommended for this pack, and it still carried like a charm,” Koci says. “It’s the best pack I’ve ever worn, hands down.” ($269; or 1-800-477-3420)

MIDLAYER Patagonia R2 Jacket

When money is no object (yeah, right), go for the R2, which is “a lot more breathable and packable” than ordinary fleece, Kuzmich says. It’s lighter, too; made from Polartec Thermal Pro, the R2 weighs just 14.5 ounces. ($150; or 1-800-638-6464)

SHELL Arc’teryx Beta SL

“The more you spend on a shell, the more you are paying for breathability, which means more comfort,” Koci explains. The 432-gram Beta SL is superlight, but with Gore-Tex PacLite and XCR, it’s also supremely waterproof and breathable. Oh, and it looks sweet, too. ($350; or 1-800-985-6681)

need_hydrate.jpgHYDRATION Hydrapak Reversible Reservoir

If you covet the fluid-carrying capacity of camels, slip the 100-ounce Hydrapak inside your backpack. It’s just like other easy-drinking hydration sacks, but this one can be turned inside-out for easier cleaning and a microbe-free gulp every time. ($30;

SOFTSHELL Patagonia Ready Mix

Step up to the Ready Mix and you’ll get a super lightweight jacket (just 15 oz.) with welded seams and more water resistance than most other softshells. “I took this up Mount Whitney for a winter mountaineering trip and never once needed my rain jacket,” Koci says ($199; or 1-800-638-6464)

WATCH Suunto X9i

If you’ve got five-hundy to burn, get the X9i – which probably has more computing power than your dad’s laptop – with its built-in altimeter, compass, barometer and GPS! ($499; or 1-800-543-9124)

WATER PURIFIER First Need Deluxe Portable Purifier

Tablets are fine, but a lightweight filter like the First Need is a faster – and usually tastier – option for clean water. Just attach this filter to your water bottle and pump clean, ready to-gulp water that’s free of nasty things like bacteria, cysts, viruses and pesticides. ($98; or 1-800-441-8166)

wants_sleeping-pad.jpgSLEEPING PAD Exped Downmat 7

“I threw out all my other pads after I got this one,” Kuzmich says. Why? Because it’s cushy soft, super light (just 20 ounces) and the down filling gives you three times the insulating warmth of any synthetic mat. ($130; or 1-888-467-4327)


Kuzmich’s top boot pick is the beefy Gore-Tex Utah. “The leather has a phenomenal feel, and it’s not wide and boxy like a lot of other boots. It also really holds your foot well across the top.” ($210;

wants_stovel.jpgSTOVE MSR Reactor

Spend $100 more than on the PocketRocket and you can get MSR’s Reactor, a super fuel-efficient windproof canister stove. It comes with an attachable 1.7 liter pot. Though the stove isn’t exactly tiny – 21 ounces – MSR is claiming it’s the fastest-boiler available, able to boil one liter of water in less than 3 minutes. ($140; or 1-800-531-9531)

wants_hat.jpgHAT Tilley LTM3 Airflo

The four-ounce Tilley is lightweight, water-resistant and very breathable with its ring of mesh. It’s also fitted for a more precise fit and comes with a secret pocket in the crown plus closed cell foam that makes it float. ($66; or 1-800-363-8737)

FISHING ROD Orvis Frequent Flyer Fly/Spin Combo

Imagine packing this seven-foot four-piece, breakapart rod that can be equipped with either a fly reel or a spin reel (both included), depending on your mood and the fish you seek. ($349; or 1-888-235-9763)

PANTS Ex Officio Buzz Off convertible pant

These zip-offs are a step above all others because they “are made with more comfortable fabric and come with built-in insect repellant,” Kuzmich says. They’re also sun protective to UPF 30+, quick drying and wrinkle resistant. ($80; or 1-800-644-7303)

TENT Bibler Ahwahnee

“The Ahwahnee is a single-wall tent that’s really breathable. It’s my 90-percent tent, the one I use for most every trip,” Kuzmich says. At 6 pounds, this two-man, four-season tent has two doors for great ventilation in the summer, yet it’s still extremely waterproof for winter camping. ($650;

SLEEPING BAG Western Mountaineering Alpinlite Super

“This is simply the best-made sleeping bag on the planet,” Kuzmich says. At almost $400 it oughta be. This down bag is just shy of two pounds and is made of the finest materials available for super durability. “With side baffles that allow the down to move freely from top to bottom and vice versa, the versatility of this bag is worth the almost $400 price tag,” Koci says. ($390;

50 Comments on Gear Guy: What You Want or What You Need?

  1. Prepper scout // July 18, 2013 at 11:24 am // Reply

    They forgot para-cord(550 cord)! That stuff one of the most impotent things in my pack!

  2. If you want to find good backpacking tips and good backpacking gear at low prices get the ultimate hikers gear guide by Andrew Skura. The guy has hiked the yukon trail the appalaichian trail john muirs trail the sea to sea trail and lots more. I have the book and love it and it is under $20 at barnes and noble.

  3. gamemaster 24 (coolman360) // May 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm // Reply

    Military gear works great for camping since it is durable, lightweight and not very expensive.

    • Off-Trail Monkey // August 20, 2013 at 10:38 am // Reply

      It’s never light.

      • Historian // January 31, 2015 at 9:41 pm //

        It actually is built to be light for our soldier’s fighting abroad or overseas. The only reason why it would be heavy, is that they are knockoffs or fakes. I know I used my cousin’s fatigues and equipment for weather changes and it is fairly light and loose.

  4. I want the Jansport Carson but my mom wont let me buy one

  5. Another alternative is to purchase used gear from some of the older scouts that are buying new or simply wish to sell off some of their gear as they ready for college.

  6. this is a good reminder about what you really need

    (Although i wouldn’t say no to a GPS)

  7. More dollars do not necessarily equal better quality.

  8. I really agree with this article. Just because you see gear that is the latest and greatest, doesn’t mean you have to pay the pretty penny to get the stuff you need! You can find high quality gear that work just as well as the newest stuff, and for a very reasonable price. Sometimes you can the latest gear for a much lower price, too. All you have to do is look for it.

  9. i need a good pad for backpacking that wont cost a arm and a leg.

    • If you want to spend less, yet with lots of durability and comfort, get the Therm A Rest RidgeRest. If you can spend more, get the Therm A Rest Trail Light.

  10. Spacescout // May 31, 2009 at 6:13 pm // Reply

    You know if you buy all the items you need on the list, you’ll have 20 item and a cost of $856.65.If the items you want,18 items and $1612.Whoa!!!

  11. Big Chihuahua // May 15, 2008 at 10:47 am // Reply

    Hey, I want to get headset to talk to people online, but I don’t know which one to pick. I need a low-cost, reliable, good-sounding headset. Which one should I get?

  12. It’s ONLY a measly 4500 buck for all the cool gear! Yeah right! :O


  13. we need a usa firesteel army model

  14. Drew Pack is right, this stuff is pretty expensive. For u guys who want a GPS, the one that’s good and affordible is the Garmin E-trex. I got one for around $100 and love it! Forget tents, for $108 you can get a hennessee hammok. They are hammoks with bug mesh and a rain fly. Fits into a tiny pack and it is accually easy to get in the pack!!!!! Try out the “Expidition.” It is the best for your money!

  15. Old Scout 1960 era // August 11, 2007 at 10:00 pm // Reply

    To Someone from pack 227:

    You want a cheap cell phone, how about the $15 Trac Phone at K-Mart? But then I haven’t figured in the cost of the pre-paid phone plan.Still it keeps you from having supprise bills in the mail.

  16. The Awahee is nice but a little price as is everything else I’ve been useing a Mountain hardwar that I got on sale 4 $100. Its great and at 100 dollars its exactly what I need

  17. it would be so cool to have all this stuff

  18. I have to agree with walclimber98 because that GPS is sweeeeet.

  19. C’mon want!! Be less-enspencive.

  20. wallclimber98 // June 1, 2007 at 1:06 pm // Reply

    Army surplus store or Army Navy stores are awsome places to get gear for boyscouts.

  21. dwight eisenhower // May 11, 2007 at 11:04 pm // Reply


  22. dwight eisenhower // May 11, 2007 at 10:53 pm // Reply

    this stuff is a real reminder of wat u need & wat u want some stuff is cool but 2 pricey & some stuff is not so cool but affordable

  23. Someone from pack 227 // May 9, 2007 at 8:21 pm // Reply

    I need a cell phone that’s good but cheap.

  24. drew pack 292 // May 5, 2007 at 3:53 pm // Reply

    it is very pricy amd who would pay 100$ for a back pack

  25. Geaeguy is cool!

  26. 93 fanatic!! // May 2, 2007 at 10:48 pm // Reply

    Dude, I think it’s totally awesome how you always pull through for me, because now I’m totally hooked for the next colder trip! I can’t wait to use a super-cool flexible backpack and those awesome filters!!!

  27. It to much and only for the cold weather

  28. Woodlums Wilderness Survival Guy // April 27, 2007 at 1:03 pm // Reply

    Another thing ,

    An old Pack is fine it dose not have to look cool to wear it . I find Army surplus back packs are very cheeply priced and very well built . Comfort is every thing . Surplus can be perchased for very short change . I am sure any scout looking for low priced back packing gear would find it at most surplus stores. Not to mension it is useualy the right color for blending in . Mess Kits , Fork, Knife, Spoon Kits First Aid Kits And Clothing most of you already have . Just rummiging threw your house . You can come up with most of your needs right at home with no money out of pocket . For the other stuff I would say go mow some lawns or shuvle snow or some kind of work to get these things because you will take better care of them if you have perchased them your self . Gear should last a very long time . My messkit has been with me fo over 20 years and the food cook just as good as the first time I used it.

    I am Proud of all you guys that get out in the woods . With some care and awaerness you will all become great woods men some day. Keep up the practice and always learn something .

    I would like to thank Boys’ Life for providing these forums . This is a great thing you offer for those of us who wish to learn and share. We should be greatful for every thing you guys do for our youth and scouting . Today was my first time visiting these forums and I can see I’ve been missing out . Thanks again Woodlums

  29. Woodlum Wilderness Guy // April 27, 2007 at 10:10 am // Reply

    This may help get you guys started if it is OK to submit this .

    Tom Brown Jr. Feild guides are great

    also he has story books of his years as a tracker

    Raymond Mears Out Door Survival Hand Book

    Is also one of my favorets. It’s been with me on trip for many years and one of my first to learn from.

    Advanced Bird Language ( 6 – books on tape or cd ) By John Young

    Seeing Threw Native Eyes ( 6 – tape or cd ) Same

    Just to say a few , I have learned so much from nature . Lets all do our best to protect it LNT has been a great teacher for you scouts . Please stick with it .

    The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow . Good luck Tracking.

    Thank You Again, Woodlums

  30. Woodlum Wilderness Guy // April 27, 2007 at 9:47 am // Reply

    Things to think about

    There are easier and more primitive ways to camp and see nature. More of less is some times better . I try to stick to needs . Boiling water with your stove can take a little longer but is cheeper and lighter not having both, filter and stove . Also tarping sleep area only when weather is coming in makes for a lighter pack as well as set up time and seeing more in the bush . Don’t forget the need for a ridge rest, I find that the 1/2 inch foam type works just fine and costs under $5.00 in most discount campshop .

    When we do our LNT trips we work on native skills to profect our need for less . this really makes for some fun survival camping trips . I am very happy that there is so many of you taking the time to get out there camping and hiking . Think of this, Try this some time. While LNT camping try LNT of your self . This is the art of blending in and the wild life will share their secrets with you as you perfect the skill. Good Luck , There are many books and videos out there for your learning pleasure . If this interests you,it’s time to start tracking these things down.

    Thank You, Woodlums

  31. Yeah both side of gear are really pricy but very cool just thinking i dont need alot of that gear like i could just use my underarmor to replace the base layer thanks for helping me decide on what things to get thoug!!

  32. In BOYS SCOUTS i,m gotta get a bead forever with my scouts are gotta get

    beads with me forever with me when I get home I,ll go to school on wndsday

    jacob P.S I win a trofy.

  33. thanks for helping me

  34. theres better GPS’s out there

  35. Yeah, I have to agree with the compass thing. The compass works with or without batteries, with or without sun, under tree cover, in the open, and it wont break if you just drop it.

  36. the Gatorade bottle idea is great I did something similar with an old backpack strap and it worked great

  37. Thanks for this article. I tell the boys (and their parents) in my troop all the time that the most expensive cool gear is not necessarily the best or most important. You can be just as comfortable with the Gatorade bottle as with a hydrapak. Plus, the only time I felt more comfortable with GPS was when I was sailing, because it is hard to point on a map where you are in the middle of the ocean. When performing normal land navigation you can almost always find a reference point on a good map.

  38. The PocketRocket totaly rules. I have one.


  40. I think this is a GREAT TIP

  41. I think that it is very important to get what you need because if you are buying all the expensive items for camping like a GPS that might not be smart because you could get a compass instead and a map and you wouldn’t have spent all that money! Hi Holy Rosary! Hi Sean and Mrs. Drummond

  42. I’d like to see a chapter on using what you have. Real survival!

  43. what about things for summer backpackers (best t-shirts or shorts…)

  44. I think it is a good idea to have wat you nead to go

  45. very pricy on both sides, what you want + what you need. But for paying lots of money you get great quality products

  46. Nice….. I have been thinking about geting the Carson, have any of yall used it?

  47. To pricy !!!!!!

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