Buying gear is becoming a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure I’m making it that way. Yesterday I bought a pair of zip-off hiking pants, but I have spent days trying to find the right pair. The process I use while buying anything I need for my hike is a long and complicated one that makes my head spin, but I still enjoy it.
I start off with an idea of what I want. For the pants, I had a cheap pair that I liked hiking in until they disintegrated, and I knew that zip-off pants are pretty common on the PCT. Pants are something I have trouble getting the right fit so I wanted to try them on first. So I went to the store. First was Gander Mountain on the way home from the airport. They had a few options, some North Face ones, but I was with family and it wasn’t the right time to do shopping. A few days later I went to Sports Authority, which is probably a great store if you’re buying a yoga outfit, or if you want to look cute, but they didn’t have any women’s zip-off pants. That shouldn’t have surprised me because I already knew they didn’t carry any women’s long sleeve button down hiking shirts.
In this part of Florida there seems to be a limited selection of outdoor/sport stores. That left the internet. I went to Backcountry.com, my typical starting point. I got a feel of the choices there: the prices, the weights, the reviews. Any pant that seemed like a possibility I left the tab open on my browser. Then I went to Sierra Trading Post and the comparisons started again. I looked for the right color, fabric, size, pockets, inseam length, price, weight, shipping cost. And it’s frustrating when a piece of information isn’t listed. Most of the mittens I’ve looked at the weight isn’t listed. I’ve weighed my oddball collection of tent stakes to find the six lightest I have (and the difference is only a tenth of an ounce) so of course I want to know how much a pair of mittens weighs. Then I went to Campmor, then Zappos, then REI, then EMS, then Amazon (and I usually do this all more than once).
Then I sorted through the potential ones. I close the duplicates that are cheaper at one store or another. I compare shipping. At EMS if I buy 45 dollars of stuff shipping is free, but I didn’t like their pants as much as I liked other ones, but I liked their sunhat the best and if I ordered both I’d have the 45 dollar minimum. The REI pants were a little more expensive but I could switch my EMS order to REI and save with the yearly dividends, but REI didn’t have the gloves or sunhat that I want, but the pants were okay. Sierra Trading Post was the cheapest for a lot of what I’ve been buying, but not this time. Zappos was a strike out. Amazon had a pair that met all my expectations for 20 dollars less than anything else I was seriously considering. And only one pair in my size left in stock. And there was free shipping if I spent 48 dollars, except I didn’t realize until after picking out a cheap watch that I had to spend the 48 dollars with the Amazon-seller that was selling the pants. So I ditched the watch out of my cart and just bought the pants and paid the eight dollars of shipping, but still paid less than what I expected.
I do this with everything that I buy for this hike. I’m counting on these pants being the only paints that I wear for the five months I’m on the trail. That’s a lot of pressure for a pair of pants, glove liners, sunglasses, pack, or socks. All this gear really does make my head spin.
For all the care I've put into most of my purchases my new GoLite pack was a total impulse buy. I had browsed packs before, but not with the intent of buying one—I have a perfectly good, slightly heavy pack that I was planning to use. Then GoLite deeply discounted some packs and I bit. I’m not allowing myself to look at the other ultra-light packs on the web. I have plenty to do without second guessing purchases—like look at hiking shoes.