How I Got All My Outdoor Kit

Emily Woodhouse Gear, Practical Advice

How did you get all that kit, Emily?” Since publishing my complete packing lists for several adventures, people have been asking me how I got it all.

See packing lists for cycle touring, walking/cycling and walking.

Yes, it looks like a lot. That huge list can sometimes be off-putting to people thinking about their first adventure. Do I have to buy all that? How will I ever afford all that? Well, let me bust some myths and show you how I did it.

Buy Kit That Lasts

Most of my kit is ancient. Particularly in the walking department. Go down my list for All the Tors and let’s see how old they all are:

  • Rucksack – 12 years old
  • Gaiters – 12 years old
  • Camelback – 12 years old
  • Belay jacket – 6 years old
  • Base layer – 8 years old
  • Sleeping mat – 3 years old

And so on… The only things less than 1 year old were the things I was borrowing (tent, SPOT) and an extra long titanium spoon. Why? Because I’m collecting items of kit slowly and as they become necessary.

Aside: if you don’t understand why the extra long spoon is necessary, then go and spend 15 years trying to reach the bottom of a ration pack with a spork without getting covered in orange.

Where you can, buy once and buy smart. Make that purchase last forever.

I am always disappointed when kit doesn’t last longer than 4 years. For some things it’s simply not possible. I have a high churn rate on walking boots because I wear them at least once (often twice or more) days a week, every week.

Save up and get a good piece of equipment that will last for years – then remember to look after it.

But I can’t Afford…

Okay, so now you know that I have a long term kit buying plan which I’m slowly chipping away at. Now let’s look down the same list from All the Tors and see how I got each item.

  • Rucksack – 13th birthday present
  • Gaiters – 13th birthday present
  • Camelback – Christmas present age 13
  • Belay jacket – Christmas present age 19
  • Base layer – Christmas present age 21
  • Sleeping mat – last second buy before leaving for Europe by bike in 2016

Do you see a pattern? If you can’t afford to buy it yourself, make a wish list and ask for items – or contributions towards those items – instead of presents. What did you get for your 21st birthday?

So yes, think about it with Christmas coming up. Would you rather have reindeer slippers and a box of chocolates, or get a step closer towards getting kit for your adventure? It has taken me over 10 years of birthdays and Christmases to accumulate the kit I have now. When I started working at university, I was able to buy some too.

I’m only just getting to the stage now where I have more than one of something. As in one base layer, one hat, one pair of gloves… I had to buy a second pair of walking trousers when I joined Mountain Rescue, just so that they had a chance of getting washed.

Shopping Smart

This section is two-fold. On one hand, it is really important to learn about what’s good and what isn’t in the world of kit. Certain brands have certain reputations – some things are designed with a specific use in mind which might not be on the label. You’ll probably start to pick this sort of knowledge up the more time you spend doing an activity. Before buying a piece of kit ask friends about theirs and what they like/don’t like about it. Would they recommend it to you?

If you’re short on friends in the activity you’re trying to buy for (e.g. you’re just starting out), then I’d highly recommend going into an independent gear shop and talking to the staff. Small, single shop companies are the best for insider knowledge and honest advice. Be sure to pay them back for it by buying the products in their shop. I know, I know: sometimes it’s worth hunting for a super discount online. But think of it like a coffee shop. You could pay next to nothing for a coffee, but you’re willing to pay a bit more to have it in a nice place with helpful staff.

Once you’ve learnt about kit and are feeling a bit more confident about what’s good for you and what isn’t, now’s the time for bargain hunting. I am a particular fan of for unusual brands and lightning fast postage. You can get some bargains on Sport Pursuit if you’re restrained enough to wait for the kit you want to come on offer – instead of impulse buying everything in a sale! (You have been warned) There are also cashback websites that give you money back when you make the purchase you were going to make anyway…! That’s basically like being paid to buy kit.

Beg, Borrow, Sponsorship

If you just want a piece of kit for one expedition, then you could always try to get it without buying it. Most people online seem to jump to the idea of sponsorship. You can read about how to get free kit from brands here, but there is a far simpler way. Ask your friends if they’ve got one you can borrow. The worst thing they can say is no. If they do, they might mention someone else they know who’s got one spare.

If you’re set on the sponsorship route, think about what is 100% necessary for your trip. Do you need the money to buy something? Or do you just need that thing? It’s far easier to get kit from brands than money. Do you need that piece of kit for ever? Or can you just borrow it? This is a hard to refuse proposal. Although I couldn’t afford a super-lightweight tent or a SPOT tracker for All the Tors, I was able to borrow them in exchange for content. It would have been cool to keep them, but it was more important to have them for the expedition.

If you want to learn more about how this world works, you need to read this post about How to Get Free Stuff Off Brands.

What is your oldest piece of kit and how long have you had it for? As ever, any questions about anything, just hit me in the comments below! Thanks for reading 🙂