Overrated Backpacking Gear

You know those celebrities who are famous for being famous? You’re not quite sure what they do, but for whatever reason they are household names. Some backpacking gear is like that. You see them on countless packing lists for backpacking trips, but they are as important as they are popular. Here are a few of the most overrated backpacking gear items.

Bring them if you want them; just realize that you might not actually need them.

Camping pillow

An easy way to save some weight and free up some space in your backpack is by leaving your camping pillow at home. Save it for the car camping trips. A stuff sack with some clothes or a jacket in it will do just fine.

Survival knife

A small blade is always useful whether your backpacking, hiking, camping, or otherwise spending time outdoors. A big, heavy 1095 carbon steel survival knife, on the other hand, is a bit overkill.

9 times out of 10, you have to go out of your way to use a survival knife on an average backpacking trip. Leave the heavy steel at home unless you want to practice your bushcraft skills.

Waterproof shoes

While waterproof shoes keep water out, they also they trap water – and sweat – in. There’s no way around it. Your feet will get wet when you’re hiking in heavy rains regardless of whether or not your hiking shoes are waterproof. Plus, waterproof hiking shoes take forever to dry. This can lead to blisters or maceration on the trail.

A shoe or boot with waterproofing is good for light trekking after a rain, or hiking in cold weather when you need added insulation. If you’re hiking over distances for long periods of time in the rain or in hot weather, choose non-waterproof hiking shoes.

A backup headlamp

Carrying a backup headlamp or light source is really smart for caving. You don’t need an extra headlamp for backpacking, though. It adds extra weight, and it’s not really necessary. One is plenty.

Down insulation

Down is great. It offers arguably the best warmth to weight ratio of any other type of insulation. There are a couple of big problems with down insulation, however.

It’s expensive, and when you’re out in the wet and muck of real life nature, you have to treat down with the same care and attention you’d give a FabergĂ© egg. Water will render your down bag or jacket useless, and sweat, oils, and grime will ruin the precious and fragile plumes within.

While down is still a wonderful option for backpacking trips, it is overrated. Synthetic insulation will provide adequate warmth at a lower price, and it’s much more rugged.


Looking for a place to buy backpacking gear in Northwest Arkansas? Stop by Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters. We carry backpacking gear, camping equipment, hiking supplies, climbing gear, and more!

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