Starting September 2011, I will be posting an answer to a weekly "Question of the Week" as a contribution to the education of hikers. Readers are free to experss their own opinions and reflections by commenting. For your questions, email me at email@example.com!
This is my response to a question by blog reader Trance Golez: "I am worried about the cost...what equipment do I need for the first time?"
First off, I wanna say that those who want to climb for the first time should not be intimated by the need for gear and equipment. Hiking gear is not a one-time-big-time acquisition; rather, it is accumulated through the years. So let me dispel the notion that starting hiking is expensive. It is not; even items that seem expensive, like tents, if used for a long time, will really be worth it.
I would usually divide hiking gear into three: climbing gear, camping gear, and cooking gear. These three also represents a logical sequence of purchase; buy climb gear first, then camp gear, and finally, cooking gear. The "cool gadgets" like GPS devices, altimeters, etc. are not really essential unless you wish to document trails or explore new ones.
Since for the first few climbs you will most likely go for minor climbs, it is actually possible not to buy anything for the first time. For a quick climb, say, up Mt. Maculot, it is possible to use a regular rubber shoes. Moreover, for clothes, you can just use some light shorts or sports pants and any shirt. And just bring an ordinary backpack! No need to buy anything yet!
But if you enjoyed it so much, and if you feel that you'll do it again (and again), the first major investment I recommend is on a good pair of hiking shoes. Rubber shoes will not suffice in the long run; they are not designed for the outdoors; it can be damaged after a few times and you don't want to have a ruined pair of shoes while hiking. In my experience, a good trekking/hiking shoe can last for at least 20-30 hikes, and maybe more if you take good care of them. Merrell, Salomon, and Columbia all have shoes at the P3000 territory; Sandugo offers shoe-sandals hybrids like the Yatri that only costs P1790.
Afterwards, before your first major climb, you can go for a hiking backpack. For ladies, 35-45L and for guys, 45-55L is recommended (but this really depends on you). At the upper end, we have locally available Deuter and TNF bags at the 7000 peso price; but there are cheaper, good-quality alternatives such as the bags of Sandugo, Habagat, et. al. Buying . For dayhikes, you can also invest on a daypack, but I recommend that you prioritize the multi-day pack because for daypacks, a normal bacpack will suffice.
As for trekking shirts and pants, you can assemble these one at a time, until you have a collection of several. Two or three pairs of trekking pants is more than enough; in my lifetime I've only had a total of six or seven trekking pants and most of them still work, even after several years.
Small but essential items if you can: a whistle, a compass, a first-aid kit, a bush hat, some dry bags to waterproof your things.
Finally, you can go for camping and cooking gear - getting your own tent is sign of commitment for a long-term pursuit of the outdoors; and so is your own cookset and stove. Again, these aren't expensive if measured against time; I've used a Kovea stove for almost 6 years now and it's still working.
So if you're just starting to climb, don't worry about the cost: it is very affordable. You don't have to go for branded items like TNF, although some fashionable brands are also quality brands - that's why many hikers respect them. An example of this is for headlamps: I think I will save more by buying a Petzl headlamp that will last for five years than buying some cheap LED lamps in Quiapo that get busted every climb. Be smart when making decisions on what to buy! Go for quality, durability, and of coure, affordability!
With the many benefits for hiking and going outdoors, the money you invest in hiking will have big returns - in terms of good health, good times, and good memories.
Do you have a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.