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It’s no secret that expensive hiking gear usually means lower weight, higher quality and a better warranty. Nevertheless, Gear Editor Matthew Sterne ferreted out some competitive alternatives that don’t break the bank.
1 | Totai 2 Person Explorer Tent
(available online only) Weighing just 500g, this tent is not only ridiculously light but also outrageously cheap. It packs down to a small size and is a breeze to set up. Talking of wind, a strong one would probably snap the thin poles, demolish the tent and carry you off while you dream of hot showers and room service. Hardcore hikers will scorn a tent like this but it could be useful for a hobby hiker who needs it for the occasional one-night fairweather trip.
2 | Oztrail Earth Mat Camper Deluxe 10mm
While this may look like a glorified yoga mat, it does offer quite a bit more than that. It’s extremely light (just 410g), has an insulating foil and is pretty comfy (although somewhat narrow – if I lie on my back, arms at my side, both my pinkies rest on the floor). In short, it should do the job for non-sensitive sleepers or very tired hikers.
3 | Capestorm Scout Mattress
Although this mattress has similar dimensions to the Oztrail, it has somewhat better cushioning and one other key advantage. The differentially die-cut foam saves weight (950g) and the self-inflating feature is a game changer – the kind of small luxury we all deserve after a long day on the trail.
4 | Leisure-Quip headlight
With a 20-metre beam, this eight-LED headlight is a pretty good deal. The headstrap is comfy and it’s easy to switch between the three settings of low, high and flashing. Three AAA batteries are included, with the running time said to be six hours on high (although mine lasted for eight). Online reviews were very positive, with many impressed at its performance given its real affordability.
5 | Forclaz Trekking Backpack 60L
Backpacks and shoes are the two most important items for a hiker and worth more of an investment. That said, this affordable pack has some really cool features. There are three outer mesh pockets for stashing drinks and food, two zippered side pockets for maps and sunscreen and another pocket on the lid. The main compartment has a U-shaped zip running down it, which makes the entire bag’s contents easy to access. What’s missing? Quality padding and breathability on the straps and back. If you can live without that then this pack is worth a look.
6 | Forclaz A100 Quick-Adjustment Walking Pole
Considering that some trekking poles can cost close to R3 000, these ones are a real bargain. They’re sturdy enough to do the job, have a soft foam handle and are a decent weight, too, just 200g a pole. There are some drawbacks – the poles only have four length options, the wrist strap is a small rope as opposed to comfy material and they’re a little rickety (although not worryingly so). Nevertheless, after a day of use I had no noteworthy complaints.
Another option is to rent gear from companies such as Scuttle (scuttle.co.za) and Go Camp (gocamp.co.za). Both have popped up in recent years and allow customers to save money on quality gear and storage space.
Go Camp offers trailers and camp kitchen items whereas Scuttle is focused more on kit for adventures, whether it’s hiking, watersports or even e-biking. Backpacks cost R120 a day to hire and tents around R175 a day.
1 | K-Way Solitude 2 Person Tent
While this tent is considerably sturdier and more spacious than the Totai tent, it’s almost nine times heavier (4.5kg). This is generally the price range for specialised hiking tents, which are better suited to multi-day trips and harsher conditions. With a few pockets inside the tent and a decent-sized floor space, it would make a good wilderness home. But I’d prefer something lighter (anything less than 3kg is optimal) and some options – such as the P Series from Nature Hike or the more-affordable Caprivi 2 from Tentco (see below) – offer just that.
2 | The K-Way Approach sleeping bag
There were a bunch of entry-level sleeping bags that came in at a similar price. I chose to feature this one (1.3kg) because it has better cushioning and could handle the cold slightly better than the others, although with a minimum transition rating of 10°C you’ll need your thermal underwear on cooler nights. Mid-level sleeping bags (around R700) offer better warmth, so keep that in mind if you’re likely to be in colder areas.
3 | Quechua NH100 Raincut Full Zip Men’s Raincoat
This raincoat, with a 2 000mm-rated waterproof coating, is a useful backup solution in case of rain. Made from recycled polyester fibre, the breathability of the coat isn’t great but there are vents around the chest that help with inner airflow. It zips up nice and high so all that passersby will see are your two eyes popping out from the mist. The hood and waist can be adjusted with elasticated drawcords and the entire coat can be packed into an internal pocket for easy storage.
4 | Fire Maple Fire-Force Stove
I’d buy this stove just so I could shout its name every time I took it out of my bag. Fire-Force! It’s also satisfyingly small (folds down to the equivalent of four match boxes and comes in a durable protective casing) and is super light, just 103g. It easily connects onto a gas canister and throws out a steady flame, with an output of 10 236 btu (3 000w).
5 | Fire Maple Fire-Fest Set
You’ll have your basic cooking needs catered for with this set that contains two pots (the largest has a capacity of 1.7L), two pans, four bowls and two spoons. The 737g set nests together nicely so it won’t take up too much space in your bag and comes in a black mesh sack. The pans can double as lids and, because it’s made of anodising aluminium, the cook- set is heat- and friction-resistant. The bowls are laughably small but that just means no one judges when you go for thirds.
6 | Quechua MH100 Women’s mountain walking shoes
With a solid non-slip rubber outsole, durable rubber stone-guards at the front of the foot to protect your toes and full-length cushioning, this affordable hiking shoe ticks the important boxes. Guides and regular hikers will tell you how crucial decent shoes are and if you’re just starting out, this range (also available for men) could do the trick. Just remember to walk
them in a bit before going on any long rambles.
The Caprivi 2 ticks three important boxes: affordable price, manageable carry weight (3kg) and, with 8.5mm fibre poles, a relatively sturdy frame to handle wind.
The Whole Package
Total: R3 961
The total cost of the items (opting for the more affordable mat and tent) comes to less than R4 000, but bear in mind: you don’t have to purchase everything on this list to get out and enjoy the trails. To start, a tent, backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and shoes are your most essential items for a night out.