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The Outdoor Gear Shopping Checklist

Whether we are beginners or experienced backcountry travelers, it is imperative that we understand our outdoor gear requirements BEFORE embarking on a gear-shopping trip. Even if we're just shopping for the best gifts for dad, we need to have information which will enable/empower us to make intelligent decisions - with or without a sales person looking over our shoulders.

These days, the outdoor gear market offers so many choices, for so many specialized functions, that we really have to have our usage requirements nailed down cold, or we run the risk of purchasing gear that, sooner or later, will end up on your personal Outdoor Gear For Sale page because it didn't meet your needs.

Also, quite often, the experience level of salespersons in the larger outdoor-gear retail stores is severely lacking -- in many cases they are not experienced enough to give proper help but do anyway because that's their job. So, we need to rely heavily on ourselves and enable ourselves to get the right gear the first time, by self inquiry and documentation of our usage requirements. That's the purpose of this page.

The Outdoor Gear Shopping Checklist is a guide for making informed and planned outdoor gear list shopping decisions. A guide to lead you through the process of understanding your usage requirements and documenting those requirements in preparation for gear shopping.

The answers to these questions will better equip you to (1) reduce your dependence on sales people to figure out what you need and (2) reduce your subsequent need to buy and sell gear multiple times in order to get what you actually, really need.

The Gear Shopping Checklist



What kind of trips will you be taking:

  • How many days ?


  • How many miles ?


  • In what kind of terrain--on trail, off trail ?


  • At what altitude & geographic conditions--coastal, desert, subalpine, alpine ?


  • In what seasons--Summer, 3-Season, 4-Season ?


  • In what climate & weather conditions--rain, sun, ice, snow, mud ?


  • How many people (& pets)--solo, 2-person, etc. ?


  • If buying for an expedition or adventure, how many days between huts or resupply ?


  • How much gear will you be carrying (in terms of weight & volume) ?


  • Will you be traveling in areas/countries with questionable water quality ?


  • How much are you willing to spend ?

    • smallest, lightest, regardless of cost ?


    • smallest, lightest, according to budget ?

  • How long do you expect this gear to last ?


In addition to the general information above, here are some specific topics to consider.



  • Do you experience claustrophobia ?


  • Are you an extreme alpinist or solo backpacker searching for the lightest most practical shelter available ?


  • Do you need a tent that is bombproof enough to withstand the fiercest Winter storm ?


  • Do you camp in large, established campsites or prefer to select smaller, well-secluded sites (ala stealth camping) ?


  • Do you like to keep your gear inside your tent, in a vestibule, or is it okay to leave it outside ?


  • Are Summer showers and nasty, biting bugs your main concern ?


  • Do you intend to cook inside your tent during inclement weather ?


  • Are you a heavy breather, in your sleep ? (relates to condensation--requires good ventilation).



  • Do you sleep hot or cold ?


  • Do you rock & roll in your sleep ?


  • What side of the bed do you get out of in the morning. (you'll probably want to get out of your sleeping bag on that side, also).



  • Do you have your gear with you ?--(it's optimum to take your own gear with you and load prospective packs with it when testing them.)


  • What's your torso measurement ?--(see backpacks tips)


  • Do you have weak hips or weak lumbar ? (most packs put majority of weight on hips--some put more weight on the lumbar region (my personal preference)--some are more adjustable than others.


  • Do you like lots of pockets for organizing gear ?


  • Do you require a lot of ventilation between your back and your pack ?


  • Is it your intention to carry a water bladder with outlet hose in your pack ?



  • Do you have your hiking socks with you ?


  • Do you have your orthopedic inserts with you ?


When trying-on hiking shoes and boots, take the socks you would wear during your backcountry adventures--as well as orthopedic inserts (orthodics). If you don't know what socks you'll be wearing, then that's where you should start. If you change thickness and design of sock subsequent to purchase, that good boot fit you work hard for, may be history.

Also, take into consideration that your feet will swell on the trail, so don't get boots that are overly tight right out of the box, thinking that they will loosen up significantly. Make sure the boot is comfortable with just a little extra room. The main thing is to (1) have length in the toe box so your toes won't "bottom out" during downhill travel and (2) a tight fit in the heel to diminish or eliminate heel movement and resultant blisters.



Groups (families, expeditions, scouts, etc.) --

Consider using same type and size of battery for (1) all battery-requiring gear (radios, flashlights, etc.) for (2) all members of the group. If one product breaks, you can use the remaining products double-duty using the batteries from the broken one.

Consider carrying stoves that use the same kind of fuel (in the case of cartridge-fuel stoves, at least use cartridges that are interchangable with all stoves being carried in the group. If one stove breaks, you can use the remaining one(s) double-duty using the fuel from the broken one.

Consider same or similar first aid kit and fourteen-essentials kit for each member of the group. When someone gets hurt you know exactly what they have in their pack (because it's the same as in your own) thus, you can more easily and more quickly access their gear and tend to their wounds or other needs.



Shop at stores with reputable, experienced salespeople. This may surprise you, but my advise, if you are just starting out -- UNLESS YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED -- is to stay away from outdoor chain stores (you know who they are)!

My suggestions are to (1) do research here at The Gear Store (and other online resources) by reading the guides offered here as well as (2) visit the TLB Gear Forums where literally hundreds of gear experts daily exchange quality information. If you have specific questions, ask them in the forums and you'll receive relatively quick responses. You can also search the forums for prior threads related to your area of inquiry.

Also, if you have the opportunity, go to "brick & mortar" shops like Marmot, Wilderness Experience, Feathered Friends--all stores I frequent in my part of the world--and get help you can count on from experienced backcountry professionals. Check your local area for the best outdoor shops. If the chain stores are all you have, then make darn sure you've done your homework--for your own good--and get a second and third opinion.

More and more I do my shopping over the internet. There's a lot of good, quality shops on the net - for example, here at The Outdoor Gear Store. This is a great alternative especially if you have a solid idea of your required specifications. Even if you don't, we will work with you to ensure you get what you really need.



Using the information above -- that you have just supplied yourself -- you will reduce (1) your dependence on sales people to figure out what you need and (2) your subsequent need to buy and sell gear multiple times in order to get what you actually, really need.

This information will be critical when talking tents, boots, clothes, backpacks, sleeping bags, and virtually all the other gear items you will need--some of which you don't even know you need, yet. Trust me, an experienced salesperson will ask about and use every one of the info items mentioned above, and probably more.


Index to Other Gear Store Gear Guides

The The Gear Shopping Checklist offered above, compliment other pages at this website which also provide guidance for purchasing outdoor gear. A few of those other pages which help you identify requirements are as follows:

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© Copyright. Charles Lindsey & Outdoor Gear Shopping Tips