Shop Smart: Buy This, Not That

What to choose when buying water bottles, batteries, water treatments, and midlayers.
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What to choose when buying water bottles, batteries, water treatments, and midlayers.

WATER TREATMENT

Opt for Aquamira Water Treatment Drops ($15; 2 oz.; aquamira.com)

Instead of an $85+ filter

Why You’ll need 10 years (purifying 200 liters/year) for the cost of these drops to surpass that of a filter and its maintenance. And if you lose or break your pump, you’re SOL—warranties only cover faulty parts. Exception If you have to suck water from potholes, or if your source is super-muddy/scummy, consider a filter.



INSULATING MIDLAYER


Opt for A wool-blend thrift-store sweater ($10)

Instead of a $100+ fleece

Why Wool is the original high-performance insulator: It breathes well, resists moisture, and stays warm when wet. Look for synthetic blends that are at least 75-percent wool, which are softer and easier to launder.

Exception Wool is heavy and dries slowly, so if you’re concerned about weight or weather, fleece is better.

BATTERIES

Opt for Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries ($20; 8-pack; energizer.com)

Instead of cheap alkaline cells

Why You’ll have to replace disposable alkalines four times as often as lithium cells (more in high-drain devices). Bonus: Lithiums weigh less and work in low temps.

Exception The $100 cost of a rechargeable setup may save you in the long run. Plus, rechargeables are easier than ever to use in the backcountry (see the BD ReVolt).

WATER BOTTLE

Opt for 32-ounce Gatorade bottle ($2; 1.6 oz.)

Instead of Pricey, heavy, hard plastic 32-ouncers

Why A Gatorade bottle will withstand a season of trail abuse. If you’re prone to losing bottles, a cheap-o saves you replacement costs.

Exception If you use your bottle in town and refill it instead of buying drinks, consider investing $10 in a nicer-looking one. If you want to fill it with hot liquid, get an insulated bottle.

Don’t Scrimp on Key Pieces

SLEEPING BAG


» Expect to pay: $350+ for a lightweight/packable three-season sack. Don’t risk fitful sleep and a ruined trip. TIP Pair this big-ticket purchase with an incentivized deal, like signing up for an REI Visa, which comes with a $100 gift card.

SLEEPING PAD

» Expect to pay: $40+ for basic insulation and up to $200 for luxe comfort. Cushioning is key for warmth—and restful sleep. TIP Start with an inexpensive closed-cell-foam pad, then upgrade with an affordable, uninsulated cushion. You can layer them for three-season versatility.

BOOTS

» Expect to pay: $200+ for pack-weight-worthy kicks. Good boots will stand up to seasons of abuse. TIP Make them last: Don’t wear down soles and cushioning on city streets (expect 300 to 500 miles of use), and unlace shoes to get in and out.