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Penny wise pound foolish

I’ve seen several posts now from people wanting to go as cheaply as possible on gear. We all love a good bargain but sometimes going too cheap ends up costing you more in the long run. There’s value in paying a little more for a quality product - they last longer too!

I’m thinking the following:

  • The main luggage - cheap versions blow out at the seams after only a few uses. Worse - it happens on your trip and now you find yourself trying to sew it back up or doing an emergency shopping run for new luggage.
  • Rain gear - trying to save a few bucks by buying water resistant coats instead of taped seam waterproof coat. End up getting soaked through 1/2 way through the day and spending your vacation time drying out in the hotel room.
  • Walking shoes - going fashionable instead of good support and thicker soles. End up spending the day sitting down or back at the hotel room due to sore/blistered feet
  • Cheap down puff jacket. Down collapses once it’s wet so you’re back at the hotel room. You might want to spend a little more for Primaloft- it keeps its thermal properties when wet.
  • Packing cubes and toiletry kits. Going for the cheaper heavier versions instead of light weight versions. End up having to pay checked bag fees because you can’t make hand luggage weight.

Any other “don’t skimp on this gear” items you would suggest? This isn’t about price so much as quality, but you usually have to pay a little more for quality.

Posted by
2589 posts

won't disagree with you on any of that,I do a lot of walking /trekking so always have decent waterproofs and shoes/boots .I see so many folk visiting Scotland with their ponchos for waterproofs , totally useless in the windy weather ,get a decent jacket.
not a fan of packing tubes and as for toiletry kits a plastic zip lock bag does for me.
I am a great fan of lightweight gear especially for spring /summer/autumn travelling and there are a lot of good quality gear out there.

Posted by
6113 posts

I totally agree. I never use packing cubes, as I don’t own any!

If you are seeing places in northern Europe such as Scotland and Ireland, be prepared for all weathers. There’s nothing worse than putting wet shoes on the following day, so always have a good waterproof spare pair.

If I am going to a nice restaurant, I like to have something smart to wear that isn’t something I have been wearing all day and the same for my footwear. Unless I was only going for a short 5 night city break, we would always check one bag between us, as my husband’s camera kit fills his hand luggage. I don’t want to be spending holiday time washing clothes. We always hire a car at the arrival airport.

Posted by
3749 posts

Great post. My family thinks I'm very frugal, but I will pay for travel gear that does its job well, although the $225 for pants that Travel Fashion Girl likes won't happen. The Tom Bihn Dyneema/Halcyon Tristar that I bit the bullet and bought was definitely worth the money. Years ago, when I would never have spent that kind of money, my inlaws got me a Goretex rain jacket for Christmas and I am still reminded of their love every time I wear it. I don't take it on trips because I don't want to risk something happening to it, so now have a Cabela and a Primaloft H20 raincoat from Bean for colder weather. The two most expensive pair of shoes I own are LL Bean Goretex hiking boots and Ecco Goretex boots. It is of highest importance to have feet that you never have to think about because they take you everywhere you need to go without complaining!

Posted by
4343 posts

Not packing but fits the title.....invest in adequate travel insurance.

Posted by
7574 posts

Being comfortable is my reality.

Joined REI in the 80’s. Remain a card carrying member.

As I tend to walk and walk some more when I travel I don’t want tired, blistered or smelly feet. SmartWool socks. Bought years ago and still in good shape.

Waterproof jacket. Columbia brand bought when the first Bush was in office. Still looks great and still waterproof.

Shoes. Keens. Nothing else. Definitely not cheap but well worth the cost for their durability and comfort. Don’t leave home without them.

Premium economy. Age and impatience dictate it. A simple matter of budgeting well in advance and keeping an eye on airfares.

I do use cubes and the packing folder. Travel with a carryon roller than I can lift over my head without help and a small back pack. Was born when Truman was in office so the need to pack light is essential to eliminating back pain and angst. Well versed on how to accomplish for ease and comfort.

Where I save is that I purposely travel off season, bad weather be damned.

Posted by
1259 posts
  1. REI big haul 40L duffle was only $90. Built like a tank. Fabulous for two weeks in Scotlandbut now I’ve got a Patagonia MLC45.
  2. My backpacking and cycle touring rain experiences and rain gear easily adapted to lightweight travel and have served me well. Waterproof jacket and sox, rain pants, good gloves.
  3. Shoes? I don’t give a fig for style. I love my Altras.
  4. Down is my insulator of choice for all the best reasons. I know how to protect it with my terrific rain gear. Merino wool is superb for shirts, sweaters, sox, under shirts and women’s items. I prefer silk for jammies.
  5. I doubt the heaviest and cheapest packing cubes will, all by themselves, put you over a luggage weight limit.

Packing light has so many benefits. But it takes a leap of faith if you are accustomed to traveling with two or three huge suitcases. Quality equipment and clothing are worth the investment if you know you are going to be traveling for many years.

Posted by
6557 posts

I also though would not equate Price with Quality, especially when it comes to luggage and clothing. Many name brands are expensive for the name, though generally they do have adequate quality.

Clothing especially, I have found very good quality, lightweight, pants and shirts at "discount" or warehouse type stores for a fraction of the price as the well advertised "travel" clothes (I agree with one of the above posters, $200 plus for pants...not going to happen).

For some specialized items, fork out the dough, I invested in a Marmot Gore Tex rain jacket, really just an outer shell for layering, but with some effort was able to get it half price by being patient.

I keep a list of potential needs for travel and keep my eye on sources and prices. That way when a sale or deal comes up, I am able to pounce on it, rather than make an impulse purchase, or having to need to buy something last minute when prices are high.

Posted by
5695 posts

Was born when Truman was in office

Claudia, you made me laugh. I was reading your post, and I thought "Wow! She was born when Truman was in office???" Then I recalled the year of my own birth, and had to laugh. Or weep, not sure which.

I always forget about him, because the first president I actually remember was Eisenhower. But yes, I'm a Truman baby too.

Posted by
7574 posts

Pleased to know you got a laugh Jane.

Historical perspective can be an eye opening reality. :-)

The buck stops here!

Posted by
1179 posts

I doubt the heaviest and cheapest packing cubes will, all by themselves, put you over a luggage weight limit.

You would think that on first glance. But the numbers show differently.

For example, my toiletry kit weighs 2.8 oz. A cheaper one weighs 16 oz. difference = 13.2 oz

An ultra-sil packing half cube weighs 0.6 oz. The same cube in regular nylon weighs 3 oz. difference = 2.4 oz. But many people take 4 or more cubes. So now difference is 4x2.4 = 9.6 oz.

9.6 oz + 13.2 oz = 22.8 oz, or 1.4 lb.

That’s enough to get you at weigh in. Just from packing cubes and toiletry kits.

I agree that ziplocks make a great lightweight substitute. Unfortunately their shape makes packing a little harder.

Posted by
3470 posts

@Claudia & Jane
I was born when FDR was in office! I even remember when he died, and Truman took over.

Posted by
372 posts

I think my travel gear has cost me far more than any other clothing/shoes, but I always intend it to last a long time, and figure a £200 coat over 10+ years is not expensive (better still if you time your purchases and wait for sales).
I have just had to replace my Paramot hiking jacket as it is beginning to wear through the cuffs - 12 years old, +/- 30 trips across 5 continents, plus a great deal of everyday use - I don't think it owes me anything.
Similar with boots - I don't know how many miles the last pair did, but I'd guess somewhere around 4-5 thousand over an 8 year period. Again, I replaced them with an expensive pair - anything less seems like false economy.

As a percentage of my travel costs, divided up over probable lifespan, it isn't really a great expense to be warm, dry and comfortable.

Posted by
2643 posts

> I also though would not equate Price with Quality, especially when it comes to luggage and clothing. Many name brands are expensive for the name, though generally they do have adequate quality.

I don’t know about that. There are a number of posts on this board about luggage that fails mid trip.Let’s face it, when else would a bag fail? Not sitting in your closet. Seams and zippers go out or, worse yet, you lose a spinner wheel and have to lug the beast. Yes, some top brands demand a premium price but IMHO they earn this with more than “adequate quality”-quality materials, ironclad warranty, wheels that won’t break, etc. . A bag you pick up at the bargain store might last you a trip or two, but may ruin your day when it breaks. Add up the number of cheap bags you’ll buy and just get a single Briggs&Riley or the like and enjoy it for life. As for clothing-I have found there are brands that are high quality and yes, higher priced. Prana, Kuhl, Marmot to name a few. Any off brand clothing I’ve purchased over the years has disappointed after a few wearing and washings.

Posted by
3873 posts

Cindy H, I'm with you on this. When quality is better, the item will last longer. The more you use or wear the item, the cheaper it becomes.

The first time you use/wear it, the cost per use/wear is the price you paid. Use/wear #2 cuts the price per use/wear down to half each time. And so on. I have some travel clothes that I've worn so many times that the cost per wear is now almost nothing.

I've become an Eagle Creek fan because of their quality, light weight and No Matter What warranty. I've managed to get almost every EC thing I have on sale, so my starting price is very reasonable and much below the normal price. That takes a lot of patience. Patagonia is another spendy brand, but well worth the wait. Last year they replaced a broken zipper on a very old Primaloft jacket for free.

As for weight, I'm with you on that, too. I weigh everything with my kitchen scale. It's amazing how something feels light in the hand or on the body, but weighs a lot more than I'd guess. I love it when something turns out to be lighter than I expected.

Last fall I gave away almost all of my "heavy" packing cubes, because over the past 3 years or so, I've assembled a collection of EC Specter Tech compression ones. I recently bought an 18x12 and a 14x10 packing folder made of the same fabric. With the folding board, they are a bit heavier than I'd like, so I'm not sure that I'll take either of them.

I agree with almost all of this thread. I get sensitive about my packing cubes though. Still like my ebags Classic cubes and old (heavier) eagle creek ones best. I also like LL Bean toiletry kits (small or medium). I'm not a perfect packer. But, I am a light packer in so many other ways that I have never had a problem with luggage weight. Likewise, there may be newer travel packs with lighter fabric. But, I really like my old etech 2.0 junior pack (ebags) made of heavier fabric. It's durable as can be and I got it cheap on clearance sale (about $55).

Good points are made with this thread.

Posted by
139 posts

Headphones! The expensive, teeny noise-reducing ones (so comfortable) fit in a small pocket. They replaced a clunky can headset, which functioned fine, but took up so much room. I was able to downsize my personal item. Plus, my teen sons actually envy me.

Posted by
2431 posts

"Not packing but fits the title.....invest in adequate travel insurance."

I had to cancel last year, and my credit card insurance paid up for every last thing.
I even made $10 on the refund, as the exchange rate for Euros had changed! :))

Posted by
1221 posts

Eagle Creek changes colors and models quite often and you can get 50%+ off original MSRP at their end of the year sales, bringing down the price to a quite reasonable amount. Yes, your suitcase will be chartreuse or neon orange or something else rather gaudy, but hey, I see this as a feature since it's easy to spot amid an otherwise identical sea of black wheelies.

Posted by
1179 posts

I bought most of my high end gear at end of season sales. Just to list: Patagonia raincoat, Marmot raincoat, North Face Primaloft jacket, Patagonia Tavel Tote, Osprey Tempest 20 pack, Columbia travel pants. Usually the sale is 30-60% off. That’s significant savings for an expensive item.

My Patagonia R-1 fleece has been going strong since the 1990s. It’s been on caving, mountaineering, and relief expeditions. It only shows slight signs of wear after 20+ years. That’s value.

You don’t always save money by going for the lowest price.

Another advantage of ugly, clearance luggage is that it is less likely to get stolen. If it does get stolen - you have a better chance of spotting it before the culprit gets away!
You raised a good point about colors. Solid black luggage that goes missing (not necessarily stolen) is harder to track down. It's good to "personalize" luggage in some way (handle wrap, zipper pull tab, tape on back, etc.).