Not having hundreds of dollars to spend on gear should not be used as an excuse for missing out on all the fun. The VOC has always been about doing more with less.
Here are a few ideas that will save you some money (and, best of all, they'll also save weight) :
- Stove : For full-on winter use nothing beats a good white-gas stove (MSR or similar). However, for summer trips there are much cheaper and much lighter alternatives. Consider building your own alcohol burning stove. There are plenty of designs out there. For example, the cat stove is easy to make with simple tools and a few dollars worth of materials.
- Gore-tex is nice in really stormy weather. But for most trips, it's just too heavy and expensive. Consider a lighter-cheaper windbreaker. You get the added bonus of increased breathability. Cut three holes in a garbage bag and wear it like a vest to supplement your windbreaker if it gets rainy. No, this system won't keep you dry in a downpour, but who cares?
- Tents are heavy; why not leave them at home (or at the store)? Going for a one-night trip and the forecast looks good? Just grab your sleeping bag and mat and go. You'll be amazed at the refreshing feeling of fresh air as you doze off at night (as opposed to your partner's socks you'd be smelling if you had brought a tent). If it's bug season, you might want to rig up a bit of bug netting over your face. In winter, tent free camping gets even better with snowcaving. With practice, you can dig one in an hour or two (not a big deal when the sun sets at 4:30pm) and they are actually warmer and more windproof than any tent. All you need is a shovel (which you should have along anyway!)
- Telemark Skis : Try to find a pair of free downhill skis that are as light as possible. Usually there are lots of these available. Check behind Cheapskates (W. 16th @ Dunbar); sometimes people leave them there. Then you can just mount a cheap new or used pair of tele bindings on them. You can also look for used tele (or downhill) skis in Cheapskates; they will probably be as good as the club skis. Look for boots etc. on outdoorgearswap.com, EBay, or on the corkboard at MEC.
Making Your Own Gear
Lack of gear is never a good excuse to not go outside because you can always make some. Making your own gear is especially great for the fasionably concious, deviants of nature, and poor students who would rather invest time than money even though both is lacking, but usually time is more abundant and easier to come by. So consider sewing your own gear! A good resource for patterns and how to do it is available on the Homemade Outdoor Gear website. They even have information of how to make your own sleeping bag as well as tents, stoves, rope bag, headlamp, and more!
If you are looking for fabric in Vancouver, try asking Roland first as he has sewn his own booties. Otherwise, some places that might have appropriate fabric is Clothworks of Vancouver. There is also a good store, Outdoor Innovations, located at 3293 Main Street (16th and Main in Vancouver), with a large selection of outdoor fabrics (including Goretex and heavyweight cordura for backpacks). They also carry patterns for all sorts of outdoorsy things, such as gaiters, ski pants and jackets for the really ambitious. The Textile Clearance House at Fraser and 41st in Vancouver is an excellent place to score super cheap fleece in all weights, as well as ripstop nylon for stuffsacks and the like and polyester knits for long underwear and hiking shirts. And when you make your own gear, colours and patterns are limited only by your imagination, not some unfashionable MEC designer who thinks lime green and magenta doesn't match...
There are many designed out there for home made alcohol burning stoves. Some are easy to assemble, others require a lot of precision cutting and drilling. All are very light weight, but don't do well in winter conditions. One stove which is easy to make, and mentioned above, is the cat stove. The website for the Zen Stove features instruction on how to build a great variety of different stoves, as well as an interesting analysis of different fuels.
Home made crazy carpet sleds are a great for long distance ski touring. They are light, and roll up into a tube for carrying when skiing with a sled is too cumbersome. Required materials for one sled are:
- A long crazy carpet
- Grommet kit (intended for tarp repair) - available at MEC
- 4m of light weight shock cord (1/8") to secure the load
- 2-3m of heavy duty shock cord (1/4") to give the towing system some give
- a few meters of 5mm static cord to tow the sled
- about 1m of 1" accessory webbing and buckles to attach it to the hipbelt of your pack.
- A tough pair of scisors for cutting the crazy carpet
- a carabiner, or similar connector
These are like sleds, but heavy duty, with a rigid towing system so that they don't hit you in the heels when you go downhill and you can control them on side hills. For long-distance traverses and massive loads, pulks are worth their weight.
See the Ski Pulk Book for detailed construction instructions for several designs.
You have to be brave to make your own harness... but it has been done. Check out the Veenstra harness design.
rayjardine.com sells do it yourself kits with materials and patterns for sewing your own gear.