In the last five years I have personally made a very rapid transition from hobbyist outdoor enthusiast to majoring in Outdoor Education, authoring a blog on outdoor activities, and testing all sorts of outdoor gear. As a poor college student I approach almost every situation weighing cost and benefit very closely. Something that seems to be a mystery to most outdoor consumers these days. My own perception of backpacking gear has been that a shift has taken place where people are more wrapped up in, and willing to invest in, new hyped up trends. Such as ultralight backpacking.
I've done some digging around and I think that you'll see these data trends reflecting some of my suspicions. Data for the following was taken from Backpackinglight.com's Press Kit, as well as Outdoor Foundation's Research Participation Topline.
According to Backpackinglight.com, "traditional backpackers" spend much less money on gear than ultralight hikers.
- 62% of lightweight backpackers spend >$1000/year on gear
- only 12% of traditional backpackers spend >$1000/year on gear
The recently released 2011 Outdoor Foundation's Research Participation Topline is rating hiking as the 5th most popular outdoor activity among people age 25+, with 22.8 million people participating in the US. With such staggeringly high participation, it's pretty obvious that outdoor lightweight specialty brands, products, and retailers have a lot to gain (your money) by keeping the newest, most expensive model of lightweight hiking gear hyped up for consumers to purchase.
Remember, do your homework before you buy. You can almost always find a better deal on gear online than you can if you walk into a store. Be careful who you talk to and what store employees suggest. Their interest is in your money, not your products. As a frugal shopper, and poor college student, trust me when I say it pays off to shop smart.