I hear that a lot. While it can cost a pretty penny to get completely outfitted, one of the reasons I offer so much assistance to folks is so they can save money by purchasing the right gear the FIRST time. If I can help a hiker skip some mistakes a beginner might make (like the mistakes I made in 2003), they can start investing money in quality gear from the get go.
But the expensive myth doesn’t really hold true once one looks at the cost of gear. My Mountain Laurel Designs backpack costs $180, which is cheaper than most traditional packs by Gregory or Mountainsmith. The Gossamer Gear tarp I have costs $200; way cheaper than the majority of quality tents on the market. My quilt costs less than $300, and most 20 degree down sleeping bags cost about the same. You can scrimp on your sleeping bag, but saving a couple hundred bucks isn’t going to be very worthwhile when you’re shivering in the cold, and eventually want to replace it with a quality product. The BushBuddy stove I used to use when I cooked is over $100, but I never had to buy fuel, so it has payed for itself many times over. Nowadays I just soak my food in a plastic container…which I’m confident is cheaper than any stove on the market.
There are many items in my pack that are cheap yet functional. My sleeping pad costs $16 and my water bottle is a recycled sports drink container. When I carry thermal underwear, they’re a cheap pair of jeggings that work as well as the expensive brands do. When traditional backpackers say my ultralight set-up is expensive, they are failing to remember how much they paid for their own gear. Often twice as much!