Lightweight Backpacking: BassPro and Cabela’s


In the niche of long-distance hiking and backpacking, you can get some cachet by mentioning budget items from Walmart, AliExpress, surplus, Costco, or other non-traditional channels.  A mention of REI gets some grudging acceptance as that is where most people of a particular demographic, income, and education get their gear.

But mention BassPro and Cabela’s (now one company)?  Let the sparks fly!  That’s where Bubba gets their camo!

But, here’s the thing: BassPro/Cabela’s revenue of over 8 billion dollars exceeds REI’s 2.7 billion.

In other words, if only “Bubba” shopped at BassPro and Cabela’s, I doubt the total revenue would be almost four times as much as REI.

BassPro and Cabela’s tend to be found in many areas throughout the country and are often the closest “real” outdoor store for many. And the store has a sizeable online presence.

In short, more people get their camping, hiking, backpacking (and, yes, hunting) gear from that store than other retailers. Though Dick’s Sporting Goods rivals the overall revenue of BassPro and Cabela’s,  Dick’s is more of an athletic store that happens to stock outdoor goods.

The other day, I had to bring our Honda to Grand Junction for a warranty recall. While waiting, I killed time at the nearby Cabela’s.  I noticed their RedHead brand of shirts, fleeces, shorts, pants, etc. and a wide selection of shoes from Merrel, Keen, and so on.   Hard goods? The Kelty Sleeping bags, NeoAirs, backpacking stoves, and so on would not look out of place at REI.

For my part, I own a Cabela’s two-hundred weight fleece I wear around town where the logo is subtle and, again, would not look out of place at REI. And I paid $30 for it.

So, much as with my Lightweight Backpacking: REI Style article, I want to experiment:  Can an average person put together a minimalist kit at BassPro/Cabela’s for backpacking using “off-the-shelf” gear?

I imposed the following guidelines for myself:

  • All the gear and clothing must come from BassPro and Cabela’s with a few noted exceptions. Most people do have a toothbrush, after all.
  • Nothing could be on clearance. A bargain shopper can do better than the list I put together, but that is not going to be consistent for this article
  • The gear would not be the least expensive nor the most costly equipment
  • The gear would also be mid-range concerning weight

Why these stipulations? Esp the last two parts?

As before, the typical BassPro and Cabela’s consumer is similar to the REI consumer in terms of time bank funds. Meaning:

[The customer] is not going to go out of their way to purchase the very expensive and light Big Agnes Copper Spur tent.   The same consumer will have enough knowledge to realize that a  Base Camp 4 tentused for family camping trips is overkill for backpacking.    The typical REI customer is also not going to purchase from cottage gear companies or use budget alternatives that are effective. I base these assertions on the admittedly non-scientific way of having many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who fall into these parameters. Time is a precious resource for many. And REI, besides being well known, is a one-stop shopping place for many.

Except, BassPro and Cabela’s are even more ubiquitous than REI stores!

Finally, again, based on my previous article:

For the people who prefer to read just gear lists, here’s a summary:

“This article is not about getting the lightest gear at BassPro or Cabela’s you would on BPL or Reddit /ul, or whatever gear site you may frequent. The article is about how, with *typical* gear, people end up being light anyway despite what people saying about light gear being dangerous, not sturdy, etc. Forget semi-frameless packs, pads perceived to be fragile, short pads, unknown brands for most consumers, trail runners, Smart Water bottles vs Camelbaks,  or one-person tents.  Again, this is gear the typical BassPro or Cabela’s consumer purchases and not what an experienced person looking to go lighten someone’s load would suggest.”

So here’s my experiment of a minimalist and light gear list using “the off-the-shelf” gear and clothing found at the 8 billion a year gorilla known as BassPro and Cabela’s.  BassPro and Cabela’s has (almost) identical inventory at this point, but I linked to Cabela’s more as that site tends to list the weights. Plus, I find Cabela’s site an easier one to search.

It is not lightest, heaviest, least expensive, or the most costly list that can be purchased,  but I feel it is a reasonably typical list of gear of what many consumers will buy for an off-the-shelf kit for their backpacking pursuits (if with a minimalist bent).

Happy Trails!

–Paul Mags 


Pack and accessories      
Gregory Maven 65l Pack $250 55 Gregory is well-known for their packs.
Sea to Summit Pack Cover $33 I think pack covers are mainly useless, but they are popular. So included it as a typical item that is purchased.
Subtotal $283 59 oz  
Sleeping System      
Kelty Cosmic Down 20F sleeping bag  $170 39 A 20F bag for standard three-season mountain west conditions. . An EN rated back that receives consistently good reviews over the years.
Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pad $90 16 Not too heavy, not too light. Good R-value. Reasonably durable. It is a Goldilocks pad for many people.
Subtotal $270 55  
Shelter System      
Kelty Brush Creek Tent $140 72 The weight is the packed weight. Most casual backpackers take all the stakes, stuff sacks, etc. that come with a tent.  This tent is large enough for most people and can fit a second person in a pinch. Doubles as a car camping tent if need be. Though BassPro and Cabela’s stock some higher-end Big Agnes tents, I feel this tent is a more typical purchase. Kelty makes decent to good “bread and butter” gear.
Stakes with the tent –  Most people take the stakes that come with the tent; lousy as they may be. 
Subtotal $140 72  
Lexan spoon $1 0.375 Standard spoon. Usually found with the cookware. So cheap, it is not online.
Lighter from home 0 1
GSI Outdoor Haullite Boiler pot $30 8.6  Just a standard cooking pot that I think would be attractive for the people who make Mountian House-type meals.
MSR Pocket Rocket II  $45 2.6 The MSR Pocket Rocket is still the baseline for most canister stoves. The Jetboil would be the other popular stove. But my gut feeling that a Jetboil stove is more popular with people who are out more than our theoretical more casual backpacker. I could have gone either way, to be honest.  Add the pot above, and the price and weight are almost a wash.
Toothbrush 0 <.125  
Dental Floss 0 <.125 Works for repairs, too!
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack $15 .7 Silnylon is no longer an exotic fabric and is reasonable in price. 
Subtotal $91 13.275   
CamelBak 2L Reservoir  $33 Most people prefer a CambelBak for their hydration and water needs.  For the people who wrote and said, “substitute water bottles,” you are missing the whole point of this exercise. 😉
Sawyer Squeeze $50  3 If Cabela’s and BassPro sell these filters, I think they are now mainstream.
 Subtotal $83 10  
Clothing in pack      
RedHead North Port Down jacket $70 11 Similar to the REI CoOp jacket: Affordable, functional, and useful. And readily available. I did a “guestimate” on the weight based on similar jackets. The RedHead label is the BassPro/Cabela’s house-brand. 
Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Socks $18 2 The heavier, more cushioned socks, seem to work well with the more typical more substantial footwear.
Cabela’s Rain Stopper jacket $50 10 Your standard all-purpose shell using the house-brand WPB membrane. The PacLite, by Cabela, received many accolades over the year from such site as BPL.
Cabela’s Rain Stopper Pants $40 9 Standard, all-purpose, rain pants.
ECWCS Lightweight Thermal Top and Thermal Bottoms $100 10 The house brand version of the military surplus silk weight layers. I made the weight similar.
RedHead fleece gloves and hat combo $15 1 Just your standard warm hat. The BassPro house brand.
RedHead fleece gloves and hat combo 2 Reasonably weatherproof gloves. Again, typical of what may be bought and carried.
Subtotal $293 44  
Cabela’s First Aid Kit by Adventure Medical $20 8 Yep. I realize that a functional first aid kit can be put together at home for less weight and money. But, again, based on my unscientific analysis of what I’ve seen, most people would instead purchase a ready-made first aid kit. So here it is.
Sea to Summit Pocket Trowel/TP/Ziploc $13 3 LNT means leave no #2 and TP lying around. And most people take a pocket trowel.  And the TP is usually just taken from the home. 🙂
Hand sanitizer $3 2.25 Get the travel size
Quarrow Headlamp $14 3 Very standard headlamp.
Subtotal $50 16.25  
Equipment “on self.”      
Red Head tech shirt $20 4 Standard wicking technical t-shirt.
Sportsman Cargo shorts $25 5 Nylon cargo shorts. 
Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Socks $18 2 The heavier, more cushioned socks, seem to work well with the more typical more substantial footwear.
Red Head Trail boonie hat $18 3.5
Leatherman Squirt $35 1.9  Again, going with what the typical theoretical consumer would buy. A smaller multi-tool seems about right.
Sunglasses $0 1 Probably already have a pair? I like safety sunglasses myself: Light, durable, and inexpensive.
Silva 1-2-3 $18 1 Basic compass. 
Keen Targhee II shoes $129 34 Keens are extremely popular overall. Our theoretical consumer may realize trail shoes are better than boots for well-maintained trails. But they are usually not quite ready to eschew ‘sturdy’ footwear and use trail running shoes. Yet. 
Total $263 52.4  


So, I think my theory is correct: The gear available at BassPro and Cabela’s is almost, and in some cases – exactly, identical to what a person might purchase at REI. As with REI, BassPro and Cabela’s also offers different higher-end options available on this list.

There is a well-known writer at Outside Magazine who disparages BassPro gear, and the consumers thereof, as rednecks and hicks.  Don’t be like this writer or similar people online. As my mother might more succinctly put it: “They are so full of shit, their mouths are full.”

BassPro and Cabela’s are often the only brick and mortar options for many. And, as this list shows, the stores can provide a good choice.

Note the differences between the REI list and the Basspro and Cabela’s list are not that much.  The REI list comes in at about $1800 and 16.5 lbs for the base pack weight. This list? Just under $1500 and just shy of 17 pounds.  If the theoretical Cabela’s and BasPro buyers spend a little more money, they could purchase a better tent at BassPro and be competitive with the REI weights, too.

In other words, the gear and clothing sold at this 8-billion dollar a year outdoor retailer are not any different from the kit sold at everyone’s favorite cool outfitter. 😉

The difference? The typical BassPro and Cabela’s shopper would not think of going to “that yuppie store,” and the REI consumer would never, ever purchase from the store they best know as providers of hunting clothes.

It goes to show a consumer should look at all options available and not write off a store because it does not appeal to their particular demographic.

Otherwise? Long live the power of marketing! 😀


  • The prices are rounded up.
  • All the weights are mainly from the Cabela’s site. If the website did not list the weight, I used an equivalent weight from other items I found online.
  • I used Men’s medium or equivalent as the baseline for clothing.
  • Items that vary on trips such as food, fuel, guidebooks, and maps (which are trip dependent) not included
  • I did not list hiking poles. Call it a coin-toss if people use them or not for casual backpacking.
  • Cameras will add weight. Most people just take a smartphone at this point. Price and weight depend on the phone.
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4 years ago

Before the merger, Cabelas had some of their own branded items that were nicer than what they carry now. In any event, there were numerous clearance deals that were worth picking up. It doesn’t make any sense to me to pay full price, when you can get a better deal and the names on the items don’t matter when they are the same thing.

4 years ago

An interesting exercise. I had felt you could put together a backpacking kit from Cabela’s but never thought about BassPro. Thanks for doing this Paul.

4 years ago

I like the way you think. If I came in on the middle of this conversation, you could be talking politics. (The way two “opposing” demographics are suspicious if not downright repulsed by each other.) This doesn’t serve anyone particularly well, at election time or in choice of outfitter retailers.

4 years ago

Before a trip to Europe I had some time to kill on business trip so I went to the nearby Cabela’s. I bought some Redhead light hiking shoes to take on vacation. I was averaging about 13 miles per day, most of that was city walking but also some light hiking (well maintained trails). On day 10 I noticed my feet were soaked after a light rain. The sole had cracked. Never again for that brand. As a foot note, since I needed new shoes in Europe I bought some Mammut light hikers. Sure I paid 3 times as much… Read more »

SMB (Rocketman)
SMB (Rocketman)
4 years ago

Another great article.

Since I’ve been needing to go get a down jacket, I’ll definitely go check out the local BassPro. (Some things I hate to buy online.)

I was surprised a bit by the sleeping bag choice. For $170 it seems like there should be some light options than 39 oz. (And I wondered about how well it might pack.)