View Full Version : Price inflation in trail towns?

01-21-2005, 22:16
Was at my local outfitter today and we got in to a conversation about price inflation by outfitters along the AT. What kind of high price ranges have you guys experienced for gear, fuel, food, etc.
Whats the most overpriced thing you ever purchased on the AT?

I'm not saying that price inflation is a problem, I have no way of knowing, but if it does I'm interested in the topic

01-21-2005, 22:22
$8 and change for a hot dog, fries, and medium drink at Elkwallow Wayside, Shenandoah National Park.

01-22-2005, 08:00
There is a big difference between price inflation, high price ranges, overpriced and people trying to make a living in locations that don't have a lot or traffic/customers spending money. The phases you chose imply a degree of unfairness, I don't believe this is the case for the businesses that you will encounter along the trail. Most outfitters and such along the trail are not getting wealthy and are struggling to provide the services that us hikers need... and quite often they do it as a labor of love more than a business venture. You should be understanding that their costs are often higher and their sales quantities are often much lower than the businesses that many of us are accustom to. Instead of looking at them as taking advantage of us hikers, we would be best served as looking at them as our friends, a very big and necessary part of the hiking community.


01-22-2005, 09:18
Life is different in rural areas. Most people are there just trying to get by and make ends meet. Almost no one is out to gouge the hikers, any more than they are out to gouge their neighbors.

That being said, you do pay for convience. On an ounce for ounce basis, it's going to be more expensive to buy fuel in small amounts than to buy a whole gallon. You will pay more for food that is individually packaged than you will if you buy in bulk. Convience stores and small grocery stores are more expensive than supermarkets. All this is no difference in the rural towns than in the urban areas.

Where are prices going to be the highest? In tourist areas, like the Waysides in Shenandoah National Park.

01-22-2005, 09:41
Most outfitters along the AT use the suggested retail price for most of their major gear and clothing items. if a company does not have a SRP, then retailers, not just outfitters, use an industry standard called keystone, which is double the wholesale cost. To most hikers, prices would seem high when compared to places like Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, or even REI and EMS. These aforementioned companies buy in greater bulk and, in the case of mail-order companies, even buy closeouts and factory seconds. For items like food, generally outfitters have to go to town to purchase food items in order to make them easily available for hikers. Those prices are generally higher than what you would pay at a grocery store but generally do not involve keystoning. This is simply a convience outfitters make available for hikers. If a hiker would rather hitch into town or pay shuttle fees to a grocery store, fine.
For an AT outfitter. their selling season is considerably shorter and their clientele is smaller than general retail or a chain outfitter. Therefore, they must generally sell product during the hiking season. Quite often, these retailers have to pay for the product before they have a chance to sell it and if you are looking for bargains, the best time is to look for sales toward the fall and winter when retailers are trying to clear out inventory before tax time and before new product arrives.
This isn't the 1970's. Prices change with inflation. Has the gear selection gotten any better? Of course. Has the gear itself gotten any better? thats an individual decision. But having worked at a couple of outfitters along the trail, I know that as a general rule, they are not out to rip off hikers. They're just trying to make a living. Go ahead and look for cheaper sources for gear--mail-order, the internet, etc. But don't complain when your favorite trail outfitter closes its doors because it can't pay the bills. It may cost a little more to shop "locally" but it will help towards making sure future hikers can walk in and find the things they need like fuel and insoles, sold by people who have the experience to sell them what they need.

The Old Fhart
01-22-2005, 09:46
Youngblood and Peaks are correct. The way I look at food prices along the trail is that even if they are understandably higher in the smaller rural areas, you are helping those stores stay in business which is a good thing for future hikers, and it is still cheaper than a mail drop. I've found that often these small businesses will help you in ways the big impersonal businesses won’t. In 2001, for instance, there was a free shuttle ride from the motel near I-81 in Atkins to the store and restaurant, and back.

Lone Wolf
01-22-2005, 09:49
The only thing inflated on the trail are certain hiker's egos. :cool:

01-22-2005, 10:39
I remember looking at food at Mountain Mama's and complaining under my breath that she was splitting packages from Sam's, repricing stuff and was a little more expensive than my local convenience store.

Then, I ran my numbers on the cost of the stuff I had mail dropped to myself there.

She was less expensive. Much less expensive.

01-22-2005, 11:46
Like Restless said, the outfitters and food stores out in the rural areas can't take advantage of quantity buying and along the AT corridor the selling season is relatively short. When a hiker rolls into a town and needs a piece of gear they ought to feel fortunate that there is someone there to sell it to them ...and not whether they got a deal or not.

On the flip side ...what you do tend to get from those smaller outfitters is a level of knowledge and service that is rare in the bigger city stores. Case in point ...I bought 2 pair of trail shoes in 2003 (one for my wife and one for me) at Mt Rogers outfitters in Damascus. In Atlanta I could have gotten the shoes for $20 - $30 less by shopping around. But the difference is that I was in Damascus and not Atlanta and they had the exact shoes we wanted in both of our sizes. So ...I paid full price. But then I approached Dave behind the counter about a broken pole on my wife's Sierra Design tent. He took a look at it and said ..."ya know, I think I can fix that". He took it in the back room and literally built a new pole from scratch using store parts. When I asked him how much I owed him he said ...Happy Trails !! You'll rarely, if ever, get that kind of service in a larger city store.

I had similar experiences all along the trail at the smaller outfitters. My advice to hikers who think they're being ripped off along the trail is to stop whining and pay the price.

'Nuff said ...

AT 2003

Totally Different Subject
01-22-2005, 12:09
Good points everyone. Restless brought to our discussion a point from the perspective of both hiker and outfitter. It goes to show there are two sides of the coin. And while paying abit more seems painful it's kind of cool that stuff is available for us hikers.

01-22-2005, 12:13
I agree with much that has been said. Regarding gear, you rarely find prices higher than what you'd pay at a normal small outfitter in your home town. They may be higher than an REI or Galyans, but those are superstores will enormous buying power...not small mom and pop operations. When you do find "inflated prices" it's usually indicative of the town. Take Kent, CT, as an example. Precip rainwear came out the year that I hiked, which, incidentally, was also an El Nino year. Upon reaching Kent, I had decided two things. Firstly, I had not had a bed in a hotel for more than a month and I was going to have one in Kent. Secondly, I was tired of my goretex jacket's weight and was going to get one of those lightweight Precip jackets. The first thing I did upon reaching town was to check out the (only) local hotel. There were no cars in the parking lot, so the place couldn't have had more than 1 or 2 customers. That said, the price for a room was a hard $120/night...no budging. period. Needless to say I didn't sleep at the inn that night. I ate at the bar, but I could't afford a room like that. The next morning, I visited the local outfitter, and much to my chagrin, they were charging $120 (must've been the lucky number in that town) for the same jacket that I'd seen priced consistently other places for $100. After some consideration, I decided that I'd wait until I found the jacket at the next outfitter along the trail to buy it.

Another example was the ski-town at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. I rode the lift down during my thruhike, but had a ride that took us to a real town. During my long trail hike the next year, however, I rode the lift down for the sole purpose of getting a meal in town. I found an open restaurant and ordered a Coke, a hamburger, and a brownie for desert. Obviously, I knew the prices before I ordered, but $25 was still a hard bill to swallow for that amount of food

Again, I'd like to reiterate that I'm not complaining about establishments like these; they're obviously not targeting the thru-hiking audience (who does?), and that's OK. In one case, I opted not to use the services because I could not justify the high prices, the other case I did choose to use the services, and was happy in the end that I had.

But I think prices are more indicative of the town's prices, than of inflation on the trail.


Tha Wookie
01-22-2005, 12:17
I completely agree with almost everything here actually. After hiking some other long trails, I no longer take the presence of all the outfitters on the AT for granted. The AT is the ONLY trail of its kind, strung along with easy to reach outfitters. The prices are generally the same as city outfitters, or cheaper. The store in Erwin at the river has the cheapest prices I've seen anywhere. There store at Harper's ferry is cheap (ish) too.

You can't beat the expertise. They either hire hikers or have seen anough and heard enough reports that they generally are ready to help if you need it. Plus, unlike the city -and this is the most important part- there are some things MORE important than the bottom line: honesty, sincerity, PATIENCE, and so on. Usually, they are not trying to sell you BS.

However, there was one time when I was trying to convince my partner at Neel's Gap to ditch his boots for shoes. The clerk said, "I'm tired of people trying to wear less protection and then they have to quit because their shoes weren't good enough." He was more or less butting me out of the deal. That ticked me off, but I had to let it go. He sold my partner some awful shoes that he ditched for the ones I recommended later on the trail. So sometimes salesmen will be salesmen, even in a FANTASTIC store like Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. But usually they are RIGHT ON.

Also, if you find something on the internet you might want to order, you will have a chance to order things for good prices and have them shipped to PO's ahead on the trail.

01-22-2005, 12:43
A lot of the same stuff has been agreed upon and re-hashed. Yes there are expensive spots, not just outfitters that are there for conveneince. Take Rainbow Springs that just recently closed. Yes their groceries were more than a Krogers would be, but they were in the middle of the woods! I didn't mind paying more for convenienve (saving time) than having to hitch 10 miles into Franklin and back. To me those small stops close to the AT were great.

If anything I found Outfitters to sometimes be cheaper than the norm. Vern at A0 in Port Clinton was giving us huge dicounts on trail shoes and Frogg Togg suits. It helped that a couple of us hikers came in to buy together. Often this is where an outfitter will give you a few bucks off.

I also remember the Harpers Ferry Outfitter to be pretty reasonable, and I know they sell stuff really cheap on e-bay.

Obviously a place like Neels Gap is gonna be high in prices. Its all about location. What are you gonna do if your shoe blows out on the second day? Catch a ride back to REI in Atlanta?

Lone Wolf
01-22-2005, 13:13
RS isn't in the middle of the woods. They wouldn't allow mail drops so one had to buy what they had. They discouraged folks going to Franklin.

01-22-2005, 14:21
Oooh, you're going to get Jesnine p*ssed at you.

I still see her flicking that tobacco fragment off of her front tooth.

BTW, what are your thoughts about abortion?

Lone Wolf
01-22-2005, 14:59
Oh well. Thems the facts. Abortion? I'm pro life.

01-22-2005, 15:02
Go picket a cemetary then pro-lifer!

01-22-2005, 15:28
Here we go again ...END OF THREAD


01-22-2005, 17:24
i was GIGGED for $15 (+ tax) for a very small belt @ Walasi-Yi-Center in 2002.

it was as close to a string as you could get but it had a buckle!

(i shouldve gone Jethro & used part of my shute cord!) :D

i lost it the next year on a section-hike near Fontana Dam..along with the pants!

01-22-2005, 18:11
RS isn't in the middle of the woods. They wouldn't allow mail drops so one had to buy what they had. They discouraged folks going to Franklin.

Wow. It's funny how predicatable you are. I seriously remember thinking that YOU were gonna say RS wasn't in the middle of nowhere when I was writing it. Maybe not, but it ain't Times Square.

And in 2003, when I hiked thru the new owners were accepting maildrops.

Lone Wolf
01-22-2005, 19:59
Different owners.