Fitness items come in waves of fads and fashions, but here are a few necessities that we shouldn't skimp on:
1. Water bottles
Reused disposable water bottles can leak harmful chemicals into your drinks, as can cheaply made plastic washable bottles. Opt for stainless steel or BPA-free plastics and remember, you will not have to replace it nearly as often.
Proper footwear is key. It can mean the difference between injury and fitness, comfort and blisters. Hiking shoes have extra grips, running shoes extra cushions, biking shoes that allow for clip-ins. Shoes are often on clearance, especially if you are more worried about price than color or style, but always have a good pair suitable for your activity.
3. Helmets and safety gear
This one is a no-brainer. It doesn't have to have a designer label on it, but safety gear for whatever sport you are choosing should be something you never skimp on. Helmets should be appropriate for the activity and should be replaced if they are ever subjected to a heavy impact. They have done their job at that point and they need to be retired. Ropes and climbing gear should be inspected before every use for frays and weak points, etc. Staying safe should be a higher priority than saving money. If you can't afford the gear for a certain activity, choose another one until your first preference is within your financial limits.
4. UV Protection
Even winter sports fanatics can be sensitive to the sun's rays reflecting off the snow, and summer sports fanatics know that sunscreen, sunglasses, and the right clothes make long trips and the days following much more pleasant than a nasty case of sunburn. If you are at a high risk for skin cancer or sensitive to the sun due to illness or medications, this goes double (or triple!) for you.
5. A great attitude
Absolutely free! Don't let money worries ruin your plans. Choose something within your limits - there is always something within reach. There are local, state and national parks available to use free of charge. There are discount vacations, natural wonders, and adventures right outside your front door if you know where to look. Bad weather, injury, and other minor catastrophes will happen, unfortunately. But with a great attitude, it can become a tiny mishap compared to a ruined day.