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Topic: Starting from scratch, Please help a newbie...< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 8:45 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hi Folks..

My name is Joe and I would like to to some backpacking.  I am 58 years old and haven't really slept outdoors since Boy Scouts. My wife is not really interested so I'll probably go solo..

The AT is in my backyard so I can do short trips on that to start.

Anyway, I need to buy some gear. I've been doing a lot of reading and the more I look the more confused I get.

I was looking at everything from Tarptents to MSR Hubba to Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 or UL2..

I'll need a pack and sleeping bag too...   Just not sure where to start..

Sorry for asking for so much but any help will be appreciated

Thanks, Joe
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 8:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You might check out the pinned topic up top called Backpacking 101.
There is so much gear that it helps to be specific.
We're here to help (and hinder at times  :;): ) but many are probably out hiking this weekend so be patient for replies.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 8:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

And,
many of the regulars think that you should introduce yourself in the Trailhead Register forum.  It is in the main forums list.
Not necessary, I never did it, but I'm a gear junkie and this is where I hang out.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Welcome to the pleasure dome!

Those are good tents.  I have a Tarptent Double Rainbow and love it.  Several others here have various Tarptents as well.

Bag.  It depends on your size, sleep habits - back, side, toss and turn.  If it's too narrow and you toss a bit you may find it uncomfortable.  Also check shoulder width if you're a big guy.  Down beats synthetic almost every way from Sunday, but it costs more.  You may be a cold sleeper.  If so you'll need a better bag/pad/extra layers at night.  If not you can usually take a bag 10 degrees below its rating if you remove the clothes you wore during the day and put on some dry layers.  Even the little bit of sweat in your day clothes can make you cold at night.

Get a good pad - it's what will provide insulation under you, not the bag.  Neoair is a good inflatable company, but there are others.  Then there's closed cell foam (CCF).  Less prone to punctures but doesn't pack as well.  Generally carried externally.

You'll need a stove, some minimal cookware.  A 600ml or 1 liter pot is good.  Titanium doesn't conduct heat well but is a lot lighter, although much more expensive.  A titanium mug won't burn your lips like aluminum.  One long spoon works for a lot of meals, whether your do freezer bag cooking or prepackaged like Mountain House.

FAK - first aid kit.  Lots of suggestions on this.  Figure out what works for you.

I was in your shoes just two short years ago.

Don't worry about the people that ask about kilts, brussels sprouts, and bacon.  They're weird, but harmless.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I believe that kilts are mandatory male attire on the AT.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:13 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(toesnorth @ Jun. 22 2013, 8:54 pm)
QUOTE
You might check out the pinned topic up top called Backpacking 101.
There is so much gear that it helps to be specific.
We're here to help (and hinder at times  :;): ) but many are probably out hiking this weekend so be patient for replies.

I will definatly check out Backpacking 101..

Thanks, Joe
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(toesnorth @ Jun. 22 2013, 8:57 pm)
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And,
many of the regulars think that you should introduce yourself in the Trailhead Register forum.  It is in the main forums list.
Not necessary, I never did it, but I'm a gear junkie and this is where I hang out.

And,

I will do that tomorrow..

Thanks for the quick replies...

I'm sure to have lots of questions..
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Questions are good.  I still ask them because there is always more to learn.
You might want to check out backpackinglight.com, too.  Though they are a basically an ultralight group, the information is helpful, especially for us geezers.  I'm older than you and I find lightening my load intelligently greatly improves my backpacking experience.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 22 2013, 9:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(toesnorth @ Jun. 22 2013, 8:54 pm)
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but many are probably out hiking this weekend so be patient for replies.

Although, how they could go hiking when the Stanley Cup playoffs are on is beyond me.
???


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 12:39 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We've been hiking for a good long while, but last spring we decided to start staying over night on the trails. Our kids are older now & we can leave them home OR with their grandparents now, so we have more free time alone. So, I did as you, got to reading & buying.

I know this, I'm glad I went as light as I could with all my gear. I got the lightest pad on the market, one of the lightest 3 season sleeping bags in synthetic, the lightest enclosed tent with mosquito mesh, lightest rope, lightest stakes, lightest just about everything! And you know what, my pack is light, but you still have to carry it! I can't even imagine having another 5-10 pounds in there from heavier equipment.

So, that would be my biggest suggestion. Investigate ultra light OR SUper Ultra Light gear OR UL SUL gear.

Packs. I read and read and read. Finally, I went to a few local stores and started trying them on WITH loads in them. The store I purchased from had weight bags in 5lb increments to put in the packs. THey'd even distribute the weight from top to bottom to simulate a real load. That was the biggest thing that helped me find a pack that felt good. I walked around in their store with this loaded pack on for a few minutes IF I realized it wasn't the one for me & up to 30 minutes on the ones I liked. It took some time, one afternoon with my wife and I, but I got a light pack that feels good while hiking 10-25 miles. That was a suggestion by another hiker on forums like this, and it really helped me out.

Some of the things I didn't research very well added to the weight in my pack & I'm in the process of selling those items & buying other items that are lighter & pack smaller. Pillows for my wife and I seemed so easy, but they added weight & space to our packs & in the end, they weren't even comfortable. So, I suggest researching & trying anything and everything you can at your local back packing stores. If you can't, then be sure to try them once they arrive at your house & if they don't feel right, then ship them back TODAY!

Enjoy the journey...Kevin


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The wolves were howling the last night I camped last season. Saw a wolf pack in the same area while deer hunting months later. Can't wait to be back in their back yard...
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 7:13 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

rocktmtbiker,

Thanks for the tips..

Could you maybe share a list of your gear ??

Thanks, Joe
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 10:14 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

MSR mini hog stakes

Osprey Exos 46 pack- could have gone lighter, I'm sure, but it fit & got good reviews & was light enough. I see the Zpacks Arc Blast Pack is getting some great reviews. Might be worth a look. Much lighter, that is for sure!

Dirty Girl Gaitors are light & worth a look

Neo Air Xlite pad

I sewed my own tent from scratch, design and all. I wanted it a certain size & I wanted it light, so I got UL top to bottom items to build it. Silnylon fabric the main ingredient. Used this Glowire reflecitve line for all my guy lines, ties, everything in camp. Got to have line in camp, regardless of if you make your own tent or not, right! They have this line also, a touch lighter, no glo! I liked that these lines tied, hitched well, seem tough & pack up tight and small, almost zero weight.

I got the Sawyer Point One Squeeze water filtration system. I suppose there might be lighter water solutions, but I liked the reviews this got & I like that it was naturally filtered, super clean water from just about anywhere.

I tried on plenty of hiking shoes, and ended up going with some Keens. Light, but firm. Not waterproof, as I was warned by many veteran hikers to stear away from waterproof boots/hiking shoes. Was one of the most important peices of gear, and I would invest a good amount of time researching and trying on shoes before I bought anything.


Not all my stuff, but that is worth some investigation & reading...


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 11:11 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rockymtbiker @ Jun. 29 2013, 10:14 am)
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MSR mini hog stakes

Osprey Exos 46 pack- could have gone lighter, I'm sure, but it fit & got good reviews & was light enough. I see the Zpacks Arc Blast Pack is getting some great reviews. Might be worth a look. Much lighter, that is for sure!

Dirty Girl Gaitors are light & worth a look

Neo Air Xlite pad

I sewed my own tent from scratch, design and all. I wanted it a certain size & I wanted it light, so I got UL top to bottom items to build it. Silnylon fabric the main ingredient. Used this Glowire reflecitve line for all my guy lines, ties, everything in camp. Got to have line in camp, regardless of if you make your own tent or not, right! They have this line also, a touch lighter, no glo! I liked that these lines tied, hitched well, seem tough & pack up tight and small, almost zero weight.

I got the Sawyer Point One Squeeze water filtration system. I suppose there might be lighter water solutions, but I liked the reviews this got & I like that it was naturally filtered, super clean water from just about anywhere.

I tried on plenty of hiking shoes, and ended up going with some Keens. Light, but firm. Not waterproof, as I was warned by many veteran hikers to stear away from waterproof boots/hiking shoes. Was one of the most important peices of gear, and I would invest a good amount of time researching and trying on shoes before I bought anything.


Not all my stuff, but that is worth some investigation & reading...

Great... Thanks
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 12:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What is your total budget for your pack, sleeping bag, tent, and mattress?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 2:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(rockymtbiker @ Jun. 29 2013, 12:39 am)
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So, that would be my biggest suggestion. Investigate ultra light OR SUper Ultra Light gear OR UL SUL gear.

I don't think suggesting a new backpacker start off with UL or worse SUL is sound advice.  Using a UL kit depends on your brain more than your gear to keep you safe and a new backpacker doesn't have the knowledge to do this.  For instance, if I'm carrying a 40 degree bag in winter and supplementing it with the down pants and jacket I'd wear in camp I'm just as warm as the guy who carries a 0 degree bag and sleeps in his boxers but what happens if my down jacket gets wet?  Saving weight means eliminating some redundancy in my kit.  The guy with the traditional kit will be just fine in his 0 degree bag if he sweats in the insulated clothes he wears around camp.  This carries through most of a UL versus traditional kit because its easiest to save weight by simply bringing fewer items.

I'll echo what others have said about reading the stickies here about getting started.  I'll need more information about you to recommend specific pieces of gear.  

Where and what time of year would you like to hike?

Do you tend to sleep cold or warm?  

Are you the type that could sleep on a slab of concrete or do you need a very soft thick mattress?  

Do you have strong ankles to hike in trail runners or would you prefer boots?

What's your budget?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 3:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The equation for gear purchases: budget, needs/environmental concerns, bulk, weight, and preference.

If you can afford anything, prioritize the other factors and have at it.

If you have a really small budget, that's a matter of weighing the priorities against that.

Another factor is how often you are going to go out there. Someone who goes once a year has different expectations than someone who goes every month and many nights out in summer....

I spent most of my money on sleeping gear, insulation and shelter, because that is survival stuff - you need to be warm when it's cold, sheltered when it's stormy, and well hydrated and fed to boot. Your feet are another priority. The right shoes matter a lot, and while some people can hike forever on dime store shoes, others like me have a lot of difficulty finding the right fit... I'll spend money on the important things that keep me healthy, and a moderate amount on comfort, and beyond that - I get by with budget conscious stuff. And I always shop sales. Never pay full retail when you can get 40 - 75% off....


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 5:36 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Consider renting gear from a local store like REI, many will do this and get you tuned in to what you like/don't like about specific gear before you start spending your hard-earned $.

Since you're so close to the AT, you may want to consider staying at local shelters... fast in & out You have to be careful about rodents though...

http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/find-a-hike/interactive-map

I would not recommend solo travel, it is very easy to need to rely on experience, or someone else... I've been backpacking for over 30 years, and even bring my PLB (personal locator beacon) on day-hikes. Don't mess around, people really do hurt themselves bad out there time-to-time.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 7:54 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TrailTramper @ Jun. 29 2013, 12:23 pm)
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What is your total budget for your pack, sleeping bag, tent, and mattress?

I just picked up a MSR Hubba tent for $200.00  ...

So for the pack, bag, and pad I can spend $300.00 or more..

I don't play golf or have any expensive hobbies so I don't mind spending the money on good quality stuff...

At this point I don't plan on being out when the temp is below 32F...

Thanks, Joe
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 29 2013, 8:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(HikeClimbBike @ Jun. 29 2013, 2:49 pm)
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(rockymtbiker @ Jun. 29 2013, 12:39 am)
QUOTE
So, that would be my biggest suggestion. Investigate ultra light OR SUper Ultra Light gear OR UL SUL gear.

I don't think suggesting a new backpacker start off with UL or worse SUL is sound advice.  Using a UL kit depends on your brain more than your gear to keep you safe and a new backpacker doesn't have the knowledge to do this.  For instance, if I'm carrying a 40 degree bag in winter and supplementing it with the down pants and jacket I'd wear in camp I'm just as warm as the guy who carries a 0 degree bag and sleeps in his boxers but what happens if my down jacket gets wet?  Saving weight means eliminating some redundancy in my kit.  The guy with the traditional kit will be just fine in his 0 degree bag if he sweats in the insulated clothes he wears around camp.  This carries through most of a UL versus traditional kit because its easiest to save weight by simply bringing fewer items.

I'll echo what others have said about reading the stickies here about getting started.  I'll need more information about you to recommend specific pieces of gear.  

Where and what time of year would you like to hike?

Do you tend to sleep cold or warm?  

Are you the type that could sleep on a slab of concrete or do you need a very soft thick mattress?  

Do you have strong ankles to hike in trail runners or would you prefer boots?

What's your budget?

You make some great points.. I guess I'm looking at some where between lightweight and ultralight...

Definitely looking to Hike in my area(The Poconos) during Spring, Summer and Fall...

I kinda like it warm.. Does that mean I sleep cold??

I would definitely want a pad or mattress...

I would prefer boots...

I'm not really limited to a budget...

Thanks for your help and time.. Joe
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(poconojoe @ Jun. 29 2013, 7:54 pm)
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At this point I don't plan on being out when the temp is below 32F...

Thanks, Joe

Where are you going that it will definitely be above 32F all the time?

I've had the forecast be 20 - 30 degrees wrong before... mountains make their own weather. And how cold you are also depends on how well you hydrate, how many calories you take in, your level of fitness ie how well your metabolism functions to keep you warm - because a sleeping bag is only as good as the "heater" you put in it.

People with metabolic issues have trouble staying warm regardless of what they do. I hike with one at times. She resorts to things like chemical heat packs and hot water in the nalgene for the foot box of the bag.

"Cold sleeper" means that you tend to sleep cold. This has to do with your metabolism. I am a cold sleeper who exercises and maintains (or tries to) proper hydration and enough of the right kinds of calories to get myself warm. My metabolism has changed over time to make me more tolerant of temperature extremes.


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(poconojoe @ Jun. 29 2013, 7:54 pm)
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For your mattress I recommend the Exped Synmat 7 medium wide for $100 at REI: http://www.rei.com/product/780367/exped-synmat-7-air-pad-with-pump  That's an excellent sale price you won't find anywhere else.
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(poconojoe @ Jun. 29 2013, 8:03 pm)
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You make some great points.. I guess I'm looking at some where between lightweight and ultralight...

Definitely looking to Hike in my area(The Poconos) during Spring, Summer and Fall...

I kinda like it warm.. Does that mean I sleep cold??

I would definitely want a pad or mattress...

I would prefer boots...

I'm not really limited to a budget...

Thanks for your help and time.. Joe

Everyone uses a mattress.  I wanted to surmise whether you can sleep on a 1" thick torso length mattress such as the Thermarest Prolite XS or whether you needed something full length and thicker at the cost of more weight.  The Thermarest NeoAirs are popular.

I hike in regular trail runners with gaiters when bushwhacking and minimalist running shoes or tevas on established trails.  Its hard to recommend specific footwear anyway due to fitment so just check out a local shop.

I would suggest a 10-30 degree sleeping bag.  There's a lot of variance in comfort for a given temperature rating between manufacturers mainly stemming to ratings being too optimistic.  This is more of a problem for folks buying low quality bags.  If you stick to Western Mountaineering or Marmot its not an issue.  There's also a little variation between a cold and warm sleeper.  I'm a very warm sleeper and can take WM bags 10-15 degrees below their rating in comfort.  You might have the opposite problem.  Also take into account the girth of the bag.  A bigger bag will be cooler because there's more volume for your body to keep warm.  

I would suggest a WM Ultralite rated to 20 degrees or a WM Versalite rated to 10 degrees.  I have both and like them very much.  Marmot makes the 30 degree Hydrogen and 15 degree Helium which aren't quite as good as WM but still nice.  

You'll also need a cooking system.  Canister stoves are easiest but alcohol stoves can be lighter.  I use a Zelph Starlyte stove with a 0.9L Evernew Ti pot and Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri and its the best alcohol setup I've seen.  Note these are best for just boiling water because there's no flame control.  I only eat freeze dried and dehydrated meals.  If that appeals to you buy an alcohol setup seems too finicky right now look at Jetboil canister stoves.  They're miserly on fuel and its a complete stove and pot system.  Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri

Hold off on a backpack until you have the rest of your gear so you can find a pack that will fit it.  Pack fit, like boot fit, is highly individual so find a local gear shop like REI with folks that can help fit you.  Pack size will also depend on the length of your trips since food takes up a lot of space.  2lbs of food per day is pretty typical though since I'm young and hike big miles I consume much more.  60L volume should handle 3-4 days with average weight gear and up to a week if you get your kit lighter.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 8:00 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Almost There: Your right about the temp.. I'll look at bags in the 20 F range like HikeClimbBike suggested...

Paired up with the pad TrailTamper suggested I should be good..

I'll get the bag last..  There is an REI not too far from me..

Thanks EVERYBODY... Joe
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You need to realize upfront that whatever you buy now will be replaced and upgraded many times over :)

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(no_granola @ Jun. 30 2013, 8:24 am)
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You need to realize upfront that whatever you buy now will be replaced and upgraded many times over :)

I hear ya....

Like any other hobby, I guess....
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 10:58 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In my opinion, it would be ideal to find a group of hikers that are experienced that you can scrounge off for a trip or two and see what they use for equipment before purchasing much of your own. Much of us use radically different styles in each area of equipment, even within a group for a reason. Most of it comes to shaving weight but comfort is king. It is important not to sacrifice comfort. Nothing replaces a good night's sleep but what makes it comfortable for each person is different. Some need a pillow, some could care less. Some need a large thick mattress, some get away with a 3/4 3/4" mattress. Some like the speed of a canister stove while others love the quiet and weight of an alcohol stove. Some love the security of a  traditional double wall tent while others are perfectly comfortable with a tarp. Quilt or Sleeping bag....

The options are endless and each affects your weight and overall comfort drastically.

I would bet I'm every bit as comfortable as many others here and yet I use a +40 sleeping bag year round, a floorless 5 man tent (that weighs 2 lbs, 10 oz) or a hammock, or a bivy combo, a 1 ounce Whitebox alcohol stove, a 3/4 mattress. However, my raingear is tough as nails (and weighs as much), I wear gore-tex boots (that many complain about due to the extra heat of the liner) more often than not for my off-trail use, use waterproof dry sacks for most of my gear, and a pack cover on top of that.

Each area that you hike in will lean towards certain types of gear depending on conditions. In my area, weather is at an extreme all year round. It can be 90 degrees during the day and drop into single digits the same day (it's happened a few times). Dust, wind, heat, lack of water, heavy rains, trees or lack thereof, etc...all make (or should make) an influence on your purchases for gear, limited budget or not.

I guess what I'm saying is 'Don't be a generic hiker'. Think about where you are hiking and research it before picking out your gear.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 11:29 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Tigger,

I really appreciate your input..

I'm trying to absorb as much info as I can so as to make well informed choices on gear..

I know the true test is going to be a night in the woods...

Joe
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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 11:45 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Don't overlook your first aid kit and repair kit. It is just as important as your gear itself. I highly recommend customizing them to fit your needs. I am a bit of klutz so I've had to add stuff for scratched eyes, bee stings, burns, blisters, large scrapes, and broken bones.

In the gear repair category - some athletic and duct tape, mattress/tent repair patches, some seamgrip, parachute cord, a bit of thread and needle along with a small knife works just fine for me. Others need/use a multi-tool and different repair stuff.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 12:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You might check out my recommendations on a pretty good, pretty light gear list here: Good, entry-level gear list

Have fun, be safe. Most of all of this is in your head. Take pictures, surely. Maybe it will inspire your wife to join you on a day hike, at least...

I'm about to take my fiance on her first overnighter, kicking and screaming. Oddly, she's concerned about her physical ability to do it, despite having recently done nine miles in a day, inclusive of a three-mile bushwhack. It's 5 miles of prepared trails to a lakeside campsite. She's three years older than me, and I'm no kid, but she also runs several times a week. I've spent the last couple of months gathering gear for her, taking her out on day hikes. We even spent a night in my tent in her mom's backyard. Got me...

I'll have her read this thread. Your enthusiasm is inspiring. I even envy it of you a bit, its newness.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jun. 30 2013, 12:17 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Think carefully about the temperature rating of your sleeping bag. Many people have more than one, for different conditions. If you only want one bag and will be backpacking in spring through fall, I'm a fan of a 35-degree bag. If you add clothing (fleece pants and jacket, hat, gloves) in an emergency it can take you down into the twenties. I've been comfortable at 25F with a 35F bag.

Personally, if I only had one bag I definitely wouldn't make it 10 degrees, and most likely not 20 degrees either, because of the added weight. But it all depends on when you intend to backpack.

In hot, humid weather I don't take any sleeping bag at all. I carry a sheet or a very light, small blanket. If the outside temperature is 70 at night, it's going to be about 80 or more in your tent.

About that Exped mattress I recommended. I would rate it as "medium lightweight." Ultralight backpackers would call it heavy. It's one of the top mattresses for comfort. Personally I'm willing to carry a few more ounces for the extra comfort, especially as I get older.
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