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New to Backpacking
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Caitlin Guyton
(Cait_n_Josh) - F
New to Backpacking on 06/09/2008 22:46:16 MDT Print View

My girlfriend and I are interested in getting into backpacking. We are on a bit of a budget and have been looking around at what gear we should buy. We would like to have gear that will last and is as light as possible given the budget we have. Any good ideas on what we could get for the basics (sleeping bag/pad/shelter/ground cover/pack) for under 200.00 a piece? We are very much open to the idea of tarp camping in order to save money on a shelter as well as weight. We live in Northern Alabama so the bags can definitely be warm weather bags, 40+ or so. Look forward to hearing from you guys/gals. Thanks in advance for any advice that you have!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: New to Backpacking on 06/10/2008 00:09:18 MDT Print View

Howdy and welcome to the BPL forums!

You know, we are all different hikers with our own likes and dislikes. I think rather than have people 'bombard' you with their favorite tents, tarps, packs and bags, etc. --- I highly, highly recommend that you read up on backpacking before you go shopping for gear. The reasons are that there are almost endless choices out there -- suited for different types of hikes, preferences and budgets.

Three books well worth reading:

(1) The Ultralight Backpacker - Ryel Kestenbaum

(2) The Backpacker's Handbook - Townsend - 3rd ed.

(3) The Complete Walker IV - Colin Fletcher/Chip Rawlins

If you pick only one, I would start with the first one. It's more tuned to ultralightweight backpacking and gives a very good intro. It also just happens to be the shortest and easiest to read.

Christopher Holden
(back2basics) - F - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: New to Backpacking on 06/10/2008 05:32:38 MDT Print View

Hi neighbors!
Keep an eye on the Gear Swap forum here and be patient. Lots of good deals come around. You can find many on Ebay, but do your homework. Look for user reviews. Usually on there, you get what you pay for when it comes to cheap. You can even post a WTB (Want To Buy) in the BPL Gear Swap forum. If you give some ideas of what you're looking for, others may have it collecting dust in their closet. Try to get the lightest gear you can afford. You'll be reminded of your purchasing decisions with every step you take when wearing your pack.
In addition to the books Ben mentioned above, also consider "Fixing Your Feet" (4th Edition) by John Vonhof. I'm almost halfway through it and it's been a great source of info. If you can improve the condition/treatment of your feet, your hiking will be more enjoyable. If you don't, well... they'll let you know.
If you're looking at tarps, you should also consider a bug net. Mosquitos this time of year can prevent a good night's rest.
For a 40F bag, try to find something under 2 pounds. Mine is 1.5. For a quilt, you can get one for even less weight. Sleeping pads really should be try-it-before-you-buy-it.
Some require thicker pads than others for a decent night's sleep. If you don't have places around that stock them, you can make a daytrip to Nashville. REI has several with a rocky piece of concrete to lay out on.
For ground cloth, you can get a painters plastic "drop cloth" at Home Depot or Lowe's for a few bucks. Many folks love their Tyvek.
Packs should be sized and fitted properly. Measure your torso length before you even begin to shop. You'll probably want a larger pack to hold your gear at first, then paring down as your kit/skills improve. Even if you buy it and don't like it, you can list them for sale online and at least get some of your money back.
Feel free to ask questions. There's a lot of experience and help available if you put a bit of effort into it.
Best of luck.

Edited by back2basics on 06/10/2008 05:46:06 MDT.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
New to Backpacking on 06/10/2008 09:21:45 MDT Print View

Hey Chris, Checks in the mail?

WM BADGER take care, Jay

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: New to Backpacking on 06/10/2008 14:42:58 MDT Print View

Check out Doug Prosser's article under Gear:Gear Checklists:Boy Scout Gear List: New Scouts, Three-Season. There was also a huge thread on cheap gear a while back. It was a contest of sorts. If you are into making things yourself then there are a lot of options. A Jacks R Better quilt might be worth considering rather than a bag. It's multi-use nature make it a great value for a high quality piece of gear. That would exceed your $200 a piece goal, however. If I were to break the budget, that's where I would do it. DriDucks as rain wear is cheap and quite good if you are not bushwhacking. Gossamer Gear sells GREAT gear that is inexpensive. Your pad, shelter, ground cover, and pack can all be found there. The suggestions above are from my point of view without knowing your preferences (bag or quilt, framed or frame-less pack, air mattress or foam pad, etc ).

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Re: beginning backpackers on 06/10/2008 19:43:07 MDT Print View

Lafuma makes some cheap and light alternatives to the 200$+ bags that many people swear by on this site. Heres one of their mens bags and heres one of their women's bags.

Also, REI outlet has a 20% off one item deal for two more days.

If you don't like the gear, REI has one of the best return policies out there.

Caitlin Guyton
(Cait_n_Josh) - F
Thanks! on 06/11/2008 11:56:56 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the great advice. We really appreciate it. The boyscout gear list was especially helpful. We have some good ideas to get us started. Perhaps our budget goal was a bit optimistic but it still looks like we can get into backpacking at a fairly reasonable price.

Thanks all!

Josh and Caitlin

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
"New to Backpacking" on 06/11/2008 20:01:13 MDT Print View

If you're at all inclined to make your own gear, is a good source for kits--a double deluxe quilt kit runs $90 and a basic silnylon tarp kit (fabric, notions, guylines) runs $56--low cost huge time investment. These kits have both worked well for me and I take outsized pride in them (although I later bought [on this forums gear swap] a used Gossamer Gear SpinnTwin for $20 more than the fabric alone would cost).

These forums contain photos of beautiful handmade custom packs that anyone would be proud to carry. Great UL packs on the gear swap go really fast so check obsessively if you're in the market.

Also find your local outfitters. Some have "employee sale corners" that sometimes are worth checking. REI Garage Sales have occasional great deals on sleeping bags that could be modified into quilts.

Shrink-to-fit window plastic (I like Frost King in the 84" wide roll) makes a great UL grouncloth--I can't tell it apart from the Gossamer Gear polycryo groundcloth and indeed that company warns their product will shrink in high temperatures (such as those in car parked in the sun on a hot day).

Thrift store nylon exercise clothes would make good hiking shells for super cheap (check for windproofness by blowing on the fabric).

Edited by lollygag on 06/11/2008 20:05:42 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
cheap backpacking (was Re: New to Backpacking) on 06/11/2008 20:32:39 MDT Print View

$200 / person is pretty tight... but doable if the coldest you expect is 40+F. There have been a number of past discussions about keeping backpacking cheap. I have links to a few of those discussions as well as my recommendations to keep backpacking cheap.

Michael Gardner
(ekim765) - F

Locale: Southeast
cheap backpacking on 06/11/2008 21:21:31 MDT Print View

I'm a fairly new backpacker (on a budget) myself. Some of the do-it-yourself options are usually some of the most economic. Such as my 96 cent alcohol stove made from a Vieanna Sausage can (ok... 2 cans, I butchered the first one). This site has instructions and templates for a variety of cooking systems.

Since you are starting out in backpacking as a couple that may be a way to save some dough at first. For example, purchasing a larger 2 person tarp to share instead of 2 one person tarps. Sharing one stove instead of two, and so on.

Make sure whatever major gear purchase you make is well informed and not an impulse buy. The best way to collect useless clutter is to spend your hard earned cash on a piece of gear that looked great, only to find out you didn't really need it or actually defeated your lightweight goals.

My favorite books on backpacking are:

"Lighten Up!" (Don Ladigin) and...
"Lightweight Backpacking and Camping" (Ryan Jordan)

Both are available on this site. I also purchased for $5 the DVD "Lighten Up, An Ultralight Makeover" from, which was good for me since I'm one of those "visual learners".

This site is in my opinion on of the best gear purchases I've made yet. Have fun!

Edited by ekim765 on 06/11/2008 21:35:59 MDT.

John Negley
(hikemonkey) - F
Re: New to Backpacking on 06/12/2008 15:33:40 MDT Print View

Great suggestions by people here. The only thing I have to add is try buying used initially. This is also good because you do not know what you prefer yet and you can try out something without breaking the bank. RIE for example has used gear sales (the rei near my work just had 50% off all used gear last Sunday). Also, there is probably a backpacking group in your area that can help too. People purchase something new to save weight and you could be the beneficiary of their old. Army/ navy surplus stores can get you some of the basics too. Some can be heavy, but to start it will get you on the trail for cheap. And that is what it is all about, getting out and enjoying the outdoors.

G Dup
(lococoyo) - F
Re: Re: New to Backpacking on 06/12/2008 16:45:00 MDT Print View

Having read those books a 'few' others, I would definitely recommend Ryan Jordan's book. It was the easiest read and concisely covered the latest gear options - if you are trying to switch over from conventional this is the way to go. I especially like the 'backpacking for couples' section of the book and we've used alot of the ideas even in everyday life.

I found the Ryel book to be almost unreadable IMO. He has some interesting practices, ie cutting the margins off maps yet still caries a 'heavy' tent etc. A bit too opinionated for me. I enjoyed 'Beyond Backpacking' so that says something.

The Townsend book is a comprehensive guide to backpacking. He doesn't cover UL, but enough info that it will be essential if you are just starting backpacking.

ANYTHING by Colin Fletcher is the bomb... The Complete Walker is untouchable, as are many of his other books. Check out The 1000 Mile Summer. Working on 'The Man from the Cave' right now.

Speaking of Ray Jardine's kits. I've got his two-person quilt. You could probably make one alot cheaper if you find a good source for materials. You'll probably mess up enough without the instructions though that its worth it.

I'd make a down quilt if I were you. The 2 person synthetic is too large to take if you go out alone. I have his tarp as well... awesome design but i'd just buy a used UL tarp off here. They are easy to find cheap and you'll save alot of time.