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Newbie - What Gear Do I Need?
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Luke Tingley
(tingleyl) - F

Locale: Midwest
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 16:14:29 MDT Print View

I'm a newbie to overnight backpacking. I've done lots of day trips, but my primary reason for hiking is photography, and I'm tired of starting out at 2:00 a.m. so I can be somewhere for sunrise.

Planning my first trip for the Olympic Peninsula in mid-Sept.

Any gear lists for a newbie on that type of trip? I'm just now buying my initial equipment.

So far my newly purchased items include:
Osprey Argon 85 Pack
MSR Hubba Hubba HP Tent
Western Mountaineering Megalite

Things I still think I need:
Sleeping pad
Cooking system
Bear Canister

I obviously still have to research the remaining item, but any areas I may not have thought of?


William Johnson
Welcome, Luke on 06/26/2010 18:19:50 MDT Print View

Luke, as a quick note you have purchased a backpack that weighs more than 6 pounds, and a tent made for 2 (that costs between $400-$500.)

This is Backpackinglight, and the forums are LOADED with lighter, cheaper alternatives. Many members here are also photographers, and can give you sagely advice on how best to carry your heavy loads. Hopefully one will chime in.

If they are new purchases, and you can easily return them, then do so as you still have time before September. :)

Looking through the "Reader Review" section can get you started on high volume, internally framed packs, and two-person tents if that is what you are up for.

In case no one gets back to you, check out ULA-Equipment, and for some larger internally framed packs, and 2-person tents. This'll get you started, as well.

Good luck!

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 19:24:38 MDT Print View

One good approach is to start with the cheapest gear which is still reasonably light.

Sleeping pad: Small Ridgerest (9 oz, $20)
Cooking system: Penny alcohol stove or MYOG Bushbuddy clone (woodburning) (free if you make it)
Rope: 50 feet paracord ($5)

Edited by AndyF on 06/26/2010 19:25:16 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 19:35:06 MDT Print View

Here are some gear lists that might help you figure out what you need. Sorry, I haven't been able to make links work on this forum, so you'll have to copy/paste.

A lightweight (not UL) list that's probably too heavy for many here, but on which I modeled my "gear makeover." I was able to cut my total pack weight for a 9-day trip to less than half what I used to try to carry! That was without any sacrifices of comfort (which, as an old lady, I need a lot of) or safety. The other articles on this site (left column on home page) are also helpful:

Mark Verber's gear list. He's a frequent contributor here and he has an outstanding website about backpacking gear, from the latest technology to low-budget alternatives:

A more spartan, UL gear list from this site, which shows you what can be done to go really light:

Recommended reading:

A lighter load will make it easier to carry your photographic gear!

Edited by hikinggranny on 06/26/2010 19:40:26 MDT.

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
Hey, Luke! on 06/26/2010 20:17:03 MDT Print View

+1 to what William said. Being new does not mean you can't start out Light or Ultralight. An Osprey does not help you meet that goal.

Hope it doesn't sound like we're picking on you, but here goes :-)

I also agree with William that you've spent too much on that tent. Check out for Harry Shires' very innovative and relatively inexpensive UltraLightweight tent designs. I suggest you return the pack and the tent.

Western Mountaineering makes beautiful and very expensive sleeping bags. Is a 30 degree bag going to be warm enough to suit your needs? Most people come up with a "sleep system," layering in more clothes and a lighter sleeping bag, or, as in my case, less clothes and a warmer bag. It depends on how warm you are naturally and what conditions you expect to encounter on the trail. I tend to be quite warm in general unless there is wind and sleep in my clothes. YMMV. If the MegaLite's rating works for you, it's an awesome bag (I'm a former HighLite user). Keep in mind that if that bag, especially, gets wet, you might as well not have it.

As for your list, sleeping pads are a highly personal thing, and if this thread catches on, you will get as many opinions as responses about them. Some people sleep on a whisper of blue foam, some people can't live without a thick pad. Some people are very comfortable with torso-length pads, and sleep on a ProLite XS- 8oz, but only 36" long. Too short for me. I have an inflatable Big Agnes Iron Mountain, which I'm not in love with, and a ProLite WOMEN'S. Why women's? 6 inches shorter at 66" than the men's but a 2.8 R-value for the same weight.

I encourage you to go to REI or someplace where they have floor models of sleeping pads, and lay down on them, right there in the store. Don't be shy, just do it. The REI Lite-Core is also a decent pad for the money.

Cooking is someplace you can also spend a lot of money for no reason. My stove weighs less than 2 oz and it's made out of 2 beer cans, a piece of tinfoil and a coat hanger.

I learned a lot about it from this site and from following the links:

Rope? For bear-hangs? Check this out:

There are a million lightweight cords out there. Ask at the hardware store or outdoor store. In my experience, everything is cheaper in the hardware store.

A bear canister is important if you're in an area where it's required, or if you are unsure about your ability to appropraitely hang your food. A hot topic of discussion around here, for sure. Just remember, protecting your food from bears is no more or less important than protecting bears from your food.

You will also want to really think about clothing. A lot of the clothes sold in outdoor stores is the Emporer's New kind. Having a light pack means making deliberate choices about the things you bring with you, but don't get sold a bunch of expensive and unnecessary junk. You can't go wrong with old standbys- nylon convertible pants, synthetic, fast-drying baselayers, etc.

Jeez.... I had a lot to say :-)

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
check photography on 06/26/2010 20:35:22 MDT Print View

Hi Luke. Be sure to check out and maybe contribute to the Photography threads in this forum!

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
Why not a gear list? on 06/26/2010 20:46:15 MDT Print View

Hey, Luke,

Here's my 3 season gear list that I'm currently tweaking for Grand teton. Most of it is very affordable stuff.

Luke Tingley
(tingleyl) - F

Locale: Midwest
Thanks for all the info so far! on 06/26/2010 21:05:37 MDT Print View

Wow, lots of info to digest thanks for all the links and suggestions so far. I obviously have a lot more reading to do. Don’t worry, I won’t feel like you’re picking on me. I have no experience in overnight camping, which makes it extremely difficult to make gear decisions without experience to know what works/doesn’t.

I suppose I should clarify a little, so you can understand my original gear decisions and then tell me if I’m still barking up the wrong tree.

Osprey Argon 85 Pack – previously carried 35-40 lbs of camera gear for day hikes. Range would be 3-14 miles in a day, often at elevation, depending on where I had to get for the shot. My previous bag was about 8 lbs for the bag alone. It was not a comfortable pack (more like a suitcase with shoulder straps), but felt I needed my gear, and it worked. I’m changing that. Now the only camera gear I’ll have with me will be less than 15 lbs total. I figured the Argon was rated in the weight range I’d done in the past and actually weighed less and was WAY more comfortable. Of course I purchased that pack before finding this site. Still has the tags on it though, so obviously need to research that a bit more on this site and reevaluate. Thanks for the head’s up.

MSR Hubba Hubba HP Tent – Gift cards and gotta love REI dividend. This one cost me a song and a dance. I needed a 2 person for when my wife or son come with me. I don’t think a tarp is for me, maybe in the future, but not yet. Purchased this one after a lot of research and recommendations on this site.

Western Mountaineering Megalite – I had never even heard of WM until I found this site. I feel the Mega should be fine for summer/early fall, I also got the overstuff. I intend to get a 2nd warmer bag for late fall/early spring in the mountains. This site also heavily influenced this purchase.

I have experience with the layering, and already have appropriate clothing for that, so I’m good there. Used to starting out in the 60s/70s and having it snowing or raining on me at elevation. It’s the overnight stuff, cooking, etc. that I don’t have figured out yet.

So keep the suggestions coming, I’m not one of those newbies that posts asking for advice and then completely ignores it. I’ll take it and research it.

Wasn’t aware there was a photography area on this site, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of the content on here…I'll have to check it out.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 21:14:08 MDT Print View

In addition to trying out that sleeping pad in the store, try it for a couple of nights on the floor at home. If you can't sleep comfortably on it, return it!

Otherwise, I can only second what William and Joe have said!

Note that in the Olympics in mid-September, nights near or above timberline will undoubtedly be below freezing unless it's raining. Short of moving into your refrigerator, not recommended :-) , you are not going to be able to test your sleeping system at those temperatures beforehand. With a well insulated pad and warm insulating clothing inside the Megalite, you'll probably be OK. Exercise and a snack just before bedtime will help.

In Olympic National Park, currently bear canisters are required at the coast and above timberline. You can borrow one from the park for a flat fee of $3.00. The Olympic NP website, unlike some, is a true gold mine of information, but you need to do a lot of digging!

Edited by hikinggranny on 06/26/2010 21:18:25 MDT.

Luke Tingley
(tingleyl) - F

Locale: Midwest
Olympics In Sept on 06/26/2010 21:20:59 MDT Print View

Good idea on the pad, I'll keep that in mind.

Also, I'll be hitting the Olympic Coast, the string of beaches on the peninsula. Won't be spending any time at elevation. Does it really get that cold on the beaches or is that just in the mountains? I would assume the lower temps your referring to are at elevation?

All the research I'd done and Farmer's almanac of past years shows it as being in the upper 60s-lower 40s range. So I figured I'd be fine with a 30 degree bag and appropriate layers.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 21:28:04 MDT Print View

You'll be fine on the coast, if not too warm! Sorry, I assumed that "the Olympics" meant the mountains.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bear canister requirements on 06/26/2010 22:58:59 MDT Print View


On the coast, due to raccoon problems, hard-sided food containers like bear canisters are required for all food, garbage and scented items. Hanging food bags is not permitted.

For all intents and purposes, it is less fuss to just take a bear canister. They do loan Garcia bear canisters. All information you need, including locations of the places where you can get a bear canister, are here:

Have fun on your trip!


Nobody You Know
(DirtbagLiving) - F

Locale: Colorado
Here ya go!!! on 06/26/2010 23:17:25 MDT Print View

Make sure you watch all 3 parts.

Edited by DirtbagLiving on 06/26/2010 23:18:29 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/26/2010 23:18:48 MDT Print View

I think I already said that, but thanks for giving Luke the link!

I did see some Bear Vaults at the Forks ranger station--try to get one of those if you can since they're lighter than the Garcias. The park website claims to have some Wild Ideas (Bearikade) but I haven't actually seen them.

Actually, any hard-sided (metal or thick plastic) container will work for the coast, but if it's not an approved bear canister, the park folks have to inspect and approve it. Ursacks, though, are a no-no (I tried, but the park folks were adamant). Best just to plunk down your $3. There are places for after-hours return.

Luke Tingley
(tingleyl) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Here ya go!!! on 06/27/2010 08:52:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for the link. While Shug's videos were slightly disturbing, lots of good info!

I'll do some checking on the bear canister. I had read that, and figured I'd just buy a lightweight one and take it with me rather than worrying about renting.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/27/2010 10:58:42 MDT Print View

There's not much point in buying a bear canister for the Olympic coast unless you'll be doing lots of other backpacking in places where they are required. You have to stop in at one of the ranger stations (preferably Port Angeles where they can give you more detailed trip advice) to get your permit anyway, and it's a flat fee of $3 regardless of length of trip. As mentioned, there are after-hours drop-off boxes for afterwards. In September, especially if you go in on a weekday, you should be able to get one of the Bear Vaults.

Jack G
(NomadJack) - F

Locale: Midwest
Newbie - What Gear Do I Need? on 06/27/2010 11:05:45 MDT Print View

" I don’t think a tarp is for me, maybe in the future, but not yet."

a tarptent is a fully enclosed single-wall tent. You don't have to worry about creepy crawlies. Check out Tarptent. The Lunar Duo might also be an option at Six Moon Designs.

If you are planning on 15 lbs. of camera equipment you really should look to cut as much weight on your gear as possible. I would also consider a Mariposa Plus from Gossamer Gear as a good alternative pack. An aluminum stay and at about 1.5 lbs. would cut 4.5 lbs. off your Osprey.

Edited by NomadJack on 06/27/2010 11:06:54 MDT.

William Johnson
New Gear on 06/27/2010 11:43:11 MDT Print View

Thank you, Jack.

I didn't want to make Luke feel I was plugging for one company. When I said Tarptent, I meant the company, not the class of shelter.

My apologies also if it I am second guessing you, Luke as you said you did your homework on tents, too. BUT (hehe) the tents at Tarptent are half the price of your Hubba Hubba, and at equal, or less weight. You can find detailed reviews of them in our review section, along with other single-walled, and double-walled tents.

As to bear canisters, I feel for you. I hike in Yosemite, and the neighboring national parks and need to use one, too. Bit of a hassle, but dems da rulez.

If you returned that Hubba Hubba, you might sacrifice the one-time discount (unless you puppydog pouted) and then you'd be able to buy a Tarptent, and one or two NeoAir mattresses for you and your wife to fulfill your sleeping pad concerns. :D

Ok, I am done playing with your money. Have fun in the great outdoors!

Luke Tingley
(tingleyl) - F

Locale: Midwest
Bear Canister on 06/27/2010 11:44:15 MDT Print View

I've never seen a bear canister, are they large? Do you just lash them to the outside of your pack or do they fit inside?

Thanks for the advice on Port Angeles. I will be hiking where a bear canister may be useful in the future, but probably for now the rental will work.

Thanks for the suggestions on the pack and tent. I'm researching those...again...

Edited by tingleyl on 06/27/2010 11:45:36 MDT.

William Johnson
Bear canisters on 06/27/2010 11:56:43 MDT Print View

Depending on brand, you can get different sizes.

Some examples are:

Bear Vault: Plastic containers coming in (2?) sizes - one approx. half the size of the other. Cheap, found at REI, but there have been tests showing bears sometimes pry them open.

Garcia: All black, most common rented model (at least where I live,) uses screw top closing.

Bearikade: Made out of carbon fiber composite and aluminum, a very popular model and I believe makes one of the largest volume canisters?

I can fit my canister in my pack, but I bought a pack with extra volume so as to accomodate it. I do not like strapping gear to the outside. Most times, the canister and will take up a good portion of your space, and it rarely fits in horizontally.
Bear canister size comparisonCourtesy of Gossamer Gear