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Beginner/First Time Gear
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Loudon Campbell
(lcampbell89) - F
Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 06:01:26 MDT Print View

I am currently in the process of choosing out my first real backpacking set up and was looking at getting some advice/help from the community here.

First thing's first is this current post for now at least, I want to focus on the bigger pieces of my list: Pack, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad, and Tent.

So that at least in my opinion is the Big 4 and I am looking to spend preferably under 300 bucks on all 4 things although I may be able to stretch to 400. And I certainly do not mind used in fact some of the prices I mention below might be hoping for a super deal on a used item or something to that effect.

I can go ahead and let y'all know that most of my camping/backpacking will be taking place in the Southwest mainly in Texas although some New Mexico camping is certainly not out of the question. So temps will probably range from highs of 120s to lows of maybe 20s.

First off honestly I haven't really done much serious backpacking let alone ultralight backpacking but I figure it can't hurt to go ahead and get the lighter stuff and build from there. I am aiming for one-two people and the possibility of bringing a dog in the future. I currently don't have the cash to pay for a set up for purely solo and a two person set up. So the flexibility of a two person tent for a pound or so doesn't seem too extreme to me.

Any ways lets start off with what I was thinking and please feel free to criticize, correct, comment, or whatever you so please on any of these.

1) Pack: GoLite Jam, Gossamer Gear Murmur - Could hopefully be had for 50-75 used. Honestly the pack area is one that I am quite unsure of so really would love advice on this.

2) Sleeping Bag: GoLite 3 season Quilt - Probably a big stretch at 150 here. But this seems like a versatile light weight bag that I don't think I would mind investing the extra coin in.

3) Sleeping Pad: ThermaRest NeoAir - 75-100 hopefully. Lightweight and compacts down to a small size.

4) Tent: Kelty Salida 2, Tarp Tent?, MH LightPath3? - probably my weakest point as I am really unsure of which to go here. Although I am definitely leaning towards something that is fully enclosed vs just a tarp.

Once again I am very new to all of this and truly appreciate all advice. And honestly my numbers probably are pushing my budget but I understand it's usually worth it to save up a little bit for a better quality piece of equipment.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
gear on 05/05/2011 06:34:37 MDT Print View

you will need a larg shovel, yellow construction helmet, those waist high rubber boots, 3 pairs of underwear per day and 4 bottles of your favorite cologne-dehydrated.

William Brown
(MatthewBrown) - F

Locale: Blue Ridge Mtns
Pack last on 05/05/2011 07:01:01 MDT Print View

Here's a tip: Buy all your gear and then buy your pack.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 07:03:57 MDT Print View

Lee have you looked at these?

You can find deals on gearswap certainly. Just don't dawdle if you see something.

Edited by kthompson on 05/05/2011 07:04:30 MDT.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
A tip on tents on 05/05/2011 07:26:50 MDT Print View

Lee, before you buy a tent you might try borrowing or renting various types to see what features you like. Unless of course you find the bargain of a lifetime on gear swap.


Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
gearswap on 05/05/2011 07:36:30 MDT Print View

I'd put up a WTB post on gear swap. Those are pretty common items and I bet you could get some nice used stuff pretty easily.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
re:"Beginner/First Time Gear" on 05/05/2011 08:05:27 MDT Print View

I'll second the idea of buying a pack last - unless you see something you're really interested in at a great price. With that, as also suggested, if you see it for sale on Gear Swap, don't hesitate too long. In the time that it can take to research the item it can sell; this I know from experience. Know what you want so when it comes up, you can grab it.
With Gear Swap, one has to be both patient and quick and know/accept that, quite often, Murphy's Law will strike. A "cheaper one" will go up for sale right after you buy something used or you'll get tired of waiting, buy new, and 'then' see that item for sale at Gear Swap.

The GL Ultra 20 quilt is a nice piece of gear, especially for the price. It should fit your needs if you can keep it dry. I have one and like it.

I can't say anything about your tent list. Just be sure to read, read, read reviews, look for Youtube videos, etc - anything you can do if you can't actually see/feel the tent before you buy. Condensation can be tricky to deal with sometimes, so how a tent/tarp handles condensation (double wall vs. single wall, amount of ventilation, etc), for example, may be something you want to look into as you shop around.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 09:59:05 MDT Print View

Some lower cost options you might want to try first. UL backpacking is all about experimenting to find out what works best for you at the optimal weight, comfort, and efficiency, so you might as well start out with an experiment.

1) Pack:
A cheap daypack
Gossamer Gear Murmur (if you can be gentle with it and don't do much bushwhacking)
GG Gorilla, ULA Ohm, or Jam if you want something more durable

2) Sleeping Bag
You might want to get a bag first, unless you know you'll like a quilt. A bag can easily be used as a quilt. Montbell makes some nice bags, and I have and like their #3 (30F).

3) Sleeping Pad: ThermaRest NeoAir - 75-100 hopefully.
Have you tried a plain CCF pad? It's the cheapest option, and also the lightest if you can get by with a torso-length one (probably easiest to adjust to if you're a back sleeper). (I'm starting to head back to full-length pads myself though. I like the Exped Downmat 7 for winter, and the new Exped UL looks nice and 1 pound lighter(!) for warmer temps.)

4) Tent
So many options! Many of them (and other gear) are listed and described here:

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
You will get a ton of advice. on 05/05/2011 10:17:44 MDT Print View

Keep in mind you are going to get a lot of opinions. A big part of knowing what you need revolves around experience which is hard to buy. ;-)

You don't have to be ultra-light to go out and enjoy yourself. There are many opinionated people (me included) that participate in the forums.

But risking blasphemy.... I'll say it is not about the gear. Just build a list based upon your budget, research it and go. Don't get too bogged down worrying if you bought the right sleeping bag or tent.

Keeping Advice General:

#1. I'd get a down sleeping bag rated for 30deg. that covers most 3-season backpacking.

Go relieve this guy of his 650 fill Montbell assuming you fit in a regular. $110 is certainly fair.

#2. Sleeping pad: If you are on a budget you can find plenty for <$50 and if you go old-school you can use a closed cell foam pad and keep weight down too! If you are old and fat like me this is probably the first item you will upgrade but this will work, I used one for 3-months of hiking and didn't die. I'd buy a RidgeRest in a regular length: $30

#3. Nothing wrong with that Kelty Tent. It isn't ultra-light but without spending twice as much you won't significantly cut weight. $150

#4. I'm going to point you towards the ULA packs. I'm showing my bias.... made in the USA, low weight, awesome customer support and the Catalyst is all the backpack you will probably ever need. You could use an Ohm if you keep your total weight/bulk down.

Whatever you do don't buy a used pack that doesn't fit. Get fitted.... ULA will get your measurements and send you a pack. If it isn't right you can return it and try another size. It is like buying shoes. You have to try them on and make sure you are comfortable with the fit. I'm particularly picky about backpacks and shoes because they are critical to comfort for any amount of backpacking. I'd splurge and get the Ohm for $175. The smaller pack will force you to leave home a lot of things you don't need anyway. ;-)

Sleeping Bag: $110
Sleeping Pad: $30
Tent: $150
Backpack: $175
Total $465

Over budget but hey... I'd search through the couch cushions and mow the neighbors lawn to scratch together enough to hike comfortably.

Edited by kevperro on 05/05/2011 10:38:21 MDT.

Kenneth Cowan
(zeros) - F

Locale: California
Save weight with a tarp! on 05/05/2011 10:37:51 MDT Print View

Your list looks like a good start, but I highly suggest ditching the tent and getting an Oware 9x9 pyramid tarp. Weighs only 24 oz, it's GIGANTIC, stable in the wind, will keep you bone dry, and it's only $250. Pitches with your trekking poles. You might find one cheaper with a WTB post on the gear swap.

Also, making your own trekking poles out of two carbon fiber golf shafts, two EVA foam fishing fore grips, and a set of Leki carbide tips should only cost you about $30-$40.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 11:05:08 MDT Print View

Lee, here is a thread that might help Cheap Ultralight Gear List

There are many others, you just have to do a forum search, or better use Google and search "Backpacking Light".

Your budget is tight but doable.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 11:44:46 MDT Print View

+3 (I think) on buying the pack last. The pack needs to fit your gear as well as you. In the meantime, borrow, rent or adapt whatever you have. Get your other gear together (including the equivalent in weight/bulk of 5-7 days' food) and head for a good outfitter (make sure you get an experienced clerk) to get fitted. That will at least let you know how a well-fitted pack should feel. (Do buy at least something small if you don't buy a pack there!)

The Mark Verber site referenced in a previous post is pretty encyclopedic and quite long. Don't let that intimidate you! It's a truly excellent research tool, so it's worth the time. It lists budget options for every category of gear and is kept up-to-date. (Thank you, Mark!!!) There's a section on Backpacking for Cheap which links to a number of budget lightweight gear lists, including the one in the previous post.

My first lightweight tent was a Tarptent Squall 2. It's a bit over your budget but is light enough (34 oz.) for a solo tent while being large enough for two people (unless they're very large in all directions) plus my 80-lb. dog (who curls up at the foot). With just me and the dog, it's palatial! While I have a lighter tent for solo (with dog) use, I still take the Squall 2 for 2-3 day trips because it's so roomy. I also use it when taking one grandchild (and, of course, my dog) out at a time. I've had very little trouble with condensation inside because of its roominess and excellent ventilation. If this tent interests you, watch for used ones for sale.

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/05/2011 11:50:33 MDT.

Ryan W
(mwilks) - F
Re: Re: Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 11:57:48 MDT Print View

Lots of good recommendations here. I'd add that don't paralyze yourself with indecision on gear purchases. It can be tempting to forever look for the "best" item at a particular price. Pick up some decent gear within your budget following the above recommendations and get hiking. The summer is approaching and the best and only way to discover what you need and prefer is to get outside and use things. Have fun.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Beginner/First Time Gear on 05/05/2011 12:58:07 MDT Print View

I will have to agree, buy you pack, LAST. Make sure your gear will fit.

1) If you are not sure you will like backpacking/hiking, certainly a 650fill down or synthetic bag will work. I have tried quilts, they didn't work for me. I tend to toss and turn. Often I wake up in the morning and the zipper is on the wrong side.
A bag is sort of bullet proof, but a bit heavier. I would just plan on a 32F bag and supliment with cloths if needed, down to about 20F. Situps or crunches work to warm up pretty well if you get cold. Neither a cheap down bag nor a synthetic bag will last more than 2 or three years. But they DO fit your budget.
2) Tents are iffy. I prefer tarps with a screen tent inner. But, that's in the ADK's. The bugtent and tarp are ususally less than 170 for both. (9x12 tarp and 2 man bug tent.)
a)Chosing a bit of a hump, not a dip.
b)Staking it down against the wind.
c)Knowing how to handle terrain by NIT sleeping in valleys and revines or the tops of ridges.
d)Using whatever cover you can find to supliment protection.
e)Knowing at least three different setups and when to use them.
f)Knowing if you will have sticks to use as poles or you have to carry them.
g) Knowing where you are going, and IFF bugs will be a problem.
...lots more...

3)Pads are easy. Closed cell foam is about the cheapest and among the lightest.
Between 10 and 40 dollars.
4)Pack. Gather up your cloths, gear, kitchen, water, and food for 5 days. Plan on 30F as your worst case night out. Get your pack that will fit that with a about 500ci to spare. The 500ci is for cold weather (20F) clothing, or, luxury items.
It should weigh LESS than 32oz (2lbs) for light weight packing. Or it has too many things on it, half you probably will never use.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Tarps vs. Tents on 05/05/2011 14:05:09 MDT Print View

There is an inherent trade-off you should understand when comparing tents vs. tarps.

Tarps are cheaper, lighter and fun if you like tinkering with your shelter at the end of a day.

Tents are more expensive, heavier and much more fun if you DO NOT like tinkering with a shelter at the end of the day.

I am not a tarp person. Mainly because I like to spend most of my time hiking and at the end of the day, I don't want to be spending my time planning my pitch. I want to throw the thing down, empty my fart sack into the tent and cook some food and vegetate. Tents tend to be less finicky in dealing with weather (you don't need trees or hiking poles) and they are more secure in high wind. Bugs.... well there are solutions for tarps but by the time you are done they end up making the system into a hybrid tent with close to the same weight.

As a newbie I'd push you towards the tent simply because you don't need the same experience and background to deal with tarp limitations.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Tarps vs. Tents on 05/05/2011 16:27:02 MDT Print View

adding to what Kevin said - if you really mean it when you say you want light AND cheap then stop looking and get a tarp because that's the direct route to your objective. I am always confused when people say they want to go light on a budget but they don't want a tarp :)

You can get various different sizes of PU coated tarps from Campmor for $30-45 that all weight much less than any tent.

Loudon Campbell
(lcampbell89) - F
Re Gear on 05/06/2011 13:41:03 MDT Print View

Well I think I found a pretty good deal on a GoLite Ultra 20 Long on eBay so I went ahead and picked it up so as long as its a legit purchase and nothings wrong with it I feel like I got that for a steal and if worst comes to worst I can sell it if I don't like it on here.

Now as far as the tent, the idea of a tarp tent seems to be pretty good my only concern is when you set it up that A) Rain will be able to get in B) a lot of dirt/dust will be blow in through the netting. Are these going to be normal concerns no matter what? And instead of say a hiking pole could you just substitute the appropriate size stick you find on the hike?

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: Re Gear on 05/06/2011 13:55:00 MDT Print View

Good score on the quilt.

If you don't use hiking poles consider carbon fibre golf club shafts.

Tarp plus bivy weighs about the same as tarptent so decide whether you want the wide open feeling and views a tarp provides or the womb like security of a down to the floor tent canopy.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
going cowboy on 05/06/2011 19:54:23 MDT Print View

Here's an idea - since you're in the southwest there will be many times when you will be able to predict with great certainty that it won't rain on a given weekend. Try camping cowboy style with no overhead cover at all. You could also do this in your backyard. The result will help you decide whta kind of shelter you are ok with. (Since all can be made to work and it basically comes down to personal preference.)

Loudon Campbell
(lcampbell89) - F
pack on 05/13/2011 03:45:16 MDT Print View

Hey guys I have been doing some more looking into everything.

I am for sure getting the GoLite Ultra 20 Quilt. So thats done.

Next is the tent. I was thinking about getting the Tarptent Cloudburst 2, it seems like it will be pretty wind tight, water tight, and bug proof. Issue is finding it used. Curious if people think this will keep you warm enough for most situations?

Then the pads im a little unsure on maybe a Nemo, maybe POE Peak Elite AC, maybe Thermarest Trekker?

And I think the packs I have narrowed down a few maybe six moons swift, golite jam, gossamer gear murmur, granite gear meridian vapor. although the swift and jam seem to be front runners. Would love some input here.

As far as clothes go I was thinking maybe a short sleeve nike dri fit or a long sleeve exofficio button up shirt. And pants im honestly not too sure on I like the patagonia rock climbers or maybe the arborwear tech pants. And ill most likely be getting some smartwool socks, and was thinking of the New Balance MT101 for trail runners. Then probably some regular old hanes underwear haha.