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Newbie With Questions
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Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Newbie With Questions on 09/06/2012 09:02:07 MDT Print View

Hey there Guys (and Gals)...I new to the community (and backpacking) and am hoping I can get some good advice/pointers.

I'm wanting to do some backpacking this fall/winter (depending on weather, was mild last year) and need to get some gear. I do quite a bit of day hiking now and have footwear, poles, etc. Also, I have an Aether 70 from camping and will just use this for now...but...I want to get a solo tent (I'll graduate to tarp/bivy/etc. later) and a down bag.

Of course, I don't want to spend much...have no problem with buying used stuff, either.

Oh yeah, I'm in St. Louis and will be mostly heading to the Ozarks, Arcadia, etc.

As far as a tent, I was looking at 3 "cheapies":

Eureka Spitfire 1
ALPS Zephyr 1
Sierra Designs Lightyear

Thoughts on these? Freestanding might be nice, a couple guys I might go with seem to like to set camp on rock (seems strange to me). I also like SW Utah so might come in handy later. All can be had for ~$100

Down bags...

Any thoughts on either the Kelty Cosmic/Lightyear 20 or the Marmot Flathead 20 (@ STP)?? Looking at $100-150 max.

Other suggestions welcome of course...

-Mark in St.Louis

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Newbie With Questions on 09/06/2012 09:16:30 MDT Print View

For that price, your best shelter for fall/winter in that area is probably an 8x10 silnylon flat tarp. Learning to pitch it in different conditions and sites is an ongoing thing--might as well get started. :)

For the price, the Kelty bag seems good.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Used stuff on 09/06/2012 09:19:18 MDT Print View

If you're subscribed here, you can make use of the Gear Swap forum, and see what other members are selling. You might also find the Selling Used Gear forum on worth a try.

I understand how you need to save money. We all do. But still, I suggest you shouldn't get to hung up on costs. That doesn't mean that I think the sky's the limit, mind you-- concentrate on finding the best mix of price and quality.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Keep it coming... on 09/06/2012 09:27:08 MDT Print View

Thanx for the replies Guys... I'm not completely hung up on cost...but...if it comes down to the difference of being able to get out there and doing it as opposed to waiting for the funds to buy different gear, I prefer to get started...I figure I can always sell the cheaper stuff later.

What do you guys think of the Marmot 600 fill bag (always had decent luck with their gear) at ~$140 shipped?


Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
I would reconsider that down bag idea on 09/06/2012 09:33:54 MDT Print View

Caveat: You have to think of your own financial situation of course.

I would NOT suggest getting a cheap down bag like those you mentioned for backpacking.
You spend $100 bucks now (Kelty Cosmic on sale) or more for the Marmot and have a 42 oz sleeping bag.

Then you backpack a year or two and start dreaming about a lighter option.
Now you have to spend $200 on a Golite 3 season quilt to drop 21 oz, or $190 on a Enlightened Equipment Revelation X for the same weight, or even more for a truly ultralight sleepingbag.

I wouldn't count on selling a mid range, used lseepingbag for much.

Also a 20 degree bag with 3/4 zipper is going to be too hot most of the backpacking seasons outside of the high Western mountains.

So my suggestion would be:
If you can pony up extra the cash, get a 30F Enlightened quilt or something similar priced and weight like the Golites, then add warm clothes to use it in colder temps.

I would rather spend a bit more on the bag/quilt and not buy a tent. Use a cheap tarp, borrow or rent a tent, share a 2 man tent with a friend, etc.

Can you use your car camping tent?
Math: Say your current tent is a 2 man, 6 lbs tent(if it has steel stakes swap for alloys Y stakes)

RevelationX 20 + 1/2 this tent is $190/79oz
Cosmic 20 + Lightyear= $270/83oz!

Hope this makes sense!

My pointis, do the math for various combos of equipment for price/oz and see where you can save most and how you can be future proof.

Edited by Tjaard on 09/06/2012 09:43:54 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Newbie With Questions on 09/06/2012 10:42:46 MDT Print View

Pretty much agree with the previous poster. Sleeping anywhere will depend on your bag/quilt. Shelter is a tent or tarp. Cheap is not really an option for a bag. WM or Marmot makes good bags. They retain their value very well. A cheap down bag is really no better than a synthetic. Worse, since you require discipline to keep it dry. Better to buy a cheap 1 or 2 year synthetic bag at $40 than spend money for a cheap down bag. Look at anything that starts at 800FP. A 32F 800fp bag will weigh a LOT less than a synthetic and maintain itself for 30-40 years, provided you learn to take care of it. They start at around $350. Used, they often sell for about 80-85% of that cost. If you spend money on a 600fp down bag, you will be selling it for about 40-50% of the cost. Not the best. And, you WILL be hiking far lighter. A tarp is by nature far cheaper than a tent. Far more versitile and actually works a bit better (counting condensation.) But, bugs can be a problem. Plan on a head net, DEET and permethrin to deter all but the most stubborn insects. Even larger 10x12 tarps usually weigh less than most tents (unless you start talking cuben at $700+.) 24oz is the max I would consider. MYOG usually means about $40-$50. I know, you said a tent. Well, none of the ones you mention are that light. Look around for an old Pup tent about 36oz. I used this for about 10 years.

John Reichle
(mammoman) - M

Locale: NE AL
Get a good bag or quilt first on 09/06/2012 11:04:22 MDT Print View

Agree with the above comments. Get a good 800+ fill 30 degree bag or quilt, and cobble the rest at first. Go on some hikes. You will gradually start figuring out what you really want in a shelter, clothes system etc. and can start making those purchases as you can. IME, go for quality right off the bat, otherwise you'll continually be upgrading and throwing away money in the process.

Second item to get might be a good quality pad. NO bag or quilt will keep you warm if you have cheap slop underneath you.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Spitfire 1 on 09/06/2012 11:20:20 MDT Print View

I like the Spitfire 1 well enough that I would buy it even if it wasn't cheap. It is a great tent. It is cheap, light, and durable. I do wish the poles folded shorter, but it isn't the end of the world either.

That said I have been using a bivy and mini tarp (5'x5') on most trips lately.

Kenneth Jacobs
(f8less) - F

Locale: Midwest
Think it through a lot on 09/06/2012 11:34:50 MDT Print View

I like everyone else will suggest that before buying a lot of gear, try to at least do some small trips. Figure out what you really need and get acquainted with what you actually use and what you end up just hauling around.

I think the greatest recommendation I can make, especially if you're planning to go light, is to do it from the beginning. Spend a lot of time researching and figuring out what is really out there. This may warrant asking more questions here in the forums to really find out what cottage co.'s and such are out there and the products they provide. Even to this day I find out about small ops that I never heard of prior. And some of them are some excellent niche products that nobody else makes.

Now that I think of it, I think the greatest recommendation I can actually make is to study the equipment you're thinking about and imagine yourself using it. This may be easier to do after a few small trips with whatever you have right now. This has been a great help especially when choosing a shelter, clothing needs, etc.. You've got to get into the mode of questioning yourself a lot.

- Do I really need this?
- How often will I use it?
- Is there a lighter alternative?
- Do I have something around the house that both free and lighter?
- Can I use this item in more than one way?
- Is this more space than I really need?
- Is this overkill?
- When setup in camp, can this item pull double duty after it has been emptied?
- What will it be like in this tent long term if caught in nasty weather?
- Can I cook safely and comfortably in this shelter?

...these are just random things off the top of my head...your questions to yourself may differ.

A lot of backpacking light is finding your comfort with less, and not necessarily just finding lighter equipment. i.e. - I was really surprised that I wasn't at all uncomfortable the first time I slept on a closed cell foam pad rather than my Exped SynMat UL 7. Each has it's time and place...but the bulk of the time the CCF pad is more than adequate and nearly 10oz lighter. You'd also be surprised at how many backpacking items that are great & cheap can be found at the grocery store, around the house, in the recycling, at the dollar store, etc..

Gotta think outside the box. Weigh everything. Make a list (or spreadsheet), look at it daily. Play around with your needs and numbers.

Edited by f8less on 09/06/2012 11:43:53 MDT.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Newbie With Questions on 09/06/2012 11:51:51 MDT Print View

You're asking these questions at backpackinglight, where people are trying to figure out how to backpack as light as possible (and cover more distance, comfortably). This means you're going to get lots of feedback on the best lightweight options -- some of which might seem complicated.

Like others have said, its good to get some basic eqiupment together, without spending much, and try stuff out, on the trail. See what works and what doesn't work for you. I think the kelty or marmot bags you mentioned, though heavy by BPL standards, are good bags and will get you out on the trail. Right now, on Gearswap there is a eureka 30* bag for 40 bucks. Its synthetic I think (marmot has some good, synth bags for cheap also). Couple a cheap bag (check also) with a Spitifre or something like a Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout and you'll be comfortable. Its a good time to buy, stuff is going on sale, and will only get cheaper thru the fall.

Edited by mediauras on 09/06/2012 12:34:14 MDT.

Mike H
Agree with the general sentiment on 09/06/2012 11:55:50 MDT Print View

Everyone here tends to provide fantastic advice. I second the notion that spending money on low-end lightweight gear that you view as "temporary" is not a good long term plan.

You are much better off making use of the gear swap/gear deals forum here to pick high quality gear at usually around 60% msrp. The one item you might have trouble getting is a lower priced quilt/bag in good shape, since most of the bags sold here are really high quality and usually run you $300+. Like a previous poster suggested, I would highly recommend getting a revelation x wide 30 degree quilt from enlightened equipment, which should run you a little less than $200. While this might seem a little pricey, you will be amazed with the versatility and comfort - works great in warm weather, can drape on top of another bag in the winter etc.

For your shelter, stick with the car camping tent until you see a great lightweight tarp-tent style shelter on gear swap, which I find to be the best balance between cost/weight/comfort. People here tend to frequently try out lots of different shelters (almost compulsively it seems :) and you can easily resell them for about what you paid. You should make a thread entitled "WTB - Solo tarp-tent style shelter on budget" and see what people have lying around.

Best of all, enjoy trying out your new gear on the trail, you will no doubt appreciate lightening up in the process.

Edited by mikehaf on 09/10/2012 07:56:44 MDT.

Mike V
(deadbox) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
RE:"Newbie With Questions" on 09/06/2012 12:55:30 MDT Print View

I agree it is nice to have top of the line gear, but that does require a decent sized investment up front if you are starting with nothing, even if you do buy used. You need to decide what your budget is and determine which items are the most critical in order for you to get out there and start hiking. Also, I have a lightly used Kelty Cosmic down 20* I may be willing to part with as I have moved on to quilts, PM me if you are interested.

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Much Appreciated... on 09/06/2012 13:21:32 MDT Print View

I appreciate all the input, and I certainly see the wisdom.

Coupla things:

Our car camping tent is a Kelty Pagosa 4 and weighs 8.5# or so, unfortunately.

I have a little one at home, so longer/lighter treks aren't highly likely in the short term...but...he is approaching the age where scouts/similar will come into play and I figure he could use my hand-me-downs, as it were.

I will have a look at the quilt option, for sure.

I own a couple Thermarest pads...I will have to look at specific models when I get home from work.

Out of the tents I mentioned, is there a prevailing opinion on the "right" choice?

FWIW...I'm 6' 180-185#, 42" chest, 31" waist...should be small enough for most solo tents and regular bags (no?).

Thanx again...I can see there is a lot of good info to go around here!

Thayne N
(teethless) - MLife

Locale: Boston
. on 09/06/2012 13:26:17 MDT Print View

I can't weigh in on the shelters you've listed, but if you're a trekking pole user, the SMD skyscape scout is definitely worth considering, as well as the golite shangri-la 1. Neither are free standing, but with a little creativity, you won't find it limiting.

I have slept in the cosmic down 20 and think it is a fine bag; I've recommended it to many friends on a budget. Like everyone has mentioned, spending more in this area isn't a bad will never regret the purchase of something like a Western Mountaineering bag. Made in the USA is harder and harder to find these days, and we are lucky to have a wonderful cottage industry of high quality gear makers that are reasonably priced.

I routinely buy higher quality items, but in used condition. If you're of the same mindset, CL and the bpl gear swap are worth keeping an eye on. Last year on CL, I scored a WM ultralight, BA sl-1, and BA aircore package deal from a cycle tourer...for $250. Kept the bag for my girlfriend, sold the other two items to offset the purchase of something I really wanted...

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Much Appreciated... on 09/06/2012 13:51:25 MDT Print View

Lightyear and Spitfire are both good options in your list.

doug thomas
(sparky52804) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Iowa
shelter on 09/06/2012 15:28:04 MDT Print View

Mark, I have a North Face Arches 2 person tent I could let go for $50 shipped. It's not exactly light at about 5 lbs, but it's in decent shape, and it would free up a bit of cash for a better bag.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Re: shelter on 09/06/2012 15:51:27 MDT Print View

Mark, I suggest the Sierra Designs or, better yet, the tent Doug's offering you.

In terms of sleeping bags, I'll depart from the $500 sleeping bag crowd and reveal to you that the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is a GREAT bag, especially for the money. Dollar to Performance ratio (weight/style/aroma/function/etc..) is great with that bag. I recommend it often and everyone I know that's taken the advice has been stoked, including my son. You could outfit the family with them and never be sorry, even after you get hardcore and order the 17 gram, 990-fill, free-range, vegan waterproof down quilt...

But read up a little and make up your own mind:

Check out the review here on BPL:

And the review on OutdoorGearLab:

And the review at DailyHiker:

And the review at Backpacker Mag:

You want to spend the big bucks? Get some comfy/light sleeping pads, a titanium stove and McHale backpacks for the whole family. Use the money you save on sleeping bags to start the process...

Mark Andrews
(buldogge) - F

Locale: Midwest
Couple More Bits of Info... on 09/06/2012 20:17:15 MDT Print View

Thanx again Guys...

Doug, I appreciate the offer...but...I don't think I want to carry the extra 2-3# weight to save $50. I have access to the Sierra Designs Lightyear for $102.

BTW, FWIW...The lightest pad I have is a Thermarest Trail Pro...not terribly light...2.5#.


Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Well if nothing else... on 09/06/2012 22:34:32 MDT Print View

Erik may have convinced me NOT to upgrade from my Kelty Cosmic Down 20. :)

Mark- for a good inflatable pad (not self-inflatable) you might look at the Peak Elite AC Regular- it's only 12oz and $80 (+ freight) at Hike Light.
I own one and find it to be quite comfortable.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Possible tent for you? on 09/07/2012 03:31:24 MDT Print View

I would save money and buy an article of gear once, instead of making "temporary" purchases. Just do some research, maybe borrow some items if you can and definitely shop sales and gear swaps on this and other forums. Definitely pay attention to the Big Three - shelter, sleep and pack, but buy the pack last so you get the right size for your new gear set up.

FWIW - I just posted my Gossamer Gear TheOne solo tent on the Gear Swap if you're interested. There are also a lot of other tents and tarps on there now.

BTW, you may want to set up your PM.