Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Help with entry level Big 3
Display Avatars Sort By:
Terry Hoover
(thoover1968) - M

Locale: Texas
Help with entry level Big 3 on 12/19/2012 07:53:09 MST Print View

Looking to put together an affordable Big 3. Goals/criteria: 3 season (South...lows in the 30's), keep tent, backpack, and sleep system in the 2.0 - 3.0 lb range, and less than $200/piece. Also, I'm hoping to get out with my four kids (boys 11, 9, and 7) and girl (age 3), so will need to carry some of their stuff as well, so good pack volume is needed.

Here is what I'm currently looking at. Please provide other options.

One additional note: I'm 6'3", 225 lbs, and torso around 22-23", so need tall stuff.

Sleeping pad: Rei stratus, Large, 25 oz, $90. Was leaning toward large/wide Exped UL 7, but 4 oz savings was not worth an additional $85.

Tent: Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout, 34 oz, $125. Know I could save 10 oz by going up to the $225 Trekker, but budget is an issue. My height is a small concern here...

Pack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa, 30 oz for XL, $200. Really like the outside pockets for stuffing tent, clothing, etc.

Bag: GoLite Adventure 3 season Vario Semi Rectangular - Long, 38 oz, $150 (has been out of stock for a while). Would be nice to get a 3 season large/long quilt for less than $150 if there are any options for that (side sleeper and I toss and turn a lot, so mummy is not an option). Currently using a military poncho liner for warmer weather(don't know weight off hand) or a military x-long patrol bag @ 2.5 lbs

Thanks in advance for any advice.


Edited by thoover1968 on 12/19/2012 12:55:30 MST.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
gear on 12/19/2012 08:12:43 MST Print View

For a shelter, it would be hard to beat the Trekker for the money.

I haven't tried the new GG packs but used an older Mariposia Plus and it worked well. I have a 21" torso and GG and SMD packs have worked out well for me. I am borderline with a large ULA so they might not work for you. MLD packs just didn't seem to fit my long torso well. If you are going to be carrying heavy loads with your kids, the GG might not work out well. I would say that most any UL packs limit is 30 lbs even with a frame.

For a sleeping bag, see if u can find a Golite Quilt, either a Ultra 20 or 3 season. They have been fairly affordable and are great for side sleepers. You might look at Tim Marshals quilts as well.

Keep your eye on gear swap as deals come along if you are patient and lucky.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Help with entry level Big 3 on 12/19/2012 08:17:39 MST Print View

I forgot to mention sleeping pads, if u can get a Zlite or Ridge Rest. They are light, cheap, tough, and pretty warm.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 12/19/2012 19:30:19 MST Print View

All of those shelters are very very heavy, you will not regret the SMD wild oasis, at 14 oz.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: re on 12/19/2012 20:32:59 MST Print View

The ULA Circuit is an excellent pack that can reportedly can carry heavy weights and has plenty of space.

It's $225 new, but you could conceivably find one on Gear Swap for less than the $200 limit. As a bonus, they also come in tall sizes.

If you can buy new, ULA's customer service is first rate.

Terry Hoover
(thoover1968) - M

Locale: Texas
Thank you, and more questions on 12/20/2012 13:41:06 MST Print View

Thanks for the feedback, guys. I may have to reconsider the Trekker vs. the Scout, and will keep my eyes open for a quilt.

Do any of you taller guys (or gals) have experience with the SMD Scout/Trekker? Just want to make sure 6'3" isn't pushing it.

Foam pads don't provide enough cushioning for my large body...has anyone used the REI Stratus as a lower cost alternative to the Exped UL 7?

May also take another look at the ULA Circuit before I go with the GG Mariposa.

Additional feedback appreciated.


Terry Sparks
(Firebug) - M

Locale: Santa Barbara, CA
Buy "entry level" gear used on 12/23/2012 13:31:01 MST Print View

If you are looking for entry level gear, I would buy used from this site, Craigslist and others. This way, you will have better gear for the same (or better) price and later on, if you feel a need to upgrade, you can sell it for close to what you bought it for. After using gear for awhile, you will know the deficienties and strengths of the gear you have, and that will help you in purchasing better stuff later on.

Terry Hoover
(thoover1968) - M

Locale: Texas
Update plus need pack suggestion on 08/16/2013 14:30:39 MDT Print View

From an update standpoint, I have purchased a SMD Skyscape Scout (34 oz) and a Kylmit Static V (18 oz), and will continue to use either my poncho liner or military patrol bag for a bag. I also just purchased an Oware 10x10 pyramid for when my three boys come along. Now I need a bag capable of carrying 30+lbs. Looking at the GG Mariposa and the ULA Circuit. Both have recommended weights in the 30-35 lb range. Mariposa is lighter by at least 9 oz (I have weight for the XL Mariposa but only the Medium Circuit, so weight difference may be as much as 12 oz or so). Price is $235 and 225 respectively. Also took a quick look at the GG Catalyst, which goes up to 40 lbs carry weight (which might be helpful with backpacking with 3 or 4 kiddos and also for backpacking in west texas where I will need to carry extra water). Any advice on these packs, or other packs that can carry ~35 lbs, weigh ~3 lbs or less, and cost in the $200-250 range appreciated. Long torso as well (i.e. 23"...I'm 6/3").


BJ Clark
(bj.clark) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Update plus need pack suggestion on 08/16/2013 18:21:28 MDT Print View

You might look at the SMD Starlite pack with stays. It can handle a pretty heavy load if necessary and is large volume if you are carrying some of the kid's stuff. Specs say 22" torso max and is adjustable. I think it can handle even a longer torso. Great pack. I use it when I need to carry a bear canister.

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Help with entry level Big 3 on 08/16/2013 20:29:03 MDT Print View

FYI the golite jams are on sale for $110 or $120 and are barely under 2# but there are better packs. Mariposa is a good pack.

A better pack investment is to skimp on something else or myog a quilt and buy a top pack, IE a Arc Blast at 17oz and $280.

I say get an Xlite pad and a GG 2.5oz 1/8th pad.

You can build a Climashield Apex and M50 fabric quilt for about $90 or so and it will weigh 20 oz for a tall. I am 6'-3" and have a good pattern. 5oz apex is good for about 25-30dF. 2.5 apex for about 45dF. A 2.5 apex M50 quilt in tall will weigh about 13 oz.

You can also get 4 oz Apex for OWF.

As far as tents buy the lightest one you can afford. Like you most of them are too short for me. That said maybe a tarp and a bivy would work out better for you or maybe one of the bear paw tarps and inner tents.

Edited by tammons on 08/16/2013 20:30:57 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: not the Jam on 08/16/2013 20:47:39 MDT Print View

I've used the Golite Pinnacle (predecessor to Jam 70L) to carry 32 or so pounds several times, and it's fine if packed well. However, the large size of the Jam 70L measures only 18+" so not suitable for you. Either of the 2 you mentioned should work for you.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Packs on 08/17/2013 09:51:01 MDT Print View

Check out the Exped Lighting 45 liter or 60 liter pack. Its price range is similar to the ULA packs but I think it will carry weight better. The torso is adjustable and the frame is 24 inches long so it should work for you.

HMG also makes packs in tall sizes but they are a bit pricier (around $300).

Edited by Cameron on 08/17/2013 10:00:49 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Packs and Kids on 08/17/2013 10:11:55 MDT Print View

Okay just remembered you have kiddos. I'd go for the Exped 60 liter pack. With your sleeping bag and shelter you can go pretty light for solo trips with that combo.

For family trips here's what I'd do. Get the kids (at least the older ones) to carry their sleeping bags and pads. These items are the most bulky but they are fairly light. The older ones can also carry a jacket, water bottle and rain gear. That leaves you the food, kitchen gear and shelter.

For the kids you can usually find a fairly cheap 40 degree bag at places like Dick's Sporting Goods. We found Quest sleeping bags for $40 a piece. They weighed about 2 pounds and packed small enough you could fit them in a school book bag with some room left over.

Another option is an Ozark Trails down bag from Walmart for $70-$80. Here is a thread on it

Good luck!

Arn Aarreberg
(aarrebea) - M

Locale: Northern Bay Area, CA
RE: Help with entry level big 3 on 08/17/2013 13:09:33 MDT Print View

Sleeping pad: I have a stratus, it is nice pad, super comfy. I bought it for my wife and she said she felt cold sleeping on this pad. I didn't notice it and took the pad to temps in the 30's. Take a look at the REI flash pad, about 16 oz and probably not much more money.

Tent: Cant go wrong with either of the skyscape tents. Seen lots on the JMT this year and no one had any complaints. Tarptent contrail also fits your requirements. Proven tent and under 2 lbs. I bought one used on gear swap a few years back and love it.

Pack: Im sure the Mariposa is a great pack, but you cant beat a ULA Circuit. Especially since you will be taking the kids eventually, that usually means carrying some extra weight in the pack and this is where the Circuit excels.

Bag: Not sure on the GoLite bags. Im sure they are quality. As others have said, take a look at enlightened equipment quilts. Great price and great products. Plus you can custom size it to your needs.

Idan Y
(Idanz) - F
Quilt on 08/18/2013 12:28:36 MDT Print View

affordable quilts @ Hammockgear dot com
Top products&customer service.

Edited by Idanz on 08/18/2013 12:29:39 MDT.

Terry Hoover
(thoover1968) - M

Locale: Texas
Thanks on 08/20/2013 13:34:28 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the input guys. I will definitely check out the SMD Starlite and Exped Lighting 60…look like solid options.

@Troy…would love to get your quilt pattern. With a family of 6, making some quilts would save some serious $$.

Thanks again.