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Getting Started
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Daniel Grime
Getting Started on 02/18/2013 21:07:08 MST Print View

Hello all, I'm new to this forum, and new to the idea of backpacking. I've humped weight on my back before (I spent 4 years in the Airborne Infantry), but never done it much as a civilian. The short version of my situation is that I need to escape, I want to just grab a pack and start walking. However, I know there's more to it than that. The problem is I don't really know much about survival as a traveler. My vision (I know this will sound naive) is to travel around the United States on foot, with just my pack. I realize that I know next to nothing about this, so I need help. I need to escape, need to be free, need to find myself, and for whatever reason I am drawn to traveling on foot. I just need to know how to survive doing this (spending as little money as possible). Any advice or direction anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Getting Started on 02/18/2013 21:23:40 MST Print View

Not all apply to your exact situation. Non the less many good tid bits in there.

Daniel Grime
Good Links on 02/18/2013 22:32:00 MST Print View

Thanks Ken, I read all of 'em, a lot of good springboards for further research. I know it would be stupid to just grab my pack and go, but at the same time it seems to me that at some point when undertaking the idea of traveling for an extended period of time, it just requires a bit of a leap of faith. I mean, if I know everything that lies ahead of me, then there's not much exciting about that. I watched a TED talk recently about traveling, and the guy said most ppl who travel are either running from something or trying to find something; for me it's both.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Good Links on 02/18/2013 22:42:30 MST Print View

Jump in. Glad you found them useful.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Getting Started on 02/18/2013 22:55:15 MST Print View


I'm a recovering 11B as well. You can get a budget kit going and still find yourself easily under a 15lb base weight. I'd invest in a decent ruck like a ULA equipment Ohm or Circuit but save money everywhere else. A good old USGI patrol bag is rated to 30* and you can buy them off Amazon for $30. Buy a Zlite and a $50 silnylon tarp and you are still under 8 lbs and under $325. You'll still need to acquire a few other items before you're done.

You can find fleeces, shells, etc in good condition at a thrift store. There are several options for cook kits which are well under $20 and lightweight.

Weight goals are often arbitrary but if you set 15lbs as an absolute ceiling for base weight (not including consumables) then it will force you to forgo mostly unecessary gear like hatchets, saws, etc. They sound like a great idea until you find yourself lugging a 50lber up a mountain. This may sound like small potatoes from what you carried in the Army but remember, this is supposed to be fun.

Once you've assembled a basic kit, upload it to this forum and have the members QC it for you. The "you never knows" will add weight quickly to your pack. Members will talk you through your water purification/resupply strategy, etc.

Set up your gear in your backyard and try it out a night or two. Find a 30 mile hike to properly break in your kit to see what works and doesn't work for you; find a hiking buddy the first few times out. Once you have your entry kit dialed in, you can refine it as you go. No point buying a $500 sleeping bag if you find that this isn't your cup of tea.

Not to be melodramatic but I find my ghosts and my angels waiting for me on the trail. I find vets to be a minority on the trail and that isn't always a bad thing. I get to meet awesome people from all walks of life (physicians, professional golfers, hippies, retirees, etc) and I find that to be an enriching experience for me. I spend most days dreaming about the day when I can lay my retirement paperwork down and start my through hike of the PCT. Until then, section hiking and watching hiking vids on Youtube will have to suffice.

PM me if you ever need anything. I still have a few duffle bags of TA-50 and can offer suggestions of what has worked and hasn't worked for me transitioning from Army to civilian camping.

Take care.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 02/22/2013 10:20:36 MST.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Where to get started? on 02/18/2013 23:15:22 MST Print View

Have you thought about where you are going to hike? Pretty cold in most places right now. I was thinking about this, and Christine, German Tourist just got through winter backpacking in Georgia's Pinhoti National Recreation Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail.

( .... but she has a blog too )

Still kind of cold last month even visiting Tucson (low teens), looking at a national weather map for next year I was thinking Key West.

Just ran across this... the Eastern Continental Trail using the AT, Florida Trail, Key West Route, etc.. a little roadwalkingEastern Continental Trail


Link it up to the American Discovery Trail, then the CDT, PCT, CT, etc...

Add: Google Grandma Gatewood, etc..

ed: spacing

Edited by hknewman on 02/19/2013 16:53:43 MST.

Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Getting Started on 02/18/2013 23:28:44 MST Print View

Invest an hour and listen to This American Life episode #483

It's a great episode, and highly relevant to your situation.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
Follow the Dao on 02/19/2013 16:28:53 MST Print View

You need to follow the Dao, like Kwai Chang Caine, and travel from place to place and have adventures and s@#t. In the non-fictional world, its also good to go places with minimal planning. But your fun and survival chances go way up if you are prepared when you go. The dude in the book "into the wild" was big on unplanned adventures, but lack of planning and skills cost him his life.

Backpacking skills and gear are a great way to make your travels safer and fun, and the backcountry is a great way to unwind and also to meet a few people with common interest. My journey with backpacking went by way of peak climbing, mountaineering, mountain rescue, ski patrol, and now, 45 years later, backpacking with scouts.

What I tell adults in our scout troop about gear they should get (and not get) for backpacking in Idaho and the western U.S. is in this link:

home page of the blog is here:

backpacking is a great destresser and relaxer. I hope you have a great time.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Getting Started on 02/19/2013 16:49:36 MST Print View

"My vision (I know this will sound naive) is to travel around the United States on foot, with just my pack. I realize that I know next to nothing about this, so I need help. I need to escape, need to be free, need to find myself, and for whatever reason I am drawn to traveling on foot. I just need to know how to survive doing this (spending as little money as possible). Any advice or direction anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated."

You will doubtless get a lot of good information from the folks who post to this thread but, if you want to find the best info all in one place, you might want to visit:

This is the "how to" section of Andrew Skurka's website. He is arguably the greatest hiker alive. You should be able to find everything you need to get started right there. In any case, just stay tuned to this thread and lots of other good beta will come rolling in.

There is nothing at all naive about your quest. I am guessing you have some pretty good reasons. Best of luck on your journey, and may you find the inner peace you seek.

Daniel Grime
Thank you on 02/21/2013 14:50:59 MST Print View

Thank you very much to everyone who has replied to this post for the wealth of advice and springboards for further research. I have ordered a few related books from amazon, they'll be here today. Those, along with the advice I've received on here from you folks, should occupy a good deal of my free time between now and if/when I plan to depart. In the 82nd Airborne Division we always said if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Once I've red enough to get a rough draft of a gear list around, I will def post for constructive criticism/revision as per the advice in this thread. If I educate myself enough on the ins and outs of this subject I believe I can have a successful journey. Thank you again for helping me.

Daniel Grime
Re: Re: Getting Started on 02/22/2013 08:36:47 MST Print View

Thank you

Green Thumb
Give me a shout on 02/22/2013 09:51:25 MST Print View


As a fellow survivor of The Deuce, I would be happy to have you along for a trip if you are still in the area (FBNC.) I'm up in Raleigh these days and I go on a trip at least once a month.

mattpurvis2001 at gmail dot com

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
PMing on 03/06/2013 23:18:12 MST Print View


If you permit PMs to be sent to you it may help when people remember you but this thread is "lost" in the mists of time. Then you can still get advice .

Jus' sayin'...

BTW, you WILL get "conflicting" advice.
> Tents v.s. tarps v.s. hammocks
> quilts v.s. sleeping bags
> alky stoves v.s. wood stoves v.s. canister stoves
> internal frame packs v.s. "frameless" packs
> boots v.s. shoes
> mug/pots v.s seperate cups and pots
> titanium v.s aluminum cookware
> etc. etc.

Just remember - It has to be LIGHT, RELIABLE & EASY TO USE.