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Most important gear item
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Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Most important gear item on 03/25/2013 17:14:50 MDT Print View

Okay here is my predicament; I've backpacked in the past as a kid - its probably been 10 years or so. Therefore I have a backpack, sleeping bag, most of the clothes needed and I no longer have a tent, stove, or sleeping pad. I want to get back into backpacking and outdoors in general so I will need to purchase some gear but at this time I don't want to purchase all of the gear and end up not using it.

I have a dividend from REI I was planning on using as well as the member coupon and was trying to decide which piece of gear I should get. My hope is get something so that I no longer have an excuse to not go out (for instance not having all the required gear) but not spend an arm and a leg to do so since I don't know how much I will be able to get out. These trip will consist of small weekend trip and nothing much more than that for the foreseeable future.

My thought was to get a tent, like the Half Dome, which would allow me all the gear I would need and could then purchase a cheap foam mattress from Wal-Mart or such. But I do have the option to borrow a tent so was then thinking of getting an inflatable sleeping pad for comfort (which if I am comfortable I will go out more, right?) Then hopefully be able to also purchase a stove as well.

What piece should I focus on, or should I go an entirely new route all together. I was just looking for guidance and help or ideas would be beneficial, thanks.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Most important gear item" on 03/25/2013 17:33:19 MDT Print View

If you're looking for the one piece of gear that will keep you from not getting out backpacking, then figure out what one piece of gear you currently have (or don't have yet) that is preventing you from getting out now. I don't think anyone can really guess for you.

For me it was my entire package. I wanted to lighten my load considerably. I've changed my pack, sleeping bag, mattress, tent, stove, pot and cut down on clothes, first aid kit, etc. For this year's REI dividend, I wanted a better air mattress. The one I got last year is fine but I don't sleep that great on it. I'm getting a Big Agnes Q Core SL wide. The weight penalty is worth it to me if I get a great night's sleep.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Most important gear item on 03/25/2013 17:39:45 MDT Print View

Don't kill your back or wallet on an expensive shelter right now. If you're not ready for tarp camping, buy and seam seal this shelter from Big 5 for $50. Get rid of the pole and stuff sack (use a trekking pole instead) and you'll have a 2.5lb shelter. Add ~10oz if you decide to keep the pole and forgo the trekking poles.

Half dome is a nice tent but no point spending that kind of money if you're not sure that this is for you IMO. With the Hi Tec V Lite 2, you get a shelter which is half the weight for a third of the price.

You can buy an Esbit stove and fuel for $20.

I'd just rehydrate food for this trip and don't worry about frying or any psychedelic cooking for now. Buy the cheapest aluminum pot you can find which will boil two cups of water.

I'd just go with a Zlite or blue closed cell foam pad (as you mentioned) for the time being:

All this will get you moving for less than $80 before you've even touched your dividend.

Edit: Just suggestions based on my experiences. Didn't want my suggestions to come across in a bossy way.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/25/2013 17:48:46 MDT.

Andrew Urlacher
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
Get some good Books! on 03/25/2013 17:51:32 MDT Print View

I agree with Dena. You need to figure out what exactly is keeping you from getting outside and tackle that first. I think for most people it's their shelter. You would obviously be more comfortable with a double walled tent for total protection and peace of mind, at a weight penalty. And the cheaper you go on the tent, the heavier it will be. When I first got back into backpacking I bought a cheapish REI tent. I liked it, but it was heavy (almost 5 pounds) and I really regretted not spending the extra money and going lighter to begin with. You will save money over the long run if you go for quality now versus "something that will do for now."

On the other end of the spectrum, you can get a lot of really good functional equipment for cheap. Instead of dropping $100 on a stove, take a small MYOG alcohol stove and use that, damn near cost free. If you decide you hate alcohol cooking, you can switch later without having wasted money. Same goes for things like cheapo blue foam pads for sleeping (don't waste money on an expensive air pad if you can hack it with a CCF pad).

I would really, really recommend buying Andrew Skurka's Gear Guide or Mike Clelland's Ultralight Backpackin' Tips. There is excellent info in those, especially for novices and people upgrading to lightweight gear.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Most important gear item on 03/25/2013 17:58:51 MDT Print View

The one piece of gear that you should really lay down the cash for is a sleeping bag. You can get a cheap shelter, cheap clothing, a cheap pack, but if you get a cheap sleeping bag, you are either going to be very cold or carrying a ton of weight.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: "Most important gear item" on 03/25/2013 18:03:43 MDT Print View

I understand your point and maybe I didn't explain myself well enough this goes for Ian as well. I want to backpack more and have a knowledge of it currently and I know I will be doing more in the future, so its not a maybe.

As far as what has stopped me in the past it was easily time but that I didn't have a full system and I could easily completely change that but would rather have some days/nights under my belt to better make that decision plus the initial cost is prohibitive.

Now since I do eventually want to gear towards lightweight I was hoping to get things that could fulfill that purpose now, as mentioned I would rather buy quality gear now then regret that decision later. I suggested the tent because I eventually want a TT Double Rainbow, but spending that money now is not available and figured the Half Dome could work in the meantime to get me out there and then I could always use the half dome in the future for easier trips or even more car type camping occasions where weight is not an issue.

I have tried an alcohol stove in the past and just didn't like the fuss of it all and would rather just get a canister stove now knowing I will use it now and in the future as I convert or even in the car camping scenarios I explained above. I hope that clarifies my need, I just need a system and of the items I need which would be the most important to get now?

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: "Most important gear item" on 03/25/2013 18:19:13 MDT Print View

Hi Sean,

Could you tell us what kit you have already and we could make recommendation on what best to change.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: "Most important gear item" on 03/25/2013 18:49:25 MDT Print View

Good idea, Stephen, or post a list with weights as a Gear List post for evaluation.

Your kit is a system and usually has some related parts. In my case my shelter and rain gear are the same. My clothing is a calculated part of my sleep system

More to the point: you can go a long way with a decent CCF sleeping pad. A blue foam pad from REI is $27.50 and a RidgeRest is a little more.

You sleeping bag should be close to the temperature range expected. You clothing can fill some gaps.

Tents can be expensive. IMHO, good tarp is better than a cheap tent and being lighter, it might take up the slack for other gear that is heavier. A decent silnylon tarp will always be useful. Add some Tyvek or Polycryo window film for a floor. You could start out with an Esbit or alcohol stove and a Stanco grease pot or a Snowpeak titanium bowl for your kitchen. Alcohol stoves are cheap and you could make your own. There are canister stoves that aren't too expensive if you gave some budget to work with. Add a plastic spoon or fork and some recycled water bottles. Micropur tablets are cheaper in the short run than a filter.

I don't know what your pack is like. If it is big enough, work with that as your the rest of your kit together and buy your pack last.

Here is my generic gear list that shows the things you should be taking:

Climate, temperature range and personal metabolism should be considered with the clothing list, which is deliberately minimal. It is assumed that any liquids like bug repellent or sun screen would be decanted to the smallest possible container for the trip.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Weigh everything and make a list (most use spreadsheets). Seek out those products that deliver the highest performance, lightest weight, and multiple uses. If you are not going to use a particular item, leave it at home. Keep electronic toys and other extras to a minimum. Be diligent and you will be rewarded with a comfortable, safe, and light kit. The list:
Backpack Pack liner Trekking poles
Shelter Ground cloth Guy lines Stakes
Sleeping bag Sleeping pad
First aid kit
Fire starter
Insect repellent
Small repair kit (duct tape, sewing kit)
Water container(s) Water treatment
Cook pot Stove Windscreen Fuel container Spork
Food Bear bag Line
Base layer shirt Pants/shorts Insulation layer Windshirt Bandana
Insect head net Hat
Rain jacket/poncho Rain pants
Potty trowel Toilet paper Hand cleaner Soap Toothbrush Floss, Toothpaste, Comb

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: "Most important gear item" on 03/25/2013 19:52:26 MDT Print View

I hear you that you know you what to get back into backpacking.

A quality sleeping pad is the easiest decision. Sure, people will pick nits, but an inflatable around 10-12 ounces, R=2 to 3 for summer only use. R = about 5 if you expect to do 4-season camping. That one pad could then be part of whatever system you decide on - bag or quilt, tent or tarp.

I wouldn't fault a decision to get a blue foam or RidgeRest pad now. Decently comfortable and light, it will always be useful for a trip to a place with sharp rocks, when inviting a friend or doubling up with an inflatable for winter use.

For the quilt or bag, I'd suggest taking more trips and figuring out what your total sleep system is. The sleep system includes the pad and clothing you wear at night.

If you are ready to go to a tarp - if that level of weight savings is appealing and you feel ready to jiggle each set up to suit the location, it's cheaper and lighter than any tent. For the occasional bug-infested trip, borrow or rent a full tent or add that to your gear closet far in the future.

I agree with other posters that if you want to try alcohol stoves, there is little financial outlay there.

If you get any modern, light canister stove, that's where many experienced people end up. I'd suggest the canister stove and a very cheap pot (tin can, Foster's can, etc) while you consider what Ti pots or HX pots fits your needs best. Long and group trips favor HX pots because there is more fuel to be saved. Short and solo trips are better for beer cans and such.

Jan S
Go make experiments on 03/25/2013 20:40:28 MDT Print View

In my experience it's really not simple to judge what equipment works for you. It's even harder from afar and books and guides get you starting points to think, but can't really tell you what piece of equipment works for you and which one sucks. What you want and need is a bit of an experience thing. WHich is sad for your wallet. And I would bet everyone here has sunk quite a bit of money into stuff that was just plain crap for them (I know I did).

So, my advice would be not to buy a tent. Especially if it's one you don't really want to use, but borrow one and spend a couple nights out in various conditions. That should give you an idea what you value most in a tent. If you want to give tarps a shot, get something that works in mild conditions and try it. No need to buy a cuben tarp and discover later that you want the full blown double wall experience.

If you don't own a stove and can't get one, buy one. If you can borrow something or want to fiddle with cat food cans, do that. If you find out that freeze dried cardboard isn't your thing and you want to actually cook, get a decent stove if you want to use self dehydrated stuff get a decent dehydrator later and keep the cheap stove for some time. Trouble is, it's hard to decide this stuff at home.

Same for sleeping pads. Buy an expensive NeoAir (or something like that) and find out later that you can't sleep well because you're afraid all the time that it might go flat on you but you sleep excellent on foam pads and you've sunk quite a bit of money.

Sleeping bags. Apart from the eternal down vs synthetic fight, there is the question wether you sleep cold or not. Again you will probably need to get cold during a couple nights to find out what exactly fits your needs. No reason to sink a lot of money into bags that are either overkill or just not enough.

Basically I'd try to start out with the cheapest kit you can get that has an acceptable weight. Acceptable weight here means something you and your backpack can carry well. Also keep in mind that weight is only one variable (albeit an important one) in the whole setup and depending on your style and what you want to do others might become more important.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Buy Good Stuff Once. on 03/25/2013 21:00:23 MDT Print View

I bought the bare essentials from the ground up starting last February, 2012. In August 2012, I was prepared for a 30-day long camping trip.

Now it's March of 2013.

I still use:

My $75 EMS 20º Sleeping Bag, with no need to replace it.
My Hennessy Hammock Tent. Made a good call.
My Smartwool Midweight Baselayer, crew and tights.

I have replaced:
Backpack (Twice)
Sleeping Pad (Twice)
Shoes (Trail Runners)
Hiking Snow Boots
Trekking Poles
Hiking Pants

Almost all of these replacements were from going budget, and then later seeing the value in quality gear. My shell ripped, my sleeping pads gave me a poor night's sleep, my boots gave me blisters, my fleeces pilled and absorbed water, and my backpacks were not as comfortable as they could have been for long distances.

Take your time. Become an expert at buying used gear, following sales, buying gear out of season, and finding the best reviews. Figure out where to strike a balance between durability and light weight. Otherwise, you'll buy twice eventually.

Edited by mdilthey on 03/25/2013 21:00:53 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
All the advice you'll ever need on 03/25/2013 21:43:39 MDT Print View

Well, Sean, I was going to add my $0.02 to this thread, but it seems you have all your answers already:

Buy cheap to start
Buy quality to start
Don't buy a tent
Buy the tent you really want
Buy a tarp
Make a stove
Buy a stove
Invest in a good pad
Get a Wally world pad

Clear as mud! ;)

Seriously, though, people are making recommendations based on their assumptions of your goals. What ARE your goals, short, mid, and long term? I think knowing that will clarify how much you're prepared to invest right now, which will in turn give you a better idea where your money would be best spent.

James Cahill

Locale: Suthern Carl
Do it to it on 03/25/2013 23:59:46 MDT Print View

Like everyone has mentioned, its all personal preference. Before I took sleeping outdoors seriously, my experience consisted of getting shitfaced in the woods and passing out on the ground.

When you have nothing, you realize what you really need.

This may sound stupid and trivial, but go lay in your backyard at night and attempt to sleep. You will quickly realize what it is you miss the most (warmth, comfort, bug protection) and that will determine your most important purchase.

I vote you buy an inexpensive and light CCF pad - you will be able to modify it for a number of different lightweight applications if you decide its not worth sleeping on (sit pad, pack frame, wing pads, extra winter insulation, etc.) that will make it worth the $.

ps - I know you said you didn't like alcohol stoves, but in my biased opinion give it another shot. A $1 can of cat food changed my life ( ). In a good way. And i don't even like cats.

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
books on 03/26/2013 01:19:54 MDT Print View

I'd definitely buy books from

- Mike Clelland
- Chris Townsend
- Andrew Skurka

Before ANY gear purchase

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Most important gear item on 03/26/2013 02:44:01 MDT Print View

Well, what do you want to do now?

>Buy quality items that are light that you will not need to replace, based soley on our suggestions?

>Or just get decently light items for cheap to get you back into it, then replace items as you get the money and knowledge of what works for you?

From what it sounds like, it seems you are saying the latter. If that's the case, then I will second EVERYTHING Ian said. I actually have that tent I picked up to replace my quarterdome, just seem seal it good.

I would only add, that you can pick up an older external frame from craigslist for $20-$30. This will make carrying what is likely to be a heavier pack more comfortable until you start spending the money to lighten your gear list.

I would say, right now, use your REI dividend on a stove or sleeping bag, but I would save it for next year, until you figure out what works for you and have a better idea of what you want before spending $400 on a sleeping bag, just to find out you prefere a quilt.

Personally, haveing gone through spending $$$$ to get into backpacking, just to realize that what I really want out of my gear will cost me another $$$$$$ to replace what I am using now, I totally suggest getting in as cheap as possible, and spend your time researching, saving, and hiking.
After hiking, you will know what you want each piece to do for you.
After researching, you will know what is the lightest itteration of that piece. Finally, after saving, you will be able to afford that piece.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
you can always rent on 03/26/2013 05:07:54 MDT Print View

If you are close to the REI then you can always rent a tent and maybe some of the other gear. Good way to test too. In that case, I would say get a pad and stove, you could get out for less than $100.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Most important gear item on 03/26/2013 08:32:52 MDT Print View

"I actually have that tent I picked up to replace my quarterdome, just seem seal it good."

Hi Nick,

I own this tent too but I've only used it about six times with the kids so not enough to do a proper review. So far my impressions have been that it is comfortable, well ventilated, and light.

My original plan for the Wonderland this year was just to tarp/mid it but now that my daughter is going I'm more inclined to bring this shelter so she will have some relief from the bugs and have room to move around.

I haven't used in in a downpour or windstorm yet so take it FWIW but heck... it's $50.... and 2.5lbs if you use a trekking pole. There's a lot to love about it but it's a sleeper on this forum.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Spending strategy to get started on 03/26/2013 09:27:53 MDT Print View

My thoughts, FWIW:

SHELTER - I'd encourage you to consider buying this used. Put up a 'WTB' add in the Gear Swap and keep an eye on it. In the last two years, I've picked up a used Tarptent Contrail, Squall and Lightheart Solo, each under $150 and all in great condition. They're all good proven UL shelters and a great place to start, imo.

STOVE - Canister stoves are by-and-large all pretty reliable and inexpensive. You can pick one up for less than $10 on amazon or ebay or a discount store like,, and find a major brand in the $25 range.

PAD - CCF pads are cheap and fine if you can sleep on them. For inflatables, there are some decent deals at REI-outlet right now that you can use your 20% member coupon for (and still have another 20% coupon for a regular-priced item.) Big Agnes Air Core, Exped, Alps Mountaineering. These may not be the lightest, but they will work. You should be able to get something in the $25-40 range.

COOKWARE - Open Country aluminum cookware offer great value.

SLEEPING BAG - for me, this was the first "investment" gear item I purchased. Along with the shelter, it can easily be the heaviest gear item in your pack and it's also something that really affects your comfort on the trail, so it's worth putting a high priority on it.

PACK - This is "important" in that it needs to fit right and handle the weights you want to carry BUT there are a lot of discounted ones out there. Get it last when you know how much gear, volume and weight, and know how much money you can spend.

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Re: Re: Most important gear item on 03/26/2013 09:55:16 MDT Print View

"I haven't used in in a downpour or windstorm yet"
- Ian

Me neither, yet, but when I first got it, I gave it a thorough hose test on full power against all sides. There were only very small puddles at 2 of the corners inside the tent. But! That was before I seem sealed it, so I'm pretty confident about it, and would have been comfortable using it not seam sealed if I was only looking at short showers here and there.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Most important gear item on 03/26/2013 11:03:20 MDT Print View

I think you're right in wanting to spend your money on an item that's holding you back rather than upgrading what you already have. If you're on BPL already I don't think you'll be happy with the Half Dome very long. Its really heavy and I think you'll probably end up getting rid of it quickly after you buy it. I would recommend renting one or getting a cheap tarp until you've saved up for the shelter you really want (Tarptent, MLD, etc) The Gear Swap is great for shelters, I've bought all of mine second hand so far.
I think going with a foam mat is fine to start with. I slept on one all through Scouts and when I started backpacking on my own. It was the last piece of gear I upgraded. I thought the Ridgrest was more comfortable than the blue pads but neither are "plush". A couple of Tylenol PM will ease the day's soreness and make the sleeping pad more tolerable.
If I were you I'd spend my dividend on a canister stove and pot. Those will probably be a much better investment than the tent or sleeping pad in the long run.

Only after you've got the stuff you don't already have would I look at upgrading your other gear. What good is a new sleeping bag going to do if you don't have a shelter to sleep in? After you've been out a few times you can decide what you're upgrade path should be.


Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Thoughts on 03/26/2013 13:42:07 MDT Print View

First off thanks for all of the great responses so far, I have a lot more to think about than I initially thought. I will attempt to answer all of the questions in doing so maybe its best to list my gear as mentioned.

Pack: Lowe Alpine Contour Elite 90 (Its an old internal pack and quite heavy but will do the job for what I plan and will probably be the last thing I upgrade so I know what space I need) I thought of spending the money here on a REI Flash 65/50 just for the weight savings but not sure its best spent here, thoughts?

Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Sequoia SDL 5 degree bag Long (This is overkill for what I plan to do and I will probably end up selling it but for now it’s a quality bag and again will get the job done for now)

Tent: Nothing

Sleeping Pad: Nothing

Shoes: NB 709 Trail Running shoes ( A bit old but will do for what I have planned, not many miles on them anyways)

Clothes: I don’t have much dedicated outdoor ‘gear’ but enough fitness appeal I could get by with for the first few outings before I feel the need to purchase.

Cooking: Nothing

So that’s the just of it all – The reason I mentioned most of the REI gear is due to their return policy as well as my dividend for last year so no money of mine would be out of pocket. I have about $125 in REI dividend and I wouldn’t mind throwing in another $50 or so to get going but unfortunately that would be around the max currently.

I mentioned the tent previous because that’s the one big expense left that I probably need and I figured in the future I want a lightweight (fragile option) like the TT Double Rainbow which I would buy in the future as well as a heavier option I would take on slower paced trips or short trips where I would want or need durability or more car type camping but I guess that thinking is flawed after reading these responses. I should just start with the DR or purchase a cheaper type tent like the Hi Tec V Lite that was suggested, I just didn’t want my first time to be uncomfortable otherwise that may prevent me from going more.

I understand all of the recommendations for alcohol stoves but I just like the ease and reliability of a canister while I may not start out doing much actual cooking, I plan to just boil water for the majority of it – I do want that option in the future which a canister stove provides. So it appears that this may be my best option to spend but maybe not initially, any thoughts on ones I should look at?
As far as the sleeping pad I do like the comfort of an inflatable pad and the weight is not a huge issue as I want be going long or fast initially (most likely a 6-8 mile hike to a ‘base camp’) Again if I buy one at REI I could always return if it does not suit me, I’ve used CCF pads in the past and I am not sure they provide enough comfort for me – again I would rather be comfortable and enjoy this experience. Any thoughts I ones I should look at?

As far as my goals, that’s tough – I would love to get out and do some long distance trails (like the JMT) but honestly family, financial and time restricts me from doing that. I do eventually want to get there but I believe the majority of my trips will be during the typical 3 season weekend trips either by myself or with another person. As I no longer have these restrictions I would love to dive deeper, I was a boy scout when I was younger and the outdoors have always been a part of me. As of now I just want to get out more, the physical is also a benefit.

I think after reading all these posts I am leaning towards a cook system/canister stove and maybe a sleeping pad and I may be able to sprinkle in a few smaller/misc type items as well. Then I can either purchase the Hi Tec V Lite tent or borrow/rent a tent for the few times I go out until I can purchase and justify a larger type purchase. Of course recommendations and thoughts are welcomed, I look forward to your thoughts and critique over my thoughts/gear.

Thayne N
(teethless) - MLife

Locale: Boston
re: Thoughts on 03/26/2013 22:22:28 MDT Print View

Hi Sean-

Everything everyone else said and:

If you can, I suggest checking out your local REI's garage sale. Great deals to be had on inflatable mattresses and odds and ends. (Z-lite's for 5-10 bucks)

I second the notion to buy this stove:
After you buy a canister, you're at $13.50. Put any pot on it, make a windscreen, blammo

That shelter Ian posted is a great find, doesn't get much cheaper! (Also look at the shelters that SMD offers in 190t polyester)

*Cue the violins* Cry once, buy once...

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
buying twice on 03/26/2013 23:30:38 MDT Print View

i wouldn't recommend buying something that you plan to replace in the near future. so if you are set on the double rainbow (why not just the rainbow?) then buying a tent now doesn't make financial sense - resale value will be bad. especially if you can borrow one. i think you should look hard at getting your tent used. as many people are switching over to hammocks you can find tarptents for sale here.

i also would look at getting your pack from a cottage industry. zpacks, mld, zimmerbuilt, ula. just better and lighter...

sleeping bag. i'd sell your seqouia here and buy the marmot helium at REI. huge weight and space savings. you can make up the 10 degrees you lose later on with things like a vapor barrier, hot water bottles, down jacket...

pad. i'd start out w/ the walmart blue foam and see if you even need to upgrade to an inflatable. maybe you live where there aren't a ton of rocks and can sleep fine on it. this would be an item i would wait on.

stove. i personally don't take a stove most trips anymore. i rely on a fire to cook my food and just take a little 700 ml titanium pot. again, don't spend money here. you can make your own alky stove or buy one for less than $20.

to summarize: don't spend money twice on the same item. buy the marmot helium. sell your sequoia (you should make up a good bit of what you spend on the helium). save up for a pack from the cottage guys.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: re: Thoughts on 03/27/2013 01:15:59 MDT Print View

On a side note, it appears my local REI is currently having their garage sale so I plan to head out there tomorrow, anything in particular I should look for? Anything to avoid since its been used?

Still would appreciate other comments on my previous post as well, thanks all.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: re: Thoughts on 03/27/2013 03:12:15 MDT Print View

Avoid used synthetic bags. The loft in them is usually flat.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
REI Garage Sale on 03/27/2013 22:27:18 MDT Print View

Whelp, I didn't have much luck tonight at the REI garage sale granted I had very specific wants but by the time my number was called most of the stuff was picked through pretty good. However that doesn't change my thought process too much, still hope to get a stove and/or a sleeping pad but would appreciate any thoughts on which I should go for or any other thoughts on my process to get outdoors. Thanks

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Stove on 03/28/2013 09:03:38 MDT Print View

Hi Sean,

I have the Soto ODR. I didn't see it on REI's website the othter day so I'm not sure if they are still carrying it or not. I read the other day that they might have a new stove rolling out. If you ignore the microregulator hype, you still end up with a nice stove. It's light and I've never had problems with the pot stands. If you want to do more than boil water then this is a nice option from REI (assuming they still carry it.) Don't buy this stove unless you are willing to buy the SOTO windscreen as well.

The Snowpeak stoves seem to have a nice reputation but I haven't owned one. I've read some complaints on this forum about the Micro Rocket.

I only boil water. The Jetboil Sol Ti is much more efficient with fuel and only weighs an extra oz over my current system (I use a ti pot with the Soto & windscreen). I can only milk 14 16oz boils from the Soto vs the Sol ti which can achieve (by reputation) 20 16 oz boils. (EDIT with a 100g canister) I wish I bought this system instead of the Soto.

I've mentioned it before but I only use the gas stove when I'm with my kids. When I'm solo, I use Esbit. This is a cheap, effective, and lightweight option. My Esbit kit is less than 1/2 the weight of my canister setup.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/28/2013 11:28:41 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Most important gear item on 03/28/2013 09:19:06 MDT Print View

I would say a good sleeping bag. In the treeline in normal weather, hikers can get away with a cheap tarp, cheap blue foam pad, maybe some netting, and if warm enough, even sans stove. Without a good bag, it's going to be an unpleasant night (though wearing all your clothes and maybe filling a garbage bag with dead leaves and pine needles to add insulation would help).

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
water filter on 03/28/2013 10:46:33 MDT Print View

Tough one you want the gear but dont want to spend the money.

Im pretty sure you can count on replacing your gear no matter what you get. Most of us have a grass is always greener mentality. Especially as we try to find that balance of light and comfort.

I like every ones suggestions. Just pick which one you like the best. I would get a aquamira frontier pro water filter.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Most important gear item" on 03/28/2013 12:28:35 MDT Print View

I agree with those that are suggesting you buy once. When I first joined the forum, I kind of went crazy and would go buy something because I read something good about it here, and then next thing I know I was wanting the next best thing. If I'd just have spent a few months reading here, I could have narrowed it down to what was best for me without buying stuff I will probably never use again. Fortunately I'm part of a backpacking group and can use my extra gear as loaner items for newbies, but still. Would have been nice to just buy the best item (for me) the first time and not the third time.

And...Gearswap is by far the best resource I've found. There are better deals on Gearswap than on ebay, if you are discerning. Definitely do your research though, because not all Gearswap deals are deals. I've even seen people price used items for more than the item can be purchased new, although that's rare and usually due to the new item being on sale.

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
sounds like you really just want to get out there without spending a ton on 03/28/2013 13:07:25 MDT Print View

This is a great goal.

You already have an excellent bag that you rightly suggest you will sell for something more appropriate. In my mind, the sleeping bag is the most important part of your kit so take you time there and get something right for you down the road and live with you overkill bag for now.

You need a shelter and stove still. For a shelter, my recommendation is to go with you gut and get a tried and true like the Half / Quarter dome but get it used off ebay or craigslist. This will allow you to get out there now and figure out what you want long-term. If you buy the REI tent used, you will be able to sell it for nearly what you paid for it later (or use it as a beater car camping tent as you suggest).

Canister stoves are cheap. You said you don't like alcohol (which would be my budget recommendation), so just pick up a snowpeak / primus / fire maple canister stove for not much money and don't think twice.

Terry G
(delvxe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
+1 for Sumi on 03/28/2013 13:13:27 MDT Print View

Reading back over the posts, I have to give a +1 for Sumi's comments.

Good, practical advice.

Loki Cuthbert

Locale: Portland, OR
Cash out your dividend on 03/28/2013 15:15:08 MDT Print View

You can cash out your dividend in July. Spend your dividend money on buying that tarptent you want.


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Cash out your dividend on 03/28/2013 21:37:08 MDT Print View

You can cash out your dividend in July.

WHAT? Wait until July to get new gear?

YOU are to BPL what the Grinch is to Christmas! he-he

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: sounds like you really just want to get out there without spending a ton on 03/29/2013 15:08:00 MDT Print View

Thanks to all of the responses I think I have narrowed down some of my decisions. First off I will continue to educate myself through this forum, books, and most importantly personal experience. I just need/want to get out there and enjoy the experience that in turn will tell me what I need.

However for now I plan on getting a Big Agnes Air Core for a sleeping pad as I can get it fairly cheap and for the most part its fairly light. While sleeping on this I can then gauge what I like or dislike and determine from there. I do like the Exped products though as well as the new Q-Core but the dimension discrepancies scare me.
I also plan to get the Snow Peak Starter Kit, again I need the whole system and I like the weight, versatility, and ease of use this product allows me. I may convert later to alcohol and may even try it a few times as I go out but again the actual cooking experience will tell me what I need and how I usually cook in the outdoors.

As far as the tent I am going to take Ian’s advice and try to find the Hi-Tec V-Lite 2 for now, that tent appears to serve my immediate needs and its light both on the pocket book and in the pack. This will service the immediate goal of getting outdoors and again will allow be to learn what I want in a tent without putting forth a lot of initial money. Once I upgrade I could always use in other adventures or give it to a scout group or what like. If I am unable to find this tent I will just borrow or rent a tent for those times since I have that option.

I just wanted to let you all know my plan since you help in me determining it. Anybody have any experience with the equipment they could share, or other input about my plans?

Loki Cuthbert

Locale: Portland, OR
Dont wait till july ti soend it. on 03/30/2013 12:19:27 MDT Print View

@jim well I would personally take the money out of the rainy day fund and spend it now with a promissory note to put the money back when July comes around.

I was generally trying to say don't buy something that you don't really want when you can spend your dividend money on buying the TT you truly desire

Also I don't really see the point in having a light weight beater tent for shorter trips or car camping. You still will want your light tent for short trips and you would probably be better of with a giant palace of a tent if you where car camping.


Edited by lokbot on 03/30/2013 12:21:09 MDT.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/10/2013 13:06:16 MDT Print View

I just wanted to give you all an update on what I chose as well as thanks for all of the great ideas.

I came to the conclusion a heavy expensive tent was not what I needed so I decided on the tent Ian mention from Big 5, its light, roomy and best of all inexpensive which is exactly what I was looking for. I could use this tent so that I no longer have an excuse and if I don’t it was a relatively cheap purchase. BY using this tent it will allow me to determine what I like or dislike how I sleep/camp so that when I purchase a new tent I know what I want. As an added bonus I found a coupon online for 20% off a single item at Big 5 bringing the tent price down to $39.99 – for a 3lb tent, not bad.

As far as the pad I wasn’t to keen on sleeping on a CCF pad so I ended up getting a Big Agnes Air Core pad from REI outlet for $30.00 which I purchased with some of my dividend. I again figured for the price it will do its job and in the meantime I could find what I dislike or like about the pad. I didn’t need something with much insulation considering I will only be doing 3-season outings for now and my current bag is a little overkill anyways.

As far as the stove, I splurged a little more on this purchase, and initially was undecided between a few like the JetBoil or alcohol. I wanted something with flexibility as well as ease of use considering I don’t plan to have many complicated meals. I figured since I needed a whole cooking set and not just a stove that the SnowPeak Starter Kit with SnowPeak GigaPower and the Trek 700 pot/mug would give me the most options as well as weight and use.

I am happy with all of my purchase and a friend and I are already planning to go out to Wishon Reservoir in the Sierra’s here this weekend in order to try out my new kit. It’s actually just an excuse to get out and enjoy the outdoors which I hope to do a lot more, so thank you all I am sure I will have many more questions.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Well done sir! on 04/10/2013 13:14:32 MDT Print View

Sounds like you've made some great purchases and kudos to you for finding some great bargains. I have the Soto ODR and have never owned the SP stove. It has a solid reputation and I'm sure you'll be happy with it.

Happy trails! BTW if you ditch the bag and the tent pole (replace with trekking pole), the tent will be closer to 2.5 lbs. It looks like they changed the vestibule so I'd be interested in seeing what you think of it.

Edit: Do I understand correctly that these tents are now taped and do not need seam sealing? If so then wow!

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/10/2013 13:16:50 MDT.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: Well done sir! on 04/10/2013 13:24:27 MDT Print View

Thanks Ian.

And Yes, it specifically said tent has its seams taped. I think I said Wow too at the weight/price. How has the vestibule changed? I will report back after this weekend with my initial thoughts.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Hi Tec V lite on 04/10/2013 13:31:45 MDT Print View

I'm setting mine up this weekend. I'll take pictures of it and post it on this thread later. It's been a few months but if memory serves, the vestibule on mine comes to a point (only requiring one stake) whereas yours is flat and appears to need two. (Edit: disregard. Looked at it again and no changes)

I find this shelter is spacious when I'm sharing it with one of my kids and the vestibule has ample room to shelter our gear.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/10/2013 14:01:47 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/10/2013 13:35:37 MDT Print View

Sounds like you found some great deals!

As far as the cookset goes, I also started with the SP700 and Ti spork and still use them. I really like that it has graduations on the inside to measure volume. That alone makes me grab it over the MSR Titan kettle most of the time. One tip: The lid is way heavy, replace it with some aluminum foil.

Regarding the tent, that Hi-tec reminds me a lot of the Eureka Zeus 2 I started with. Man I hated that thing! Nothing I tried would alleviate the condensation inside it. Even sleeping solo in it with the vestibule open. But the humidity here plays a large roll in that and I have to deal with condensation in pretty much every shelter I've tried. The thing that made the Eureka so miserable was that with two people inside it was so tight you couldn't help but touch the walls and soak everything. But the important thing is that you've finally got everything you need and are planning a trip! Let us know how it goes!


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/10/2013 13:38:19 MDT Print View

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/10/2013 13:39:58 MDT Print View


I only lived in Missouri for one year but I certainly don't miss your humidity. It's quite a bit drier here and I haven't had any condensation issues with this shelter yet. In fairness, it only sees limited use when I'm camping with my kids but I find that it's ventilated well. MMMV if I were in your neck of the woods though.

Edit: I agree with the OP on the link above that there is some sag but I was able to mitigate this by adjusting the guy lines. I also have only used it in light rain and not what the author was describing. When I purchased it, I realized that I was buying a $50 tent and kept realistic expectations. I plan on using it during some rain storms this spring and I'll report back on my experiences with it.



Edited by IDBLOOM on 04/10/2013 13:48:18 MDT.

Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: Hi Tec V lite on 04/10/2013 14:20:42 MDT Print View

I can confirm that yes the new, or current model does have the twin stake out points for the front vestibule. I too will take and post some pictures from this weekends use and let everyone know.

Adam-- Honestly that was a huge selling point for me as well (measurements). Its more efficient to only use what you need as far as time and fuel goes. I am happy to hear that it has served you well I too hope its a staple of my kit, so far I like it. Also thanks for the lid tip. I'll definitely update the thread upon my return and let you all know how it went.

John-- I haven't used the tent so I really can't comment too much however for my planned use; solo, summer/fair weather use it was difficult to pass up this tent. Obviously due to the price my expectations are realistic. But I don't plan to use with another person so that will alleviate me hitting the walls and as far as the pitch I will mess with it in hopes of negating the sag but even with it I don't expect much of any rain during my uses. Also condensation won't be much of a problem here as well since its normally not too humid here.

For what its worth I will use and report back with my findings hopefully the tent has been restructured and works better but I am confident it will preform well in the conditions I plan to use.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/10/2013 14:43:58 MDT Print View

I should have mentioned that I have absolutely no experience with the Hi-tec tent. The general shape sort of reminded me of my first backpacking tent and I just rambled on from there :D Its hard to imagine any tent designed as poorly as the Eureka Zeus. They're still suckering people into it today by calling it the "Classic"!

Come to think of it, Missouri in the summer months is probably the ideal place to see if a single wall tent has effective ventilation. Henry Shires, if you need to test any new tents let me know!


Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Most important gear item on 04/15/2013 17:25:45 MDT Print View

Well, just to give a general update I did happen to make it out this past weekend although it was more of a base camp situation rather than backpacking I did take all of my backpacking gear to 'test' in a safe environment. Overall everything worked great, the temperatures were in the mid 30's at night and mid 60's during the day so I was able to find my comfort spot with clothing.

I also wanted to report back regarding the tent as I said I would as well. After initially setting up I didn't have an issue with sagging at all. I was however slightly disappointed with the size inside. The tent is described as a 2-person tent and while that may be possible I didn't find it would be the best case scenario with my given needs and size. I am 6'3" 195 and I'll be the first to admit I do like my space. My only other complaint was the interior usable space; since the slope of the tent from the center pole to the rear is so steep it doesn't leave much room to move around. For instance the height at the rear is about a foot high where the apex in about 43 if I remember correctly. Therefore the back half of the tent is unusable with out laying down granted that is where your feet will be but I found that a tad restricting when entering and exiting. I did have a little bit of condensation during the evenings that rubbed on my bag, due to the low height of the rear, but for me not much of an issue.

Overall I was generally content with the tent as my expectation were realistic and given the price and weight think its a good beginning tent and suits my needs. I enjoyed my trip and look forward to other outings soon.

I'll try to put up some pictures I snapped as well. Thanks again everyone.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Gear..gear...and more gear. on 04/16/2013 19:54:57 MDT Print View

The most important gear item is what is between your head! :)

I may get banned from this forum and have to turn in my Real Outdoors Person (TM) membership card, but gear is the least important part of backpacking.

When I started backpacking, I had an old external frame pack, a Campmor Hollofill II (synthetic bag), a Eureka Tent with fiberglass poles, an old cookpot, an acrylic sweather and a Coleman 1 burner propane stove (which I still have and use! Great for truck bivvy's before a backpacking trip at the trailhead)

If you notice the gear, it is heavy and bulky, but serviceable. I knew enough to not wear cotton jeans, but at 22 yo was in no position to buy "real" backpacking gear.

I hiked the White Mountains with a buddy and then solo. And learned to love the wilderness.

Two years later, I was on top of Katahdin with a smile on my face as I just thru-hiked the AT.

And after THAT I moved to Colorado.

Over the course of the years, I started getting the "right" gear and clothing that fit the style of backpacking. I learned to appreciate the lightness of down after I saved my pennies. And that aluminum poles work a lot better than fiberglass!

It is laudable to buy the "right" gear but frankly you won't know what is the "right" gear until you use it and gain experience. A tarp may not work well for you. Everyone loves inflatable mattresses..except for Luddites like me who can't stand them. :) An alcohol stove IS light and cheap..but maybe you want to cook more? You get the idea.

A good sleeping bag is well, a good investment. Other than that? Too easy to get gear paralysis and not actually gain the experience and love for the outdoors you need.

Try using things you may already have. Buy a few choice items you know won't change too much (again, like a sleeping bag)but don't sweat the gear too much. Just get out there and go hiking! You'll learn far more from getting out there than any REI gear sale. :)

Finally, I wrote an article for going on the cheap. You won't want to follow ALL the ideas..but they are still ideas that may help:

EDIT: Maybe I should have read the whole thread. :) Looks you are getting out there..coolio.

Edited by PaulMags on 04/16/2013 20:08:11 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Gear..gear...and more gear. on 04/16/2013 19:56:52 MDT Print View

Well said Mr. Mags :-)

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Goal #1 on 04/17/2013 09:05:20 MDT Print View

You've met your primary goal - which is getting (back) outside!

I'm a newbie - learning to camp/backpack right along with my scout son. There are all kinds of rabbit holes you can lose yourself in when starting/restarting and I've gone down plenty of them. You've already avoided the first real mistake I made which was buying stuff on the cheap not knowing any better that is now much too heavy/bulky for anything other than car camping and is not really worth trying to sell.

I agree with all the comments about how personal this can be. I backpack with guys who seem to happily carry overstuffed Baltoro 85 packs that have to weigh 40-50 pounds without food/water. These guys literally pack in bags of charcoal to cook (4-5 pounds at least). Talk about commitment. This past trip my base weight was 19 and change which is not any feat around here but still not bad considering where I started (and I had some luxuries folks here would put me to the guillotine over!). I've tried 3 pads, the third being an Exped Synmat 7 (not the UL) which changed my view of what a good nights sleep could be in the outdoors. Some folks are fine on 1/2 of foam. Etc...

Personally - I think the choices you've made are good ones. Even if you go to an alcohol setup that 700 pot will almost always be worth using. Same for the spork. And I use my Gigapower regularly - just a great all around stove and easily sellable if you find it collecting dust. And the inflatable pad for me at least is the answer over other options at least for the moment. I'll only give up the Synmat 7 for a lighter insulated pad...

I think shelters are the trickiest for me at least to get right. You have to have one and at some point no pun intended start putting stakes in the ground and getting some data points. Sort of like a stove I don't think a decent light double walled tent is ever a bad investment as there will likely be some conditions in the future you may want one (ex. shift to hammocks but not a full over/under quilt setup and want to go to the ground in colder temps - a few guys in our troop do that).

I've spent far too much time pondering and fretting - sort of my nature admittedly - with gains not necessarily proportional to the mental energy I've expended.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Gear..gear...and more gear. on 04/17/2013 09:54:26 MDT Print View

"The most important gear item is what is between your head! :)

I may get banned from this forum and have to turn in my Real Outdoors Person (TM) membership card, but gear is the least important part of backpacking."

Well said. I hate those trips when I accidentally leave my brain at home. I once did a long hike with with Levi's and am still alive to tell about it.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Gear..gear...and more gear. on 04/17/2013 10:13:32 MDT Print View

Nick and Paul. I'm with you, but unlike Paul I didn't have the sense/cents not to hike in Jeans, and like Nick I have lived to tell about it

I have posted this before, but it needs another look: (my brother wasn't very smart either and he ended up a Lawyer?). BTW, I was wearing a wool shirt (rolled up sleeves). I had to borrow the Jansport, rent boots, but the glasses were all mine (you have to look cool while you ski!)Tad-Brad on Rainier

Edited by bestbuilder on 04/17/2013 11:24:42 MDT.