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)
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.
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.