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I'm new to this and I need some (a ton of) advice
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Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
I'm new to this and I need some (a ton of) advice on 08/23/2007 17:16:03 MDT Print View

Hello all! I'm new to backpacking! I'm starting off with an ultralight (maybe more of a light) attitude. My goal is to be able to sustain myself for long periods of time in the wilderness. This requires me to learn primitive living skills and to learn those I need to spend more time outside. So technically I want to "settle" more than I want to backpack, but backpacking is my ticket. Naturally, I want to go in the woods with as little as possible (while still being safe) and hopefully I can eventually go into the woods with barely anything. I'm talking about Naked into the Wilderness as my ultimate goal. So along with this, I get to my first question...

I have NO gear. I'm supplying myself from the ground up. I've been researching many many aspects of backpacking on this site and others. I've narrowed my choice of packs down to two. They are the Granite Gear Meridian or Ozone (I count these as basically the same) which are 3800ci and the Golite Quest which is 4200ci. The one thing I can't decide is how much volume I'm going to need. The quest is the better bag in my eyes, but it's bigger and I don't know if I need the space. I know the GG bags compress better as opposed to the quest which can compress well, but compresses best with the comPaktor system which is way small. I'm starting off as a 3-season backpacker and I'm comfortable in cold temps. I don't think I will have to bring tons of extra clothing to stay comfortable. I've studied gear lists and everyone will of course recommend that I need to gather my gear and see how big of a bag I need. However, I don't have the money to gather it all right now, and I want to backpack in the meantime even for just a night. So the gear will have to come later.

So what's a good beginner size. To give further details, I plan on being off trail and I would love to have a bag that would allow me, as my skills grow, to use year round. Any advice on ANY area of backpacking will be greatly appreciated. I believe the best way to learn is through the experience of others!

Thanks and I'm glad to be here!

Edited by arichardson6 on 08/23/2007 17:17:44 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: I'm new to this and I need some (a ton of) advice on 08/23/2007 17:32:43 MDT Print View

--I've studied gear lists and everyone will of course recommend that I need to gather my gear and see how big of a bag I need. However, I don't have the money to gather it all right now, and I want to backpack in the meantime even for just a night. So the gear will have to come later.--

How, pray tell, are you planning to go backpacking if you don't have any gear? I know the backpack seems like the most exciting thing to buy right off the bat, but you should really hold off. Trust me, I went out and bought a 5000 ci behemoth because I knew it would hold all the gear I could ever conceive of carrying. After that I thought that since I had all the space I may as well fill it up. With that kind of mentality you will never achieve a light load. I know I'm not the only person here that has done that either.
Since it sounds like you are on a tight budget (much as I am) it will be most beneficial to you if you purchase all of your other gear first and then buy a pack that fits it all. That will save you from: 1) ending up with two backpacks because the first one didn't suit your load, and 2) end up with more gear than you need because you bought a huge backpack.
Just a quick thought, you sound like a prime candidate for making your own gear :). You can save tons of money if you just take the time to learn a few basics skills on a sewing machine and get to work. You can make your own quilt, insulating clothing, packs, shelters, stoves, pots, etc and all for much less than paying for something that is already made.
If you really want to buy the backpack first something you could do is go to somewhere like REI and grab a bunch of gear like you would plan to buy off of the shelves and load it up in packs you are looking at to see how they ride. When you find one you like you can get it and then proceed to save up for the rest of your gear. I would definitely check with the staff before you go pulling tons of gear off the shelves and jamming it into one of their packs though... The downside to this plan is that you probably won't be able to find all the gear you want in one store.
BTW if you think backpacks are the coolest thing in your pack go somewhere that has Western Mountaineering bags. Play with some of those for a while and you'll forget all about saving up for a pack and shift all of your efforts to getting one of those :D.


Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: "I'm new to this and I need some (a ton of) advice" on 08/23/2007 17:55:02 MDT Print View

"AMEN" to everything Adam said!

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Thanks for the insight Adam on 08/23/2007 17:57:51 MDT Print View


Thanks for the reply! Well I should have been more clear. I don't have any gear, but my girlfriend does. All I need to get right now is a pack, sleeping bag/pad, and a stove for the two of us.

As for the REI thing, when I said I did extensive research on this site and others, I should have mentioned I went to REI and ripped everything I could need off their shelves! I put it in an Atmos 50 and it seemed to fit OK. This included a tent, ground tarp, poles, water purifier (not tablets), stove, small pot, clothing.. That bag packed awkwardly in my opinion so it was hard to judge how I could be organized with all my gear. That plus it's weight led me to go with other brands. It had room for some food at top, but I thought I needed a bag a little bigger if I was to fit all of that. I plan on making week long trips so I know I will need a decent sized pack. I guess that I am pretty much ready to buy all the gear I could need as in:

Alcohol stove (I can make this too)
Sleeping bag
Sleeping Pad
Cooking Pot
Hydration Bladder
Various first aid
Water purifier
Am I missing something? (of course, but I can't recall right now, but I have a pretty solid list somewhere)

My girlfriend has a tent which will do for us.

The clothing is really where I can't afford to spend! That stuff is expensive! I guess I may need to learn to sew, but can I really rely on myself to do that? It might be cheaper to buy...

Well thanks for the advice! I hope I made myself more clear!


Edited by arichardson6 on 08/23/2007 17:59:53 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Thanks for the insight Adam on 08/23/2007 18:15:52 MDT Print View

I hear you on the clothing Andrew. Campmor and Sierra Trading Post are my best friends there.
I've made my own windshirt and insulated jacket from the kits at They really aren't difficult at all. I had never even sat down in front of a sewing machine before and with help from my mom we were able to whip them out pretty quickly. I haven't had any issues with mine yet and I made them right before the start of the year. I also made a down quilt from a kit at thru-hiker and am really happy with it too. Plus it saved me about $100. I had a lot of fun making all of it, but a lot of people tell me I'm a little off too...
And you should consider yourself lucky to have a girlfriend that backpacks. I'm working on getting mine out but it will probably be awhile :).


jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
Welcome Andrew on 08/23/2007 19:38:34 MDT Print View

Hi Andrew,
Adam's advice is sound, would start with other items and later go for a pack. Noticed you are in N.E. one thing that might be a great start is a sleeping bag and pad combo. 3 season in the northeast can offer a wide temperature range, probably a good 3 season bag would be a 15 - 20 degree rating, would go the extra mile and purchase a 800 fill down bag this would be your most expensive item but paying more up front will save you the hassle of buying lesser quality and constantly upgrading. Western Mountaineering bags are highly recommend on this site for a good reason, they are right on with temperature rating and a superior product.

Next would be a sleeping pad combo if I were starting fresh would go for a torso sized inflatable pad and add a 1/4" full lenth foam combo for colder conditions.

Cooking, find that alcohol stoves are great for warmer months but once moving into the cooler side of 3 season would go for a canister stove.
Pots and cookware, probably stay away from the kits that sell sets with 2 pots & 2 fry pans etc. Titanium is pricey but if you start one piece at a time that will break up the expense.

Water filters are an entirely personal decision, have found Aqua Mira to work fine, have a filter but very rarely use it

Water containers Gatorade bottles are cheap and durable, usually carry a 3 liter Platapus for water when in camp

First aid items can usually be found in your medical
cabinet, would not go overboard on this but there are quite a few options out there again, this would be a personal decision and you will find out with experience what you are comfortable with.

Other items to consider either a headlamp or small LED lights like the Photon Freedom are great if you don't plan on any lengthy night hiking. Probably want to carry some Spectra cord, small knife, map and compass

Clothing can be very expensive but can find alternatives at places like Target, Champion line for base layer is about 1/2 the price of synthetic layers sold at specialty retailers. Thrift stores for warmer layers would be an option on a budget as long as you have basic knowledge of fabrics that would be appropriate (fleece, wool & synthetic blends)
Rain gear options are getting cheaper these days with options like DriDucks sold on this site for around $20, just bring duct tape for bushwacks

And after collecting all this stuff take a look at packs, keep in mind you will also be packing food and water for the duration of your trips

Hope this info helps out, best of luck

Edited by florigen on 08/23/2007 19:45:04 MDT.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Welcome Andrew on 08/23/2007 22:32:07 MDT Print View

well in regards to your backpack question itself, think of how long you could or would be willing to go, unsupported. Most long distance and hikers who hike 5-7 days trip max usually supply within every week or so. The longest over land with backpacks I believe is the Arctic 1000 trek partly undertaken by BPL editor in chief Ryan Jordan. It was 21 days, and they were carrying upwards of 60lbs of weight on their backs.
It seems as if you are interested in "living off the land". In some ways I can only imagine it is the most rewarding wilderness experiance, but bringing a tent or tarp or bivy or tarp-bivy combo,(last one is probably one of the greatest comfort to weight ratios around) will be more comfortable, warmer, drier, and more environmentally friendly than making a shelter, and along those lines pad and sleeping bag are quite essential for living outside. And remember that no people who live outdoors for a living (TV presenters excluded) go in with absolutely nothing. Sure its made from the land, but natives of the world still have "gear" as much as we do, its just not as flashy.

My advice is a little counter intuitive, but what you may want to do, is not necessarily buy the cheapest light stuff you can find, because you find that you need just another bag and another tent and another pot and so on and begin another chain of buyers remorse. If you really research, both online and in person, and reward yourself with a couple hearty purchases, then in the long run, you may find yourself with less gear and have contributed much less to the overconsumption that is becoming more prevalent in our society (sorry I just came from a long winded arguement of economics ; )]
If you look around you'll see that whatever your willing to spend, you'll find great gear at every price range. I'm interested in any questions you may have, this thread still has some life in it.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Welcome Andrew on 08/24/2007 01:46:59 MDT Print View

Hey Andrew,

I think you're in a cool place- starting out backpacking in an open-minded fashion. Too often beginners carry FAR too much weight but you're already starting to think ahead.

A good plan is to do some reading. Lighten Up! by Don Ladigan is the first book I recommend to beginners. I love this book!

Next, at REI only look at the lightest options. That's a great place but they're pretty traditional (read- heavy). But they're getting better- just be careful that you aren't swayed into heavy gear that you might regret buying later.

Now, I'm going to offer a different take on some gear choices. I recommend that you get a pack that can handle a big volume but shrink down with smaller loads. That way you're set should you venture into the bulky gear needed for winter trips (or the food of longer adventures). Next, get a pack with a suspension that will handle your current load, but just barely. That way when things lighten up (and they will, especially if you're looking here), you won't need to ditch your brand-new pack.

Therefore, I'd skip the 50 pound suspension of the Granite Gear packs and go for the Golite Pinnacle This pack is reasonably priced, can handle big or small loads, and has great organizational features. I'm reviewing it right now and it is sweet. It can easily handle 30-35 pounds which is probably the zone you're currently in (but hopefully not for too long).

Another brilliant pack is the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus. It has a frame that can handle heavy loads but you can remove it on you lighter trips. The organizational pockets are brilliant and the fabric is plenty burly. I've used a standard Mariposa for years and it is just marvelous. With this pack, your sleeping pad slips into a pocket to provide the cushion against your back. You'll need a 3/4 thermarest, a 3/4 or full air pad (like a Big Agnes AirCore insulated), or short foam pad fits the bill here. So cool, this pack. Ula Equipment is also great stuff.

Next, I agree with some thoughts about bags. Get a good down bag that's no more than 2 pounds. I've always been impressed with the value of the REI Sub Kilo at $240. The bag will be one of your most expensive items but a bag like this gets you into the lightweight range without braking the bank. Full zip adds versatility. Later on you might get a lighter summer bag (or quilt) but a 20 deg. bag is your best all-rounder.

Also, get a good oversized silnylon stuff sack (actually several)- you'll want to be carful to keep that down bag dry. And never use a compression sack- these break down the down far too quickly. I leave mine in large sacks.

For a stove, alcohol is great. If you go this route, the Trail Designs Caldera is a sweet gig. More versatile is a canister stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket- it's heavier but will get you into cold temps a bit more easily.

For a pot, a ti kettle is all you need if you're boiling water for 2, such as with pasta meals or dehydrated dinners. A MSR Ti Kettle is a good deal here (Evernew makes another cool one).

Last, look hard at what you're bringing. I haven't used a filter in several years. Katadyn Micropur tablets are really easy to use- Aqua Mira is a tad more complicated but cheaper. Both are about a pound lighter than a filter and will never clog.

Also, skip the ground tarp. The tent will be fine without it and you'll save more weight. SAve the ground sheet for car camping.

Now, I mean all of my gear choices to be starting points. These aren't the end-all, just ideas off the top of my head. Keep your open mind, get what works for you, and best of all, have a great adventure!

Also, I've spent many nights in a wickiup, snow cave, etc. I love digging in like that. While you're getting into backpacking, read Tom Brown's Guide to Wilderness Survival. That's a GREAT book and the ideas there can be incorporated into some awesome experiences once you've got the basic deal down.

Really, that "getting closer to nature" idea is what many of us insano-lightweight people are shooting for. Sleeping under a tarp and carrying the lightest essentials is an incredible feeling of freedom and it allows for some incredible trips.

Have a great time! And welcome to BPL!


Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Welcome Andrew on 08/24/2007 01:56:10 MDT Print View

clothes- look for deals. This is where you can find the deepest discounts.

Skip the fleece- synthetic insulation is warmer and much lighter.

Keep your rain jacket under 9 oz- not hard these days.

If you shop around, you can get some great deals on clothing. Lightwight trail running shoes are cheap at places like Joe's. That's what you want. Get then 1/2-a full size larger for foot swelling and heavier socks.


Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Welcome Andrew - Sub Kilo on 08/24/2007 10:26:36 MDT Print View

I agree with Doug that this bag is a good value but only if your shoulder girth is a few inches less than the bag's 57 inches. What is yours?

You need a bag with enough room so that you can wear your clothing insulation layers in the bag, for warmth augmentation at lower temperatures.

Phil Stetz
(pstetz) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Welcome Andrew on 08/24/2007 14:23:52 MDT Print View

Don't forget you can get some pretty good deals on used stuff in the gear swap forum.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Welcome Andrew - Sub Kilo on 08/24/2007 14:40:33 MDT Print View

Yeah, I like trim bags. I've certainly had narrower, though- this one is pretty moderate. But I'm not a real wide build...

What's cool is that they have it at REI for you to try out...

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Welcome Andrew on 08/24/2007 15:00:15 MDT Print View

Yeah-and great leads in gear deals. I bought a pair of shoes and rain pants based on leads from there just last night!

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Thanks Everyone! on 08/24/2007 19:08:25 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the advice everyone! I'll be checking on all the forums for gear and great deals! I may go with the Mariposa Plus depending on what I can find about its ability to compress and durability. Any opinions? I've read the reviews and such so I have an idea. Anyone know any other threads other than the reader reviews and official review?

Thanks again everyone!

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Thanks Everyone! on 08/24/2007 20:19:11 MDT Print View

You could try, and Im sure has something on it, but Im not a member there. If the compressibility doesn't work out for you, theres always Golites new compression thang with the hook and bungee loop, and Granite Gear, and also two low down companies that people don't hear about, the moonbow gearskin and the LW gear Katadhin look pretty cool