Mar 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm #1300878
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm #1969499
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm #1969504
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm #1969512
@anarkhosLocale: Colorado, Wyoming
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm #1969514
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm #1969516
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?Mar 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm #1969522
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
Could you tell us what kit you have already and we could make recommendation on what best to change.Mar 25, 2013 at 5:49 pm #1969532
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
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
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, CombMar 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm #1969551
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm #1969567
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 8:00 pm #1969576
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:
Sleeping Pad (Twice)
Shoes (Trail Runners)
Hiking Snow Boots
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 8:43 pm #1969590
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
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.Mar 25, 2013 at 10:59 pm #1969626
@dmatbLocale: Suthern Carl
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 ( http://jwbasecamp.com/Articles/SuperCat/ ). In a good way. And i don't even like cats.Mar 26, 2013 at 12:19 am #1969635
Peter S (masc. über linear logical club)Participant
I'd definitely buy books from
– Mike Clelland
– Chris Townsend
– Andrew Skurka
Before ANY gear purchaseMar 26, 2013 at 1:44 am #1969639
@stingray4540Locale: South Bay
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.Mar 26, 2013 at 4:07 am #1969645
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
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.Mar 26, 2013 at 7:32 am #1969678
"I actually have that tent I picked up to replace my quarterdome, just seem seal it good."
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.Mar 26, 2013 at 8:27 am #1969701
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
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 REI-outlet.com, SierraTradingPost.com, Campmor.com 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.Mar 26, 2013 at 8:55 am #1969705
@stingray4540Locale: South Bay
"I haven't used in in a downpour or windstorm yet"
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.Mar 26, 2013 at 10:03 am #1969716
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
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.
AdamMar 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm #1969783
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.Mar 26, 2013 at 9:22 pm #1969982
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: http://tinyurl.com/cad4bzj
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…Mar 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm #1970005
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.Mar 27, 2013 at 12:15 am #1970021
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.Mar 27, 2013 at 2:12 am #1970029
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
Avoid used synthetic bags. The loft in them is usually flat.
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