Sep 6, 2012 at 8:02 am #1293763
Hey there Guys (and Gals)…I new to the community (and backpacking) and am hoping I can get some good advice/pointers.
I'm wanting to do some backpacking this fall/winter (depending on weather, was mild last year) and need to get some gear. I do quite a bit of day hiking now and have footwear, poles, etc. Also, I have an Aether 70 from camping and will just use this for now…but…I want to get a solo tent (I'll graduate to tarp/bivy/etc. later) and a down bag.
Of course, I don't want to spend much…have no problem with buying used stuff, either.
Oh yeah, I'm in St. Louis and will be mostly heading to the Ozarks, Arcadia, etc.
As far as a tent, I was looking at 3 "cheapies":
Eureka Spitfire 1
ALPS Zephyr 1
Sierra Designs Lightyear
Thoughts on these? Freestanding might be nice, a couple guys I might go with seem to like to set camp on rock (seems strange to me). I also like SW Utah so might come in handy later. All can be had for ~$100
Any thoughts on either the Kelty Cosmic/Lightyear 20 or the Marmot Flathead 20 (@ STP)?? Looking at $100-150 max.
Other suggestions welcome of course…
-Mark in St.LouisSep 6, 2012 at 8:16 am #1909603
For that price, your best shelter for fall/winter in that area is probably an 8×10 silnylon flat tarp. Learning to pitch it in different conditions and sites is an ongoing thing–might as well get started. :)
For the price, the Kelty bag seems good.Sep 6, 2012 at 8:19 am #1909604
@carpenhLocale: St. Vrain River Valley
If you're subscribed here, you can make use of the Gear Swap forum, and see what other members are selling. You might also find the Selling Used Gear forum on Whiteblaze.net worth a try.
I understand how you need to save money. We all do. But still, I suggest you shouldn't get to hung up on costs. That doesn't mean that I think the sky's the limit, mind you– concentrate on finding the best mix of price and quality.Sep 6, 2012 at 8:27 am #1909609
Thanx for the replies Guys… I'm not completely hung up on cost…but…if it comes down to the difference of being able to get out there and doing it as opposed to waiting for the funds to buy different gear, I prefer to get started…I figure I can always sell the cheaper stuff later.
What do you guys think of the Marmot 600 fill bag (always had decent luck with their gear) at ~$140 shipped?
-MarkSep 6, 2012 at 8:33 am #1909612
@tjaardLocale: Minnesota, USA
Caveat: You have to think of your own financial situation of course.
I would NOT suggest getting a cheap down bag like those you mentioned for backpacking.
You spend $100 bucks now (Kelty Cosmic on sale) or more for the Marmot and have a 42 oz sleeping bag.
Then you backpack a year or two and start dreaming about a lighter option.
Now you have to spend $200 on a Golite 3 season quilt to drop 21 oz, or $190 on a Enlightened Equipment Revelation X for the same weight, or even more for a truly ultralight sleepingbag.
I wouldn't count on selling a mid range, used lseepingbag for much.
Also a 20 degree bag with 3/4 zipper is going to be too hot most of the backpacking seasons outside of the high Western mountains.
So my suggestion would be:
If you can pony up extra the cash, get a 30F Enlightened quilt or something similar priced and weight like the Golites, then add warm clothes to use it in colder temps.
I would rather spend a bit more on the bag/quilt and not buy a tent. Use a cheap tarp, borrow or rent a tent, share a 2 man tent with a friend, etc.
Can you use your car camping tent?
Math: Say your current tent is a 2 man, 6 lbs tent(if it has steel stakes swap for alloys Y stakes)
RevelationX 20 + 1/2 this tent is $190/79oz
Cosmic 20 + Lightyear= $270/83oz!
Hope this makes sense!
My pointis, do the math for various combos of equipment for price/oz and see where you can save most and how you can be future proof.Sep 6, 2012 at 9:42 am #1909636
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Pretty much agree with the previous poster. Sleeping anywhere will depend on your bag/quilt. Shelter is a tent or tarp. Cheap is not really an option for a bag. WM or Marmot makes good bags. They retain their value very well. A cheap down bag is really no better than a synthetic. Worse, since you require discipline to keep it dry. Better to buy a cheap 1 or 2 year synthetic bag at $40 than spend money for a cheap down bag. Look at anything that starts at 800FP. A 32F 800fp bag will weigh a LOT less than a synthetic and maintain itself for 30-40 years, provided you learn to take care of it. They start at around $350. Used, they often sell for about 80-85% of that cost. If you spend money on a 600fp down bag, you will be selling it for about 40-50% of the cost. Not the best. And, you WILL be hiking far lighter. A tarp is by nature far cheaper than a tent. Far more versitile and actually works a bit better (counting condensation.) But, bugs can be a problem. Plan on a head net, DEET and permethrin to deter all but the most stubborn insects. Even larger 10×12 tarps usually weigh less than most tents (unless you start talking cuben at $700+.) 24oz is the max I would consider. MYOG usually means about $40-$50. I know, you said a tent. Well, none of the ones you mention are that light. Look around for an old Pup tent about 36oz. I used this for about 10 years.Sep 6, 2012 at 10:04 am #1909642
@mammomanLocale: NE AL
Agree with the above comments. Get a good 800+ fill 30 degree bag or quilt, and cobble the rest at first. Go on some hikes. You will gradually start figuring out what you really want in a shelter, clothes system etc. and can start making those purchases as you can. IME, go for quality right off the bat, otherwise you'll continually be upgrading and throwing away money in the process.
Second item to get might be a good quality pad. NO bag or quilt will keep you warm if you have cheap slop underneath you.Sep 6, 2012 at 10:20 am #1909648
I like the Spitfire 1 well enough that I would buy it even if it wasn't cheap. It is a great tent. It is cheap, light, and durable. I do wish the poles folded shorter, but it isn't the end of the world either.
That said I have been using a bivy and mini tarp (5'x5') on most trips lately.Sep 6, 2012 at 10:34 am #1909660
I like everyone else will suggest that before buying a lot of gear, try to at least do some small trips. Figure out what you really need and get acquainted with what you actually use and what you end up just hauling around.
I think the greatest recommendation I can make, especially if you're planning to go light, is to do it from the beginning. Spend a lot of time researching and figuring out what is really out there. This may warrant asking more questions here in the forums to really find out what cottage co.'s and such are out there and the products they provide. Even to this day I find out about small ops that I never heard of prior. And some of them are some excellent niche products that nobody else makes.
Now that I think of it, I think the greatest recommendation I can actually make is to study the equipment you're thinking about and imagine yourself using it. This may be easier to do after a few small trips with whatever you have right now. This has been a great help especially when choosing a shelter, clothing needs, etc.. You've got to get into the mode of questioning yourself a lot.
– Do I really need this?
– How often will I use it?
– Is there a lighter alternative?
– Do I have something around the house that both free and lighter?
– Can I use this item in more than one way?
– Is this more space than I really need?
– Is this overkill?
– When setup in camp, can this item pull double duty after it has been emptied?
– What will it be like in this tent long term if caught in nasty weather?
– Can I cook safely and comfortably in this shelter?
…these are just random things off the top of my head…your questions to yourself may differ.
A lot of backpacking light is finding your comfort with less, and not necessarily just finding lighter equipment. i.e. – I was really surprised that I wasn't at all uncomfortable the first time I slept on a closed cell foam pad rather than my Exped SynMat UL 7. Each has it's time and place…but the bulk of the time the CCF pad is more than adequate and nearly 10oz lighter. You'd also be surprised at how many backpacking items that are great & cheap can be found at the grocery store, around the house, in the recycling, at the dollar store, etc..
Gotta think outside the box. Weigh everything. Make a list (or spreadsheet), look at it daily. Play around with your needs and numbers.Sep 6, 2012 at 10:51 am #1909669
You're asking these questions at backpackinglight, where people are trying to figure out how to backpack as light as possible (and cover more distance, comfortably). This means you're going to get lots of feedback on the best lightweight options — some of which might seem complicated.
Like others have said, its good to get some basic eqiupment together, without spending much, and try stuff out, on the trail. See what works and what doesn't work for you. I think the kelty or marmot bags you mentioned, though heavy by BPL standards, are good bags and will get you out on the trail. Right now, on Gearswap there is a eureka 30* bag for 40 bucks. Its synthetic I think (marmot has some good, synth bags for cheap also). Couple a cheap bag (check geartrade.com also) with a Spitifre or something like a Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout and you'll be comfortable. Its a good time to buy, stuff is going on sale, and will only get cheaper thru the fall.Sep 6, 2012 at 10:55 am #1909672
Everyone here tends to provide fantastic advice. I second the notion that spending money on low-end lightweight gear that you view as "temporary" is not a good long term plan.
You are much better off making use of the gear swap/gear deals forum here to pick high quality gear at usually around 60% msrp. The one item you might have trouble getting is a lower priced quilt/bag in good shape, since most of the bags sold here are really high quality and usually run you $300+. Like a previous poster suggested, I would highly recommend getting a revelation x wide 30 degree quilt from enlightened equipment, which should run you a little less than $200. While this might seem a little pricey, you will be amazed with the versatility and comfort – works great in warm weather, can drape on top of another bag in the winter etc.
For your shelter, stick with the car camping tent until you see a great lightweight tarp-tent style shelter on gear swap, which I find to be the best balance between cost/weight/comfort. People here tend to frequently try out lots of different shelters (almost compulsively it seems :) and you can easily resell them for about what you paid. You should make a thread entitled "WTB – Solo tarp-tent style shelter on budget" and see what people have lying around.
Best of all, enjoy trying out your new gear on the trail, you will no doubt appreciate lightening up in the process.Sep 6, 2012 at 11:55 am #1909689
I agree it is nice to have top of the line gear, but that does require a decent sized investment up front if you are starting with nothing, even if you do buy used. You need to decide what your budget is and determine which items are the most critical in order for you to get out there and start hiking. Also, I have a lightly used Kelty Cosmic down 20* I may be willing to part with as I have moved on to quilts, PM me if you are interested.Sep 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm #1909701
I appreciate all the input, and I certainly see the wisdom.
Our car camping tent is a Kelty Pagosa 4 and weighs 8.5# or so, unfortunately.
I have a little one at home, so longer/lighter treks aren't highly likely in the short term…but…he is approaching the age where scouts/similar will come into play and I figure he could use my hand-me-downs, as it were.
I will have a look at the quilt option, for sure.
I own a couple Thermarest pads…I will have to look at specific models when I get home from work.
Out of the tents I mentioned, is there a prevailing opinion on the "right" choice?
FWIW…I'm 6' 180-185#, 42" chest, 31" waist…should be small enough for most solo tents and regular bags (no?).
Thanx again…I can see there is a lot of good info to go around here!
-MarkSep 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm #1909706
I can't weigh in on the shelters you've listed, but if you're a trekking pole user, the SMD skyscape scout is definitely worth considering, as well as the golite shangri-la 1. Neither are free standing, but with a little creativity, you won't find it limiting.
I have slept in the cosmic down 20 and think it is a fine bag; I've recommended it to many friends on a budget. Like everyone has mentioned, spending more in this area isn't a bad idea…you will never regret the purchase of something like a Western Mountaineering bag. Made in the USA is harder and harder to find these days, and we are lucky to have a wonderful cottage industry of high quality gear makers that are reasonably priced.
I routinely buy higher quality items, but in used condition. If you're of the same mindset, CL and the bpl gear swap are worth keeping an eye on. Last year on CL, I scored a WM ultralight, BA sl-1, and BA aircore package deal from a cycle tourer…for $250. Kept the bag for my girlfriend, sold the other two items to offset the purchase of something I really wanted…Sep 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm #1909720
Lightyear and Spitfire are both good options in your list.Sep 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm #1909760
@sparky52804Locale: Eastern Iowa
Mark, I have a North Face Arches 2 person tent I could let go for $50 shipped. It's not exactly light at about 5 lbs, but it's in decent shape, and it would free up a bit of cash for a better bag.Sep 6, 2012 at 2:51 pm #1909769
Mark, I suggest the Sierra Designs or, better yet, the tent Doug's offering you.
In terms of sleeping bags, I'll depart from the $500 sleeping bag crowd and reveal to you that the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is a GREAT bag, especially for the money. Dollar to Performance ratio (weight/style/aroma/function/etc..) is great with that bag. I recommend it often and everyone I know that's taken the advice has been stoked, including my son. You could outfit the family with them and never be sorry, even after you get hardcore and order the 17 gram, 990-fill, free-range, vegan waterproof down quilt…
But read up a little and make up your own mind:
Check out the review here on BPL: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/kelty_cosmic_down_20_sleeping_bag_review.html
And the review on OutdoorGearLab: http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Sleeping-Bag-Down-3-Season-Reviews/Kelty-Cosmic-Down-20
And the review at DailyHiker: http://www.dailyhiker.com/gear/camping-gear/review-kelty-cosmic-down/
And the review at Backpacker Mag: http://www.backpacker.com/gear-guide-april-2010-gear-review-kelty-cosmic-3-season-sleeping-bag/gear/13919
You want to spend the big bucks? Get some comfy/light sleeping pads, a titanium stove and McHale backpacks for the whole family. Use the money you save on sleeping bags to start the process…Sep 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm #1909867
Thanx again Guys…
Doug, I appreciate the offer…but…I don't think I want to carry the extra 2-3# weight to save $50. I have access to the Sierra Designs Lightyear for $102.
BTW, FWIW…The lightest pad I have is a Thermarest Trail Pro…not terribly light…2.5#.
-MarkSep 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm #1909920
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
Erik may have convinced me NOT to upgrade from my Kelty Cosmic Down 20. :)
Mark- for a good inflatable pad (not self-inflatable) you might look at the Peak Elite AC Regular- it's only 12oz and $80 (+ freight) at Hike Light. http://www.hikelight.com/pacific-outdoor-equipment-peak-elite-ac.html
I own one and find it to be quite comfortable.Sep 7, 2012 at 2:31 am #1909957
I would save money and buy an article of gear once, instead of making "temporary" purchases. Just do some research, maybe borrow some items if you can and definitely shop sales and gear swaps on this and other forums. Definitely pay attention to the Big Three – shelter, sleep and pack, but buy the pack last so you get the right size for your new gear set up.
FWIW – I just posted my Gossamer Gear TheOne solo tent on the Gear Swap if you're interested. There are also a lot of other tents and tarps on there now.
BTW, you may want to set up your PM.Sep 7, 2012 at 7:15 am #1909995
Mark, try a Ridgerest 3/4 length pad first just because it's one of the cheapest and lightest options. I have a nice inflatable pad (full length Exped SynMat UL7), but I'm playing with going back to my 8.3 oz Ridgerest for weight, simplicity, and durability. (Not that I've had issues with the Exped, but any inflatable is much more vulnerable than a foam pad.)Sep 7, 2012 at 8:01 am #1910007
@towalyLocale: Smoky Mtns.
I think you can get an 8×10 tarp very cheap. Even a low-dollar urethane coated tarp, which might be around a pound or so, will be a LOT lighter and easier to carry than any of those tents. And a LOT cheaper.
You can buy a budget 8×10 tarp for like $25-30 new. And a nice light Sil-nylon one for probably $75 new.
An 8×10 tarp with even the slightest learning about pitching, will keep you dry.
Poles and Stakes. If you are camping in the woods, you can use sticks for stakes. They work. You can use big thick sticks for poles. You don't need to carry poles unless you are going to camp on a parking lot or something. In the woods, you have sticks. Or you can tie-off your main ridge lines to trees instead.
Groundcloth. Go to your local hardware store and buy one of the clear plastic window film kits that are used to winterize windows and sliding doors. It's "polycryo" material, which is what many people around here use. Very cheap, light, and does the job. If you don't want to do that, you can buy a cheap mylar "space blanket" that is very light and cheap, and will work as a groundsheet, and is small and easy to carry.
Bug Net. You'll need one where you are going.
Go to one of the websites where they sell "Make your own gear"(MYOG) stuff, buy some no-see-um netting, and order enough to make a suitable bug net tube that can go around you when you are in your sleeping bag. Or even a little more if you want to make a little bug-net inner tent for under your tarp. You can sew this together very easily, even if you have to hand-stitch it, and you'll have bug protection.
It also works as a protection from condensation dripping down off the tarp in certain weather conditions. And you WILL be having some of that too.
So, make a bug net system for yourself.
Sleeping bag. Get one you can afford and is as light as you can find for the temperatures you will see. Bear in mind that many of the low-priced sleeping bags are unrealistically rated, and will NOT really keep you warm at the temps they say they will. But if you ask around here about some bags, people will help to steer you the right way to get a bag you won't freeze inside, and won't blow the budget too bad, and you can carry it without a wheel-barrow. I agree with the others on this thread who say to get a good quality bag.
Sleeping pad. You need a pad for more than just comfort. If you are sleeping in cold weather it makes up half of your insulation, and protects you from the ground cold. It's important. You can get by with an average inflatable pad in the cold weather by using a closed-cell foam mat under it, or over it. These ccf mats are cheap, and are good ways to add insulation factor to your pad, and if your inflatable pad goes flat, you have at least some form of back-up, even if minimal. For the money, I would take a look at a Klymit Static-V, or a used Neo-Air if you can find one fairly cheap. People are buying the latest Neo-Air models now, and you might find a used one from last year for a price you can afford. If you don't mind sleeping on a harder surface, you can get a Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest for quite cheap, and they are good starter pads for somebody young who can handle harder sleeping surfaces. If you combine the inflatable and the ccf pads, you have a winter system.
Pack. AFTER you get your other stuff, THEN find a pack that will fit what you need to carry. If you buy the pack beforehand, it is highly likely that it won't be the right size for the gear you end up with. You can find used packs here on the Gear Swap page which will do you just fine, and any "hand-me-down" pack from the UL backpackers on this site will be good for you, as long as it is the size that you need.
Then you just need some clothes and shoes that are appropriate.
This stuff doesn't have to be ultra-expensive to do. You can refine your set-up as you go along. Most people do that.Sep 7, 2012 at 9:03 am #1910035
1. get a 5$ tarp … itll work as well as the fancy ones to help you learn and will let you decide if you want to spend $$$$$$ on tarping or a tent … at worst you can use it when camping in wet weather or to cover yr car, etc …
2. something like a cosmic down will work fine … get it for cheap under 80$ if you shop and wait … and you can sell it for at least 50$ even a year or two later … so it costs you like 30$ a year … if you decide to continue with it then spend $$$$$
one of the biggest mistakes is people going out and buying all the $$$$$ gear before knowing if they are going to continue doing it alot … and before they develop the skill set to use the gear well …
buying gear does not make you any better … knowing how to use it does … and getting out and using it, and saving money for that is what matters …Sep 7, 2012 at 10:04 am #1910050
@kiddzosoLocale: N. California
Much of going lighter is dialing-in what you need–eliminating redundancies, not taking luxury items, etc. Even if people are carrying five pounds each for shelter, sleeping, and pack, it's pretty ridiculous to get some of the "traditional" pack weights I've seen mentioned elsewhere. Usually it's because people are taking three jackets, five shirts, multiple pots and plates, things like that.
My friend uses a Kelty 20 degree down bag regularly, and I think it's a solid bag for the price.
I agree with Eric. I think it's unrealistic to believe you'll be happy with any initial setup. Try as many things as you can ahead of time (e.g. try to borrow a CCF pad before wasting $40 on a Zlite, but end up wanting a Neoair). Give it your best guess and then go for it :)
And, yes, check the Gear Swap for good deals on the higher-end stuff.Sep 7, 2012 at 10:09 am #1910053
There's a ton of good advice already here–take people seriously, but I'm also aware of the difficult situation where you're looking for advice on your budget and people recommend going beyond it. I know that's not always possible.
One site you might be interested in is this: http://adventurealan.com/250_challenge.htm
It's not well up to date and you might want to go colder than this, but he's got some good starting points and a few tips about how to get to the 'ultralight' range without busting the bank.
The main thing to do is to start looking for gear deals ASAP. Sign on to a bunch of sites that offer gear deals and start looking for the equipment you need. I recently got a 21 oz Golite long sleeping bag on clearance for $130 including shipping, which was a dream come true (unfortunately this bag is back up to $280, but the equivalent quilt is still $150, here: http://www.golite.com/sleeping-bags/1-season)
I don't know many discount sites so you might be best hunting around or asking others, but the one I do know about is The Clymb: http://www.theclymb.com/invite-from/ykcin380
Full disclosure here: making an account through that link gives me a $20 store credit, so feel free to ignore it. I've seen several items on sale from them several days after I bought the same item at full price, so I know they've got stuff an ultralight backpacker is interested in. It is often a pain to sort through bulky items for other purposes, especially because they don't usually list item weight.
The other thing you might think about is a lighter pack. I know it's extra cost, but for $100 you can cut 3-4 lbs off your pack weight. You could, in this case, get a $50 non-down sleeping bag that weighed 2.5 lbs and a $100 pack that weighed 23 oz (the Osprey Hornet 46, seen here: http://www.rei.com/product/845147/osprey-hornet-46-pack-2011-closeout), which gets your pack and bag together under 4 lbs for less than you'd planned on for the sleeping bag. Later on, its no big loss if a good deal surfaces on a down bag.
Most of all, itemize and post your gear list so people can help out! I got my pack weight down to 12 lbs on my own, but BPL members helped me get it down below 6 lbs while spending only about $150 (including returning a few items for lighter options).
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