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General Gear Discussion The General Gear Discussion forum is for the discussion of traditional and lightweight (ultralight) backpacking gear that is not covered in other Practical Backpacking™ forums. [Please post about Backpacks, Shelters, Sleeping Gear, Backcountry Kitchen (Food, Stoves) in those respective forum areas.]


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  #1  
Old 07-17-2014, 05:31 PM
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ajhorvat ajhorvat is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 3
Backpacking Beginner Gear Assistance

Hey all! New to the site, but decided to go ahead and gain some insight into backpacking/camping before I completely immerse myself into the hobby. I already love to hike, but I would like to delve deeper into nature so I see backpacking as the way to do this!

Background info that could help: I am a college student, so I am on a budget. I am a 6 foot male weighing around 160 lbs. I live in and will hike all around Georgia, primarily North Georgia in Cohutta and Chattahoochee. I will most likely only be traveling on weekend or overnight camping trips. My camping partner will be my girlfriend or some close friends, so getting close in a tent will not be a problem.

Anyway, to the actual subject. Being new to camping also means I am new to the gear needed. I have done quite a bit of research recently as to good brands/types/specific gear. But I think personal opinions would be very beneficial.

So tent wise, I have been looking at quite a few options. I am need of a 2 person tent. These are the specifics I am looking at in the tents I research: rainfly, vestibule room for 2 small packs, able to sit up reasonably inside, aluminum poles, low weight (preferably 5 lbs<), smaller packed size, and a few other qualifications. All while staying in a reasonable price range (Needs to be $150 or less).

So far I have come up with these tents...

-Eureka Midori 2
-Eureka inntorest 2 (discontinued but still available)
-Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 2
-Coleman Cobra 2 (although I cannot find this for sale in the United States)

Sleeping: I have found a fairly cheap mummy style bag. I also have an eno for nice nights. For a pillow, I was unsure of whether to buy a compressible pillow or just bring a pillowcase and stuff some clothes in it. The only problem is that I don't know if I would have enough clothing to make a comfortable pillow.


For the backpack, I have heard that I should not start looking until I first have the rest of my gear, but any suggestions on brands or models would be helpful.


Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!!!

-Austin
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  #2  
Old 07-18-2014, 03:13 AM
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FirstRWD FirstRWD is offline
Practical Backpacking™ Regular Member
Backpack: Detours 40L or Bike Panniers
Sleeping Gear: Homemade Synthetic Quilt
Shelter: North Face Mica FL 2
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: WI
Posts: 85
Unfortunately I don't have that much advice to offer since I consider myself fairly new to light-weight backpacking also, but as for the pillow... I personally love zip-off pants for backpacking. You get shorts for warm days and pants for the cool nights and only have to carry a pair of pants. At night, I just stuff things into one of the zipped off pant legs(just a cloth tube at that point) to make my pillow. No extra weight to carry and works just fine for my needs. I don't tend to use a big pillow at home, though, so that's up to you and your sleeping habits. The other good idea I've read about here and toyed with is using the bag out of one of those boxed wine boxes. I guess they're fairly rugged, light weight, and you can inflate to make a decent pillow. Could also be used to carry water if the need arises. I'm sure some others will be along shortly to help you with the more important questions.
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  #3  
Old 07-18-2014, 11:01 AM
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EagleRiverDee EagleRiverDee is offline
Practical Backpacking™ Regular Member
Backpack: Granite Gear Vapor Trail
Sleeping Gear: BA Q-Core SL, WM Versalite
Shelter: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Eagle River, Alaska
Posts: 82
My first piece of advice, since I went through this process just a couple years ago, is to check the used gear that is for sale by members of forums. I have purchased my packs used (and am thrilled with both purchases) and my sleeping bag is also used (just needed a downwash and a fluff and it was like new). But I didn't buy my tent used, and wish I had. I have seen my tent for sale on gearswap forums for half what I paid for it, and with only a few nights of use. It is definitely worth checking. The great thing about buying used gear is that if you decide it's not right for you, you can virtually always sell it for what you have into it. If you buy new gear, and decide it's not right, you often have to take a pretty big hit on your sale price to unload it.

My second piece of advice is to very carefully scrutinize the interior space of the tents you are considering. Many so-called 2-man tents...aren't. For example, my tent is a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2...which is billed as a 2-person tent but unless one person is very small and willing to snuggle, it's not. I bought it because I like to take my dog. She fits. Another person would be really tight. Consider that most backpacking pads are 20-25" wide and go from there. Also consider roof pitch and height. A lot of tents have sloped sides and a sloped roof, really leaving only a single area right in the middle of the tent near the door where you can truly sit up. Tent designs that have a spreader in the roof (to make the walls more vertical) can help with that, and always check the interior roof height to make sure it's high enough.

On your pack- my pack is a little bigger than I need but I use the "cloud style" of packing meaning that I leave my sleeping bag loose in the bottom of the bag (I pack everything inside a contractors bag that I slip inside my main compartment, for waterproofness) so that if there is room left over after I stuff the rest of my stuff inside, the bag will expand and support and surround my items. It keeps things from shifting around and also makes it a quieter, more comfortable load.
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Old 07-18-2014, 11:15 AM
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GWyble GWyble is offline
Practical Backpacking­™ Associate Member
Backpack: Mariposa Plus / REI Flash 65
Sleeping Gear: Eureka Silver City / Lafuma WnL 600
Shelter: Tarptent Squall 2 / Appy Trails Mark V
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: St Charles, MO
Posts: 209
My best advice is to tell you where I went wrong. I didn't have any backpacking gear or experience when someone invited me along on an outing.

I decided to go cheap and basically bought the lowest price version of every item I felt like I needed. This included an army surplus backpack and a $35 sleeping bag. I did have a camping style inflateable pad. These three items weighed just about 16 pounds together. After the first night I could barely shoulder my pack because of the bruises on my hips. I spent $40 to get an aftermarket hip belt. Then I had $80 invested in a pack that was not very enjoyable.

You can get away with this sort of gear if you don't plan on covering many miles but it will wear you out quick. Try to borrow from others that are already backpacking. Everyone goes through a trial period where they decide what works for them. Do your research before buying big items such as tents, sleeping bags, packs and pads.

If you have an REI store or something similar you can see a lot of different options at one time. Closeouts were how I saved money early on. I got a Golite Pinnacle pack for $99 and a Eureka Silver City bag for $59. My first cook stove was a super cat alcohol stove (home made).

I love my Tarptent Squall 2 tent and Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack. These aren't the cheapest but are a good value for the price.

Good luck,
Glenn
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  #5  
Old 07-18-2014, 01:28 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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Backpack: GoLite Pinnacle
Sleeping Gear: Moonstone Lucid 800 w/Neo Air pad
Shelter: Tarptent Sublite Tyvek & Tarptent Double Rainbow
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 430
Since I broke my neck on a trampoline back in 1967, I’ve had to be very picky about my pillow. I need good but soft support all around my head and it needs to be about double the average pillow height. That’s no problem to accomplish at home but it’s always an ongoing issue on the trail.

The best backpacking pillow I ever had was a massive quilted coat stuffed into a sleeping bag stuff sack, however, my base weight now is probably less than that coat and the sleeping bag that traveled in the stuff sack.

To get the height I need, I start with my backpack as the pillow and put all my spare clothes, puffy, etc. into a stuff sack on top of that. My wife got me a waterproof nylon stuff sack that doubles as an inflator, which can be inflated to use as a pillow, however, my head slips off it. I did find I could put it in my backpack to bring its volume up and then use my clothing stuffed sack over that. If my boots aren’t too messy, they can go under the pack to bring up the height.

I did read in an ultralight backpacking book about inflating a half dozen or so quart Ziploc bags and putting them in a stuff sack. I haven’t tried it yet but I will.

As far as tents are concerned, Tarptent has some really nice options. They might be a bit higher than your price range but they are very nicely built, lightweight, and the customer service is top notch.

I bought a GoLite Pinnacle pack several years ago and liked it so much I bought another at REI’s garage sale. I also have a Gossamer Gear Miniposa I bought used. I’ve been very impressed with it and will keep on the lookout for a Mariposa. I don’t think the adage of “wait until you have all your gear to buy your backpack” is necessarily the way to go. If you find a decent pack that fits well, has the volume you’ll need, is light weight, and reasonably priced, snatch it up!

When it comes to packs, be careful to check the weight of the pack. I’ve seen packs that weigh 6 or 7 pounds and are advertised to “carry 65 pounds”. I have no interest whatsoever in carrying 65 pounds. I did stuff like that when I was young, stupid... and ignorant! My Pinnacle weighs less than 2 lb. and hauls all I’ll ever need. Some packs are “only” 4 pounds. That extra two pounds makes a difference. I like to visualize extra weight as carrying a sack of concrete. Most of us at some point have had to load a bag of concrete or two from a home improvement warehouse to the back of a truck or car, and then out of the vehicle to wherever we are working. It’s agonizing and brutal. Carrying an extra 5 pounds on a 16 mile hike would be 80 “pound miles”, a unit of measurement I just made up. That requires the same total effort as hauling an 80 pound sack of concrete a mile. I’m not happy when hauling that concrete twenty yards! Two pounds extra for a ten mile hike is like lugging that concrete a quarter mile. It’s not worth it in my opinion.
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  #6  
Old 07-18-2014, 02:44 PM
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ajhorvat ajhorvat is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 3
Thanks for all of the feedback! Very helpful and I'll be sure to take it all into account.

I definitely need to take a look around the gearswap forums and see what I can find. I have been searching for items that are on clearance/sale, and have found a few.

These are not certain at all yet, but I would love some opinions on these items that I am currently looking into.

Teton 3400 pack. I found it available for $75, and it seems to be of nice quality.

Thermarest compressible pillow

I am really thinking about the alps zephyr 2 for my tent. I really like the two door, two vestibule layout. And the area inside seems reasonable.

For a sleeping bag, I am still a little uncertain. I thought at first a mummy style bag would work, but honestly, I would rather have a rectangular bag that I could unzip and use as a quilt in the tent as well. I found a cheaper one on amazon, and I was thinking to pair the quilt with a regular blanket from home.

I really do need to find an REI around. I know there's one around locally, but I just haven't gotten around to it.

Thank you all for the help!
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  #7  
Old 07-18-2014, 07:43 PM
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dsuursoo dsuursoo is offline
Practical Backpacking­™ Senior Member
Backpack: Mountainsmith Maverick 65
Sleeping Gear: ALPS +20 mummy
Shelter: Kelty Noah 9x9
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,482
alps builds some decent gear. it's not as light as comparable versions by other makers but way more affordable.

REI is a great source for rental gear, which can be a viable option if you're not planning on getting out that often this year.
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  #8  
Old 07-18-2014, 11:49 PM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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Backpack: Gregory Shasta, Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
Sleeping Gear: REI ThermoPod +0 mummy, MH 3D +40 mummy
Shelter: SD Superflash, GoLite Hut 1
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: California
Posts: 436
Lots of really good advice above.

+1 to Dsuursoo's comment about renting, especially. In fact, if you can rent gear your first several times out, the experience you'll gain will help immensely in figuring out what really works for you best. Packs and maybe tents are great things to start by renting. You can learn as much from what doesn't work for you on a pack as from what does work. Pack frame size and volume are two things in particular you can guess at and be wrong with a rental pack. It only impacts one trip. Then you choose your rental more wisely next time. If you buy first, the learning curve gets frozen, and you're stuck with your mistakes for a while.

Packing can be expensive, and renting can be one way of concentrating your funds on one really good purchase (maybe the right boots first, followed by the right sleeping bag), while deferring the cost of the right pack or tent to next year. Nothing says you gotta own it all at once.

Go find that REI. It will be a great place to rent from.
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  #9  
Old 07-19-2014, 06:19 AM
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Bushwalker Bushwalker is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: New South Wales
Posts: 275
Quote:
Originally Posted by ajhorvat
Thanks for all of the feedback! Very helpful and I'll be sure to take it all into account.....................................


For a sleeping bag, I am still a little uncertain. I thought at first a mummy style bag would work, but honestly, I would rather have a rectangular bag that I could unzip and use as a quilt in the tent as well. I found a cheaper one on amazon, and I was thinking to pair the quilt with a regular blanket from home.

...............................

YOU really only need that mummy style sleeping bag if you are heading out during the winter or up into the mountains.

A lot of times you will get along fine in 2-3 season conditions (i.e. spring-summer or spring-summer-autumn (fall)..) with a semi-rectangular synthetic bag (opening out to a functional quilt, but still a little lighter than a full-rectangular bag) and a silk or fleece liner bag to keep it clean. You will be able to pick these up for less than $100 over there during the clearance sales..

THEN later on you can either buy that down mummy bag, or a warmer (e.g. either down filled, or synthetic for damp conditions) tapered liner sleeping bag to lift the 'season rating' for your existing bag (though this is heavier option than buying a single mummy bag, it's also a lot cheaper option..).

JUST keep telling yourself that "there's more than one way to skin a cat", and in another decade or two like some of the others on here, you too may have several varied items to pick and choose from in your kit.
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  #10  
Old 07-20-2014, 01:48 AM
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FirstRWD FirstRWD is offline
Practical Backpacking™ Regular Member
Backpack: Detours 40L or Bike Panniers
Sleeping Gear: Homemade Synthetic Quilt
Shelter: North Face Mica FL 2
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: WI
Posts: 85
Just wanted to clarify, I think dsuursso is talking about Alps Mountaineering. I believe he is also correct. I've read some good reviews about their gear.
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