Taking suggestions for tents and backpacks

2:47 p.m. on May 13, 2006 (EDT)
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Another newbie here. I have done a fair amount of car camping but I have no real backpacking experience or gear yet. What camping gear I have will be to heavy for backpacking. I expect to be doing mostly solo trips, consisting of weekends and 2 or 3 trips a year of 4-6 days in length starting in early spring and ending in early winter with snow possible.(I have seen 4-6 inches).
I prefer the solitude of one person tents even if more people are making the trip. There are no shops in my area(a Gander Mountain but not much selection)to get much hands on time with these products so I have been reading on the net several hours a day for over a week reading product reviews and studying gear. I am comfortable with my other gear choices except these two items.
For a tent now I am favoring a Kelty Quartz 1, a 4 season one person tent like this

http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&productId=47819816

It should be as warm and waterproof as a tent can be. I would like to hear from anybody that has experience with this tent or others of this type(solo or small 2 person 4 season tent).

The backpack will be a tougher item. I am 5'10 and currently 225 pounds. My torso lenth seems to be about 22 to 22.5 inches long. This length evedently makes me a hard fit. In my area I have found only a few quality packs to try and they were a Rokk Talkeetna, a Kelty Red Cloud 5600, a Kelty Commanche, and a Jansport Humbold (sp?). All were large size packs designed to fit up to 22 inches. The hip belts all hit me at the top of my pelvic bones rather than a little lower where I think they should be. The best fit of course was the pack I liked the least due to the extra zippers and strap on pockets, the Jansport.
Ideally I think a pack that was about 4600 to 5200 cu. in. would fill the bill if it had cinch straps to reduce capacity when it wasent needed.

I'd like to try the Gregory Forester but
1)I think it was discontinued and
2)The adjustment seems to run out at 21.5 inches.

Now I emailed the folks at REI and I told them I liked the Gregory packs and question them about the fit and they informed me that the Gregory packs usually fit a little longer torso than they are rated.
To complicate matters more is the fact that Gregory doesent seem to make a pack in the size range I think I need, but here is the kicker, they have the Palisade on sale about 30% off. Hmmmm.

http://www.rei.com/online/store/Search?vcat=REI_SEARCH&stat=7889&langId=-1&storeId=8000&query=Gregory+Palisade&x=24&y=9

Its larger than I probably need at 5600cu. in. but its returnable for refund if it doesent fit or I dont like it, probably less the shipping charges.
Do you think This pack would due if it fit me or is it just to large for my needs? It does have cinch straps to reduce capacity. Should I look for a different maker? Does a certain maker fit longer torsos better than others.

All comments are welcome and apreciated.
Thanks

3:49 p.m. on May 13, 2006 (EDT)
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For the tent: a four season tent will probably be very susceptible to condensation problems in warm weather. If you don't plan on camping in cold winter weather, consider a 3-season tent. What's more, most so-called 2-person tents are really designed for a skinny guy and his dog, not for two real people. The extra space can be handy for storing your pack or at least part of your gear if the weather gets bad or you're in an area with a lot of other campers and concerned about theft.

For the pack: it will be really hard to find THE pack without trying on lots of packs. Make the trip to your nearest REI (most towns with an REI also have a fair amount of other stores with similar gear--don't shop for a pack exclusively at REI). Try on every pack you'd even consider, and even a few that you wouldn't. With luck, you'll end up with a pack that will serve you well for a decade or longer, and you *really* want it to fit as well as possible. IMO, fit is way more important than zippers and pockets.

I have an exceptionally simple pack, a 1991 Dana Design Hyalite, that has two zippers and one pocket (one of the zippers is for the pocket). I'm 5'11 and about 235, though I was probably closer to 185 when I bought the pack. I tried on every pack I could find in every store in town (Raleigh, NC at the time) before choosing this one, and here I am nearly fifteen years later and still very happy with my choice.

7:12 p.m. on May 13, 2006 (EDT)
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You are looking for enough gear that it may well be worth a trip to a town which has a number of outdoor shops. Where are you located?

The Kelty Quartz is not a true 4-season tent, more like a 3 1/2 season. And as Tom said, don't confine yourself to what REI has. Despite being a long-time REI member (abt 50 years), they have changed drastically over the years to more of a high-fashion clothing store. Their selection of serious camping and backpacking gear has declined precipitously over the past 10 years or so. There are other stores that sell over the web that have better selection of real camping gear.

You can find small 2-person tents that are as light as the Quartz and work quite well for 3-season to 3.5 season use (3 and a half season means light snow, non-expedition, no heavy winds, more than that requiring a true expedition tent). Consider Sierra Designs (well made, fairly light), Big Agnes (a fairly new company that seems to have some good designs), Marmot, North Face (a bit heavier, but similar to Sierra Designs), Integral Designs, Eureka, ... You can find tents from several of these in Campmor and Sierra Trading Post websites and catalogs for lower prices. Northern Mountain Supply has tents from the top manufacturers (including Bibler/Black Diamond) for pretty good discounts.

For packs, consider Osprey and Dana, as well as those you have mentioned. Both cover a wide range of torso sizes.

You say that you have no real backpacking experience yet. But you say you are headed off to do 4-6 day treks. I would suggest taking it a bit slower until you get at least a half-dozen overnighters, then a half-dozen 2-3 nighters before setting out on the weeklong treks. The idea is not that you can't do the long trips (I have a friend who did a lot of book research, but had done only car camping, no backpacking, before setting out to do the 220 mile John Muir Trail in a bit under 3 weeks - did it, too, and has been an avid through-hiker eve since). Rather, you will get a chance to check out your gear and determine what you truly need, what you can discard and leave behind, and which of those "luxuries" just add weight and serve no purpose. Other people's checklists are nice - for themselves. But you will have different tastes that you have to determine by doing backpacks. Make a list of everything you take (even the "small, inconsequential" items that "weigh nothing"). At the end of the trip, go through the list (I have mine in a spreadsheet on the computer), and categorize them as "used a lot", "never used", "would have used in an emergency", "worked great", "most useless thing I ever saw", "more trouble that it was worth", and so on. All too often, an item that seems to be the best thought-out and designed piece of gear in the universe turns out to be a pile of garbage (like the "windproof" lighters that don't work over 10,000 ft). And always (ALWAYS, as in every single trip), there are one or more items that you forgot and were absolutely vital to the trip (like the striking surface on the box of safety matches that you left behind because you put the matches in that wonderful new waterproof "match safe"). (I have a good friend who has headed for backcountry ski trips more than once, only to discover at the trailhead that his ski boots were sitting by the front door of his house, 300 miles away - use the list!).

I really do not think you need a pack as large as 5000 cu in for a week-long trek. That's the size I use on 3-week expeditions. I usually use a 4200 cu in pack on week-long treks, unless I am going light, then it is a 3000 cu in pack (I do use a 6000 cu in pack for week-long climbing trips to fit in all the climbing gear or on long backcountry ski tours when including all the cold-weather gear).

If you were going to do serious 4-season backpacking, I would suggest something like the Black Diamond Eldorado (or Integral Designs equivalent), or the Mountain Hardwear EV2. These are tight for 2, but made for real 4-season conditions. But, I would really suggest starting with something much less serious (and less pricey) until you get a lot of backpacking under your belt and have the other gear that you have tested under milder conditions.

11:46 p.m. on May 13, 2006 (EDT)
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Thanks for the quick replies.

My last trip will be during hunting season in late december. Where I live and hike in NE ohio and NW Pennsylvania that can be the start of some pretty cold wet weather. I'm not a true winter camper that starts out in deep snow but if the snows come while I'm out I want to be able to deal with it rather than cancel my trip.

There are no tall mountains in this area and severe winds will drive me out of the forest when the widowmakers start falling.

A three and a half season tent sounds like it should fit the bill nicely.

Can I assume that a four season tent really means that its a fourth season tent, not really suitable for warmer weather?

I have considered the Eurika Timberline because it is less expensive and available in my area but it seems heavy for backpacking.

I have been to all the shops in my area I think, but they dont cary much of the upper end gear. The trip to REI requires driving thrue Pittsburgh PA. A trip I'm not happy about making. I just dont like driving thrue larger cities. I havent ruled it out yet but still not happy about the thought.

For the backpack I think I was hoping for somebody to tell me that they had used a similar pack for similar uses and were happy with there choice or maybe that company X made packs that fit 23 in. torsos.
I think I will let this sale go by and look for a smaller pack, maybe in the 4000 to 4600 cu. inch range. I think one shop had Woods brand packs in that size range that looked decent.

Does anybody know anything about Woods brand backpacks? I never heard of them. All I know is the tag said
"Woods, Made In Canada".

I will continue to look to other shops for packs and continue to accumulate the smaller items. The pack may be the last big piece of equipment I purchase.

Keep the suggestions coming, I'm still open to all ideas.

Thanks

4:32 a.m. on May 14, 2006 (EDT)
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I'm very familiar with camping in the geographic location you describe. I'm from Pittsburgh and an Alumni of Slippery Rock State University.

I have a Timberline 4 and it would be just fine for camping up there. It's pretty storm proof, pus the frame would be strong enough to support a few inches of snow.

It has a bathtub style floor and a plastic sheet laid at the entrance would help keep snow out of the tent.

I once camped at the Pymatuning reservoir, where 6 inches of snow accumulated on top of a canvas Coleman 8 man tent. The darn thing collapsed in the middle of the night! Luckily in the middle of nowhere, in the dead of winter, that have heated bathrooms that are always open.

2:49 p.m. on May 14, 2006 (EDT)
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I have a sierra Designs Electron tent it seems to be built quite well I have not been able to take it on a backpacking trip yet but it handled 25 mph winds in my backyard quite well. I have a Lowe alpine pack that is built very tough and fits me very well I can put a 50 lb load completely on my hips which I think is more comfortable than putting the weight on my shoulders but I’m 5’11 165lbs. with a 19 inch torso however Lowe alpine does make a few packs that fit up to a 24 inch torso. If you haven’t been backpacking before you really should take a couple of shorter trips before you set out on a long one because you will probably bring way more than you need I know I did I still do some times. One more thing don’t buy something just because some one here recommended it especially a pack make sure it fits, or you will hate your self halfway through a backpack with a ill fitting pack.

8:51 a.m. on May 26, 2006 (EDT)
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Think TarpTent: http://www.tarptent.com/new.html
Very light and will work well for your needs. I have the Cloudburst(pre Rainbow) and love it.

Packs: I've found that Gregory packs run a little large. I have a 21.5" torso and tried the Palisade(size L) on with 65lbs in it. It didn't fit well, so I went to the Regular size and it fit like a dream and felt like only 45lbs. It's in the running for my next pack, along with a custom made McHale pack. Decisions, decisons!. Good Luck!

Dusty

11:50 a.m. on May 26, 2006 (EDT)
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Given what the original poster said was his experience level and the conditions he might run into in Dec in Penn, plus his druthers on comfort, I don't think a tarp tent is a good idea for him. Yeah, I've used tarp tents and bivy sacks in full-on winter conditions (in high mountains, 50-knot measured winds, -25F - that was on Green Butte Ridge on Mt Shasta one March), but that's me, and I've been doing that sort of thing for many years and have the appropriate gear. The OP says his experience is car camping and he would bail if the winds came up too strong. One thing about tarp tents, though - if ya gotta bail, it's easy to pack and flee the scene.

11:55 a.m. on May 26, 2006 (EDT)
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Oh, and yes, I know, Tarptent.com actually is manufactured tents, not really tarp tents. But same comment applies - I have and have used similar tents from Black Diamond (Megamid) and my tarps are SilTarps from Integral Designs, one of which is a long-time, popular design that Tarptent.com seems to have copied.

5:48 p.m. on June 27, 2006 (EDT)
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Wow, you sound like you're making a pretty big commitment to hiking. Good on ya, mate.

No one can tell you which pack to buy. That's a very personal relationship, and one that I would reccomend you start cultivating by renting a few different ones and take them out. Every body has it's own requirements for fit, and your usage needs will vary from mine, or someone else's. If you do nothing else, take an internal frame pack and an external frame pack for a couple test hikes. Internals get most of the press, but a good external frame pack can be more comfortable on trail walks in hot weather than an internal.

A tent is less personal, and in my experience, if you plan to do this a lot, you may want more than one. A tarp or light tent for May to October and something more substantial for those transistional season. Why carry a heavy tent in June? And if you talk about 4 season tents with sales people, stay away from "mountaineering tents." (VR24 is an example). Most are way too heavy, and lack features like open, screened panels to look out of. I would offer that a tent with a seam-sealed bathtub floor, and a rain cover that goes down to the pegs are the two biggest factors to look for if you're going to get into occaisional snow. For true winter camping you want a longer list of features like a vestibule, a cooking hole, two entrances, and plenty of room to dry out clothing. Blowing snow is the biggest single reason to get a mountaineering tent, especially when snow loading is a problem. But from what you're saying, 4-6 inches or so shouldn't be a threat for most 3 season tents.

Whatever you get it should be easy, easy easy to pitch and take down. Wasting time in camp is the worst way to spend a trip. It should be as light as practical. It should keep rain and bugs off of you.

IMHO

Emu

6:32 p.m. on June 27, 2006 (EDT)
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Like all others are stating, a pack is a very critical and personal piece of equipment. Next to your boots its the most personal.
As for me (I am 5' 11'' 240 lbs and losing), and what I have is the Gregory Baltoro @ 4300 cubes in the medium (the large is 4600 cubes). I went through 3 other packs before settling on the Gregory Baltoro.
The one thing that REI has is an unrivaled return policy. They will take back ANY piece of gear even after its been used in the real world.
As for the tent, I have a Sierra Designs Omega CD. This is 2-person 3 - 4 season convertable. I have found the ventilation very good (I have used it 85+ degrees) and for 3-season mode, you can leave some pole sections behind as well as on the newer model, the outer door can be removed as well and left behind for additional weight savings. However if snow happens and from what you have decribed, you will be attempting to camp in, snow/nasty weather may happen. Also this tent would also allow you to change your mind to get out in February if you get the desire after getting more experience.
Just my 2 cents which some may feel is worth a plug nickle.

4:58 a.m. on June 29, 2006 (EDT)
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Marmot EOS 1P Tent

highly recommended

December 19, 2014
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