Day hiker interested in camping, where to start?

2:25 a.m. on March 25, 2008 (EDT)
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I joined a hiking group about one year ago and have been going just about every weekend here in Las Vegas for day hikes of 3-8 miles. This group also has occasional camping trips. Problem is that I've never been camping in my life so I don't have any camping gear (nor don't know what to get either). The only thing I have is my Osprey Atmos 50 backpack. What is the best resource for first time campers as far as essential camping gear, food, etc..? Thanks!

3:03 a.m. on March 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Start by visiting REI there. You can rent about all the gear you would need and they can help you figure out what you need. You are a PRIMO customer to be for them. They also have some organized trips.

I'd be surprised that the group you are hiking with don't have some backpackers among them - or they know of ones that do.

Check out Sierra Club to see if they have any intro trips scheduled when you can make it.

I suspect you will get lots of information from here as well. There are a bazillion books on getting started at REI and employees that will spend time with you.

Check out outdoorsclub.org to see how active they are in LV. Also check out meetup.com.

There are places where you can advertise for 'mentors' or others going out that may let you tag along.

http://www.backpacker.com/cgi-bin/forums/ikonboard.cgi?act=SF;f=822107219

is an example.

9:37 p.m. on March 25, 2008 (EDT)
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There are dozens of sources of gear online, but first I think you need an understanding of what you need and why you need it. Tents, stoves, sleeping bags, clothes, boots, etc. come in every size, shape, color and price range imaginable. It is easy to spend a lot of money and still have the wrong gear for what you want to do.

There are a lot of good books on backpacking and camping, plus websites such as this one. Some of the books and websites will have gear lists, but it is just as important to know how to use gear as it is to have it in the first place.

One book I highly recommend is The Complete Walker-get the latest edition-4th, if I remember right (I have an old one). TCW will give you a complete introduction to camping. REI, as Speacock mentioned, often has classes for beginners. Check out store events on their website.

Spend some time reading to get a feel for what you need to know, such as basic navigation and what kind of gear you may want to purchase. If you have an REI near you, go in and spend the day just looking around at stuff. You may not know what is good, bad or indifferent, but at least you may recognize something when you read about it.

Read about places you want to visit. Some websites, like right here at Trailspace have forums where members post trip reports or can ask questions about particular places to go.

8:50 a.m. on March 26, 2008 (EDT)
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If there's an REI near you and you're not already a member consider joining. The cost is $20, but you get a 10% back any purchases. You may be able to find better deals elsewhere, but the people there really know their stuff.

10:26 a.m. on March 26, 2008 (EDT)
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It really helps to have a store you can visit in person, get to know the clerks and maybe the owner/manager, ask questions, find what you need there and talk about it. Online research of products is also good.

Another suggestion: Once you have a bag/pad combo, bedroll outside in the yard or on the deck and get used to the feel of sleeping on a ground pad. Eventually when you get your shelter systems figured out(tent/hammock/tarp), set it up in the yard and have at it.

1:20 p.m. on March 26, 2008 (EDT)
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My first backpacking gear was from Diamond Brand and LL Bean as I recall. Plus I did use my Therm-A-Rest self-inflating mat (which I no longer have-too BIG name).

Since that time, seeing Diamond Brand no longer makes backpacking tents (real sad if you ask me) I got the majority of my backpacking gear from ALPS Mountaineering in New Haven Missouri. My first tent I got from ALPS was the two person Taurus. I use ALPS packs also along with their sleeping bags. Good stuff. Holds up well.

I will admit I like the gear I see from The Backside and SunnyRec too. SunnyRec makes very comfortable self-inflating mats. The Hexagrip is my favorite. Check out Cabela's also. They got some nice gear. Their own brand is excellent and very affordable. I use their hiking boots. Very comfortable and durable.

Campmor is a good place if one likes those BIG name brands. However they do carry their own brand name rain gear and hiking clothing, which I found to be very good. For a decent (but affordable waterproof/breathable rain jacket) I would suggest the Campmor Storm Sphere. I have one and it keeps me very dry plus it "breathes" fairly well.

Just my 2 cents. :)

4:40 p.m. on March 26, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the great info. I'm going to have to put that stuff on hold though as I need to get my feet fixed first.

10:14 a.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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There are dozens of bloggers, too, covering the business of hiking and backpacking (myself among them), and a whole movement in the UK of lightweight backpackers using blogs to talk about their experiences; most of the posts tend to be gear centric. Also, you can get great deals on second-hand gear on e-bay ... lots of packs/bags/stoves get used a barely a few times before the newbies lose interest in sleeping on the ground.

11:04 a.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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The various resources people have already suggested sound good. In my opinion, though, since you plan on going camping with a group, the first place to start would be with them. That way you can get a sense for how *they* camp, and what kind of gear they use. You don't want to go spending money on things you don't need (for example the group might use large tents with room for an extra person, so why buy your own tent). The same could be true of cookware and other items. And in any case it would be helpful to know what they use so you get similar equipment so you'll be comparably equipped when you go with the group.

Once you know this, then you can go to REI or the other resources mentioned armed with a little background knowledge.

1:11 p.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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I posted some more thoughts on this on my hiking blog, and got one very good suggestion from a reader:

I’ve recommended that when someone commits to buying a full set of backpacking gear, they should get the pack last. The natural piece of gear that people tend to buy first is the pack, but how do you know what kind of pack is best if you haven’t figured out the rest of your gear? Pick out everything else, figure out your weight/space needs, and then research packs that fit that niche.

I’ve seen a lot of newbies make the same mistakes I did - buy a pack that is too big and then have the need to fill all that empty space with unneeded extras. Or they buy a pack that is too small and lightweight for the load. Either way it’s a miserable hike.

5:48 p.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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FYI, Tom writes one of the best hiking blogs on the web. Since he's too polite to drop a link, I guess I'll have to do it for him:

http://www.tommangan.net/twoheeldrive/

It's great to hear your voice here as well Tom!

1:51 a.m. on April 17, 2008 (EDT)
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Dave: thanks for the kind words and posting my link.

This site just keeps getting better, so kudos back atcha.

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