newbie in Minnesota

9:45 p.m. on January 26, 2014 (EST)
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Hello all I am newbie to the site. I quit smoking about 3 months ago at 48 years old and decided to reward myself by taking up backpacking/hiking. I just purchased a REI flash 62 backpack and am now shopping for a 3 season 3 person tent also am looking at sleeping bags. I live in metro area of Minneapolis/St Paul and hope to start out just exploring area within 60 mile of home then hope to venture and explore my beautiful State. I am reading all there is here and love all your info. Have to ask though what are all guy folks feelings on REI brand tents and gear ie quality for price, I have been looking at REI brand tents also checking out THF cats meow bag. 

3:28 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Good for you. Never too late to start camping and hiking. The great thing about REI is that they guarantee what they sell, not just their house brands, but everything in the store. I would rate their house brand gear as good quality and reasonably priced (I have an REI rainjacket). Most is not cutting edge, as in ultralightweight, exotic fabrics or designs, but that kind of gear isn't for everyone in the first place and tends to be pricey.

For most people, you can't go wrong with REI. As for your bag choice, I have an old TNF (North Face) Cat's Meow. It is a well made, reasonably priced bag. Not the lightest for its rating, but the story on bags is simple: warm, light, cheap...pick two.

I have two down bags and they are warmer and lighter, but retailed for a heck of a lot more than the Cat's Meow, as in around twice as much. I don't think a Cat's Meow is really a 20F bag, at least mine wasn't when I bought it in the 80's and it sure isn't now. The newer ones are made with a different insulation, so the rating may be more accurate. One tip-do not store it stuffed in the stuff sack; that is how you ruin the insulation. I made that mistake with mine and now it's basically a summer bag.

If you are totally new to backpacking, there are some really good books to give you the basics - The Complete Walker is a classic, often called the Bible of backpacking. A shorter book is Allen & Mike's Really Cool Backpackin' Book, which I highly recommend. I have two of their other books - one on cross-country skiing and winter camping and another on telemark skiing. Easy reading, illustrated and cheap. Your local library might even have them.

REI sometimes offers free classes on different subjects. They want to sell gear, of course, but the classes are helpful. Your local store may offer weekend classes for a small fee.

4:00 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Before you decide on a bag I would give some serious thought to when you expect to do most of your hiking and backpacking (I would also say where...but you have already decided upon that). IMO...one of the places that newcomers spend more money + carry more weight + use more space than they need to is in their choice of bag. If you plan only to hike and backpack in non-freezing weather (a category most people fit into) then you do not need a bag with a temp rating <40 degrees. In those rare times that the temp MIGHT be near the bottom of your >40 degree sleeping bag's comfort range then just bring a warmer base or mid-layers to sleep in (the clothing is more useful per ounce and dollar anyways).

A big fluffy bag is a difficult piece of gear to stay objective about...because we all love our beds at home to be fluffy and comfortable...but manufacturer's know this...and do their best to make you think that you can bring the comfort of home with you in the woods. Unfortunately...if your plan is to hike more than camp while backpacking then carrying around additional sleeping insulation that cost A LOT and that more often than not you will find yourself kicking off in the middle of the night is not a smart approach. The money that you can save by getting a cheaper and lighter sleeping bag can go to improving your shelter+shoes+pack (these are MY "big three"...because spending extra on these items is magnified by every step you take...every ounce you carry...and every minute you sleep dry in a rain-storm)...and the space and weight you will save will mean less weight on your back...and a more pleasurable experience overall:-)

7:25 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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1 Welcome!

2 Good for you on stopping smoking.  I quit many times myself but about seven years ago I finally stopped. 

3 REI level gear is not a bad place to start.  You need to get out on some trips to find out if this is really something you'll enjoy.  No sense spending a lot of money on top of the line gear until you are sure you'll use it. Later you may find more specialized gear or you may enjoy making your own or repurposing others old stuff.

4 Whatever you do don't go testing out your gear in the backyard tonight, it looks to be a bit chilly there today.

5 Joseph is right about not getting too much bag.  Weight and volume wasted on your bag can't be used for tasty treats.  Get a Winter bag later if you decide to get crazy but a 40°f quilt/bag can be quite versatile if you vary your sleeping attire.

6 Again, welcome.  If you read the reviews and old threads here there is a lot to be learned.  Ask questions as you go and hopefully you are on your way to having some fun adventures out there!

10:48 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Welcome and congratulations on the new choices!

I have a Flash 65. Haven't found a reason to replace it yet. Yes, there's better gear-but is it soooo much better to be worth the price. (Is shaving 2ounces in weight worth $40?)

REI has a rental program that allows you to try gear out. I'd also look at reviews that mirror your style. I'm prepping to hike the Appalachian Trail in a few years. So I look for gear that has been used successfully in long distant trips.

Keep posting questions, and we'll keep giving answers!

10:55 a.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Congrats, welcome Todd and good for you!!!  Awesome that you have the desire to get out on some outdoor adventures.  I personally don't buy any REI brand stuff but I think it is still quality gear for the most part.  I do shop at REI on occasion though for general outdoor items.  I was just there on Saturday to pick up some odds and ends.  I always like to get the best bang for my buck on bigger ticket items like tents and sleeping bags, so I often shop and research products for weeks before I pull the trigger on a specific product.  Researching gear is what led me to this site in fact.  Joseph makes a really good point about sleeping bags.  The best thing for you is to really identify and think about what conditions you plan on being in and plan accordingly with your gear.  Good luck, have fun and be safe out there!!  

2:15 p.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Welcome Todd Lee!

 

This site is primarily a gear review site and so it is constructed for that purpose. When you use the sites search engine you are searching gear reviews.

 

If you want to search the forums you have to use a third party search engine.

 

go to your favorite web search engine (google, bing, yahoo), and use this syntax when searching the forums:

topic site:trailspace.com/forums

so if your topic is knives your syntax would be:

 

knives site:trailspace.com/forums

 

2:48 p.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Welcome Todd, looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

I was a backpacker several DECADES ago, got back into the sport again over the past couple years and am amazed how much and how little has changed. Been buying new gear and finding the technology of things as mundane as fabric have really changed, but also some simple things like WOOL are still king for base layers. Stoves have changed a lot in some ways, almost not at all in other ways. Tents today are 1/2 the weight they used to be and things like Trekking Poles are wonderful compared to picking up a stick like we did in the 70's.

Please post often, ask many questions, and share your revelations.

5:50 p.m. on January 27, 2014 (EST)
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Patman said:

topicsite:trailspace.com/forums

so if your topic is knives your syntax would be:

 

knives site:trailspace.com/forums

 

 And I just learned something I never knew. Thanks, Patman!

2:46 a.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Welcome Todd!!

Congratulations on the smoking and picking up a new lifestyle...

As Joseph has pointed out you really didn't say what true Season you plan to hike and backpack.(Summer Fall Spring) all three? As far as bags go Tempature of the area your going to be using it comes into play..As people have pointed out your clothing is part of your sleep system..Iam not going to tell you what Tempature range you should get a bag..The most valuable thing I can tell you is your Needs are the most important thing..Weight goes with your needs.You'll search for the lightest items that fit your needs and work..As far as REI goes they have a great return policy other than that.I don't shop from them unless its a headlamp.I shop from specialty outfitters or Cottage industry.I second Tom when he reccomends class's at REI there worth the few dollars they charge and you get to meet people who Backpack..My personal opinion for Tents keep it under or around 3 pounds..Mine are under 3 pounds.I encourage you to ask any questions you could possible think of and post them..No matter how crazy they seem.BY the way don't be stingy on your sleep system that gets alot of Backpackers in trouble..You could get a good bag in around 2 pounds but you have to pay the coin..

12:14 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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I started backpacking halfway through the year in 2013, and let me tell ya, the REI membership and return policy is invaluable to a beginning backpacker.

The memberships means all your purchases are tracked and you'll never have to hang onto a receipt.

And the store allows, for the most part, no-questions-asked returns on your gear. You buy something, you don't like it, you can take it back. 

Allowed me to take back all the car camping gear that was bought as gifts for me, and exchange it for backpacking gear.

Until you know what you like and don't, and what works and doesn't, expect your rig to change with your preferences.

Being a member and customer of REI makes this so much easier. If I had to take a financial loss and keep those items, or sell them on eBay (likely at a loss), it would be a hobby I'd otherwise be unable to afford. 

Figure out where you NEED to spend money, and where you're better off saving it. A good pack is a must - a titanium spork? Not so much when you're starting off.

I'd just suggest keeping your gear in as good of shape as possible, and once you're certain you want something else, take it right back. Most the time they thought mine was brand new, and that said, had no trouble taking it back.

Goose also brings up a good point - rent gear if you want to test a system as a whole. Are you a tenter? Hanger? Tarper? Etcetera.

Probably will contribute more specific advice later, but wanted to say that much for now.

Props on quitting smoking - something I need to do myself. Next trip out, thinking of swapping the standard ones out for an electronic one, only using it if I "need" it.

12:40 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Thank you all,

 I appreciate all the great advice, nice thing is it is cold as ever here in Minnesota right now so I have time to consider and use all the valuable advice I have been given. Will be buying the books for sure and might have to try renting some stuff from REI also been looking online at geartrade.com and have found some good stuff there. I will keep you all updated when mother nature decides to release us from this artic freeze we have in Minnesota.

 

     Thank all

12:51 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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I remember a quote once about Cabela's tents being made by Eureka?  I wonder who makes REI's tents??

I've never had an REI tent though I've seen plenty on the trail.  They may be of the same quality as Sierra Designs or even Mt Hardwear (at this point since Mt HW seems to have fallen a bit in the last 15 years).

1:46 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Todd Lee Ranstrom said:

Thank you all,

 I appreciate all the great advice, nice thing is it is cold as ever here in Minnesota right now so I have time to consider and use all the valuable advice I have been given. Will be buying the books for sure and might have to try renting some stuff from REI also been looking online at geartrade.com and have found some good stuff there. I will keep you all updated when mother nature decides to release us from this artic freeze we have in Minnesota.

 

     Thank all

 Todd,

Shug here is from Minnesota, and he's not waiting for spring. I think you should try it his way.

(Okay, JUST KIDDING)

2:48 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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@#$%in' die-hards!

Joseph brings up a good point - determine which season(s) you plan on taking trips. One of my first mistakes was lugging the weight and bulk of a 15F sleeping bag around when I only needed a 40F at best (I'm a warm sleeper and usually sleep almost fully-dressed, so even that's overkill).

Same goes with shelter systems. If you're not out there in December, no need for a 4-season that zips completely shut and can support several inches of snowfall. 

Go out with friends, or make some new ones, and see what they're using and packing.

Quite a few of my decisions came about after seeing friends use their own gear. To name a couple examples? Hammocks and alcohol stoves weren't my instinctual choices for a shelter and stove. Now I don't know what I'd do without them.

And really, really try to test it in person. It's too easy to find a deal online and let the attraction of saving money sucker you into gear you won't like or use. If REI doesn't have it, maybe a friend does, and if they don't, see if the store offers a return policy that doesn't obligate you to keeping the item.

6:49 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Thank all  

 Ok Goose I am just starting out do not want to go all crazy right away besides would rather try stuff out in nice weather before I go sub zero. I love my State but sometimes I even think I am crazy living here when the weather goes all extreme.  I like this Shug guy though looks like he has been doing this awhile.

7:09 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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He's kind of a thing over on hammock forums...and on youtube:-) If you get into hammocking he can help you get really low safely...though I seriously doubt comfortably:-)

10:44 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Since were giving advice and Tom already mentioned Allen and Mikes books and the Complete walker a couple of other books you might find helpful..

The Ulimate Hikers Gearguide BY Andrew Skurka is most up to date and an easy read and you can learn much..Another is Trail Tested by Justin Lichter(trauma)  Different percpective on hiking since he really doesn't say why he does some things they just work for him..Both of them are Long DIstance hikers and triple crowned the Seneic Trails...A good place to meet hikers and Backpackers is through Meetup. I know the one in Northern Virginia and Nashville Tennesee has backpacking and hiking groups..I know that seems like alot to take in but you can always come back to it and its helpful to others..

The more you get into this hobby the more your library will grow..

 

 

10:53 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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welcome todd!

REI stuff is good bang for the buck, although a little heavy. they do have a good return policy and rental department. there is a one year deadline for returns. as far as a bag goes, +1 on comments made. be sure of the climate you plan to hike in and purchase accordingly. you don't need a 20 deg bag for summer packing. the cats meow is an ok bag, although I would prefer down for the warmth to weight ratio. look at western mountaineering and feathered friends. REI bags are ok, but a little heavy. I have an REI -5 down bag that I have had for over a decade, it has held up well and retains its loft, though a bit heavy. I bought it for snow camping back in the day and have gotten the use out of it. I have another REI down bag that I have had for over two decades and used it for summer packing, but the years are catching up to it and it has lost some loft. that is why it is my summer bag...wishing you good times and happy trails!  

11:35 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Joseph (jrenow) mentioned Skurka on a hike.

I wound up reading the book in a night, just out of curiosity, if nothing else.

He's an ultralighter who straddles the fence between carrying the bare minimum without going "stupid light." His "Hiker's Guide" reads quickly and is about the best crash-course you'll find out there. You don't have to do everything as he does and says, but it will get you to start thinking about your own process.

If ya haven't heard it already, "ultralight" is a buzzword, for sure. All it means, really, is making it easy as possible on yourself, and carrying absolutely no more than you need. At the same time, it doesn't necessarily mean voluntarily subjecting oneself to discomfort because of a spartan resolve.

It's funny how attached we can get to the stereotypical notion of things. God's honest truth? You don't need nearly as much as you think you do. I carried a lantern with me like a security blanket my first three backpacking trips...in addition to a headlamp. It took three trips to finally realize it didn't do anything my headlamp couldn't, and it was weight my back didn't need to be carrying.

I've yet to meet someone on the trail I didn't find friendly, and a bushcraftsman (for the love of God, if someone knows how to address these types of folks, let me know) I met randomly in October I now chat on the phone once a week with. Hikers are some of the most quality people you'll find, and they're your biggest resource, too. 

There's no such thing as a stupid question, here. If you don't ask it, though? There is such a thing as a stupid mistake. You don't need to make a stupid mistake, though. That's the beauty of this forum and this community. They'll serve ya well, my friend. Just ask.

That's my biggest advice. Just ask.

11:58 p.m. on January 28, 2014 (EST)
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Books!!!

If you're looking to get into lightweight backpacking I would suggest you start with Ray Jardine's book "Beyond Backpacking"...the books by Skurka + Lichter + Clelland are in many ways follow-ups to Ray's book. Unlike the other authors Ray goes into great detail on his strategies and techniques (philosophy?) in regards to lightweight backpacking. However...his book is a tome at 300-400 pages if I remember correctly...so if reading is not something you enjoy you could skip the history lesson and pick up one (or more) of the "tiny" books written by Skurka + Lichter + Clelland...which lack a lot of the why and how that Ray's book provides...but in many ways provide updated (better?) strategies and techniques...and can usually be read in an evening between commercial breaks..or a particularly long stoplight.

For a lot of folks the newer books are the only ones you need to read...but I like to read...and I think Ray's book provides some good perspective on the changes that have come to backpacking over the last few years...as well as being a fairly good read if you're into reading about backpacking (heck...its winter...the perfect time of year to read). Speaking of winter reading...Tom D. was correct to mention the book by Fletcher and Rawlins ("The Complete Walker")...more than the Bible of backpacking...I think it is the Holy Grail...the book that all others are compared to (and sadly fail)...it is my absolute favorite of ALL TIME! I find it difficult that someone could argue there is a better written (i.e. entertaining) backpacking book available. It doesn't provide the depth into lightweight backpacking that some of the other books suggested do (so it might not be the most relevant book for a lot of folks)...but it probably covers all of backpacking in the greatest breadth of any book available...and somehow squeezes in a remarkable amount of depth as well.

11:44 a.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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As you start out, avoid the "UltraLight" label.

Because of arthritis, I am a LIGHT hiker with a 14lb baseweight (weight of everything you are carrying before adding consumables like food, water, & fuel). A true ultralightest has a base weight  of only 10lbs.

The thing is marketers use the UL buzzword to get you to buy their stuff. A friend of mine texted me the other day all excited about his new "ultralight" camp cot. "It only weighs 2.5lbs!" He was a bit embarrassed when I pointed out, he's now added 2.5lbs to his already heavy pack (he's hauling a 35lb baseweight with the addition of the cot).

Another example, REI calls their Flash 62 backpack "ultralight" at a full 3lbs. That's not even close to truly being UL. I took a pair of scissors to my Flash 65 and stripped it down to 1lb.13oz. by removing everything a true UL pack doesn't have or need.

Marketers want you to buy their "UL" stove. They don't want you to make your own 0.4oz catfood can stove.


As I said you should avoid the UL hype. Decide on your STYLE of camping.

Style 1: Hike a few miles and then settle into a cozy camp for most of the day. Carry heavy & have the in-camp comforts.

Style 2: Set up a base camp, that you come back to each night. Carry heavy & have the in-camp comforts.

Style 3: Cover big miles and only stop because you have to: Keep your pack as light as possible. Surrender the comforts of camping, such as chairs, "gourmet" meals, and changes of clothes.

But as you start out, simply buy quality gear; just don't get crazy on the weight.



2:53 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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As crazy as it sounds...most of lightweight backpacking (labels such as UL or SUL are just about bragging rights) is FREE...and NOT about buying gear...it is about learning to do without (safely). That is...to increase the "pleasure" of their trip overall lightweight backpackers bring as little as needed so that walking (which they do for longer periods) is less stressful. Doing it this way does not mean that you sleep on rocks and eat paste...hammocks and lightweight air mattresses are super comfortable...and if you take the time to dehydrate your left-overs you can have some super yummy food on the trail...but the truth is...after walking for 10-15 hours you can just about sleep anywhere...and just about anything taste really good:-)

Most of the lightweight approach is described (in greater or lesser detail depending which book you read)...in the books suggested above (particularly Jardine's). I just thought since you're thinking of buying gear...I'd mention how little of a role buying gear actually plays in the lightweight approach. In the lightweight approach you try going without first...you give the lack of something more than one night of experimentation...you try to improvise in the absence of something with something you do have...you only buy gear if you find that you're still unhappy...or your needs change.

3:04 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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During my time in the Army, I saw a lot of research and effort go into ways to reduce the load carried by the average infantryman.  In this case, it was critical -- heavy loads restrict movement and cause wear on joints (shoulders, hips, knees and ankles) and feet, and general fatigue.  Lighter loads allow for greater movement, and reduces the wear and tear on the human body.  Simple as that, really.

So I learned to greatly appreciate the "lighter is better" outlook.

Up to a point.

There is, as HRH points out, a point where you begin to cross into "stupid light" territory -- and each individual has to be careful when approaching this point.  Sometimes you cross it, and learn a very valuable hard lesson.  I know I did.

I also think you eventually reach a point where you get as light as you possibly can, without crossing into "stupid light."  For me, I'm there.  My base weight checks in at 12.5 lbs.  I'm fairly certain it's as light as I can possibly get -- for me -- and still be confident and comfortable while on the trail.

So, get light.... or ultra-light -- but be smart about it.

3:30 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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I completely agree with Earthpig. In my case, I made a conscious decision to forgo true UL status by getting a 4-season hammock, with a weather shield and bug net built in.

If I ditched the hammock, bought a smaller tarp, slept on the ground (with a foam pad), I could hit 10lbs no problem.

Oh, but that hammock is heavenly! I sleep better in my hammock than in my bed. I'd pitch it in my bedroom, if my wife wouldn't object.

So here are my hiking choices:

1. At the end of the day I don't want my shoulders aching from a heavy pack. I've found under 23lbs, I don't even bother to take it off when I stop for a short break. (=light hiking)

2. At the end of the day I don't want my knees aching sore (=light pack)

3. I get bored piddling around camp, waiting to go to bed. I'm not that keen on sitting around a campfire, and I won't build one if I'm soloing (=long days hiking)

4. I want to wake up refreshed and ready to hit the trail. I don't want my back to be stiff or sore (=hammock)

5. I want to get up and get hiking. Waiting around to get started drives me nuts (=pack light & hammock)

But, again, if you are just starting out, I wouldn't obsess over all this. Just get outdoors and enjoy yourself.

5:16 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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This is actually a great conversation, and we get so bogged-down talking gear that we forget why we bought it in the first place.

Setting realistic and honest expectations is going to trickle down into what you buy and ultimately use. 

1.) I don't like leisurely mornings. Pack up. Boil water for coffee, drink said coffee, and hit the trail. The more minimalist your approach, the faster you'll be up and out. Some folks just use a tarp and bivy, if that!

2.) Finding a pack you don't want to take off the minute you take a break? Huge plus. My first multi-day trip, I couldn't want to take the damn 30+ pounds off my shoulders. Made that mistake once, never making it again.

3.) Trekking poles. I can't think of a good reason not to own a pair. Does some of the work so your body doesn't have to.

4.) Unlike Goose, I actually like spending some time in camp and shooting the breeze over a campfire - which I'll build and sit around myself even if I'm soloing. It's also nice to make camp while you've daylight to afford yourself a hike to go filter water, or collect firewood. 

5.) However, cooking isn't my thing - boiling water for freeze-dried meals is as much "cooking" as I do. 

Oftentimes when thinking about buying or changing my gear, I'll ask myself:

"How many times a day, or for how long, do I use this?"

"Do I own something else that can accomplish the same without having to buy/bring this item?"

In use:

Since the comfort of my next day depends hugely on how comfortably and warmly I sleep, shelter and sleeping bag aren't places I skimp in terms of both weight and cost. 

However, I only drink coffee once a day, so I drink coffee from my cook pot - wouldn't make sense to pack an item solely to drink coffee from, and only for five minutes out of my entire day. 

It's a fine balance. It's okay to splurge on pieces that matter, but make sure you're lightening-up elsewhere to compensate for it.

Your opinion and style will change, that's for sure. I put myself on the fast track to ultralighting and can't even count the number of times I've switched out my gear. It's very much a learning process. Not only will you teach yourself about new gear, but the new gear may teach you something about yourself, too.

9:51 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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Hiking Poles!

HRH mentioned something I didn't. Poles saved my knees. As stupid as I think they look, they're not a trend or fad. They make a huge difference on the knees!

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/black-diamond/ultra-distance/review/30313/

10:42 p.m. on January 29, 2014 (EST)
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Yep. Gotta love looking like a skier who's been robbed from the waist down. 

Do they look natural? No.

Do they look cool? Heck, no.

I've only gone without them once - was my very first solo hike.

Come the end of it, I'd have sold a kidney for half a pair of them.

1:29 a.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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I wouldn't go out in winter without poles, and I don't mean for skis, that's obvious, but for snowshoeing too. They really help in soft snow where you are likely to tip over at some point.

7:17 a.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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Wow, lots of good advice so far. Nothing to add beyond what the others have already said.

10:09 a.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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Yep. Gotta love looking like a skier who's been robbed from the waist down. 

Do they look natural? No.

Do they look cool? Heck, no.

I've only gone without them once - was my very first solo hike.

Come the end of it, I'd have sold a kidney for half a pair of them.

 

Speaking as an old guy with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I can wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote.

Hiking Poles are the butt of many jokes, look odd, even have had people stop me mid-summer and ask who stole my skis, but I wouldn't hike without them . . . even without arthritis.

My wife and I both use LEKI brand poles. If there is any hint of arthritis then the anti-shock poles are not just practical, but they are a blessing!

12:15 p.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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setting aside all the talk about gear, Minnesota has a lot of great state parks.  Fantastic nordic skiing or snowshoeing opportunities in the winter.  The REI there should have good guides for the state parks, which might open up some interesting places that you may not have considered.

I lived in Minneapolis for four years and managed to get outside a lot.  it is really, really worthwhile. 

I have had good luck with REI tents.  they run from very simple and inexpensive to some more expensive ones that i think of as mid-range - not the least or most innovative or expensive.  REI doesn't make many 3 person tents; you will find more variety among their 4 person tents.

I have steered away from REI sleeping bags because a few that I tried felt narrow at the shoulders. 

the quality of their house brand is fine - just make sure it serves the purpose and fits you, like any other product you buy.  camping in Minnesota, which is pretty flat, means you want a tent that can handle a healthy thunderstorm and quite a bit of wind.  for me, it would be worth paying a little more than for REI's base models for one of their slightly more expensive tents that might be built to handle that better. 

3:01 p.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

setting aside all the talk about gear, Minnesota has a lot of great state parks.  

 Very true.  I did a trek in Blue Mounds State Park in the southwestern corner of the state in late October.  Some wide open prairie trails and great scenery.  I plan to go back there this Summer.

4:43 p.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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I'm considering a Superior Hiking Trail trip in 2015. And I'm already committed to a Boundary Water trip in September 2014.

9:16 p.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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A greatful thanks to all so far I think instead of making my decisions easier you guys have now made it all that harder thank goodness I have at least two more months before this newbie plans on stepping out into mother nature. I know have to figure out all and trust me with all this help I am sure I can now make a better choice of things best of all I have some reading to do. Again I thank you all very much and look forward to telling you my tales and hearing yours. Hopefully will get to explore a lot this year if wife and kids will grant me the opportunity. I have found that I have a number a state parks and natural forests within 60 miles of me so I think my research and trips will be concentrated there with a hope of eventual making a trip up to superior area.

12:59 a.m. on January 31, 2014 (EST)
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For quick reference, Todd, here's the thread I started before my first solo backpack.

Many a TS member contributed, and their advice will serve you well:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/beginners/topics/147422.html

And here's the resulting trip report:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/148377.html

Find a park close to home and make it a short overnight in decent weather.

Perhaps the best advice came from member North1:

"...don't overthink the gear issue; the main thing is to get outside and enjoy yourself."

9:41 a.m. on January 31, 2014 (EST)
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Todd, if you are in the Twin Cities you should head to Midwest Mountaineering in addition to REI.  In my opinion Midwest has a better selection of gear and clothing.  Upstairs in Thrifty Outfitters they have discounted gear and a first rate repair shop.  Parking in the lot behind the store is free, bring in your ticket and they validate it for you.  Get on their email list for frequent discount coupons.  They also have staff who have been nearly everywhere.

If you do go to REI, the Bloomington store is by far the best of the three in town.

8:02 p.m. on January 31, 2014 (EST)
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HornRimmed  just read your thread about your trip WOW is there tons of great info there   say can I ask how is that Kelty sleeping bag working out been looking at one and not sure how are Kelty bags. I have seen some of some of the sites for a really good price am I sacrificing quality buying one or are the a good,ok, or so so bag.

12:13 a.m. on February 1, 2014 (EST)
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When folks tend to carry the same opinions, or suggest the same things, it may not mean it's the best idea or best piece of gear...but it also means it works for a lot of people, and it may work for you, too.

Let me preface the following by saying that a LOT of your gear decisions will come with experience - you'll find out you don't need certain things, or find yourself wishing you'd something your gear is lacking. This doesn't necessarily mean you made a mistake and didn't do your homework.

But backpacking style, backpacking gear, hell, all of it - people seem to have an opinion about damn near everything. Why? They settle on what they find easiest or most comfortable...what works for them. Once you start making these discoveries, you won't have to buy things based on hypotheticals and can begin tapping into personal experience to inform your decisions.

I'm going to ramble for a minute, and most of it has to do with the purchasing process.

Read reviews. Read every possible review you can pull up on the 'ol Google. Research the living heck out of your gear, so come time you buy it, you couldn't have made a better decision. I bought things because I was enticed by a sale, or because pride wouldn't let me lose the auction on eBay. Figure out what you need to buy, and once you know the item, then go comparing prices. If you don't like it, it doesn't matter how much you saved. If you have to sell it, you may lose money on it!

Spend reasonably, and know where to spend it.

For the beginner, your "big three" is where that money goes: your pack, your shelter, and your sleeping bag.

At the same time, don't go spending $10 on a titanium spork when you can accomplish the same with a $2 one made from Lexan. Empty Powerade bottles make great waterbottles (that are far more lightweight than Nalgene bottles). A plastic garbage compactor bag makes a brilliant pack liner. There definitely are places you DON'T need to spend money.

When it rains cats and dogs, you're gonna thank yourself for spending a little more on a bomber tent...and you're not gonna impress anyone with a titanium spork.

Don't be fooled into thinking you have to buy your way into a comfortable and enjoyable time.

REI is a blessing and a curse. You can only buy there what they carry. However, my membership and their returns policy enabled me to "flip" all my car camping gear for backpacking gear, at a minimum of expense to me.  

The beauty of REI? If you find 11 months and 29 days later that you don't want that bag, you can return it, and use the money or merchandise credit toward a different and/or more expensive bag. I recommend an REI membership simply because it enables beginners the ability to take gear back without suffering a financial penalty for it. Backpacking can be a really expensive hobby, but it doesn't have to. This helps. Do them a favor and keep the original packaging, tags, and take darn good care of what you buy from them. That way, if/when you return it, they can resell it as a minimum of financial loss to them.

You can find gear cheaper elsewhere, but in doing so, you lose the security of that return policy.

If your research is thorough and your mind is made up, you could buy used. Search forums like HammockForums "For Sale" section, where members are ALWAYS selling their used gear. Places like this are good for cottage industry gear (small and usually home-made businesses opposed to the big-name companies) that isn't sold at REI, and is potentially too expensive to purchase brand new. While there is no return policy, gear sells quickly and easily is flipped in forums like these...you don't like it, chances are you can sell it yourself at the same price you bought it.

Gear?

Like I said, know what your initial expectations are.

Let's start with the bag.

The Kelty Cosmic 20F Down sleeping bag.

For the money, you won't find a better down starter bag - around $150. Around the holidays, they've them for as low as $110. Great bag. Highly compressible, very lightweight, and gets the job done. Synthetic is too heavy and bulky, and will likely force you to buy a larger pack simply because it takes up so much space.

Don't buy a 50F bag because it's lighter.

Don't buy a 0F bag because it's warmer.

If you plan on going out within the "3 season" timeframe, 20F is more than enough.

Packs?

I won't tell you which brand and model, but I will say this much:

Make sure it fits. Even if you don't buy one from them, get yourself fitted at REI. Come home knowing your torso length and hip belt size. If it doesn't distribute your weight properly, it's useless and likely going to be painful.

Make sure it's comfortable. Find a store that sells it, load it up, and walk around wearing it while you shop. Or order it online and do the same at home - you don't like it, send it back in the mail. "Minimalist" is not an adjective you want to hear used to describe how comfortable the straps are. A sub-two-pound pack means diddly squat if it doesn't feel comfortable. It's easier to adjust the contents of your pack, and save weight there, than trying to lose weight by shaving it off the pack itself.

Make sure the capacity is relative to the length and types of trips you'll be taking when you start out. Overnight backpacking does NOT require a 78L pack. 50L is a good size. Too big, and you brainlessly pack things simply because they can fit. Too small, and you leave important things at home (or you cram them in and exceed the weight rating).

Shelter is another conversation for another night, but that ought to get the gears turning as far as pack and bag go.

Don't feel the need to buy anything today.

Often I'll talk myself out of an impulsive purchase by asking myself the following:

Do I need it today? No?

Do I need it this week? No?

Do I need it this month? No?

Do I need it, period? Do I already own something that can do the same?

Etc, etc.

At the very least, it keeps you from making uninformed decisions.

Use the winter to your advantage: now's the time to do internet research, ask questions on forums like this one, try things on and test them in stores...just know there's no such thing as too much knowledge, here, and the more you know, the better off you'll be.

Also know there's no shame in asking questions, about damn near anything. You asked a question about a sleeping bag, and as easy as it'd be to say "AWW YEA DUDE GREAT BAG TOTALLY GOTTA GET IT RIGHT NOW," I'd rather offer advice to guide you in your own decisions.

It was advice on this forum that got me started as a backpacker, and I try to pay it forward.

7:53 p.m. on February 1, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks Horn

 Gears rolling to say the least since I first started checking this site out I have been spending all kinds of time doing research on all kinds of things. I am trying to get over to Midwest Mountaineering this weekend and look around and talk to those people over there. I am using this winter to research and try out all kinds of stuff and by March/April hope to have bag and tent purchased. Again I have to say you all have accepted me in to this great family and given me some wonderful advice. I do appreciate it is definitely helping me out.

8:06 a.m. on February 2, 2014 (EST)
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Todd Lee Ranstrom said:

Thanks Horn

 Gears rolling to say the least since I first started checking this site out I have been spending all kinds of time doing research on all kinds of things. I am trying to get over to Midwest Mountaineering this weekend and look around and talk to those people over there. I am using this winter to research and try out all kinds of stuff and by March/April hope to have bag and tent purchased. Again I have to say you all have accepted me in to this great family and given me some wonderful advice. I do appreciate it is definitely helping me out.

 Of course now you have to review your gear after you've tested it out 8p

10:08 a.m. on February 2, 2014 (EST)
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Gear Search:

steepandcheap.com

theclymb.com

Before you buy:

Read reviews on trailspace and check it out on YouTube.

IMO REI is pricey, get the best deal you can. I have a membership at REI and it's a great company but I mainly use it for emergencies and last minute gear.

Only thing I would spend more money on is a light tent. In Minnesota your sleeping bag choice is important too (humid in the summer and chilly in spring and fall). I grew up there.

12:51 a.m. on February 3, 2014 (EST)
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Forgot to add that usually I would advise buying your pack last; after all, pack size depends on what you want to carry, not the other way around. The good news is you can take your pack back to REI if it turns out to be too small or too big or doesn't fit right (the most important thing about a pack).

Also, one thing you should not do is wait until you have the "perfect" kit before going on your first trip. If you do, you'll spend most of your free time shopping instead of hiking. As long as you have a shelter of some kind, a sleeping bag or quilt, clothes to keep you warm and dry, food and water, some way to cook your meals, if they require cooking and a way to find your way back home, you'll be fine, if not perfectly comfortable.

Example - things like stoves require trying them out, no matter what someone recommends. If there was only one really great stove, outdoor stores would stock it and that would be that, but that is not the case. On the contrary, there are dozens of them and some manufacturers, MSR is one, make all kinds of them by themselves-liquid, gas or hybrids (multi-fuel). I have bunch of different ones myself, including one I made from a soda can. I could write a glowing review of each one or a review about why you should never buy or use each one, because none is perfect.

Homemade alcohol burning stoves are a whole hobby by themselves, with dozens of designs you can find on the net. Some people make and sell them, but that kind of defeats the idea of making a cheap stove yourself. ,

2:51 a.m. on February 3, 2014 (EST)
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Tom D: Forgot to add that usually I would advise buying your pack last; after all, pack size depends on what you want to carry, not the other way around.


Funny you should say that Tom...typically I would agree with you...but I am currently constructing a summer-kit that is built around the Mountainsmith Tour TLS lumbar pack (w/t strapettes) in the hopes of increasing the air-flow across my back during the hot summer months. At about 8L of capacity it is a challenge to say the least...and I have had to modify and make a lot of the gear I am going to use myself just to do it...but Im very hopeful and eager to try it out:-)

12:11 p.m. on February 3, 2014 (EST)
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Tom makes a darn good point - you can go out and buy the swimsuit olympic swimmers wear, but you're not going to learn swimming until you jump in the pool.

Your gear will change. Boy, will it change. By choice, or by season, but it's an unavoidable certainty. Be smart about how you buy things - either returning them to the store or selling them on a forum - and provided you can do it for little to no financial loss, you'll be in good shape.

Best advice for that first trip was, like I said - go someplace close, go for a short amount of time, and go when it's nice out. That way, if you have to bail, you won't place yourself in a dangerous situation (whether or not you've the gear to handle it). A solid bailout plan will do you far better than any piece of gear will, even if you know how to use it.

2:54 p.m. on February 3, 2014 (EST)
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Wanted to echo earlier advice on using a headlamp -- also make sure everyone in your group has one (as in camping with kids).  Also watch your pack weight, and weight of your gear choices in general. A pound here and there really adds up.

3:08 p.m. on February 3, 2014 (EST)
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Good job, Tom, keep it up!  A lot great info here. I actually got into backpacking last year and borrowed the Flash 62 and TNF Cat's Meow to a trip to Glacier Nat'l Park.  First backpacking trip (go big or go home, I suppose).  Loved them both.  I'm actually getting more gear of my own, but still have a ways to go.

My tip, other than gear, would be to bring a camera.  There are some great shots of the world out there. Sometimes all it takes to get me out of a funk is to look back at some good times with good friends.  The pictures get me motivated again and back on the right track.

There are great reviews on Trailspace and feel free to post comments below a review asking the reviewer or others for their advice. Best of luck and keep it up and get out there!

12:03 a.m. on February 4, 2014 (EST)
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One more point. Don't get discouraged that you can't go out because all the gear costs too much. I'm a big fan of used gear, or should I say "previously owned" gear. I recently picked up a $300 Marmot jacket for $50 in a second-hand shop. As far as I could tell, it had never been worn (came off a film set). I called Marmot to ask them about it and the rep thought it might last year's model; big deal. FYI-Marmot has great customer service.

People buy gear and clothes they never use or use a few times and then resell for all kinds of reasons-cancelled trips, lost interest, new hobby, or injuries, for example. I've bought all kinds of stuff on eBay and Craigslist and sold a few things too. I've bought stuff here on Trailspace and other outdoor site. It takes some research and patience, but I figure I have saved close to $1000 off retail, maybe a bit more with either used or new gear on sale. The list includes a pack, sleeping bag, tents, stoves, various jackets, down parka, ski boots, GPS, probably a few things I can't recall right now, but it all adds up. Pretty much everything I have is brand name stuff I trust not to come apart or break and that in itself is worth the price. 

5:44 p.m. on February 4, 2014 (EST)
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Tom D said:

Homemade alcohol burning stoves are a whole hobby by themselves, with dozens of designs you can find on the net. Some people make and sell them, but that kind of defeats the idea of making a cheap stove yourself. ,

 I just spent all weekend playing around with alcohol stove designs. While I love my Trangia, it's 4oz. The catfood can stove I've been using is only 0.3oz. The Pepsi can stove I made this weekend is 0.5oz, BUT it uses fuel more efficiently.


IMG_20140202_093658_912.jpg

Also made a .75oz cook pot from an oversized soda can. Working to drop my entire cookset from 7.9oz to 3oz. I'm getting close!

12:57 a.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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http://www.ultralightdesigns.com/products/cooking/blue-mini.html

Same weight as the 'ol can of Pepsi.

Built like an effing tank.

$11. Just sayin'.

Alcohol stoves are A.) lightweight, B.) use readily-available fuel (HEET from the 'ol gas station will do), and C.) are comparatively inexpensive when compared to canister stoves and the like. Lot better for the environment, too, if ya ask me (no piling-up a bunch of empty metal fuel canisters when they're spent).

I've owned several canister stoves.

I've owned a JetBoil.

I've owned a Coleman two-burner, but that's neither here nor there.

If all you plan on doing is boiling water for freeze-dried meals, and coffee?

This is your best bet. Otherwise you're just carrying more dead weight than you have to.

If you want to do legitimate cooking, things get a little more complex, and while there are alcohol stoves up to the challenge, there's too much fiddle-factor involved to make it ideal for a beginner. 

10:43 a.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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FancyFeast catfood can stove--


0.2oz

50 cents (free, if you actually feed your cat with the food).

'Nuff said.

(And my Pepsi can stove is 3.5oz)  :P

12:47 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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This brings up a good point, though:

Spending and weight really ought to be proportional to the amount of use the gear receives.

You carry your pack all day.

You sleep under your shelter and inside your bag all night. 

It only takes around 7-8 minutes to boil water with an alcohol stove, and at best, you're probably only it using two or three times a day.

You're just as well off with a $0.50, half-ounce cat food can as you are with a $80, one-pound JetBoil.

Sure, the JB gets the job done in 75% less time, but also costs $79.50 more.

Your cook system is an EASY place to get carried away with weight and expense. 

Don't let those outdoor retailers suck you in with all the cool-looking displays of camp kitchen gadgetry. Most that crap you don't need to begin with - all it'll do is make your pack heavier and your wallet lighter. 

3:55 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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Goose...I use both a cat-stove and the Blue-Mini (depending on the pot I use)...and there are two things missing from your summary. For .4oz and $10.50 more the Blue-Mini uses fuel more efficiently and works better with smaller diameter mugs (which I typically use for soloing). If one uses a large diameter pot the cat-stove is (I think) the superior choice...but with smaller diameter mugs cat-stoves waste a lot of fuel heating the sides of the pot where there is no water...therefore a lot of heat is wasted heating the air inside the pot instead of the water.

Also Goose...you could easily hit your 3oz goal if you move to an Esbit system. Esbit is a bit more expensive (lower cost hexamine is available)...but if you're only heating up a cup or two of water a day the cost is less significant and it will dramatically drop your overall pack weight due to reduced weight of fuel...plus it doesn't spill and contaminate...easier to mail...and doesn't need priming. Matt Kirk's Sweeper is considered one of the most efficient designs...and it is made from the bottom of a soft-drink can and about two inches of dryer vent http://www.m1cdq.co.uk/wings%20stoves/wings.interfree.it/html/Sweeper.html

9:04 p.m. on February 5, 2014 (EST)
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again thank you all I continue to research and read post and look up reviews you guys all have given me great advice. A lot to consider and look at really do like that TNF cat meow if I can find one for a good price I am seriously considering picking one up.    OK all now for a big question If I want to stick with the tent route and looking to stick with 3 season 3 person tent any that you would suggest any that should stay away from and if you could can you please give reasons as this will help me when I compare any narrow my search.

7:46 a.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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We picked up a Kelty TR3 last year for family backpacking and were pretty pleased with what we got for the price.  I'll be posting my review in the next few weeks, but over all a good bargain.  Door and vestibule on two opposing sides, held up very well in some serious downpours, but it weighs about 7lbs as I recall.

Also Todd, as regards all this wonderful advice above...take it all in and then do what makes you happy.  So long as you are happy and safe it doesn't matter what gear you use.

12:08 p.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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+1 on LS's advice.

There's no shame in borrowing from someone else, if it works for you. But, hell, you want to pack a pillow - and you know you sleep better using one - go right on ahead and pack a pillow. Like mentioned above, there's a fine line between ultralight-ism and discomfort. 

Joseph - is there ever a time the convenience of Esbit is worth cleaning off all that gunk? The fiddle factor I was able to find away around with a windscreen and being mindful of where it was set up, but without a designated stuff sack or some sort of covering, you can't toss a pot you've used with an Esbit tablet right back in the pack.

5:00 p.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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Todd...nothing wrong with choosing a tent...but are you going to always be doing it as a group? If not...and you think you might solo with it...you might want to consider a tent that is <3 lbs....there are lots of options available.

Eric...as you know I use just about every fuel type available...from gathered bio-fuel (sticks) to canister stoves...so a dirty pot is not something that bothers me a great deal (FYI...some Esbit stoves can leave very little residue when used properly...see Flatcat). All stoves and fuels come with different advantages and disadvantages...and just as you cannot just throw your liquid alcohol fuel into your bag (I do not put mine in my bag at all!)...the same goes for a dirty pot...but IMO a small stuff-sack is asking much less of me than a fuel-bottle in regards to weight + reliability + risk.

As far as Esbit specifically being worth it...if weight is your primary concern (which I would assume it is if you're looking for a <3oz cook-system)...an Esbit system is very much worth it...and likely the superior choice. As you suggested (to which I agree)...the weight of gear should be proportional to its use. Esbit stoves can be extremely light (a piece of heavy foil in some cases)...but more importantly it is a very light fuel source...the only thing lighter is the zero fuel weight of gathering bio-fuel. Moreover...Esbit is much safer and easier to use than liquid alcohol...no priming...spilling...contaminating. There are disadvantages (though I hardly consider a dirty pot one)...the fuel is more expensive and not as easily available as alcohol (which can be purchased at a gas station)....but all of these are easily accommodated with the use of 1) stuff sack or cozy (which I use anyways) 2) non-Esbit brand Hexamine is significantly cheaper 3) mail-drops and caches (which I use anytime I am hiking more than a couple of days).

5:19 p.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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A 3-person tent will be more than enough room, but think [literally] outside of the usable interior space.

Most tent manufacturers overestimate their true "person" capacity. You're far better off getting a tent with a smaller interior (but tall enough to sit up in) that offers large vestibules you can at least stow your pack and gear inside, if not cook underneath (never cook inside a tent).

Shoot for a solo tent, or a two-person at the largest.

My first shelter was a 4-and-a-half pound, 2-person North Face that ultimately was too much weight and bulk for what little it offered.

7 pounds is serious overkill for a 3-season hiker. The only time that kind of weight is justifiable is when you're venturing into the colder seasons and higher altitudes. 

The vestibule was too small - I had to choose between storing my pack in front of the door, or being able to get in/out.

I couldn't cook inside and the vestibule wasn't large enough to cook inside, either. The only "dry space" was inside the tent.

The head end was the only part of it I could fully sit up in, leaving me one way and one way only to sit up comfortably.

More from me later.

9:29 p.m. on February 6, 2014 (EST)
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Saw the new version of the HUBBA HUBBA model, and have to admit, I was damn impressed. MSR took their flagship model that's been around who knows how long, and redid the darn thing, top-to-bottom. 

Here's the solo version, the Hubba NX:

http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/tents/experience-series/hubba-nx/product

Yeah, I know. $340. That's retail, though. I'd shop around for a better price.

But - less than three pounds, all in.

Front and rear walls are darn near vertical, and you've got a good sized vestibule to work with, too.

That's if you want mainstream and a model you can likely find at a place like REI.

If you're dropping that kind of coin, though?

I'd suggest a TarpTent Double Rainbow if you want some more room or the option to have a second person along. My buddy, James (earthpig here on TS) got one from Santa for Christmas and seems nothing but stoked with it. He's also a taller and bigger guy who's not the easiest person to fit into a tent, so let that speak for the room it offers.

$275. 2 lbs 10 oz.

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Backpacking-Tent-Reviews/Tarptent-Double-Rainbow

...or a Nemo Meta.

$360. 2 lbs 15 oz.

http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Shelters/Tents/Nemo%20Meta%202P/Owner%20Review%20by%20Ray%20Estrella/

When it comes down to it, opt for the cottage (i.e., "Mom 'n Pop") manufacturers who make the stuff by hand and one at a time. Yes, it's always a good thing to support local, small businesses...but more often than not their customer service is miles better than the big names. 

Just bought a hammock from Brandon at Warbonnet Outdoors. When you send an e-mail to them, he answers it, usually same day. 

These are pricier options, and if your budget's blown buying one of these - forget 'em. I know guys who swear by their Kelty tents. 

Kelty Gunnison 1.2 solo tent.

http://www.rei.com/product/847632/kelty-gunnison-12-tent

$180. 3 lbs 7 oz.

Yep, almost half a pound heavier. But still under four pounds, and a LOT cheaper than any of the aforementioned. The Gunnison has earned rave reviews as a "best value" tent and folks seem to be happy with 'em.

Remember, at the end of the day, it's just a floor beneath your pad and a roof over your head. And all that matters is if you're happy with it - don't go gettin' up-sold by some commission-hungry salesperson.

8:06 a.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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Eric Labanauskas said:

I'd suggest a TarpTent Double Rainbow if you want some more room or the option to have a second person along. My buddy, James (earthpig here on TS) got one from Santa for Christmas and seems nothing but stoked with it. He's also a taller and bigger guy who's not the easiest person to fit into a tent, so let that speak for the room it offers.

$275. 2 lbs 10 oz.

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Backpacking-Tent-Reviews/Tarptent-Double-Rainbow

Indeed, the TarpTent Double Rainbow arrived as a Xmas gift.  Even though it was bitterly cold and there was snow on the ground, I had to set up in the backyard just to admire it.

A month or so later, during an unusual warm spell (50 degrees!), I took it for it's maiden voyage on an overnight trek.  I'll post a full review later this year when I've really put it through its paces, but my initial impression? 

Awesome.

Lightweight.  Easy to set up.  Good ventilation.  Roomy.  I'm 6'6" and can lay down and still have about ten inches of space lengthwise.  It's the first tent I've ever had with that much space.

Again, I will be using this tent as my exclusive shelter this hiking season which will include: 1) an 80-mile section hike of the AT; 2) a 4-day hike of the Colorado Trail (probably a few of the middle sections, 15 thru 18); 3) a 3-day loop of the Black Elk Wilderness; 4) and all of the usual nearby state parks (in a 4 state area).  I'll write up a thorough review with pictures later this year.

5:05 p.m. on February 7, 2014 (EST)
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6'6"...Earth Pig...I bet you have a very interesting perspective on a lot of backpacking gear:-)

12:35 a.m. on February 9, 2014 (EST)
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Todd

You haven't stated if you want freestanding or if it use's Trekking poles for tent setup...Weight with a three person can be from 4 pounds on up..To be honest like HRH said tent makers are optimistic when they say its 2 person for that matter even a 3 person....Alot of Single backpackers use a two person because they want more room for them and gear...

 

12:52 a.m. on February 9, 2014 (EST)
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If you already use trekking poles - or plan to - my advice is to find a shelter that uses them for support, and doesn't require an additional set of poles to support the tent (which are used only to support the tent and for nothing else).

Backpacking's expensive, at least starting out. Especially if ya don't own a darn piece of gear. If it boils down to the almighty dollar, there's no shame in buying a lesser-expensive tent. You can always upgrade later, and either return it to the store or sell it on eBay, what have ya. 

Realized suggesting features wasn't a helpful thing to do when you may not be aware of some lesser-known manufacturers, like Six Moon Designs.

Here's a tent for ya:

http://sixmoondesigns.com/tents/outfitter.html

3.5626 pounds. 2 person capacity. $160. Supported by trekking poles.

Hell of a lot better than I did with my first tent. Mine erred on five pounds, only had one small vestibule, cost more, and required its own set of poles.

Second time I've suggested a SMD tent, but really, you can't do much better when it comes to lightweight tents in that price range.

Best thing to do is get out there, figure out what you like, figure out what you don't, and make the second time easier and more enjoyable for yourself. 

3:59 p.m. on February 10, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

6'6"...Earth Pig...I bet you have a very interesting perspective on a lot of backpacking gear:-)

Well, you just get used to not having gear fit you, and trying to adapt it to your larger than average frame.

I've found being larger than average is more of a blessing than a curse, so no complaints from me. 

8:58 p.m. on March 6, 2014 (EST)
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hello all just checking back in have narrowed my search down to a couple different tents and two sleeping bags tent is either a hubba hubba or mutha hubba  or REI makes a couple also saw one other at Midwest mountaineering as for sleeping bags looking at cats meow or a lamina  

2:19 a.m. on March 7, 2014 (EST)
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Try it out in the store.

Buy it elsewhere.

Search for the item on Google, and don't just search under their "shopping" tab - literally, use the search to comb websites and find the best price.

The work can be well worth it!

This week I found myself waxing nostalgic on my last pack, a Mountainsmith Haze 50. Well, turns out it's discontinued, and no one sells it for less than retail (if they've it in stock, period). 

Found a local outpost in Maine that had it on clearance for $69.99 - much better deal than the $120+ other places wanted for the same pack! Pretty much got it for darn near half price. They didn't list the size, but the specs listed matched up with the specs for the M/L size. After a few phone calls and e-mails, they confirmed it was indeed a M/L. So, it takes some leg-work, but it does literally pay off.

The Hubba Hubba NX (from the updated 2014 "Hubba" line) is really something else. And, yes, expensive, but they've really trimmed the weight down. And trimmed it thoughtfully without sacrificing quality or construction.

Look at it this way: If you're willing to spring for the Motha, and have that kind of money, buy from the updated line, and go with the smaller, 2-person Hubba Hubba NX.

Your back will thank you in the long run. More than enough room for one dude out by himself, and can still comfortably fit two (keep in mind the room you'll have to store gear in the vestibules).

The convert in me would want to urge you toward hammock hanging, but that's another thread for another day - just keep in mind vestibule height and space when tent shopping. Can't cook inside a tent, and you will need dry working space for the time the weather isn't exactly cooperative. 

December 22, 2014
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