I have not even started, but want to.

9:46 a.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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I'm wanting to start backpacking but i don't know what to get. I see packs that are WAY over my budget (I'm 18) and wonder if anyone could help me out in finding good products that wount leave a hole in my wallet. I don't have anything for backpacking, so if you could mention tents, stoves, sleeping bags/pads, ect. i would appreciate it.
I am also wanting to take some friends and family. So I'm wanting to buy extras, not the best stuff for them but stuff that will allow them to enjoy their experience.

12:18 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Before you start buying, maybe before you even start looking around much, let me suggest that you do some reading. My favorites are "The Complete Walker IV" by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins. While it is now 7 or 8 years old, and so some of the gear talk is out of date, the two of them have loads of experience. The how-to has not changed. You just need more up-to-date info on what is currently available. You can get a lot of that on this site, in the articles and gear reviews.

My other favorite is "The Backpacker's Handbook" by Chris Townsend. Likewise, some of the gear talk is outdated. He has a different take on some of the how-to, and it is not a bad idea to digest information from a couple of different sources, as there is no gospel.

"Lighten Up" by Bill Ladigin is an easy read and gives some good ideas on how to carry less weight. I wish this had been available 35 years ago, but then, some of the gear wasn't (mostly due to advances in materials.)

Fourth, for a completely different reason, is Bill Bryson's "A Walk Through The Woods." This is not a what-to-carry or a how-to. It is the story of a newbie backpacker, amusingly told, who sets out on the Appalachian Trail with virtually no preparation. You might get more of a feel for what it is like to be out there for the first one or two times from this than from any other book.

Most if not all of these books can be found in your local library. If they have "The Complete Walker III" or one of the earlier editions, that's OK -- a lot of the how-to is still good. Fletcher is especially good on the why-to, which is worth getting into. Just, again, don't get hung up on gear talk, which is way out of date.

After digesting some of this -- you can start right away reading articles and reviews on Trailspace -- then you can ask questions about gear with a much better chance of getting answers that help. So much depends on "where" and "when" and "how long" and stuff like that.

Now, it won't be long before some other folks chime in. They will have some different comments. Some of them might not jibe with what others have said. That's OK. There is no one right way, no one right tent, no one right backpack, etc. You can't go far wrong taking suggestions from pretty much any of these guys, so long as you use your head, too.

12:36 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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5,250 forum posts

Well for starters you could just look into the gear at backpacking shops, asking question about what kind of gear you would need for different hiking/camping seasons. Then go check out yard sales, thriftshops and other second hands store for simular gear to that you see in stores and use the information given here and from the gear shops for choosing gear.

My first hiking trips back in the late 1970s I bought cheap gear from places like Kmart and Walmart. My first pack was a cheap aluminum external frame pack I paid about $20 for and a tent that cost me about the same. My sleeping bag was an old rectangular cotton bag that I had from being a boy scout when I was 12. I hitchhiked the summer of 1977 at age 21, with this gear 8000 miles all over the USA. I wore steel toed lumberyard boots, cotton clothing and had just a standard military poncho for raingear. In those days I used campfires to cook all my meals.

After that trip I moved to Alaska and made more money to buy the better more expensive more comfortable gear. Since then I have had many different packs, tents,sleeping bags and camp stoves.

A good book I would recommend to read about hiking/camping and the selection of gear and how to use it properly is The Complete Book of Walking by Colin Fletcher.

I have both gear for winter cold weather camping and for summer mild weather hiking. My slleping bags range from a -30 degree bag for extreme winter camps and a 20 degree bag for summer at alpine and lower desert elevations. I have a standard 4 season tnet that is lightweight yet sturdy enough for yearround camping. My pack is medium sized and will hold about a couple weeks worth of food supplies.

I buy standard food supplies at the store. In this age of easy to prepare foods I find it easy to use the microwave foods for hiking and cooking on my stove. There are many varieties of freeze dried foods out on the backpacking market but I have not bought much of them over the years. MREs made for the military are good tho too, with thier light weight and ease of heating with no stove needed.

I usually repackage store bought foods in heavy duty freezer Ziplock bags that with care can be used many times over to take all the foods you need and have it convenienntly carried.

2:39 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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123 forum posts

ebay. especially this time of year

8:11 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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If you've never been backpacking, start out by doing a weekend trip with an experienced friend or two. You'll probably be able to borrow gear for a weekend and get to see your buddy's gear in use - don't be afraid to ask. You'll be able to get an idea of what kinds of gear suit you and what's most appropriate for your area's typical terrain and weather. Also, life's always better with a buddy.

Try to get about a ten mile round trip on some terrain that will be pleasantly challenging but not overly strenuous, and choose someplace scenic. Over the weekend, you can spend time talking about gear (as we all love to do), learn from your friends' recommendations of advantages and disadvantages and pick up some skills first-hand. You'll also figure out over that weekend whether backpacking is REALLY for you or not before you spend a lot of cash on a hobby you don't like. It's not for everyone, and does get better and more fun as you do it more.

Also, pick up a couple issues of Backpacker magazine and look over their website for all kinds of recommendations.

9:12 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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3,956 forum posts

Welcome Noobie,

As already mentioned, I would also recommend you find a Hiking Club or other enthusiasts to go on a trip with. I would also recommend reading the books previously mentioned.

There is a lot of gear out there that works very well, but is intended for varying applications. You need to be able to select a category of gear type that is the correct type for your application, and environment.

For example, tents. Tents come in different types depending on their intended use. There are many great '4 season' tents (intended for harsh environments), but you may be better suited by a '3 season' tent. Or you may be able to find a used 3 season tent in good condition for 1/2 the price of a new one. Or...you may like a hammock better. But you need to know how to inspect the tent for wear, and how to do maintenance and repairs when buying used gear.

These are things you will learn by reading the recommended books, online articles, and by gaining some experience with a mentor.

Trust me, the 'figure it out as you go' method can be a brutal one.

So get yourself a couple books, read online articles and reviews (Trailspace is a great place to do that...really) and best of all take a trip with someone willing to loan you some gear and share their skills with you.

I would also recommend you do a couple 'trips' in your backyard to test out your set up when you have acquired it. You may be surprised at how many aspects of your camping gear need to be set up properly in order for you to be comfortable and have fun. Your gear needs to function as a complete system (It's in the books, not hard). These backyard trips are called 'Shakedown Trips' and even backpacking veterans do them when we get new gear or wish to experiment with new approaches. Better to be close to home than 20 miles out and discover your sleeping bag is nowhere near warm enough!

Stick around, you've found a great site!

Happy Trails

1:49 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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This is great advice, thanks. I am thinking about buying my gear at greatrade. Its not a bad place to start, it seems. Another thing i did forget to metion is that i live in Arkansas, it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. i thought that might help with some of the gear info.

2:31 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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66 forum posts

After reading those books I'd look at your budget. See what you can afford to spend. Gear isn't cheap and if you did get something cheap you might regret it later. That said, I had an old colman tent growing up and it worked great and only cost $30, they still have similar ones now like the Sundome.

I really like my MSR Pocket Rocket stove to cook on with a cheap pot to boil water.

You can find foam pads at walmart for around $10.

Find a sleeping bag that will reach down to the worst temperature range you think you'll see. I went with a 30 degree Kelty bag because out in the Utah desert where I camp it gets pretty cold at night. This is a place I personally wouldn't want to skimp.

For packs I had a friend that suggested I buy a 4000 cu in (cubic inch) pack that you can fit your bag and pad all inside with food and rain gear. That way if you wanted to do longer than an over nighter you could strap stuff outside your pack and have more room inside. It is tricky to buy a used pack, when you find one on gear trade go to your local outdoor store and try on one similar. Most companies try to keep their suspension system (straps) similar.

Wow, I kinda blabbed a bit but that is what I started out with and it has worked well.

What kind of budget are you looking at for gear?

2:39 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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I just found this:

looks like you are not alone.

7:40 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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geartrade.com is a good place to look at, also steepandcheep.com - they have some good stoves, sleeping bags and shoes there, just need time to look at it and see what come. There is nothing wrong with getting some basic stuff and upgrade later when you see that you like it and in that way you spend a bit at a time. If you can tell us your total budget we can try and split it down for every item and maybe it'll be easier in that way...

8:55 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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I started off buying quite a bit of outdoor gear from Sierra Trading Post and other outlets. I think you can outfit yourself with decent gear that works from places like that, then upgrade over time as you develop your own preferences.

On the other hand, try to buy major items from retailers with good return policies. Especially early on, I bought a lot of my gear from LL Bean because it worked well enough and I knew I could always return it if it didn't work out. I've never abused that policy, but it's good to know you can bring something back. Also, I live in Maine, so I can go to the factory store and deal with returns easily.

Before you buy anything though, my primary advice is to to get out hiking and backpacking with others so you can try out gear and gain some experience. If you have friends (or friends of friends) that hike or backpack, go with them.

Look for outing clubs in your community, particularly at high schools and colleges. A major advantage of being a member can be the ability to borrow gear, saving you money and letting you figure out what works and what doesn't for you. Once you get out and use certain gear you'll start learning some of your own preferences.

My final advice is to just find a way to (safely) get out there and do it. Go hiking, borrow gear and try it in the backyard or local park. Build from there. I think it's easy to get hung up on getting the "right" gear so we can go out and do a certain activity, but really it's about getting out in the first place. So, if you can go hiking in decent trail shoes or trail runners that fit and a borrowed backpack etc... then just do it. It may not be a "perfect" set-up, but as long as it's safe, then at least you're out there.

I'm not saying to throw caution to the wind here, but I think a lot of people get hung up on the planning stage so they can try some exciting new activity, instead of focusing on the actual doing of the activity.

Good luck! Let us know if you have any specific questions too.

9:11 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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I have around 150 extra dollars at the end of every month to spend at the most.

2:45 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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Like the others, I suggest doing a lot of reading first. Also look at "Camping for Dummies" a part of the "for Dummies" series of books. You might be able to find some of these books at your local library. Otherwise, Amazon or Barnes & Noble online sell books at discounted prices.

Budget-If $150 a month is how much you can save, I suggest putting away maybe half that much for gear, by the time June comes around, you'll have $450 to spend. Save the rest for the trips themselves or maybe taking a camping class.

Don't buy anything yet until you have done your reading. There is a bewildering amount of gear and clothes around and it is easy to buy things on sale that won't necessarily go with each other or things that look cool, but in practice are worthless. A bargain isn't a bargain if what you buy isn't what you need. There are dozens of camping stoves that use different kinds of fuels and many of them look alike. Some are better than others for various reasons. They range in price from about $30 to over $200. Just sorting them out will take time.

Buying gear is about buying (and carrying) what you need for where you are going and what you will be doing. I don't own a lot of gear, but I have enough to do what I like to do-go winter camping. I have gear for summer as well, but no summer tent. However, I know what my choices are since I've been looking at gear for years.

While it is commendable that you want to also get gear for your friends, wait on that. Buying better gear for yourself should be your first priority. Cheap gear, like tents, for example, means buying something that may not last more than a few trips, may be really heavy and bulky and put you off camping when it fails.

Example-sleeping bags. With bags, there is an old saying "cheap, warm or light-pick two." Cheap, warm bags are not light; cheap, light bags are not warm and warm, light bags are not cheap.

This may all seem like a lot of work, and it will be, but by learning from books, looking at camping websites and talking to experienced campers will be worth it.

One thing to remember, if you ask, for example, "what tent should I buy?" you may get a different answer from every person you answers that question. There are just too many choices for there to be much of a agreement.

Asking what is the "best" of anything is a waste of time, since "best" can mean best price, best quality, best design or best for a particular application. At the very high end of quality, there may be fewer choices, but "best" is still relevant, like asking "what is the best car to buy?" The answers could range from a mini-van to an SUV to a sports car, depending on what you intend it for and how much money you want to spend. Same with camping gear.

Used gear-a possibility, but wait until you know what you are looking at. A lot of stuff sold on eBay is not worth the money at any price and some of the gear and clothes are counterfeits of famous brand names. Craigslist may be a better bet, but again, you need to know what something is before you'll know if it's a deal. I've seen things on eBay sell for more more than retail because the buyers didn't know what they were worth.

One final example-look at my picture. My pack and pants, I got used from a buy/sell forum on a camping website; my skis I got from Sierra Trading Post at about 25% of retail. Got a deal on the bindings from the manufacturer. Paid retail for the trekking poles. Got my jacket at REI. Got my boots off Craigslist or eBay (can't remember which pair I have on in this picture), but either way, I got a deal on them.

My newer pair of boots, I got off Craigslist at about 1/3 of retail and they looked new. BUT, I knew exactly what I wanted and it took me months to find them since they aren't all that common. My point is, you can find deals, but patience and knowledge are essential.

3:52 a.m. on December 16, 2009 (EST)
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101 forum posts

You might consider checking out your local boy scout council to see if there is a venturing crew in your area with a focus on outdoor skills. They allow membership through age 20 and would be a good way to gain valuable experience.

This explains a little about Venturing:


To find your local council look here:


Learn all you can and good luck on your adventures.

June 22, 2018
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