Starting out...

4:36 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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Howdy everyone...

This is (probably) a fairly common question, but maybe I can find a way to ask it a little different to spark your interest-

 

After tagging along for a camping trip in the UP last year with a roommate I caught the bug to start "getting into" camping. I'm pretty much starting with no gear of any sort. Two of the guys I went camping with had Mountain Hardwear tents, so this along with tons of review reads guided me to buying a Hammerhead 2. This is hopefully on its way in a few days (heck of a deal on Moosejaw for the 2008 model). Figured it was a good combo of car camping tent with some ability to do mild backpacking....

 

With that in mind....where do I go from here? My budget is fairly tight, but at the same time I'm not planning on conquering Everest anytime soon. My main focus for the moment is car camping, canoe trips, and short backpacking trips. I have access to borrowing a stove (Gigapower) and water filter (sweetwater I think...) so those are low priority items. Needs would be general purpose sleeping bag, pad, backpack, hiking shoes, etc. Looking for any suggestions on what gear is my best bet and a sequence to purchase it in. Until I get more serious I really don't intend on spending more than $100 or so for any one piece of equipment. OK, I've made this long enough....thanks ahead of time for any advice!

6:25 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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Welcome Pompompaihn!

May I suggest you take a look at the FAQ section. There are an awful lot of answers already included there for you. As far as "Where to start"... do read the publications listed. It' will save you a lot of unnecessary searching. Also, many (most or all) of your questions have already been answered by someone here on the Trailspace forum. Take the time to read past posts and you will find the information you seek grasshopper.

Remember, Gear is important to a point. Some products ARE better than other products. But no matter what you have/get, the most important part of being outdoors, whether it be hiking a local trail or climbing a major mountain, is to have fun and be safe.

Again, welcome to Trailspace.com!

6:42 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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Hello and welcome... Hope you had a great time in the UP... it's one of my favorite places to backpack.

In my experience, a great fitting, comfortable pair of hiking boots is a priority, followed by sleeping bag, pad, and finally backpack. I've done a lot of short backpacking trips with a tent rolled into a sleeping bag which is then slung over my back, with a separate daypack for food etc. If your feet don't feel good, your entire body will be miserable, so consider purchasing the best boots you can afford that meet your needs. Check the gear reviews for ideas. The type of shoe you will need depends on the type of terrain, weight of pack, time of year etc.

Are you looking for an all around shoe for canoeing and light hiking? When I do both, I wear an approach shoe. They are so worn out, I'm unable to read the name, however, the pair I have offers great support, grip on slippery rocks and dries fast.

For the UP, I wear Lowa mountaineering boots (actually I wear them all the time rain, snow, and heat of summer). For me it's cheaper in the long run than purchasing different types of hikers.

The sleeping bag I take to the U.P. is rated to -30, and I purchased it at Cabellas several years ago on clearance for $45. In my opinion, most sleeping bags work well. My son purchased his from Walmart and it's comfortable, warm and has lasted just as long as mine. We are getting ready for a short trip back up to the U.P. and neither one of us will be wearing a backpack. We will be carrying daypacks, sleeping bags and a tent that we purchased off of craigslist. For longer, solo trips with my dog, I do wear a pack, however, it is an off brand model that I got from a garage sale for a few bucks. It serves the purpose, and I've used it for years.

There are a lot of experienced members on this site, I'm sure they can provide some great ideas for you as well....

7:32 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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I just started backpacking last year with 2 sacks over my back, and my hands full. This year I found a backpack on graigslist for $25. My campstove is a popcan stove. Old tent. Bad sleepingbag. As long as I stay warm and dry I'm happy just to be out there. I'm beginning to lighten my load. But I'm doing it cheaply. The Bears arnt that impressed with the high dollar stuff nether are storms. Just be carefull and stay dry.

Before making a big investment make sure that this is something you want to do for years. And read everything you can get your hands on.

BTW You have found the right forum

9:11 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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Lightweight , Lightweight , Lightweight. Do not rush into purchases.

10:12 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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sleeping bag, pad, backpack, hiking shoes, etc.
You can choose two of the following:

Weight, Quality, Cost.

But seeing as you are starting out, it's a good idea to get cheaper gear, instead of investing thousands into camping to realize later on you found would have rather bought another backpack.

For a sleeping bag, you can go with any cheap bag from a local sports store (For summer camping, or you can just layer for cooler temperatures)

For a pad, I would go with a foam pad for ~$20 (Make sure there are ridges)

Backpack. This is something you definately should not go cheap on. I would recommend going to the store to try the packs on. A comfortable pack is essential to having fun backpacking. I would recommend REI from personal experience. Great quality, and great customer service.

Hiking boots will make or break your hike. Make sure you try these on, and walk around for a bit to make sure they're comfortable. Before your first hike, break them in by wearing them around for a week or two. I would also recommend getting waterproof boots incase you slip into a stream (Costs about $10 extra)

6:38 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Just ordered a camp pad off of Steep and Cheap (many thanks to a previous poster who mentioned it on here). It's a ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Air Pad, and it seemed like a good combo of price and other attributes. I'm a big guy (6'2" 230, broad shoulders, big feet, etc) so the really thin pads worry me as far as comfort. On my UP trip I borrowed a Therma-Rest prolite and while it worked I can't say I was remotely comfortable either.

Question about boots/shoes....I've got relatively easy access to an REI, Cabelas, and Bass Pro Shop. Anyone with experience advise which would be a better place to get competent staff to assist me in fitting? I'm sure there are other smaller operations that I'm not familiar with (I'm in northwest Ohio), so suppose that's always an option, too.

 

And another while I'm at it....my girlfriend has, in the past, had issues with down comforters and pillows. Anyone know if this can also pose a problem with down outdoor gear like sleeping bags? While buying one would be a good excuse to get away by myself for a weekend, I have a feeling it probably wouldn't go over too well :)

7:42 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Welcome. I would suggest that you place your most money on two really important things which could make or break your new hobby, these are good boots and a comfortable pack. You can find loads of deals on clothing at second hand shops, they are there for the buying. I love the idea of recycling and I don't care if I rip something in the bush. I would however invest in good rain gear, in low temps wet and cold can lead to hypothermia and that can be deadly so staying dry is important. Everything is going to depend on what seasons you wish to go, different gear is needed for different seasons, terrians and weather conditions. It can seem scary when trying to figure out what you need but that is what is so great about these forums, you can get info from experienced folks as well as gear reviews to help you make your choices, just keep in mind that everybody is different and what works for some may not work for you!

7:49 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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REI is the best bet, the store in Ann Arbor is small, however the staff has experience with the products and knows how to fit boots. If you go, you can also check out all the other products and get some great advice. Moosejaw is also there (the store is even smaller) and the staff seems to be good as well. If you call on the phone, the main customer service for both is really good and can help you with a selection. I have relatives in northern Ohio and have been to Bass Pro, not worth it for shoes. Cabellas has great sales but smaller selection and you're on your own with fit (at least in my experience).

Once you get a feel for brand fit, an excellent source for shoes (they have less selection, but some top brands) is Zappos. They offer free shipping and free returns and it's hassle free. The prices are comparable to others but check around before purchase.

If you enjoy sleeping alone, then get the down bag, otherwise get one without. If you find a great bargain, you could always purchase one of each.

8:19 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Pompompaihn. I just read that you are a big guy, amd you may be taking a friend. The Hammerhead 2 is only 3.5' wide. This might be to tight a fit for the two of you. Plus the slope of the walls takes away some of the 8' of the floor area. I'm just pointing this out becouse for me this would be a one man tent.

8:24 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Just wanted to add... if you're thinking of REI, you may wish to go online first and pick out a couple of options, then call the store and see if they stock the brands and sizes you are interested in. If not, REI offers free shipping to the store. My son wears a popular size and has a difficult time finding boots in stock, so he has a couple of styles shipped to the REI store , picks one and gets them fitted perfectly before leaving.

8:29 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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And the southerner asks: What is the UP?....Upper Peninsula?

8:35 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Pompompaihn. I just read that you are a big guy, amd you may be taking a friend. The Hammerhead 2 is only 3.5' wide. This might be to tight a fit for the two of you. Plus the slope of the walls takes away some of the 8' of the floor area. I'm just pointing this out becouse for me this would be a one man tent.

Well understood and was the hardest part of my descision making process of to go with the Hammerhead 2 as opposed to some of the other good deals out there for 3 persons in the same price range. Essentially though it will almost exclusively used as a one man tent, only person who would be sharing would be the girlfriend, in which case I don't mind being cramped as much as if I was sharing it with another guy my size. There's a moderately good chance that at some point I'll spend a few bucks on a cheap dome tent for basic car camping with a bit more space if she gets more into the scene.

 

And...yessir, Upper Penninsula. Walking on the beach alone at 4am with all the stars out is what pretty much sold me that this is something I need to do more often :)

 

Also, thanks for the advice about REI. Footwear will probably be one of my last purchases because I want to be able to spend a fair amount on them after reading more posts. I have a decent pair of Columbia hikers that I use for work in the winter time that will be adaquate for the car camping I intend to start out with, and worked out well in the UP (though we didn't really do much hiking, nothing over a mile or so away from camp). They'll need upgraded though if I intend do carry a pack or walk distance on rough terrain.

9:03 a.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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pompompaihn said

There's a moderately good chance that at some point I'll spend a few bucks on a cheap dome tent for basic car camping with a bit more space if she gets more into the scene.

You my want to do this before she goes out with you! LOL I have learned that many girls dont like sleeping on the ground, or not have enough room in the tent for stuff.

The north shore of the UP is wonderfull.

3:57 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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When I think of BPS (Bass Pro Shops) i think of them as the Walmart of the outdoor world. Not sure I'd reatlly invest a lot in what they offer unless you know for sure you can get it cheaper there.

One thing I'll do is visit the various stores and check out the gear, then buy it online at campmor.com or rei.com (rei outlet is very very handy).

6:32 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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I would tend to agree (about Bass Pro) based on limited experience...the local one is a neat store but is 90% fishing gear, which I suppose isn't shocking. Given that I'm a horrific fisherman, and don't intend to hone that skill anytime soon, the store isn't terribly useful to me...but figured I'd catch all your opinions incase I was a bit judgemental :)

12:00 a.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Howdy back neighbor....

I don't normally join organizations, blogs, etc. However, I happened on your query while on Trailspace and figured I would add my two cents about choices, as I have recently upgraded after years of crappy cheap stuff. Number one, you definitely hit the bullseye with picking a decent tent manufacturer, although you will probably want to return the Hammerhead 2, and spend the difference for the Hammerhead 3, or something comparable. Being a big fella myself, I have found almost all tents that say "two person" don't come close to being even reasonably comfortable for somebody your size with "anyone" else. If the floor of the tent is not 60" wide, forget it. I have a North Face 3 season that measures 80'x60" inside floor and fits perfectly our two Thermarest Luxury Camp XL pads, which are the bomb, but very expensive... but great for car camping. The tent is what will make or break you from continuing camping after your first trip in severe weather of any kind. Secondly, spend the money for a good bag. Better yet buy two good bags that are identical, except that one is a right hand zip and the other a left hand zip....so that you can zip them together and make a sack for you and the little woman...dig? Note: A nice example is a Marmot Trestle 15, which will do nicely for three seasons....get the largest size....you can turn over without going nuts in the night. The only other thing that I find really important is to have extra tent stakes and use them, so you don't find yourself waking to tent flapping in the night...don't leave your mesh unzipped for anything other than exit/entry....and buy the factory footprint for your tent. Well, that's way more than two cents but you will figure it all out as you go. Ditto the comment on camp safe and have fun. Bears do shit in the woods and have been known to find a good smelling campsite....pack it back in the car after eating...no food in the tent!!!

1:37 a.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Disclaimer before the comment: I do not work for, nor am I associated with, nor do I have any friends, family, or loved ones who work for or are associated with, any outdoor retailer of any description. Unless you count a brother who works for Union Pacific Railroad. But I digress....

If you like having a local store staffed with competent, friendly salespeople, please consider actually buying stuff there. Yeah, it's cheaper, often, to buy online through whichever .com, but if you're going to a local store to get fitted for boots, a pack, whatever, only to buy it from Amazon or REI online (both retailers being ones I highly subsidize, btw), will that store even be there the next time you want to find out what size of boots to buy? If it is, will the service be as friendly and reliable when you walk in wearing the boots you bought at Zappo's after spending twenty minutes of the salesperson's time trying 'em on before you ordered 'em?

 

If you want the local economy to thrive, spend money in it. On the other hand, if you want to send money to another state, region, or even country, don't whine about local unemployment or the lack of decent shopping nearby.

Just my $0.02.

6:54 p.m. on February 19, 2009 (EST)
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Perry Clark... I agree, and live in a rural area whose small town shops and restaurants I support with my business. When it comes to outfitters, the nearest one is ~3 hours drive, so I do my business online, which is not always cheaper. This morning I spent $14.95 to return a purchase to REI, not including the 17 miles worth of gas to drive to the nearest post office. When you add to this the initial shipping, it came to almost half the price of the item.

11:11 a.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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sorry, I'm a big city boy here. All I see are Big Box Retailers. They already drove the small guys out :(

 

Whats even scarier is we just got a Dick's over by IKEA here in Phoenix

10:08 p.m. on February 20, 2009 (EST)
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Little update:

 

I've now got my car-camping essentials down....tent/mat/sleeping bag. Waiting on pack and boots/shoes til I can have the time and $$ to go to the store and get fitted properly. Happy with the items I've purchased so far, everything is pretty much what I expected. I did go with the Marmot Trestle bag as it seemed to be best combo of size and quality. It does seem kind of heavy, but I'm not ready yet to plunk down 200+ on a sleeping bag quite yet (in fact the girlfriend was shocked I spent even close to $100 on one..."They're $15 at Wal-Mart!").

 

I've done all this shopping online, but so far the majority of it has been purchased at Moosejaw which is, ironically, also about the closest retailer to me that's not a Bass Pro or Cabelas. Thus, I don't feel too guilty about those :)

4:01 p.m. on March 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Howdy everyone...With that in mind....where do I go from here? My budget is fairly tight, but at the same time I'm not planning on conquering Everest anytime soon. My main focus for the moment is car camping, canoe trips, and short backpacking trips. I have access to borrowing a stove (Gigapower) and water filter (sweetwater I think...) so those are low priority items. Needs would be general purpose sleeping bag, pad, backpack, hiking shoes, etc. Looking for any suggestions on what gear is my best bet and a sequence to purchase it in. Until I get more serious I really don't intend on spending more than $100 or so for any one piece of equipment. OK, I've made this long enough....thanks ahead of time for any advice!

You asked some really good questions. My belief is good gear neither needs to be BIG name nor expensive. BIG name as in Sierra Designs, Mountain Hardware or MSR.

As for sleeping bags, I would suggest the following: http://allsleepingbags.com/pro601969.html

http://moosineer.com/MooseMain.asp?Option=Detail&ID=River+%2B20%BA+Sleeping+Bag

http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/782985

As for mats, allow me to suggest: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/p/,89122_Alps-Mountaineering-Air-Pad-Pine-Ridge-Regular.html

http://www.campingsurvival.com/surechematsl.html

If you need more help or have more questions just ask away!

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