Amateur Backpacker

3:52 p.m. on May 2, 2006 (EDT)
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Hi everyone. Just wanted to introduce myself. Although I am new to backpacking, I have been hiking, camping, fishing, and bow hunting most of my life. Last year, my wife and I did an overnight backpacking trip, and I instantly loved it (way to heavy pack and all). Since then, I have been busy researching and buying lighter gear. Most of our trips will be in the Mid-Atlantic States, mostly in National Forest backcountry and wilderness areas, just myself, my wife, and our golden retriever. We plan on practicing LNT, 3 season, and most of our trips will be 1 or 2 nighters. So far, I have purchased the following gear:

Eureka Tetragon 7 (3person/3season)tent w/floor saver, Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pads w/stuff sacks, Slumberjack Talon +40 Sleeping bags (for colder weather, we have heavier mummy bags by Coleman), Snowpeak Gigapower Stove, Katadyn Hiker Microfilter, Granite Gear Dry Sacks, Montrail Torre GTX boots, Bridgedale Light Hiker Socks.

I have an older Kelty External frame pack that my wife bought for me at a yard sale 5 years ago. Not sure what the model is, but it seems large enough, with 2 large compartments and several smaller pockets on each side. A new pack will be my next major purchase. Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

My pack weight without food,water,extra clothing (including the 10 essentials, 1/2 the tent weight, most of the heavier gear) is around 21.5lb. My wifes pack weight is about 14.5lb. Does this seem about right?

Anyhow, just wanted to introduce myself. Any ideas that you can give a backpacking newbie would be great. Thanks

6:59 p.m. on May 2, 2006 (EDT)
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I'm guessing that the difference between your & your wife's base weights is mostly tent. The tent you're carrying is over 6.5 pounds.

I'd consider a lighter shelter instead of (or in addition to) a new pack. For example, a Tarptent Rainshadow 2 w/sewn-in extended floor, groundsheet and two trekking poles would be under $300 and weigh about half what your current tent weighs. The size of the Rainshadow 2 is similar to the Tetragon 7. I don't have any affiliation with Tarptent--I don't even own a Tarptent--but I have recently become aware of their product line and it looks like nice stuff...

If your determined to buy a new pack, try on every pack you can get your hands on. Don't give up on external frame just because internal frames are the popular thing right now. I have had both, and both have their pros & cons. I just ordered a Luxury Lite factory 'used' external frame pack after having nothing but internal frame for well over a decade. Frankly, the sweaty back associated with the internal frame bothers me more and more every time I wear it. OTOH, when I first got an internal frame pack I thought I was in heaven. Go figure.

At 20 pounds for yourself, I'd imagine you're also a pretty happy hiker with the gear you've got. Most likely, you got a lower body mass:pack weight ratio than your wife.

Your stove & sleeping bags are plently lightweight. You might save a few ounces with a homemade alcohol stove, but you'd be giving up a lot of functionality. You could also probably find a lighter or same-weight-but-more-comfortable sleeping pads, but again the bang:buck ratio might not justify the expense.

Within reason, you can always re-evaluate your standard gear list. Some folks don't carry a first aid kit that's much more than three band-aids and 4 ibuprofens. I've heard it said about first aid that you either need a band-aid or a helicopter. I carry a fairly extensive first aid kit, but some folks save weight by carrying minimal first aid supplies.

10:28 a.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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Terrible Tom,

Thanks for all the good advice. My wife and I both have about the same pack weight/body weight ratio. I am carrying 11% of my body weight, and my wife 10% of her's. I am 6'1" and weigh 190lb, and am in decent shape (hope to get this down into the low 180's soon), so I could stand to carry more. I will probably pack most of the food and water. Plus, since I spent 7 years active duty in the US Army, I am used to carrying alot of weight, although it's not much fun. No such thing as light weight packing in the military!

As for the tent, for now the Eureka Tetragon 7 seems to be a good fit for us. It's on the larger side, so we have enough room for us, our gear, and our golden retriever. The golden retriever will also be carrying his own food and water in a dog pack (he has the newest pack of all of us :) ) This tent seemed to fit our budget the best for what we are planning on doing with it (got it for $70).

I plan on using my existing Kelty pack this season. Once I get my gear more refined, I will purchase a new pack if I think that I need it. Newer is not always better. Thanks for the advice. When/if I do buy a new pack, I will be sure to try out many different brands and styles.

Anyone with more good advice out there, I am all ears. This is a great forum.

12:56 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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Just a couple comments -

As Tom said, I would stick with the Kelty for a few years more. My wife and I still use our Kelty externals a fair amount (a 1950s era Backpacker and Mountaineer, a Tioga, and a Sherpa), although we also have Dana Terraplanes for our expedition packs, plus a couple of GoLite packs, a Kelty Cloud (an internal, very light weight), and an Osprey Aether 60 for weekend to week-long backbacking. The Osprey has proven amazingly good for weekend climbing trips, although it is intended for weekend backpacking with a max of 40 pound load (rope, harness, and a rack of cams, nuts, and carabiners add up to 20-30 pounds by themselves). Plus a bunch of daypacks. Again, externals have the huge advantage of good ventilation, which really makes a difference on hot muggy days in the MidWest, East, or Southeast US. You can also carry heavier and awkwardly shaped loads a lot more comfortably, and it is easier to strap stuff on the outside if needed. The advantage of internals, aside from current fashion, is that they fit closer to the back and are narrower, hence better for climbing and scrambling off-trail, and they are warmer for those winter trips.

I would guess your Kelty is a Tioga. The Tioga and earlier models are a lot lighter for the capacity than the internals (Mountaineer and Backpacker were about 2 pounds, Tioga about 4, with the effective capacity of a 5000-6000 cu in internal, vs 5-8 pounds for an internal of that capacity).

Your other gear is also just fine for starters. You will eventually want to upgrade most of it, but don't start accumulating "the latest, greatest" gear until you have a few hundred miles under your belt (and on your back and feet) and more than 50 nights, including a few 4 or 5 day trips. Keep a log of all the gear you are taking, how much it weighs, and whether you really used it, plus a list of "ought to have had along" gear. An awful lot of gear looks great at first, but proves a waste of money and extra useless weight (plus occupying too much storage space at home). Like the combination "eating tool" (don't know what else to call it) I was given a few months back - combined spoon, fork, knife that, like virtually every combination "thing" does nothing well and everything poorly. Just get a lexan spoon from the grocery store picnic section and use your simple pocket knife (don't waste your money on the hunnert pound 50 tool swiss army knives of "multi-tools" - they cost too much, do nothing well, and weigh far too much).

One of the first upgrades is likely to be that Slumberjack sleeping bag. They are ok, but your +40 bag could be a better made, lower weight (1 pound for a +40 bag), longer lived bag (longer-lived meaning less costly in the long run). Coleman bags are also ok, but there are far better bags that are a lot lighter in weight for a given temperature range (Marmot, Integral Designs, Big Agnes, North Face among the synthetics, Feathered Friends, Integral Designs, Western Mountaineering are the top down bags). You can get a 15 deg synthetic bag at 3 pounds or less, and even my -40 bag (down) at 4 pounds.

The ThermaRest pads are as good as you can get for an inflatable light pad. When you start really cold weather camping you will want something thicker, or perhaps just add a closed cell pad under the Thermarest. Down and Primaloft - filled inflatables are quite a bit warmer as well.

Eureka tents are pretty good for the money, so you won't need an upgrade of that for a few years, probably until you start full 3-season camping (early spring and late fall, when it is a lot colder). Yeah, with Rover along, you want a 3-person tent.

You will soon find the Snowpeak stoves to be inadequate and expensive to run for anything more than a weekend overnight. Snowpeak's canisters are by far the most expensive per ounce of fuel, and their stoves are pretty low heat output, as you would expect for such a small light burner. Also, in cooler weather, you will find that butane has serious problems, namely losing pressure. Butane (the primary constituent in canister fuels) has a vaporization temperature at freezing. Since the fuel cools as the vapor evaporates, the problem starts showing up at air temperatures around 40F. There are ways around this (many discussions on this forum). One thing is to use the larger canisters from MSR, Primus, Markill, and others (they all use the industry-standard threaded connector, so you can use up to the 500 gram size with no problem). These still lose pressure as the fuel is burned off. But you may find you want to go to a liquid fuel stove. The MSR Simmerlite is a white gas stove that is easy to light and light weight, and will have no cold-weather problems (I have used one on backcountry ski trips and on Denali).

Your base pack weight is ok, though I would consider it a bit on the heavy side. The food, water, and extra clothing will add a lot to that, though (count on 2 pounds of food per person per day, and 2 ounces of fuel per person per day). You can keep the water weight down with your filter, though you may have to make a lot of stops to filter - study the terrain you are hiking through beforehand to figure out where the water stops will be. Be sure to keep well-hydrated (half-liter per hour is reasonable when hiking in MidWest weather, or maybe even more). General rule of thumb for pack weight is 15 percent of body weight for beginning backpackers, 25 percent for moderately experienced backpackers, 30 percent for hardcore supermacho types (except climbers - somehow for backcountry climbing we get up to more than 50 percent, over half of which is in the climbing gear, and more than body weight for expeditions). When you decide to go light-packing, you will get down to the 10-15 pound level for a weekend, including food, fuel, extra clothing, etc. But don't try that until you have several years of experience.

1:56 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill. My Kelty pack weighs just over 4lb. I will have to check and see if it has the model name listed somewhere on it when I get home tonight. My biggest concern with it is it's durability. I don't see any excessive wear or tearing anywhere on it, but I am not sure how long these packs normally last. Like I said, it was purchased used at a yard sale 5 years ago, and until last year, was hanging in my basement, never used. I would hate for it to give out somewhere up the trail on me. The material seems to be faded. It is a light colored (with almost a pinkish hue) red, like it has faded from being in the sun to long.

The gear we bought so far was based more on budget than "latest/greatest/lightest". I think that for local weekend trips during the late spring/summer/early fall, it should be ok. I do carry a swiss army knife, although it is a small version that I have been carrying for the past 20 years.

I haven't had the chance to test out the Slumberjack in the field yet. Doing a 3 day trout fishing trip this weekend on the South Branch of the Potomac in which I will be car camping. I plan on testing most of my new gear out then. That way, if that new Eureka tent that I bought leaks (I haven't sealed the seams yet!), I can always just jump into my car. And yes, rain is in the forecast, with the low Friday night being 39 degrees. Should be a good test for my gear. The coleman bags that we have are very warm (0 degrees I think), and we have been using them for years car camping. To heavy to be packing any great distance though.

I was divided between getting the Therm-a-Rest Trail lite and the Pro-lite 3. In the end, budget won out (trail lite was at least $20 cheaper). Remember, I am buying for 2 people.

It will be hard in the beginning going from car camping to backpacking. When car camping, we tend to take everything but the kitchen sink. I have been really analysing everything that I put into my pack, and asking myself if it is really necessary. Is there a way to take one item that can perform double duty? Those kind of questions. Keeping a log of each trip is a good idea. Planning and researching gear and trips is almost as much fun as the actual trip. That said, I can't wait to get out there!

Once again, thanks for the good tips. I look forward to more.

2:25 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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>Planning and researching gear and trips is almost as much fun as the actual trip.

The corollary is: the more planning and research you do, the more smoothly the trip goes. Sounds like you're off to a great start.

BTW, welcome to Trailspace!

4:22 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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WV says:
"The material seems to be faded. It is a light colored (with almost a pinkish hue) red, like it has faded from being in the sun to long."

Faded schmaded. Makes you look like an experienced backpacker.

Well, maybe it has been in the sun a lot. But if on close inspection and a little judicious poking and tugging it seems sturdy, you shouldn't have any problem. From the weight you give, I would guess it is one of the later versions, maybe from the 1990s. As for lasting, my Backpacker and Barb's Mountaineer are both 40+ years old, both bought from Dick Kelty himself when he was still selling them out of his garage in Glendale. After he sold the company (currently owned by K2), the Kelty-labelled packs gradually gained weight. Part of that is due to the much heavier padded waist straps, and part is due to all the stuff that got added to the pack bags. My Sherpa is about 6 pounds, but it is a very large frame and bag with lots of extras that was intended to carry huge loads. The originals were pretty simple, made in a number of sizes (4 or more, IIRC - Barb's is small, mine is large, and there were M and XL as well plus tall frame versions) with a limited range of adjustments, where the later ones were made in only a couple sizes with lots of adjustments (which meant lots of straps, buckles, etc).

4:42 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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Actually, Kelty is owned by American Recreation Products (which also owns Sierra Designs, Slumberjack, and Wenzel).

Do brands tend to lose focus and gain weight after being acquired? Say it ain't so!

7:34 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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OT, sort of, changing gear companies

Hmmm, I keep losing track of who owns whom, what with all the trades, spinoffs, and sales of companies these days. Like my old telephone company, which was AT&T, and is AT&T, except for transitions through Pacific Bell, Pacific Telesis, SBC, and who knows what else along the way. Oh, and for cellular - Cellular One and Cingular (which was SBC and BellSouth, which are in process of merging), except that I gave up on them due to lack of coverage in areas I travel to.

Then there was the old Berkeley Ski Hut (Trailwise), which gave rise to North Face, Sierra Designs, and a couple of others, with TNF somewhere along the line becoming part of VF and SD becoming part of TNF, spinning off, and getting moved a couple times to ???? I forget what parent company.

Anyway, Dave, you asked:
"Do brands tend to lose focus and gain weight after being acquired? Say it ain't so!"

I suspect it is so! They certainly seem to lose focus (examples including Eddie Bauer, REI, Gerry [who?], Holubar [who?], Dana [or Mr. Gleason's subsequent companies], and on and on), and the gear seems to frequently change character (with outdoor companies seemingly tending to become high fashion apparel houses).

Kelty is a case in point (to get back to the original subject). Their gear when Dick Kelty owned the company was very much centered on backpacking, mostly the packs and accessories for backpacking. At the last few ORShows, they seem to have expanded their line into less related areas. They still make good packs (they licensed Dana Gleason's Mystery Ranch pack suspension for a while, among other things). I suppose you could say their carry-on bags are sort of backpacking related, and their kid carrier (which appears to borrow heavily from Gerry Cunnigham's original design) is backpacking the kid. Still, branching into strollers, strollers for runners with kids, sleeping bags, and so on is starting to get a bit afield.

Some interesting history of modern gear development on http://www.oregonphotos.com/Backpacking-Revolution1.html although it doesn't have all the various mergers, splits, etc yet.

11:11 p.m. on May 3, 2006 (EDT)
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a.k.a. Pitt, pjpitt

Back in the 80's I had a medium sized pack. But I could tie a sleeping bag below it nad a small tent above it and by the time ai hade gear and some sock I was pretty heavy. I'd carry all that up from Humber Park (1000 ft to Taqhitz at 5000 feet and then have to bed out for the night. Now I am older and not such good cario so I take plenty of water, a "day pack" with oatmeal and some wet and eat type stuff, a fire starter, Vasque Breeze and good (really good socks), a sweater and light jacket, water purifier (First Need), camp stove. I try to avoid blisters, sore ankles, sore knees, or being exhausted. I know where there is water and can get some. I do not tend to go much more than 5 miles in a "leg" and often the PCT trail goes past a store or other place to get something. I take pictures, sit an pnder things, enjoy what I see, listen (even though my ears ring) and soak it all in (knowing it will end one day and I won't be able to do it any more). I don't hurry, I have no mileage goals, I don't beat any records, I may or may not be out very long (two - three days maybe). I travel new places and old places. I often go alone since others do not alway like to go along. If there is just me I do what I please. I go swimming. If I get killed (oh well) .. I will o ne day anyway. I have a K-Bar knife and sometimes a piece.

7:08 a.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: OT, sort of, changing gear companies

Bill, that's a great site. Thanks for posting the link.

I actually keep a spreadsheet of who owns whom, who's manufacturing which brands, etc. It's a little ridiculous (both the fact that I keep a spreadsheet and the frequency with which I have to update it). I don't even try to keep a record of past ownership.

9:36 a.m. on May 4, 2006 (EDT)
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I took a good look at my pack last night. Other than the fading, it seems to be in good condition. The tag reads "Kelty" with "Owner" in small print beneath it, size medium. It doesn't have any bells and whistles, just the normal adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. I am pleased with it. I don't know if it is the correct fit, but it seems to be comfortable enough. I am able to adjust it so that most of the weight is riding on my hips. Now, if I could just get past it having a slightly pinkish hue :)

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