Your First 'Big Three'...

2:04 p.m. on June 22, 2016 (EDT)
2,695 reviewer rep
1,483 forum posts

I was a Tenderfoot Boy Scout, and I needed to get outfitted. Dirt poor, I gladly accepted a hand-me-down, 5lb synthetic sleeping bag from my Aunt. No name, but half-mummy style, with a full taper and that flat, half-moon hood you could gather up with a drawstring. On the plus side it kept you freezing cold at 45 degrees and packed down to the size of a large watermelon.

I saved my allowance for 4 months to purchase a new, Wenzel Starlight, which I promptly made unliveable by fogging with maybe 13 cans of Camp-dry. (I tested it in the backyard one night during a light rain and got soaked, so something had to be done...)

For my birthday that year I unwrapped a Coleman Peak 1 external frame pack that my folks must've found at a garage sale. I spent the next few days wiping out dead spiders and seeing how much crap I could fit into it. I remember walking around the neighborhood with it, you know, just to be able to tote around a bunch of sharpened sticks, homemade bows and arrows, and driveway-rock hatchets I had lashed together. 

What were your first 'Big Three'?

2:35 p.m. on June 22, 2016 (EDT)
6,916 reviewer rep
2,273 forum posts

the sleeping bag was synthetic fill and had a fabric interior/exterior, olive green outside with some weird pattern inside.  cannot recall the brand, but it was very inexpensive.  tragic when it got wet, hard to dry.  long gone.

the backpack was an Eastern Mountain Sports external frame pack with a crude adjustable torso length - if you wanted the shoulder straps to attach higher, you removed two aluminum posts and moved some plastic cylinders around to change the point of attachment.  the hip belt buckle was not well-padded and had a metal clip.  it was one my siblings and I all shared and used growing up.  when i started guiding hikes in the Adirondacks for teens in the summer, it became a popular loaner pack.  (one of the side pockets was a favorite hiding place for my brother's, um, baggies of illicit leafy stuff).  Disappeared along with a trumpet and an accordian during one of my parents' moves. 

most of the camping in my youth was in a very heavy canvas Coleman tent that leaked a bit and smelled rather musty, but it was roomy for four people.  my first true backpacking tent was a green Eureka Timberline 2, and A-frame tent.  After the canvas beast, this was a revelation; bug netting without holes, actually kept the rain out, easy (eventually) to put up, even in the dark or bad weather, very lightweight.  lasted almost twenty years, taken down by wholesale delamination - it just got old. 

3:06 p.m. on June 22, 2016 (EDT)
82 reviewer rep
476 forum posts

My first ever sleeping bag was a mil-surp down and feathers mummy which was quite warm, but a bit heavy.  In 1962, as i was bidding a fond farewell to military service, I ordered a Gerry down bag and a Kelty external frame pack.   Both served me capably for many .years and would still be in service if they had not been stolen.

8:05 a.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
3,173 reviewer rep
2,261 forum posts

well I didn't get real gear until later in life (if we count the "woods behind the trailer" trips as a kid, no way I can remember what we used, sometimes there was big three or less or zero :)) we mostly slept in debris forts back then (and we also had plenty of throwing stars, knives, and homemade weapons)

As an adult, a friend introduced me to backpacking and we literally stopped on the way to buy me a pack for the first trip. I did no research, nor did I have any idea what the phrase "big three" meant in this context. My passion for the sport humorously predated even a shred of knowledge about how to go about it. I just knew I wanted to go.

My friend had learned from an old scout master when he was a teenager and all he knew about was gear from the 70ies and 80ies. So he guided me to a Kelty Trekker 3900 external frame. I still have it and occasionally use it; it's a tank.

My first sleeping equipment was actually a fleece bag liner, a kids blanket, and a small sheet. But that quickly proved inadequate and after struggling a couple times with an 8 pound Coleman bag, I eventually purchased a La Fuma ultralight down bag rated to 20F. That was one mis-rated bag as I was miserable using that bag even in the 30ies.

The first tent I used was borrowed from that same friend and it was no-name kids tent from his youth, and I could barely stretch out in it. Again, after a few trips I realized I had to get something better, and yet again, with no research, but rather an impatient desire to upgrade with whatever the store had on hand, I bought a North Face Solo 12. It's a single wall coffin and perhaps the poorest choice imaginable for the humid south eastern US. No matter the time of year or temperature, you woke up to dripping walls and ceiling and total saturation.




10:51 a.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,384 forum posts

I was also a boy scout. My first sleeping bag was a cotton rectangular bag with logo's of boy scout symbols against a red interior and forest green outside. I used it to hitchhike 10,000 miles around the USA in 1977 when I was 21.

My first tent was a TG&Y department store I pole tent, bright orange in color, which also was on the road with me that fateful summer of '77. 

I didn't get a camp stove will my first winter in Alaska in 1977-78. I cooked on campfires all summer!

I replaced my boy scout bag with a North Face Cat's Meow sleeping bag, my tent with a Eureka Timberline 2 tent and bought a Camping Gaz canister stove, all of which I bought in Anchorage Alaska.

My first pack was also from TG&Y and was a external frame pack, also bright orange in color. I replaced it with a North Face pack, model I can't remember at the moment.

Since then I have had many tents,sleeping bags, packs and stoves.

Next June will be my 40th anniversary of camping and backpacking, though now the last ten years I have gone more to bicycle touring and day hiking or just overnight hikes.

11:52 a.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
6,827 reviewer rep
1,682 forum posts

On my first trip it was a home-sewn bag on a 3rd hand kids-size pack frame (my dad was amazing at making things, a sleepover rectangular bag from K-mart and a triangular pup tent from Big 5. 

This is the first kit I actually purchased myself:

In 1991 it was an REI external frame pack which may still be around in the gear cave.

A silver Wenzel Hollowfill II mummy bag which my kids still use today.  Heavy and bulky.

Some off-brand simple two pole dome tent.  No idea where it ended up.  Landfill?

9:33 p.m. on June 23, 2016 (EDT)
3,827 reviewer rep
1,444 forum posts

Attempting this with a poor memory...First trip in 1981 with:

 Blue Ridge Mountain Sports external frame backpack. At least I think it was plastic frame, I can close my eyes and see their logo so I think that is what I had until 1983 when I switched over to a Jansport...D3 I think.

Sleeping bag was a wonderfully heavy rectangle with rainbow striped cotton interior. Synthetic. Large,heavy, and not good insulation. Replaced soon after a couple of cold weather trips with a light down bag but can't remember either brand.

First tent was an unnamed A frame my dad had brought over from the UK. Terrible tent. Replaced with a Walrus single walled solo sauna, I mean tent, second hand.

12:01 a.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,976 forum posts

At age 10 I used Dad's stuff,  Trapper Nelson packboard, kapok sleeping bag. We bought a tube tent for $3.

After high school in 1968 I joined REI and bought an aluminum external frame pack, duck down bag, and an A frame mountaineering tent all with their logo. I still have the sleeping bag.

1:50 a.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
1,747 reviewer rep
743 forum posts

I'm like Pat...I didn't get real camping gear until after college...before then my friends and I were a future news story waiting to happen. Those early experiences are probably why I do not worry about too many things when I go out now.

My first pack was my a kick*ss black JanSport I used for school...I wore it slung low cause that was cool and stuff. I wish I still had that had an awesome jolly-roger patch that I loved!

My first tent was an old Coleman dome tent that somebody gave me out of pity or humor (I don't know which). The tent leaked leaked even when it wasn't was like my sweaty friend in school who was always damp. I used it for white-water trips for several was horrible...but I spent all my money on a raft + a sweet helmet + an okay paddle + and a good PFD (still use the PFD) so it was all I had.

For my first overnight trips "backpacking" (i.e. walking into the woods far enough to be sure no adults were going to be around) I typically brought myself and a rain jacket...the thought of bringing a tent never occurred to me...or anyone else...because the trip was about being away from parents and passing out in the grass...not camping. After a couple of rainy trips I did invest about $10 in a piece of plastic and some cheap cord I got from Walmart in the paint section...I thought I was super clever using it under me as well as above me...and my shelter was coveted by all in the group! Until someone brought a tent and blew our minds!

My first sleeping bag was not barely counted as a blanket. By some remarkable coincidence it was made of fleece...I ripped off the broken zipper so it looked like the tattered cloth that French peasants wear in films set right before the French Revolution...only filthier and more tattered than that. The first time I used it I was almost warm...which was a 10 fold improvement over the usual nearly freezing to death I was used to.

9:14 a.m. on June 24, 2016 (EDT)
609 reviewer rep
28 forum posts

Well the entire story can be found here on my website :

But in the end ... I had a $250 dollar budget to literally buy EVERYTHING i would need for a 106 mile solo trip. My first trip ever. Being pushed for time, because i acted upon excitement, i had literally NO time to do any research. I went to wal-mart. Blah. I had picked up a 20 degree cotton/synthetic roll up coleman sleeping bag. That thing must have been close to 7 pounds at least and was no smaller than a large cooler i dont think. My backpack i bought super cheap off ebay. Internal frame "high sierra"... i put that in quotes because it was definitely a chinese off brand. It must have been 10 pounds on its own... at least. And my tent i found this "headquarters" it was called. An "ultra light" tent that had no poles. I had to use my trekking poles, which normally would in fact probably be ultra light. This was basically a one piece ventilated tarp and was at least 5+ pounds itself. To say the least... it was a long trip after...inwhich i found my pack to be more than 70lbs at the end :/ . I have learned alot since. I can get my summer set up under 16lbs not including food and water now. 

7:58 p.m. on June 26, 2016 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
682 forum posts

Tube tent, cheapo Dacron II bag from a local discount store, and a simply external frame pack I inherited.  And with that, I had some great adventures fifty years ago.

8:31 p.m. on July 30, 2016 (EDT)
7 reviewer rep
157 forum posts

Tube tent, cotton duck sleeping bag my uncle gave me, and a canvas boy scout external frame pack.  Probably 15lbs altogether, damn that sleeping bag was bulky and heavy and not warm.  

1:25 p.m. on September 20, 2016 (EDT)
148 reviewer rep
118 forum posts

Used Jansport external frame( I can't remember the model)

Coleman rectangular bag from Kmart. It kept me warm but rolled up to roughly the size of a Volkswagen.

Cheap A-frame tent that kept rain out as long as nothing touched the sides. It would usually stand up all night but would always be sagging by morning. 

2:34 p.m. on September 20, 2016 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
14 forum posts

My first tent was my grandfather's canvas military pup tent. Just a tarp with guy lines and 2 poles.  To me it was the tajmahal. 

A Coleman fleece lined roll up with a stuff bag and boy was it freaking hot! 

I never had a pack so to speak until the Marine Corps issues me a external frame pack.  Then my ruck.  Which is in my closet bug out ready

November 20, 2019
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: On trail replenishment Newer: Elevation preparation
All forums: Older: Should Backpacking Carts be allowed in Wilderness | Thoughts? Newer: Ozark Trail single rubber mattress