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New Backpacking Gear from A to Z! Help!

Help!  My wife and I are going to "get back into" backpacking/overnight camping.  I know, I know.  You get married, buy a house and then all of a sudden you realize, "what happened????"  Heres my dilemma.  I need a new "Gear List from A to Z!"  My backpack is a very old Mountainsmith pack, very heavy and dated.  My old stove is an MSR Whisperlight.  Yes, the old kind which only burns white gas and probably still works.  I've been in Campmor and REI along with EMS and of course the new technology with gear is insane.  Where do I begin?!  I guess I'm looking for a new list of all the things I really need to have, need to perhaps throw out and need to upgrade.  I'm willing to really make the investment.  I guess the guys in Campmor can help me out.  I just cant believe all the new technology that is out there.

So when that gear you mentioned was designed, was'nt it the tech of the day? So why do you want to spend more money to replce gear you already have? It still works does'nt it? My old Whisperlight still functions properly, and I have gone to using regular gas in it not just white gas, but white gas is still available.

So my advice to to keep what you have and not upgrade even if you have the money to invest. Your a family guy now, why waste your hard earned dollars on new gear, when the old stuff works fine?

SkiBum- you have gear that you own and you want to replace it and it still functions? You listed a mountainsmith pack. Is it torn or falling apart? The reason Gary is asking what he is. Is because you have perfectly good equiptment for you and your wife to backpack with. Lets just say that old pack as you call it alot of people are bying old gear because it functions better at times than the newer gear. I'll ask you a couple of questions to start out and everyone can jump in. What kind of cooking kit do you have minus the stove you mentioned? What do you have to carry water in to drink? Are you looking for a Spork or a utensil set? What kind of sleeping bag do you have? The list could go on and on. Best way to help you is tell us what you have as far as gear presently.

I still use my old Whisperlite. As long as it works well I'm going to keep it. I also have an old Jansport D-3 pack that I still use on occassion, although I do like my internal frame one better. I'd just make sure I had a good sleeping bag and pad, and use the old equipment for a while.

Welcome to Trailspace, skibum12!

Good for you and your wife for getting back out there. I know it can seem daunting to get started, but I agree with much of what's already been said above: use what you've already got for now, as long as it's safe and usable.

Maybe you'll want to change or upgrade it down the road, but if it works and will get you out there and back, use what you've got.

Even if you can afford the new gear and are willing to spend some money, you don't yet know what you really want and need. So wait until you actually have some clear preferences or needs before doing that upgrading. You can and should ask around about gear (including here in the forums), but you really need to just get out there before you begin to know what your personal needs and preferences are. Everyone has a different style.

Is there anything you're missing that you need to actually go out there, like a tent or sleeping bag?

Do you have the 10 Essentials?

Skibum to help you we need answer to thr four w's: why, when, where and winter.

Why: are you planning to take short trips to a park, a summit, aso, or take a long tour over several days?

When: The conditions over the year vary greatly, summer trips are easier than spring and late automn.

Where: Sunny California and northern Alaska demands different equipment. Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Winter is extremely demanding as a hiking time. If the equipment is supposed to cover even this season, it means both a lot of money and a lot of weight. Some stuff (like bags) are not suitable all year, but other stuff might be (like tent, stove)

And like Alicia said: start small and get experience as you go. Very sound advice! It is not only a question of the right gear. People have died with all the right gear in their packs unused as they did not know how to use it.

Thanks everyone.  Very helpful. I'm re evaluating, keeping most of what I have.  Seems like after I posted and reviewed these and then did some inventory, the only thing I am going to get is a new bag.  I really appreciate all your feedback.  Excellent site!  Happy New Year!

The only thing when your looking at bags get something at a 20 degree range. That way you and your nice wife can use it in four seasons. But glad you thought about it. I layed out my equiptment for a trekk I am taking this spring and they told me use things with multi purpose. But a good bag for both of you goes a long way. Happy Holidays!If you have questions about any bag just caome back and please do come back and get involved with the forum. Post your trip reports and chime in about skiing .

Probably a good thing you reevaluated and decided the only thing you need is a bag. You don't want to spend a bunch of money only to find out that you're not going to use it because you hated the experience.

But here's some advice for how to proceed. You have the gear you need, so use it. When you get out there and actually start using it, you'll start figuring out quickly where you want upgrades. Also, don't think of the "whole" gear list. Start doing that and you will end up in trouble because you'll get overwhelmed. Just look at one piece of equipment at a time. Do some research. Go to some of the outdoor sites and look at reviews. Check some of the backpacking forums and look at reviews. Check out different products.

It's actually quite simple and it ends up being quite fun looking around at all the gear you can get.

But be careful about the reviews on some of the outdoor store Web sites. A lot of these people get some of the equipment for other reasons. For example, I read a bunch of reviews about some gloves I was looking at for Christmas and people were talking about how they were great starting the car on a cold morning or going out jogging.

Not really what I'm using them for.

Being in the same situation myself (recently getting back into backpacking after sevaral years away) I can say Yes its very overwhelming! But like everone is saying, try not to over think every piece of equipment. Use what old gear you have to save some money for now. After all life still goes on and you still may not be able to get out as much as you like, or the old body just might hav the heart but not the knees for it! Definitly do some day hiking with lighter setups to condition and try out the old knees. I found the first few day hikes really worked hard on this older body, but after awhile Im whipin right into shape and think Im ready for more. So definitly use what ya got untill u know you "can" and "will" use it before spending a fortune on new stuff, then upgrade or add one piece at a time.     HAPPY TRAILS TO YA 

Welcome to Trailspace Skibum!

Please join in here often, we'd love to hear your progress and developments. The trip reports are always popular.

Everyone above has given good advice, but I do have a few other thoughts as well.

From what I have seen first hand, comfort is much higher on the list for most wives/significant-others than the testosterone half. Now, that is just what I have noticed to be true with virtually all of the many couples that I know. (No offense intended at all, Alicia, there are many amazing outdoors women like you, but many of us aren't married to them)

So definitely, use all that older gear as long as it gets the job done well and safely. I would however be sure that you have the gear to keep your wife warm, comfortable, and enjoying every moment of your trips. In My experience, the items that will most affect this are:

> Backpack- Fitted and designed for a woman's anatomy. Take her out and go try on a bunch of them, loaded up with full weight of course.

> Reliable Sleeping Pad/Matt-  Providing increased comfort, and very importantly, protective warmth form the cold ground. Exped, BIg Agnes, or Thermarest Prolite Plus inflatables all do the trick very well. Double up on Closed Cell Foam pads if you go that route.

> Warm and comfy Sleeping Bag- Ones that can zip together are great for couples. A "Warm" bag is of course is relative to the temp you will be camping in.

> Warm Clothing- Good synthetics, wool, down, and protective outerwear are key to keeping happy in cold and wet weather.

> Warm Cooked Meals- Until your girl wants to hit the trail for a couple days with nothing but meal bars, warm tasty meals with some hot tea are important. Sitting on a cold log, knawing on a frozen meal bar and some trail gorp doesn't usually make for a pleasant memory that you will share.

 > Roomy Tent. Some 2-person tents are roomy and comfortable enough for two when socked in for hours of rain or snow. Many will leave you, and her, feeling a tad cramped and cabin crazy. If you can't find a 2P that is comfortable enough, bite the bullet and carry that heavier 3 person.

> Comfortable Boots. Keep her feet happy. Take the time to really get boots that fit her well, are warm and reliable, and are well made.

Good luck!

..From what I have seen first hand, comfort is much higher on the list for most wives/significant-others than the testosterone half...

..> Warm Clothing- Good synthetics, wool, down, and protective outerwear are key to keeping happy in cold and wet weather...

 Adding to this piece of Caleb's advice:

Resist the urge to give into her demands to choose gear that looks stylish, if that criterion is obtained at the expense of function.  I’ve had GFs who chose boots based on style rather than function, and my wife regretted turning down advice to get a down jacket, because it made her look “fat.”  Also, you may have to carry all of the community gear (more than your share of the load), as my personal experience indicates only one out ten women I have introduced to hiking and camping were capable of  hauling more than just their personal kit for more than two or three miles.  (Sorry if this seems a chauvinist opinion, but our culture does little to encourage most women to do more than some casual jogging and stretching to stay in shape.  Those women who can haul their share know full well how hard they push themselves to accomplish this; certainly more than what a treadmill and pilates can accomplish.)

As for warm tasty food, that is a must on my list for all except the most gonzo hard core of trips.  Nothing like good grub and a warm bag to make yourself feel at home in the out of doors.


The problem with a question like this is that much of what you need depends on where you will be going and when. There are hundreds of choices for tents, bags, jackets, etc., all of which will be suitable for someone under certain circumstances.

The best thing you could do, in my opinion, is look at generic gear lists for the season and climate you will be in, then look online at different sites like REI that carry a variety of gear. Read gear reviews and then start narrowing down your choices.

Reading something like the latest version of The Complete Walker will show you how to think about gear choices as part of a system, not individual pieces bought at random because of price or a certain feature.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't need the latest and greatest gear to have a good time. I've got a couple of stoves that are at least 25 years old. They work just fine. My bag is about 25 years old, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. New doesn't mean better, it might, but not necessarily true.

This brings up a point. Was just skimming over your posts before and saw you were saying you had this gear and that gear.

What does your wife have?

You don't plan on carrying everything for her do you?

Hey guys.  Thank you all again for all of these posts.  Very helpful.  Rocklion you hit the nail on the head.  My wife is getting a new backpack probably this weekend.  She has a sleeping bag (Cats Meow) and then uses all the other "stuff" we have.  I think I'm getting there.  As I mentioned my only concern now is the bag for myself.  I have a very old Kelty bag which is too large for me (I bought it back in the early 90's) and its not very warm.  My tent, I actually have 2.  I've primarily used a Sierra Designs, dont even know what model it is.  I know its considered a "3 season" tent but I wouldnt venture into Vermont with this for winter camping.  I also have a very old REI tent which is fine in the summer but for cold weather forget it.  I'm seriously considering buying a new 4 season tent like perhaps the NF Mountain 25.  My Whisperlite I actually filled up last night, primed it and it fired up just like old times!  Amazing.  My wife thinks I'm going through a mid life crisis so I told her if she'd like to go out and buy me the new Mini Cooper Convertible with all wheel drive I'd be more than happy to take her up on that instead of all of this camping gear.  I think I heard cricketts in the background.

Anyway, we have a new REI store down the road from us, going to hit that.  Have a couple of smaller "micro brew" type camping stores not too far as well.  I live in NJ so Campmor is about 30 minutes from where we live.  They seem to have a huge selection and their prices are very good.  A lot of the employees there are pretty neat to talk to as well.  "Oh yeah I just got back from hiking in Tibet" you'll hear a lot in there.  Crazy stuff.

I think once I simply lay everything out in my basement this weekend, make a checklist, get a new bag and perhaps check out the tents out there I'll be good.

Last question, tents.  I'm reading all about Nemo, Big Agnes, NF, MH, etc, all the latest the greatest technology.  I see us making 1 overnight winter hike/camp a few times in the winter.  I have a home in VT which can be sketchy of course up there.  The rest will be Spring, Summer, Fall camping everywhere.  Campmor I know is a huge fan of Eureka.  The guys were raving about Big Agnes but they dont carry Nemo (I dont think).  REI of course has quality affordable tents as well.  Again I cant thank you all enough for your help.  I've printed out these responses and its been really valuable to me.  Thank you.

Hmmm... Yeah, see that's why it's good to take one piece at a time instead of trying to say what do I need from A to Z. Let's take the tent. If you have a 3-season right now then it should be fine. At least that's what everyone has told me here. :-) I'm doing my first winter backpack in two weeks, but I was thinking of getting a four-season tent myself and basically was told 3-season is good unless you plan on getting trapped in a humongous snowstorm. 

But the real northern winter campers on here can give you more advice on that.

Since you are talking about winter camping, you might want to peruse some of the older posts we have on here about it, just a few weeks old. There was a lot of convo about that.

SkiBum12- you have Ramsey's Outdoors also there. And do check out those smaller place's alot of the sales clerks are outdoor backpackers. I know that area in New Jersey. I was all over it this summer, Check online here to see what type of bag insulation you want as well. Thats great that your narrowing down what you need to upgrade. In the Spring You have Jenny Jump state park in Washington County and its 4050 acre's. Nice area to backpack. A nice four season reasonable tent shouldn't cost you the house. Also REI the store manager gets a commision for sale's dont let anyone push you into a high dollar item if you think its too much. But a god Down bag for about 20's should do you well. Come back and hit us up with some pictures. I just had friends get back from the Himalaya's this summer.

Nah, skip the Mini Convertable. The thrill of driving a sessy new sportscar wears off pretty quickly, whereas getting out in the wild never gets old. At least that's my opinion :)

For sleeping bag, if you are trying to keep your budget down, and are looking at synthetics, hands down the bigest bang for your buck I have found is the Ledge Featherlite 0F. You can find it for under $50 online. For the quality, that is an amazing price. It is about 4lbs, and compresses down to about 9"x9"x9" or smaller. Of course if you want something with a bigger name, you'll need to shell out a lot more green. Alps Slickrock with Primaloft fill are great, and under $200.  Kelty have a pretty loyal following, though I've never owned any. If you go all out for good down, Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, and Valandre all make some of the best bags available. Just be prepared to throw down some serious cash for them ($500-$1000).


If you look at the reviews here on the Ledge Featherlite you will find a negitive review by me. BUT I sold it and Gary Palmer is very happy with it! It was just a bad fit for me. I then got a Kelty Cosmic  D +20 for under $60. It is a duck down bag that fits me great. Make sure the bag you buy fits you.

I wouldn't buy a winter tent unless you intend to go winter camping more than once in a while. Good ones are expensive and heavy or really expensive and light, but still not as light as a 3 season tent or tarp set up.

A Mountain 25 is a very good tent, just not one for more than winter camping.

There is a relatively new book out that is an excellent companion to Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills.

The Mountaineering Handbook, Craig Connally  ISBN 0-07-143010-5

The author reassesses some of the 'old style' beliefs, technique and equipment needs and gives some well considered alternatives or suggested changes to make being out there more fun.

Although it is oriented toward being well prepared for most of the things we would dream of doing - but never will get there - it is chocked full of information.  You will easily save the cost of the book (and the time reading it) on gear choices, food and getting fit to keep on moving.




Skibum...make use of what you have!! I cannot tell you how bizarre it is to have gone all the way to the fanatic fringe of the latest UL movement, only to find that wool and leather suits me and my hiking style best. Old Mountainsmith packs are going the way of Dana Designs packs...

Help!  My wife and I are going to "get back into" backpacking/overnight camping.  I know, I know.  You get married, buy a house and then all of a sudden you realize, "what happened????"  Heres my dilemma.  I need a new "Gear List from A to Z!"  My backpack is a very old Mountainsmith pack, very heavy and dated.  My old stove is an MSR Whisperlight.  Yes, the old kind which only burns white gas and probably still works.  I've been in Campmor and REI along with EMS and of course the new technology with gear is insane.  Where do I begin?!  I guess I'm looking for a new list of all the things I really need to have, need to perhaps throw out and need to upgrade.  I'm willing to really make the investment.  I guess the guys in Campmor can help me out.  I just cant believe all the new technology that is out there.

FYI:  I still use a Whisperlite stove if I am going to be doing more than boiling water and reconstituting foods.  I carry a 40-year-old external-frame pack by choice because it's cool and comfortable.  I wear wool and sleep in down by choice.  I do carry protection from wind, water, and bugs that allow me to see what's around me and to sleep out under the stars as much as possible.  It's taken a while to select my preferred choices.

I've tried many ultralight items - clothes, boots, packs, tents, bags, stoves, etc.  You name it, I have probably been able to try it, or know someone who has.  Most of them worked for me, but maybe not as comfortably as slightly heavier, more rugged items.  Occasionally, I just did not feel the ultralight weight stuff would last for me.  "For me."  That's the issue. 

What will work for you and your wife?  What are your goals?  Are you contemplating extended trips?  Trail-walking to established campsites?  Off-trail?  Into real wilderness?  On snow & ice?  Winter trips?  How much weight will you need to carry?

As others have written and as an oldtimer, I would advise you to move slowly investing in new expensive items when you have functioning gear. I've been hiking, camping, backpacking, river-running, and climbing for 60 years.  I quit corporate life, and got involved in gear manufacturing, wholesaling, and retailing so I could get gear inexpensively, if not free.  I became a guide and equipment tester so that companies would give me stuff to use -- and so I could be outside whenever possible.

If you really "need" a gear list, there are a number of them available online.  I found some by searching backpacking light and ultralight.  Never too old to learn, right?  So I read through "18-pound for Three Days" and "27 Pounds for a Week" lists or somesuch.  Tried to follow them, but last minutes additions blew the weight budget!  ;o)

Im in the same boat as you SKI BUM 12. Haven't been hiking in 12 years. Now I have the bug "Big Time"! The first thing im going to replace, with out a second thought, is all my emergency safety gear and my water filter. Plastic of course has a tendency to age poorly and become brittle. The second upgrade is the "O" rings and seals on my old Coleman Peak1 Apex stove. After 12 years "it still works!". Although I have a new tent on my wish list, my 15 year old Eureka! Glacier Bay tent is in beautiful shape. I regretfully got rid of my Camp Trails Omega Outfitter pack, so that's on the list. My 14 year old Therma-Rest still holds air and keeps me off the snow. Other than that, layers of head to toe apparel are all I really NEED. I take that back....I have two boys, 11 & 14, who have no gear, so I estimate an expense (investment) somewhere between $1,000.00 and $1,000,000.00. :D

I have had my whisperlight international for  about 15 years and it works like I bought it yesterday... keep in mind that what you buy today you will  want to  keep for as long as possible so whatever you buy, get the best you can afford. buy as lightweight as possible and as simple as possible. this will keep you happy for years to come.

Some good ideas here that I too intend to take as I revisit the idea of getting back out there post-nuptuals.

August 7, 2020
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