Where Do I Even Begin?

1:21 p.m. on April 10, 2015 (EDT)
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I apologize for the length of this first post, I didn't realize just how much there is to all of this.

Long story short, I used to backpack but with my ex and since the split, he has all of the gear and I have none of it. So, I need to start all over and I have NO idea where to begin. Help?

The details: I want gear that I can use on multiple day hikes and also on mountain biking trips in the summer and snowshoeing trips in the winter. So, lightweight, portable, not too bulky but able to withstand all types of weather.

In case this has any impact on the decision, most of these hikes / trips will occur in Ontario, Canada with some in British Columbia when out on backcountry ski trips. So temperature range from mid 30C to - 30C!!

So, do I need a summer kit and a winter kit or can I buy gear that I can use year round? That's where I get confused. Is a 4-season tent really for four seasons or is it for winter only and too warm for the summer?

I can purchase the North Face Mountain 25, barely used, for $400 (potentially less if I can talk him down) so would that be OK or is it too much tent for the summer? It also weighs about 8lbs!!

And what about sleeping bags? Again, temp range is huge so do I need multiple bags or is one adequate for all seasons?

I've narrowed down my backpack choice to the F-stop Gear Satori EXP (sorry, unable to provide link.) I decided on this one simply because I'm a photographer venturing away from my bread and butter market and moving in a different direction and this seems like a good bag to carry my camera, and other gear.

I'm open to any suggestions of brands, I'm not really a brand snob, I just want gear that works and that has been used by others so I'm getting honest feedback and not marketing materials!

Budget wise, well, we all want cheap but sometimes that's not possible so if you could perhaps give two choices - one for limitless budget and one for best value that would be greatly appreciated!!

Thank you all for your time,

:: Serena

6:58 p.m. on April 10, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi Serena,

Welcome to Trailspace!

As much as I would love to help you, there are other members here on Trailspace who have much more experience with what you are asking.

Sometimes it takes a day or two, but I'm sure you will get some helpful replies.

7:26 p.m. on April 10, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi Serena,

I think the best place to begin is by organizing your thoughts, and deciding on what it is exactly that you want to do. That way you are better able to pick the right tools for the job.

The more honest you can be about your personal limitations, and the nature of your adventures, the easier it will be to get suited up with the proper gear. A lot of people have an idea of what they would like to be, but are not realistic... this can end up in spending a lot of money on gear that is not appropriate for the task at hand, and ultimately ruins your experience. You dont need expensive, heavy duty expedition gear for conditions that dont warrant it, though some people ultimately end up buying that because it can "look the part".

I can try to answer some of your questions. I grew up in Ottawa, so I am very familiar with Ontario weather.

First off, consider weight. I don't know how much you are used to carrying, but just two of the items you mentioned so far pose big red flags for me.

#1 that tent is ridiculously heavy and entirely unnecessary unless you are going on some serious expeditions, and even then there are lighter weight options.

#2 that backpack isnt for backpacking, it is for traveling or short day hikes with MANY lenses. How much camera gear are you going to take? At most I take my DSLR with a 17-40mm lens and a 70-200mm if I think I will encounter worthwhile wildlife. I just pack them in a dry bag inside my backpack between some insulated clothing for protection and they are fine.

As for sleeping bag, you will need at least two, maybe three if you plan on being out all year. Logic dictates that a 60 degree Celsius temperature range would require different sleeping arrangements. You arent going to put on a huge down parka to warm up on a cool summer evening, just as you aren't going to rely on warmth from a flimsy windbreaker when its -30 out.

Forget about winter gear for now, since we are heading into spring and summer, focus on getting gear for right now. I would look at a sleeping bag with a min/max comfort range of 0-5. This should get you through most of the spring, summer and fall.

You need to sort out a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a tent. Those are your three main heavy items. After that, add a cooking system, and some insulating clothing, and rain gear, as well as safety essentials. Once you have those, and the camera gear you want to carry with you. Then you can go look for the right pack which will fit it all in.

If you are in Ontario.... you can go to any MEC store and probably find most of what you need at a reasonable price. If you are in or around Ottawa, you can also check out SAIL. If you have friends in the US... go visit them and buy everything there because their prices are far superior!

You will also get better help by asking more specific questions as it is difficult to discuss everything one needs in one go!

9:46 p.m. on April 10, 2015 (EDT)
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@Mike, thank you for the welcome!  :)

@TJ1984, great info. You're absolutely right that at the moment I'm pretty scatterbrain and heading in every direction all at once. I am in Ottawa so I do have numerous stores that can sell me what I need but I think I fell in "the online review" trap. So I do a search on "best lightweight 3-season tent" and compare those to what I can find locally and since they don't match I immediately assume the local stuff is inadequate. Terrible, I know.

I agree with you about the TNF tent. It just so happen that someone was selling it so I figured I'd mention it in case it was good. The 8lbs really bothered me tho, haha.

Perhaps my best option is to go to MEC or SAIL and talk to someone there. I just feel pressured in a store when I'm looking for items that I've used numerous times but don't really know much about as I never took the time to learn, I just took it for granted that it was there.

Your comment was very helpful, I do need to organize my thoughts so thank you for your candor!

10:12 p.m. on April 10, 2015 (EDT)
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TJ has some great suggestions, so I'll try to add a few. Ok. First off all don't buy anything now, including the pack. You don't know enough to know what you need and buying gear at random will be a waste of money. Start by reading books on backpacking and hiking. The Complete Walker is a good place to start. There are many others. If your local library doesn't have any, Amazon has plenty of choices. Lightweight backpacking is a growing trend. There are books and websites dedicated to lightweight and ultra lightweight hiking. You can find gear lists on many websites. They will differ wildly as to particular items, but you will see similar ideas regarding tents, bags and cooking gear along with how to dress for different weather and skills to learn, such as navigation and basic first aid.

Don't buy a MTN 25. It is a great tent but it's like buying a four wheel drive SUV. Do you really need it? Not likely. I have a similar winter tent, but that's what it's for-winter. If you really want to get into deep winter camping in Canada, there's a website devoted to that, but I suggest you do some mild weather camping before getting into winter camping.

The same is true of a bag. I have three of them-an old three season bag (TNF Cat's Meow) and two down bags. One bag won't work for the wide range of conditions you mention. I also have an overbag that would work as a warm weather bag. So that's four bags and none are really for -30C. For that cold, I'd want another one or try stacking two of them. My point being, when it comes to gear, one size doesn't always fit all.

On the other hand, some things can be very versatile. In my avatar, I am wearing a fleece jacket I've owned for years. I've worn it hundreds of days because it is my go to jacket around town as well as for the few days I'm camping or skiing with it. It wasn't very expensive either. I can layer it with my base layer, my deep winter parka (a very specialized item) or a ski parka I recently picked up and be set for almost any weather. Do I carry all this at once? No. I try to anticipate the weather and take what I figure I need. I don't guess, I check the weather forecasts to get the best estimate of what will happen and add a bit for safety. This isn't rocket science, but it does take planning and lots of time online reading about gear and clothes, spending time in shops and then putting your kit together. Don't let shop clerks intimidate you. You'd be surprised how little some of them know. A few casual questions can often give you a clue as to who knows what.

11:39 a.m. on April 11, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi Serena,

Welcome to Trailspace. You will get a lot of good advice here on TS. A caveat is that everyone has particular bents or preferences. Watch out here and other sites for reviews that say something like "the best". Also, I would define your uses to us in more detail. That would help us determine what gear would work for you. Are you traveling alone on skis in the winter, on snowshoes, will you establish a base camp, how many km per day, pulling a sledge, that sort of thing. While I would agree with the others that you have stated a range of conditions for which you should ideally have specific gear, you can make compromises. When I started skiing snowshoeing and winter climbing in the 1960's and 1970's I was a poor student and couldn't afford such a varied selection of gear. My McKinley bag did double duty winter and summer. So did my Expedition Crestline Tent. While in summer, I often slept on top of the bag because I was too hot, it worked well in the winter. And the tent was too heavy for summer trips, but it worked for me. Today, you have a lot more choices, but you needn't go out and spend a lot. There are often good used deals out there, but don't make the mistake of buying a particular tent just because it is a good price. It may not be the right tent for you. 8 lbs is heavy for a tent these days, but my Crestline was easily that.

I also would caution you to get gear that works for what you are doing now, not some planned expedition to the Yukon that might be years away. As a photographer, weight is a big consideration. I was a cinematographer and still photographer(still do that latter) and keeping your gear functional is important. Do you work in digital only, or also film?

In summary, tell us more specifically what you'll be doing. Describe an expected trip, how many km, conditions, what weight you can comfortably carry, do you need a tent for two or one, etc.

One other thing is to ask what gear did your ex make off with? Perhaps there was something you liked or didn't like about your pack, your bag or your tent.

7:31 p.m. on April 11, 2015 (EDT)
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I would also add, Serena, that the Mountain 25 is a lot of tent for you. Granted, it is a true four season tent and you wouldn't be sacrificing safety to weather a winter storm in it. However, unless you will always be with another person, you are carrying a lot of weight for yourself. My preference for tent that would do double duty for winter and summer, would be something more akin to high altitude mountaineering tents. While overkill for your summer jaunts, something like the Integral Designs goretex tents are nice. I had a Bibler I tent which is similar for a number of years, and used in everything from coastal hikes to alpine winter ascents. Weight is something that you will have to very conscious about, as something like a heavier tent, means that you won't be able to bring along that extra body. However, you don't need to go overboard on saving grams. Sometimes the price you pay for lighter weight in gear, means that you may be sacrificing some durability. An ultralight pack is great, but you can't haul it over rocks without eventually compromising it. This is somewhat similar to a lens with a plastic body. The optics might be good, and it is light, but that bump it takes accidentally might leave you with an unuseable lens.

7:48 p.m. on April 11, 2015 (EDT)
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Erich, as usual, asks some great questions to help guide us in advising you. Here are a couple more:

1. You say your ex took off with all the gear (talk about a cad!). As Erich's question put it, think about the gear you shared and used on the outings you went on. Also, think about gear other friends (real friends) use when backpacking and talk to them about what they like about it and what they really dislike about it. And beware of the tendency of people to recommend what they are stuck with, er, I mean, spent their money on and need to "prove" they made the right choice (a lot of people have spent a bunch of money on their gear and really want some sort of confirmation they made the best choice - engage them in some deep questioning about what deep down really bothers them about that pack, sleeping bag, and tent).

The primary items you need are:

a. Clothing appropriate to the weather and terrain you encounter. This generally means layers so you can adjust to the situation. If as I suspect, you did a mix of day hikes, backpacks, several seasons, you may already have most of what you need along those lines.

b. Sleeping gear - that's sleeping bag and pad. As already noted, this will be seasonal. Warmest weather I ever camped in Canada was in Gaspe, and was 20°C and lower, coldest was in BC in the Bugaboos ranging from 0°C down to -20°C, though I skied in BC in -45°C weather (backcountry with an ACC cabin available.  As this should make obvious, all the comments above about having a range of sleeping gear available depending on the month and exact location are right on. MEC can help with this (with the caveat mentioned above that a lot of the store clerks are astoundingly ignorant, or maybe selling on commission).  Suggestion here is start with your summer bag, since summer is about to arrive.

c. Shelter - Here a question - surely (I hope) you have other friends who also are into the outdoors. Do some trips with them so you can share their tents and observe how tey really operate. As already mentioned, the TNF 25 is actually an expedition tent and way too much for late Spring through early Fall. You can get by most of that summer-type season with an Ultralite tent, but outside the May-September window, you are likely to find it inadequate

d. Pack - the last of the Big 3 (heaviest items and most essential - sleeping gear, shelter, and pack to carry everything). As the old advice goes, get your kit together, go to the shop, find a pack that is (1) fits comfortably and (2) holds the your gear with ease of access.

2. Get out there on a few trips with your friends who have experience. See what works for you and what works for them.

Couple of other comments - Years ago, I was well acquainted with a famous mountaineering and outdoor photographer (we climbed together a few times). Many of his most famous photos were on highly technical climbs on vertical walls. One evening at the American Alpine Club HQ, we were sitting by the fireplace  in the library and I asked him about using his SLR (this was before digital cameras) and carrying such a heavy camera on hard climbs. He told me that a lot of the top quality photos on technical climbs were actually taken with his wife's little P&S. I shoot a lot of photos with my modern DLSR pro-am camera as part of my activities with the American Climber Science Program. But, following his comments, I also have a tiny (3 ounce) P&S digicam that I use on summit day when I don't want to carry all the weight of my DSLR and extra lenses.

If you are going on a specifically photo-hike and feel the need to carry a couple bodies and extra lenses (and maybe a tripod), consider the LowePro line of packs. They were designed by one of the famous Lowe clan of climbers and are intended for wilderness situations. Financial Alert! They are NOT cheap.

As the earlier comments said, start small and see how things work for YOU (not the store clerk, or even your friends, though take those things into account). You will make some mistakes (my wife and I have a garage and several closets full of outdoor gear, including some I would not even burden The Salvation Army or Goodwill with). But you will learn and have fun.

8:38 p.m. on April 11, 2015 (EDT)
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I would second Bill's comments about P & Ss that can take great photos. A couple of my most spectacular photos were taken with an Agfa 1/2 frame and a fixed lens. However the optics on that camera were great. The problem you get into with the little digitals as a photographer, is that manipulating the image in the field is much more difficult. You can't always work with a medium lens all the time. In truth, I carry both. The P & S for those moments that just come up and I can ready for it, and a more formal DSLR for when I need to have something capable of more. As well, a word about bodies. If you have a P & S, you might be fine with that as a back up to your DSLR. However, despite the fact that DSLRs have gotten better, I have had glitches( a technical term) occur on my Canon 5D twice. Fortunately, I was able to work around it both times. However, if you are spending the time to get into the back country and your job(your income) is to come back with great images, you need to have back ups for everything. On several cold weather shoots as a cinematographer, I would have two camera bodies, one for interiors and one for exteriors. This alleviated the problem of sealing the bodies in a bag and letting them temperature adjust. As well, as the bodies were $35,000 each, I couldn't afford to compromise the electronics.

4:05 a.m. on April 12, 2015 (EDT)
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One way to save money is to buy used gear. But, buying used requires knowledge and patience. You need to know what you want, what's a deal and what isn't and be patient about buying on sites like eBay where you will find a lot of off-brand junk. Sometimes you can get deals on close outs or last year's models (more true of clothes I think) from sites like Sierra Trading Post. I've got a couple of real bargains from them. I found a brand new ski jacket at a second hand shop, for example and paid less than 20 percent retail and it wasn't a cheap knockoff. I called the manufacturer to check before I bought it since the color didn't match the current model. Turns out it may have been a sample. That's what I mean about doing your homework. It can pay off.

9:01 a.m. on April 12, 2015 (EDT)
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Wow!! Thanks for all the great feedback. I'm going to take your advice and start small (i.e. concentrate on gear for the season at hand)

I'll try and answer the questions as best I can.

About Me:

I'm 5'8" and quite fit. I've carried pack loads between 25-40lbs over distances of 15-20km. This was usually walking distance to where base camp would be set up. Then I would do day hikes from there.

Despite the fact that I can carry 40lbs, I don't really *want* too unless I *have* to.

I have never used a sledge in the winter, nor cross country skis, just snowshoes. But I was staying in a yurt so I did not have the tent weight.

About gear I used:

From what I can remember:

- The tent was a Mountain Hard Wear but I don't know what model. It was a 2 person tent but it was pretty tight for space, unless I went alone with friends and left him at home. I found it heavy however.

- The sleeping bag I was using was from Marmot and I really liked it except it was too long (he is 6'4" so it was more so bought for him, and I used it) and it was too hot in peak summer.

- I remember the backpack was from MEC and it was actually not too bad comfort wise and packed things fairly well. Again, I'm no sure what model it was

- I have no idea what the sleeping pad was, nor any of the cook wear (picture me making a sheepish face here!)

About that camera gear:

I shoot with the Nikon D3X and have the D70 as backup. I also have a small P&S. I wasn't planning on taking the D70, simply to reduce weight, since I'd be taking two lenses with me to cover the 18-200mm range and a tripod. Since these trips are not photo assignments, I don't mind leaving the second body behind but the gear I will be taking is roughly 7lbs.

About the backpack:

I will take your advice and decide on this after I've made my tent and sleeping arrangement choices. I would still like to find one that had a bit of thought put in in regards to camera carrying. But we'll see.

About clothing and layering:

I have that covered for all seasons. He couldn't very well take off with that too!  ;)

About asking other outdoorsy friends:

I feel incredibly foolish after reading your comments about asking others that I backpacked with before. You are absolutely right that I do have friends that have a range of gear and why I didn't think to ask them first is beyond me. I even have an uncle that used to organize backpacking trips at various National Parks for goodness sakes!!

About upcoming trips / future trips:

I'll be honest and say that right now, I only have two weekend trips planned for May (both late May). Both will be similar in scenario. Hike in, setup camp, then enjoy the outdoors.

I am in talks with a cousin in BC and we're working out details to possibly backpack Glacier National Park. He will be teaching me climbing techniques when I'm there to help me with my future goals.

Where I'm at now:

From all your replies so far, I know that I will need various bags but for the time being, I'm going to focus on more of a three season bag. Because I enjoyed using the Marmot bag I had before, I'm leaning towards another from that brand. I'm also leaning towards synthetic.

As far as tent, I can probably borrow some from friends to try out but if I had to choose now, my top two would be MSR Hubba Hubba NX and Big Agnes Copper Spur UL, both 2 person tents.

I'm really undecided however and still doing research.

5:51 p.m. on April 12, 2015 (EDT)
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It sounds like you are getting more focused as to what you want. It really isnt that hard once you decide what you want to do... to be honest most gear is really good these days, so you probably cant go wrong.

If you want a synthetic Marmot, look at the Cloudbreak series, they are quite lightweight for their warmth, which will be great in keeping your weight down (I think their 0 C bag is only 900 grams).

MEC backpacks are generally quite good. Probably 1 or 2 generations behind what the big brands are putting out in terms of innovation, but generally well made and at a good price, and the selection is always pretty good at the MEC in Ottawa. I would look more for a bag that is big enough for your needs, and has an adequate hip belt and good adjustability so you can get proper load transfer, then just get something small/internal for organizing camera gear. Most of those "photographer" centric backpacks I have found to be dissapointing as backpacks over the years. I have a variety of smaller lowe pro and manfrotto cases/bags that I take depending on trip, and they just fit inside my pack or can be attached to my hip belt.

As for camera gear. You will get a sense of how much you want to carry after a few trips! I'm quite into photography, but after a few outings I developed a better sense of how the weight will impact the quality of my trip so I am more selective as to what I take. Depending on what tripod you are currently using, a Manfrotto BeFree might be a good consideration for weight and space savings while still being great quality. I also bought a Fuji X20 which is a great alternative for when SLR gear becomes needless weight (and can effect safety).

Also don't forget a bear canister, you are going to be in Canada and that is something you have to be very aware of!

1:47 a.m. on April 13, 2015 (EDT)
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One thing that I should have addressed at the outset, is that you may be worried about finding the "right" gear for you. Although some packs, for instance, may be a better option for you, you can lose yourself in the details. Finding what works for you, is an evolution. As your needs change and are refined, so will your gear choices. Don't be afraid  to make mistakes...you will. That is how you refine your choices to suit a particular need.

9:56 a.m. on April 13, 2015 (EDT)
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Yesterday I spent roughly 2 and a half hours in one of the local stores talking over all of my options with one of the sales staff. She was extremely helpful, conscious of what I was looking for, and not pushy at all. I actually purchased nothing and told her that would most likely be the case and she didn't mind at all!! Today I need to go to a different store that carries different brands and do some comparisons.

So from that visit, this is where I'm headed:

- tent:  MSR Hubba Hubba NX

- bag: Marmot Cloudbreak 30

- pad: Sea to Summit Comfort Light Mat

- backpack: Osprey Aerial

We even went so far as placing all of the above gear in the backpack, along with sand bags to bring the weight to about 40lbs. This pack sits so comfortably on my hips and rests squarely on my back. I'm fairly certain I can make it work with my camera gear also but *if* this is the bag I am going to purchase, I will take my camera with me on that day and see how everything fits together.

And this is what I am going to go see at the other store:

- tent: Marmot Force 2P (it's only one ounce heavier than MSR but it's pricier by about $100 so it may lose, based on that alone)

- bag: I'm pretty much sold on the Marmot Cloudbreak

- pad: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite

- backpack: I'm pretty much sold on the Osprey due to the comfort I felt but I will check out Mammut and Deuter packs

I feel like I am on the right track now. Thanks to all the feedback you've given me I was able to ask the proper questions when in store which made the experience that much more pleasurable.

Please feel free to let me know if I'm making a mistake, based on your experience using any of the items I listed above.

Thanks again!!

1:05 p.m. on April 13, 2015 (EDT)
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If you like the Osprey, I would go for that. That eliminates one of the things you need. I have a NeoAir and like it. One thing that hasn't been addressed is food and cooking. You'll need a stove. Canister stoves are easy to use, but not very green because the canister must be tossed or recycled after use. White gas stoves perform better in cold conditions, but require priming. A stove that is compact and folds or stores in your pot(s) is a way to keep your system compact. The most popular white gas stoves are made by MSR. Optimus is another quality brand.

7:50 a.m. on April 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Sounds like you are right on track!

10:53 p.m. on April 14, 2015 (EDT)
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I will comment on your Neo Xlite pad..I had the original Neo Air and moved to it after it was on the market for awhile..I really like it.I am a side sleeper and it works well for me...This is a product you may want to look into for your pad..It may sound silly and look silly but it does work ask Bill S on this thread his thoughts..https://www.trailspace.com/gear/other/the-instaflator/

11:16 a.m. on April 16, 2015 (EDT)
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It looks like you've done a great job of doing your due diligence. I think you have some really good products picked out!

I have a couple of other suggestions worth looking at:

First off, I really like your tent selections. Both the NX or the Big A Copper Spur are excellent tent choices. If it helps, there are several great reviews of each here on Trailspace. Another worth looking into is the Kelty TN 2. When you are shopping, make sure that you assess the weight, interior headroom/height, vestibule space/overall space, the strength of the fabric for the type of weather that you anticipate being in and the venting options. The first question I ask myself when assessing two-man tents is "Can two people comfortably move around and pack up camp in this tent in the rain?". If the answer is "no" then I do not want the tent.

For your sleeping pad, I highly advise you test out several in stores before settling on one. There are a lot of varieties of sleeping pads out there of various baffle patterns, temperature ratings, and lofts. One piece of advice that I can offer is that if you are going to be camping at least three seasons, you might as well get an insulated pad. Non-insulated pads have a very limited temperature range and will only save you a few ounces. I personally prefer the pads with 3"-4" of loft (Big Agnes Q-Core or Q-Core SL, Big Agnes Insulated Double Z, and Exped WinterLite). All of those are rated to at least 15 degrees and weigh 21oz or less, with the exception of the Q-Core. I have slept on a NeoAir and the Comfort Light pad and there is a noticeable difference of feeling like you are sleeping on the ground with both. You might not notice it at all, but after sleeping on those more elevated pads I just thought I should throw that out there. The Comfort Light is comfortable, stable and very supportive. It is definitely a solid option. Just make sure whichever one you get is the one that is the most comfortable to you.

*Since there is not a review of the Insulated Double Z, here is a great review of the regular Double Z.


I think the sleeping bag that you have selected sounds great. As far as synthetic bags go, I think that one is great. One other synthetic you might want to consider is the new Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina series, depending on the temperature range you anticipate being in. I think it also wouldn't be a bad idea to look into some of the newer dridown bags that are out there. There is nothing in the world wrong with synthetic bags, but down bags are typically lighter, more compressible, and more comfortable. When considering a bag, I recommend assessing the overall comfort, room to move in it, temperature rating, packability, and weight.

I also noticed that you didn't mention a headlamp. You should look into getting one of those. There are a lot out there that have 90+lumens that are less than $40. I really like the Black Diamond Spot, but there are lots of options worth looking into.


Here are some very helpful guides from Trailspace:

Sleeping Bags

Tents and Shelters




Trekking Poles


Here is an article from Backpacker Magazine that I've come across that might be helpful to you:


I hope this helps! Sorry for the information overload.



11:00 a.m. on April 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi Ashleigh,

Thank you for your feedback! I enjoyed reading all of your info. Information overload is good!  :)

I made a few alterations from my initial list so this is what I find myself with now.

- Tent: MSR Hubba NX (the one person tent). I had the sleeping bad put in the tent and the backpack and this tent affords me enough room for what I need. The bonus is that I found it on Kijiji in a brand new, tags still on the tent, offer.

- Sleeping pad: I switched this from the Comfort Light to the Sea To Summit Ultra Light Insulated pad. This was one of the pads I had taken into the Hubba NX tent to try and even when on my side my hip was not hitting the ground. This store did not have Big Agnes Q-Core only the Air Core and I didn't like the feel of that one.

I didn't mention a headlamp because I have one of those. It's an older Petzl but it still works relatively well.

However, I do not have any stove or cookware yet so thank you for the link to the guide found here. It's the next items I start researching.

I haven't really thought about trekking poles because I wasn't sure if they were a necessity. I've never used any so I'll have to read up on why they are useful.

4:54 p.m. on April 20, 2015 (EDT)
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I'm glad to help, Serena. I think the Hubba NX sounds great!

I think the Ultra Light Insulated Pad will be a good one. The Comfort Light has big, tall cells at the head and foot, but a concentrated amount of small cells in the body. The UL pad has the big cells throughout the pad, so I think I would be a fan of that one, as well. I have had a Big A Air Core and it isn't nearly as comfortable as those others I previously mentioned.

Glad to hear you have a headlamp already. One less thing to worry about. Petzl makes some really solid headlamps.

As far as a stove goes, I currently have a JetBoil. I am not an adventurous backcountry chef - I boil water and dump it in my freeze-dried meal. I don't need a full stove. I am looking into getting a lightweight wind proof canister stove and a Sea to Summit X-Pot, though. It looks really efficient and would give me more options while saving weight and space. If you are looking at a JetBoil with more cooking options, Lah just did a great review of the new JetBoil MiniMo.

As far as trekking poles go, I would say that they are a necessity for some and not a necessity for others. I use mine 95% of the time. They are a big help because they take a lot of stress off of your knees, and actually help you hike - sort of like 4 wheel-drive. If you experience a lot of elevation gain/loss and in rough territory, I recommend them. Again, it is a definite personal preference and you can definitely get by without them. If you decide you are interested, let me know and I'll throw a few suggestions your way.


5:05 p.m. on April 21, 2015 (EDT)
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Hi Serena,

It sounds as if you are going for both a summer kit, as well as winter kit. Of course, your CloudBreak is a summer bag and the Hubba NX a summer tent. You should be aware that if you plan on hiking in BC in the summer, conditions can often be winter-like, as compared to Ontario. This, of course, depends on where you go. However, in the Canadian Rockies, I have experienced snow in the summer, with temperatures in the -20 C range. As far as stoves, Ashleigh is correct that the Jet Boil is a great system. However, for winter conditions, a white gas stove is far superior in terms of weight and performance(as well as being more ecological). They do require more effort to ignite. Used MSR stoves such as the Whisperlite or XGK are often available for low cost. On issue with MSR stoves is the weakness of the pump handle. These are plastic, and the older ones are prone to breakage. Any stove with a pump requires oiling of the pump leather on a weekly basis. Your trekking pole questions lead me to ask if you use ski poles or something similar when you snowshoe? Trekking poles can be use with snow baskets in winter.

10:29 p.m. on April 21, 2015 (EDT)
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Stoves are one of the "big three" discussion topics; shelter and sleeping gear being the other two. Stoves range from homemade alcohol stoves to multi-fuel stoves like the XGK with white gas, canister stoves, wood-fueled stoves and Esbit solid fuel stoves in between. Most people have a favorite and many have more than one. I've got a few myself, including the XGK, which I don't recommend unless you are winter camping or mountaineering. Canister stoves win for 3 season ease of use, although I'm not sold on the Jetboil or MSR Reactor. Alcohol stoves can't be beat for cost (almost free if you make your own). White gas stoves are the traditional liquid fuel stove and muti-fuel stoves are the most versatile, but most complicated and expensive. Just starting out, I'd choose a canister stove and small cook kit. Mine is a Primus Micron which fits into a small pot along with a small canister. There are better ones, though-the pot supports are the weak point on this one.

I've got snow baskets for my trekking poles. Mine are Leki Makalus, but again, after using them in winter, I'd get Black Diamond poles instead. I think their flick-lock latches are better than the Leki twist locks.

10:24 a.m. on April 22, 2015 (EDT)
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Tom, you should check the newer Leki Makalu as they started with the flick locks about five years ago and work very well. I agree that the older twist locks didn't work as well. Serena has said she intends to be in winter conditions down to -30 C, so unless she wants to buy one stove for winter and one for summer (a bit redundant as she's just starting out), she might be better off with a white gas stove.

10:29 p.m. on April 22, 2015 (EDT)
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Thanks Erich. Mine are obviously the older ones. I agree if she plans to be out in really cold weather. My first stove was a Svea 123, which I still have. A Whisperlite would be a good choice. I took an XGK to NZ, but it's not the ideal general use stove. Still have it too. It will burn pretty much any flammable liquid, though, including stuff MSR would rather you didn't.

Serena, canister stoves generally don't work in cold weather because the gas won't vaporize. Ignore the photos of mountaineers using them in places like the Himalayas. They will work at high altitude because the air pressure is much lower than at sea level.

5:38 p.m. on April 27, 2015 (EDT)
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Welcome, and I might add, no matter the suggestions here or anywhere else, you'll buy some things that are right and a lot that's wrong in the beginning. And some you missed completely, or bought and left at home.

My advice, is to start with day trips and some over nighters. Then do the same only going farther and deeper into the woods. Go exploring off the beaten path.

Then try the same in adverse weather conditions. Rain, snow, -30 temps.

What this will do is educate yourself to your style trekking. What camera gear to bring, what not to bring, what you wish you had brought. And what you need to get. And what you can build while on trail. Monopod, tripod this lense over that.

Trekking is like climbing a ladder, you start at the bottom rung and climb up one rung at a time.

Also get all your stuff you want to bring together, and pack it. Try it on, walk around the house, doing choirs etc with it on... for for or five hours, all day if you can. Is it too much weight? Too light? You'll know. Better in house than on the trail.

Unpack and repack till you get it right... for you.

Consider wheeled or ski options for carrying gear as well, for future treks.

Everything adds weight, food, water, shelter, camera gear, dry bags for everything. Hygiene materials etc. You bike, snow shoes when not using them. 

Start with good weather gear and climb that first rung. Then go to the next.

And most of all, have fun, enjoy yourself. And don't worry about the ex, the best one is the next one.

- chase -

10:14 a.m. on May 9, 2015 (EDT)
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4,030 forum posts

I have never quite understood the appeal of one man tents for young single people.

January 27, 2020
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