Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I've just registered and thought I'd introduce myself. My screen name, 4evrplan, reflects my personality. I have many interests and I tend to want to do a lot of things and for whatever reason (time, money, fear, loss of interest) rarely get around to it. So, 'forever planning' is an admission of this weakness and a personal challenge to myself to overcome it.
I camped in state parks with my family all the time as a kid and still occasionally go "backyard camping" with my eight year old. But, one thing I haven't done and have always wanted to do is backpacking. I feel I'm really close to this goal and am going to start building up gear as cheaply as possible (i.e. I'll probably build a tarp tent out of plastic drop cloth or trash bags). I have a very slight build, so going ultralight is a big concern.
I live in East Texas, which according to Google is in a "humid subtropical" climate. It rains fairly often, typically gets to triple digit temperatures several times each summer (Fahrenheit), and does sometimes get cold in winter, though not really by northern state standards. It snows very rarely and "sticks" far less, maybe once every couple years on average. The geography here is low rolling hills and lots of pine forests, though I read somewhere most of these were planted back in the 20s, as opposed to native. There's very little rock in this area, but lots of sand and red dirt, and lots of small bodies of water like ditches, creeks, and the like, mostly all still, hot, festering, and muddy.
I'm afraid I'll have very little to offer on this forum at first, except maybe by asking question other newbies also want to know. With this communities' helpful advice and encouragement, I hope to be on the trails by late spring.
Welcome. One really good way to ease into backpacking is to take your 8-year-old. You mention that you backyard camp with him (her?), so you've already got a great way to test out gear and get your child hooked, too. Others can tell you how to get patterns to make gear - again, let the 8YO help. (They've gotta learn to use scissors sometime - what better way than tinsnips and an alcohol stove!? ) But, seriously, if the child can make up the first aid kits, or pick out the eating utensils at Walmart, or even empty the soda bottles to use as water bottles, they suddenly are invested in the activity.
Your child can probably hike a few miles - which may be all the more you want to try the first few times out, so definitely take him/her.
For summer, it doesn't sound like you'll need a lot of sleeping bag - consider picking up some of those ready-to-sew fleece blanket kits at the Joann Fabric, and make a couple bags (or just wrap up in the blankets, if it's above 70 at night.)
Anyway, you can do this on the cheap - the durability factor may (or may not) limit the length of trip or even the seasons you'll want to take, but it will get you started. If it works, great; you can then move up the gear ladder as you can. If it doesn't stick, well, you're not really out very much.
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Thanks for the warm welcome, Glenn. I definitely want to take my son out with me, though I'll probably do one or two single night outings first to make sure I'm not putting him in an overly uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
You mentioned fleece blankets as inexpensive sleep gear in summer. I've got a couple of those polyester/fleece child-sized blankets, and I've noticed that they are very warm for their weight. I've wondered if I could even make my own cold weather sleeping bag and use this type of inexpensive fleece fabric for fill (less than $5/yd US), but perhaps there're diminishing returns on how warm each successive layer makes it so that adding enough layers would make it heavy?
In any case, I'll get the sleeping bag last as that's likely to be the most expensive, or I'll just suck it up and tote one of my cheap ones if it's warm enough. I think they're 40 degree bags, but I'm a bit cold-natured.
Yes, you can use them as an adult. (I once had a summer bag from LL Bean that was a fleece blanket, with an optional zip-on nylon shell; I found the shell added a little warmth, so you could always pick up some wind-resistant nylon to sew on as a shell. You're right about diminishing returns, though; I was comfortable in that bag, wearing long johns and a fleece jacket, into the mid-50's if memory serves correctly. It was hoodless, so I also wore a stocking cap or balaclava - thick polyester, sold for about $25 at the outdoor store as a "balaclava," or for about $5 at Wallyworld as a "ski mask." (That was many years ago, when I was young, no money left over for gear, and by need adopted the attitude of "screw the weight.") My totally uninformed guess is that the second layer of fleece might work well, but any additional layers wouldn't be worth bothering with - and that a cheap polyester fleece jacket and stocking cap might work better than the second layer.
I'm not sure I'd do cold weather trips until I had about a year's experience - it may take that long to get the rest of your setting-up-camp and cooking routines down to where they're a habit, and reliably weatherproof.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
What bag you get depends on what weather you will encounter. An alternative to a bag is a quilt and many members here use one. I'm not one of them, so others can inform you about them. Ray Jardine, a famous lightweight backpacker, author and gear maker sells a quilt kit that is quite inexpensive. I would consider that instead of a cheap bag if you have any sewing skills or know someone who does.
Cheap bags, like those sold at Wal-Mart have a bad reputation for not being warm and coming apart. Look on the Wal-Mart websites for comments about them.
Used quality gear is an alternative, but that is only a good idea if you know what you are looking at and know whether the price is right for used, compared to new. Online stores like Sierra Trading Post offer a lot of gear at good prices, often close to what things are selling for on eBay. I've actually seen people pay more than retail on eBay because they had no idea about prices or where to look for discounts. Many brands have outlet websites (REI being one) selling discontinued or overstock items. Unless you are buying cutting edge gear for some special reason, you don't need the latest and greatest. Example-I have a very nice tent, parka and sleeping bag I bought used and paid about half retail for each of them. However, I knew what I was looking at, knew the brands, knew the value and was patient when looking.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Thanks Tom. I have perused Ray Jardine's site before. He seems to have some good options and advice (and seems like an interesting character to boot - in fact he seems to pretty much daily do something else I want to try). I'm not afraid to sew, so I may go that route when the time comes. I'll play it by ear after I've got my other gear sorted out.
The Campmor 20*F down sleeping bags (more like 30*F) recommended on those sites are, I understand, no longer available. The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 is comparable in weight, has good reviews and may be warmer since it is EN13537 rated. Do note that these inexpensive down bags are less durable and heavier than a comparable $400 bag from a high-end manufacturer, but are lighter, more compressible and more durable than a comparable synthetic fill bag. Of course a 20*F bag is far too warm for Texas summers, anyway, (might be fine for winter, though) but should work well if you decide to head for the Rockies for a trip.
Go to an outdoor store (REI if there's one anywhere within driving distance). Try out a bunch of different sleeping pads on the floor, but be sure they are insulated. You may do fine with a self-inflating pad such as the Thermarest Prolite. Or you may even be fine with their CCF pad, the Ridge Rest. If the last is comfortable, then check out one of the cheap blue foam pads at Walmart or KMart or other big box stores. Warm, but not necessarily comfortable, depending on your hip bones. As I've gotten older, I've graduated (over time) from blue foam to self-inflator to thicker self-inflater to a 2.5" insulated air pad to a custom 3 1/2" thick insulated air pad. Hopefully you are at one of the earlier stages!
Edited by OregonMouse (01/16/1311:23 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I haven't read the articles here yet, but in my defense, it's a lot of material to get through. That's not a bad thing, it's just going to take a while. I think I've read the 10 lb. & $200 article at some point, but I'll go back and refresh my memory. Thanks for the other links as well. I'll probably end up going with a CCF pad for cost and the convenience of using it as a pack frame. I'd read somewhere where hikers were using some sort of foam house wrap for this, but I can't remember which brand; maybe I'll find it again.