There is no "best" brand. What you're looking for is gear that works well for you - and to do that, you need to describe your needs in a lot more detail (unfortunately, some of that detail isn't learned until you've taken a few trips.)
What works well in a given situation also not only depends on your preference in the balance of comfort, cost, weight, and convenience. It also depends on where you're hiking, when you're hiking there, and how aggressive your style is (for example, if you want to do 20+ mile days, weight may play a bigger role in your balancing act.)
Having said that, if you're looking for a recommendation for a good brand for a beginner's set of gear, one that will let you go safely and conveniently, at reasonable weight, on trails that are not remote, isolated, or otherwise "dangerous," I can give you a couple of brands: MSR, Thermarest, and Deuter. You won't make any mistakes in buying these brands; you can simply walk into REI, give them your credit card, walk out, and drive directly to the trailhead - and be fine for that first trip. You probably will, however, replace them with other stuff, from other makers, even brands that REI doesn't carry, as you develop experience.
Your other alternative is to go on some beginner trips, ideally with a group, and rent or borrow the gear you need. Look at the stuff the more experienced folks are using, ask them questions as to why they carry what they do (and what they've found out they don't need to carry), then ask about specific items here - you'll get lots of good information, from lots of different points of view.
Loc: Portland, OR
I want ideas for gear
As already pointed out, if you give us some idea of your camping and hiking experience, and where you hope to backpack, at what season of the year, we can start to home in on what advice would be most helpful for your circumstances. We aren't trying to be difficult by insisting on this information; we're trying to be as helpful as we know how to be.
Meanwhile, the best advice I can give you is to read an old copy of The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher. It will give you an excellent overview of HOW to think about gear, while at the same time all the actual brands and gear he describes will be so outdated that you won't be in danger of running out to buy it because you read about it in the book.
If this advice doesn't appeal to you, my next advice would be to read articles on the internet designed to assist beginning backpackers, starting with the articles linked on the home page of this site. At this stage in your evolution into a backpacker buying gear or comparing different brands should be the least of your concerns.
My go is to go on multiday to multi week backpacking trips and trips where I can backpack or hike for a day or two to go fishing for a few days. Right now I just want to get gear that I can fit in my backpack and take out to the ranch and set up a camp to go hunting this fall. I wont be hiking much. I want all the gear in the backpack so I can get some experience living out of my backpack and this spring go on a 3 or 4 day hike.
That actually sounds like a good way to start: learning to live out of your pack is a big part of this. It's partly about organizing a set of gear, and partly about organizing your life. It's helpful to think about this as carrying a house on your back (not my idea - it's the framework around which all of the Complete Walker series is written, and it works. I'd second the suggestion to read any of the series.)
So, your pack is the walls. If you don't have one yet, hold off until you have your other gear. Depending on the choices you make, you could end up with a pack as small as 40 liters or as large as 75. (Mine is 50.)
Do you have any gear at this point? (If you hunt, you may have a sleeping bag and maybe a stove.) Tell us what you have, and we can make some recommendations for fleshing out your first set of gear. After a season or so of finding out how you want to eat, learning what constitutes a need versus a luxury for you, and how comfortable a bed you need, you'll be ready to start replacing that gear gradually, with stuff that really works for you.
Ok here is what I have. A Coleman Peak sleeping bag 0 degrees (ten years old and will not fit in my pack), a Kelty Big Bend pack, a hatchet, a SOG Seal pup Knife, knife sharpener, a small shovel, a wire limb cutter, a fire striker, a glad ware container, three metal stakes, a mess kit with a pot, pan, plate, cut and utensils, two water proof pouch, and a back packing tent and sleeping pad.
A lot of my gear is pretty cheap and got on sell at department stores like Wal-Mart and Academy. I have two books backpackers field manual and the survival handbook.
The best way to find out what you will and won't need is to find a checklist online for a 2 day hike and hit the trail! I can already see about half of the list you typed as being extra baggage/weight.
I started out the same way with inexpensive things from a Walmart & my pack is down to about 30#. Half the weight it was when I took my first trip. All thanks to the help of this forum and a few of its members!
If you're trying to fit into mainstream backpacking (you still haven't told us what you want your trips to look like, eventually), you won't need the hatchet, knife sharpener, shovel, or limb cutter - the mainstream ethic is low-impact, Leave No Trace; none of those things really fit into that ethic. If I found the right model, your knife is a sheath-style knife. That will work for now; if you get into lightweight backpacking, you'll eventually end up replacing it with a small pocketknife.
Most of us use freeze-dried meals, or make our own similar meals that require only rehydration, not real cooking. If you're looking to cook, your mess kit will work for now. If you decide to try the rehydration route, you can simply boil water and pour it into the bag the meal comes in, and eat from that bag. In that case, you only need the pot and, maybe the cup (it can be used as a measuring cup if the pot isn't marked; if you're not using it for that or drinking a hot beverage, you won't need the cup.) Take a spoon to eat with.
Time for a little story: my father was an Army combat medic at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa (the marines will not tell you there were Army troops there, but there were. He was in the CAM division, Composite Army Marine.) Anyhow, a few years ago I found a thin "how to campaign in the jungle" that his unit wrote for replacements, to teach them how live in the jungles. One of their pieces of advice was to leave your mess kit at the base; all you needed was a canteen, canteen cup (to cook in), and a spoon. Years later, backpackers "discovered" this secret.
You'll need a stove. If you'll only be camping in temperatures above 20, I'd recommend an MSR Pocket Rocket canister stove if you're just looking to make do for now. Or, if you've definitely decided on the dehydrated route, and don't mind spending $100+, you might look at one of the Jetboil Flash or Sol series (Lori will now explain to you why you don't want a Jetboil; she will also recommend an alternative - consider what she says, as she is very, very experienced. But, in the end, make your own decision; a lot of us use Jetboils with no problems at all.) The Jetboil is a pot and stove integrated to work together; it stores compactly, and would let you replace your entire mess kit. You might even find you like it to take on a hunt, to brew up a hot drink or make some soup while you're in a blind or a stand.
As long as your tent and pad will fit in the pack, stay with them for now.
Sleeping bags. If it won't fit in, you'll need a new one. Match the termperature rating of the bag to the expected temperatures you'll encounter. Stick with a reliable brand, like Ketly, Sierra Designs, REI's house brand, Campmor's house brand, Marmot, Big Agnes, or (if you're going for broke - in your wallet, at least) look at Western Mountaineering. (You buy those bags, and never look back; they're wonderfully warm, light and compressible.) Synthetic bags are bulkier, but cheaper (generally) than down bags. When it come to bags, the rule is "light, inexpensive, and warm: pick two." I own Western Mountaineering now, but I've used Marmot (both down and synthetic) and been quite satisfied.
You have one last item, to start with: water purification. You can go ultra cheap, and use chlorine dioxide tablets, but I'd recommend you go ahead and get a Sawyer Squeeze filter. They're very good, not overly expensive, and they come with collapsible water bottles that will get you by until you're more certain of your own preferences.
You probably have adequate clothing in your hunting gear; it will work for now; after you have a few hikes under your belt, you'll have a better feel for what is comfortable while you walk. Many of us hike in shorts, year around; as a hunter, that may seem unrealistic to you. But remember: hiking involves lots of movement, which generates lots of heat. Hunting may involve hiking but (from what my brother in law tells me - I don't hunt) hunting involves longer periods of inactivity, so you need dress more warmly.
So, stove, sleeping bag, and water purification, and you're ready to take a hike.
I want to do week long trips in mountainous/wooded areas with streams and lakes in it. Maybe make a fishing trip out of it. I don't believe I will ever do a hike over a week long unless I win the Lotto and don't have to work anymore lol. I have the hatchet and everything for survival situations.
Lori beat me by an hour. I fully agree - you should plan a trip in such a way that you don't end up in a survival situation. If you can't reduce the risks of a tirp below that level, you're not backpacking any more - you're at a whole different level.
Packing light means you have more energy to hike and your in better shape during your hike. That means you are less likely to get into survival situations. Packing light is usually safer. Learning what to leave behind is the best way to lighten your pack.
You want to get your big 3 nailed down: 1) sleeping bag 2) backpack 3) shelter. Usually you want to spend your money on those things in descending order. 1) There is nothing like a high quality down sleeping bag (or quilt... check out backpacking quilts!). 2) The pack caries all of your stuff. If it doesn't fit you well as well as all of your gear you are going to be miserable. 3) you can actually get fairly cheap lightweight shelters (tarps, bivies) but you may give up convenience.
Survival tactics is also different than bushcrafting, which is different than backpacking. They are all different. If you ever end up in a real survival situation while pursuing either bushcrafting or backpacking, then you really suck.
Most bushcrafters think Bear is an idiot as well.
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.
Loc: Portland, OR
Right now I just want to get gear that I can fit in my backpack and take out to the ranch and set up a camp to go hunting this fall. I wont be hiking much.
I may be wrong, but it sounds from this like you anticipate setting up base camps where you'll stay for several days as your way of backpacking. It also sounds to me like the hiking part of backpacking is of little interest to you, and you merely want to get your camping gear out to a place where you can stop hiking so you can hunt or fish.
If I am correct, this places you pretty squarely at one end of the spectrum, opposite the backpackers who want to hike big miles and for whom a camp is mostly a place to grab a few hours of sleep before hiking again. Both approaches are valid (as are all the shades between these).
The good news is that, if you are only planning to hike in a few miles before you set up camp, then a heavy load is unlikely to prevent you from accomplishing this goal, so there is less reason for you to spend a lot of cash on highly specialized lightweight equipment; if it fits in your pack, you can probably lug it a few miles.
The bad news is that lugging 80 lbs or thereabouts on your back will guarantee you won't enjoy a minute of the hiking and will physically limit your chances to go to spots that require bigger miles and more elevation gain to reach. It also increases your chances of injury.
I agree with the comments made so far that "survival" gear like hatchets and KBar knives should never be necessary if you have a good plan and aren't deliberately putting yourself in danger. If you are planning to hunt out of your base camp, then as you leave camp you'll need to take with you whatever is needed to succeed at your hunt and get you back to base safely. But backcountry hunting is a whole 'nother topic from backpacking.
Does any of this guesswork of mine sound like the sort of thing that you're planning to do?