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#194741 - 04/04/16 01:34 PM 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
From one of my favorite bloggers, Sectionhiker:

Gear Tips for Beginner Backpackers

These have all been advocated here on TLB many times, but here they are in a nice compact form for easy reading.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#194745 - 04/04/16 04:08 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
The biggest weight saver I ever bought was a postal scale.
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http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#194746 - 04/04/16 05:39 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: Gershon]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Yep, me too! The scale is also useful for postage (duh), portion control for those of us trying to cut body weight, gourmet cooking with European recipes (which use weight instead of volume.
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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#194750 - 04/04/16 08:02 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
I agree with all of the above, with one exception. We have found some decent cheap backpacks at Walmart. We don't use them as our primary packs, but we've used them twice in Peru, where we weren't carrying our food, and needed something smaller. And we also didn't want to worry about the packs getting stolen. You can see one here, as my daughter makes the last climb up to Warniwarniska pass at about 15,000 feet.



They're about 30L packs, five years ago they cost about $30, and they weigh less than three pounds.

Do I think that newbies should go and buy all their equipment at Walmart? nope. I think they should do that at a thrift shop, over a few months, with the help of someone who knows what to look for.

But I also think it's perfectly possible to have a great time backpacking with crummy equipment. My first real pack was a cheapo external frame pack in the 1960s in flame orange, which matched by DacronII flame orange sleeping bag, and my flame orange $3 tube tent. My pad was 2 inches of foam rubber.

And yeah, we had a great time, and did trips up to about ten days with that gear. It is still possible.


Edited by balzaccom (04/04/16 08:07 PM)
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check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#194761 - 04/05/16 08:20 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
WVhiker Offline
member

Registered: 03/30/16
Posts: 28
Loc: West Virginia
This is some great advise. When i first started i spent money on all the things i didn't really need and skimped on the essentials. First and foremost my backpack. I was originally using the newer military ruck sack with the plastic frame it was an uncomfortable squeaky and heavy pack. That first year i probably had a 45-50lb pack when i hit the trails. Now that im down to a 13lb base weight i am so much happier i would still like to get under 10lb but its a work in progress.

I think this quote sums it all up

"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten"
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Leave nothing but footprints
Take nothing but pictures
Kill nothing but time

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#194769 - 04/05/16 11:57 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: WVhiker]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
For some beginners, the "sweetness of low price" is their only option. There is plenty of low cost reasonable quality gear that will work fine, if not the lightest in weight: in-between "Walmart" gear and high end "UL" gear. A lot of beginners are young and strong and poor! Once they decide they really like backpacking and get a job (out of school) they can then star accumulating lighter gear.

I agree that you can have plenty of fun with crappy gear. My fishing gear is old and crappy and I still have lots of fun and it fits my needs. My fishing-guide friend assures me that if I wanted to fish all day, I would be much happier casting an $800 rod than my old kit-made fiberglass rod from the 1970's. But I do not do that - I just fish a few hours at the most at the end of hiking days. My arm may feel the difference but fish really do not know the difference.

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#194771 - 04/05/16 12:08 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: wandering_daisy]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 627
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
For some beginners, the "sweetness of low price" is their only option.

This! We are a single income family, and we have to be very frugal with our budget. But, even so, I consider myself lucky to have the education and opportunities I do. Many people, even in the US, don't even get that, possibly because they're having to take care of a family at a young age, have trouble getting a decent job because of a their lack of education, are physically or mentally challenged, simply don't know how to break out of their situation, don't speak the primary language of the area, etc. Even getting to go backpacking at all is a luxury.

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#194776 - 04/05/16 01:31 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: balzaccom]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1143
Loc: Washington State, King County
You beat me to it with the Walmart comment. Good advice in the article in general but I really hate broad sweeping statements like that. I absolutely agree with the general idea, but if you know what you're looking for there are some backpacking gear things you can get at Walmart or similar stores. Some clothing items for example. Blue foam pad is pretty much a blue foam pad. I bought a water filter in Florida this January while backpacking --- at Walmart.

Most of their "camping supplies" have no business on any backpacking trip I would ever take but that doesn't mean I can't buy a catfood can from them, turn it into a stove with a hole punch I buy from them, and fuel it with denatured alcohol I buy from them. Etc etc.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#194777 - 04/05/16 02:16 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
WVhiker Offline
member

Registered: 03/30/16
Posts: 28
Loc: West Virginia
I hope i did not offend any with my response blush. All i was meaning to say is that when you are trying to build your gear list on a very low budget it is even more important to purchase quality items within your budget rather than several items at one time this process may take longer but you will be better off in the long run.
_________________________
Leave nothing but footprints
Take nothing but pictures
Kill nothing but time

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#194778 - 04/05/16 02:29 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: WVhiker]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 627
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I can appreciate that, and for my part, I'm not offended. I just think it's important for those of us who are privileged to remember that we are. Things that come easy for us and that we take for granted are a big deal or even completely impractical for many.

If you can afford better gear that really fits your style, that's great, and by all means go for it! If however, your resources are more limited, don't think that necessarily means you can't enjoy this great pastime.

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#194804 - 04/07/16 01:19 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: 4evrplan]
bobito9 Offline
member

Registered: 01/25/08
Posts: 385
Yeah, it's a big mistake to think it's essential to buy expensive gear to have fun in the backcountry. As far as buying things cheaply, I've gotten a lot of gear through thrift stores, as well as REI sales and the North Face Outlet. My old REI backpacking backpack I got for $7 in new shape at Goodwill: not a high end pack, but boy did I have some fantastic trips with it before it fell apart! And I just bought another identical pack for $10 at a yard sale, also practically new, which I will mostly use mostly just when I fly and don't want to tear up my good pack, or when I want to lend it to someone visiting. I regularly use an Addidas down vest I bought for $4 at Goodwill years ago. My buddy, who likes to spend money more than I do, was trying to get me to buy a Marmot down vest on sale the other day. Well, sale or no sale, It's still was $60, and my present one works just fine in its role as a vest/pillow. Could I save a few ounces? Sure, but it doesn't. seem worthwhile to spend $60.
Anyhow, new top notch gear is very nice (I love my Big Agnes tent!), and now days I can afford to spend more than I use to, but I have also had some extraordinarily wonderful times using cheapo gear, too..

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#194808 - 04/07/16 11:58 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1143
Loc: Washington State, King County
Quote:
"Yep, me too! The scale is also useful for postage (duh), portion control for those of us trying to cut body weight, gourmet cooking with European recipes (which use weight instead of volume."

The "portion control" thing is something I'm using mine for lately, and I want to add that it's helpful for both uses (gear weighing and food weighing) to have a scale that will show weight in both/either ounces and grams.

So I ultimately ended up with TWO such scales. One only goes to 5 pounds but offers grams as an alternate, whereas the other only does ounces, but has a 10 pound limit. For weighing entire subsytems of backpacking gear, the 5 pound limit can occasionally be annoying. For example, going on a week+ long trip with no resupply and you want to weigh your entire food bag or canister without taking it apart and weighing subsets.

Actually, I have to confess I have a third sort of scale, this hanging from an eye-bolt in the ceiling of my basement. Originally a spring scale, I got a pretty inexpensive but seems-to-be-good electronic "hang stuff from" type of scale. Nice to weigh the entire pack with everything in it that way. I got a new bike recently, and it was easy to rig up a little cord to weigh it that way too.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#194809 - 04/07/16 12:09 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: BrianLe]
BrRabbit Offline
member

Registered: 03/15/16
Posts: 58
Loc: Milwaukee, WI
you could find a postal scale doing both grams and ounces with precision up to a gram or .1 of oz, with upper limit of 35 lb and under $30. I know I have one, bought on amazon.

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#194810 - 04/07/16 01:04 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: BrRabbit]
AlanL Offline
member

Registered: 02/24/16
Posts: 36
Loc: North Carolina
Got a link?

Originally Posted By BrRabbit
you could find a postal scale doing both grams and ounces with precision up to a gram or .1 of oz, with upper limit of 35 lb and under $30. I know I have one, bought on amazon.

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#194811 - 04/07/16 01:13 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: BrianLe]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
Originally Posted By BrianLe

Actually, I have to confess I have a third sort of scale, this hanging from an eye-bolt in the ceiling of my basement. Originally a spring scale, I got a pretty inexpensive but seems-to-be-good electronic "hang stuff from" type of scale. Nice to weigh the entire pack with everything in it that way. I got a new bike recently, and it was easy to rig up a little cord to weigh it that way too.


You can also do this by stepping on your bathroom scale with your pack on and weighing yourself. Then take your pack off and do it again. The difference is the weight of your pack.
And sometimes it's quite sobering!
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#194819 - 04/07/16 05:44 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: AlanL]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 829
Loc: Torrance, CA
Originally Posted By AlanL
Got a link?

Originally Posted By BrRabbit
you could find a postal scale doing both grams and ounces with precision up to a gram or .1 of oz, with upper limit of 35 lb and under $30. I know I have one, bought on amazon.


I was shaking my head up and down with BrR, but when I went and looked I discovered my scale only has an 11 pound range.

The same company (Ozeri) also has an 18 and 22 lb model with excellent reviews, but I haven't found a 30 lb model that jumps out to me and is under $30.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_89_0?fst=as%3Aoff&rh=n%3A1055398%2Cn%3A284507%2Cn%3A289754%2Cn%3A289785%2Cn%3A289787%2Cn%3A678508011%2Ck%3Ascale%2Cp_n_feature_keywords_three_browse-bin%3A7932987011%7C7932985011%7C7932986011%2Cp_89%3AOzeri&keywords=scale&ie=UTF8&qid=1460065420&rnid=2528832011

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#194823 - 04/08/16 12:01 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: balzaccom]
bobito9 Offline
member

Registered: 01/25/08
Posts: 385
I go to the post office and use their scale. I forget the weight range, but it seems like it goes up fairly high, and I assume it's pretty accurate. You get weird looks though.

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#194826 - 04/08/16 09:53 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: bobito9]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 627
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I've yet to buy a postage or kitchen scale, I think because there's such a huge range of options and prices; I'm overwhelmed by the choices and don't know what to look for. Cheap is good, but how cheap is too cheap. How do I know it's going to perform as advertised and not break?

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#194828 - 04/08/16 10:54 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: BrRabbit]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1143
Loc: Washington State, King County
Quote:
you could find a postal scale doing both grams and ounces with precision up to a gram or .1 of oz, with upper limit of 35 lb and under $30. I know I have one, bought on amazon.

Hence my comment --- nice to be aware of all the nuances (features and reasons for same) before making a first purchase. My 5 pound scale served me well for many years, but when it came time that I really wanted to weigh something a bit heavier --- it was easier and (at least at the time likely) less expensive to just get a second scale.

It really is a matter of knowing what's important to you, and why. I didn't mention a 'tare' function earlier as I think pretty much all electronic scales have that ...

Something else that might not be obvious, IF you want to make sure your scale is pretty accurate, or at least have a formula to adjust the results, I found that getting a roll or (or just a lot of) shiny new quarters is a pretty good approach. I.e., the very precise weight of a new-from-the-mint quarter is easily findable online, and with a bunch of them weighed to the gram you can get establish a pretty accurate calibration multiplier.
For most uses this is overkill --- unless you're an obsessive and/or geek type --- but occasionally (having confidence in) a fair degree of precision can be helpful.
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#194830 - 04/08/16 01:11 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: BrianLe]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
I use an electronic fish scale to weigh my pack.

Another handy item is a checklist of items to put in the pack before a trip. I've been known to forget things.


Edited by Gershon (04/08/16 01:11 PM)
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#194834 - 04/08/16 04:27 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: Gershon]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6371
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I don't have a single item in my pack that weighs 5 lbs or more, so the postage scale works just fine. It weighs in ounces or grams and has a tare function. The last saves a lot of math when weighing bulky items that have to be on a cookie sheet or tied up tightly, Since I have everything on a spreadsheet, I can easily find total pack weight by going there. In addition to easily calculating weight, the spreadsheet is my checklist when I pack.

I use the bathroom scale when the pack is ready to go--weigh myself with the pack and then without--the difference is the pack. I've found that any differences in total pack weight on the bathroom scale vs. the spreadsheet are due to food, since what I have on the spreadsheet is an average, not actual. To be sure, though, I now weigh my food as a separate item (or items, if over 5 lbs) and plug the actual weight into my spreadsheet. I learned to do that when my actual total pack weight for a 10-day trip was 2 lbs. less than the spreadsheet. After I unpacked everything and rechecked against my spreadsheet, thinking I'd left out something vital, I found that by deliberately selecting lighter weight meals for the 10-day trip, I had saved 2 pounds.

BTW, I hope that what the author of this article was trying to say is not to go to Walmart (or any other cheap store) with the intention of buying all your gear. It might be that a single item there would be worth while. And I've heard good things about the gear carried by Costco. I myself have bought a few things, such as merino wool socks, there.


Edited by OregonMouse (04/08/16 04:31 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#194837 - 04/09/16 10:51 AM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: OregonMouse]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
Good point about picking lighter meals for longer trips...
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#195560 - 05/29/16 09:24 PM Re: 12 gear tips for beginner backpackers [Re: balzaccom]
Tinker.Boyd Offline
newbie

Registered: 05/17/16
Posts: 4
Loc: Texas
I admit we still use an Academy tent. It is just over 8 pounds for a 4 person tent and works great for the four of us. It does limit us to milder temps, but until we upgrade we backpack to our equipment's limits. I think that is the key. If you can't afford some of the more expensive gear fine, just know the limits of what you have. Our first trip was with heavy packs so we kept the trip to 3 nights and from almost any spot, we could bail out in a day. When we upgraded our sleeping bags, it opened up higher elevations and a few more months.

Tinker

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