A few newbie questions

Posted by: Chattaben

A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 04:37 PM

Hello everyone

I need a little advice and guidance here. A few years ago I went on 3-4 seperate overnighters in the Smokies with a friend of mine and absolutely loved the whole experience and would really like to possibly pick this up as a hobby. I'm an avid car camper (which I know is much much different)but I would really like to see some of the backcountry spots my parents used to got to.

Not too long ago someone gave me a backpack that has never been used other than using it as luggage on a plane. Its a Lowe Alpine Contour classic 90 +15. It seems to be pretty large but I really don't know. Should I just invest in a new one? Seems kind of a waste since its basically new. I've got a small 1-2 person tent...weighs about 5 lbs I guess). As well as other little pieces of gear like a used stove, some rain gear, and boots.

My biggest problem is that I really don't have a partner. Only having done a few overnighters, it might be nice to have someone else along. I'm pretty confident I could do it solo but what would you all advise?

Posted by: grandtheory

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 04:53 PM

I joined a local backpacking group on www.meetup.com although I haven't actually met or camped with any of them yet (but might once it warms up a bit).

You might also look into the Sierra Club to see if they have a local/regional chapter.
Posted by: hikerduane

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 05:58 PM

Your pack sounds huge! Maybe sell it and buy something smaller. You may still need a big pack for your bag if it is the weight you say. Ask around outdoor/bping stores if they know groups or individuals who bp. Give going solo a shot, see how you like getting out and see if it would be neat to go with others.
Posted by: Wolfeye

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 06:00 PM

Hey, welcome to the forum. I'd recommend taking it slow rather than jumping in all at once - begin with day hiking trips, and take the 10+ essentials with you. Learn how to use them if you don't know already.

Once you're comfortable with that, then start overnighters. Here's a suggested list of items you should have. You don't have to buy it all at once; you can borrow from others, rent, and buy used. Not everyone camps the same and the list you end up with might be a little different.

Depending where you go, you might have to jump through a few easy hoops; some places require backcountry permits to park at the trail, some areas have requirements for items that you should have: often times you can get away with open fires and hang your food from trees to keep them away from hungry paws, but other times you'll have to use a stove and store your food in a bear-proof canister.

Read a lot about hiking, and find people who are into it already to learn from them. Hiking clubs are a good start, but I've found that some clubs are too hardcore for beginners. Hiking with a large group of people has a different dynamic than going with one or two friends. Eventually you'll end up with a core group of people who enjoy the same type of hiking you do.
Posted by: IdahoHiker

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 06:11 PM

check out the other recent thread that says. HELP NEED GEAR HELP. even thought it starts out with just clothing i am looking for it goes through sleeping bags and other essentials that you will need. Keep posting questions because this forum is a wealth of information. good luck.
Posted by: grandtheory

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 06:57 PM

Originally Posted By hikerduane
Ask around outdoor/bping stores if they know groups or individuals who bp.

A lot of backpacking stores have bulletin boards where you can post/find the contact info for hiking partners.

Whatever you do.... stay away from CraigsList!!! smile
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 07:53 PM

Hey and welcome

DO not sweat your pack. It sounds large enough to hold yer stuff. After you get some experience and the other gear, then you can consider a diferent pack. You may find that with some experience, that you have a better idea of what has to go into your pack. Most of us feel that the pack is the single most important piece of gear and should be bought last.

Ignore anyone who says your "pack is too big", or that smaller is better. A pack has to be big enough to hold your gear, you can go smaller/lighter later. Personally I carry a 6500" pack. I Have never felt that it was "too large". Unless you have a really modern down UL sleeping bag and squeeze the heck out of it, it won't even fit into a mini pack.

Get your sleeping bag/pad together and work on clothes. You can shop for camping clothes at Goodwill. When I was a poor hippy backpacker I wore levis and tee shirts. When you need either some skills or better equipment is when the weather turns fowl.

You said that you have a tent. If you put your tent and sleepng bag into your pack, how much room is left? Enough for a coat, food, cook gear, rain gear, sleeping pad etc. Try this out before you go selling your old pack.

As far as going solo - a lot of more experienced peops prefer it, but you're better off having someone to teach you some skills first. Often its the unknown elements that can get ya. The stuff that ya simpley don't watch out for cause you haven't been hurt by it yet. Its like hiking in a desert if you're used to forest - different things will get you than what you are on the look out for.

A friend is a good thing, as long as they are as sane as you are. If you go with a friend, try to share your gear so that you each carry less.

DO NOT overdo the safety gear and what if stuff. I mean yes take the ten essentials , but people carry way too much un-needed junk, and a 5 pound first aid kit, bowie knife, axe, spare clothes, cooking flies, ground clothes, spare stoves, extra pans, and lanterns are not required for most trips. My combined gear is light not because the individual pieces are light, but because I simply do not carry a lot of it.

Another falacy - layering is not always the best way to go, it depends. Layering clothes is heavy, but works well for the money if your gear isn't highly specialized. A down jacket to wear in camp could be much lighter than sweaters and more layers, and warmer. You will have to learn what works for you in the places that you go.
Jim crazy

Posted by: Glenn

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 08:03 PM

I wouldn't advise rushing right out and replacing what you've got (unless you're very gainfully employed, and money's not a serious object.)

Instead, use what you've got until you have a little experience. You'll learn what annoys you about it, and be able to make a better informed decision when you do buy, and won't end up replacing gear 3 or 4 times. (Hi, I'm Glenn, and I'm a recovering gear addict. My sponsor, Andrew, who owns the local backpacking shop, starts grinning when I walk in. I don't think he really gets the finer points of my twelve step program...)

You don't mention a sleeping bag. This would be one thing I'd urge you to spend some money on - don't try to do this on the cheap at Dick's. There are several good threads here about sleeping bags, so do some research. If money is an issue, try the various clearance sales and outlets - see the links at the left.

Take a trip - then ask us some specific questions based on the results.

(And remember, we're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you - because we've all been there.)
Posted by: TomD

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 09:48 PM

I agree somewhat with Jim. You already have a pack, so start there. Is it big? Yes, but it's paid for. You can get a different one later. Jim does a lot of winter camping (I know Jim) so he needs the room. You probably don't for now. The thing to avoid is filling it up with stuff you don't need to take.

Look at the gear lists on this site and others for various trips. You don't need to buy everything at once, but take Glenn's advice and buy a decent bag. Backpacking is different from car camping-weight is always an issue and you don't have the comfort of bailing out quickly that you have if you are right next to the car.

Do some reading. Books like The Complete Walker will help you figure out what you may need. There is a book list on the site. Technique is more important than having any particular brand of something, so spend time reading about how to do things as opposed to just what to buy or bring.

The Sierra Club suggestion was a good one. Sometimes REI offers free classes at their stores if you have one nearby. You might find a Yahoo Group in your area. Look online for singles clubs that go camping if you are single or maybe even a church group if you belong to one.
Posted by: aimless

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 10:42 PM

As others have said, don't sweat too hard getting all your gear perfect. Use the gear you have and you'll know from the get-go if you need to ditch it asap, or if you can make it work for what you want it to do. Getting out there is waaaaaaay more important than owning all the best gear.

Starting solo is a bit trickier than starting out with an experienced partner, or even another newbie for a partner, but it isn't out of the question if you start in small, easy steps.

First, read up a bit. Make a list of what you think you'll need, or find a gear list on the internet and modify it to suit what you actually own or can borrow or buy. Assemble your stuff, without food, and get acquainted with it. The last place you want to be the first time you light your stove or put up your tent is 15 miles from the nearest road. It's a great idea to spend your first solo night in your own backyard.

Continue to come here and chat about issues as you have questions.

If you can't locate a hiking partner, plan a short hike - maybe two or three miles from your car - for your first experience. It isn't rocket science, but it might feel a bit daunting at first.

And good luck. I've been soloing since I was 19 years old. I'm 54 now and the bears and cougars haven't got me, yet. shocked
Posted by: lori

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/25/09 11:11 PM

Go to a sporting goods store that will measure you and properly fit you to determine your pack size. If your gift pack is not that size, ebay it and find a pack that fits you and will carry your gear without wearing your hips raw. I have had difficulty because my size is small in some brands and medium in others - those 1-2 inch differences make a huge difference in how it sits on my back.

I'm sure you'll find a zillion tips and tricks for gear on this forum. I found a group of day hikers on meetup, and within the group I found some "like minds" to go on backpacking trips with.
Posted by: Chattaben

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/26/09 08:32 AM

Wow, what a great response. Over the past month or two, I have been doing the research and trying to stay in shape over the cold months. So hopefully by the spring/summer, I will be ready to go.

As far as a bag goes, I managed to pick up an inexpensive one ($20) at this flea market/outdoor gear swap thing. The guy said it was +5 degrees rated and had synthetic insulation. It is a brand name I have never seen before (SlumberJack).Now, from what I have read so far and please correct me if I'm wrong but that sounds a little too much for summer hiking.

Thanks everyone.
Posted by: finallyME

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/26/09 10:49 AM

A 5 degree bag is too much for summer hiking in Tennessee. I have a slumberjack 60 degree bag for southern hiking in the summer. But, it is probably a 30 degree bag in reality. What is the name of the bag?
Posted by: Chattaben

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/28/09 09:36 PM

It's a SlumberJack Himalayan. It has a synthetic filling. And from what I can tell it is a +5* rating. It was only 20 bucks and its practically brand new. However, I can see myself sweating profusely if I use it in the summer. Guess I'll keep it and use it till something else comes up. Unless someone out there has a better idea.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/29/09 05:04 AM

Slumberjack is a well-known brand for inexpensive sleeping bags. Like most of its genre, you can assume that a +5* bag is more like a 15* or 20* bag. However, that still sounds too warm for where you're at. I'll bet it's really heavy and bulky, too! Have you weighed it?

The Campmor mummy down bag is often recommended for those on a budget. It's a 20* bag but is probably more like a 30* bag. The regular size weighs 2 1/4 lbs. and costs $120. www.campmor.com

Posted by: sabre11004

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/29/09 06:38 PM

Yes I think that you should use it now that you have it !!!! However, when you are done using that bag I think that you will have gained experience that will help you chose a great bag that is perfect for you and you only...If you hike in a lot of rain (and I do) I would recommend that you stay away from down. Although down is probably the best insulator it is useless if it ever gets wet. Synthetic insulation will hold it's insulating powers 100% better than down will and unless you are very experienced, a down bag will be very very hard to keep totally dry forever. It just won't happen...Hope that helps...sabre11004...

The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there !!!!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/30/09 01:04 AM

Actually, I've found it pretty easy to keep a down bag dry. Of course I grew up with the things--in 1941 when I went on my first backpack (age 6), there weren't any synthetic sleeping bags (the only synthetic fabric around then was rayon). Keep it inside a watertight bag and unload it only under your shelter. Air the bag out whenever you get a dry hour or two. Don't wear wet clothing inside it. Either use a tent that's well-ventilated and avoid camping in low-lying areas to avoid tent condensation (whether the tent is single-wall or double-wall), or wipe down the walls of the tent during the night and before you move around. (Of course if you have a dog, he may be up and doing the whole body tail-wag first.) Under a tarp, use a bivy with a fully breathable top (to avoid condensation) to protect the bag from blown-in rain or snow. In below freezing temperatures, use a vapor barrier to avoid your body moisture's condensing on the inside of the shell. Having a DWR (but highly breathable) coating on the shell helps.

From my own experience, I can tell you that a wet synthetic bag is just as cold as a wet down bag. Synthetic insulation is easier to dry, because it doesn't tend to clump as down does, but the "warm when wet" myth that synthetic bag proponents claim is strictly folklore. I've been there, done that, and it ain't true! Whatever your insulation, be sure to keep your sleeping bag dry!

EDIT: I would never get a down bag for a 6-year-old, though, unless (s)he has progressed several years beyond the bed-wetting stage! I have no idea how my parents coped with that little problem!
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: A few newbie questions - 01/30/09 01:31 PM

I'm with Oregon Mouse on this one, though I (fortunately) don't have the experience of sleeping in either type of completely wet bag. I live in Washington state and hike a bit in the rain, and I definitely prefer a down bag ... it's just significantly lighter and packs smaller, and I've had no problem keeping it dry. I hiked the PCT this past year, and for the entire trip (2600+ miles over about 5 months) I used a down bag; I believe the majority (perhaps the vast majority) of long distance hikers use down bags or comforters. It's just a matter of taking the sort of reasonable precautions that OregonMouse mentioned.
Posted by: Chattaben

Re: A few newbie questions - 02/01/09 09:10 AM

thank you everyone. You've been a great help...I'll be back for more I'm sure.