New to backpacking looking for advice.

Posted by: TheScuzz

New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 01:18 AM

Hey everyone! Stumbled upon this community, and i thought id take the opportunity to get some ideas from some people that are more experienced than me on my backpacking aspirations.
Heres my background:
24 years old, guy, 5'11 210lbs.
Go car camping about once a year but never owned my own gear until a few weeks ago.
Im very into the idea of backpacking, but I don't want to rush into it.
I live in Los Angeles, and I am planning on doing 3-4 one night trips into the angeles national forest to get used to my gear, work out the kinks between car camping and backpacking.

This is the gear i've acquired so far in the last month or so:

REI Passage 2 tent
Oboz yellowstone 2 hiking boots
deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10 backpack.
Marmot cloudbreak +30 sleeping bag
3 liter camelback water bottle.
Smartwool medium thickness hiking socks
REI trekker 1.75 self inflating sleeping pad
REI Nevis synthetic jacket (i know this is a womans coat, but i got it for like 40 bucks and it fit well)
Northface rain shell

Heres the gear I want to get soon:

A water filter (is this really necessary or can i just use tablets?) and what kind of water filter should i get? (i dont want to spend more than 80)

Leatherman wave multitool (ive wanted this for years now)

some sort of good hiking pants

a good wicking undershirt/longjohns

a stove (was thinking of making a soda can alcohol stove)

I was hoping at the end of the summer or the beginning of the fall to be comfortable enough to do a 3-4 day hike somewhere in sequoia national forest but i will mostly be trekking around angeles this summer.
Any advice? Recommendations on gear? something im forgetting?
Any input would be great.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 02:16 AM

Your program for getting started in backpacking (one night trips close to the trailhead) is excellent. There are a number of skills you need to learn, such as how to stay dry (including not sweating) in cold wet weather, how to pitch a tent in nasty weather, etc. These can be practiced even in your back yard, if you have one! I suspect that in the LA area it will be hard to find inclement weather (except heat!) until next winter. Be sure to do some practice trips in bad weather when it returns to your area!

However, before you buy any more gear, check out the articles in the left-hand column on the home page of this site. I think you may find that some of what you bought might be heavier than you need. I wouldn't worry about what you already have, but consider this for future purchases. Look at the weights on the gear lists (rather than the brands, some of which are no longer available) as guidelines. Note the slogan at the top of the page: "Packing Light is More Fun." Not only is it more fun, but it saves your joints and ligaments so you can still backpack in your old age, like me! Of course weight is not the only requirement; comfort is equally important, IMHO!

For the wicking underwear, check the athletic departments of big box stores like Target and Walmart. UnderArmor is great stuff!

Water purification--Katadyn Micropur tablets weigh next to nothing, but you'll have to allow several hours for the treatment time, which means carrying more water while it's being treated. If you go to the Make Your Own Gear section and page down close to the bottom, you'll find my thread, "DIY Gravity Water Filter." I never got any pictures posted, sorry, but you can get the ingredients for about $60 and it weighs about 6 1/2 ounces. There's also the Sawyer Squeeze Filter, which quite a few people like and I have not yet tried. You'll have to decide which way you want to go, which will take some trial and error.

It's surprising how few situations really need a knife. I do use a Leatherman--I have very little dexterity with my fingers and badly need the pliers--but I have the Micra, just under 2 oz., which meets all my needs. But if a big herky one is what you want, go for it. If you decide to lighten up later, the big one will still be quite useful around the house and in the car (been there, done that!)

Pants--any synthetic fabric pants will do; nylon track pants (again, in the athletic departments of big box stores) are fine. Right now is a good time to find sales as it's almost the end of track season. I'm not a fan of convertible pants, but a lot of folks like them. They weigh enough more than regular pants, though (it's those zippers on the legs) that you might be better off weight-wise with a pair of long pants and a pair of lightweight nylon swim trunks instead of shorts.

Stove: just a warning--in some places where there are fire danger restrictions, they only allow stoves with shutoff valves, which means you are basically restricted to a canister stove. Check the regulations where you're going to backpack to be sure an alcohol stove is OK. And be really careful with it!

You'll need to decide whether you want to do actual cooking (requiring possibly a set of pots and utensils) or whether you just want to boil water to rehydrate food (requiring only one pot, a spoon and a minimum of dishwashing). I'm a fan of the latter, using mostly home-dehydrated food plus some freeze-dried ingredients bought in bulk. My favorite food site is It has lots of recipes, many using common supermarket ingredients. I'm a big fan of this site and its owner, Sarbar. (You've probably figured out already that I hate washing dishes!)

The gear lists (especially the 7-day gear list) on the home page of this site are good models. Check them against your gear to see what you might be missing. A few things I can think of off the top of my head: some kind of light (headlamp), something to light your stove (Mini-Bic plus matches for backup), lightweight ("liner") gloves and a knit hat for cool nights, first aid items, sunglasses, a sun hat.

For toiletries (you'll at least want sunscreen, some kind of bug repellant and hand sanitizer), take only the amount you need for a trip in tiny bottles. You really don't want to carry a 6 ounce bottle of sunscreen (with the bottle weighing another 2 ounces) for an overnighter when you only need an ounce in a tiny dropper bottle!

I personally am very much in favor of that big tool of the UL backpackers, the spreadsheet with the weights of everything listed (you'll need a postage scale; manufacturers' weights are often way off). Some think this is silly, but I've found mine to be extremely useful. I can compare it against other gear lists to see what I'm missing or, just as important, what I can omit. I can evaluate future purchases by what they do to my pack weight. Even more important, I can print it out as a check list before each trip!

Posted by: TomD

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 02:19 AM

Welcome. What you carry really depends on the weather. There are a few gear lists here that may be helpful. Look for links to them on the main page of the site (not the forums, the actual home page.

I've carried a small multi-tool in winter, but just a SAK (Swiss Army Knife) otherwise. Mine has a few tools on it, but is one of the smaller ones.

Pants-very much a weather dependent item. I have a light pair of rain pants I wear in winter, otherwise, shorts. I've hiked in long johns and a pair of surf shorts in rainy weather.

Stove-for beginners, I always recommend a canister stove. Alcohol stoves are fine and you can make one of a hundred different designs relatively easily and cheaply, but a canister stove is a no muss, no fuss kind of stove. I have one, along with some others.

Wicking base layer or long johns-to me, two different items, one for warmth, one for hot weather (like a Coolmax). For cold weather, I wear Capilene from Patagonia. Expensive, but my first set has been in my closet for close to 25 years. I just bought a new top-expedition weight. Got it on sale, half price.

Water filter-one of the most hotly debated subjects around. For now, tablets will work for you until you decide if you want a filter and then, which one. There are hundreds of posts on the subject on this site alone. You can use the search function to find them. Read my post on using search in the General Discussion forum.
Posted by: Glenn

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 06:56 AM

Mouse and Tom have arranged things so the rest of us can keep our replies short! smile Seriouslly, they did an excellent job of advising you.

Deuter makes good packs; I keep going back and forth between theirs and Osprey (I used an ACT Lite 50+10 on a trip last weekend, and it really performed well - a bit heavier than the similar Osprey Kestrel, but not much, and perhaps a bit more stable and comfortable a carry.) The 65+10 sounds a bit large for the generally lightweight direction you seem to be heading; you may eventually downsize, depending on the length of your trips and conditions you expect.

I've used the Sawyer Squeeze filter on two trips so far, and really like it. Very easy to use, no moving parts to break (though you still don't want to see if it bounces on rocks), good taste to the water, and field maintainable. Even with a filter, carry some tablets for backup; Murphy's Law ("if it can break, it will - at the worst possible time) was probably discovered by backpackers.

Depending on your cooking style, look at the Jetboil Sol if the alcohol stove doesn't work out. For years, I was sold on the simple pot and canister stove (MSR Pocket Rocket and Titan Kettle) for the cooking Mouse describes; the original Jetboil was way too heavy. But the Sol gets the weight down close enough to the old combo that its additional wind resistance and fuel efficiency make it worth carrying. (Note: "make it worth carrying" is a subjective, not objective, statement - in the end, the decision that matters to you is yours, not mine.)

Enjoy learning, don't be afraid to make mistakes, and keep an open mind. And be sure to ask questions - we can mislead you with the best of them! smile
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 11:22 AM

Yep--I'll add my voice to those above.

1. That's a dang big pack for a few days in the back country. Don't feel the need to fill it up. My wife and I hike for more than week with packs that are only about 50-55 liters.

2. I own a Leatherman multi-tool, but have never taken it backpacking. Everything in my pack is sewn together, so why do I need the pliers, screwdriver, etc? I take a little mini-sewing kit from a hotel. It weighs a lot less, and can actually fix the stuff that needs fixing!

3. Alternate view: We've always used a Katadyn water filter pump. Works quickly and well, as long as you keep muddy water out of it. We've put about 600 miles on ours and it still works great. We've replaced the filter element twice, I think.

Stove? Don't need one for overnights. Just take ready to eat food and have fun!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 12:16 PM

Balzaccom is right; you really don't need the stove or cooking pot for an overnighter! Those can wait. It sounds as though you're just about ready to get out and hit the trail! Do make sure you have all 15 of the "Ten" Essentials with you in some form or other. And have fun--that's what it's all about!

Please keep us posted on your progress! We love trip reports from those we've tried to help!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 01:27 PM

Hey, welcome to the Forum!!

Ahh.. the Angeles National Forest, I've romped a lot of miles there. Have you ever been Malibu Creek State Park?

They were building a camp site there when I left CA, you can only camp in the campground there, but there is some great hiking there. I've hiked the creek from the lake to the lagoon and that's a lot of fun.

This time of year (back in the `80s) I used to go swimming in the swimming hole below the dam for the lake, and on weekdays I had it mostly to myself. Don't know if they restrict that now, but that's a great swimming hole in the early Spring.

Others have given you so much great advice already I'll comment more on the trips you might consider...

The Angeles NF is really too hot and dry in the summer to go backpacking. Water is as rare as gold. I knew a few spots where it might be found when I roamed there, but they are all rare and inconsistent sources and the further you get into the summer the less likely you are to find any water. The only tip I can offer on that is the further you hike up the bottoms of the canyons the more likely you are to find water, and the less likely you will be found if you get stuck there.

However, the Angeles NF has some awesome spots waiting for those willing to explore a bit from late Fall to early Spring, and they can be like little "Shangri-Las" when you find them.

I used to hike Piru Creek a lot too. I'd park below the Pyramid Lake dam off of I-5 and bushwhack downstream. I never spent the night in there, but I don't think they were any regulations against it. In the winter they'd stock the creek with trout and it was pretty nice in there. I never saw a soul once I was 10-15 minutes into those hikes and it always amazed me that I had it all to myself.

There were also some spots I'd go behind Castiac Lake, and while I mostly car camped back there, there were some great spots to spend a night or two backpacking there in the cool season.

If I recall correctly, Early Fall might be a bit too late for backpacking the Sequoias. I recall the backpacking season runs from mid-July thru mid-September up there. Before and after that you still have a good chance of getting hammered with deep snow. But it's sweet in the Summer, so you might want to go there sooner.

There's really no reason you should wait to go there, you can test your gear and shake out the bugs and get some experience there, just plan on staying close to your car so you can bail out easily if you want to.

I used to drive up I-5 to Bakersfield, then to Porterville, then to Springville, and enter the Sequoia NF from there. There were lot's places to car camp there, and I'd park and either car camp or head into forest and camp out. I didn't use a tent much back then, I just slept on the ground in my bag. I don't know what the rules and regulations are there now, but no one ever bothered me or my car when I did that, and there was no charge to use the campsites I went to, which were mostly only used by locals for hunting trips, not those used by tourists.

You should definitely check out some of the Trip Reports here by the member "Wondering_Daisy". She's got a spot or two she hikes along the coast up north of you and the photos she's posted are stunning. I'd love to do those hikes and they might be perfect for you to get started with. And she's posted reports on the kinds of places you are most certainly dreaming about going as well, after you have some experience, and you'll learn a lot if you take the time to read them.


As for gear, I'll add these tidbits:

I mostly use a "Super Cat" alcohol stove now. They work great for freeze dried "Mountain House" type meals and instant oatmeal, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. Not so good for frying bacon or grilling steaks. Depending on the food you bring, if you're only doing 1-4 nighters they are a very good choice.

I have several "Multi-Tools", all cheap knock offs of a Leatherman, but I don't ever bring them backpacking. I do carry a very small pocket knife called a "Cowboy Toothpick". It's light, handy, and all I've really needed. They cost about $3-$5 bucks depending where you buy one.

Posted by: TheScuzz

Re: New to backpacking looking for advice. - 05/09/12 11:05 PM

Thanks for the tips everyone,
Ill post back when I finish my first couple of trips and let you know how they went.