Newbie Intro

Posted by: HikerGirl

Newbie Intro - 03/24/13 04:27 PM

Hi all, I am new to these forums. I am not new to camping, but have limited experience hiking. Most of my camping has just been recreational with friends using our cars. I am looking to start some hiking/camping adventures alone on weekends. Short 1-2 night trips to start. Ideally Iíd like to start in April and go through September or October depending on the weather here in New England. I would love to do some winter trips, but Iíd like to get some more experience under my belt before I tackle that feat!

Iím starting my brand research and was hoping to get some suggestions for a solo hiker. Like I said, these trips will be short 1-2 nights, on weekends, so I wonít need anything to last me for a substantial number of days. I have old gear that has just been used for car camping, so Iíd like to start fresh and do this right with new gear.

Physically Iím tall, 5í9Ē for a girl, and overweight. I have wide feet so hiking boot brands that run wide or come in wides would be preferred. Iím also 25 years old, so Iím still young.

Iím not too sure about a budget, since I will have to invest in a new tent/boots/backpack/supplies, I know Iíll be spending hundreds of dollars. Iím not strapped for cash, but I also donít want to break the bank.

So, for now if anyone has some suggestions for me, and can list the brand name and what they are best for (tents, boots, sleeping bags, etc.) it would really help my research. If there is any additional information needed please let me know!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie Intro - 03/24/13 06:38 PM

Welcome! Your idea of starting with short trips and gradually adding time/distance as you gain experience is a good one.

For starters, read the articles listed on the home page of this site, left-hand column. Many of them are about gear selection. Pay special attention to the advice to get your backpack last! There are also several gear lists there.

I'd also recommend Andrew Skurka's book.

A great place to compare various gear designs is Mark Verber's almost encyclopedic website. You can also check out the comprehensive gear reviews on

When starting out, renting or borrowing the major gear items, or buying them used, is an excellent idea. A lot of clothing items are probably in your closet. I'm sure that a number of your car camping items are usable. You really need to gain some experience before investing $$$ in a lot of new gear. Otherwise you'll find yourself replacing over half of that expensive new gear before the first year is out. .

Many of us have long since given up boots in favor of lightweight trail runners. I made the switch 4 years ago and never regretted it. The trail runners are far more comfortable and also more supportive. In fact, my hiking boots have stayed in my closet unworn ever since. I have gone as far as putting them in a box intended for Goodwill; as soon as the box is full, the boots will be gone for good.

Here are some low-budget oriented gear lists, just to show what can be done for a relatively small amount of money:

Cheap Ultralight Gear List

Mark Henley's Ultralight Gear List

"Sgt. Rock's" Dirtbagging and Deal Shopping

There are also low-budget options listed on Mark Verber's site linked to above.

This should give you enough research sources to keep you busy for a while!
Posted by: lori

Re: Newbie Intro - 03/24/13 06:49 PM

First, welcome.
Second, lots of assumptions you are making that are common to all newbies, including myself some time ago when I decided as an adult to get back into the game after many years, and discovered that most of the assumptions are actually just that.

You can borrow and rent what you need for a few trips, to get an idea of what you're up against. Some of the gear is a personal decision - if you can sleep on an inch and a half of foam (I most emphatically could not!) the regular Thermarest self inflatables are fine. If you can't, there are other pads or mattresses to consider. But you won't know until you try one. Same with pretty much everything else.

Some gear you can go cheap on. Stoves, simple to make for very little money - visit for a full run down. Or if you don't care, google the fancy feast stove (can of cat food plus hole punch equals nearly free stove that boils a liter of water) or look up the pocket rocket, the snow peak giga, or any of the $40-50 canister stoves. Don't bother yourself with the hype about stoves like the jetboil. You need something to boil water - it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive to do it.

Ziplocks and plastic spoons do the job for packaging food and eating it. Look over at for great ideas for food you get at grocery stores and create just-add-water meals. No need to spend $10/meal on freeze dried junk that is full of sodium, preservatives and food substitute.

Get with a group. I know you said solo, but as a search and rescue volunteer, I can tell you that's not smart in the beginning. And you will get a lot of great info from hikers and backpackers who frequently go in your area, on places to go and the kinds of gear that are best for use there.

Always leave a detailed itinerary with someone, along with the number you want them to call in case you don't return home. Especially if you are determined to go by yourself. If no one knows where to start looking, they won't find you if something goes wrong. Newbies don't know all the things that can go wrong, and a large part of learning to go out in the wilderness is knowing the real risks and knowing how to reduce them. (No, animals aren't the number one issue. Worry more about things like your health and well being...)

Check the gear lists on the left hand side of the main page of this website.

Ignore brands, popularity, etc of items. Get pack, shoes, etc that fit YOU. Get measured and fitted for pack size. Get hiking shoes, not sneakers, and make sure there is enough room in the toe box.

If I were talking to myself some years back when I was buying my first round of gear - I would tell myself - get what works for you, try stuff on, stick with wool, spend all the money on the sleeping gear (sleep matters a WHOLE LOT more when you aren't getting it!), the foot gear, the pack and the shelter - cheap out on all the rest. Don't think you need to spend thousands. There is a ton of stuff available at outlets like Sierra Trading Post - clothes, stoves, bags, etc. even shoes once you figure out what your actual size should be.

And, if an item weighs more than a couple of pounds, think twice about other options. I know you want a pat answer, but you can save yourself a lot of money by being willing to do some research and find some options that neither break the bank or your back.

Gear reviews -
Mark Verber's page - good stuff for newbies here.
Posted by: lori

Re: Newbie Intro - 03/24/13 06:55 PM

Simultaneous synchronicity for the win!
Posted by: LoneStranger

Re: Newbie Intro - 03/24/13 07:12 PM

Not sure what is available in your area, but have you considered renting to start? If it is an option in your area it would allow you to try out some different shelters, sleep systems and other gear to see what works for you. If not I'd avoid shelling out a lot of money on high end equipment until you are sure you are in it for the long haul. Stick to reasonably priced stuff that has good reviews and you can always upgrade items later which is part of the fun. smile

On the boots I'd recommend looking for stores in your area that carry the major brands and trying them on. You can buy a lot of stuff online, but not boots. I am breaking in a new pair of Keens right now that seem to have a nice wide toe box but I'd never have guessed I'd need a size 14 if I hadn't tried them on in the store with my good socks on.

For shelter it depends a lot on where you'll be going. Up here the bugs are terrible so I prefer a tent over a tarp and freestanding is important because I go a lot of places with lean-tos or platforms. I have an old NF Tephra 22 but I think they stopped making those years ago heh.

I'd advise looking into a down quilt rather than a sleeping bag for the seasons/area you mentioned. I picked up a 40 degree Thermarest Ventra over the Winter I'm looking forward to trying out if it ever gets that warm again and am really happy with the size/weight savings over my old bag.

Backpacks are another item you really need to try on to see which works for you. I am an Osprey fan myself but what fits you is the one you want so try on as many as you can preferably at a store with knowledgeable help. Wait until you have most of your other gear before you look for a bag though. You won't know what you'll need to carry your stuff until you have your stuff.

You'll definitely want to do a lot of looking around the site here. There are a lot of people here with a lot of experience with what is out there and many of them have shared their thoughts already. Sometimes they even agree laugh Good luck and have fun out there!

Edit: Speaking of knowledgeable people with a lot of experience I see a few of them posted while I was typing smile
Posted by: HikerGirl

Re: Newbie Intro - 03/31/13 07:40 AM

Thanks everyone for the advice. It really saves confusion on where to start!
Posted by: KYkamper

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/12/13 05:01 PM

dont be afraid to make things yourself. Its cheap and very satisfying!! Check out for cook systems that will cost about 10$. I would also recommend checking out "Ultralight Backpackin' Tips" by Mike Clelland. Wish I had done this before I bought all the gear I did.
Posted by: TomD

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/13/13 12:17 AM

There is a very good NE website, Views from the Top you should check out. Not sure what the new member policy is these days, but you should be able to read posts without joining.
Get a copy of The Complete Walker 4th Ed. It covers everything, but is not lightweight oriented like this site. However, it does talk about thinking about gear and clothes as systems. At some point it is not about the brand; quality gear is quality gear. But just buying by brand could mean you have a bunch of nice stuff that doesn't work together as a system. I don't have a lot of stuff, but I don't need a lot of stuff either to be warm, dry and safe.

Remember though, just because you are only out for a few days at a time does not mean you should skimp on quality. Example, I have a very expensive down parka I use only a few days a year (yep, the one in my picture). I got it on eBay and the cost is now amortised to about $25 every time I put it on. Worth every penny. On the other hand, I have a Swiss Army knife, I've had for about 30 years. Quality lasts.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/13/13 12:31 PM

Safety consideration: It really is a good idea to go out with groups for a while until you learn the various skills required--it isn't just gear, but the space between your ears that is important! You'll learn the skills and also learn more about gear by going with a group for a while. If you google "hiking groups [your community or nearest city]" you should find some. Appalachian Mountain Club, Meetup groups.... It's best not to hike solo until you've gained considerable experience. We don't want Lori, or rather her New England Search and Rescue equivalents, to have to go out looking for you!
Posted by: BradW

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/13/13 05:01 PM

Hey OregonMouse (or is it granny hiker?)

hen you say trail runners, do you mean somehing like these?

My ankles are such that I don't think I could wear those. I'd roll an ankle before a day was over
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/13/13 07:33 PM

Yes, both are me. Welcome to The Lightweight Backpacker!

I resisted the switch to trail runners for years, thinking the same as you about ankle support. Finally I had to switch--I could no longer find women's boots that weren't Goretex lined. Goretex turns my feet into a sauna, and takes days to dry if the boots get wet inside.

I used to turn my ankles any number of times in boots. To my great surprise, in my first pair of trail runners (Montrail Hardrocks, long since discontinued), I tried really hard to turn my ankles on purpose but couldn't. I haven't had an ankle-turning episode since I switched! It's actually the footbed of the shoe that provides the ankle support, not that little bit of leather (or padded nylon) around your ankle.
Posted by: BradW

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/13/13 09:24 PM

Thanks for the reply. Interesting for sure. I have a pair of shoes that "look" like thes shoes, but I suspect the similarities end there. They are great on flats, but my feet get jambed up pretty bad on the downhills.

I'll have to take a look at some other options
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Newbie Intro - 04/14/13 11:01 AM

Whatever footgear you wear, the most important qualities you need in a shoe are fit, fit and fit! If your feet are jamming forward, you have a fit problem.