Jim, I've found the ULA Amigo Pro gravity water filter to be quite fast. 10-15 minutes will filter the full bag (~ 1 gallon or a little more). With the Platypus connector, you don't need to worry about bottles falling over. You do need to bleed the air pressure out of the Platy a time or two while it's filling, but so far I've found that if the air pressure builds up, the water flow stops long before the Platy bursts like a balloon. You can do something else, or just sit and admire the scenery, while the water is filtering (just check occasionally for the balloon effect). The best thing about this filter is that you can filter your water in camp instead of having to sit by the buggy stream (one of the numerous reasons the Steripen Adventurer I bought last summer was returned to REI). And the ULA filter is only 7 1/2 oz., lighter than most pump filters. Just my $.02 worth, but I'm really in love with this filter!
That being said, I'm switching to chlorine dioxide tablets (Katadyn MicroPur or Aquamira tablets) for long trips, to save more weight. I'm working at getting my base weight down so I can go for at least 10 days without resupply and without getting skin-out weight over 30 lbs. I'm almost there! For a trip of 5 days or less, or for group trips (i.e., taking out the grandkids), I'll still take the ULA filter.
IdahoHiker, for clothes, please, please leave anything cotton at home. It absorbs a ton of moisture (you want fabrics that wick moisture without absorbing it), is very slow to dry and, when wet, can lead to hypothermia (the popular saying among backpackers is that "cotton kills"). Just ask Mom what's the last thing to get dry in the dryer--always cotton jeans and thick cotton socks! Of course desert hiking in the daytime, when a wet T-shirt will keep you cool, is a different story. But even in the desert, you want synthetics at night, when it gets cold, and when it rains or snows!
This is what I take for 3-season wear (Cascades and Rockies): I wear long nylon pants, a synthetic baselayer top (long sleeve, but lightweight) as a shirt, breathable nylon undies (optional for some men, but I'm female), trail running shoes, merino wool socks and a sun hat. In my pack are baselayer bottoms, a wind shirt (any lightweight unlined nylon jacket will do, but treat it with a DWR treatment), an insulating layer (mine is a Montbell UL Thermawrap, lightweight but $$$, but a polyester fleece jacket will be fine), lightweight rain jacket and pants, a polypro fleece balaclava, polypro glove liners (the last two from Campmor) and a pair of rain mitts (plastic bags could substitute). Also a pair or two of extra socks and my one luxury, a pair of soft, cuddly fleece socks for sleeping. This will keep me warm down to about 25*. If I think it's going to be colder (fall or spring or summer above timberline in the northern Rockies), I will take another torso insulating layer, generally a merino wool T-shirt or a lightweight fleece vest. For winter conditions, I might also take another insulating layer for my bottom half. However, in my old age I prefer not to camp in the winter. The winter camping section of this forum (way down at the bottom) will give you lots of ideas for what to wear when it's really cold. Your Mileage May Vary, but this is what works for me. Others will have other ideas.
You can shop thrift stores, military surplus, discount stores like KMart, Target, Wallyworld, etc. for synthetic and wool clothes such as breathable wicking base layers, fleece, lightweight wool. Look in the athletic departments of such stores, not sporting goods. Wicking knit shirts and underwear, nylon track pants, merino wool blend socks cheaper than the standard brands (Costco, I've been told, has some good ones). Keep checking your local thrift stores--you can find all sorts of interesting things there for maybe $2-5 apiece. Fleece insulating layers will soon be on sale, if they aren't already, as the stores try to make room for spring items. It seems silly to pay $100 or more for a fleece jacket from REI when you can get a similar item for 1/4 the price (or less) at a discount store or for almost nothing at a thrift store! Watch for other clearances on winter gear (maybe places selling ski wear) to pick up a fleece or wool beanie cap and some lightweight liner gloves.
There are a number of other good sources for bargains. As mentioned in other posts, there are several outlets listed on the Portal Page of this website, plus Steep and Cheap (which needs to be checked several times daily) and Sierra Trading Post. Campmor.com often has closeouts, and their house brands are generally good. Their silnylon gear (tarps, stuff sacks, rain gear) are from Equinox and are a good buy. Campmor's house brand down sleeping bag is often recommended for those on a budget. It's more like a 30* bag than a 20* bag, and it's of course heavier than a Western Mountaineering bag, but it's also about 1/3 the price of a WM bag and, if properly cared for, will last until sometime in the far future when you have your pennies saved up for the Cadillac of sleeping bags (although if your parents are willing, don't turn down the offer!). The Campmor down bag is a lot lighter than any comparable synthetic bag. Just make sure you keep it dry! Lining your pack with a 2-mil trash compactor bag from your supermarket (just make sure the bags aren't perfumed!) and twisting the end into a watertight candy-cane closure will go a long way to ensure this.
There was recently a thread in the Light Gear section about a gear list of 20 lbs. and $200, which, despite a few sarcastic remarks, has a number of interesting ideas for those on a budget. I posted links to a few other sites on that thread (not because I felt this site is lacking, but only because it seems silly to re-invent the wheel). If you've been lurking, you've probably read this thread already.
Check out the gear lists on the home page of this site, in the left-hand column, for more ideas.
Edited by OregonMouse (01/22/09 02:01 AM)
Edit Reason: add more info for OP
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey