Welcome! If you haven't already found them, there are lots of excellent articles on lightening your pack and on gear selection listed in the left-hand column of http://www.backpacking.net/, the home page of this site.

Another good site for gear selection is Mark Verber's website. Lots of ideas for gear, from the latest technology to ultra-low-budget alternatives, which is frequently updated (I don't know how Mark does it!). Also tons of links to reviews and other sites.

You will often find better and lighter gear choices if you do considerable research outside retail stores. Unfortunately many outdoor stores (especially the big chains like REI, whose idea of "ultralight" is half again as heavy as I'd ever want to carry) are mostly interested in loading you down with heavy high-priced gear and lightening your wallet! The above sites will help you get started on your research.

I personally prefer a single-wall tent with plenty of ventilation--Tarptent's Squall 2 or Double Rainbow are good places to start, and have a lot more floor space than most 2-person double-wall tents. If you must have a double-wall tent, consider Tarptent's Scarp 2, roomier and lighter than most 2-person double-wall tents and, most important, you can pitch the waterproof fly first and the inner tent underneath so the latter doesn't get wet. Forget tent footprints, too--that's another sales gimmick--they are extremely heavy. I don't use a footprint at all but just make sure stones and sticks are removed from my tent site (something you want to do anyway). If you feel that you must use a footprint, and if you'll be camping on muddy sites it's probably a good idea, cut a piece of plastic painter's dropcloth to the shape of your tent floor but about 2" less on each side (you don't want water running down the side of your tent to get onto the plastic underneath and make puddles under your floor). You can buy many years' worth of these for the price of a commercial footprint. The gear loft is another item you'll undoubtedly never use--again, it adds weight and more important, takes away your head room! Gear not needed in the tent can be stored in the vestibule, and of course anything with food or cosmetics needs to be hung (or in a bear canister if required) well away from the tent.

Most of the best and innovative gear these days is made by small "cottage" manufacturers and sold on the internet. You do have to be prepared to pay return shipping cost if the item isn't what you want, but you're still liable to spend less than you would at the big stores. I frankly buy at REI only if it's a spendy item that I'm a bit dubious about and think I might have to return.

Edited by OregonMouse (04/15/10 09:35 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey