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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 2007
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    TN
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    1,869

    Default Backpackers?

    I've been doing a lot of camping and a lot of hiking for different jobs, but so far I haven't actually backpacked and am really interested in trying it.

    How did you get into it, and do you have any tips for beginners? What tent/stove/water purifier do you use? I actually work in outdoor retail so I know most of the features of the main brands & popular items, and have narrowed down my search to a few options but I'd love to hear your reviews and preferences!
    "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

    Phoenix Animal Rescue



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul. 10, 2008
    Posts
    1,931

    Default

    Hi! My husband does a lot of backpacking and got me into it when we started dating. It's a ton of fun and not that difficult to get started! You should do just fine if you hike and camp a lot already.

    You probably know this already but GET A PACK THAT FITS YOU WELL! I am a rather petite person so I made sure to go with a women's model that fit my smaller torso. Make sure it's comfortable and has a hip strap, I find it's best to carry most of the weight on your hips rather than shoulders. Also be sure to pack your gear in such a way that the pack will sit snugly against your back with no gaps.

    We use the little pen-shaped UV light water purifier and that thing is awesome, but we have had some issues with it in very cold temps so just be aware of that if you plan on doing any late fall/winter backpacking. We also use the JetBoil portable stoves and they are fantastically efficient and compact. A few packs of instant oatmeal and some freeze-dried meals and you are good to go! Instant coffee, protein bars, etc. are also good to bring.

    As far as tents and sleeping bags, the lighter and more compact the better! Or if you are going out in good weather, a hammock is a wonderful thing, and they do sell rain flys for them. I find I sleep much better in a hammock than in a tent. Just make sure that whatever you get is EXTREMELY PACKABLE and as lightweight as you can afford. Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to backpacking. We actually use a cheap-o KMart tent at this point if we need it but are saving up for something more lightweight and packable.

    Unless you are obscenely fit, I'd keep your first few trips to 10 miles or so total. Hiking with 20-30 lbs of weight is way different than hiking with little to no weight on your back, and it does take quite a toll on your body. Also make sure you have good boots that fit, which I'm sure you also know! I actually vetwrap my ankles and heels to prevent blisters, too.

    Rain gear and a rain cover for you pack are ALWAYS good ideas too! And pack all your clothes in ziploc bags and then squeeze out the air. Keeps things compact and dry.

    That's all that comes to mind at the moment, but I'd love to answer any other questions you have! Backpacking is a blast.
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 2007
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,869

    Default

    Thanks! I do have an Osprey Ariel that I luuurv and used for the other type of "backpacking" (hosteling ), and since I hiked for a job my boots are good and broken in. I'm especially psyched because I'm moving to TN soon, and there's tons of good hiking in the area.

    Your gear hit on some of the ones I'm thinking about! Basically for water I'm considering SteriPen vs. gravity filtration bags (really popular with my coworkers), and for cooking I'm looking at the JetBoil system vs MSR Pocketrocket + GSI Ketalist cookset.
    "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

    Phoenix Animal Rescue



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2012
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    477

    Default

    What part of TN? I moved from PA to TN about 4 years ago and love it I honestly don't have a lot of advice on back packing as a newbie myself but I would recommend the hennesy (sp?) hammocks as they come with the rain fly, bug net and hammock all in one which actually ends up cheeper and easier than if bought separately from someone like eno.

    Also look into sleeping mats with a hammock or a tent because they will keep you comfortable in a tent and help insulate you in a hammock if it gets cold.

    That and just remember ounces become pounds and pounds become pain....


    1 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2006
    Location
    the land of sky-blue waters
    Posts
    622

    Default

    I don't backpack, but SO does-- he attempted a thruhike of the AT last year and is determined to finish it someday (made it from GA to 2/3 of the way through NH before he had to quit due to Lyme-related heart problems). He uses a homemade soda can alcohol stove that works really well and is super light, along with a bubble wrap foil pot cozy. For water purification, he currently uses Aquamira drops (preferred) or tablets, although he's looking into getting a gravity filtration setup. He says he's talked to a lot of hikers that have had problems with the Steripens just all of a sudden not working, so if you choose to go that route, have a backup system. He likes his TarpTent, but just got a hammock last summer and is in love with it, so he'll probably end up getting a tarp system for it.

    BF is CONSTANTLY upgrading his gear, so he now has close to two full sets of gear. Do your research, try out other people's gear if possible, and try to KNOW what you want BEFORE you buy. I just roll my eyes when BF decides that he HAS to have some piece of gear because it's the hot new thing and weighs 1/3 oz. less than what he already has. I know that keeping gear weight down is important, but there comes a point when it just becomes ridiculous.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 25, 2012
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    2,203

    Default

    My advice would be to a) go with someone who backpacks a lot or b) take a class or program (NOLS, SCA, outward bound, etc.) Its a TON of fun but lots of stuff its just good to have someone else to show you the ropes.

    As far as stuff:
    I have a both an external (Kelty, can get more stuff into it) and internal (Dana, much more comfortable, can adjust better) frame packs. I would recommend what ever internal frame pack fits you. And very true to adjust so the weight is on your hips not shoulders. Huge difference.

    I have an old MSR whisperlite and adore it! A good stove that you know how to fix is a must! also have an old PUR water filter but also use tabs a lot. I have had giardia twice, not so fun.

    Have a range of sleeping bags but love one my husband got me for hunting- good for -40 or something but not light!

    Thermarest-very important!!

    Boots-Asolos,both the best and worst I have ever owned, have Sportivas now that I really like, but might switch next time around. MUST.HAVE.HAPPY.FEET.
    Other stuff-good headlight with backup batteries
    good fitting fleece hat
    neck warmer
    polar fleece
    outerjacket (mine is old patagonia, bombproof), go for the pit zips!
    two long sleeve long under wear tops-NOT UnderArmor
    two mid weight longjohns
    one expedition weight long johns
    hiking sock-Im a smartwool fan
    Rain gear, top and bottom
    Wind jacket I love (got from NOLS)
    Windpants, can throwon over shorts
    two pair old patagonia running shorts
    sports bras that dry out quick

    Dishsoap and bleach for cleaning
    nylon pails for dish washing
    section of screen for screening out food trash for hanging
    nylon sports bag that hangs easily
    rope for hanging all food
    bear spray
    pistols and ammo
    Matches and lighters
    Water purification tabs
    Food-freeze dried is okay and light but at the end of the day...REAL food!
    must have-peanut butter, spaghetti, powdered cream soups and pasta, cheese, crackers, cashews, hot chocolate, tea, power bars (carry them under your breasts in your bra, they won't get hard that way!)

    Xtra hand warmers are nice but not essential. Wet wipes. TP but use very sparingly.

    Good first aid kit!

    But learning to hang food is a lot harder than it looks, depending on where you are and you do NOT want visitors! And learning leave no trace fire managment, how to dig cat holes so you really do leave no trace its just handy to have someone to help show you, Plus, its just more fun with people!

    Have a blast! the places youi can go! Dawn on the Masai Mara, sipping chai, watching the sun come up....would never ever get that if you didn't put on a pack and go! Alaska Basin (Tetons!), Belly River (Glacier), Chiricahuas...just so many great spots!!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2002
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
    16,684

    Default

    I'm a pretty serious section hiking backpacker. I dream of trying a thru hike on the AT (Appalachian Trail) one day but life just isn't permitting me to escape for 5-6 months. I have backpacked about 250 miles on the AT mostly solo from Springer Mtn, GA, to the Smokies and some other sections.

    Here is a good site to check out. It's geared towards AT hikers but has some great information on gear and equipment and even a section for female hikers and our unique issues. You can also hook up with other folks on there to do sections and not have to hike alone your first few trips. I seriously recommend finding a mentor or hiking friend to help you your first few trips out. I learned a lot the hard way and would have saved a lot of trouble if I'd of found this forum before I attempted my first AT hike.

    http://whiteblaze.net/forum/content.php

    Gear...definitely go as light as you can. I also use an Osprey Arial internal frame pack. I carry a 2lb tarp tent Moment that I LOVE. I hate sleeping in shelters with other hikers so I carry my own. I like Merrills or Vasque hiking shoes...wear them year round. Invest in good lightweight clothing also that dry quickly...nothing will scream newbie faster than hiking in cotton or jeans.

    A good pair of hiking poles can save your life also..I won't go out without them.

    So much is personal preference on gear but start researching and reading and ask questions. People will help you. You will not find a better bunch of folks than backpackers..sometimes a little bizarre but once you are part of the "family" you will have friends for life.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 25, 2012
    Location
    Montana
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    Default

    And dental floss! MUST have! Great for teeth but also for various calamities that require sewing!



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2002
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
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    Default

    I wanted to add that I see you are in PA. I'm in VA so we are not that far apart. I am hoping to backpack the AT from Newfound Gap in the Smokies to Hot Springs, TN (about 70 miles) next Spring. If you want to go out, just let me know. I'd love some company and I'm not a fast hiker.

    liltiger...I had to laugh on your suggestion of lightweight bras. I ditched mine on my second hike out. I'm lucky to be relatively flat so I can get away with it wearing baggy loose hiking shirts. The chafing was too much for me and the heat retention. Going "commando" without undies is not uncommon either as you can get some terrible rubs from undies. Gaining in popularity for guys and gals are the hiking kilts. You basically go commando under them and hygiene is way easier. I hate having my legs bare so that doesn't work for me unfortunately.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul. 20, 2007
    Location
    Rising Sun, MD
    Posts
    3,472

    Default

    My husband and I have done a lot of backpacking, mostly on the AT. I honestly don't know what brand most of our stuff is. I think our tiny little tent is a Quest? DH prefers North Face hiking boots with lots ankle support and I actually do all my hiking in Ariat Terrain H2Os (yep, I've climbed some wicked stuff in them). And I agree with DB above that I have to have my hiking poles.
    I'd suggest to start out, do a local 1 night hike and find out what works for you and what doesn't. For instance, when I started, I insisted that I wanted to hike in jeans- Let me tell you, one hike ended that pipe dream LMAO!
    Oh, and my biggest advice, make sure you have some kind of waterproof cover, etc for rain. Rain while backpacking is just a giant PIA so if you are prepared to deal with it ahead of time life is a bit easier.
    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul. 20, 2007
    Location
    Rising Sun, MD
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    Ooooh and seeing that you're in PA- check out the Black Forest Trail. It is a fabulous circuit hike (the OCD in me is way more fond of circuit hikes than out and backs) that has some amazing views and a lot of varying terrain.
    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 25, 2012
    Location
    Montana
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    Oh yea, commando below for sure (cuts down on bug and tick bites-NOLS actually gave us a "crotch class" cuz if you ain't happy down there you are NOT a happy camper!) But no can do on top!


    1 members found this post helpful.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2002
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
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    My first trip on the AT, I got a terrible chafing from my undies. That is when I learned the "commando" deal. Problem solved. I now use the Ex Officio panties that dry quickly and are quick drying and generally do OK there. I have yet to find a sport type bra that fits my itty bitties that does not chafe my pits...so...lucky I can get by without one. My everyday bras are way too heavy to wear out there.

    Another great thing to get is a lightweight collapsible nylon bucket. I make one trip to the Spring when I get to a shelter or campsite and have all the water I need for the evening and morning. Considering the water can be a steep climb down a slope, that is a real bonus. I can wash as well as purify what I need for drinking. You can even wash clothes in them if you are hiking in hot weather. I can't tolerate being filthy and have to clean up when I'm working that hard.

    I got lucky in GA at Tray Mtn shelter. A hiker had a little australian shower he let folks use. I had the men guard the trail to the water point which was about 1/4 mile downhill from the shelter and I took the coldest but most refreshing shower of my life! I honestly did not care if anyone saw me at that point about 3 days into a 7 day hike...I wanted to be clean!

    Of course NEVER bathe or wash clothes where you get your drinking water. Carry water off to the side so you don't contaminate the good water. Nothing will piss people off faster than messing up the Spring.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2006
    Location
    VA (or MS during the school year)
    Posts
    2,481

    Default

    I went for a 5 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian trail, starting in GA and working our way up as far as we could go. We got about 75 miles in (mind you, this was with the school's Outdoors activity club and we had several out of shape people on the trip who had never walked 5 miles, let alone hiked 10+ up a mountain carrying a pack.

    We carried enough gear to last us so we wouldn't have to restock. We split everything among the people to distribute weight equally. We ate a lot of PB +J, Cliff bars, noodles and saussage (easily cooked on the stove), etc. I carried one change of clothes (except for underwear of course), a waterproof windbreaker, and a heavier jacket.

    It POURED rain on our first day. And it got cold at night... but this was in March.

    I'd LOVE to try backpacking more of the Appalachian trail some day but I don't know exactly how restocking works. I'd probably have to find an experienced backpacker to accompany me on a longer trip.
    "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 2007
    Location
    TN
    Posts
    1,869

    Default

    Thanks guys! I'm in W PA right now but in January I'm moving to central TN for grad school at TN Tech.

    I'm someone who loves her background research, so Daydream Believer I can promise you I'll be scouring that website! And probably picking up some backpacking books, making friends at the local outdoor stores, finding the university's outdoors club, etc.

    Right now I'm reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed (about her ill-prepared jaunt on the PCT) and as someone who's spent a good deal outside, dear lord I can't imagine having the "oh it'll be fine" mentality. I'm talking girlfriend couldn't lift her pack when she put all her gear in the night before she left!
    "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

    Phoenix Animal Rescue



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan. 9, 2006
    Location
    the land of sky-blue waters
    Posts
    622

    Default

    Milo, the AT passes through or very close to enough towns that SO was able to do the vast majority of his resupplying at grocery stores. For the areas where grocery stores weren't close to the trail, he left me a list of post offices or businesses to mail food drops to, with approximate dates of when he'd be there and how many days of food he'd need. There's a very good guide to the AT in print that has details of resupply points, hostels, inexpensive restaurants (especially the all-you-can-eat variety), etc. along the trail-- SO used that to plan out his resupplies months before he left.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb. 22, 2005
    Location
    Where the prairie ends and the mountains begin
    Posts
    2,444

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    Quote Originally Posted by kateh View Post
    Thanks! I do have an Osprey Ariel that I luuurv and used for the other type of "backpacking" (hosteling ).
    You may love that pack for hosteling... But that pack, on your back at 30(ish) pounds for days and miles might feel totally different. Same with the boots. I have a pair of Asolo boots I love for day hiking but put more than 10 lbs on my back and they are instantly a no go. Even a well broken in boot feels completely different once you add the weight of your pack. I prefer to backpack in light hikers... My current choice is the Merrell Moab Mid Ventilator GTX.

    Quote Originally Posted by lilitiger2 View Post
    Oh yea, commando below for sure.
    Yeah, I don't even day hike in skivvies. I also don't do the convertible pants either. I hike in running tights/leggings at all times.

    Since I usually pack with DH, we split the gear.

    Tents: REI Hoodoo, a 6lb 3 man tent perfect for us and our 2 labs (the pups would be seriously offended if we made them sleep outside). When we go without the dogs, we have a 4lb Hubba Hubba by MSR.

    Pack: Gregory Deva

    Water filer: MSR Sweetwater. Its older, but so far still kicking! We have the tubes set up to connect directly to our camelback bladders and that's been a super awesome feature to have. No need to remove the bladder from your pack!

    Sleeping bags: In the summer we use the Thermarest sleep system, which is basically a sheet over the pad and then a down blanket that snaps to the sheet. I like the room it gives me to move around more. I really hate the super mummy shaped bags. For winter I have an REI Kilo. Love this bag! I know to add about 15 degrees to the temp rating because I sleep cold, so if I need a little more for a trip, I just throw in my super light Thermarest blanket.

    Sleeping Pad: I currently have an REI stratus and its the best one I have had yet. DH has a Thermarest Neo Air and its super light and small, but it crinkles a lot and I can hear every move he makes.

    Stove: crux light. It weighs ounces and is super small. MSR cook set.

    I worked at REI for 8 years and so I have more gear than is really necessary. I've also upgraded/changed gear so many times. You will figure out what works for you and what works for others may not be the right fit for you.

    Also remember: cotton kills.
    Dreaming in Color



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun. 4, 2002
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
    16,684

    Default

    OMG...REI is one of my favorite places! What a fun job that must have been!

    I have a Big Agnes Air Core (insulated) mattress that I love. Its not the lightest one out there but it's so comfortable and warm it's worth carrying.

    I do carry a small inflatable pillow...another little comfort I like. I hate sleeping on my clothes bag. I also love my tarptent. I can put me and all my gear in it and it is so light and easy to put up. What I also love is that since it's a single wall tent, you can put it up and down in rain without getting the inside wet. That is a BIG deal. Keeping your gear dry is very important.

    My stove is a Packafeather alcohol stove. It's small, light and simple and you carry denatured alcohol which is easy to resupply anywhere along the AT. You also always know exactly how much fuel you have left...no guessing. Lighter than a canister stove also. My stove is adjustable for real cooking or simmering if you want to do that...an advance on most alcohol stoves which are full blast or nothing.

    I carry a steripen for water purification. I did the filter thing for a while and really like the steripen. It's like anything though...everyone has their own preferences. A steripen can be finicky at times and really learn how to use it before heading out. That was one of my biggest mistakes on my first solo hike. I ended up drinking water that was not purified correctly and got a terrible bout of diarrhea on the trail.

    Carry Immodium...it can save you life. Another lesson from that hike. Trail magic from some other hikers saved me from death/misery by diarrhea.

    I have a summer pack (North Face sythethic) and an REI down bag for cool season hikes. I am a cold sleeper and the North FAce bag, while rated to 20F, is not quite enough for me when it's really bitter cold. I spent a long cold night on Blood Mtn in GA learning that my bag was not really warm enough. I even had a liner and still froze my butt off. Men and women sleep differently..men tend to not be as cold a sleeper and nothing is more personal than your sleeping bag or your hiking boots.

    I tried a lot of different boots and what has been the best for me so far are Vasques followed by Merrills which are a bit lower quality than the Vasque boots. Keens are OK around the farm but I get rubs from them when backpacking. A Pair of Lowa Bora's got me thru one big hike with no rubs but they did not hold up for long. I've tried a number of others now...Sportiva, Asolo, Oboz, and sent them back. REI has an amazing return policy on boots...six months in any condition....so do your boot shopping there. You can really try them out to find out what works for you. Everyone will be different but don't be cheap on this.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan. 26, 2006
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,049

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kateh View Post
    I've been doing a lot of camping and a lot of hiking for different jobs, but so far I haven't actually backpacked and am really interested in trying it.
    I also "backpacked" while employed.... got to see first hand the backwoods of central Southeastern Asian highlands


    Freeze dried foods and water putrefaction items....as a note the newer freeze dries are in self heating package but we used C4 to heater ours.


    A solar charger that can be rolled up is nice, they work



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb. 25, 2012
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daydream Believer View Post
    .
    i would really read reviews and check with organizations like NOLS that are in the business. Good boots are essential. My Asolos (1st pair) made it three months hiking around Kenya, miles nda miles in the Tetons, Arizona, had them resoled until they just crumbled off my feet. My second pair crippled me and I will not wear them again (although they do have a great return policy and were really nice). Saw the soles of the Vasques just totally separate from the boot on Mt Kenya (NOT the place you want boot problems). Also lots of problems with stitching. Maybe they have improved over the years but my impression was generally nice mid range day hikers but not great for carrying serious loads (ours at the time were in the 50-70 lb range) over distance. Boots are something I would totally lay out the bucks for, whatever the cost, THAT is not a place I would save on. Happy feet are essential! And make sure the salesperson actually backpacks and knows boots (and how to lace them, thee is a great way to lace that gives much more support)!! not someone who will sell you a slipper and tell you you'll be fine! Scarpa also makes a good boot,out here a lot of folks who work in the back country wear Whites-warm for sure but I personally would find them very heavy.

    I'm sure you would do this but when you are trying them make sure you are wearing whatever sock configuration you will be using. I HATE liners so never wear them-wear double pair of wool socks but others have their own set up they like. I made some changes for hunting (so I can put a toe warmer in) but then usually we have a base camp so I am not carrying much of load other than the rifle and day pack. I sleep with the socks I wore during the day in my bag which seems to dry and warm them for the next day.

    My boots are pretty heavy soled so really wore them down before taking them out. I'm pretty old school so would not head on a trip with relatively new boots. But I think withsome of the newer lighter boots people wear for for shorter trips, one probably could.

    Happy trails! And there are EXELLENT camp cook books that have recipes you prepare at home and then make on the trail! so you don't get stuck with freeze dried crap-great for the last day or so as its light but the recipes are fun and so rewarding to eat real food at the end of the day!



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