Let’s Start Backpacking
My name is Jerry Shulman and I specialize in knowing camping gear over more than 40 years in the industry. I write for many web sites and publications as Jerry – The Gear Guy.
The question is, “What do I need to get started in backpacking?” Simple answer: buy the best you can afford, but be realistic. Our Company, CampingMaxx, sells just about all prices and qualities from WalMart to custom-made gear, so here are basic ideas:
Footwear: I prefer tennis shoes for all but serious trips. For kids with growing feet, go cheap – WalMart or Big Five. Cheap footwear should last through one season with constant wear. Adults – be prepared to spend $100 – $200 to cover your ankles. Do spend money for wicking sox ($10 – $30)
Clothing: Depending on where you are going, buy what you think you will need under the worst conditions. I recommend a trip to your local GoodWill Store, where $20 should cover everything to get you started. Don’t forget a hat. Sunday Afternoon has the best hats around $50, but a baseball cap can get you started. Next year, invest in better clothing or tactical gear which lasts a lifetime, but this will cost up to $1,000 for base, pant, 2 shirts, rain gear and jacket.
Tent: Buy something decent; not WalMart. Avoid Coleman brand, too. Do NOT get hung up on a brand name because all of the items from here, on, are made in Chinese factories. Rather than the basic Eureka Apex or A-4, which sell in the $300 range, a similar tent can be acquired in the $60 range . . . but don’t ! CampingMaxx sells several great options – for non-freezing conditions check out the Pacific Crest series ($60 – $84). These have real waterproofing and should last three years of constant wear. If winter or snow camping, be prepared to spend $500+. The Moose Country Gear Base Camp series retails $500 – $650 but discount codes can drop the price from $150 – $200 ! Again, expect 3 years of normal life.
Backpacks: Internal frame only. Up to around age 25, carry up to around 20% of the body weight; adults can carry as much as they can. Although backpacks are priced from only $10, buyer beware ! If you start with an inexpensive pack, the discomfort will result in not wanting to continue backpacking, so, my recommendation is that this is where money should be spent. Good backpacks are $150 – $200 and exceptional packs are $400 – $1,000. Good news, High Peak Outdoors has high quality backpacks which are often priced at only $100 ! My High Peak Kathmandu pack is ten years old and has been on my back more than 100 days and it still looks almost new.
Sleeping Bags: Stay comfortable at night ! All sleeping bags have a temperature rating on them . . . but there are many ways to calculate this. I recommend adding 15 degrees to whatever is represented, so a 30 degree bag should keep you comfortable to around 45 degrees. Keep in mind that your body is the sleeping bag heater so you must eat properly. For young kids who may have an accident, buy a cheap bag (under $25) and give them a liner, like an old flannel sheet. Adults over 45 years old should use a rectangular bag because they flip all over the place (like a fish out of water). These should be in the $50 – $100 range. For everyone else, a mummy bag is, usually, best. A decent bag is around $50 – $65, but the really good bags are several hundred dollars. There is a waterproof series called the Frontier or Mt Rainier which are often on sale for around $100.
As for miscellaneous gear, get a good headlamp ($20), an emergency whistle for each person ($4), plastic spoon, knife, & fork (free from any fast food place), sunscreen ($5), dark glasses, some tissue, 50 feet of rope or paracord ($5), lip balm ($2), and smores !
Now go enjoy the great outdoors. Anything else you need, just ask the folks in your camp. Be sure to leave your camp cleaner than when you arrived.
If you have any questions, feel free to call me at CampingMaxx 800-600-3500