Backpacking gear

Discussion in 'Camping, Hiking, Cooking' started by luckybalbowa, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. You're getting some good advice here so I won't reiterate most of what's already been said.

    But it's worth restating that a good pair of boots is indeed your most fundamental purchase, and the one you're most likely to regret making if you get it wrong.

    I wasn't able to open the link to the Merrell boots you selected. But from experience, most Merrells tend to be a crossover design that combines real boots with running shoes, hence all the pointless panels, decorative stripes and colorful stitching along the sides. Take this to the bank: the greater the number of stitches in a boot's upper, the greater the chance of water getting in and your trip being ruined by wet feet.

    There are many options for good quality boots, but my strong suggestion would be to look for an all-leather, one-piece upper. A one-piece upper mean minimal stitching, and thus minimal opportunities for water penetration. Look hard at one-piece upper models from Vasque, Asolo, Merrell (the Wilderness or Perimeter GTX), REI and others. Steer clear of anything that even remotely looks like a running shoe.

    Just because a boot says it has Gore-Tex doesn't mean you can use it like waders. Gore-Tex or not, all boots will leak to some degree. A boot with a one-piece upper will almost always keep your feet drier than some sporty looking model with fancy stripes and stitching and Gore-Tex.

    Take along the socks you plan on wearing (and any orthotics you may need to wear) and try on every boot in the store that meets the criteria above. Go to several stores on different days and shop hard before you pull the trigger. To the extent your budget will allow, ignore price. Good boots will cost money so plan on spending $150 to $250.

    I was in the boot market a couple falls back and must have tried on 30 different models over several weeks before settling on Vasque Wasatch GTXs. At $190 or so out the door, they weren't the cheapest ones I tried. But like Cliff, I've got wide feet and they were one of the few models that come in widths, making my toes sing with joy. Many miles later, they're easily the most comfortable shoes I own, period.

    If your feet aren't happy, your trip won't be happy either.

  2. I second the Big Agnes Encampment Bag and I have the insulated REM pad that goes with it. Best combo out there in my mind.

    I have a pair of Vasque boots as well, way better then my old Merells.

    Good luck and be safe.

  3. This cannot be stressed enough. Spend as much attention to your feet and boots than all of your other gear combined. I have very hard to fit feet and was almost ready to go the custom-boot route, but I finally found a boot that works for me, with the help of the head boot guy at Seattle's REI. I can highly recommend him.
  4. Take Kent's advice on boots to the bank. Any boot properly fitted with Vasque soles and at least a 1/2 or 3/4 shank will make long weekend hikes easy on your feet when carrying a heavy pack.

    When your health is up to it, look up the local Mountaineers Club or their counterpart in your area for their courses. You will learn from professionals about orienteering, and all the latest in food, clothing and hiking, climbing, avalanche, and emergency skills to enjoy yourself with confidence, proficiency, and safety for anyone in your party. You will look back on the course as one of the wisest investments of your time, and the knowledge gained as your single most important piece of outdoor equipment.

    Of course if you’re up for a unique experience, you might want to try fly fishing while hanging from a climbing harness 10 feet above the water after rappelling down a vertical cliff wall in order to get to the otherwise inaccessible fish in the deep part of a high mountain circ lake. :cool:
  5. Someone mentioned duct tape (partial role). Definately do this. Make sure it is the good quality stuff that sticks to just about anything.

    When you hike, at each break, inspect your feet. Look for signs of blisters forming. If you catch them early enough, you'll be one happy camper. Just dry your foot of any water\sweat, and apply a small patch of that duct tape. Put your socks and boots back on and go. Check at the next stop for others and ensure the tape is still in place.

    I did a trip with a group of friends and I did this at each stop - catching those spots that are rubbing just a little and starting to get sore and duct taping them. I never did get a full blister. My buddies were all dying by the end of the trip from their nasty blisters...

    I've gotten by fine for years without a GPS and purifier. Save that money for a decent ultra light tent (or bivy), pack, boots, a nice compact stove, and a light packable sleeping bag.

    Try to stay away from packing heavy cotton clothes like jeans and shirts. Go with light fleece that is warm and some packable nylon shells that are light, durable, and dry quickly.

    Consider bringing along 'camp shoes' or something to wear that are light to pack, but you can walk around camp, maybe even do short day trips, while your heavy boots are being dried out from that stream you had to ford. Or, take Teva type sandles, put them on when you ford that stream, and use them around camp, and save your dry boots for the trip in and out...

    I have a book on Mountaineering put out by the Moutaineers (who'd of thoguht?) that is simply awesome. It covers things from summer vs winter clothing, packs and other rear, orienteering with map and compass, survivial, first aid, to technical climbing....
  6. Sock: Smartwools are great. Sturdy and comfortable. I have worn mine a ton, and the stank washed right out. As with any socks though, while out on the trail, wash them every few days. The salt from your sweat can build up and scratch the hell out of your feet.

    Stoves: As others have said, the pocket rocket burns food. It takes some skill and patience to properly cook a meal with one. I would take it back if I were you. if you plan on getting an MSR, spring for the whisperlite international. It will burn just about any fuel. If your in the market for a something else, try the stoves that fit the camping gaz: less mess than white gas, boils water in 2 seconds flat, and temp. control. Less weight too.

    Water: I mostly use purifiers, but if you want to go the chemical route, use Aqua Mira. No taste or smell. Follow the directions and in 30 minutes you got drinkable water. Unlike iodine, Aqua Mira kills both crypto and giardia.

    Clothes: DONT use capilene. The stuff takes stink and holds it. I can wash mine and it smells like a fresh mountain meadow, but as soon as I put it on it reaks. Maybe its just me, but everyone I know who has used it says the same thing. Oh and Pattigucci underwear is the shit.
    Several non cotton layers and a good lightweight rain coat and rain pants work great.

    Feet:Bring camp shoes so you don't have to walk in your boots around camp. Chacos or other sandals work great
    Personally, I think moleskin sucks on its own. Get some Moleskin foam and duct tape for the big blisters. The moleskin turned upside down with the fuzzy side on the blister is good for small blisters. Just slap some duct tape over the top to hold it on.

    Food: some people like freeze dried some like fresh. I bring some of both. Freeze dried is light weight and can taste pretty good if you know what your doing. Buy a NOLS cookery and study it. You can make all sorts of things with that book on hand.
    Bring spices- pepper, salt, garlic, curry, tobasco. Whatever ya fancy. They can save a nasty meal
    Bring oil- A little bottle will do and you can cook trout or whatever.
    Fresh cheese, cracker, salami, fruit, onions, etc are all good.
    Bring a nice slab of bacon for that first night out.

    Like others said, learn how to read a topo and compass. More fun and less likely to fail.

    Just a few add-ons
  7. The Mountaineer's Bible:
    Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills by The Mountaineers (Author), Steven M. Cox (Editor), Kris Fulsaas (Editor)
  8. Good points all.

    MSR stoves are about the best available. but the Whiperlite has one key problem: it's flame is either completely off or completely on with no setting in between. While that's great for boiling water, sauteeing or frying with one is an invitation to dishwashing hell. The MSR Dragonfly has a fully adjustable flame and will throttle down to a level that will make any camp cook's heart throb with glee.

    Just about every brand of MTS underwear (moisture transport system) ends up stinking. That's because most are made from polyester which reacts unfavorably with the wearer's chemistry and results in the most incredible skunk smell imaginable. New experimental materials are just coming on to the market with embedded charcoal or other odor-absorbing additives. It's still too early to tell if they're effective or not, but the additional cost starts to make Smartwool's base layer shirt look better and better at $80. But given the laundry care wool requires, I'm afraid I'd shrink it down to doll size in no time.

    Finally, camp shoes are the ultimate in luxurious foot care. Try Crocs slip-on clogs, which combine light weight, durability and low cost.

  9. Maybe I'm just used to the whisperlite, I have made some great meals with it. But your right, the lack of temp. control is my main complaint. I have some friends who have the dragonfly, and it does saute, simmer, and fry like a dream comparatively.

    I have tried the crocs and they are comfortable and light. Just make sure you don't wear them rock-hopping or on a long day hike. I have had the strap fall off on me. They are great if you are just sticking to camp with them.

    Oh and I forgot to mention, the water bladder is a life saver. While you may not run into it around here, water fill up points can get kind of scarce in some places in the west. Where two one liter nalgenes aren't enough, a 3 liter water bladder and a nalgene will get you twice as far. And they are good for shower if you feel the urge.
  10. I've been trying to reduce weight and bulk in my pack for a few years. First I replaced my bulletproof TNF 7# backpack with a Golite at 2#. I'm happy with a 2.5# synthetic bag and prolite thermarest. I'm OK with leaving my 4 or 5# tents home in favor of the 12 oz tarp, plus a few stakes, but the GF prefers the "security" of the tent.

    I don't fix fancy meals, so the pocket rocket can't be beat for being simple and handy. Every friend but one has had the frustrating experience of their MSR Whisperlite going gunnysack and not being able to make it work when it counts. I still like my ancient Svea 123 for white gas use, but it doesn't simmer either. I know a couple guys who keep it simple and light using a pop can alcohol stove, and I bought a titanium one (2 oz) just to play with, but I haven't got the guts to depend on it yet.

    I agree that nothing beats the comfort of camp shoes, but they're extra weight and bulk. I've got a real light pair of flip flops that I think might be an OK compromise.

    The next step is a 3" diameter titanium fly reel spooled with shooting line, and I'll just carry a floating and two sinking shooting heads. Meanwhile the Berkley graphite/plastic fly reel is the lightest reel I've found. 2 small fly boxes, one dry, one for wets, a couple spools of tippet, and nippers. I made an 8' 4 piece 5 wt rod with cork and sliding band reel seat, and finally found a light but reasonably strong plastic tube to carry it in. That and the 2# Curtis raft completes my high lake fishing gear. Oh, of course the thermarest does double duty as raft seat cushion and PFD.

    Once steelhead season is over I'll be looking forward to some alpine lakes. I was injured last summer and didn't get to do any serious hiking, so I know the feeling.

  11. This is a good thread.

    If your hiking with a partner your lucky cause you don't need two of everything, you can usually share the tent, water purifier, stove. etc..
    Find out what your partner has and if it works well enough concentrate on what your gonna need.
    If your looking to save money you can try and and ebay and the list (
    There are certain trusted brands that make good products and if when you find these at the right price they can be a good buy. I've found it much better to have one higher priced piece of gear than two or three cheaper items. Usually the higher priced pieces of gear will last longer and you don't need to haul around as much. But if you don't have the latest greatest stuff you can still get by with what you got.
    Go with the full lenght Thermarest.
    Get a good sleeping bag
    If your camping by a lake or river you can always boil your water if you don't have a purifier or filter.

    One last thing that I don't think has been mentioned. I have a synthetic bag that doesn't shrink down as much as I'd like so I got a compression sack that goes around the bag and squeezes that thing down to the size of a large grapefruit/small watermelon. This saves a lot of room in my pack.

    There are millions of pieces of gear you can buy and research. Take what you got and get out there and pretty soon you'll know what you like, need, want and must have.
  12. I have exstensive back packing experience and the best advice I can give you is to wear either some high quality boxer-briefs (polys) or compression shorts under you shorts or pants. Chafing always seemed to be an issue for me and my hiking partners. Didn't seem to matter whether it was spring, summer or fall. Next to foot blisters, chafing can ruin your trip in a hurry.

  13. Don't forget either; wherever you may be packing, make sure you are prepared to be lost there. Study the area, and pack a good emergency kit.
  14. Ummmm... Capilene has not been sold for years - and it was a Patagonia branded product.

    Stay away from wool unless you are in a very dry climate. It takes forever to dry around here. I use it as a base layer when I am fishing / hunting in cold - but then I can throw it in the drier when I get home later that day. Stick to synthetic. Yes, wool insulates while wet, but you'll be putting wet underwear on everyday and it will start to get very, very heavy and clammy.

    You are going to be extremely hard pressed to beat any REI products. They have the best testing lab in the industry, and due to margin structure, can offer it at a much better price than anyone else.
  15. Let me preface this with, I am an opinionated SOB when it comes to hiking equipment. Since I don't think it has been emphasized enough, weight is everything. Your enjoyment, speed and distance will go up as your pack weight goes down. The biggest weight savings is in boots (1 pound on your foot equals 3 on your back), tent (bivy sacks are the lightest, mine weighs a pound, but bring a tarp if it might rain there are lots of really lite free standing 3 season tents available now, make sure it has a good rain fly design, unless you plan on serious winter mountaineering a 4 season tent is over kill), sleeping bag (I prefer down for comfort and weight either way it should be under 3#s unless you are winter backpacking then thats a whole new game), quality clothing (so you don't have to take extras except for the lighter layers), food (2 pounds per person per day) after that its nickel and dime stuff. Leave the luxury items at home, except maybe a little scotch. If your total pack weight, including fishing gear, for a 3 day trip is over 40 pounds (you should be able to be under 30 once you get quality gear). At the end of each trip see which gear didn't get used so you can re-evaluate its need. The 10 essentials are a good start.

    As for purchasing gear, prioritize and frequent close out sales. There is no need to pay retail prices for most items (tents and boots are the most difficult to find on sale, clothing is the easiest) if you do your homework.

    Have fun
  16. Yes! They not only have an advantage in preventing blisters, but also for wicking moisture away from your skin where it can be absorbed into the outer wool sock. The liner socks with Coolmax are my favorite. I used to work for a high end outdoor sock company, so I have a bit of knowledge in that area. Smartwools are good, but they're not the best or the best value (they tend to wear out faster than others). They just happen to have the best marketing department.
  17. Last time I tried on a pair of Merrels I tried three of the same pair and none of them were made correctly (defects) or comfortable. I have an all-leather pair of yukons (no longer made) that I love. It made me sad. They must be manufacturing in china now. YMMV. Visit an REI, don't skimp on boots and don't be afraid to spend half a Saturday walking around the store. Then follow this advice.

    Exofficio boxers are king. Cotton underwear and pants chafe. Underarmor is supposedly good too but I haven't tried them.

    I wear a liner sock under a thorlos hiking sock and the combination has treated me well. Again, YMMV. Experiment a little.

    While you're at REI look at packs. Another big purchase that's based on personal comfort. The employees, REI's expert advice and other climbers can tell you how big the pack should be for your intended use. Since you want to take a fly rod I strongly recommend making sure there are lash/compression straps on the side that can carry the rod or maybe a pack built to carry skis. Load up the kelty with some books to 30-40lbs and carry it around a park or trail near your house (or if you're not afraid of scaring the neighbors walk around your property line several dozen times). For additional fun take it into a city holding a tin mug. Use the money earned (panhandled?) to buy more/better gear. :thumb: If it's comfortable so much the better.

    One more thing: do some dayhikes to closer lakes before tackling multi-day trips. This will help you get comfortable with your boots, pack, socks, etc and you'll quickly learn what you need to add or throw out of your pack. Better to find out you get blisters from a liner/cushion sock combination and your feet prefer smartwool 1 mile from the trailhead rather then 15.
  18. There is a lot of good advice here. One thing as some have mentioned is stay away from cotton. Cotton kills, once wet it will rob you of all your body heat away. Backpacking lightweight will help you go farther and will be more enjoyable. You will be surprised at how much you don't need to bring. La Sportiva boots are pretty narrow in the toe box and Asolo's are wider in the toe box. Lowa's have a good in between fit. Gear has come a long way and it helps to do some research.
  19. Also experiment with different lacing methods on your boots prior to an extended hike. It can make a huge difference.
  20. Ummmm... Im not quite sure where you get your information from, but I bought
    my first and only pair of capilene at REI early last year.
    And, if you'll follow this link, there are still capilene clothing for sale at the REI website:
    I'm not quite sure what that has to do with anything.

    Anyhow, again like I said on my earlier post, I do not suggest using capilene.

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