another great place to check if you know what you want is http://www.rei.com/outlet/ they have a lot of gently used gear that is in great shape for drastically reduced prices. Also the stuff on the outlet is only offered online. Just a thought. Happy searching.
Make sure your boots are comfortable, your pack fits (and can accommodate all the gear you choose to carry), and your sleeping system is good for the conditions you will encounter and your own sleeping style.
I can't do hammocks, 'cuz I tend to roll around and sprawl when I sleep. I do like the Thermarest prolite (3/4 length with my empty pack under my feet/legs), but I've started using a 3/4 Ridgerest along with it, 'cuz the ground seems to keep gettin' harder and harder as I get
older. I've shifted to using tarps if the weather forecast is good, or the bugs aren't bad, but I'll use a tent (Big Agnes Seedhouse SL) in the shoulder seasons.
Get some work-outs (ie walking hard on hills w/ a pack) in before ya go bustin' into the full-on alpine, and start with some short trips to get your gear (and body) wired.
On your first few trips, you'll probably carry too many clothes, too much food, and too much gear. Learn what you really need, and trim the weight on subsequent trips. A light pack is safer, will let you travel more miles, and is ultimately much more satisfying. Try to remember that for hundreds of thousands of years, we got by without all the doo-dads we think we need, and survived just fine, walkin' naked in the world. Just like the elk, bear, wolves, and other critters do today.
Go minimal, and embrace discomfort. The worst thing you can do is to expect your going to be as comfortable in the woods as you are in front of your living room big-screen. It's different worlds. You can take a solar shower bag, and a full set of cookware, soap, shampoo, book, lantern and flashlight, tent, extra clothes, etc, but the weight's gonna hold you back, if it don't kill ya. It's all about what ya need.
First aid? Best advice I ever got was in a WFR class I took 15 years ago. "A big bandana, 30 feet of duct tape, and a few ibuprofen." Add specific items as needed (epi-pen for sting allergies, personal medication, etc), but the trick is to be careful, and avoid needing a full-on SAM splint, cold compress, or multiple types of bandaids. Most "wilderness" first-aid rigs are total overkill, and useless weight.
GPS? Unneccesary except for glacier travel, long wilderness river floats, extensive off-trail travel, or if you're a dumb ass when it comes to on-trail navigation, in which case, it probably won't help anyway. Save your money for a good sleeping bag and/or boots. Learn to use (and love) a map and compass.
I like lightweight capilene base layers (yeah, Patagucci still makes 'em, and I really don't care if I reek after I've been tramping for a few days. Jesus, it's not like I'm expecting a job interview..) along with wool mid-layers, and cheap (ie non-goretex), light-weight rainshells for clothes. Hit your local thrift stores, and look for a pair of women's stretch-wool (90% wool/10% spandex or nylon) pants, or a loose-fitting pair of lightweight wool men's dress pants, and a cheap wool shirt. Wool is the ticket for sitting around a campfire, 'cuz sparks burn right through that synthetic stuff. A lot of high-end outdoor-gear companies (Ibex, Patagonia, Cloudveil) are bringing wool back into the line-up, and it's about time! (even if the high-end stuff is, umm, high-end) Wool is good stuff. My favorite backpacking shirt is an old Pendleton I bought for $2 about 20 years ago. I patched up the torn elbow, and the thing had instant trail cred, which it's lived up to, to this day.....
I would (respectfully) disagree with previous posts about freeze-dried food. Some of it is actually pretty good, and that stuff is light. I especially like "Enertia" Mac/cheese, Spaghetti, and Goulash. Campmor sells it on-line, and here's the manu's site: http://trailfoods.com/
Most of all, don't get caught up in "gear hype". It's nice to have all the info on the 'net and everything, and titanium french presses/800-fill-weight down bags make me drool, but ultimately, it's about gettin' out there. Throw some stuff in yer pack, and go do a couple of quick overnights. You'll figure it out, and anything you miss is unlikely to kill ya. Might even make ya stronger and/or wiser. Ya never know.........
It ain't the gear (or lack thereof) that's gonna hold ya back. It's yer own head, and where it's at.
also, I will be wearing la sportiva footwear until they day i die or they go out of buisness. best boots i have ever owned. My current pair is 5 years and I wear them for everything from work to backpacking to urban exploring. its keens and lasportivas all the way for me.
I love my smartwool expedition socks with the Fox River silver (anti-bacterial) liners. On an 11 day trip we got no blisters. We would change the liners every 2 days and oversock about every 3, maybe 4. They really lost their cushion by then. I think the anti-bacterial agent made this possible as many die hards are adamant about clean socks daily. Carrying that many socks for that many days... even if we washed them would have been taking up way too much space. The expedition works summer and winter.
Forget the GPS. You don't need it unless you might go "off trail". A total waste and I have hiked for years! Extra weight is any backpackers downfall. The challenge is to "go light" and not be miserable. Plastic knife, fork, and spoon (unbreakable type), small light cheap plastic cereal type bowl, plastic drinking cup--forget the tin crap. Lighten up!
"GPS? Unneccesary except for glacier travel, long wilderness river floats, extensive off-trail travel, or if you're a dumb ass when it comes to on-trail navigation, in which case, it probably won't help anyway. Save your money for a good sleeping bag and/or boots. Learn to use (and love) a map and compass."
Couldn't agree more. A good compass is well worth having. And going to the map store is alot like going to a fly shop, I always go there looking for one or two things and end up walking out with about six or seven items. Good times.
I'll try to rattle off my favorite gear off the top of my head. I'm a gear snob, so don't expect any of this stuff to be cheap.
Bag=Feathered Friends wns 15 degree down (no syn for me ever)
Tent=MSR Hubba Hubba
Water cleaner=Aqua Mira drops
Underwear=Patagonia briefs (yes better than the regular ones, guys get the silky boxers)
socks=Bridgedales, exclusively. Better fit means zero blisters, wool/syn blend, many models have a left and a right sock
sleeping pad=no name I got as a sample from somewhere
Stove=MSR Pocket Rocket and yes it simmers
GPS=don't need one, I know how to read a map
coffee cup=Snow Peak ti with folding handles
bowl=old cool whip container
water bottle=old Gatorade bottle, 1 oz. vs 4 oz for a Nalgene
hydration=Nalgene, the best ones out there
poles= Black Diamond Elliptical
pack=Osprey Aura 50 unless I'm stocking and then the Aether comes out
white ball cap and a warm hat
I'm probably forgetting a few things. I dehydrate most of my food myself. Pack weight is always under 25#. Carrying a lot of weight on my back is against my religion.
Allison's list is off the charts. I don't have all of the exact items, but have many similar ones and enjoy every last one of them. I'm not an ultralight dweeb that cuts the labels, logos and tags out of everything. I don't buy the things with all the holes drilled in them. I don't always use the ultralight alloys. I have on occasion even carried an 8# air mattress in my pack so me and the misses can awake well rested. Normally a camping pad or even cheaper, thermo bubble wrap from a hardware store (like they use to insulate garage doors and such) works like a charm. And I'm still cooking with a ten to fifteen year old campingaz cook head that snaps onto the blue gas mix canisters. Not super light, but super reliable. As for packs, nothing super high end except my black diamonds with built in avalungs for winter recreation, but all effective and a pack in every size from a day trip in the summer to full length trips in the middle of the snow cycle.