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Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 4:58 am
by buckwheat

While I've got all the gear I can afford/need, my girlfriend is trying to get interested in backpacking, so she can be ready to go on some weekend romps with me. Most of the gear I have is generally higher end (Zpacks, Gossamer, Thermarest, etc) but that makes it relatively expensive too, and she can't drop 1000-1500$ on a real nice set up, so I am trying to figure out mid-range stuff for her to get set up with, but I have no real clue about that gear these days. I told her to look around at Outdoorgearlab as they seem to have pretty decent reviews for low/mid/high range gear. My preference is too spend more money and get lighter weight & better gear that will make everything more pleasant, and its hard to encourage her to buy a 3 lb 100$ sleeping bag. Mostly we're looking at sleeping pads and bags for her right now. I've got a spare Gregory she'll be borrowing, and I've got a 2 person tent. I am not going to make her hike any 25 mile days with me, but I want her to be comfortable hauling stuff for a 15 mile hike. She also is interested in a stove, and I've always been stoveless while solo.


Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 5:53 am
by pcg
I buy almost all used gear. Here's a couple sites that frequently have deals... ... gear-swap/ ... ant-to-buy

Portland Craigslist and eBay as well.

Stove recommendations will vary as that seems to be more of a personal preference thing. I use a Jetboil because it's simple to operate, and all I ever do is melt snow and boil water.

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 9:07 am
by Bosterson
My take for beginners is that you don't really know what kind of gear you actually need until you get out and do it and determine what does and does not work for you; however there's still a middle ground between super cheap/junky/clunky gear and super expensive, fancy, UL gear. No one should have a 3 lb sleeping bag unless you're going out in the dead of winter. ;) I'll echo finding used options; another place to look is Geartrade - they get returns from, like their version of REI's scratch and dent, so you can get basically new stuff for big discounts. (I get shoes there frequently.) Otherwise, good deals can be found online from time to time if you keep checking - wait for additional discount coupons for REI or other online sellers that you can stack on top of items that are already on sale. Look for closeouts at Steep & Cheap. Etc. Outdoorgearlab has good reviews and is great for doing research to discover those middle ground items that you can then try to find on sale.

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 9:37 am
by Webfoot
Sierra Trading Post often has some good deals, if you wait for one of their additional-25%-off coupons by mailing list. They tend to be lower end but some high performance gear comes through as well.

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 10:44 am
by Aimless
Does your girlfriend already hike and camp? If so, then her interest in backpacking is fairly well-informed by her previous experiences. If she has very little experience with hiking or camping, then I would recommend trying her out with some car camping in a dispersed campsite, without amenities, and also see how she does on a "15 mile" hike carrying a day hike load (which should be more than half the weight of an overnight load, if you observe the ten essentials). It is a dubious idea to sink a bunch of money into backpacking gear before knowing whether she will respond to backpacking with glee, or view it as a devious new torture technique. Both responses are possible, and the "this is torture" response is the more common one among those who jump into it without previous camping or hiking experience.

If she is already an avid hiker and camper, then my normal recommendations to borrow as much of the gear as she can for her 'maiden voyage', then if she is immediately hooked on it, stand back a bit and offer advice when asked for it. She'll generate the enthusiasm all on her own. It takes time to develop and understand one's personal style and preferences in backpacking. Hers may not be just like yours.

Of all the places to put the bulk of her 'investment', I think the best sleeping bag she can afford would be top priority. Clothes are the lowest priority at first. Just have her avoid cotton. If she wants a stove, figure out if it will only be needed to boil water, or if she intends to do a bit more elaborate cooking. Any stove will boil water, the lightest and cheapest would be alcohol stoves, Esbit stoves, or else a simple cannister stove.

Anyway, good luck & happy hiking! Once you get well launched in backpacking it is a lifetime pursuit and an enduring pleasure.

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 15th, 2019, 11:04 am
by Bosterson
Aimless wrote:
May 15th, 2019, 10:44 am
Of all the places to put the bulk of her 'investment', I think the best sleeping bag she can afford would be top priority.
I would note that a good sleeping bag is only as good as the pad it's on top of. I would go to REI and test drive a few of the pads there to see which style feels the most comfortable (eg, I dislike air pads that have vertical baffles, like Big Agnes). I would also keep in mind that she will probably want a warmer pad than you would use in summer - most women I know buy pads with winter-level R values (4+) to stay warm enough. I would think an R of 3 would be enough for summer use even for a woman who sleeps cold, assuming her bag is warm enough, but something to consider based on what others are doing. :)

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 16th, 2019, 7:00 am
by jessbee
I suppose an actual female should weigh in on this based on the last few comments 😂. All of Aimless' suggestions are spot on, and this is coming from an avid female hiker who hates backpacking (too much crap to carry, but I'll do it if I have to).

I usually use two sleeping pads to help keep me warm at night because I do run cold: a Thermarest Ridgerest and a NeoAir. I almost always have a 20 degree bag with me but that's because I use that thing for almost every camping trip; ie I don't have a quiver of bags. Do you know what temps you'll be dealing with?

Also I bet you all have friends she can borrow gear from before you drop a bunch of money on gear she might not want or like.

As for stoves I love the lightness and simplicity of the MSR pocket rocket.

Definitely stick to big bang for your buck trips right from the start because if she hates the first trip she's not going to want to do it again. A short hike in to a beautiful campsite with day hikes beyond is a nice into to backpacking.

Hope that helps :)

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 19th, 2019, 9:18 pm
by leiavoia
For sleeping bags: This is one thing you should not skimp on. Saving some money just so you can spend 8 hours shivering on some mountaintop isn't worth it.

Consider getting a quilt instead. A quilt is an "open-backed sleeping bag" that drapes over you instead of zipping up. It saves a lot of weight and works better for side sleepers and people with claustrophobia. HammockGear's economy line is just as good as a $300 down bag, but half the price and i highly recommend.

For stoves: consider a DIY popcan alcohol stove, either as a solution or as a hobby ;-) It is the lightest stove option by far and you can make one in 30 minutes from stuff you already have.

Re: Recommendations for a new hiker

Posted: May 20th, 2019, 6:25 pm
by Webfoot
Wow, I had no idea there were that many designs of alcohol burners. Do you have a favorite?