Beginner hiking & camping advice

Discussion in 'The Off Topic Room' started by Gjackson98, Feb 17, 2020.

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  1. Feb 17, 2020 #1

    Gjackson98

    Gjackson98

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    First of all, it's not for survival type of camping environment, just the wife, myself and the dog hiking around and find somewhere outdoor with a good view to spend the weekend and try not to get eaten by wild animals.

    My wife and I only had 1 camping experience before and that was terrible. it was mid of summer around 100 degrees F (38C), lots of bugs and pouring down rain about 70% of the time.

    This year we want to give it another try (late March, early April), so it came down to my question:
    What type of gears should we bring and what brand should we go with? Since this is the first hiking & camping experience, I really need all gears to be robust enough so I don't end up in the mid of nowhere with my wife complaining... But I also wish to bring the price down so in case this is not the sport for us I won't be loosing too much money. o_O

    In addition if there are any other advice, please speak up. I am happy to listen!
     
  2. Feb 17, 2020 #2

    Yet-Another-Dave

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    For equipment, I'd suggest REI. They tend to have store brands with basic features and entry-level quality for casual / light-duty and similar features with expedition quality for serious use (3-4X as much), as well as a good selection of the major name brands as well. Also they have a rental department!

    I have no feeling for what you'd need late-March / April in Ohio, which is another thing your "local" REI would know and be able to advise on. From their website I see 2 stores near Columbus, one in Cleveland, and one in Cincinnati. Hope one of those is convenient.

    Oh, I'm sure there are local stores that also would be a good resource for you, but I don't know them. Also, there are specialty stores, at least around here, that have got good stuff, but wouldn't really be a good choice for you because they don't cater to the crowd with questions like you have. (It'd be like needing a Honda / Toyota and going to the F-1 store.)

    ETA: another thought: You can get camping gear from a general sporting goods store around here. (Big-5, SportMart / Sports Authority, Dick's, etc.) Generally I've found their quality to be about like the REI entry-level, but with less practical well thought out features. Plus their advice can be... unhelpful.
     
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  3. Feb 17, 2020 #3

    Gjackson98

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    Thank you Dave!
    I will go to the local REI store and check it out.
    I already have a tent and sleeping bags and first aid kit (I will bring water and food of course). Figure I need to go look around for maybe cooking wares and if there are anything else I am missing, please let me know.
     
  4. Feb 17, 2020 #4

    valgard

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    Don't know the wildlife in your area but in general a good rule is to not eat inside the tent [emoji28]. And keep food hanging outside animal reach at least 50-100m from the tent. At least that's an important rule in bear country (wolves and cougars mean the same measures as far as I'm concerned).
     
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  5. Feb 17, 2020 #5

    Gjackson98

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    I am planning on going to another state to do this, but in general no large predators in the area. I will remember that, no food in the tent!
     
  6. Feb 17, 2020 #6

    Yet-Another-Dave

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    You're welcome.

    So much of a good gear list depends on specifics, it's really hard to be detailed. Think about what you want to get out of the trip. (Extreme example might be entertainment. Will you be happy watching the sunset or do you need your streaming video before bedtime? Your list may or may not include sat phone with a big data plan....)

    Some more examples, erh random thoughts: Around here there are areas where fires, cooking or camp, are illegal. (Not to mention stupid / suicidal during parts of the year.) A cold menu or an approved stove needs to be on your list if that applies. But you can be creative... or not. My wife was a Girl Scout leader and the adults formed their own "patrol". Each patrol had to plan their own menu. (To teach the girls responsibility.) The adult patrol's weekend menu almost always had carry out sushi for Friday dinner. But they were car camping with ice chests and started after school on Friday, that'd be insane if you'd been hiking 8 hours in the sun. OTOH- long, long ago I was a Boy Scout. When backpacking we'd eat "chili-mac" for almost every meal. Freeze dried food wasn't yet (widely) available and the other dehydrated food, ah... didn't cook up to match the label pictures. Boring, but reliably edible. YMMV and your situation will be different. Potable water is a consideration and may be a problem. Around here, if you can find water at all you can't drink it without getting giardia. (Dog too!) So enough water, a potable source, or a natural source with an adequate filter needs to be part of your plan. Remember most "backpacking" meals require water, so you may need more than just for drinking. (Also survival levels are usually lower than comfortable levels.)

    Talk your plans over with the local staff. Where's good to go? What's the weather extremes you might face? Explain your goals and be willing to check back with "so-and-so" who does "that" all the time. (Least helpful advice I've ever gotten at our REI store is, "I don't know, but "so-and-so" does that all the time. Let me find them for you." Hence my recommendation.)

    Oh, remember dog stuff. What depends on your dog as well as the conditions. Some dogs want to hang out. Others, (ours!), see a chance to explore. E.g. you may need an anchor & cable. (And the dangers are not just wild animals. You have getting lost, getting on a highway, running thorough poison ivy and bringing it back to you. Etc.)
     
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  7. Feb 17, 2020 #7

    LostHighway

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    Car camping versus drive to a location and walk in an hour or two or three versus multi-day backpacking trips where you are moving everyday all involve slightly different equipment. From what I gather you are mostly considering option two: park, walk in, be based in one spot for a few days and walk back to the car. That involves light and compact equipment but doesn't demand the extremely light and extremely compact gear that multi-day backpacking excursions require.
    @Yet-Another-Dave is totally correct that open wood fires are a not permitted in many parks so you'll need a camps stove. REI will guide you toward something appropriate. I've always used white gas stoves like the MSR Whisperlite but a canister stove might be worth considering for short trips.
    Ditto a portable water filter. Carrying a water supply two people and a dog for multiple days is a heavy load.
    The dog brings both joys and headaches. Unless your dog has absolute recall in the face of any distractions bring a leash and keep the dog leashed. If your dog is not a rural dog it may not recognize the risks of porcupines, skunks or venomous snakes until too late. The first two of these concerns are largely nocturnal while snakes are more active during the day. Smaller, ≤28 pound/13Kg, dogs also face danger from large raptors, owls especially. Coyotes can present a risk to all but quite large dogs and even the largest dogs are unlikely to fare well against bears and wolves. I've always kept the dog in the tent at night. Make sure you have walked your dog extensively prior to the trip to get it in shape. Paw pads used to indoors and backyard grass need to be toughened up for hiking.
    I generally prefer September/October to March/April/May but it depends on where you are going. Deer ticks are active above 40F/4.5C.

    Edit: I prefer aluminum to steel or titanium for cooking gear. It is the lightest, most conductive, option.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
  8. Feb 17, 2020 #8

    Polycentric

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    I can second the advice to go to an REI, my experiences there have been great. The people there are really nice and super enthusiastic about the outdoors in general, and are usually more than willing to help you buy everything you'll need. Also their website online has a lot of useful gearlists so you can learn what you need.
    A lot of people have mentioned a portable water filter, but another choice are iodine tablets or water purification tablets in general. They make your water taste kind of nasty, but you can always add gatorade powder or drink mix to get rid of the taste.
    For sleeping, in addition to a sleeping bad I would definitely recommend a sleeping pad as well, both for comfort and to insulate you from the ground since you lose a lot of your heat from under you. If you're a cold sleeper (if you feel like you get cold while sleeping, I'm not really sure how else to describe this), you might want to get a sleeping bag liner as well as these can add warmth to your bag's current temperature rating (especially if the nightly low will be near the temp of your bag rating). Furthermore, if it'll be cold, bring a decently heavy layer. 40 degrees doesn't seem that cold if you're walking around outside, but when you're just sitting there at camp 40 degrees is surprisingly chilly. Also one thing to definitely try on before you buy are your backpacks in case you need one for carrying your gear if your campsite is a good distance from your car. A bad backpack can make your life miserable. The other thing to definitely try out before purchase are hiking boots if you plan on hiking for a prolonged amount of distance. Make sure they fit well and don't have any hot spots or rub weird against your ankles or feet. It might be good to wear them around the house for a few days to break them in a little before you actually do a lot of hiking in them though.
    And if it'll be warm, bring bug spray and sun screen. If you have any flexibility with your dates try to choose a weekend with good weather since rain can suck.
    Also if you're going to a national park, or state park the rangers/people who work there are generally very nice people who can help you find the best place to go or camp or hike or whatnot.
     
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  9. Feb 18, 2020 #9

    chinacats

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    Please read 'A Walk in the Woods' by Bill Bryson.
     
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  10. Feb 18, 2020 #10

    SeattleBen

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    REI also has a pretty robust rental program. Also even if you're just going to walk around for the day you ought to be prepared to at least spend an uncomfortable night out. IE always take some warm clothes that can survive the worst weather that you can foresee and some extra food.
     
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  11. Feb 18, 2020 #11

    pgugger

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    I am a minimalist, so probably not a good source of standard advice. I agree that it is important to be prepared for the weather, and second what others have said about clothes and sleeping pad. Layers of clothing are better than single bulky items. Camping/hiking clothes are not all necessarily worth it but many are made with materials that are good insulators for their weight, or wick moisture, perform well when wet, etc (usually avoid cotton if it might be wet/cold). A good pad to sleep on is important for comfort and insulation. Many people like the Thermarest inflatable ones, but I am sure there are other good ones out there (I use uncomfortable Thermarest foam). Thicker will be more comfortable, but the weight adds up if you are hiking far.

    Generally if you will be hiking far with all your stuff, seriously consider the weight of everything you bring including the backpack itself. You probably don't need the millions of gadgets and straps and attachments that camping stores often want to sell.

    There are all sorts of stoves and fuel canisters out there. Some not too heavy. If you want a fun afternoon project that will produce the cheapest, lightest camping stove, try making a soda can stove (and buy denatured alcohol at the hardware store for fuel). No joke! Google it. I only use these, but I never do more than heat a 1-2 L or so of water to a boil.

    Enjoy!

    Yup, that's a good read... though I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and can't say that I had nearly as many troubles and challenges as he did!
     
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  12. Feb 18, 2020 #12

    bahamaroot

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    Pack some clothes and rent a cabin. :D
     
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  13. Feb 18, 2020 #13

    thebradleycrew

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    I'll add to the REI recommendation for a number of reasons. They have knowledgable staff many of whom spend a lot of time outside, they have a wide range of gear to suit the hardcore gear head, first-timer, or budget conscious, and they have good customer service. You might look at becoming a CoOp member if you shop there - I believe it is free or close to free and you get some decent rewards annually depending on your spending.
     
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  14. Feb 18, 2020 #14

    Gjackson98

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    Thank you again Dave!
     
  15. Feb 18, 2020 #15

    Gjackson98

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    You are spot on. my dog is doing pretty well at calls, however she is only 6 month old (42 lb (last night) golden retriever), I def need to take risks into consideration.
    She is in a good physical shape, few miles of hiking shouldn't be a problem for her. She is used to run sprints and mid distance with me for training.
    I will probably plan this trip "short" in case things happens (as they always do).
    If I park my car 3 miles away from the camping destination would you think its a good distance for beginner?
     
  16. Feb 18, 2020 #16

    Gjackson98

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    Both my wife and I are "cold sleeper" so I will for sure pack extra :D is there a specific brand and model of backpack you would recommend? Cheaper but durable.
    My only concern with buying everything at REI is the price.. If I can buy the must have online for cheaper price and then go in for the knowledge and extra gears that will probably work out better for my pocket.
     
  17. Feb 18, 2020 #17

    Gjackson98

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    That's what my wife wanted.. However I am not gonna give in that easy.. ;)
     
  18. Feb 18, 2020 #18

    VICTOR J CREAZZI

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    That's about perfect IMO. It's far enough to get you away from the campground crowds, but close enough to bail easily.

    Have you tried car camping with a tent? If not, that may be a wise first time.
    If your car camping you can really skimp on quality gear as you don't have to carry anything and if the weather turns you can just get in the car and go home. A totally different experience than being away from the car though.

    I'm lucky, my wife loves tent camping.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  19. Feb 18, 2020 #19

    Gjackson98

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    No, I have never car camping before. Sounds like a good option. I have a ford f-150 with 6'5 bed, but I have a tool box installed, so really only 5'5 left.
    Is there any restriction regarding car camping? For example location?
     
  20. Feb 18, 2020 #20

    LostHighway

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    Three miles seems like a reasonable distance but terrain makes a big difference. Three miles on a relatively flat path versus three miles of scrambling, mostly uphill, are two different distances from a time and exertion perspective. Somewhere I've seen research on how time and distance attenuates the number of users. I can't find the reference but as I recall even a 30 minute hike/walk will start to significantly reduce the number of users. Three miles of "average" terrain with a load is probably a 40 minute to one hour hike for most people.
    Be sure to apply for a permit early. March and April is well in advance of peak season in most parks in the Northern US but some popular places do fill up weeks and sometimes months in advance.
    None of my camping gear is very new but I've had good experience with Osprey packs and their reputation remains quite high.
    Since this is a try it out trip I recommend renting as much gear as possible. If you and your wife love the trip, and I hope you will, considering buying gear after another trip or two. As with kitchen knives it takes a while to figure out what you like and, as noted above, car camping versus a 30 minute to two hour walk-in versus ten to twenty miles a day for multiple days involve different types of gear.
    Barring unpleasant interactions with wildlife or other hikers dogs I can almost guarantee you your dog will think this experience is the best thing ever. I would hold off on long (many miles) strenuous hikes or considering dog packs until your pup is at least 18 months old.
     
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  21. Feb 18, 2020 #21

    Gjackson98

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    Understood and aligned 100%, I have been on few hunting trips and yes those hills burns. I am thinking 45min ish fairly flat hike.
    I actually just had a friend contacting me and offer to let me borrow some of his equipment. Stove, sleeping mat and few other things. I should be able to save some money.
    and yes I will go look for permit this week.
     
  22. Feb 18, 2020 #22

    mc2442

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    Silly me. When I saw the title I expected at least some of the talk to be about 'what knife' to take :angiefavorite: I was just skimming if I missed that part.
     
  23. Feb 18, 2020 #23

    Gjackson98

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    I am taking my kato hunting/parring knife with me FYI ;)
     
  24. Feb 19, 2020 #24

    Codered

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    Considering this is your first camping experience, I suggest you rent a cabin and bring a tent. The cabin is to shower and other necessities and in case the wife wants a secure place at some point. This way you get to have both security and a little of the camping experience. As equipment, make sure you bring Goretex insulated hiking boots ( you want your feet dry and cozy). Also gear for the weather : if it's hot bring special clothes that help release the moisture and keep you cool (there are some smart materials nowadays). If it's cold then go for a multi layer approach: breathable midlayer, and a waterproof /windproof jacket.
    For the tent, make sure you have an inflating mattress to sleep on (you can pack one together with a battery air pomp) this way you will not wake up with a need for a chiropractor in the morning.
    Bring a small forest axe to help you with the wood chopping and try to light the fire using a flint(fire steel). It's cool if you make it but just in case bring some matches for backup.
    Make sure to light a bonfire at night. It is magical to stare at the flames to smell the smoke and hear crackling of the wood in the fire. It's in our ancestor DNA. If you rent the cabin it should have a fire pit you can use.
    Try to bring a frying pan and cook something like a frittata over the open fire. The smokiness will change your perception on the food.
     
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  25. Feb 20, 2020 #25

    Gjackson98

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    Thank you man! That sounds like a good backup plan
     
  26. Feb 20, 2020 #26

    Johnny.B.Good

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    I recommend you read the following primer from a well-known professional backpacker named Andrew Skurka: https://andrewskurka.com/beginner-first-time-backpackers-advice-info-tips-resources/

    I really like REI, and a reasonably priced lifetime membership is well worth the money even if you just purchase the occasional piece of apparel/equipment. The return policy at REI is second to none (return anything but electronics for a replacement or full refund within the first year).

    As others have said, I would try to borrow equipment from a friend or consider renting what you need from REI since you're not sure this is something you will ever want to do again! They have prices on their website: https://www.rei.com/rentals/pricing

    Like any hobby, there is a rabbit hole when it comes to gear. My favorite forum for backpacking gear is the "Ultralight" subreddit on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Ultralight/

    As a true beginner, walking into REI and buying a full set of backpacking gear would be the equivalent here of walking into Williams-Sonoma and buying a block set of 27 Wusthofs instead of filling out the questionnaire on KKF.

    You'll see people talk about the "big three" gear items, which includes a backpack, shelter, and sleeping bag. It's recommended to buy your backpack last since you'll then know how large it needs to be to hold everything else. The pack itself is heavy (REI sells very few that are considered really lightweight), so you don't want it to be any larger than necessary.

    I should also note that many long distance hikers these days choose trail runners over traditional hiking boots. They are obviously far more lightweight and breathable, which to me makes them far more comfortable. Some argue that boots provide more sure footing, but if they feel clunky and heavy then you are more likely to trip than if you are in nimble trail runners. People worry about twisting an ankle without boots, but trail runner advocates point out that instead of twisting an ankle you are more likely to twist a knee in boots that don't "give," which can be a much more serious injury. Even in wet conditions, I prefer trail runners that can breathe and quickly dry out over "waterproof" options. Really cold weather is the one place that boots have an obvious advantage.
     
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  27. Feb 20, 2020 #27

    Gjackson98

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    Thanks for the pro advice!
     
  28. Feb 20, 2020 #28

    HRC_64

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    There is a you tube video of skurka discussing that book with google employees...I'd watch it first.



    SKurka is elite level athlete, you need to keep in mind he's an oddball not a normal person.

    1) Weigh your backpack. Get a scale. Make a spreadsheet. And start weighing everything. No, seriously.
    2) Zip loc bags. Are your friends. Buy them in 1 gallon and 1 quart sizes. Put everything in them.
    3) Waterproof your pack from the inside out with a garbage bag. (for longer trips, use "contracter" bags)
    4) Get a real stuffsack for your sleeping bag, both for protection and compression.
    5) If you need a new pack, keep it around 1500 grams or 3 pounds. Defintitely not over 2KG.

    Without getting into details, modern hiking kit basically looks like this:

    1) 20 pound max weigh for your total pack. This allows you to keep < 40 pounds in most situation with food.
    2) Most people wear sneaker ("trail runners") of varying kinds of durability.
    3) Food is a big issue-->1kg/day for 7 days is 7kg or 15 pounds vs ~15-20 pound gear pack.
    4) Navigation is smartphone gps, garmin gps, and computer-printed maps.

    If you are not doing serious althletic work, you can relax the above quite a bit. SKurka is an elite level athlete, so his main focus is physics of power/weight since he can cover 15,000 ft vertical ∆ per day. And he needs to eat 4000 cal a day to not starve.

    The typical scenario beign dicussed here is completely different that what Skurka does (for the most part). Hunters and mitlary/LEO still carry around huge weight. As do expedition style alpine climbers, rock climbers, and other who arn't fully mobile all day (rock pro/ropes are heavy).

    I'd read some note about other style of camping/hiking just for comparison., eg
    https://pmags.com/the-joy-of-car-camping

    These arent' better/worse its just imporant to have perspective.
     
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  29. Feb 20, 2020 #29

    HRC_64

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    Happy feet and a happy stomach are about 90% of a good hiking trip :D
     
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  30. Feb 20, 2020 #30

    Johnny.B.Good

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    I didn’t link to a book, I linked to a short article. I would start with the article over that one hour video, though I’m sure the video contains lots of helpful advice as well.

    Of course there’s no need for scales and spreadsheets if you’re content to camp a short walk from your car.
     
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