Have you decided you want to try backpacking but don’t know where to start? I can’t help you…….. Well okay…… maybe I can…
If you’ve never backpacked before or if you’ve done a little, hiking gear is a huge and confusing topic. Information overload can make you dizzy and feel like you are on a Tilt-A-Whirl! How’s that for encouraging?
Researching backpacks alone can be worse than trying to find the best wine for that special occasion. Since I began in 2019, I’ve owned three backpacks and just got another for Christmas!
So what is a beginner supposed to do? Well…Just start! There are always gear lists available like my Free 2022 Gear List. (Link at top of my website.) You can watch YouTube reviews, read blogs, and go to your favorite outfitter to actually try some on. There are major brands and cottage industries all vying for your favor and their websites are usually most helpful with videos and salespeople who are happy to answer any of your questions!
What I’ve found as the most important considerations for me: Comfort, capacity, weight, cost – in that order. Here’s my experience.
Before I knew what I was doing, I went to a major outfitter’s garage sale and found two brand new packs for a fraction of the retail price. I bought one for me and one for my granddaughter who I was hoping would share my enthusiasm. That one, alas, is still in new condition.
But the one for me, a Gregory Jade 50 was a perfect fit and still had the original tags! (This one is no longer available on-line but it may still be found at a retail outfitter.) A 50-liter bag (refers to the capacity) It was like a Cadillac for comfort and I used it for several hundred miles before I started to calculate my base weight: the weight of everything except food, water, and other consumables such as fuel and batteries.
However, the Gregory was 4 pounds! In order to lighten my load I’ve since then, tried a Granite Gear, a two-pounder that wasn’t comfortable for me so it was returned. (Many hikers love the Granite Gear.)
Next was a Gossamer Gear Mariposa, at two pounds – I used it for 1000 miles. The Mariposa is very comfortable and I do love that pack with a 55-liter capacity. The biggest drawback is that it rests flat on my back, making it always wet with sweat. And after 1000 miles it’s showing a bit of wear & tear.
For 2022, I’ll be using a zPack Arc Air, with a 50-liter capacity and an arched back allowing for better circulation, and best of all it is only 24 ounces. Comfort rating is yet to be determined.
Gear can be cheap or very expensive. And there is no shame in trying what’s within your budget. But sometimes economizing can cost you if there is a breakdown while in the wilderness or it wears hotspots on your body. Much depends on your aspirations. For me, I LOVE backpacking long-distance, and buying the lightest gear is in my best interest (dare I say “At my age?’)
Other gear will be discussed in subsequent blogs, but for now, as a beginner, you should be focusing on research and getting in shape!
Many of these are items I use personally and others are recommendations if you are starting out building your 10 Essentials. You should also know that “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”