Author Topic: mustachian backpacking  (Read 5233 times)

thricesplice

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mustachian backpacking
« on: December 10, 2014, 08:46:12 AM »
I am going to try to start backpacking next year, and am trying to figure out the most economical ways to acquire gear and supplies.  I am in touch with friends who will give me lists of necessary equipment, etc... but I don't think at this stage it's necessary to get the latest and greatest of everything.

Do people have any recommendations?
I was going to go after equipment on sale at REI, but do people ever buy used equipment and if so where?
Advice on equipment that is not necessary?  Areas not to skimp?

Anyone ever made their own dried meals via a dehydrator, rather than buying MREs, or is that not worth it?

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Gerard

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2014, 09:13:40 AM »
Maybe this is too obvious to not be useful, but I would do it for a while with borrowed or rented equipment, to make sure it's going to stick and to realize what equipment is right for you. It's not like Baden-Powell or John Muir needed space-tech stuff to go for a walk in the woods. Maybe do hikes that don't require much stuff, or where you don't need to worry about every last ounce. Dried or calorie-dense foods are nearly as light/efficient as dehydrated.

I read somewhere (sorry, no link, too long ago) that more and more people who visit wilderness areas go only about a mile from the parking lot, and my limited recent experience suggests the same. Basically people go for "a walk in the wild" and turn back at the first big hill. This means a wilderness-ish experience is available with even a short hike, so two hours carrying 25 pounds of raisins and 6-mil plastic gets you into as much Nature as five hours with 20 pounds of dehydrated stroganoff and magic nylon tents used to.


FLBiker

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2014, 09:18:04 AM »
I haven't done a lot of traditional backpacking, but I've done a few month-long trips on bicycle with a backpack strapped on the shelf.  I also did a week-long outdoor leadership training course.

Here are some personal recommendations --

For clothes, layers are the way to go.  Personally, I am a big fan of wicking synthetics for inner layers, fleece / wool as a mid layer, something waterproof as an outer shell.  I don't tend to bring a lot of each layer, but I also don't tend to go backpacking in super cold conditions (not too much below freezing).  You can do this pretty cheap.  Personally, I went to a thrift store and got a bunch of wicking t-shirts, and a great Nike long-sleeve wicking shirt.  Fleece / wool sweaters are also pretty easy to find thrifting, or at Ross.  For a shell, my favorite is actually a vinyl rainsuit I got in Taiwan for like $15.  They're ubiquitous among scooter riders.  I also have a Columbia jacket that's a combo shell and removable liner.  I've had great luck with Columbia stuff -- I also really like their "titanium" longsleeve shirts as a sun protector.  Speaking of which, get a wide-brimmed hat.  My wife got me one of these (I think) for xmas and I love it: http://www.altrec.com/outdoor-research/mens-sombroilet-sun-hat-1329890058/

For pants, I like nylon cargos, but some folks like spandex or fleece.  And I'm a big fan of long underwear if it's going to be cold.

One thing not to skimp on is boots.  You don't need to spend a fortune, but make sure they fit right, provide support and are broken in properly.  And I'd go waterproof, personally.

I also wouldn't skimp on a tent.  I had an REI half dome 2 person tent that was good.  The zippers eventually failed, but REI replaced it.  My current tent (exGF got the last one) is a Sierra Designs Lightning.  I love it.  My wife and I were camping in the Keys several years ago, and we got hit by 12 inches of rain in 24 hours.  When we'd left camp that morning, I hadn't done anything special to prep for heavy rain (didn't know it was coming) -- just closed the fly as usual.  When we got back after the rain, our tent was totally dry.  I couldn't believe it.

I can't really speak to the backpacks themselves.  I have an old one my much smaller sister gave me, and it probably wouldn't do so well on a hike but it's fine on my bike.  Oh, and I'd bring purell.

Good luck!

Bob W

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2014, 09:32:58 AM »
Did a lot of backpacking a few years ago.  Something like 300 miles in one year.  It really matters if you're doing overnighters or day hikes?

We never did the overnight in the woods deal and always returned or circled back to camp.   In my opinion the romance of overnight distance hikes is overrated when compared to the hassle factor. 

For day hikes very little is needed.  An old back pack,  good shoes,  water, food,  weather gear.  Easy peasy.

So if your just day hiking you could get most of the stuff used for little or nothing.  The shoes might be hard to find, but you could probably ebay or thrift store them.

One suggestion I have is to invest in a used set of hiking poles.  They saved me more than once.  They also seem to lessen the burden if used properly.   

I would also suggest you do a lot of hiking prior to going the overnight route and then do some overnights that are not totally isolated to start with.

You should getcha a used book or too on the subject or google around for the suggested equipment to carry if you're going overnight.   For me, it just wasn't worth the effort and expense to set up for overnighters.   In our state there isn't even a place you can hike more than 20 miles and not find civilization.   

We hiked in Colorado a lot which would be conducive for overnighting except for one small problem.   The weather can suck in the mountain elevations where you might do a 2 or 3 nighter, even in the summer.   So in that case you need to pack lots of warm stuff and bring in a heat source to make some warm food. 

I remember trying to camp at upper elevation in Colorado in mid june.  The temp was around 36 and it rained.  We packed up the car and headed downhill!

By the way,  I happen to live in the state that is rated both number 1 for hiking and number 1 for camping -- Missouri.  In the last 10 years of being on the river and trails I have seen exactly 4 people do hiking overnighters.  (to clarify overnighter -- I mean hike all your stuff into a remote location and camp on the trail vs. hiking from camp to camp or returning to a camp)   

You will want to own a nice used waterproof tent and a nice used warm sleeping bag with a mattress.  When we camp we literally fill the SUV to the top and then tie stuff on top. 

Have fun!


PDX Citizen

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2014, 11:09:42 AM »
Backpacking is one of my very favorite things to do.  And it is a mustachian pursuit - what other vacation can you take, where you are able to visit some of the most beautiful places in the country (world?), often in solitude, for free???  The price is physical (a good workout, and some wear on the joints), and sometimes dealing with the elements (rain, cold, mosquitos) etc., but much of the latter can be mitigated by the timing of a trip.

Gear can be somewhat expensive but is pretty cheap compared to most hobbies.  Buying a good lightweight tent and (light but warm enough) sleeping bag are probably the most expensive outlays, but they are definitely worth it if you end up going a lot.  Pack size will probably be driven by whether you plan to do shorter (weekend) trips vs. longer (week-long trips), as the extra food for multiday trips takes up more space.  The less weight you carry, the more enjoyable the hiking will be, within reason.  Planning a trip is part of the enjoyment too.  Have fun! 
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 11:12:18 AM by PDX Citizen »

thricesplice

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2014, 11:11:17 AM »
Maybe this is too obvious to not be useful, but I would do it for a while with borrowed or rented equipment, to make sure it's going to stick and to realize what equipment is right for you. It's not like Baden-Powell or John Muir needed space-tech stuff to go for a walk in the woods. Maybe do hikes that don't require much stuff, or where you don't need to worry about every last ounce. Dried or calorie-dense foods are nearly as light/efficient as dehydrated.

I read somewhere (sorry, no link, too long ago) that more and more people who visit wilderness areas go only about a mile from the parking lot, and my limited recent experience suggests the same. Basically people go for "a walk in the wild" and turn back at the first big hill. This means a wilderness-ish experience is available with even a short hike, so two hours carrying 25 pounds of raisins and 6-mil plastic gets you into as much Nature as five hours with 20 pounds of dehydrated stroganoff and magic nylon tents used to.

Thanks all for the responses.
Just to clarify, I am talking backpacking and staying overnight(s); not day-hiking and not car camping.  My wife and I already do those, and our hikes typically are 10+ miles.

The recommendation to borrow some equipment before committing is one i'll consider;  We don't know how serious we are, or what our ultimate goals our.  We've done a fair amount of day hikes, and just thought we'd take the next step and see how we like it.  Thus I wanted to invest minimally at this time. 

sheepstache

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2014, 12:21:33 PM »
I'm often reminded of this article from a few years back lightweight backpacking walmart style

The guy bought a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pack for under $100 from Walmart and none of it's the clunky ten-pound-tent-coleman-type stuff you would expect.

I would definitely recommend reading up on ultralight hiking with the caveat that a lot of ultralight hikers are just trying to solve their problems by throwing money at more technical gear. Ultralight hiking on the other hand can teach you about minimalism. Find gear you can use for multiple uses, do without certain things people see as necessary (e.g., quilts instead of sleeping bags, hammocks instead of tents, etc.), as well as some equipment options that are minimalist enough to make yourself (e.g., alcohol stoves, tarp shelters, etc.).

Bob W

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2014, 12:45:07 PM »
Thanks for the clarification --   

starbuck

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2014, 01:15:30 PM »
I would definitely recommend reading up on ultralight hiking with the caveat that a lot of ultralight hikers are just trying to solve their problems by throwing money at more technical gear.

Absolutely this. Keep weight at the forefront of your mind when selecting gear to carry, but don't make it the be-all-end-all. For instance, just grab a spoon from your kitchen, don't spend $ on a fancy ultralight titanium spork. It's more a mindset and deciding on what you'll actually need on the trail. My spouse and I backpacked with our very old very heavy Coleman car camping tent and it was fine. Not ideal because of how much space it took up, but it worked. (We'll get a lightweight tent at some point for sure, but haven't yet.) On a two night trip, I limit my pack weight to about 25 lbs, including food but not water. In warmer months, lighter than that.

If your wife is looking for a pack, I'd recommend Gregory brand packs. Very comfortable fit for women.

For food, you can buy stuff at the grocery store that will work just fine. Like certain lines of mac and cheese, pouch tuna and salmon, dried rice mixes, etc. I usually make beef jerky using a standard oven beforehand, and mix up my own preferred trail mix combinations. Delicious!

The_path_less_taken

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2014, 02:18:24 PM »
I've done a lot of 3-day, 8,000ft+ overnight camping. Alaska and Tahoe, although some upstate New York as well.

Like mentioned above, don't skimp on boots or tent. The inflatable sleeping pads are nice, and a zip together sleeping bag is nice since it's the two of you.

If you're going to go often, some the "survivalist" food might be a good deal. Walmart had dehydrated restaurant sized cans of veggies, and freeze dried fruit...repackaged into ziplocks it would be way cheaper than buying the high end crap marketing to back country people. Bagged nuts, cheese sticks...there's a lot out there now.

I went on a hike with some explorer scouts when I was a teen where one dude made jelly donuts 20 miles from the trailhead...he had a homemade baking mix in a baggie and another baggie of jam and a tiny can of grease to fry them....so in reality you can make anything you do at home if you're creative enough.

I've made onion/cheese biscuits in a skillet and some pretty cool soups on a one burner firefly stove.

drachma

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2014, 02:49:56 PM »
definitely start out with rented or at least bare-bones gear.

I'm into ultra-light, backpacking minimalism and I also have a thing for extremely frugal gear. Fortunately, until you start getting into the truly insanely ultra-light gear or doing ultra-light in extreme weather, the ultra-light gear is also cheaper!

My summer set-up is a 8'x10' nylon tarp from wal mart for $10. I use 2mil poly to put on the ground, 3/4ths of a $5 blue foam ground pad, and a good sleeping bag which I've had for many years. I have a 30 degree mummy bag which is quite warm in the summer. Also, $3 worth of walmart tent stakes and some lengths of paracord allow me to pitch the tent. For this set up you also need a trekking pole - cheap ones are $30-50 up to $150. or you can just assume you'll find a decent stick at your camp site.

It's handled rain and wind down into the ~40s it's been warm with my 30deg bag. For winter you need a real, freestanding tent IMO unless the weather is expected to be dry and your location is not windy. I've tarped in the winter but never when its around freezing (stuff melts) or super windy.

So your tent, one of the biggest expenses, can be <$20 if you get started in the summer.

My stove is a penny can alcohol stove which cost a beer can to make. It works SURPRISINGLY well. I got a 1L aluminum pot for $8 on campmor. A MSR PocketRocket ($35 + $8 fuel cans) is a little simpler to use but its heavier and the fuel canisters are proprietary so i only use it when speed is needed - what else are you gonna do at camp besides fiddle with your stove?

So your stove can be pretty cheap too. Stove free + $8 pot + $3 alcohol fuel

Other than that the most important part is your clothing. I have polyester undershirts from 10 years ago that are still warm. I layer that with an $8 banana republic skin-tight 100% merino wool "undershirt" (sweater i purposely shrunk, i call it the poormans smartwool technical shirt), a fleece jacket and a shell. I hike in 100% wool office pants, also from goodwill, for $5. Or nylon shorts if its hot.

Shoes/boots are where I spent money. My trail runners are what I hike the most in but I also have quasi-stiff mountaineering boots for when crampons are needed. (BTW, my full set of crampons cost $40 on ebay). I have smartwool socks for when its cold but in the summer i wear a $4 pair of (you guessed it) merino wool office socks from amazon. A light north face rain shell from clearance for $30? keeps me dry in summer.

You don't need crazy boots if your pack is only 20lbs. Which saves more cost.

Other thing is a headlamp. I spent $38 on mine, a huge expense. But if you do anything at night its worth it. Thing is bright as hell and I've hiked 8 hours with it on. Some people just bring 3 of those $2 push-button 1-cell LED keychain lights and think its fine.

As you gain experience, you decide which pieces of gear are worth it to shell out on. For me it was a headlamp since I like to hike at night. I also rock climb and the security of having good lighting if you get caught on a climb after sunset is valuable. For you it might be something else.

for food I basically buy raisins and peanut butter, and then those $1 rice meals at wal mart and mix it with a packet of tuna. bring a tube of olive oil if you need more calories. Even still, my backpacking meals are more expensive than 90% of my at-home meals due to the tuna :)

another ultralight tip - those $1 aquafina 1.5L bottles are the lightest, most durable water bottles around. suck it nalgene. I purify with aquamira, super light and $15 will last 2 weeks worth of overnighting.

My total pack weight is about 15lbs before water and food, and handles rain and temps into the 30s easily. And my pack is a far-too-big 60L pack coming in at 4.8lbs. Pro tip - dont buy a backpack thats too big! it wont pack well, costs more, weighs more, and is totally unnecessary!

Bob W

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2014, 08:32:54 AM »
Nicely done drachma -

Reminds me of the ongoing debate I have with my wife (I'm totally burnt out on camping by the way after doing over 90 days in two years).   She likes to bring everything possible.  I like to be minimal.

So for me stoves are silly as water tabs purify water. 

So my ultimate 2 night pack in might look like this --
Layered appropriate clothes and used boots with a 90 cent emergency rain poncho.
2 hiking poles - A most in rocky terrain or for stream crossing,  grown to love these things. (ebay)
Small back pack,  Small two man nylon tent (used),  self inflating pads (must at my age),  pocket knife,  camera,  emergency first aide kit with meds,  water bottle (small filter if you don't like the tabs),  2 fifths of vodka for medicinal and emergency purposes (no need for filter or tabs)(you can use Everclear also to save weight and have a fuel source in  a pinch),  lighter,  precooked food of any kind., (I prefer food that requires no heating),  substitute wraps for bread,  canned salmon, tuna are nice.

My preference is to do zero cooking and thus reduce effort and pack in space.   

Not sure of the weight of all this, but even at low weights hauling around a pack gets old pretty quickly.  When we hiked a lot we carried our 3 year old on our backs most days. I'm guessing he was 25-30lbs.   Although we did switch off a bit and that is a decent strategy for 2 hikers.   One takes the heavy and one the light.  In our case, since I'm old, fat and out of shape my wife took the heavy up hills and I took it down hills since my legs are huge and very good breaks. 

These days I'm planning a 3 nighter on the Current River here in Missouri next year. (kayaks and a big ass canoe).   Our giant canoe can haul about 400 pounds of gear so we will go with the kitchen sink gourmet meals and 5 cases of beer route on that one!

bye-bye Ms. FancyPants

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2014, 08:49:29 AM »
These days I'm planning a 3 nighter on the Current River here in Missouri next year. (kayaks and a big ass canoe).   Our giant canoe can haul about 400 pounds of gear so we will go with the kitchen sink gourmet meals and 5 cases of beer route on that one!

Current River is on our list this year also! I have heard it is beautiful.

darkadams00

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2014, 10:45:45 PM »
4-season long-distance hiker here (longer than a week and up to a month). To me, hiking is analogous to biking. The money saved on trips after the initial cash outlay more than compensates for the amount I paid--even if I spent a bit more on nicer items. For example, I could have biked the 18 miles to work today on a $100 bike (or less according to some folks). But I haven't seen one here anywhere near that price that I would enjoy as much or be as comfortable on. My Suburban Attack Vehicle was a Craigslist gold nugget at $500 and I've put 1000's of miles on it. Tires were $90---4000 miles without a flat.

Likewise, I could trim the cost of every item in my pack to the bare minimum cost, but with several items, that would be a dig into my utility and enjoyment. I take the road less traveled, but I've learned that safety, dependability, and comfort sometimes cost just a bit more than the minimum. And I'm $1000 to the good over my BIL's most recent hunting trip.

With that said, do your research on gear. The items that you buy and never use again after the second trip will eat more budget than paying $50 more for a higher quality sleeping bag. Buy what you need and no more. Then be willing to spend on quality to a measure that's within reason. There are several gear forums to handle that research.

No Name Guy

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Re: mustachian backpacking
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2014, 01:13:54 PM »
PCT Thru hiker here, so I have a wee bit of experience on hiking.....

OP - As others have noted, I'd HIGHLY recommend that you start off by renting gear.  IF you then decide to keep on backpacking, then start buying gear.

2nd hand is the lowest cost way to go.  Here in Seattle, there is ALWAYS going to be quality 2nd hand gear for sale.  Even if you buy new, there are places to go low cost / low tech, and places where for long term value, you want to get the highest quality you can afford.

The Big 3 - pack, sleeping gear and shelter. 

The pack is the last thing to buy, as it's merely the container with which you carry the other, useful gear.  Size it to carry what you have in the way of other gear.  A cheap, used, external frame pack can likely be found on Craigslist.  60 liter is a fair size if you're reasonable with your other gear.

Shelter - it depends on your circumstances - that is, are you planning on backpacking in an area with minimal chance of rain, with no bugs?  Hey great, a tarp is all you need - make your own from some plastic sheeting and parachute cord.  If you're in bug hell Oregon in July / August, a fully screened shelter is probably the better choice for your sanity.  The rainy PNW in the shoulder season demands a bathtub bottom shelter, with good sized vestibules and bombproof rain protection.  For a used mainstream tent suitable for backpacking, see if you can find one of the 2 person REI dome models.  They're solid, good rain and bug protection - not the lightest, but light and compact enough for backpacking, but generally lower cost than a lighter / more compact, higher end tent.

Sleeping gear - since you're backpacking, weight and volume are a consideration.  Here's where, once you've decided you're going to buy, I'd recommend getting the best quality you can afford.  If you can score a used down back with 800 or higher fill from a reputable maker, get it - Marmot, Western Mountaineering, Feathered Friends, the mid / higher end REI house brand, or equivalent.  If you show up and the seller pulls it out of a stuff sack, walk - the down is likely ruined from being stored compressed.  If it was stored hung up, or loose in the large cotton bag, that'll be A-OK.  for the sleeping pad, the least expensive are the foam "Z" folding, or a Ridgerest, or a Green flat Army Surplus style.  Remember, a pad is for insulation from the ground, comfort is a 2nd and lesser consideration.  Set up on soft ground (thick layer of duff) for comfort.

Other gear - Cooking.  If you don't live in a fire prone area, like So Cal, then a home made alcohol stove is the cheapest, lightest way to go.  Google "Pepsi Can Stove".  Or cook on Esbit tabs.  If you are in a fire prone area where you must have a shut off valve - something like / similar to a Pocket Rocket is a great choice.

Cook pot - Lots of folks recommend a "Walmart Grease Pot" for a cheap, aluminum container suitable for boiling water in.  Looks to be about $6.  If you use Esbit tabs, a Fosters "Oil Can" with the top cut off / open is a suitable pot to boil water in.  Spoon from home = free.

Headlight - Low end Petzl from REI or similar.

Clothing - Synthetic base layer, convertable nylon pants.  Cheap fleece layers bought from Goodwill / thrift store.  In a crunchy Granola town like Seattle, lots are available.

Rain gear - A poncho is the lightest, best and cheapest upper body rain gear.  Get one of the nicer ones (not the emergency kind), which for $20-$40 will last you a lifetime, and also cover your pack, eliminating the need for a pack cover.  A trash bag that you slit the bottom out of becomes a rain skirt for the legs - use the drawstring type to facilitate tying around your waist.

Footwear - keep your pack weight reasonable and just use your running shoes.  Boots are so 1990.  Nearly all thru hikers use running shoes.

Water bottles - forget nalgene's.  Expensive and heavy.  Buy a $1.59 1 liter bottle that comes free with a liter of soda at the local quickie mart.  Drink soda, rinse, tear off label - you have one bottle.  Repeat 2x times (note that 1 liter gatorade bottles also work well).  Supplement with a Platypus bladder if you're desert hiking and need lots of water capacity.

Water treatment - Aqua Mira drops gets 'er done cheap in 20 minutes.  I went through about 4 kits in 2600 miles of PCT thru hiking.

Food - MRE's suck - they're heavy and expensive and generate a lot of trash.  Dinner:  Knorr brand rice & pasta sides at the local grocery for dinner.  Add Instant Mashed potatoes to fluff up the volume.  A Deluxe Mac and Cheese with the pre made sauce is a good choice as well.  Foil pack / canned chicken, tuna, salmon for meat.  Lunch - bagel sandwiches with dry Italian Salami and cheese harder than a medium cheddar (note those don't require refrigeration even in 100 degree heat for 4 days - I know from experience, they have enough salt and not enough moisture - will get a bit greasy, but won't poison you).  Breakfast - oatmeal with powdered milk, Via for the coffee.  Snacks - lots of nuts, granola bars, Hostess Fruit Pies, Ding Dong's, snack cakes, etc.  Thru hikers get ALL their food from local grocery stores (except those on special diets where they make and have stuff sent from home).