SHANE STEINKAMP'S BACKPACKING BASE CAMP
1. Take care of your gear, and your gear will take care of you.
"What are the three most essential backpacking items?"
"Toys, water, and food. Without water and food, you'll die. If you don't bring toys, all you'll have to play with is rocks and sticks." -- A. M. Frick (age 5)
The first thing persons new to the sport of hiking and backpacking want to know is, "What do I need?" They all demand a gear list, and expect to get one and be able to go out buy what they need and instantly become a backpacker. Despite perceptions to the contrary, backpacking is not about gear - and gear is actually the last thing you need to consider. If you have come here first, please click here and begin at the beginning.
Still with me? Well, if you insist on starting here, then shame on you - but we'll continue anyway... Click here and print the gear list. You will notice that it's mostly blank. That's because you will fill it in as you go along.
Gear is one of those areas of discussion where there is no clear answer. Some things work for some people, and other things work for others. The 'ultralight' fad has taken off, and some people are going crazy trying to lighten their loads to practically nothing. For my views on this subject, please see Is Lighter Better? If selecting gear were an easy process, the backpacking companies would all offer kits. Fortunately, they do not, even though this makes things difficult for the new person...
So, you have a wad of money in your pocket. You've read all the introductory stuff, and finally finished Mr. Fletcher's Complete Walker IV. If you haven't read it, then you need to. You REALLY need to before you buy anything at all...
Ok, now that you're ready. There are still some steps left before you can actually spend your money. First, you need to know where you are going. Knowing specifically where you will hike will help you know which gear to buy. You don't actually have to be all that specific, but there is a very big difference between hiking in Florida and hiking in Alaska, so at least narrow it down to one area of the country. If you pick Florida, for example, you can always go to Alaska - you'll just need to change a few items, not everything.
Now that you've determined where you want to go, it's time to start making decisions about what to buy. This is the fun part, but is going to take some time. Start with the gear links on the left, and after you have learned enough to make an educated decision, it will be time to go to the store...
Select a link from the left under the heading GEAR. You can read reviews of lots of gear at www.BackpackGearTest.org. For my opinions and no-nonsense discussion of various things, select an item from the list. I recommend you start with shelters and work from there.