Gear for Backpacking/Hiking/Camping

My partner Bob and I recently gotten interested in hiking, backpacking and camping. We started with zero gear, so we had to buy everything. We are only part way through the process. I'm using this page to collect the information I gathered through the shopping process. This page is primarily for my own use, but if others find it useful, great. I'd appreciate any suggestions from experienced hikers, campers and backpackers about any of the gear described here, particularly in the categories where we haven't made any purchases yet.

* indicates no purchase made yet

Sources of Information on Gear:

Online Gear Shopping

Bricks and Mortar Gear Shopping (near Wilmington DE)

Distances and travel times, are from Wilmington Train Station (a convenient landmark near our house)
100 S French St, Wilmington, DE 19801, as reported by mappoint.msn.com

Name (and link) Address Hours Travel Time
Distance
(miles)
Eastern Mountain Sports

Concord Mall, 4737 Concord Pike,
Wilmington, DE 19803
302-477-0859

M-S 10a-9:30p
Sun 11a-6p.
9 min 6.5

Trail Creek Outfitters

507 Glen Eagle Square,
Glen Mills, PA US, 19342
610-558-4006

MTF: 10-6
WTh 10-8
Sat: 10-6
Sun: noon-5

15 min 10.1
Gore Outdoor

424 Suburban Plz
Newark, DE 19711
302-454-7555

MWF 10a-6p
TTh10a-8p
Sat 10a-6p
Sun noon-5p

22min 12.5
REI Plymouth Meeting
200 W Ridge Pike Ste 115
Conshohocken, PA 19428
(610) 940-0809
M-F 10a-9p
Sat 10a-6p
Sun 11a-5p
38 min 35.4
Hudson Trail Outfitters 424 York Road
Towson MD 21204
410-583-0494


Sun 11-6
M-F 10-9
Sat 10-7
1:04 67.6
REI 63 W Aylesbury Rd
Timonium, MD 21093
(410) 252-5920
M-F:10a - 9p
Sat10a-8p
Sun11a-6p
1:07 70.4
Wildware Outfitters

6402 Carlisle Pike
Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
717-591-0532

M-F 10a-9p
Sat 10a-7p
Sun noon-5p
1:51 106.8
Campmor Retail Store

810 Route 17 north, Paramus, New Jersey
(201)445-5000

M-F 9:30a-9:30p
Sat 9:30a-7p
Sun: closed

2:07 136.5

 

*Tents

So far, we've narrowed our search as follows:

At first, the Eureka EXO looked like the best deal. However, lots and lots of the reviews on trailspace.com and Epinions.com mentioned condensation problems with this tent. Granted, it may be that condensation is a just fact of life when pitching a tent in a humid climate, but somehow the fact that this was mentioned as an issue over and over again for this one particular tent (in independent sources) was a bit disturbing.

Further reading turned up the REI Half-Dome Plus 2, which both Backpacker magazine and lots of reviewers seem to like a lot.

Here are tents that are still on the short list:

Mfg Tent Name PackWt PackSize Price Area Vest Floor Ht
REI Half Dome
(reviews)
5lb 2 oz 7 x 23 $159 34.5 dual
9.6, 9.6

54x92
4'6"x7'8"

42
  review of Grand Canyon in June using this tent (surprise snow storm, when they were expecting sweltering temps! Held up well) Several positive reviews, though most say something like "a good tent for the money." Backpacker magazine gave it a Best Buy in the 2004 Gear Guide. A glowing review on Epinions.com of the Half Dome Plus 2, noting the two vestibules (10 sq feet each) and two doors, and factory taped seams.
Diamond Brand Litehouse 2lbs14oz 6"x9" $369 31 13 4'3" x 7'3" 43
  2004 Backpacker Gear Guide "best buy". Expensive, but under 3 lbs, and according to Backpacker, "After trips to the Catskills (rain), Joshua Tree (wind) and Oregon (snow), our tester reports that the Epic fabric breathes incredibly well... the dome pitches quickly once you master the internal setup, and space is adequate for two 6-footers.
Sierra Designs Meteor Light (reviews and more reviews) 6lb10oz 6.5"x24" $229.00 (gearfinder) 40 16 5'11"x8'1" 3'7"
 

Backpacker Magazine 2001 Editor's Choice Gold.
User comments:

  • "We have now used this for nearly 4 years, and have never had any leakage or any indication of unworthiness... Ventilation is decent, though not superb with the fly in place (plenty with no fly--they have used quite a bit of netting to help with this and with weight). We had no trouble with condensation during storms."
  • "Lot's of sit up room as well. I've never had a leak and condensation has never occured inside the tent, it has, however, occured on the inside of the fly, but this was due to calm wind conditions."
  • I've used this tent everywhere over the last 3 years. Down in the Grand Canyon, Glacier Nat. Park, 4 treeline camp spots in CO. etc. My best story is when I was in the Boundary Waters in upper Minnesota in late October and experienced HUGE winds and rain and about a 1/2" of gumball sized hail. The tent was solid and didn't leak a drop. I had North Face before this and am much more satisfied now. I just hope I don't wreck it. If I did, I'd buy another one. The vestibule is about the roomiest you can get (14 s.f.) and allows sheltered storage of all your gear. It would be tight if you tried to get 2 people in it for a 4 or 5 day trip, but car camping without the gear storage factor is easy for 2. It's long, so if you're tall it doesn't touch your toes. It looks cool too."
REI

QuarterDome
(reviews)

3lbs11oz 7x20 $229 28 7+7

52x85
4'4"x7'1"

40
  One positive user review. Backpacker says: "Like everything about the Half Dome 2 (above) but the weight? Check out [this tent]...small for 6-footers and a bit cozy for all but lovebirds. Yet, if you can fit, this freestanding double-wall delivers super headroom, twin doors and minivestibules, and a ceiling vent."
Sierra Designs Hyperlight AST 4lbs8oz 6x20 $239.96 (campmor) 43 8.4 8'2"x10'7" 3'6"
 

From Campor catalog: "Large mesh panel extends from the peak to side walls for excellent ventilation and stargazing...interior storage pockets included"

Backpacker says: "accomodated two 6-plus footers and gear, gave us respectable vestibule space and vented better than the competition, earning top marks from testers. Even survived a winter storm that dumped 2 feet of snow".

At trailspace.com: a single positive review lacking in specifics; makes me wonder if the reviewer actually owns the tent or is just selling it. However it has only good things to say about this tent.

                 

Other tents we considered, but aren't on the short list right now.

Mfg Tent Name PackWt PackSize Price Area Vest Floor Ht
Eureka Zeus Exo 2 3lbs6oz 6x15

$139.95 (campmor)

34 12 5x7'6" 3'6"
 

From Campor catalog: "Strength combined with fast easy setup...practically pitches itself. Door half breathable, half-net. Four clothesline loops... one flashlight loop, two mesh pockets... Optional poly ground cloth."

BUT from trailspace.com: the vast majority of reviews report major problems with condensation due to insufficient ventilation. The consensus is that the virtues of this tent are very easy setup, and really light weight and compact packing, but that it doesn't stand up to wet or humid weather. Might be good for a very arid climate.

Kelty Flight 4lbs8oz 7x23 $129.99 (campmor) 29.8 12.5 4'10"x7'6" 3'6"
 

From Campor catalog: "2 mesh storage pockets, flashlight loop, noiseless zipper, multiple guy-out points. Nylon footprint available."

No reviews of this tent at trailspace.com

Kelty Teton 2 4lbs10oz 7x22 $99.99 (campmor) 31.3 6.9 4'2"x7'6" 3'4"
 

From Campor catalog: "2 pole rectangular dome. Large no-see-um mesh door and large no-see-um celing panels provide excellent ventilation. Nylon footprint available."

No reviews of this tent at trailspace.com

Mountain Hardware Room with a view (reviews)              
  many positive reviews. one drawback: seams not factory sealed with tape
Kelty

Gunnison 2
(review)

             
  one positive review
Eureka Backcountry 2 (reviews) 5lb8oz 6x15 $129.99
(campor)
38 none 5'x7'6" 3'6"
 

From Campmor catalog: "Lightweight, small pack size make the BC-2 the best selling 2-person tent in [Campmor] Retail Store... 2 windows, no-seeum netting. Net pockets in wall and hang loops in ceiling. Optional gear loft, poly ground cloth". Reviewers are mixed on this one.

Reviews from trailspace.com: Mixed. Some said it held up well in weather (but only if guyed out), while others had problems with leaks, and condensation.

Note: I couldn't find this one on the Eureka! web site (eurekacamping.com).

                 

 

*Sleeping Bags

We've narrowed it down as follows:

*Packs

General Information:

Boots

We took the advice of a salesperson at Trail Creek Outfitters and purchased boots:

So, we did about a 4 mile hike at Gunpowder Falls State Park (near White Marsh in Baltimore), had lunch, then went immediately to Hudson Trail Outfitters (one of the five best outdoor stores in the country, according to Backpacker magazine.) We described our plans for the next year: to do a series of day hikes, then longer backcountry backpacking hikes (carrying camping gear), then finally culminating with a 2-3 night trek from the South Rim down into the Grand Canyon and back. He recommended the Lowa Tahoe GTX, a 4.3lb backpacking boot. We also

Socks

This was our first purchase; it was suggested that we choose socks first; when you try on boots, you want to be wearing the socks you are going to be wearing with the boots. We figured the only way to really know was to buy a pair and try wearing them for a day when we were doing lots of walking. We ended up selecting Smartwool Hiking socks (view at campmor.com rei.com)(Content: 70% SmartWool, 29% nylon, 1% elastic.) We had also tried one pair of Bridgedale Light Hiker (view at AmazingSocks.com, )(45% Coolmax Polyester, 34% Merino wool, 20% nylon, 1% Lycra elastic). They were fine, but we found a better on-line deal on the Smartwools. Also, they were a little thinner (though that's probably because we got "light hiker" rather than "hiker". We are also experimenting with using a thorlo lightweight liner sock to help avoid blister formation: the idea is that the inner sock or boot rubs against the liner sock, not against your skin. Seems to be working out so far.

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