Modern technology is amazing.
With a device that fits in my pocket, I can read email from people thousands of miles away, or look up information in an instant versus hunting through a multi-volume encyclopedia, carry many hours of music with me or instantly see photos posted by my family. (Or, perhaps even mainly, to watch crappy videos?)
For anyone interested in a niche past time, and backpacking certainly falls into that category in 2016, there are a wealth of resources to help research, evaluate and consider new gear or techniques.
Back in the “dark” ages of pre-2000 or so, a person would have to go read book, thumb through a magazine, go to talks or clinics conducted by a local outdoor group, or (this idea may be construed as crazy talk by some) go out and see what works.
Today? With many websites, social media outlets and savvy marketing by retails stores (be it brick and mortar or online), there are hundreds if not thousands of choices for gear items. Tents that range from spacious Taj MaTents that fit the entire family and a few guests to simple, but expensive, ultralight shelters.
And stoves. And jackets. And rain gear. And so on.
What does that all mean?
Based on what I’ve seen, it leads to paralyzation for many people.
What sleeping bag should I get? Is this stove better than that stove? Will this tent be OK?
I think it is much like the pack shakedowns mentioned previously. Meaning, people want a seemingly “expert” voice of authority to guide them along: Tell them what is right. What is the best, and exact. And perfect.
Honestly, it is truly hard to get the wrong gear. Most people take too much gear rather than not the “right” gear. For about $1000 and approx 17 lbs base packweight, a person can have a good, solid and versatile kit that can still be used even once they lighten up with other gear. Just do some initial research. Look at websites or books that discuss types of gear rather than specific models. Plan accordingly. And get out there. (I’ll plug my own beginners backpacking article as it is, what I think, is a good example of type of information).
If you have never backpacked before, it may seem intimidating.
Pick an easy trip for your first few jaunts. Walk. See what works. Have fun. Adjust. Do it again.
Still not 100% sure? Plenty of local outdoor groups are still taking people out and is a good way to try out some outdoor activities. Or jumpstart your learning curve and get a guide if you prefer to learn that way. In both cases, some of the initial planning is done and helps with you (literally) taking the first steps .
Point is, worry less about the gear.
And go out and use what you have or can get within what your time, space or money budgets allow.
You’ll learn more.
You’ll see what gear actually works for you. And skills will be developed that ultimately help you choose the gear that works best for you.
It is better than spending a Saturday at REI or asking some semi-anonymous “experts” on FaceGramitter what is the best gear.
The best part of all? It is vastly more fun, too.
Get out there.
You’ll like it.