Gear for Newbies
Gear is a topic that can give newbies headaches. Before you get lost in the fine distinctions between different kinds of caribiners, stove burn times, and micron sizes for water filters, start by thinking about your basic needs.
A few core principles will simplify things considerably:
Think about the environment in which you'll be doing most of your hiking. If you'll be spending a lot of time in temperate rainy forests, you need lots of waterproofing with good ventilation: In tents, that means a double-walled tent (single-walls have a propensity for condensation) with lots of mosquito netting and good air flow. If you spend most of your time above treeline, you might go with a single-wall tent.
Don't over-buy. You don't need a $600 mountaineering tent that weights 9 pounds to keep you comfortable on the Appalachian Trail in June. A much cheaper, lighter tent will do the job just fine. Similarly, check out the features you're paying for on high- end backpacks. Do you really need that crampon guard? The ice ax loops? If the answer is no, don't pay for them and don't carry them!
Talk to other hikers. I chose my Dana Design pack based on strong recommendations from other thru-hikers (one of whom generously allowed me to test-drive (read carry) his pack for oh about five miles!). I chose a PUR hiker water filter the same way. This year, when I needed to buy a new tent, the first thing I did was send an E-mail to list-serves of long-distance hikers asking for suggestions. Hikers know their gear ask them about it!
Used gear can sometimes be a bargain. Some of the big stores have annual sales during which they sell slightly used (i.e. returned) gear at deep discounts.
Lightweight rules. If you're given a choice between two items all else being equal go with the one that weighs less!
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication