So mel and i used to be big into ultralight backpacking. well not really big. but we had all the kit. and we made alot of our own: packs, compression sacks, a tent, jackets, hats, gloves, stoves, etc. anyway. we learned how to pack light and small, and what you needed and didnt need. hint: you want real shoes after a long hike, not foam insoles with kevlar toe loops for camp shoes.
Anyway, i was talking to whit yesterday about sub 24 hour overnights, and he was saying he wanted to register for his wedding at REI to get some kit. i thought: maybe maybe there are others out there who wanna know the same stuff, namely, who makes good, reliable, light, packable, and not terribly expensive kit for camping. so i am gunna make a link list, and cory can butt in, to refute everything i say!
Let’s start with the two (or 3) biggest purchases, not including panniers and racks, which is a can of worms i can crack later, if there is interest. tents and bags.
Now, i think its relatively common knowledge the synthetic bags are supposed to keep you warmer if your tent is floating down a freezing river. however, in all my years of camping i have only once been in a situation where a sythetic bag would have been nessesary, and it was during a hurricane on an island. and even then, i would have been cold and wet. down lasts longer, compresses better, is natural, insulates more effectively, and costs more. ok that last bit is the only draw back.
But campmor sells these great 20 degree bags (which mel has one of) that dont break the bank, are pretty light, hold up well (6 years and counting) and are warm enough for all but the coldest nights on the midatlantic. and for those, there is this. i have a lighter weight lafuma that packs to the size of a nerf ball, but on the colder nights, i am shivering and she is snug.
Tents are a sticky point. i have NEVER camped somewhere where i couldnt tie my tent up to a tree or use sticks to set it up. however, some people are afraid of pole-less tents, or non-free standing tents. if i lived in the desert or on the tundra… maybe i would be to. but i live in a land of trees and sticks. so after some consideration, we chose an MSR missing link, recently discontinued but still easy to buy, brand new. its light, spacious, well ventilated (better than any other tent i have ever used) and packs small. its also availible for under 200 dollars.
ok those are the big items, not that the others wont add up.
The next expensive bit would be a stove. MSR, who makes amazingly reliable stoves, has come out with the wind pro. no fuss, fast set up, light weight, solid pot platform. it is based on the ultra reliable whisperlite, a backpacking mainstay for years. it weighs 5 oz more than the pocket rocket mel and i use but makes up for it in stability and usability. dont worry, we will make up that weight elsewhere.
the trailhouse just turned mel and i on to the big agnes sleeping mats. lighter, more insulated, smaller packing, and cheaper than thermorest. yes, you have to blow it up. get over it.
Headlamps are a good investment and they have come leaps and bounds in recent years. i recommend this one. light, very bright (enough to ride a bike slowly after dark) and affordable. there are lighter ones, there are brighter ones, but this is a good compromise.
Cook kit: ti if you can swing it. all you need is a pot and maybe if you are feeling frisky a fry pan. snow peak makes great stuff. is it nonstick? no. but you can scrub it out with dirt, which comes in handy, and really the non stick stuff just doesnt last. a worthy investment.
Ti mugs are cool. if you are made of money, get this. if not, get a cheap cheap plastic texsport one. functional difference: 0. cool factor, also 0.
I use a sort of shallow lexan bowl to eat out of. cheap, light enough, and you can abuse it.
Coffee wise, there are all sorts of ways to go. i like the simple and effective drip system, availible at any grocery store. wanna go hyper lite? pack tea bags.
Water filters: on the east coast chances are, you wont need one because you are always close to a store. if you might not be, just get some iodine tablets.
Mel and i splurged (well i did) on a brunton mantelless lantern. its very cool but heavyish and not very bright. if i had to go at it again, i would get a snow peak lantern and just deal with the mantles.
Granite gear makes great stuff sacks and compression sacks. buy the ultra light ones. they hold up fine.
This is a basic list. i omited clothing (buy wool) and other sundries, like toothpaste and soap. (travel size and dr bronners in a single use jim beam bottle, respectively) you can figure that stuff out. or not. email me. other random bits: always pack a rain coat. even if it looks clear, it can act as a vapor barrier on cold nights. like wise a hat is always a good thing to throw in. i like to also bring a scrap piece of cloth to sit on. do i ever remember to? no. but maybe you will. lastly, cheap target brand crocs make good camp shoes. or off brand tevas, which you can also swim in.