D is for Decisions

When I began training for the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon, years ago, I had nothing a runner needs to train for a long-distance race. So even before the ink was dry on my entry form, my friend and I went to the nearest Road Runner Sports. I remember being overwhelmed by the massive store and all the options in front of me.

This venture into serious hiking and backpacking feels the same way. But the financial stakes are higher. I thought running was expensive—and it was. That was due, in part, to making decisions without doing my research first. I purchased things I didn’t need, and I want to be careful this time.

There are a lot of items a backpacker needs to purchase before heading out on the trail for the first overnight trip. At the bare minimum, I will need to purchase some kind of shelter, a backpack, sleeping bag, and food. Of course, I’ll need water, but water is free, which is why it’s not included in my list of items to purchase.

But if I want to have water, I’ll need a way to transport it. I already have a decent CamelBak bladder, but I really don’t like drinking out of those tubes. Blech. Maybe I’ll see what my options are. In case I need to scavenge water along the trail, I’ll some kind of filtration system, so there’s another water-related purchase I’ll need to decide on.

I know there are a lot of other things I’ll need. Off the top of my head, those items include a first aid kit, boots that don’t hurt my feet after eight miles of hiking, proper clothing, a sleeping pad, a way to heat food (and make coffee), and good socks.

I’m focusing on the big things first.


For my birthday, I ordered a used Osprey Viva 50 from Amazon. I decided to return it, though, when I saw a brand-new Viva 65 on the Osprey website for the same price as the smaller, used one. Buying a pack without trying it on first might not be the best way to go about it, but I’m willing to take the chance… especially knowing I can return it. It comes today, so I’m anxious to get home and try it on. I love the green color.


I’ve heard great things about Altra trail running shoes, and at under $60, these will likely be my second “big” purchase. The 3.5 is last year’s style, which is why they’re about half of what they were selling for at REI before the 4.0 style came out.

My feet are happiest in light, bendy shoes, and based on reviews, these seem like a good option. I’ll be getting them from Amazon, so I won’t know until I buy them and try them on.


Soon, I will have to decide on a tent, but first I want to sell a road bike I haven’t used in a few years. I also have an exercise bike I bought off a friend. Like a lot of the world’s exercise bike population, it spends its time gathering dust. I’m hoping that between the two, I’ll make enough to purchase an inexpensive one-person tent. I’m looking at these:

Kelty Gunnison 1 Tent with Footprint

There aren’t a lot of reviews, which makes me wary, but I like that it comes with a footprint. Also, it’s pretty.

REI Co-op Passage 1 Tent

This doesn’t come with a footprint, and it’s not as pretty, but it’s less expensive and about a pound lighter than the Kelty. Most importantly, it has a lot of reviews, and the majority of them speak highly of the tent. This is probably the one I’ll decide to get.

At this point, I’m not concerned about getting the best and the latest backpacking equipment. Keeping this new obsession budget-friendly is a priority. My objective is to get out there, enjoy nature, be healthy, and have fun. If backpacking becomes a regular part of my life, I will be able to upgrade and decide on equipment as I learn what works for me.