I got back into doing outdoors stuff after a seventeen year hiatus. I used to be quite active and have a lot of what was high-endish kit by the standards of the late 80s/early 90s. When I got it all out of the attic it suddenly seemed very heavy compared to the kit a couple of my friends use on their missions and much of it just looked weird when seen through modern eyes so I decided a complete kit refresh was in order. Although I was tempted to jump straight back in to high-end technical gear I didn't know if I would stick at it so I did a bit of research and put together a list of mid-range but decent gear which I would upgrade over time if I stuck with it.
A couple of caveats:
- I'm in the UK so some of this kit may not be available to you,
depending on where you are (too lazy to check)
- I am inclined towards the light/ultralight weight camping thing so some of the kit is perhaps more expensive than it should be and you could easily get away with slightly heavier alternatives.
Shelter: I looked at the Laser Competition one and two man tents and also the Hilleberg Akto. Both very good and light but pricey. I went for the slightly heavier (300g) version of the Laser, the Wild Country Zephyros II which is basically the same tent with heavier material. I have used it all summer in heatwaves and the Scottish rain and can't really fault it.
For solo/ child-free missions I quite like just using a tarp and a bivvy bag in the summer. I got both from Alpkit (I also got a titanium spork from them, the only cutlery I need - pocket knife does everything else) whose service and product quality is very good. I will eventually upgrade to something like the Mountain Laurel Design Cricket or Mountain Star - these are considered superior even to mountain tents and considerably lighter. I don't really stay below the treeline so haven't bothered looking at hammocks, but as an aside you may be interested in checking out tarp + hammock camping as popularised by Ray Mears.
I bought an Alpkit 600D down bag and a cotton sleepingbag liner (£10). I am currently looking at pillow options - as I get older I find the drybag filled with used socks increasingly uncomfortable. I don't really get on with inflatable pillows so this area is still being researched.
I bought a 50L Lightwave pack. At 900-odd grams its a lot lighter than my old Berghaus bergen. It lacks the extra side pockets and pouches I'm used to and can't safely contain more than about 12kg but its a very good and comfortable pack, designed by a hardcore hiker from New Zealand and is highly waterproof with a silnylon top. Minimal but very functional.
I also have a small Lowe Alpine Edge (18L) day sack. Its so handy I tend to use it as my day to day work rucksac during the week. It takes a hydration pack and accommodates a 13" Macbook Pro. I really like Lowe kit generally. Other packs are available. It is really a little small to use as a day sac for anything other than short walks and I may well upgrade to one of its more spacious siblings in time or I may go for the Alpkit Gourdon waterproof pack which is very good indeed if you can cope with the functional design (essentially a 20/25/30L drybag with shoulder straps).
I also have a Bushbox multi-fuel stove which I can't recommend highly enough. It will take wood, charcoal, twigs, fuel tablets and a Trangia-style burner and weighs about 250g and packs away to the size of a coaster.
Merino socks are nice for longer treks.
A hydration pack (Camelbak or whatever you like really. Worth finding out about the taste (if any) they impart to the contents, staff in stores are usually very forthcoming.
Waterproofs: I have Berghaus Deluge overtrousers + a simple Marmot breathable eVent jacket with hood.
Trousers: I really like the Montane Terra trousers, lightweight, windproof, zip vented dry in minutes, cordura-patched for toughness. However the cut is very slim and they lack pocket-space (I'm used to combats)
Microfleece: I bought an unbranded plain one from ebay.
Base layers: I bought seven cheap (£5) wicking baselayers from HiGear. They do what they are supposed to - keep you warm and reasonably dry in all conditions and to be easy to wash and quickdrying. Obviously more expensive versions are available. Personally I don't see the need.
Personal preference. You can go full-leather with hard Vibram soles (my preference) or for lighter gore-tex or eVent boots/shoes with more flexible soles. I got a pair of North Ridge (made in China but very good nonetheless) but am looking hard at the Ecco Biom Hike boots - expensive, but good boots are essential IMHO.
I have an old skool Leatherman tool with a decent blade and a Boker locking knife. I would quite like a machete.
I did stick with it and I am delighted I did - my youthful enthusiasm for trekking, climbing and camping has returned and the fresh air, exercise and opportunity to get out of the city has made my day-to-day life immeasurably better. Enjoy yourself ;-)