Was hoping to take a New to Hiking class to learn about packs, tents, cooking, and GPS navigation. With everything closed I don’t know where to go to get help. I don’t want to buy the wrong thing. Any suggestions as I plan for my first overnight hike?
What kind of terrain will you be overnighting in, and what weather conditions are likely? There are enormous variations that should affect your gear and actions.
You mention GPS navigation. Useful, but first, do you have a good topo map of your hiking area and do you know how to use it, usually along with a compass? Once you are at that level, it is time to consider a GPS. I am an enormous GPS fan and have been using one since 1990, but paper map skills are fundamental.
More later as you respond.
Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail end of July into August. I'm very familiar with the Coast so am not worried about getting seriously lost. A few blogs I've read mention needing a GPS to know when to leave the beach to access the trail.
I don't necessarily agree with all the advice REI gives in these articles but everyone has there own take once they have tried a few things and knows what works for them.
The most important thing is to get footwear and socks dialed in so you feet are comfortable for the distance you want to hike. You may need to adjust once you carry more weight but unless you have issues with your feet. Don't immediately go to hiking boots unless you plan to do a lot of off trail hiking. Trail runners work best on the trail for many people and I would start there.
Getting your first set of backpacking gear is a bit daunting but as far as making "mistakes" The big four - shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and pack - are the most critical and difficult to chose or change because they are the more expensive and if they don't work for you can make you miserable. It is easiest if you have a budget because that can help narrow your choices. If you are prepared for some discomfort and are not too concerned about durability you can go cheap and that works for some people. Others need to start with a higher level of comfort and then you start paying more to get less weight while maintaining acceptable durability and comfort level.
On GPS just use a smart phone to start with. There are lots of apps and services for topo maps and such. Unless you are going into the deep wilderness, smart phones are more than adequate. I agree with @hikemore that understanding an using paper maps is the best place to start because they give you a much better overview of the area and if they are waterproof they will function reliably without batteries (except at night)
@Bcarr I found the REI videos to be very helpful when I first started. Tons of stuff on YouTube, Dan Becker, Sintax77, and others.
Don't do what I did. Big hikes, solo, dehydrated. Set realistic expectations based on your physical health. Most importantly, get shoes that work for you. I'm a boot guy, but trail runners are good too! Foot care is essential for a good hike. Don't forget the 10 essentials.
When considering which size of pack is the best fit, torso length is going to be the most important measurement you take. We encourage you to check out this Expert Advice article, How to Size and Fit a Backpack. In it you'll find a lot of really useful information about how and what to measure for backpack fit, as well as what to look for when you have the pack on to make sure it is fit correctly. Additionally, if you'd like to speak with a product expert in person, feel free to set up a free virtual outfitting appointment to talk through your options.
It's a great idea to get information so you can be prepared! I took a Wilderness Basics course that made a huge difference for me. I found a few online courses that might work. I haven't taken them, but they may be worth checking out!