I'm new to Backpacking- looking for an intro class or intro trip in the DC Virginia area. 



Welcome to the wonderful adventure that is Backpacking!  I am sure your local REI would have some in person (or currently "Zoom" type classes), but you can do a quick google search on what to be prepared for.  See below for a couple of links:



As far as hikes in the DC area, I have been to McAfee Knob....it's a great little area with some breathtaking views.  Several overnighters in that area.

A few questions I have for you though...do you already have your Big 3 (Tent, Sleeping Bag, Backpack)?  Do you have a cook system?  What time of year are you looking to go (your Big 3 could turn into a Big 4 or 5 depending on the season)?

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Hey @tadoerner, thanks for the reply!! I have a decent sleeping bag, but no backpack or pack friendly tent yet. Likely start in more temperate season. Suggestions for good packs, 1 person tents? I like the idea of pop-up tents but not sure about the quality.


@lnl555 Good question about the backpack!  I'll make the same comment for the pack and the tent.  I made the mistake of going cheap on my first pack (sub $100 and 45+10L) and my first tent (~$150 and 6lbs).  Although both of these purchases allowed me to get into the backcountry game, I ended up spending a lot more money on UL gear as I became more experienced. If you think you're going to be dedicated to this hobby for several years, I would suggest making the investment earlier rather than later.

For the Backpack:

I still use my original "cheap"  pack for small trips, but hindsight 20/20, I would've definitely splurged in the first place on purchasing a 65-75L pack of a named brand that REI sales.  There are several options to purchase these used on REI as long as you're not picky about the brand or color.  You can save ~$100 by doing this.  Personally, I'd recommend one of these two options.  Both offer awesome weight distribution and an abundance of usage options for zipper access on multiple layers throughout the pack.



For the Tent:

My preference is to have a tent with the rain fly attached so that I can assemble both the internal and external very quickly in inclement weather.  I also really enjoy having a free standing tent so that I don't have to rely on stakes to make the tent secure.  Personally, I own a Tarptent Moment DW, and I have really enjoyed using it.  HOWEVER, just as the backpack mentioned above, I wish I would've splurgedan extra ~$100 on a different tent.  I JUST posted a Conversation to see if REI has something similar to the Zpacks Altaplex, but I don't think that's an option.  The benefits of the Altaplex is the water resistant material (cuben fiber) that the tent is made of, and it doesn't require poles. It simply requires 1 trekking pole and a few guylines.  IF I were focused on purchasing through REI, I'd be interested in the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 or the REI Co-Op Flash Air 1 tent.  




If you're really crunched on cost for this entry trip:

Eureka! is a brand that offers some fairly decent gear at a low cost.  I'd look into them for entry level gear to see if this is something you'd be interested in investing your time and money into.


Hope this helps!

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If you're budget is tight, another tent you might look at is the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1. It's a little heavier than a more expensive tent, but I used one for several years and never had any issues with durability. I did eventually break a pole, but I bought a replacement from them at a reasonable cost. It's freestanding and super easy to set up. I only gave it up because of the weight, and moved up to an REI Quarter Dome. It's almost exactly the same size except it's taller than the lynx 1.

My backpack is an Osprey Exos 58 and I think it's great, even though there are lighter options out there. It's very comfortable.

Good luck in your search and welcome to the wonderful world of backpacking!!


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@lnl555 I would also recommend the ALPS Mountaineering Lynx tent or REI's Quarter-dome and Half-done tent series. I have used all of these tents and absolutely love them. For harsher weather conditions I would have to say I prefer my ALPS Lynx tent, despite the fact that it is slightly heavier (although you really can't tell the difference when carrying it). Here is a link to another discussion thread that might help you in choosing a tent. I posted a review of the ALPS Lynx and REI's Half Dome tents in the comments which might help you learn more about those tents. 

  • Another thing to note about tents is that sometimes when you are a solo backpacker, if you have the space, buying a two person tent rather than a one person can allow you more room inside the tent, keeping your bag and gear dry and protected from the elements (rain, dew, mud, snow, dust, etc.).

For backpacks I love Deuter. Personally, I prefer the Deuter Futura Vario (if you see "SL," that is the women's specific backpack). I have used Deuter for 4 years now and have never had any issues, nor felt the need to change brands! Added bonus of this backpack is that it has a built-in yet removable rain cover/fly for the backpack (which sadly a lot of backpacks don't automatically come with)! If you plan to be backpacking somewhere where rain is common, I would be sure to have a rain cover/fly for your backpack.

I have a good amount of backpacking experience throughout the United States as well as in South America, so any other questions you have don't hesitate to shoot my way. Hope this helps!


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@bryndsharp and @lnl555- Great comment about the rain fly! This is a detail I missed in my first summary of packs.  If your pack doesn't come with a rainfly (like my first pack), then an easy and affordable hack is to line the inside of your pack with a trash bag.  I'd still recommend doing this even if you have a rain fly...in the case of a torrential downpour, the rain fly won't keep all the gear inside your bag dry.  Having a trash bag or water proof stuff sacks inside is a simple extra layer of protection.  

ALPS Mountaineering is a good brand, and I'd also recommend the Lynx tent.  Although i don't own one, I've used it in the past and its a great option for a "cheap" yet functional tent.

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@tadoerner great mention about having more than just the rain cover to keep the items in your pack dry. Personally, I use dry bags from Sea to Summit, and absolutely love them! These bags have kept my very expensive camera from drowning more times than I can count! 


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there are many places between you and McAfee Knob, such as Dolly Sods wilderness, WV, pick up a free trail map at the Seneca rocks visitor center, Shenandoah NP, and the Geo Washington/Jefferson NF (hikingupward.com for a list of mapped hikes)

If you drive down to McAfee knob, I recommend starting at the Andy Layne TH and make a 2 day backpack out of it, finishing up at the Home Place Restaurant about 1 mile from the southern trailhead. (all you can eat family style dining for about $15)

One of my (closer) fav's is a beginners hike, Cole Mountain loop in the Mt Pleasant Recreation area just off the AT off Rt 60 between Buena Vista and Amherst; you can camp at the trail head and at Cow Camp Gap shelter off the AT.

My youtube page is filled with vids of hikes all up and down that section of the blue ridge (living in VA), I design them so others can get a feel for the area when planning a trip

good luck!








REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Lots of excellent info here!!  I'm new to backpacking myself and ended up getting a Gregory Paragon 58 pack and an REI Passage 2 tent.  Honestly, the deciding factor on both was that I was able to get them both on sale and make the best use of coupons last year.  The pack took some time to dial on but I've had it on several trips now and love it.  I am drawn to the Osprey Atmos 65, but not sure I can justify the expense.   The tent is awesome.  It's a little heavy compared to some, but it fits nicely in my pack (poles on the outside), has tons of room, is easy to put up and take down, I could go on and on.  The sale is coming up in a few days so, if you're looking to buy, now is an awesome time.  


Happy trails!!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.