@Mac well, we're somewhat biased, but we'd recommend starting exactly where you did - REI and this community!
A few thoughts:
- We've had some great discussions here in the community on all of the topics you've mentioned - boots, tents, sleeping bags, water purifiers, plus stoves, wilderness safety, and more - you can certainly peruse the Camping/Hiking/Backpacking boards for topics you're interested in!
- We have some amazing community members who have lots of hiking and camping experience and will likely give you all the advice you could ever want! @bryndsharp @Philreedshikes @hikermor @OldGuyot @SurvivalGal @Rob6 @TomIrvine @Wanderer. You could peruse through our Introduce Yourself board and see if there's anyone who's hiking where you are/plan to go!
- We've got lots of great resources in our Expert Advice articles.
- If you're near an REI store, we of course recommend coming in and chatting with our team - and if that's not convenient, you might consider booking a free Virtual Outfitting appointment.
And finally, you can always ask us specific questions here in the community and REI employees (and other community members) will weigh in! It's helpful to include some specifics about you - where you're going, how long, gear you already have, specifics about you for product fit, etc. Hope this is helpful without being overwhelming!