Hi Mac,

I echo pretty much everything that has been said so far,by @REI-JenK , @hikermor , @Philreedshikes .  And Phil, yes, situational is a word.  It's part of one of my favorite phrases, "situational awareness". 

Going back to the topic at hand, I would have to say that if you are just starting out, your first purchases should be your clothing and footwear choices.  Try to stay away from cotton for cold weather, because it retains moisture.  I recommend wool socks without question.  For your other layers, wool is awesome, but can be pricey, so some synthetic layers are fine.  Don't go overboard until you know what works best for you.  

Again, reiterating previous commentary, start with local state parks to build your stamina, to comfort level in the wild places, and carry the basics; water, snacks, first aid, the 10 essentials.  As your experience, knowledge and comfort grow, you can expand your gear.  Like all other regular outdoors people, I have multiples of just about everything.

Read up on this Forum, and on the REI Expert Advice columns to get some background, then bring your questions here, or to an REI store.

With more specific questions, we can all help provide more guidance.  

Good luck, and welcome!

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