OUTDOOR GEAR is as personal as underwear, and nobody can tell you what you're going to like, but the following are some things that I can't get along without, hardly, and I'll bet you'd love them too.
A Woolrich pure-wool, very heavy shirt, which is almost a jacket and can serve as one. It has a lined collar, big breast pockets, deep slash pockets and a cape across the shoulders. The cost is climbing toward $40, but hey, the thing will wear forever. Get one that's way too big and wash it (once) in the regular hot-water cycle in your washing machine. Then put the shirt on over a sweatshirt and wear it till it's dry, at which point it will be even thicker and shrink-fitted exactly to you.
A Coleman Peak 1 backpack stove, with the Sigg nesting cookware kit into which the Peak 1 neatly fits. This combination will cost you around $75 (although you might get lucky and find it for about $60 at a discount store), but the Peak 1 is a blowtorch that will have your soup boiling before your buddy finishes reading the directions for his stove. The Sigg set is light, tough, well-designed and excellently made.
A First-Need water purifier, which at a stroke cuts many pounds from your packweight because there's no need to carry more than ready-use drinking and cooking water. The sad fact is that there is virtually no unpolluted water to be found in the eastern United States. The First-Need is a light and compact plastic pump that filters or adsorbs just about everything but the minerals from any old water you find lying around, at the rate of about a pint a minute. "Everything" includes debris, bacteria, parasites, asbestos fibers, chemicals, even -- god forbid -- fallout particles. The device should purify about 200 gallons before the filter and membrane need replacing, enough to get most people through a full season of backpacking.
A Space Blanket, which is just a big sheet of very thin, silvered Mylar plastic. It costs only a couple of dollars, weighs nothing and takes up no space. But when wrapped around you, it will reflect body-heat radiation back to you. Spread under your sleeping bag, it'll also keep out ground moisture.
A Candle Lantern, by UCO. Costs too much ($13.50) but works great and the sootless candle burns a full nine hours.
Cheap hunter's insulated coveralls, sold for as little as $30 at discount stores. Get a pair that are so big they make you look silly, and stuff 'em in the pack in a plastic bag. This is a comfort/safety net: If you get wet, or miscalculate your clothing needs, or a storm sneaks up on you, slip the coveralls on over everything else and you'll be happy as a clam and warm as oysters Rockefeller. Also, the things make nice jammies.
Eddie Bauer's stainless steel cups, which come in two sizes. The 10-ounce double-walled number costs an absolutely outrageous $13. Buy it anyway, because it works. It's indestructible and will keep your coffee or soup plenty hot for plenty long, but won't burn your hands when you hold it, nor your lips when you drink from it. That is worth any price, especially when you watch the other treehuggers wincing and swearing as they try to sip from their Sierra cups. The other Bauer cup is an 18- ounce model, made of good heavy metal with a good heavy wire handle, and it's good for heating water, just the right size for reconstituting those so-called two-serving packages of freeze- dried food. It's big enough to bail a boat and underpriced at $2.50.
Cheap, heavy wool pants from the surplus store. They're made to military specs and can't be beat.
Suspenders, which hold up your pants without constricting your waist, whereas a belt compresses your clothing and squeezes out much of the insulating air that the layer system of clothing is designed totrap.
A skier's mask/knit cap, very loose-fitting, which can be rolled up to just cover the head or let down to cover all but the eyes. It also makes a good nightcap.
Stuff bags and other stuff made by Bea Maurer of Oakton, who sells through Appalachian Outfitters.