At its heart, backpacking is a simple pursuit: walk into the woods, sleep on the ground, walk out. You can do that without expensive gear. But you still need stuff, and not cheap  because it’s minimalist and durable. For a tent, I want plenty of floor space for two, even if that means making do with a single door, so I go with the  . (The Kelty Late Start 2, on page 58, is also a great deal if you prioritize lightning-fast setup.) I round out my core camp gear with the  , a synthetic-fill workhorse, and  , which compensates for the heavy bag but still boasts 3.5 inches of cushion (affordable should never mean uncomfortable; just put your lower legs on your pack). I never skimp on shoes. Salomon consistently delivers value, especially in a low-cut like the  . For layering, the key is getting the function without the fancy, like in the shell , synthetic puffy , and  . If I splurge on one layer it’s a softshell, but I go with a streamlined design like the   to save a few more bucks.

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