Believe it or not, it's still possible to get everything besides your clothes and toiletries for $600.
- Basecamp - Weight doesn't matter here, so what I do is take an full-fledged air mattress (e.g, Kmart, $15 )and do it with the car. Usually it's too hot inside the tent, and I end up using the tent for storage only, and sleep on the air mattress under the starts. Or if it's raining, I put the flysheet up without the tent. Also I take some folding chairs ($20), and when away from camp, I put all the stuff inside the tent.
Backpacking Tent - With two people, it's far too easy to sweat one's life away, even in a 3-season tent. Of course they are pretty shapes these days, but its easy to make something that weighs only 2lbs, sleeps two, and costs only $25:
- A 8'x7' fly tarp(14oz, Amazon, $20).
- Groundsheet as moisture barrier (14oz, 8'x10' 3mil tarp, Home Depot, $5).
- Tent pegs (splurge on Outad's aluminium 7" triwing stakes with pull cord, 0.4oz. each, Walmart, 10 for $9).
- Rope (from climbing equipment)
- Mattress - The real point of the backpacker's mattress is to stop heat dissipation from your shoulders and hips into the ground, more than comfort per se (on comfort see sleeping bags, below).. Don't bother with expensive inflatable mattresses, a ridged-foam mat is better anyway because you can fold it into a seat, and is lighter ($25, folds into 20"x6"x4", weighs 10 ounces).
- Sleeping bag - Don't get mummy bags or expensive sleeping fills. Natural fibers, particularly down, are really the best, but ALL my down-filled equipment has been stolen. The Norsens Compact Ultralight XL ($25) is 6'5"x33", good in temps 50-70C, water resistant, and unzips to blanket. In cold weather, two can be zipped together for comfortable duo sleeping (which is undeniably the best way to stay warm on cold nights). In fact it is so light and small, it's easier to take three for two people than one 4-season bag. Because a third of the body heat is dissipated to the ground, rather than the air, the best thing is flatten one sleeping bag into a blanket and put it between the mattresses and bag (far more comfortable than any mattress). then I put my coat in a stuffsack for a pillow.
Stove and cookware - Don't take expensive butane stoves, their bits always break and once you add all the bits together, they're heavier too. Take the $70 alcohol burning, titanium Triangia 27 (which includes burner, windshield, stand, two pots, a teakettle, frying pan, and handle). It cooks in any weather and ok, it's slower, but it also keeps your water hot a longer time. The whole lot collapses into a 8"x4"x4" cylinder and weighs 1.5lb including cutlery. The fuel is ethyl rubbing alcohol (16oz for $2.30 at Walmart) and 2oz boils 2 liters. Check it out :)
- Boots - Traditional hiking boots are >$300. With the light kit I describe, you don't need actually need more than a good pair of athletics shoes with insoles (ALWAYS get insoles), with ankle support, because that's what you neglect on steep trails down and out. If you really like to run the trail though, and you're confident about your ankles, popular now are Vibram 'yellowspot' trailrunners ($120). Yellowspot provides the best grip, but its also very soft, so it wears out quickly, so if you go for this option, it will be your most expensive kit.
- Climbing Shoes and Moccasins - Whatever your trail shoes, have open-toed sandals or moccasin slippers at night. Plus you need some light and comfortable rock-climbing shoes. Aggressive climbing shoes cram your toes into point that also hooks down, and when starting out, the forced shape is more a hindrance than help. The most popular moderate climbing shoes are currently the Evolv Nikita ($80), because of their lacing system and rubber face on sides as well as soles for improved grip.
- Backpack - For a pack, it's easy to pick uyp good ones for $80 these days. I like the look of the Scandinavian Gear 65-liter Backpack because I like to carry weight on my hips, and it has excellent waist and back padding; and because I got bored of pockets years ago and just keep everything in one big tube that I dump on the ground (I keep everything in sandwich and ziplock bags that I want to keep clean and dry). this pack actualy has side access and optional zippable compartments. Also, waterproof bags are annoying because once you put wet things in any bit of it, they stay wet, because water can't get OUT. The place for external ties is on the bottom, which is where you want them because it lowers your center gravity and therefore improves your balance. The compression straps are done right. And finally after taking off the pieces you don't need, its 3lbs.
- Outerwear - For a coat I have hooded raincoat with thick padded jacket lining that is removable. These are most frequently found in army/navy surplus stores and generally available commercially. If your coat does not have a removable lining, hyou should have a thin windproof and waterproof raincoat which you can wear over a separate, warm fleece or quilt jacket. That way you protect your core against water, wind, cold, or all three as needed. It is also really nice to have some waterproof trousers, but there is nothing light that ever lasts very long, no matter what quality you get, so if you want them pick up a few cheap pairs at a time.
- Remaining Gear - Two sets of clothes, one day and one night. Day clothes: thin socks, thick socks, shorts, underwear, t-shirt, hat or glasses, Night clothes: socks, wool long johns. Scrub any dirt off day clothes at end of day and put them back on in the morning, in half an hour it doesn't make any difference anyway. Plus toiletries (biodegradeable soap), medkit, sewing kit, a little brush to clean out dirt from the tent, trowel, and naturally, some duct tape.
- And a Hipflask of Brandy - There is a reason St. Bernard rescue dogs have a flask of brandy around their neck. Even if you don't drink, take a little flask of brandy!