Jeff, I was thinking that a pad might not be an essential item. Especially after I went and looked at what they cost. Heck, I don't mind using leaves, grass, pine needles and other vegetation as padding. The one that I want to get would be a self inflatable pad (IF I were to get one) because it is light weight. Everyone on this site has stressed light weight gear, and that does not come cheap without hunting around (which I don't necessarily mind doing, but I have a time frame in which I need to get it).
Nonot thank you for such a detailed list. I agree with you Jeff that I would add a knife. I used to have a really good Kershaw (I love that brand), but I lost it on the trail
Kershaws are not too big or bulky, and I generally just like the feel of them better.
Te-wa thanks for the link. I think that a nice wide brimmed hat is an essential item, but it falls under the clothes category. If you have a good hat, then sunglasses are kind of optional. Plus, I wear glasses and find contacts dry my eyes out. Thus, I would have to get a pair of clip ons OR wear a set with big lenses over my regular glasses OR buy a pair of prescription ones. Eh, that is to much trouble. I will stick with my big straw "Derby" hat as my fellow hiking friends like to call it.
Ellizabek, I have the opposite problem that you have with shoes. My feet are rather wide, so I am often forced to purchase men's.
Sirena, Joe, Writelots and anyone else who suggested borrowing gear...I plan on it. Thank you for the suggestion
A couple of you have suggested the AZ Backpacking Club on Mondays, but unfortunately I work full time and go to school full time. My schedule doesn't permit me to do much of anything until the weekends. I plan on becoming a member, but just won't be able to do the meetings.
Wow, so I think I responded to everyone. You guys are all full of useful information and I appreciate the time you have taken to educate a newbie like me. I now see that the jump from day hiking to backpacking is one that requires a lot of research, oh and let's not forget money! Lol