The first question we're asked when shopping for gear is, "What kind of backpacking do you plan to do?"
THAT is an excellent question. Because we don't really know. We'll start small with some local dayhikes, and then go from there. Hike the Appalachian Trail someday? Sure, why not? We don't know any better. So we try to get gear that can grow with us, and hope that we end up liking backpacking as much as we like the idea of backpacking.
I'll document our gear, and try to note as we go what works for us and what doesn't, in case it's helpful or interesting to someone else out there.
We didn't go with major hiking boots. We both got low-rise Merrells. Dennis is already thinking of getting gaiters to help keep small rocks or whatever out of his shoes. Mine feel pretty good but rub one spot on the back of my heel a little uncomfortably. Maybe they need more breaking in. I just bought liner socks, which also might help.
Backpacks. We literally spent hours at REI getting measured and trying different packs, and went through *3* employees, as they kept needing to end their shift or go on break. This gave us a chance to ask their different thoughts and opinions, so it was good, if not overkill. (Note that they're happy to throw some weight in the pack you're trying on, and let you walk around the store for a while to see how it feels.) We opted for an Osprey Atmos 50 liter pack and an REI Flash 60 liter pack. We should be able to use these packs for multi-day trips, particularly since Dennis and I will go out together and can share the carrying of supplies.
We also got this GSL Pinnacle Dualist cookset that includes a 7.5-cup pot, 2 bowls, 2 cups (that look like bowls to me) with lids, and 2 sporks, that all fit inside of each other and store inside a bag that is watertight and can be used as a wash basin. Separately we got a Pocket Rocket stove (that also fits inside the cookset).
We each got a water reservoir that goes inside the backpack, with a hose that feeds to the outside and clips to the front straps of the pack. Dennis is using an Osprey 2.5L bag, and I got a Hoser Platypus 2.0L.
So. I consulted some backpacking checklists and YouTube videos for ideas, which helped us to know what to throw in for first-aid/miscellaneous supplies as well as food, and then we set out on our inaugural hike to Ledges State Park, near Boone IA. The trails here aren't very long, but we wanted to do a trial run and see how everything felt. It all went really well, and we even cooked up dinner in the middle of the woods--dehydrated red beans and rice that just needed boiling water. I forgot to remove the "Do Not Eat" oxygen absorber packet from the dry mix before adding the water, but we didn't die.
We were rewarded on our hike with this nice view overlooking the Des Moines River:
Next, it's time to shop for a tent and sleeping bags, and do an overnight trip!