I'm relatively new to the site, but no stranger to the wilderness. I've been walking trails since I was at least 13, started backpacking about 6 years ago and converted to hammock-backpacking about 3 years ago. I've accumulated way too much gear for one person, but hey, I needed the best at the time. I always extensively research every item of gear I purchase for quality, price, weight and overall usability. I've made a few mistakes in my time, but mostly I have top of the line gear for what I thought was the best backpacking experience at the time.
I can't stress enough how important seasoned-expert knowledge is, but everyone is a seasoned expert in their own right. I bought a hammock and got cold at about 60 degrees (with no insulation under me) and that detoured me at first. I didn't want to buy all new gear and the pad inside the hammock was very frustrating to me. Not only did the pad never feel right under me, the fact that I still needed insulation on my shoulders was just too much for me to want to deal with.
With the first thoughts of converting to a hammock I also purchased a winter tarp which was better in every way, for me, over a conventional tent. I slept on the ground under my tarp for a few seasons but I was still never comfy with my blow up pad under me. I then rethought the hammock experience and decided to give it another go. This time, I converted a down throw to an UQ and realized how fuzzy I could really sleep at night in a hammock. I've since bought a full length 0 degree UQ and couldn't be any happier. Sleeping in a hammock has proved to give me that "at-home" sleeping comfort anywhere and everywhere the trail takes me.
One of the biggest frustrations about backpacking for me, at first, was the lack of trail resources for people in Missouri. I didn't like the feeling of traveling 5+ hours away into unknown territory and having no idea what to expect. Trail heads inconsistently provide trail maps for the area, and who wants to drive 5 hours not knowing if you're even going to have a map when you get there?
So, A few years ago my buddy "Towellie" and I created www.baxpax.org check it out sometime and please sign up to gain access to GPS Files, Maps and hundreds of pictures and other valuable trail information. (it's absolutely 100% free and we promise not to bug you or try to sell you anything)
So, thank you all for all your contributions. I will attempt to absorb and provide as much information as possible.