While I was doing my own misguided digital research on what to get, with precious input from my good hiking-capable friends (thanks R and E), I received an e-mail from REI Northridge about a class on "Lightweight Backpacking". Deciding this was divine intervention to my hopelessness, I immediately signed up.
Oh boy, am I glad I attended! I learned so many things about the true meaning of "lightweight". I will not list here all the equipment they demonstrated, however I will repeat the three key phrases I learned by heart:
1. Moisture Wicking
2. Quick Dry
Also, the guy with the rip-van-winkle beard strongly advised that we do not leave home without this: