When I started shooting film a few months ago, I knew I was going to be developing it at home: I wouldn't be able to afford sending it to a lab.
I was then in the search of my first set of chemicals to develop black and white film, I needed the simplest, most minimalistic option I could find. Also, idiot-proof.
After some research, I decided to go with Kodak D-76, water for the stop bath, and Kodak Fixer. And that's what I've been using until now.
I like the fact that it's pretty easy to store. It comes in small pouches, in powder form that you have to mix with (extremely) hot water to make the developer. Every bag is around $7 and it makes 1 gallon of developer. Diluted at 1:1, I can develop ~11 rolls. Even adding the cost of the fixer, it'd be $1 or less per roll. Pretty good when you compare it to the $12 (plus 1 week waiting) they charge at our local store!
I have no complaints: the grain is fine, and I've been able to push HP5 and Tri-X to 1600 with very pleasant results. Ilford doesn't provide a time for a 1600 push, but the Massive Dev Chart times have worked just fine for me.
But now that we are going to be on the road for a few months, transporting and "cooking" D76 might be a problem. I don't know if I'll be able to get water up to the 130F (55C) temperature required to make the developer in a hotel room or random AirBnB. And then let it rest for a few hours before use. So I needed something easier to make, and transport.
I still have a couple bags of D76 left that I'll be using until we leave. But I've decided to go with Ilfotec HC. This developer comes in a small 1-liter bottle and it's ready to use. The mix is more complicated (1+31 instead of the simple 1+1), but nothing terrible. It should deliver pretty similar results, and it seems to be a better choice when it comes to pushing HP5. I'll be reporting on how it goes here!
Wrapping up: I'd recommend D76 if you are looking for an inexpensive developer that can give you some good looking grain and the ability to push some film stocks a couple of stops. Just be aware of the work that it takes to make it.