I have a node, and I'm looking to attach a list of fields to it. The number of fields should be dynamic. I realize I can create a new content type, and use entity reference module to build a list of related nodes, but I feel like that's overkill. I really just need to attach simple list (or list of fields). Is there a way to do this? or am I misunderstaning
There are a few possible solutions to what I believe you are asking:
Use a field collection. http://drupal.org/project/field_collection
It allows you to create a field containing a few fields of information and attach those to a node. I think it is most likely what you are after.
A simple multi-value text field The simplest option to attach a bunch of names to a node is just to set up a text field with unlimited values. Then you can add as many as you like. But I imagine that's simpler than what you need.
Taxonomy terms If the values need to relate to each other across the site, use a term reference field with unlimited values and allow your users to create new terms on the fly when they don't exist already.
Content Type If all of the names you need to add have additional data attached to them, you might need to go down the additional content type and node reference path you mention in your question.
I hope one of those ideas is what you after.