oot gear must be comfortable, light weight, and durable. Gone are the days when inexpensive, reliable boots were difficult to find. A number of styles are available, from lowtops to hightops, all leather to combination leather and cloth. Make sure there is plenty of room in the boot for a good pair of hiking socks as well as your feet. Remember that your feet swell during the day so it might be a good idea to buy your boots in the afternoon when your feet are larger.
pack is one of the most important and most expensive items you will buy. There are literally dozens of manufacturers of packs. This makes pack selection difficult if you are shopping a catalog. There are two major types of packs, external frame and internal frame. External frame packs generally have a number of pockets in which your gear can be organized. Their construction allows air to circulate between the frame and your back so they are cooler. In general, they are less expensive than internals. Internal frame packs are better for extended off trail use because loads tend to be more stable and shift less than on externals.
arm bedding can make the difference between a good night's sleep and a nightmare. That does not mean that you have to rush out and buy the most expensive down bag on the market. A number of synthetic bags perform well and are priced well below a down equivalent. Down bags have a couple of advantages. They are lightweight and take up little space because down is so compressible. However, they can be very expensive and they will not keep you warm if the down gets too wet. Synthetic bags are less expensive and will keep you warm when they are wet. In addition, the synthetic insulation does not tend to shift around like down so there are fewer cold spots in these bags.
ccasional storms make some sort of shelter essential on most hikes. A tarp or bivouac sack may be all the protection you want. On the other hand, you can carry a lighter weight sleeping bag if you carry a tent. Tents trap warm air and are 20º F or more warmer than the outside air temperature. In addition, they keep the mosquitos off if you have the misfortune of camping in a place where mosquitos are bothersome. Free standing models are easier to pitch and are more versatile on rocky terrain than non-free standing models, an important consideration if you plan on spending much time in places where you can not drive tent stakes.
First Aid Kit
good first aid kit contains items to take care of cuts, scrapes, burns and blisters that are inevitable on hikes. It is easy to put one together and a waste of money, pack space, and weight to buy a ready made first aid kit.
small repair kit should be put together to take care of breakdowns that are bound to happen sooner or later. It should include a sewing kit, various kinds of tape, wire,and spare pack parts.
Other Emergency Gear
pack this gear in two separate containers. One is carried at all times in a pocket or a fanny pack on climbs, fishing trips, or other excursions away from camp. This package includes a large plastic garbage bag (emergency rain coat), space blanket (emergency shelter), waterproof matches , and nylon rope. Items in the other package include, signal mirror, fire starting tablets, and wire saw.
Pots, Pans, Containers, and Utensils
or all purpose use, a one quart aluminum cook pot with fitted lid is hard to beat. It is large enough to cook meals for one or two people. A plastic cup (metal burns you when its filled with hot liquids) serves two purposes if it is graduated for measuring. A GI tablespoon I found in the surf on the island of Guam is the only spoon I carry. It serves both as a measurer and as my primary eating utensil. My Swiss Army knife contains a knife and a can opener. If you decide to go first class, you may wish to carry a small griddle or frying pan. If you do, be sure to bring a spatula. A a few feet of heavy duty aluminum foil can come in handy if you are good with aluminum foil cooking techniques.
ew hikers cook over wood fires any more. Wood fires mess up pots and pans and the environment as well. A reliable, lightweight, gasoline stove heats up rapidly. No fuel needs to be gathered and a fire pit does not have to be prepared. Fuel bottles with built in or add on pouring devices are ideal for spare fuel. Some stoves like REI's Whisperlight use fuel bottles as their fuel reservoir. You may wish to carry a lightweight windscreen although a few rocks positioned carefully will keep the wind from blowing out your stove. Don't forget matches and spare matches. You should have several waterproof baggies containing a few books of matches each tucked in various parts of your gear.
angers are quick to point out that back country water is not to be trusted unless it is first treated. Many hikers carry small water filters to strain out pests such as Giardia lamblia and other waterborne pathogens that can leave you very sick if they infect your innards. Some water should be carried in your pack in a small canteen such as a half liter or one liter plastic soda bottle. For camp use, you may wish to carry a larger water container such as an emptied bag from a boxed wine.
itchen cleanup is easy and quick with the proper materials and equipment. A sponge with abrasive back takes off hard to remove burned on food. A low sudsing soap such as dishwasher soap works well at breaking down grease. Careful cleaning and rinsing of dishes is essential if you are to avoid stomach upset.
ew supplies are as essential to comfort on a hike as toiletries. They fall into two main categories, those that make you look good and those that make you feel good.
any hikers forego grooming practices such as shaving, washing and combing hair, and brushing teeth. A regular teeth brushing can give you a whole new outlook on life. A shampoo every few days can boost morale also. I try to comb my hair once a day, to keep the tangles out of it if nothing else. As for shaving, you've got to be kidding.
n addition to regular removal of trail grime, there are several other rituals that make life more bearable in the wilds. Sunscreen should be applied regularly since the thin atmosphere leaves you open to overexposure to harmful radiation. Sunburn is not only painful but it may lead to worse problems later on such as skin cancer. Feet take such a beating that they need special pampering. Make sure your toenails are trimmed before you hit the trail. Not only will this help you to avoid sore feet, but it also helps prevent holes in socks. Blisters should be taken care of quickly. Sometimes well placed bandaids or moleskin will do the trick. If a blister breaks, make sure to keep it clean and and apply alcohol regularly to prevent infection and to dry the skin.
otentially one of the biggest trouble spots is your crotch. On a hot day your crotch gets sweaty and becomes an ideal location for fungal infections. If you are not very careful at wiping your bottom after a bowel movement, painful irritation can develop. A careful wiping with a prepackaged wet towellette can help to eliminate problems in this sensitive area. I find jockey shorts cause excess heat and moisture buildup and a switch to boxer shorts has helped to clear up irritations quickly.
lthough a hike is hardly a fashion show, as much time should go into selecting proper clothing for a hike as if it were a fashion show. Appropriate hiking clothes are comfortable and provide protection from the elements. Extreme variations in weather are common during a hike or even during a single day so your clothing must allow you to be able to adapt to new conditions quickly. The best and easiest way to gain this kind of versatility is to carry clothes which you can wear in layers. Layers can be added when it gets cold or can be shed as it gets hot. Since most clothing is porous, one of your layers should be wind and waterproof to protect you from strong wind, rain, or snow.
f you are carrying a light duty sleeping bag, you may want to sleep in some of your clothes. Socks and long underwear over regular underwear helps you to stay warm on colder nights. A knit balaclava helmet and bandana around the neck are helpful when it gets even colder.
f there is frost on the ground when its time to get up, you may end up putting on just about all the clothes you are carrying. This includes the short and long underwear from the night before, a fleece jacket, shorts or pants, and rain gear to keep out the wind. Once on the trail, the layers are shed as it warms up.
Reading and Writing
journal helps you to remember what a great experience you had during your hike. An itinerary is helpful, especially on longer hikes. Photocopies of your trail guide may come in handy. A map of some kind is an essential on most hikes. Even if you know the country well already it's fun to learn more names of reference points like peaks and creeks.
camera helps you to record memories of the beautiful scenes that you encounter on your trip. Be sure to take plenty of film and backup batteries. A tripod is helpful to the solo hiker who would like to be included in some of the pictures.
our species of trout live in lakes and streams of the Sierra. These are the rainbow and golden trout, both native to the area, and brook and brown trout which have been imported. On some hikes you may depend on these scrappy fish for variety in your menu. Lightweight,versatile equipment such as a spin/fly rod and appropriate reels, spinners and flies, make it possible to fish both streams and lakes for these beautiful fish.
number of odds and ends fall into this category. Many hikers think of some of these items as essentials. Most would agree that sunglasses, an all purpose knife, matches, a watch, a compass, some rope or nylon line, and a flashlight are essentials. Optional gear might include a thermometer, a barometer/altimeter, a telescope or binoculars, fingernail clippers, a shovel or trowel, and a whet stone. Spare bulb and batteries for the flashlight might come in handy.
ood not only supplies the energy needed for a strenuous trip, it also can make the difference between a good trip and a poor one. A good meal not only provides the calories you need to keep going, it also brightens your outlook and raises your spirits. Prepared foods are very expensive and should be avoided unless you don't have the time to shop around. In addition, many prepared meals tend to cause some hikers to produce excess gas.
eals should be easy to prepare and clean up. One pot meals are often the best way to accomplish both these goals. It's not necessary to take a lot of dinnerware. Meals can be eaten from the pot or from your cup. A spoon and your pocket knife are all the hand utensils you will probably need for most meals. It may take a while to find out how much you eat on the trail. You can expect to take in two to three times as much food on the trail than that needed to keep you going if you work at a sedentary job.
ainstays on my menu include dishes based on instant rice or on stovetop stuffing. Neither item requires a lot of fuel per meal, an important factor on a trip of a week or longer at elevations where fires are prohibited. You might consider cooking meals on a stove even at lower elevations because cleanup is so much easier. Many hikers haven't cooked a meal over a campfire since lightweight and reliable gasoline stoves became easily available.
rout are easy to catch in many of the lakes and streams and provide a taste of freshness and luxury that enhances any meal. Wild onions can add a touch of excitement as well. Even though it may seem like the weight might be prohibitive, a few carefully selected fresh fruits and vegetables can add a great deal of eating enjoyment without adding too many ounces to the pack.
reakfast should be kept simple, otherwise you can't get on the trail soon enough to get anywhere before dark. On chilly mornings a hot breakfast can do wonders to get you up and going. Tea or coffee, fruit drink, and cereal are usually enough to get you on the trail in a hurry. A good breakfast can be enjoyed without leaving any mess to clean up. The night before, fill up the cooking pot with enough water for breakfast. Four or five cups will usually do the trick. The next morning, break your fast with a cup of instant fruit drink, heat the water and prepare hot cereal in your eating cup. A few cups of tea or coffee later and you are ready to hit the trail.
unch starts as early as 10 o'clock in the morning. It is an ongoing affair lasting well into the afternoon. It can be eaten on the go or during breaks. Unless you have the time for a hot cup of soup, it requires no time consuming preparation. Simply eat the nuts, candy, and other snack items in your lunch bag as you go. On shorter hikes when there is extra room in your pack, you might want to bring along a loaf of unsliced sourdough bread to eat with jam as a special treat.
ince it is the largest meal of the day, dinner should be prepared while there is still plenty of light to see what is going on. After a long day of hiking, its nice to eat something as soon as you stop. This might be a good time for a cup of soup and a few crackers. With your reserves reinforced its a lot easier to clean up, do a little laundry, fish, or write in the journal before preparing the main course.
he easiest to prepare are one pot meals consisting of a base of instant rice, stovetop stuffing, ramen noodles, or some other starch mixed with a sauce, vegetables and meat. Sliced fresh vegetables such as carrots, squash or wild onions, are a welcome addition to one pot meals. A dessert of instant pudding with candy or cookies is always a welcome treat. If you have been lucky enough to catch a trout filled with mature eggs be sure to take advantage of this luxury. Sometimes I include water crackers in my pack when I anticipate finding this fresh "caviar."
number of excellent books on trail cooking are available. My favorite is by June Fleming. Many suggestions on one pot cooking are found in this exceptionally well prepared book.