Guide to Hiking and Backpacking Equipment

The proper equipment makes the difference between a fun adventure and a miserable experience. Learn about essential equipment for your hiking or backpacking excursions.


| May/June 1972



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Waterproof your hiking boots.


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Hiking in the mountains means cold nights and changeable days. A wide-brimmed wool hat, Alaskan wool shin, climbing knickers, over-the-knee wool socks and a down parka (kept ready at the top of the pack) should prepare you for any mercury plunging which might occur during a late-spring to early-fall excursion into high country. If you anticipate crossing large or steep snow fields, you'll find an ice axe handy for testing loose or rotten snow, chopping footholds and as an all-round walking stick. When the axe is not in use, place guards on its head and spike.

Proper Foot Gear

Good hiking boots are the backpacker's best friend. Make sure yours are comfortably molded to your feet BEFORE you leave on a trip . . . lest ye sit in camp with wall-to-wall blisters. Boots should hold firm without "stubbing". Vibram soles and heels are best in mountains and rough terrain . . . they give firm support, grip well in mud and snow and offer a sure hold on rock. Waterproof your boots regularly (Sno-Seal, a favorite application, does the job without softening footwear or causing it to stretch).

One or two pairs of heavy wool socks over light cotton or silk inner stockings should keep your feet warm and dry. Carry two or more of these multi-sets of socks and alternate them as necessary . . . tie the sweat-soaked ones on top of your pack to dry as you hike. The amount of weight you can carry and type and amount of terrain you can cover depends directly on the condition of your feet and legs. Good boots will minimize the strain on soft "city feet", but they won't do it all. Get in shape BEFORE that long wilderness trip . . . then pace yourself on the trail and don't immediately try to break any records for speed and distance.

It's better to carry a kit of foot first-aid items and never need them than the other way 'round: thick gauze pads, moleskin patches, antiseptic cream, adhesive tape, scissors and a small tin of powder (foot, talcum or any other that'll keep the feet dry).

Other personal care and survival items you should pack include wool inner gloves (for warmth), leather outer gloves (for protection), sunglasses, matches in a waterproof container, a camp knife, two lightweight aerial signal flares, sun screen and lip balm, a scarf, Cutter or 6-12 insect repellent, a good compass, small pair of binoculars, calendar wrist watch, break-down fishing gear and—perhaps less essentia—a camera.

For night life out on the trail carry along a flashlight, toilet paper, campshoes and a canteen of water for that 2 A.M. thirst. Put your parka and other clothes in the sleeping bag stuff-sack before turning in . . . it keeps them all in one place and serves as a nifty pillows





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