A Hiking Guide: Packing and Camping Tips

This detailed hiking guide shares packing and camping tips, tells you how to build an Alaskan packboard, and gives advice on hiking pacing and hiking techniques.

| July/August 1986

Reprinted from MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 15. 

"Footpower!" first appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS pages back in May of 1972. At that time — though the activity of carrying a portable home on one's back had been around for millennia — backpacking as a major outdoor recreational activity had only recently come into its own in North America. Because of the sport's relative youth, we chose to run as MOM's first-ever backpacking article a summary of the best backpacking equipment and techniques. Kim Zarney's fast-paced "Footpower!" hiking guide was just that. 

A Hiking Guide: Packing and Camping Tips

Hiking in the mountains means cold nights and changeable days. A wide-brimmed wool hat, Alaskan wool shirt, 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 snowfields, you'll find an ice axe handy for testing loose or rotten snow, for chopping footholds, and as an all-round walking stick. When the axe is not in use, place guards on its head and spike.

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 weight you can carry and the type and amount of terrain you can cover depend 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.

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