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Hiking Guide

How Much to Carry:
      Beware the 100 pound pack! Even the most fit people can hurt themselves trying to carry too much. Do not bring everything from the lists below. A 55 pound backpack (less water) is usually sufficient for a five day outing. Some people get by with as little as 20 lb. Remember John Muir hikes the high Sierras in the 1870s with little more than his overcoat filled with biscuits.
      Less weight is almost always best, provided you don't leave something important behind. Do not bring that extra towel or shirt. Nobody cares what you smell like after the first day anyway.
      Another way to look at pack weight is as a percentage of your body weight. Almost everyone (in good health) should be able to carry 20% of their body weight (a 40 lb pack for a 200 lb man). Most intermediates should be capable of 25% (a 50 lb pack for a 200 lb man). Strong backpackers can carry 35% (a 70 lb pack for a 200 lb man). If you exceed that, then you are either a glutton for punishment or on a mission from God.
      Of course the next consideration is distributing the load. It goes without saying that a 200 lb man and 100 lb woman should not carry the same amount. For example a 100 lb beginning woman could carry around 20 lb. (You want her to go again, right? Don't kill her on the first trip!) The intermediate to experienced 200 lb man can carry up to 60 lb. With as much as eighty pounds to work with between you, you should be able to almost bring a portable TV (I trust you know I'm joking here).

      One of the more hotly debated topics is how far to go each day. Sometimes you have no choice, when distance between campsites on your route is fixed or your permit isn't for quite the route you really wanted.
      However when you do have a choice. . . For well maintained trails the rule of thumb is 2 miles an hour. Add one half hour for every 1000 ft. of elevation gain and add fifteen minutes for every 1000 ft. of elevation loss.
      If your brawny hubby is pushing for 15 miles a day when you're more interested in strolling maybe five miles you might consider redistributing the gear. Let the guy carry more of the combined total for a nice heart pounding work-out. That should provide enough of a work out for him and let you push on a few extra miles in comfort.

Information Left with Neighbors at Home

Be sure to leave some pertinent information with friends or neighbors at home. The information should include a photocopy of a trip itinerary and map with trail head and route highlighted; the name and phone number of nearest ranger station to the trip area; the make, model and license numbers of all cars going to the trail head; and the time and date you should return home. That way if there is a problem, your concerned neighbor can expedite a search and rescue team to go get you.

Hiking and Camping Clothing

Select items to fit your trip and weather conditions. Pick clothing appropriate for the probable worst case weather conditions.

For hot weather, keeping cool and avoiding sunburn are major considerations. Loose fitting clothing, a broad brimmed straw hat, and loose, long sleeved shirts will help considerably.

For cold or wet weather, a few thin layers work better than one heavy layer. It weighs less too. As you warm up from exercise one layer can be removed to prevent overheating. When resting it can be put back on to prevent becoming cold again. Use the three layer system. The inner layer is for wicking moisture away from the body. The middle layer is primarily for insulation. The outer layer is mostly for stopping wind or rain while letting your body breathe (let sweat evaporate).

Note: Extra clothing is best stored rolled up into cylinders and placed into compression stuff sacks.

Note: Avoid cotton clothing wherever possible. It keeps moisture close to the body allowing you to become chilled. Hypothermia followed by death are real possibilities under wet and cold conditions.

  • Hat: A very important item around Southern California. During a hot day a straw hat will reflect away the hot sunlight and still allow air to circulate and cool you off. A broad brimmed hat is recommended for most occasions to help prevent sun dazzled eyes, sunburned ears, nose, neck, etc.
    During cold weather up to 20 percent of body heat is lost from the head. If you are cold simply putting on a warm, insulated hat can make a large difference.
    Up in Canada a hat is known as a toque. I think it's a French word that carried over into the English using population as well.

  • Hiking Boots: Hiking boots are an item that should not be bought by price. If you develop blisters, twist your ankle, etc. the trip will either come to an abrupt end or be more painful and less enjoyable.
    Unless you know exactly what you need, make a trip to REI, Sportmart, Sport Chalet, A-16, etc. and get properly fitted. Be sure to wear appropriate socks (see below for more details) when getting fitted. Pick boots that fit properly from the beginning. Generally, if they need much breaking in, your feet will give out first.
    The toe box should be long enough to let your toes fully extend without touching the end of the boot at all. You should be able to wiggle your toes a little and not feel the end of the boot. Some stores have a strange looking ramp in the boot area. You should still not be able to feel the end of the boot while standing on this ramp with your toes pointing downhill. Be sure to run this test with tight laces.
    Conversely almost any heel movement is bad, even a 1/8 inch lift is probably too much. The boot should wear comfortably snug across the widest part of the foot and gently, but firmly cradle the whole foot, top and bottom all the way up.
    Choose a boot appropriate for the terrain. The heavy full leather boots with stiff arch supports are primarily intended for multi-day treks. The light ones with a combination leather and breathable fabric are for day hikes or one nighters.
    Tennis shoes or other similar shoes are only suitable for the shortest of day hikes or in-camp shoes.

  • Compression Stuff Sacks: Light weight is the biggest concern for backpacking but small size is second. A compression stuff sack will allow you to shrink clothing and other compressible items down to about half their original size.

  • Parka: A wind and water proof shell / jacket for the upper body. Most are polyurethane coated nylon, though Gore-Tex is usually better and more expensive. Be sure to pick one that is large enough to be comfortable when worn over the inner and middle layer clothing also.

  • Rain Pants: A wind and water proof shell for the lower body. Those with zippers on the outside of the legs are best because: they are easily removable prior to entering the tent; they can be left in the vestibule with the rest of the wet gear and thereby avoid bringing water into the tent. Like the parka, be sure underclothing fits comfortably.

  • Gaiters: Gaiters are for protecting your lower legs from dew or moisture picked up from brush. Gaiters are really useful for dayhikes only. On longer trips rain pants would do this job just as well and also be useful in a rain storm.

  • Long underwear top and bottoms: Polypropylene or silk are good choices. Depending on the trip location, heavier underwear, commonly called expedition weight, might be desirable.
    Remember - no cotton!

  • Long-sleeved T-shirt: Buy polyester, rather than cotton. You'll smell but won't have to worry about hypothermia. Just don't wear them in town.

  • Sweater: Pile or polyester fleece sweaters seem to be preferred over wool these days.

  • Pile or wool pants:

  • Quick-drying pants/ shorts:

  • Swimsuit:

  • Bandanna: A.K.A. a handkerchief.

  • Balaclava or knit hat: Particularly useful for warmth at night while sleeping.

  • Pile or wool gloves or mittens:

  • Waterproof mittens:

  • Liner socks: Thin polyester is recommended. Two or three pair is recommended. A liner sock and outer sock combination is most comfortable and will help prevent blisters.
    Note: One clean pair per day is recommended to help prevent blisters. They can be washed in camp and dried on the trail during the day while strapped to the top of your pack.

  • Outer socks: Two or three pair of a wool / polyester blend is recommended. A liner sock and outer sock combination is most comfortable and will help prevent blisters. Ones with extra padding in the heel and under the ball of the foot are a little more comfortable.
    Note: One clean pair per day is recommended to help prevent blisters. They can be washed in camp and dried on the trail during the day while strapped to the top of your pack.

  • Camp shoes or sandals: Hiking sandals or old tennis shoes are recommended for stream crossings. If you bring hiking sandals, choose something that fully support your feet like Tevas. Do not bring flip-flops.

  • Belt:

Blank Space

Packing a Backpack

Backpacking Gear

Select items to fit your trip needs and the level of luxury desired. This is a partial list. 
The picture shows backpack packing recommendations. Put the sleeping bag and pad at the bottom (usually a space is provided below the main compartment for lashing them to the frame). The extra water, tent, food and cooking gear should be placed above the sleeping bag (usually in the bottom of the main compartment). Clothing goes above that. On top, in side pockets or on the belt place the camera, ten essentials and drinking water.

  • Backpack: There are two main backpack designs: internal frame and external frame.
    Internal frame backpacks: keep the weight closer to the body and hence help provide better balance; have more internal volume than an external frame pack; have fewer places to snag; and cost about 50 to 100 percent more than an external. Climbers, airline travelers and skiers are more likely to find the benefits of an internal frame pack worth the extra money.
    External frame backpacks: are more comfortable to wear since your back gets air circulation; weigh a little less; and cost less. Hikers usually pick external frame packs.
    Note: Pick a comfortable pack as described for day packs above.

  • Rain Cover for Pack: Most packs are moderately rain resistant just as they are and are adequate for the light rainfall typical in most desert areas. If you are going to the Sierras, Yosemite or other heavy rain area, a rain cover is a must. Ones that cover the pack and hiker are recommended.

  • Tent or Bivy Sack with poles and stakes: For all but winter camping a "three season" tent is fine. Winter camping requires a "four season" tent. Be sure to bring the poles and stakes also.
    A bivy (bivouac) sack is suitable for most fair weather uses in Southern California. Be sure it is roomy and does not compress your sleeping bag. Otherwise some of your bag's insulation qualities will be lost. Be sure to get a bivy with mosquito netting. Those with a pole to prevent the netting from laying on your face are nice too.

  • Ground cloth: A ground cloth is a moisture barrier sheet. Typical sheet material choices are four millimeter thick polyethylene, 1.9 ounce coated nylon or Tyvek house wrap (rip-stop high-density polyethylene) from a construction site. It prevents ground moisture from wetting the bottom of your tent or bivy sack. It should be just a little smaller on all sides than the tent or bivy sack that will sit upon it or water running off the tent can be channeled under the tent.

  • Gear repair & sewing kit: Bring a repair kit for the pack, tent, clothing, etc. A small soft sided case is recommended with about four feet of strap material, some heavy thread, needles, thimble, adhesive coated tent patching fabric, extra backpack (clevis) pins and rings, several heavy duty diaper pins, a couple pole sleeves (to slip over the broken ends of tent poles), several heavy duty rubber bands, extra zipper heads, etc.

  • Sleeping bag in waterproof stuff sack: In the olden days, if you wanted a wide comfort zone and cared little about the price, you bought a down bag. If price was paramount most people bought a synthetic material filled bag. The newest synthetic materials are almost as good (and expensive) as down. So you need to read up at the local library and try several before you buy.
    Note: Be sure to store your bag loose (e.g. not in the stuff sack) at home. This prevents compression from damaging the fill. This condition can decrease the insulating ability of the bag and possibly leave you shivering at night.
    Note: The compression stuff sacks are touted as a way to compress your sleeping bag down even smaller than the regular stuff sacks. I'm leery of trying compression sacks on my sleeping bag. I fear my nice down bag might have the down permanently crushed, destroying it's insulating properties, so I haven't tried it.

  • Sleeping pad: Sleeping pads vary significantly in their comfort level. Try several out and pick one that suits you and your budget. Three quarter length pads are not recommended for taller people since your feet will hang over and down at a different level. This is uncomfortable for most people.

  • Pillow I can hear some of you sneering already, but no matter how tightly I try to roll or fold up a fleece jacket it still makes a crummy pillow. I hate getting a cramp in my neck. A decent backpacker's pillow is a cloth bag with fleece padding on one side. You stuff your shirt, etc. into the bag and viola, a nice pillow. Most backpacker's pillows are small enough to be stuffed in the stuff sack with the sleeping bag.
    Note: Some people just use the sleeping bag's stuff sack and put some clothing in it.

  • Chair, sit pad or sleeping-pad chair kit: After a long hike something to sit on is highly desirable. For desert travel there often is nothing to sit on (other than the ground) and a light aluminum folding chair is frequently worth it's weight. One friend swears by his Crazy Creek chair. A small piece of foam padding (kneeling pad for gardening) or the sleeping pad are also good choices.

  • Stove, wind shields, stove repair kit and fuel: There are many stoves on the market. Read some articles and pick one that suits you. White gas has a higher BTU content and so will require less fuel (less weight) for an equivalent amount of cooking. However propane is easier to light and the flame is easier to adjust. Most stoves come with wind shields. They surround the stove helping to prevent wind problems and increase the stove's cooking efficiency. If your stove doesn't have the shields, bring along some heavy duty (thick) aluminum foil instead.
    Note: Fuel bottles can leak if improperly packed. They should be double zipper lock bagged and packed so they will remain vertical and not tip over.
    Note: Be sure to bring along a repair kit for the stove. Clogged nebulizer jet orifices are a common problem.
    Note: The Fuel Name FAQ by Mike Buckler has some good information on fuel choices too.

  • Food: For longer backpacking trips many people choose the prepackaged freeze-dried meals available at REI, Sportmart, etc. because they weigh the least. However they do tend to be expensive and the taste often leaves alot to be desired.
    Some freeze-dried foods can be bought in your local grocery store if you search for them. Dehydrated eggs, powdered milk, dry meat (like beef jerky), oatmeal, ramen noodles, instant mashed potatoes, dried fruit, etc. can all be found at most regular grocery stores. Other items with a little water in them are OK to pack too. Beans and rice can be mostly cooked, drained and packaged for a trip. Tofu comes in plastic wrap, but needs some serious spices later to make it palatable. Tortillas and other breads are good.
    Plan out your meals and put measured amounts of the particular food item with the appropriate spices into zippered plastic baggies for home-made prepackaged meals. It's considerably cheaper to make your own meals this way.
    If you buy a dehydrator entirely new vistas open up. For example, it's possible to make spaghetti with meat sauce and dehydrate it for a trip. Home made dehydrated meals are always the best tasting.
    Note: Some recipes web sites are shown in the links page.

  • Bear Proof Cannister: For areas with bears, like most of central and northern California, a bear proof canister is a good idea.
          The containers are a heavy duty, hard black plastic with a small lid opening. A couple of flush screws secure the lid. The smaller containers can be stuffed with 3 - 4 person-days of food without much trouble. A larger container suitable for 5 - 8 person-days is also available. Be sure to put all scented items in there, not just food. Things like trash, sun screen, etc. also should be put in the container.
          Some areas, like Yosemite, are now requiring backpackers to carry bear proof containers. At the end of the day, you carry them a safe distance away from your camp (100 yards or so) and plop them down. No problems finding a suitable tree and then rigging of ropes to tree your food in the dark after dinner. No worries about mice, marmots or raccoons climbing in and helping themselves either. If a bear does come to investigate they typically bat them around a while, eventually get bored and leave. There are no sharp corners and they are nearly impossible for the bears to even pick them up. The bears will then go to the next camp site and raid their tree-hung food, leaving yours unmolested.
          Note: Additional details on bear behavior can be found on the California Fish & Game site and UDAP's Bear Safety Tips page.

  • Cook set and utensils: A two quart pot with lid is usually sufficient. Bring a pot gripper also if the pot doesn't have a handle. One large insulated cup, and spoon is also necessary. Forks and knives are probably not needed.
    For most backpacking meals, boiling water is all that's required. For most commercial freeze dried meals, the water is poured into the freeze dried meal pouches and eaten from the pouch. For home-made meals as shown above, the food and water should be mixed in the pot or a large insulated cup.
    It's also feasible to cook food in oven bags (see next item).

  • Oven Bags: Plastic oven bags, typically used for roasting chickens and turkeys in your oven at home, can be used for cooking backpacking meals also. They can be used to mix the boiling water and prepackaged meals. They are best for cooking food that needs no extra water, like premade spaghetti with sauce. Place the food in the bag and place the bag in boiling water to cook.

  • Liquid biodegradable soap and pot scrubber: For cleaning your pots, utensils and self. Be sure to buy a biodegradable soap, otherwise the environment will be damaged.

  • Food / Scented Items Bag: Food, cooking gear and all scented items should be hung in the trees overnight to discourage bears and other small creatures. A soft sided bag with draw string on one end is recommended. Tie the rope to the draw string.

  • Cord: About 60 feet of 200 lb. test cord is also recommended. About 30 feet of it should be used to hang food and other scented items up a tree branch in bear country.
    Note: The easiest way I've found to get the rope over a high branch is to put a loop in the end of the rope, clip three or four carabiners to the loop and toss it over the branch. If you forget to bring carabiners, the next easiest way is: Put a small rock in a sock, tie the rope to the sock such that the rock is captive in the toe of the sock, toss the entire thing over the branch.

  • Candle Lantern with extra candles: A candle lantern is useful for reading or preparing food after dark. A short piece of string can be used to tie it up on nearby locations.
    Note: For the REI candle lanterns, one new candle lasts about five to fifteen evenings.

  • String: About 50 feet of string is useful for tying things in camp.

  • Extra batteries and solar battery charger: For long trips (greater than three days) a solar powered battery recharger is recommended. Batteries drained from the previous night can be recharged while hiking. Tape or otherwise attach the charger to the top of the pack to maximize sunlight. Extra batteries can be stored in zippered plastic bags with rubber bands holding them together.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss: Bring the smallest sizes available to save weight. Some people forgo the toothpaste and floss. I don't recommend cutting the handle off the toothbrush. The small weight savings isn't worth it.

  • Small towel or wash cloth: Somehow, just washing my face when I'm dirty and sweaty really perks me up.

  • Other personal items: A small, light book or other reading material is nice in the evenings.

  • Camping or fire permits, if appropriate: Some areas like Mt. San Jacinto require backpacking permits. Be sure to apply early enough (about three months in advance for Mt. San Jacinto) to get one and bring it along. Be sure to give everyone in the group a copy in case a ranger stops and questions someone that's lagged behind the main group.

  • Fishing gear and permits, if appropriate: The California Dept. of Fish and Game requires a fishing permit for all adults. Other necessary items are: fishing rod, reel, line, flies, lures, etc.

            Info excerpted from the Hiking Club

Copyright 2000,

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