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Gear and Clothing Tips

Forest Pic

(for discussion about individual pieces of gear & clothing see lists in What We Take With Us)


  • Get good gear. Durability & comfort are superior. (I once hiked five miles with an old, broken Boy Scout pack & it was the most miserable trip of my life.)  You can rent good gear from outdoor shops so you can try out different items before making an investment.  Ask your friends for advice & check out the discussion forums at Backpacker Magazine Base Camp.
  • Think light -- find lighter replacements for heavy gear, trim excess, use plastic instead of metal, dry instead of wet, etc.
  • Pack backpack with heaviest items on top & closest to your back. Adjust your pack so most of the weight is carried on your hips, not your shoulders.
  • Develop a system for packing things (esp. 1st aid kit, rain gear, flashlight, etc.) in the same place every time so you know where it is & don't have to search for it. Keep things you need access to in outside pockets.
  • Put sleeping bags & tents in the sunlight (if possible) to dry before breaking camp. Hang them on the clothesline in your backyard for 24 hours after each trip to air them out, fluff them up, & drying them out completely.
  • Use a hiking staff -- great for keeping your balance, fording small streams on slippery rocks, warding off snakes & other critters, & gives you an extra push with each step.
  • Use clear, wide mouthed bottles -- easy to fill, easy to clean, great for re-hydrating dried food, such things as spoons & ice cubes fit easily. On the trail we use water bottles with a spout & in camp we use a Platypus plastic jug.
  • Carry a small roll of duct tape -- a 1,000 uses from mending gear to makeshift knee braces
  • Pack fuel & water bottles upright on outside of pack -- fuel will contaminate food & clothing, water will get everything soggy.
  • Use a sleeping pad -- not only is it more comfortable, it also insulates you from the ground

Wood Line


  • Wear loose clothes in layers. Put on or take off layers according to weather.
  • Cotton is NOT good for backpacking. It's heavy, provides no warmth when cold, takes forever to dry, & doesn't wick moisture away from the body. Jeans chafe.
  • In cool weather we wear:
    • Wicking long underwear (polyester) -- "wicks" moisture away from body to outer layers
    • Polyester fleece shirt/pants (Polartec 200) -- light, soft, very warm even when wet, dries quickly
    • Nylon shell -- breathable, water resistant, blocks wind
  • In warm weather we wear:
    • Wicking t-shirt (polyester)
    • Nylon shorts -- lightweight, quick drying
  • Always have a dry pair of socks handy. Wet socks are uncomfortable, cause blisters, & make your feet cold. We wear good wool socks with a wicking liner sock to keep our feet warm & dry.
  • Baseball caps are great -- the brim shields your face from the sun, sheds rain water away from your head, & they turn with your head. A wool stocking cap will keep your head warm & roll down over your ears.
  • A two-piece, breathable rain suit is essential. Rain ponchos catch the wind & don't usually protect your lower legs (they are good for covering your pack, making a tarp, ground cover, & squatting around the campfire). PVC or plastic rain gear doesn't breath & will make you sweaty & hot if you're moving around.