Hi 18s! I’m Hunter van Adelsberg ’15 and I’m the second half of the 2014 Trips outdoor logistics team (you’ve already met my counterpart, the esteemed Alex Greer). We’ve received a few questions about outdoor gear and packing lists recently – hopefully this post will clear most of those up! Each section will have links to sites with more relevant info and videos, but try not to get caught up too much in all the details. As long as you remember the big ideas listed here and find gear you are personally comfortable with, you’ll be good to go.
On hiking frame packs:
Remember, trippees on these trip types need to have frame packs: Hiking 1-4, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Nature Writing, Nature Exploration, Photography, Hike and Yoga, Ropes Course, Trailwork, Community Service. All other trippees (including those on Canoeing/Kayaking trips) should bring a single bag large enough to carry all their clothing and gear, plus a little extra room (duffle bags work well).
First off, it’s good to know that two main types of hiking frame backpacks exist, external packs and internal packs. External packs are a little more “old school” – they’re the ones with the visible metal bars on the back of the pack. Their advantage: a high center of gravity means better weight distribution to the hips and makes these packs a good choice for clear, well-maintained trails. They also offer good ventilation, helping to keep your back dry. Internal packs are more streamlined – they fit more snugly against your back and the rigid supports are on the inside. Their advantage: a narrower and closer fitting structure allows for better balance and maneuverability on rougher trails. Either type of pack will work for Trips, so it’s a matter of personal preference and comfort. Keep your trip type and description in mind when you pick!
Note that if you have an internal frame pack, you’ll want to pack larger, less often-used items – such as your sleeping bag and pad – at the bottom of your pack, whereas if you have an external frame, you’ll probably want to tie these items onto the outside of your pack.
The volume/storage capacity of hiking packs is measured in liters (and, less often, cubic inches). The absolute minimum size any pack should be for Trips is 50 liters, and even that is pushing it. Keep in mind that you will be given some extra gear and food to carry upon arrival in Hanover. Best are packs in the 65 to 75+ liter range. Some pack models will even have extendable pouches that increase your carrying capacity when you need to and collapse when they don’t – this is always a convenient feature to have (packs can fill up fast!).
People come in different shapes and hiking packs come in different shapes, so make sure to find a pack that fits you. The first and most important consideration is not your overall height, but your torso length. Manufacturers usually size their packs, from extra small to large, based on this, the distance between your neck and hips. The second most important thing to be aware of is how snugly the pack’s hipbelt fits around your waste. How snug should it be? Pretty darn snug – the hips are where we humans bare weight the easiest. Most packs have adjustable hipbelts, so just make sure you can cinch the belt tightly and you’ll be distributing your pack weight like a pro.
Unfortunately, rain is not your pack’s friend. Not all packs are waterproof, though many are water-resistant, and for a few extra bucks you can buy a waterproof cover for your pack that fits over the outside and will keep your clothes and sleeping bag dry. A good-sized garbage bag also serves this purpose in a pinch.
Now a word on pack selection and pricing. Hiking frame packs come in many makes and models, and it’s easy to shell out $200+ for the latest and greatest. You can of course do this, but please know that you don’t have to for Trips! There are many ways to get frame packs on the cheap. Try searching eBay, Amazon, and Overstock.com for good deals, or visit your local army surplus store. Should you decide to go this route, you’ll have a great piece of vintage gear and a few more bucks for your first term in Hanover. One example of a good external frame pack that usually runs for well under $100 used is the Large US Army ALICE.
Last but not least, if you are absolutely unable to get your hands on an appropriate pack, DOC Trips has a limited number of packs (and other equipment) that you can rent. If you would like to request a pack, please do so using this form no later than August 1st. Rental priority is given to those students receiving financial assistance, and all rental equipment will be distributed upon trippees’ arrival in Hanover.
Here are some links to pages with more information on choosing a frame pack:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRimQjSgN7c (corny but good info)
On hiking boots and shoes:
There are a lot of different kinds of shoes out there made for moving around in the out-of-doors, and if you’ve never been in the market before it can be hard to know what you need. At a high level, the main differences between the types of shoes are stiffness, weight and ankle height. At one end of the spectrum lie light hiking shoes, which are often similar or identical to running shoes. These are flexible, low-weight shoes that are good for single-day hikes but don’t offer enough support for multi-day treks. For Trips, we prefer that you have hiking boots that are a little stiffer, more durable and that have at least a little ankle support (mid-cut or high-cut). More ankle support means less twisting and bending on bumpy terrain. At the far end of the scale are backpacking boots, ultra-durable, high-ankle footwear that’s good for travel on or off the trails – these last are a good option for trips doing higher mileage days such as Hiking 3 and Hiking 4.
When trying on some new footwear for the right pair, be aware that the best match might not be in the size you usually buy shoes. Again, fit is the most important factor. You should have room to wiggle your toes in the front and the sides of your feet should feel snug but not compressed. Try walking around a little – your heel should not slip as you walk, nor should your toes jam against the front of the shoe. Some like to say that your boot should feel “quiet” as you walk. Take the time to make sure you find a comfortable pair, because poorly fitting shoes translate to painful blisters on the trail.
Speaking of blisters, one of the best ways to avoid them is to wear the right kind of socks. Go for anything synthetic (polyester, for example) or merino wool, both of which will prevent unwanted moisture and chafing. Thicker is better; you’ll be happy for the padding and they won’t heat up as much as you might think. Cotton athletic socks, by contrast, are never a good choice. I repeat, DO NOT WEAR COTTON SOCKS. There’s nothing worse on a trip than wet socks, and very little holds on to moisture quite as well as cotton.
Whatever kind of footwear you end up wearing, make sure you BREAK THEM IN before heading to Hanover for Trips. Many a blister can be avoided by making sure your shoes are well-molded to your feet before you start hiking, and the way to do that is simply to wear them. Around the house, into town to show them off, it doesn’t matter, just do your best to make sure Trips is not the first time your boots meet your feet!
“Waterproof” boots are not a necessity, but they are often a convenience, and fun too (nothing can quite compare to the giddy sense of freedom you get from splashing through a big puddle in the woods without a care in the world). Be aware, however, that waterproof linings often hinder a shoe’s breathability, which, ironically, can make you sweat more.
A couple of links with more information on choosing hiking footwear:
On outerwear and jackets:
Again, as with socks, shorts and shirts, no cotton here! Most hooded sweatshirts, for example, are a no go. Fleece pullovers are good, as are pullovers made of other synthetic wicking materials. The only full-on jacket you should need is a rain jacket or poncho – anything else will just end up occupying valuable pack space.
Getting all the right gear for your trip is important, can be fun, and is a necessary means to the worthy end of having an awesome experience in the outdoors. Of course, if you have any more questions feel free to email (DOC.Trips@dartmouth.edu) or call us (603.646.3996). Keep an eye out for more blog posts and good luck with your mindful gear gathering!
Hunter van Adelsberg ‘15