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Kitting out a hiker | Different lengths of hikes | Recommendations
July 2015

Kitting out a hiker

With the different lengths of hikes come the different types of challenges and the various types of footwear, clothing and equipment needed. YAMKELA MKEBE spoke with suppliers to find out what they recommend when it comes to kitting out hikers

Whether he’s enjoying a relaxing weekend nature walk, overnighting on a more adventurous weekend trip, or undertaking a serious multi-day expedition, there are certain items that every hiker should always take with him — no matter what the nature of his outing.

Among these are items hikers often forget — and by reminding your hiking customer of these necessities before he leaves your store, you can not only make sure that he’ll hike safely and comfortably, but also that he buys all the outstanding items from you.

“A hiker should always have sufficient water with him to avoid dehydration, as well as some form of nutrition,” says The North Face product director Sean Fenger. Therefore, recommend a good hydration system.

The GSI Outdoors Infinity Dukjug is a useful option, says Deidre Pieters of local distributor Ram Mountaineering. It has been designed for the outdoors and the lightweight BPA-free bottle integrates a recessed area of up to 2m of emergency duct tape.

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of water needed, adds Jamie Owen of Thule Car Rack Systems. The Thule backpacks are all hydration compatible.

A torch and a waterproof pack are also important items, he says. Another useful item is a smaller pack that can unzip from the larger pack, says Owen.

People also don’t always think about taking a headlamp, Pieters points out. “Don’t forget the spare batteries!” reminds Georgina Connock of Awesome Tools, local distributor of Led Lenser.

Emergency items such as a first aid kit and space blanket can potentially save a life, says Jonathan Newman of Hi-Tec.

He also recommends other useful and important items: warm clothes, a raincoat, water purification tablets (and a water filter if hiking somewhere without readily available clean water) a map and cell phone with mountain rescue’s phone number.

Day hikers also don’t always think about taking emergency gear to survive a night in the outdoors, says Newman. “There is always the possibility that a day hike can turn bad — especially if someone gets injured.”

He therefore suggests including a short rope, sling, belay device and locking biner in the pack in the case of unexpected obstacles en route to haul packs, or in a rescue if someone takes a nasty fall in a difficult-to-access gully.

The Singing Rock first aid bag (available from Ram Mountaineering) is compact and lightweight and is ideal for consumers who wish to fill it with their own choice of items. It features compartments in different sizes, an emergency whistle, and a Velcro attachment loop to attach to a harness, or a hip strap of a backpack, recommends Pieters. “A whistle is an often-forgotten item,” she says.

A hiker should always have a lightweight waterproof jacket, a headlamp and ICE [In Case of Emergency] details, recommends Gugu Ntuli of adidas SA.

Essential clothing and footwear

The day hiker often forgets to take a jacket with him, says Pieters. The weather can change very suddenly and the hiker doesn’t want to be caught unawares in bad weather.

A waterproof and insulating jacket can not only mean the difference between a comfortable and uncomfortable hike, but can even prevent a tragic outcome, adds Fenger.

The following clothing items will be suitable for on any length of hike, suppliers say:

  • Adidas recommends their Terrex fast R hiking shoe, Climaproof Wandertag jacket and hiking pants.
  • Black Diamond’s Front Point Shell jacket is their most durable, protective three-layer hardshell, features Gore-Tex Pro waterproof and breathable fabric, integrated Cohaesive technology in the hood and hem, and an embedded cord-lock for fast, one-handed adjustments. Two-way zippered armpit vents allow for quick heat dumps.
  • For the overnight hiker, a beanie is useful for evening time when temperatures can drop. A lot of heat is lost through the head.

    The multiday hiker often forgets to take enough extra clothing. There is a fine balance between too much (and unnecessary) clothing and too little, especially when clothing is likely to get wet, says Fenger.

Important features … in clothing

“Hikers want clothing that is lightweight, and controls moisture and odour,” says Newman. “Quick drying clothing, and those that have odour control, are especially useful on longer hikes, where the hiker will wash his clothing in rivers.”

Don’t forget how important the breathability of the fabric is! adds Fenger.

Layered clothing is important, because it allows the hiker to be prepared for all weather conditions says Pieters.

Weight, cut and breathability are high on the list of priorities when it comes to hardshells (waterproof jackets) for extended hikes, advises Fenger. Also, a good fitting hood with volume control on a hardshell will make a wet hike much more pleasurable. Pit zips beneath the armpits allow the user to ventilate when the zip’s opened.

DWR treated clothing allow the wearer to stay dry during a light shower, or when walking through wet vegetations, without having to put on waterproof pants.

... in footwear

“The most important thing is to match your customer to a specific boot that has the features and the benefits that they may require,” Jackie Moore of Salomon Sport points out. These will include how waterproof, how breathable and stable the boot is, and its weight. “The trend at the moment seems to be towards light and fast with backpacking boots becoming much lighter than before, allowing the user to move over ground faster without sacrificing comfort and support.”

The footwear needs to be comfortable, especially after a long day, adds Newman. “Noteworthy common problems include the back of the shoe putting pressure on the achilles or pressure around the tongue.”

For longer, multi-day hikes, where the wearer will have the added weight of a backpack and the terrain may be more taxing, boots would be a more suitable option than shoes, because of the added ankle support.

For extended durations recommend a boot with a waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex lining that will keep the foot dry in wet conditions. The outsole should be good quality and should have rubber for grip and carbon for durability.

On longer hikes, where additional weight is carried, a dual density midsole (one layer EVA, one of firmer PU in the heel) will be suitable. PU is more durable than EVA and doesn’t compress with use, so in a backpacking boot where a load is carried, it will provide more comfort and durability. Typically, a hiking boot should also have a shank in the midsole that provides torsional stability in the footwear.

… in equipment

The hiker needs good quality equipment that won’t let him down halfway through the hike, says Pieters.

The backpack is a key piece of equipment for a hiker, because it is constantly in contact with the body and is load bearing. Within the backpack, the harness system and waist belt are the most important. Your customer will want a backpack that fits snugly on the back with a padded waist belt, particularly when he carries medium to heavy weights, as he will want to transfer most of the weight off his shoulders onto the hips. Larger volume backpacks should have the option on an adjustable back system. This allows the back length to be adjusted according to the hiker’s height.

“The biggest difference between Thule’s hiking packs and any other products on the market is that ours have up to 270 different configurations, which enable the packs to fit every single person perfectly,” says Owen. Their bags are gender specific and built for comfort.

On larger volume packs the lid should be able to float up or down in order to accommodate extra contents or a smaller load inside the backpack.

Pockets on the waist belt is a handy feature that allows the wearer to carry trail snacks, sunscreen, navigational equipment, etc. in an easy-to-reach area.

Compression straps on the side of the backpack will allow items such as sleeping mats or tent poles to be attached to the outside of the bag.

Because the tent will be carried, lightweight and compact are important characteristics. But, it also needs to be durable and able to withstand testing conditions, adds Newman. “Plastic tent poles aren’t much use on a mountain, for example.” Aluminium tent poles are much stronger and lighter than those made from fibreglass, nevermind plastic ones.

“At higher altitudes where the weather forces are more severe, the user should consider a geodesic tent,” suggests Fenger. This design facilitates the poles intersecting at various points and it is these intersections that give the tent its rigidity.

The waterproof ground sheet should be big enough to extend part way up the side of the inner tent to provide complete waterproofing. “This is known as a bathtub groundsheet,” says Fenger.

A sheltered area just outside the tent door is useful for storing backpacks and gear, as well as for cooking in the event of rain.

Down sleeping bags are lighter and more compact than synthetic sleeping bags: their warmth-to-weight ratio is thus much better, which will be important for a hiker. The quality of the down will determine how much the bag needs to be filled to provide the appropriate warmth levels. The better the quality, the less volume of down is required, which means a lighter and more compact sleeping bag.

A cinch cord in the cowl, to draw it in, will prevent warm air from escaping the sleeping bag and cold air from entering. A side zip will facilitate entry and exit into or out of the bag, but it is important that the zip is backed up with a draught baffle on the inside. This forms a barrier and prevents cold air entering through the zip. The arrangement of the down channels can have significant benefits for warmth and comfort and an internal pocket is useful for storing batteries in extreme cold conditions.

The North Face sleeping bags have glow in the dark zip pullers so the zips can be identified when in a dark tent.

When recommending a torch or headlamp, it’s important that the consumer is made aware of the beam distance and battery life, says Connock.

Recommended for a day hiker

“A day hiker does not necessarily need to use boots,” Moore points out. He can use walking shoes if the terrain is not too rugged, agrees Fenger.

“If it is just an easy day hike with a light daypack then a pair of shoes like Salomon’s X Ultra 2 or XA Pro 3D will be a great choice,” says Moore.

Hi-Tec’s Altitude Vi Waterproof boot is suitable for any season. Its Dri-Tec waterproof membrane keeps water out while still allowing feet to breathe. The shoes are also treated with i-Shield that wards off dirt and water. The OrthoLite footbed ensures longer lasting comfort and cushioning, while offering anti-odour and anti-microbial properties.

A day hiker doesn’t necessarily need highly technical clothing or equipment, but he will enjoy the experience more if he is comfortable. It is important that clothing is quick drying, says Fenger. “Fabrics such as denim and cotton absorb moisture and are slow to dry, which will cause discomfort.”

Breathable, moisture wicking materials will add to the hiker’s comfort. UV protection is also important on clothing.

Brands recommend the following equipment for a day hiker:

  • Black Diamond’s Magnum 20L pack has room for a day’s worth of food, water and extra layers of clothing. The hydration compatible pack has contoured shoulder straps, an internal stow pocket, a loop for a trekking pole, side stretch pockets and front web compression.
  • The Thule Capstone 22L backpack, in men and ladies, features a tensioned mesh back panel for maximum breathability, a quick access shove-it pocket, hip belt pockets and built-in rain cover.
  • Thule’s Sapling Elite child carrier is safe and comfortable for the child and can effortlessly be switched between parents by simple torso and hip belt adjustments. It has features such as mesh pockets, hydration reservoir sleeve, a removable backpack and a large zippered compartment for storage, a child viewing mirror, and roomy hip belt pockets.
  • A 25-30L daypack such as The North Face’s Borealis will accommodate all that is needed for a day hike, says Fenger. This pack has mesh pockets on the side and can accommodate a hydration bladder.
  • Black Diamond’s 80 lumen Ion headlamp is their smallest, lightest and most fully functional headlamp. It features powerful LEDs and a touch-sensitive housing that lets the user switch from full power to dimmed, strobe or red night vision lighting at the swipe of a finger.
  • The Led Lenser SEO 3 headlamp features Smart Light Technology that allows the user to quickly switch between high and low power and a signal mode.
  • Black Diamond’s aluminum Distance FLZ trekking pole locks secure, fast and easy.

For an overnight hiker

Because this hiker will be carrying a heavier backpack and crossing long distances, it is recommended that he wears a mid-cut boot that supports the ankles. Cushioning is also important.

  • The Hi-Tec Altitude Hike Waterproof boot has an OrthoLite footbed and polyurethane midsole that ensures long-lasting cushioning and comfort. Its rustproof metal D-rings mean the boots can be fastened tightly around the ankles for support, while the laces can be looser around the foot to allow for ample blood circulation.
  • “I would recommend a mid-cut boot like Salomon’s X Ultra Mid 2 GTX,” agrees Moore. “It has a little more stability than shoes, but is not as heavy and potentially restrictive like a heavy backpacking boot might be.”
  • Sturdy walking shoes or lightweight boots such as The North Face Wreck Mid GTX boots would also be suitable.

It’s recommended that the overnight hiker carries extra clothing, for example:

  • Adidas’ Terrex Stockhorn fleece and Climacool cap.
  • The North Face waterproof and breathable Venture Jacket. For evening use, the brand recommends their synthetic insulated Thermoball Jacket.

    The overnight hiker will be carrying everything with him, so lightweight equipment products are his best option.

    His backpack will need to be slightly larger than that required by a day hiker, in order to carry additional clothing, a tent, food, and cooking and sleeping solutions. For example:

  • Black Diamond’s men’s Element 60 and women’s Elixir 45 packs are lightweight top-loaders with reACTIV suspension and SwingArm shoulder straps for a comfortable carry. Each features both top-loading access and a large zippered sleeping bag opening, and the high-flow OpenAir backpanel maintains ventilation on warm days. The floating top lid converts to a lumbar pack for quick side hikes.
  • The North Face Terra 50L backpack.
  • Thule’s Capstone 40L backpack, in men’s and ladies, has a MicroAdjust suspension system that makes the pack fully adjustable for the perfect fit, a tensioned mesh back panel for maximum breathability and a built-in raincover.
  • The compact Vango Helix 100 is a classic two-pole tent. Quick and easy to erect, the Helix is great for those new to lightweight trek-based camping and can be pitched in around seven minutes. A suitable sleeping bag for the temperate conditions is recommended. As this is only a one night stay over, the user can get away with using a synthetic sleeping bag, says Fenger. He would also recommend that the hiker uses a sleeping mat such as a closed cell foam or self-inflating mat.
  • The North Face recommends their Aleutian synthetic sleeping bag.
  • Vango (available from Ram Mountaineering) has several sleeping bag options:
  • The Thermal Embrace System in the Latitude allows maximum insulation and the aluminised reflective lining reflects heat back to the user.
  • Nitestar 250 and 250s sleeping bags offer a combination of performance, quality and affordability. The mummy-shaped range features a double layer of insulation for extra warmth.
  • The Wilderness mummy bag features fresh, vibrant colour options, unique designs and soft-touch fabrics. The bags include handy internal pockets for storing valuables and zip guards that prevent snagging.
  • The Atlas range of mummy-shaped sleeping bags is ideal for cost-conscious hikers. Headlamps are the hiker’s hands-free friends during dark times.
  • Black Diamond’s 130 lumen Spot headlamp features PowerTap Technology, which allows for quick brightness adjustment with just a finger tap to the side of its touch-sensitive housing.
  • “Our Advanced Focus System in the Led Lenser H7.2 headlamp adjusts for either long-distance viewing or close range illumination,” says Connock. “The durable tilt mechanism puts light just where you need it. With up to 30 hours of run time, 250 lumens and a beam distance up to 160 meters, the H7.2 is a necessity for any overnight hike!” And don’t forget about the cooking system!
  • Jetboil’s Flash cooking system (from Ram Mountaineering) is one of the safest cooking solutions, lights with the click of a button and provides two cups of boiling water in just over two minutes. The cooking cup clips onto the burner, preventing accidental spills, and the fuel canister tripod ensures overall stability. The insulating cozy has a color-changing heat indicator that signals when contents are hot.
  • Black Diamond’s Trail trekking poles have Dual FlickLocks that offer complete adjustability to suit the terrain, will be a great accessory to have ready.

Specially for the 3-4 day hiker

As with the overnight hiker, the 3-4 day hiker will be carrying a lot of weight on his back and potentially crossing taxing terrain — he will therefore benefit from ankle support in a proper backpacking boot.

  • Hi-Tec recommends their Altitude Pro RGS Waterproof hiking boot. The Vibram RollinGait System reduces energy consumption by aiding the wearer in transitioning from heel-strike to toe-off through the means of a slight rocker shape in the outsole. The PU midsole offers long-lasting comfort and cushioning, the 2.2mm thick leather upper and rubber toe guard makes the boot extremely durable and a longlasting Vibram outsole will provide excellent grip on wet terrain.
  • The North Face’s Verbera Light GTX boot is lightweight, durable and quick drying. This hiker will benefit from lightweight, compact garments with a functional fit, says Fenger.
  • This hiker should use adidas’ Terrex Stockhorn fleece, softshell jacket, beanie and Climacool cap, says Ntuli.
  • Pants with a stretch fabric like The North Face Presena Pant (due August), their Impulse Active top that also provides UV protection, or their Aurora fleece jacket.
  • This hiker will be looking for more features in a hardshell. The North Face’s waterproof and breathable Pursuit Jacket has a stiffened hood with volume control, raised hand pockets that can be used in conjunction with a backpack waist band, and pit zips to allow for ventilation.
  • It is advisable to take waterproof clothing — including pants — on this type of hike. Consideration should also be given to clothing for the overnight destination. Here lightweight is imperative as these clothes will almost certainly spend the majority of the hike inside the backpack.

    The right backpack can make a big difference to the hiker.

  • With ergoACTIV XP suspension, Black Diamond’s men’s Mercury 75 and women’s Onyx 65 pack maximises comfort on the trail with large interiors, 3D pivoting hip belts with urethane tendons, gender-specific fits and SwingArm shoulder straps for increased stability and dynamic load transfer.
  • The North Face recommends a 50-65L backpack, such as their Terra 50 or Terra 65.
  • Thule’s Guidepost 65L backpack, in men’s and ladies, has a customisable TransHub suspension system to provide the perfect fit and a pivoting hip belt that allows the pack to move with the wearer. The lid can also transform into a smaller 24L summit bag. Ideally, a multi-day hiking the tent should be lightweight, yet sturdy, and compact. Examples are:
  • The North Face Stormbreak II.
  • Vango’s Helix 100 tent (see overnight hiker).
  • Vango’s Zenith tent features a single pole hoop design that means a lightweight structure with a compact pack size and sizeable porch to store kit in. Uprights give extra height at the head and foot and the TBS (Tension Band System) increases the tent’s stability in bad weather and strong wind.
  • A down sleeping bag is more suitable than a synthetic bag as it is lighter, warmer, and more compact, which is good for extended backpacking.

  • The North Face recommends their Blue Kazoo sleeping bag.
  • The JR Gear Traverse Core (from Ram Mountaineering) insulated mummy mattress uses two grades of Primaloft, which provides extra warmth and is weighted towards the middle of the unit. It offers the space-saving of an inflatable and the warmth of a self-inflating.

    Remind your customer to take items with for night time, such as headlamps and cooking systems.

  • Black Diamond recommends their Spot, Icon and Storm headlamps for the longer hike. Icon, the brand’s most powerful headlamp (320 lumen), has a waterproof construction and a balanced battery-in-the back design. Storm is a waterproof, multi-mode, 160 lumen headlamp with PowerTap technology to transition between full and dimmed power at the tap of a finger to its touch-sensitive housing.
  • “Our Led Lenser H14.2 headlamp combines comfort and performance to create an elite light, crafted specifically to meet the needs of professionals and adventure seekers alike,” says Connock. “The design was specially constructed with a focus on usability and flexibility, featuring a multi-function switch to change light modes easily.” It features up to 320 lumens and 260m beam distance.
  • Jetboil’s 1.8L Sumo cooking system features simmer control and integrates the all-weather MiniMo burner with the high capacity Sumo cup, yielding a blend of power, convenience and efficiency.
  • Black Diamond’s lightweight Trail Pro Shock trekking poles provide good support over difficult terraun. They feature FlickLock Pro and terrain-absorbing Control Shock Technology for shock absorption with smooth rebound control.

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