Preparing for a JOC Hike
Cold and wet.
Hot and sweaty. Hungry and thirsty. Cut, scraped and bruised. Lost and
This is not how
we want to remember our outdoor experiences. While a walk in the woods may sound
like a harmless endeavor, outdoors activities such as hiking can leave a person
vulnerable to a number of problems when attempted without the right preparation
and equipment. While skiers naturally need skis and cyclists obviously need
bicycles, the equipment needed for hiking is not always so obvious to a
beginner or even to some more advanced hikers.
Hiking is the
staple activity for most outdoors people. While hiking is a rather simple
activity compared to say, rock climbing or whitewater kayaking, hiking still
requires a basic ensemble of gear and the knowledge of how to use it in order
to have the best possible outdoors experience. The list below outlines the
basic clothing and gear required to ensure that weather and terrain make any
JOC hike enjoyable and not an ordeal. The first section will cover what to
wear, the second section will cover what to bring, and the third section will
cover what to eat and drink.
Please note that
all gear can be purchased from on-line retailers, but I prefer to purchase my
gear from EMS. Their prices, while not the lowest, are fairly reasonable. The
products, however, are top-notch and fully reliable. Their sales staff is fully
knowledgeable, committed to the outdoors, and are more than glad to help you
select the right gear. Additionally, EMS offers many sales throughout the year,
so its not uncommon to get 20% off those $100 hiking boots or fleece
windbreaker if you pay attention to their advertisements.
What to wear:
In our day-to-day
lives, we might not pay much attention to the material and functionality of our
clothing. Cotton and silk are benign factors in the office cubicle and leather
or suede shoes make no difference as long as they match the prevailing trends
at the parties. Out in the woods, on the trail, in the wide open, however, the
material and design of what we wear makes a noticeable difference. In this
section, I will discuss from bottom to top, the best choices for a hiking
On your feet:
This is usually
the first and most important choice you will make in buying gear for hiking.
Proper footwear is always recommended for hiking, but never discussed in
detail. Proper footwear means hiking boots. Hiking boots are the SUVs of the
footwear world: suitable enough for pavement but designed for the unpredictable
nature of the unpaved world. Hiking boots are tough and burly, and made to
protect the feet while allowing them to navigate over and through rocks, roots,
dirt, mud, river crossings, rain, snow, cliff sides, etc
Selecting a boot
can be an intimidating task given the wide selection of styles, technical
features, and prices to be found in an outdoors store such as EMS or Paragon.
To make it very easy, the first thing you want to do is disregard any boot that
is not waterproof. Boots are made waterproof by using a material called
Gore-Tex, and usually begin at around $80-$100. Less expensive boots are
described as water-resistant. In other words, while they are not waterproof
and they will allow moisture from mud, stream crossings, rain, and snow to seep
into your boots and make your feet most uncomfortable. The money saved on
cheaper, non-waterproof boots is negated by the money wasted in the first
place. Always make sure that the boots are waterproofed with Gore-Tex. Trust
me, warm dry feet on a wet, snowy, muddy hike is a feeling akin to paradise!!!
That is the easy
part. Afterwards, with the assistance of a trained sales associate, you only
need to decide on fit and comfort. Try them on and walk around the shop. Decide
if you want boots that are high cut (padding over the ankle for maximum
protection, best for aggressive or long-term hikes), mid cut (padding that only
goes up to the ankle) or low cut (no padding at the ankle, cut like a regular shoe
for maximum flexibility, best for easy hikes.). Go for a boot with an
aggressive sole and a lacing system that is easy to work with. While youre at
it, also invest in a few pairs of wool hiking socks. Not only will they keep
you comfortable in all weather conditions, they will also greatly reduce the
risk of blisters.
On your legs:
Here is my
simple rule of thumb: Say yes to pants and no to shorts and skirts. Your legs
have little to be concerned about when out for a simple stroll in the city, but
out on the trail they can take a beating. Wearing shorts exposes the bare skin
of your legs to low-lying foliage that can scrape up your legs like a cats
scratching post. Even worse, your legs are exposed to, and thus more vulnerable
to ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects. Skirts present many problems as well.
They can get caught on rocks and foliage, rip, trip up a hiker, can serious
limit movement (a danger on technical trail sections), and become wet, muddy,
and heavy when the weather and terrain turn ugly.
Pants are always
the best choice. They protect the legs from everything a trail can throw at
them. Some people are fine wearing denim jeans, but many prefer pants specially
made for hiking. These pants come in various fabrics; lighter ones for warm weather
hiking and heavier ones for cooler days. These fabrics are designed to be
strong, allow maximum flexibility, and feature generous amounts of well-placed
pockets to keep vital gear accessible and within reach. Pants like these allow
the legs to breathe while wicking away moisture from sweat and from external
The best bet is
the EMS Adventure zip-off pants (around $50). These pants feature zippers just
above the knees allowing the pant legs to be removed, converting the pants to
shorts quickly and easily for river crossings, sunning oneself during a lunch
break, and for laying back after a long day of hiking or climbing. I own a pair
of these and I never leave home for a hike or climbing trip without them.
Theyre also perfect for the beach or long airplane ride.
forget a pair of bergalene underwear. They allow maximum flexibility, wick away
sweat, and reduce chaffing.
On your upper body:
Choosing a shirt
for a day at work is simple: check out the weather report and decide between
tee shirt, long sleeves, or sweater. Pack a jacket is it looks like it might
get cool, but dont worry about it, youll most likely be inside someplace with
climate control anyway. Out on the trail, however, there is not heating and no
air conditioning. The weather reports cant be relied on, and conditions can
change from warm to cool and dry to wet in no time.
shirts from an outdoors retailer seems to require a PHD in science. At the store,
you are faced with a variety of materials with names like Bergalene, Holofiber,
Gore-Tex, Techwick, CoolMax, etc., and that is before you need to start
choosing between short-sleeve, long sleeve, and turtlenecks. There are
different prices and different styles, so where do you start?
To make it easy,
remember this: you cannot skip it and just pull a cotton shirt from the bottom
of your closet. Cotton is the absolute worse material you can wear on a hike.
Unlike to above-mentioned materials, which wick away sweat and keep you dry,
cotton absorbs sweat and keeps you cold and wet. While I understand that not
everybody has the money to stock a closet full of hiking clothing, you still
want to be able to bring to a hike the right combination of tops to keep you
comfortable for the day while keeping you cool when the temperatures are up and
warm when the mercury slips south. For around $60, you can purchase a Techwick
short sleeve tee shirt and a Techwick long sleeve with zipper that goes up to
the top of your neck to go over the tee shirt for hikes that start on a cool
morning that becomes a mild afternoon. Layering is the key word with hiking
clothing, and the combination of these two are fine for early fall, late
spring, and summer hiking. They are lightweight, yet well insulated so you can
wear both, or pull of the top layer and fold it compactly to fit in your
On your head:
Shietels may be a common sight on JOC outings, but you wont find them on the
racks at the outdoors store. Still, the Torah may be one of the earliest
outdoors gear guides by advising us to keep our heads covered. Hike
descriptions always advise to bring a hat, but why?
Of all the parts
of your body, your head is the most exposed part. The sun beats down on it harder
than anyplace else, and heat escapes from it faster that anyplace else. On a
hot day, sweat from your head leads to dehydration quickly and on a cool day,
50% of your body heat escapes from your head. In addition, youre uncovered
head is an invite for ticks on those leafy hikes during summer hiking.
Just like you
now know to keep the cotton tee shirts at home, how about that cotton baseball
hat (Mets, of course, not the Yankees)? Same thing: leave them home. Just like
that cotton tee shirt, they will become cold, wet, and heavy with sweat and
mess with your bodys ability to regulate its temperature. A proper outdoors
store like EMS carries an array of hats made with all of those cool outdoors
fabrics like Techwick, Gore-Tex, and CoolMax to keep you cool and dry on a hot
day, and warm and dry on a cool day.
dont forget those sunglasses.
What to bring:
On the surface,
hiking gear doesnt have the cool factor of, say, cycling gear. People drool
over sleek carbon fiber racing bikes, not backpacks and compasses. Still, the
right gear out on the trail introduces a host of benefits to the hiker that
makes a day in the woods enjoyable. And for the record, amongst hikers, we find
hiking gear to be rather cool indeed, thank you! Below is a list of the basic
gear you will need when out for a hike.
Hiking, as a
sport, is also referred to as Backpacking. The backpack is the signature
piece of equipment for the hiker, one of the first and most important purchases
aside from hiking boots. Outdoors stores stock a dizzying array of backpacks
with an equally dizzying array of features: size, style, features, straps,
pockets, zippers, expansions, padding, and even hydration systems. Where does
one start? There are three factors to guide your decision: size, comfort, and
decision you need to make is size: do you want a small backpack for day hikes
(one-day hikes) or a larger one for overnight hiking. A good day hiking pack
should hold about 1,600 to about 2,300 cubic inches of cargo (i.e. stuff).
Better to invest in a bag that is slightly bigger than what you think you might
need. I recommend buying your pack at a store such as EMS that allows you to
return unused packs. The reason for this is simple: Select and purchase your
bag, take it home but keep the receipt and do not remove any tags, and stuff
some gear into it to see if it all fits. If it does, great! If not, bring it
back to next day and get a new one.
With your pack
either stuffed with gear or empty, it should feel very comfortable on your
back. Buy a bag with padded straps and back. Make sure that the straps are
adjustable and that the pack sits high on the back rather than just hang down
where it will weigh down on your shoulders and lower back. One feature you should
be sure to get are the buckles attached to the front of the straps that add
upper and lower chest support to the bag to take the weight off of your back.
You want the bag to be comfortable because you could be wearing it for the
better part of a day or two and a slightly uncomfortable bag can become an
annoyingly painful bag very quickly.
Jansport backpack you carried to school for the sole function of hauling books,
backpacks for hiking have many functional features that add to the enhancing
the ease and convenience of its users. The most noticeable and popular feature
today is the built in hydration systems, commonly known as Camelbacks.
Originated by a company called Camelback, the hydration system is usually an
anti-bacterial rubber bladder that fits into a pocket on the backside of the
pack against the hikers back. A rubber tube extends from the top of the pocket
around to the front of the bags straps, against the hikers shoulders. The
mouthpiece of the tube clips to the shoulder strap, and is easily accessed by
the hiker who drinks through a mouthpiece nozzle that opens only when bitten
down on, thus avoiding spillage. Overall, the design is relatively lightweight
and super easy to use. The hiker never needs to stop hiking to grab a bottle
and can drink even on the trickiest sections of a trail. Not all bags have a
hydration system, but the system is one of the best features ever devised since
waterproofing, and once a hiker uses it, they never go back to regular
include the open-access side pockets for extra water bottles, strategically
sized and placed pockets for organizing gear, extra straps for attaching gear
such as extra clothing or sleeping bags, and internal and external clips for
attaching gear as well.
While I just
mentioned the Camelback hydration systems in the backpack section, the
Camelback is not the only way to carry liquids. Some people, through choice, a
lack of funds, or accessibility have a Camelback hydration system. A common
sight with new hikers is the Poland Spring bottle, usually a smaller size and
most often empty before or during the early stages of a hike. Staying hydrated
on a hike is of maximum importance, so having a proper hydration system is of
equal importance. The best choice for carrying liquids on a hike is the
ever-trustworthy Nalgene-brand bottles. These bombproof bottles, which have a
cult-like following in the outdoors world, cost around $12 and hold about 32
ounces of liquid and have a variety of convenient drinking spouts. Nalgene
bottles easily fit into the side pockets of most backpacks and its best to
bring two bottles on a hike.
Out in the
woods, the sun can go down very quickly for a lost hiker, even on the longest
summer day. A flashlight is a necessity for hiking in any season in any
conditions. I love hiking in the worst of winter weather, and Ive used my
lights all of the time in those conditions, but I wouldnt hike without it even
in the summer.
There are many
different flashlights out there, but this is not the place to skimp on price or
quality. I always recommend the head-mounted flashlights by companies like
Petzl. Their lights cost around $30, have bright LED bulbs, and run for a long
time off of 3AAA batteries. Having a flashlight mounted to your head makes
hiking and camping in the dark much safer as you have nothing to drop and your
hands are free.
popular and common Maglites work very well. Its always a good idea to have
extra batteries with you as well. Some people remove their batteries, putting
them in only when they are needed and also to avoid having the flashlight
accidentally switched on when being jostled around inside a backpack and
draining the batteries. An outdoor store like EMS is the best place to purchase
a flashlight of outdoors use.
look confusing, but they are actually rather simple to use. Most compasses cost
under $10, take a few minutes to learn, and could be a potential lifesaver for
the lost hiker. Anybody going out into the woods should have one of these.
As in Swiss Army
or Leatherman-style knife. Not an altogether necessity, but a good thing to
have for those just-in-case situations. Outdoors stores stock many knives,
and after gaining some experience in hiking and camping, you will know which
one is right for you.
A given in
todays world since our cell phones follow us everywhere we go. In the woods
however, your phone, if it will get reception, can save you if things unfortunately
go wrong. Bring your phone in a sealable plastic bag to keep it dry and
functional. As with flashlights, remove the battery or turn it off until you
need to use it.
What to Eat and Drink:
For all of the
gear I just discussed, no piece of equipment is as important as you, the hiker.
All of that gear can only go so far or do so much on a tired, exhausted,
hungry, thirsty hiker. Being outdoors is a wonderful experience, and its best
experienced in health and happiness. Eating the right foods and consuming the
right liquids is key to maintaining the energy levels to enjoy your outdoors
That phrase is always included in every hike description, but what does it
really mean? I personally dont eat lunch on a hike. Instead, I eat all day
throughout a hike. The idea is to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and
protein to maintain energy levels during the hike. Relying solely an a big,
heavy lunch halfway into a hike is akin to dropping anchor in the middle of a
sailing regatta as the big winds start to blow.
This is my diet
on a hike day:
Before you think about lunch, think about breakfast, because just like on
school days and workdays, breakfast is the most important meal. This is a great
chance to get your body energized for the effort that lies ahead. I make for
myself a simple omlette with cheese. This is a great source of protein that
sits well in my body during the day. On the flipside, the bagel with cream
cheese and the coffee you grab when showing up to the hike meeting point will
only serve to weigh your body down.
- One peanut
butter sandwich on whole wheat bread cut up into quarters and individually
wrapped. I eat one just before the start of a hike, and then periodically
consume the others as the day progresses. These are a great source of powerful
- One or two
Clif Bars. There are other brands of energy bars out there, but hands down,
these are the best.
- A lunchtime sandwich
that is nothing more that some slabs of meat, usually pastrami or roast beef.
Toss on some mustard if you like, but the idea is a quick, easy, and powerful
lunch to eat that wont weigh you down later.
- Some fruits
and snacks. Bananas and fig bars are best here.
- Post hike
food. After the hike, your body will be craving food. Pack an extra Clif bar or
banana to replenish your body. Then go home to a nice pasta dinner. After
strenuous exercise, your body does a better job of converting carbohydrates.
Finally, reward yourself with an ice-cold beer!
food on your hike, wrap them in paper towel and tin foil, then pack it all into
a resalable plastic bag. What you bring in is what you should bring out, and
the bag neatly stores any refuse. You should be able to eat everything with
your hands; forks and knives are unnecessary and could serve to add weight to
What to Drink:
everywhere and not a drop to drink was the desperate cries of thirsty
shipwrecked mariners cast adrift in lifeboats on the open salt seas under a
blazing sun. Similar cries are usually heard from hikers at the end of their
16oz. Bottles of Poland Springs in the early stages of a hike as their fellow
hikers still have two liters to go and are not about to waste it on an
ill-prepared hiker. Water is free, so there is no reason to bring a lot of it.
Dehydration is a very real threat to even the most modern outdoors person.
People can become dehydrated even when they are not thirsty, no matter how hot
or cold the day. I bring two liters in my Camelbak, plus another 32ounce in a
Nalgene bottle. I run all of my water through a Brita filter, and fill my
Camelbak and Nalgene the night before a hike, then toss it all in the fridge.
More times than none, all of that water is consumed by the end of the hike.
In addition to
water, I also tote along a bottle of Powerade for lunch. Powerade has less
sugar and more sodium that Gatorade, making it perfect for recharging nutrients
and electrolytes lost to sweat without suffering the effects of muscle-burning
lactic acid which comes from to much sugar. For that reason, I advise against
bringing sugared drinks like Snapple or Soft Drinks. They might be yummy at
lunch, but they will be heavy and sluggish when you get back up to hike after