HOW TO SETUP CAMP: TIPS & HACKS
Spending a few nights in the wild is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We escape the noise and madness of the city, switch off from the hassles of work, immerse ourselves in all the glories of nature, and enjoy the kind of good time that makes us wonder why the hell we don’t do it more often…
…if, that is, we go about things in the right way.
One of the factors most conducive to a successful camping trip—whether out in the wild or at an established site—is how well we set up our slumber spot upon arrival. But setting up camp in a way that will maximize our chances of a pleasant overnight stay isn’t as simple as many are apt to think. The number of ways in which to make your overnighter in the wild sub-optimal or downright disastrous on account of set-up slip-ups runs into the dozens.
Looking for info on how best to setup your campsite?
You're in the right place! In this guide we will be covering the following:
As such, both old-hands and newcomers to camping alike can benefit significantly from having a simple, systematic set-up ticklist at hand when heading into the wilds. To that end, we’ve made one all of our own, highlighting a handful of must-know nuggets of knowledge that will help you steer clear of the pitfalls and set up your backcountry bolthole like a pro.
Before setting off on your camping trip, it’s well worth doing a little internet or map-based recon on your proposed camping sites to get the lay of the land. Doing so will not only give you a little peace of mind, settling any pre-trip doubts concerning what you’re getting yourself into but also help you avoid any nasty surprises when you stagger into that camping spot at the end of a hard day’s hiking.
Some of those unexpected party poopers might include trail closures, a lack of reliable water sources, overcrowding, permit requirements, seasonally unfordable rivers, and—if you happen to be choosing your camping spot on a map—the lack of any suitably flat or stable terrain to pitch your tent on.
In the case of this last example, try to get your hands on the most detailed map available and, if you have a specific location in mind, check the contours or elevation figures to ensure the aspect of the slope isn’t going to be too steep for a comfortable night’s sleep.
The process of selecting where you do your camping comes in two stages: a ball-park area estimation before you set off and a more precise one once out in the field.
Firstly, before setting off carefully check mileages and the overall ascent your hike or approach to your camping spot requires to make sure you aren’t overstretching yourself and either a) Busting a gut to reach a camping spot that’s far harder to reach than you expected, b) Not reaching that proposed camping spot at all and having to improvise a campsite somewhere less than optimal.
Secondly, at the end of your day’s walking take care to pick a spot for your tent that’s suitably safe, sheltered, and that makes the most of any desirable features in the terrain while also avoiding the unfavorable kind. This means one that’s on relatively flat ground, reasonably dry, near a water source (but not too near to any that might overflow), mainly free of any rocks that might rip your tent, puncture your mattress, and/or prod various parts of your person during the night, and ideally not exposed to the wind* or at the foot of a slope that might act as a conveyor for rainfall should the skies open while you sleep and turn your formerly prime patch of real estate into a minor swamp.
*If you happen to be doing your camping in midge territory, ignore this piece of advice and take all the wind you can get!
A few natural features can provide a huge helping hand in making your night in the tent all the more comfortable. The most notable of these are features that provide shelter from the elements, such as scrub, hillocks, hollows, boulders, or trees. By pitching your tent in, under, on in the lee of these features, they can serve as natural windbreaks and minimize the impact of any liquids that wind might be carrying should it start blowing sideways.
One often-overlooked natural feature that merits inclusion on any list of potential campsite blessings is the sun. If camping in cooler temps you can avoid having to suffer the full brunt of chilly mornings by pitching your tent in a location where it will receive the big yella fella’s morning rays, i.e., facing east and above any dips in the terrain.
One of the great things about camping in the wild is that it removes us from our safe, sterile, deodorized, air-conditioned, and ultimately predictable lives back home. This, however, can also cause a few problems.
We might arrive at our campsite of an evening in beautiful conditions, with the sun setting in clear skies above, dry conditions underfoot, not a cloud in sight, and no more than a gentle breeze blowing over our custom-made pitch point. But fast forward three hours and thing could be looking decidedly different, with biblical downpours, squalling winds, and temps freshly imported from the Arctic all contributing to a sharp downturn in the evening’s outlook.
If our decades of camping in wild places around the world have taught us anything, it’s this: skies are not to be trusted. Nor forecasts. Nor that over-optimistic, kooky camping buddy who promises us his sighting of a northbound chaffinch that morning ensures the blessing of the weather gods.
The take-home? No matter how favorable and benign the conditions may be when you arrive at your camping spot, don’t be tempted to take a lax or half-hearted approach to setup. This means staking out your tent as if you expect a small hurricane to blow through during the night, stashing your gear safely inside your tent or porch, and using the rainfly or at least having it ready to throw on in a hurry.
In short, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Camping in the wild can expose us to a great many potential objective hazards. That’s the bad news. The good news is that most of these hazards are easily avoidable or can be minimized with a little bit of know-how. Some of the biggies that we should be aware of when setting up at camp include the following (with tips for how to minimize risk):
Be sure to pitch your tent well clear of the run-out path of any snow-laden slopes.
Trees can make excellent windbreaks, but old, heavy, rotten branches also make great anvils if caused to fall off by high winds, rain or snowfall. Before pitching your tent under any trees, be sure to inspect the canopy above to determine whether or not there are branches liable to make an impromptu landing on your camp while you’re catching your kip.
The sound of running water is a delight right up until that point where it’s no longer a gentle trickle from a safe distance but more of a roar. Rivers overflow. Puddles become ponds. Slot canyons and dry washes become death traps. When pitching your tent, be sure to do so at a safe distance from any potential flood site to avoid a rude (and/or deadly) awakening, ideally 3/4 feet above the water level of rivers, above marshy dips in the terrain, and never in any narrow ravine, canyon, or flood-prone gully.
Pitching your tent in the shadow of a cliff or crag might seem like a great way to bolster your tent’s defenses against the elements, but every tent we’ve ever met has been far more adept at fending off H20 and wind than airborne granite, schist, gneiss, etc.
While the foolhardy mountain-goer is likely to claim that the mountain or cliff has stood for a reasonably long time and is expected to continue to do so, the most modestly informed geologist will rightly point out that at the beginning of that time said mountain was considerably more substantial, and the pounds (or tonnes rather) it has shed in the meantime are all those rocks, boulders, and slabs now decorating the immediate surroundings of your proposed campsite.
(If that doesn’t convince you to park your tent well clear of the foot of any cliff, be sure to check out those Youtube videos of wildlife and humans casually sending down hillsides pebbles that are more like torpedoes by the time they finally land.)
A few simple tricks of the trade can go a long way towards making your tent and camping spot of the five rather than one-star variety as regards comfort:
Exactly how careful you have to be with your grub when camping depends largely on where in the world you’re doing your camping. If you happen to be in bear country, then sticking to area regulations and making sure your edibles (and drinkables) are safely stored is, as you might imagine, kind of a big deal.
When traveling in bear country, be sure to follow any park regulations regarding food storage, using bear containers where available and securing your food, garbage, and other scented items as soon as you arrive at your campsite. If bear-proof boxes are not available, hang your edibles and other scented items (see below) in a tree at least 100 feet/30 meters from your campsite. If bringing your own box, store it the same distance from your camp and place (clean!) pots and pans on top of your container to act as a bear alarm.
Also bear in mind (no pun intended!) that bears are very unfussy eaters and can be attracted by a variety of scents, meaning it’s a wise policy to keep other scented items like soap, cosmetics, toiletries, and trash in canisters or tree-stowed containers too. Finally, never be tempted to store any food in your backpack overnight (a dose of the midnight munchies is all the more painful when you’re on the receiving end!) and wash all dishes as soon as you’ve finished eating.
If camping in bear-free territory, food storage is still essential for a number of reasons, most notably to avoid any smaller critters (ants, mice, raccoons, pine martens) getting their mitts on your munchies while you sleep and to ensure your food remains edible for as long as you need it to stay edible.
Some measures you can take towards this end include storing your food in zip-lock bags, choosing a cool, dry spot for storage, stowing food and trash in plastic bags to eliminate crumbs and messes, using an insulated cooler like this handy little dry bag from Tourit to keep your food fresher for longer, and putting perishables in a dry in a stream (under a few rocks to make sure they stay put!) to keep them cool.
Nothing quite beats a good campfire. We kick back at the end of a long day, turn the soles of our wearied feet to the flames, cook our dinner, toast our marshmallows, and brew our pre-bedtime beverage of choice. It’s one of life’s most underrated pleasures.
Until it isn’t.
The sheer destruction that a wildfire is capable of causing needs no introduction here: we’ve all seen the pictures or TV reports of denuded hillsides, ravaged homes, and the mass exodus of displaced residents.
Camping kit is particularly flammable: all those lightweight synthetics are second only to all those trees, twigs, and brushy bushes that might be in our vicinity as ideal fodder for hungry flames. The potential to make a bit of a bonfire of our tent, campsite, and general surroundings, then, is reasonably high.
But that doesn’t mean we have to go fire-free—at least that is, if area authorities don’t prohibit it. We need to exercise a little caution and avoid any Darwin-Award worthy mistakes.
Here’s how that’s done:
When setting up camp, position your fire downwind of your tent and far enough away that any sparks won’t reach it and build a surround for your fire to limit the risk of sparks or spreading, using only loose rocks that aren’t harboring any micro-ecosystem (mosses, lichens, etc.). While cooking, close the doors on your tent to prevent fumes being blown inside and, when finished, be sure to put the fire out entirely and stow your cooking kit outside the tent (not in the porch or vestibule).
As a final word of warning, when using a portable stove, never be tempted to do your cooking inside the tent as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Whether you’re wild camping deep in the backcountry or at a designated campground in a national park or on an established long-distance trail, where you “take care of business,” so to speak, is a matter of high importance to both your fellow campers and the surrounding habitat and its non-human inhabitants.
When you arrive at camp, set up a designated pee and poo place that’s at least 200 feet from any water source and established campsites, the best way to do so is to dig a cathole - if, that is, you’re not required to carry out human waste by park or trail regulations.
Your cathole should measure 6 to 8 inches deep and be as wide as your aim or lack of aim requires (!), and it’s wise to clear the area around your cathole (removing grass, sticks, and twigs) to avoid things getting messy in the case of any stray shooting. For female campers, the highly portable Sheewee is a convenient toilet-time accessory.
It’s also a good idea to bring along a few doggie poo bags (especially if required to carry out waste) for sanitary pads, or larger volumes of toilet used toiled paper and to store these in you pooing place until departure. Before making that departure, be sure to bury the evidence of the good time had by filling in your cathole and scattering a little earth or loose foliage over your “burial mound.”
Happy camping, people!
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THE 3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF SLEEPING PADS
As an addition to your sleeping bag, sleeping pads keep the user insulated and warm by preventing your body heat from being conducted away from you into the ground. This makes a sleeping pad your best friend in the winter or a frigid night. With that being said, you may want one for summer too. Sleeping pads help protect your body frоm rocks, bumps, and uneven surfaces found outdoors.
There are several different types of sleeping pad, and we'll take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Air раdѕ, as the name suggests, use a layer of air to provide the insulation/padding to keep you off the ground. These pads nееd tо bе inflаtеd by blowing аir thrоugh a vаlvе similar to an air mattress.
They tеnd tо be vеrу lightweight and are therefore very рорulаr amongst bасkрасkеrѕ. They also will be the most compact type, meaning they take up very little room in your pack.
Air sleeping раdѕ tend to bе more еxреnѕivе thе lightеr аnd mоrе соmрасt thеу аrе. Thеу can bе рunсturеd оr riрреd but can be easily repaired if you have a repair kit, so it's always a good idea to carry one with you when you are backpacking or camping.
Sеlf-inflаting ѕlеерing раdѕ аrе similar tо mаnuаllу inflаtеd air раdѕ, but inѕtеаd оf having to use bulky air pumps or manual labor to inflate the pad, the self-inflating pads can, as the name implies, inflаtе аutоmаtiсаllу!
Once the air valve is initiated, the pad will fill with air quickly. This process minimizеѕ thе аmоunt of effort аnd timе invоlvеd with рrераring уоur bed fоr thе night.
Although air sleeping pads and self-inflating sleeping pads have basically identical functionality, many people opt for the self-inflating pads due to the time and effort it saves. As you probably already guessed, self-inflating pads are a bit more pricey than regular air pads, but many people think it's a worthy investment.
Like regular air sleeping pads, self-inflating sleeping pads are comfortable, compact, and convenient. They оffеr excellent inѕulаtiоn, аnd you can adjust the firmnеѕѕ by аdding оr releasing аir. They are mаdе with stronger fаbriсѕ thаn mаnу аir раdѕ ѕо аrе a gооd сhоiсе fоr сhildrеn. Self-inflating sleeping pads save a lot of time and effort, so they make a great alternative to regular air sleeping pads.
The main drawback for self-inflating pads аrе that they are more expensive than regular manual pads.
Also, compared to air pads, self-inflating sleeping pads will аlѕо bе heavier and bulkier.
Closed-cell sleeping pads аrе the most versatile type of sleeping pads available. They are bаѕiсаllу just a piece of foam thаt уоu rоll out оn thе ground. Thе fоаm hаѕ small аir росkеtѕ thаt protect уоu from the cold grоund.
Closed-cell sleeping pads are lightwеight, inеxреnѕivе, durаblе, and оffеr good inѕulаtiоn. There is no nееd tо wоrrу аbоut punctures оr lеаkѕ due to the increased durability of these pads. Thеѕе are also thе оnlу sleeping раdѕ that саn bе carried оn thе оutѕidе оf уоur backрасk withоut fеаr of being damaged.
Clоѕеd cell fоаm ѕlеерing раdѕ аrе the most durable type of pad, and if they are dаmаgеd, thеу will still retain functionality. Fоаm раdѕ are аlѕо vеrу аffоrdаblе whеn compared tо оthеr types оf раdѕ, mаking thеm a grеаt орtiоn fоr new backpackers and thrifty campers. Foam раdѕ are also very versatile with more uses than just for sleeping. Mаnу hikеrѕ uѕе their foam sleeping раdѕ as ѕеаtѕ at the саmрsite or during brеаkѕ on the trаil.
Closed-cell раdѕ tend to be vеrу lаrgе аnd bulkу. If уоu have a closed-cell pad, it mоѕt likеlу will not fit inѕidе уоur backрасk аnd will nееd tо be strapped to thе оutѕidе. Foam pads are аlѕо nоt thе most соmfоrtаblе орtiоn fоr many hikеrѕ. Side ѕlеереrѕ, in раrtiсulаr, may find thаt thе thin lауеr оf fоаm dоеѕ, not оffеr еnоugh раdding.
THE BEST DOG HARNESS FOR HIKING [2019 UPDATE]
Of all the dog harnesses we've reviewed, our best choice of all them has to be the Ruffwear Webmaster. With 5 points of adjustment and 5 different sizes, this harness accommodates for almost any size dog and provides comfort and control.
Its lightweight and durable material makes it ideal to use for every day walks or occasional hikes, not to mention the reflective trim makes it easy to spot your dog at night. For emergencies or for climbing obstacles, while the padded handle helps to lift your dog through rough terrain.
Bottom line: The Ruffwear Webmaster scores well across all the criteria which makes for an effective and comfortable harness.
As man's best friend, dogs make for fantastic hiking companions! While some would think that it's best to leave your dog unrestrained but the freedom of the wild can excite them and have them running off into dangerous hazards.
When hiking with your dog, a hiking harness for dogs is the closest thing to letting them walk freely without a leash since your pet can enjoy the freedom of movement without constricting pressure on their neck.
We've reviewed a few of the best hiking harnesses for dogs and provided a guide to help you get an idea of what the right choice is for you and your tail-wagging friend.
The major difference between a dog hiking harness and a walking harness is durability and design.
Hiking harnesses are made to be stronger and can withstand heavier wear-and-tear over a longer period of time. The clips and attachment points are usually heavy-duty and resistant to rusting. They can also easily swivel and are compatible with a regular leash to keep it from getting tangled while on the trail.
Additionally, hiking harnesses have a lot of extra design features like padded handles to assist your dog over rough terrain and reflective material to improve visibility.
There are many factors to consider before buying a hiking harness for dogs. Not all dogs are the same weight or build, so you want to make sure the harness fits your dog's size and temperament before committing to one.
A big advantage that harnesses have over leashes or collars is comfort. But even with a harness, it's critical to make sure it fits just right for it to be both comfortable and functional.
A harness that's too small will be tight and will dig into your dog's body causing it discomfort. This will also make it hard for them to breathe, and the last thing you want is your dog passing out on the hiking trail far from any help.
On the other hand, too loose of a harness can lead to chafing and your dog can easily wiggle out and run loose. With these concerns in mind, how can you really tell that a harness is a perfect fit for your furry friend?
What you'll need to do is measure the girth of your dog, which is the widest part of your dog's rib cage. Next, you'll need to measure the back length which is the measurement from the base of the neck to the base of the tail. Lastly, you need the neck girth which is the circumference of the dog's neck where a collar regularly sits.
You can do all these measurements using a soft tape measure, then refer each measurement to the harness's sizing chart. Don't forget to take unique features such as wide shoulders or a long body into consideration.
Most harnesses have either a front or back attachment and each option depends on the preference of the user. Front attachments are ideal if you want to discourage pulling, which makes them a popular favorite amongst many dog owners.
Additionally, front attachment harnesses help keep your dog closer to you. This is handy if you have a dog that regularly pulls or lunges as you walk with them and will give them more polite leash skills.
Back attachments give your dog a little more freedom for it's the closest thing to an off-leash experience for them. This attachment is practical if your companion is already trained in basic leash skills.
Some harnesses have both a front and back attachment and can be used with a double-ended dog leash for training. You can control your dog's pace and posture as you walk and also have the option to use a traditional leash on the attachment points.
The environment and conditions you'll encounter during hiking should influence your choice when it comes to the material of a harness. If there's going to be lots of mud or dirt involved, it's best to have a harness that's easy to wash or keep clean without washing.
For hiking in hotter climates, a lightweight and breathable material like mesh is best so your dog doesn't get uncomfortably hot. If you like to hike in the early morning or evening when sunlight isn't abundant, reflective material on the harness will improve visibility.
In wet conditions or if your dog will be swimming with a harness on, it shouldn't have a lot of extra material that will weigh it down when it gets wet. Water repellant, quick drying, or waterproof material is best for wet environments.
In the possible chance your dog may run off and you lose sight of them, bright colors are a good idea just in case the unthinkable happens. A bright red or orange is an ideal color to contrast against the natural greens, browns, and greys you'll see in nature.
You may also want to consider purchasing a few cat collar bells and putting them onto your dog's harness. This way, you can also hear your dog in case you lose them or are trying to find them amongst many bushes and trees that obstruct your vision. Bells can also deter bears if you're in a bear country or help keep other hikers aware of your dog without getting surprised.
A waterproof light comes in really handy when it's dim outside, but don't wait until after dark to turn it on. A light on your dog's harness helps you to see exactly where they are if they're ahead of you on the trial.
If you want your pooch to carry his or her share of the load, then you could opt to buy a dog harness with pockets or pouches.
Having your dog trained to stick close to you off and on the leash is highly important before you let your dog run free without a harness. Off-leash obedience can come in handy especially when called around elk, snakes, bears, other hikers, and more hazards.
If your dog still needs some work before his off-leash hiking debut, its best to use long lines and waist leashes. A long line, or bungee waist leash, is the most comfortable way to follow leash laws and keep your companion safe until his training reaches a good point.
The Ruffwear Web Master has five different sizes and five points of adjustment that are highly ideal for custom-fitting to your dog's size and form.
It's also practical for dogs that have a little too much energy and tend to try and run off at random for it features two reinforced leash attachment points for extra security. The padded and reinforced handle helps to lift and assist your dog through rough terrain and over obstacles.
Its durable construction makes for a lightweight feel and it's resilient enough to for year-round use. The reflective trim and safety light loop makes visibility of your dog much easier, although the beacon light is sold separately.
Be mindful that this harness doesn't have a front leash attachment point. There are two attachment points as mentioned but both are on the back and one is made of metal while the other is a fabric loop. The harness is also a little tricky to fit and adjust and tends to shift.
Also, if you live in hotter climates, this may be a little warm for your dog to wear, but overall, the Ruffwear Webmaster is effective in preventing dogs large and small from bolting on you.
This harness is perfect for active dogs that love being outdoors and running around. It's equipped with a front leash ring so you can train your dog not to pull with an extra back leash ring for extra support and control.
The Kurgo Journey harness is made with lightweight aluminum quick release buckles that are resistant to rust. The harness's V-neck design allows for a fuller range of movement while the padded chest piece reduces strain on your dog's chest and neck.
With the reflective trim, it makes it easier to see your dog in dimly lit areas or at night. The harness also features a back handle to assist your dog over any obstacles or to generally have better control over them.
The Kurgo Journey harness is made to last but is said to be a little heavy for smaller dogs. The buckle system isn't as convenient compared to other designs but it's definitely more secure. If you own a heavier dog, the front attachment point is prone to wearing away quickly especially if they tend to pull a lot.
Other than these small issues, the Kurgo Journey dog hiking vest is great for taking your pup on adventures while training them to not lunge forward and stay close.
The Ruffwear Front Range harness is lightweight, highly durable, and designed for your everyday outdoor adventures. It allows for easy on and off leashing and is equipped with 4 leash attachment points.
The reinforced webbing at the chest endures any pulling and tugging while also giving additional control to the user. This makes it practical for off-leash training and teaches your dog not to lunge forward or run off.
For extra comfort, the foam-padded strips across the chest and stomach give an equal load distribution and comfort while your dog is running, walking, or resting. As mentioned, there are 4 convenient attachment point that give your furry friend a full range of motion without constriction or uncomfortable pressure.
The easy access ID pocket allows for safe storage of your dog's tags. The harness's bright and easily visible material has a reflective trim to help your dog stand out whether you're hiking in the day or at night.
The front attachment point seems a little weaker than the two loops on the front and end, not to mention the waist strap tends to slip a little. It has to be occasionally retightened which can be frustrating for your dog.
If you regularly take your dog walking, it's best to use a walking harness instead of this harness for everyday activities due to its bulky design. In short, the Ruffwear Front Range harness gives you control of your companion and is ideal if your dog is a puller.
With a stylish and durable design, the Expawlorer Outdoor Adventure pet harness is made with a scratch-resistant Oxford material out layer for a comfortable and ergonomic feel. Its lightweight Draflex buckle has a large loading capacity to greatly improve tensile strength. Because of the harness's comfy design, it's easy to fit on and take off with little to no frustration.
Some safety features include nylon webbing with 3M reflective material for visibility at night and a sturdy handle that also acts as a seat belt attachment. The mesh lining with a soft and spongy material in the chest and belly prevents chafing and rubbing.
There's two attachment points on the Expawlorer harness: one is an aluminum V-ring on the dog's back and one is reinforced webbing on the dog's chest. The back attachment point doesn't do much to control pulling though, so it's recommended to use the front one.
Be mindful that if you own a larger dog, there's not too much room or give once the harness is one so it may feel a bit snug. The straps also tend to loosen up every now and then so the buckles need some occasional readjusting.
Other than that, the Expawlorer is revered for its no pull ability and secure fit on small to large dogs.
With a simple one-click fit system, EzyDog's patent pending adjustment harness let you know if it's the right fit without having to go through the frustration that other harnesses can cause. It's as easy to use as a regular collar with most if not all the benefits of a harness.
Its neoprene padded chest sleeve is waterproof and covers the adjustable chest strap for a more durable and comfortable fit on your furry companion. There's high-visibility reflective stitching that's incorporated throughout the entire design of the harness for you and your dog's safety.
The heavy-duty quick-clip buckle system provides you with fast and easy on and off leashing. All you do to fit and adjust the harness is to slide the neoprene sleeve to one side, adjust the sandwich velcro to the correct size, and to hide the red safety mark when the velcro is adjusted.
The EzyDog quick fit harness comes in many colors and can fit many sizes from extra small to extra-large. Because of this harness's mostly buckled design, it's not too practical for preventing pulling. Many have had fitting issues but are otherwise pleased with the easy one-click fitting system. If you have a bigger dog, you may run into some problems with fitting.
The EzyDog Quick Fit harness is quite the solid product, but might be more suitable for smaller dogs rather than beefier or larger dogs.
Available in 8 different stylish colors, the Hurtta Active dog harness is easy to put on and comfortable to wear without any chafing or rubbing. The adjustable collar and chest strap ensures a secure fit so you have control over your dog as you have him on a leash.
The 3M reflectors helps to improve visibility in low-lit areas or in the dark and the back of the harness is equipped with a sturdy handle to help lift your dog in emergencies. The connection point for the least is plastic so the integrity isn't as strong as metal.
The nylon buckles are also not very strong and the webbing isn't heavy enough for automotive use. Although it's easy to put the harness on and take it off, you still have to readjust every now and then since the buckles tend to loosen.
If you're training your dog not to pull on the leash, this can be an effective harness for you. Although, if you're trying to train bigger dogs, the plastic buckles will definitely break after a short time.
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2019 GUIDE TO CAMPING FOR BEGINNERS
Are you, finally, ready to shed the belief that camping is not for you? We understand your concerns. Sleeping on the ground, outside, with no heat or AC is an intimidating proposition, but we guarantee that it’s one worth overcoming. The joy of a simple life, while camping in the woods is, often, enough to reconnect you with nature and the things in life that really matter.
And, hey, we’re not saying that you have to throw all sense of comfort and cleanliness out the window in order to go camping! With the right gear and camp systems, it’s, actually, quite easy to transform your campsite into an oasis away from home. Our helpful guide will provide specific motivation for why you should try camping, along with helpful gear suggestions, packing tips, and meal planning advice.
Looking to Learn About Camping?
You're in the right place! In this guide we will be covering the following:
Choosing a vacation with purpose is important. Time away from work has proven to be a vital contributor to overall health and happiness. The ability to relieve tension and stress while doing something that you’re passionate about can, often, lead to increased focus and motivation, even upon returning to those less enjoyable commitments.
While the ideal way to relax and rejuvenate the mind, body, and soul will vary greatly from person to person, there seems to be a common theme amongst the happiest folks out there: simplification. It’s hard to think of a better way to simplify what you, truly, need to be happy than time spent camping with friends. Plus, there are some amazing benefits:
With an average campground campsite cost of $20 -$35/night and many wild, or backcountry, sites that are free, camping is among the cheapest lodging options available for visiting a new area. Why be limited to 2 nights in a hotel when you could spend an entire week exploring a new city for the same cost, or less?
It’s hard to explain if you are uninitiated, but there is something rhythmic and peaceful about falling asleep with the sounds of nature. Camping is a great way to reveal the beauty of being outside and bring out your ‘wild’ inner self. Listening to the sounds of birds, insects, a distant howl from a coyote, a running stream, or simply the breeze blowing through the surrounding trees can breathe life into your connection and association with the great outdoors.
We could write a novel on the many benefits one receives from camping and being active outdoors. We’ll assume, though, that you’d like to know about them in a more timely fashion, so check out some of the articles below for examples of the ways that camping can be good for you.
Fitting everything you need to survive into a backpack and then carrying it for many miles through rugged terrain won’t be for everyone. The added challenge of grocery/meal planning, and the fact that most backcountry campsites have no amenities make backpacking better suited for experienced campers. It is the best way to achieve privacy and connection to nature, however, so it may be worth the trouble if maximum self-sufficiency is what you desire. If this type of adventure sounds more like you then head over to our guide to backpacking for beginners.
Typically, defined as the camping most of us are familiar with at established campgrounds where you can park your car directly next to your campsite for easy unloading. Additional amenities, like running water, electricity, bathrooms and showers, also, provide a more enjoyable experience for those who want to enjoy being in nature but not sacrifice every element of comfort. We feel that car camping is the best way to learn sound camping practices and test new gear before venturing into backcountry terrain and is the type of camping we'll be focusing on today.
Further Reading: To really save money, did you know you can camp at certain locations free? Check out our guide to dispersed camping to learn more. For family adventures learn how to go camping with kids or if you are feeling adventurous, why not try winter camping?
Recreational vehicles are growing in popularity, not just for their camping comforts, but as affordable ways to travel the country. Even non-campers are seeing the benefits of having a private apartment with you wherever you go.
Ok, let’s be honest. You will, probably, get some condescending stares from your camping friends if you tell them that you went camping, only to stay in a cabin! With a bed, tv, and a kitchen, overnight stays in a cabin are a far cry from the simplicity and comfort sacrifices of traditional tent camping.
Glamorous camping, or glamping, may be the fastest growing segment within campgrounds across the country. As a way to overcome the traditional concerns with cleanliness and comfort that keeps many people from participating, campground owners are creating comfortable lodging options that blend the line between camping and staying in a hotel. Remember that Instagram post featuring an exotic looking yurt, perched on a wooden platform, complete with furniture, lighting, and bug netting? Yep, that’s glamping!
Selecting the best site for your home away from home can be crucial to an enjoyable weekend of camping. For longer stays, it will be even more important. Having to move all your equipment and gear to a better site, after previously being set up elsewhere, is never a fun task. Avoid the hassle and get it right the first time by following these key steps to selecting a great campsite.
Being honest with yourself about what you hope to get out of your time spent camping is one of the best ways to determine which site will work for you. Consider these factors and how they can affect where you choose to put up your tent:
Many campgrounds limit the sites available to you based on your equipment (tent vs. camper van vs. RV). Knowing the dimensions of your tent or camper will help you select a campsite suitable for your needs.
This may be the most important element to a good night’s sleep while camping. Look for gravel pads or grassy areas, on which will be flat and comfortable to lay down. Also, consider the site’s water drainage potential in case it rains.
Choosing a tent to suit your future adventures will, likely, be one of the first decisions you make on the path to becoming a camper. Consider how many people (and pets) will be sleeping inside it most nights to help you determine size. Larger, cabin-style tents are great for comfort and the ability to stand up once inside, however, they do take up considerable space during travel and have limited versatility away from campgrounds.
Whatever you decide, we recommend investing in a quality tent made by a respected manufacturer. Cheap tents, often, puncture easily and have poorly protected seams and zipper components. Check out our overview of the top rated tents and brands to help decide which is the right product for you.
As with most camping equipment, you’ll have to balance your desire for comfort with your available storage space. Blow up air mattresses, like those commonly used for houseguests, can be a comfortable option for camping as well. Keep in mind that they rely on electrical access to blow up and can be more susceptible to leaks and punctures than camping-specific designs.
An elevated camping cot may be ideal if you prefer to be up and off of the ground while sleeping, although they do lack some of the comfort seen in air pads and mattresses.
Thanks to the technology behind them, it’s hard to go wrong with a modern backpacking/camping-specific sleeping pad, like those by Therm-a-Rest or Exped. Comfortable enough for car-camping, but light enough for convenient travel or backpacking adventures.
This is a great place to apply the 80% rule: Choose the bag, and temperature rating, that matches where you will be camping 80% of the time. Don’t purchase a 0℉ cold weather sleeping bag anticipating one winter trip and then wind up miserably hot for the majority of your trips camping in spring, summer, and fall.
As your experience grows, you’ll likely end up with multiple sleeping bags better suited to different environments.
For most campers, a 2-burner, propane powered stove will be more than enough to turn campground dinners into gourmet feasts. Look for pots/pans that clean up easily and retain even heat, which is often a challenge with lightweight, backpacking cookware.
Stoves that feature piezo igniters make for quick and easy cooking, without the need to light a match. Also, look for features like integrated wind guards, convenient carry handles, and accessory hoses that allow your stove to run off of a traditional 5-gallon propane tank (like those seen with grills).
Whether you’re in a cabin or a tent, your everyday essentials will be key to keeping you feeling clean and refreshed after days spent outside. We like to keep our toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens solution, face wash, etc. in a separate stuff sack that is easy to grab when walking to a bathhouse.
Bags with multiple attachment points (we love our Patagonia Black Hole Cube) are great for hanging on door hooks. Organizational compartments, also, help reduce the clutter.
We'd also advise taking the following along with you:
For us, the following items may not, always, be classified as needs, but they are pretty darn essential to a good time.
The final days before your first camping trip can be stressful. You’re faced with wrapping up key deadlines from work and life, while, simultaneously, needing to prepare all your gear and clothing for the upcoming adventure. Despite the challenge, preparing for your first camping trip begins weeks before you leave.
Early research will help in determining key aspects regarding your trip, like whether you need a reservation, available campground amenities (which may influence some of your gear & grocery selections), and fun things to do nearby. Here are a few other key steps that we always take to help us prepare for a camping trip:
At most campgrounds, you will be required to stop at a registration office before continuing on to your site. If the campground allows it, make sure to explore all possible sites before selecting the one you’d like to camp at.
Be on the lookout for level ground (gravel tent pads are ideal if rain is expected) and proximity to other campers and amenities. Also, don’t forget to check out the quality of smaller features within the site, like a fire ring or picnic table.
Don’t worry, setting up your campsite as a first-time camper doesn’t need to happen at the speed of a Nascar pit crew! You’ll find that as you continue to camp, you will pick up efficiencies that make the process less daunting. Browse some of our tips for making your first campsite setup a smooth operation:
Planning campfire meals can be a frustrating task for the beginner camper (as well as the seasoned pro!), but it is one of the best ways to save money and create memorable moments. Time spent cooking and eating together, as a family, around the campfire is never wasted!
Remember that your meal options will be limited by the cookware that you bring, so be sure to research the best camping stoves if you plan to step into that camp chef role.
This sounds obvious, but start your planning by clearly identifying how many meals you need to make. Remember to factor in any plans to eat out into your meal planning. For us, a weekend camping trip (Friday afternoon- Sunday morning) will, typically, consist of two breakfasts, two snack/lunch options, and one dinner. We enjoy eating at a local restaurant one night, a great way to reduce your meal planning prep, while, also, getting to know the area.
Pro Tip: Consider the Clean Up
Consider what the clean up will be like for a given meal during the planning stage, not once out in the field. It’s easy to think ‘oh that sounds delicious and easy to make’ only to realize at your campsite that it leaves a harsh, hard-to-clean residue on everything or requires multiple pots and pans.
For simplicity, a deep-sided pot or saucepan will give you numerous meal options while camping. Skillet cooking with a frying pan or griddle, however, opens up another level of gourmet camp cooking versatility (Nutella-stuffed french toast, blueberry pancakes, pizza, need we say more?).
If you are planning to cook over an open fire, make sure you know how to build a campfire safely, and understand the responsibilities that come with supervising it & extinguishing it completely.
Never fear the infamous ‘What are we going to do?’ question again! The possibilities are, almost, endless for what you can do while camping, but here are some of our favorites:
You don’t start out an expert in anything, so be prepared for some frustrating (and comical!) trial and error as a new camper. From your first rainstorm to your first real meal cooked at the campsite, you will pick up on numerous intricacies that, ultimately, make the experience more enjoyable. Here are a few common mistakes that we’ve made ourselves, or watched others make, during their first trip camping.
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There isn't many greater pleasures to be enjoyed in this world than camping out under a clear starry sky. This is one thing all campers will agree on. However, that may be the only thing, as camping to one person may mean traipsing 10 miles off-trail with just a hammock and rain-fly while to others it may mean driving up to the campsite and pitching a behemoth of a tent with accompanying power sockets, fans and lighting. We all enjoy camping in our own way, and our guides try to reflect the many flavors of overnighting in the great outdoors.
Our in-house experts cover a range of camping related subjects to bring you actionable advice to help you improve your skills and knowledge, to make all your future trips that much more enjoyable. Happy Trails!
Camping comes in many flavours from boondocking, to car camping to ultralight backpacking enthusiasts. We break down actionable advice to help your next trip be a success whichever type of camper you are!
Not sure which tent to buy? or what makes for a good sleeping bag? Don't fret! We test & review so you don't have to.
HOW DO WATERPROOF/BREATHABLE FABRICS WORK?
Until the latter stages of the 20th century, the term “waterproof/breathable” didn’t get a great deal of circulation in hiking circles. Upon its introduction, it was viewed with suspicion — how, after all, could a fabric let anything out without simultaneously letting other stuff (i.e. rain) in? Fast forward to the enlightened days of the early 21st Century and you can't escape it appearing everywhere in the clothing aisle of your local outdoor store, so much so that a few of us are inclined to wonder how in the heck the magic is done.
For most of us, taking the wonders of our waterproof/breathable backpacking rain pants at face value is good enough, but learning a little about their workings and mysterious ways can go a long way towards helping us choose the best products out there for our activity type and MO in outdoors.
Below, we’ll break down the secrets behind the functioning of the most breathable fabrics that are also waterproof into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks, starting with a brief overview of what these products are and do before delving into a dash of science.
To offer a broad definition, a waterproof/breathable fabric (abbreviated to “WP/BR”) is one that, to varying degrees, combines both the ability to prevent external moisture (i.e. rain and snow) entering while permitting or actively encouraging internal moisture (i.e. sweat) to seep outward and evaporate on the fabric’s surface. This is similar, but subtly different to water resistant clothing which is usually only uses a DWR coating (What's the difference between water resistant and waterproof you ask?).
The term itself is, in fact, something of a misnomer, with the “fabric” in question most often composed of a duo or trio of very thin layers that would make the plural — fabrics — more accurate.
Breathable waterproof fabrics first hit the shelves in the late 1970s with the introduction of Gore-Tex’s (then) groundbreaking laminate membranes. These days, Gore-Tex no longer rules the roost of waterproof breathable fabrics as comprehensively as is once did and many other forms of WP/BR product — eVent, Sympatex, MemBrain Strata, HyVent — are now making huge inroads into Gore’s one-time monopoly
The magic of waterproof/breathable fabrics is achieved by using either a laminate membrane or a liquid coating on the interior of the garment:
The most common forms of laminate membranes are made with either expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (or “ePTFE”, a.k.a. Teflon), polyurethane (PU) films, or polyester films.
This membrane usually measures somewhere between 7 and 30 microns thick and is bonded to the interior of a garment's outer like a second skin. To give you some idea of scale, one micron is one-millionth of a meter and a human hair measures in at around 100 microns.
ePTFE membranes contain a multitude of microscopic pores (W. L. Gore, the maker of Gore-Tex, estimates about 9 billion per square inch) which are responsible for the fabric’s ability to resist penetration by rainwater while simultaneously allowing sweat vapor molecules to escape outward to the fabric’s surface.
It may seem counter-intuitive to make a waterproof garment porous, and the instinctive line of thinking is that this abundance of microscopic holes/pores should make an ePTFE sure to leak, but these membranes work because said pores/holes are far smaller than even the tiniest raindrop but big enough to let water vapor molecules (which are much smaller) seep through.
Additionally, ePTFE membranes possess what in scientific lingo is known as “low surface tension," meaning the membrane can only be penetrated by other fluids with an equally low surface tension. Liquids with a “high surface tension," such as rainwater, pool together into beads or globules on the membrane’s surface and slide off instead of penetrating or saturating the membrane.
In the case of Gore-Tex WP/BR fabrics, the ePTFE membrane is attached to an incredibly thin protective polyurethane (PU) film to create what is known as a bicomponent laminate. This secondary layer protects the ePTFE from contaminants such as sunscreen, body oils, or insect repellent, which can cause a membrane’s efficiency to deteriorate with time.
Water vapor transfer is permitted by making the polyurethane film hydrophilic (meaning it attracts water) with water-attracting chemicals or by using other hydrophilic materials such as polyethylene oxide.
Sweat molecules are drawn to the hydrophilic film in a process known as adsorption and eventually seep through as a result of the differential pressure on either side of the film. In a nutshell, the hot air and vapor on the inside of the jacket move towards the cooler and drier surface of the jacket, jumping from one hydrophilic polyurethane molecule to the next in a microscopic but very intricate and longwinded game of hopscotch. The game reaches its final stage when the molecules reach the outside of the PU film, where they then evaporate and seep through the ePTFE membrane as a gas, leaving the inside of the garment dry.
Liquid coatings are solutions applied to the interior of a garment to provide WP/BR laminate-like properties. Generally speaking, liquid-coated WP/BR fabrics aren’t as dynamic and don’t perform quite as well as laminate membranes, but usually come in at a much lower price. As such, they are most commonly found in entry or mid-level rain shells or those intended for less extreme activities.
Some examples of brands that use coatings instead of (or as well as) laminates are Marmot, Rab, and Mountain Equipment.
Liquid polyurethane coatings can take one of two forms: microporous coatings and monolithic coatings.
These work much like the laminate membranes mentioned above — by using a microscopic network of channels that are too small for exterior water to penetrate, but large enough to allow vapor from sweat to escape.
The porous quality to these coatings is made in one of two ways: either with a foaming agent that forms gas bubbles that expand inside the coating, or with microscopic particles that are mixed into the coating solution in order to allow the formation of minuscule cracks and openings. During the process of drying and solidification, both methods create a network of tiny conduits in the coating through which water vapor molecules can escape.
This form of coating works by creating a solid, hydrophilic (water-attracting) layer that conveys moisture by a trio of processes known as adsorption, diffusion, and desorption.
In brief, these processes work as follows:
Adsorption: The monolithic coating draws water molecules to itself owing to its hydrophilic properties
Diffusion: The liquid seeps through the coating owing to differential pressure. High pressure seeks low pressure and vice-versa, so the high pressure inside the jacket naturally gravitates outward to meet the lower pressure on the jacket’s surface.
Desorption: The vapor molecules evaporate and escape through the outer layer as a gas, completing the process of "water vapor transfer" that is measured in the WVTR, or "Water Vapor Transfer Rate," now found in the product descriptions of some WP/BR products.
The video from GoOutdoors above provides an insightful, and quirky overview of WP/BR fabrics and how they work.
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WHAT TO WEAR HIKING: THE FOOLPROOF GUIDE
One of the great many blessings hiking offers its followers is the absence of those bothersome formalities most of us are forced to adhere to in our workaday lives. When out in the wild, for example, such hassles as deadlines, meetings, dress codes, bosses, and paperwork are thankfully in short supply.
Sadly, however, this liberation from societal and professional strictures doesn’t mean taking a willy-nilly, devil-may-care approach is always the best way to go — particularly when it comes to hiking wear. In the outdoors, the “boss” is no longer that miniature dictator in the office at the end of the hallway, but the somewhat mightier proposition that is Mother Nature.
But just what does the grand matriarch of our planet demand of our attire when we head to pay her a visit?
In this article, we’re going to take you through the A-to-Z of suitable and practical apparel for your future appointments in the Great Dame’s domains, starting off with a look at a few simple pre-hike and pre-purchase strategies before delving into the finer details of material types and clothing choices per body part.
Looking to Learn to What to Wear on Your Next Hiking Trip?
You're in the right place! In this guide we will be covering the following:
If you are simply looking for a quick rundown or reminder of what to wear for hiking, then we have put together a quick cheat sheet below. Please take the following recommendations as a general hiking clothing guide based on our experience and personal preferences.
The four scenarios below are fairly generic, which in addition to the infinite number of potential weather/trail conditions and combinations of appropriate apparel, we highly recommend reading through to the end of this article and doing some research of different products yourself to ensure you develop a clothing system that works for both you and your environment.
A little bit of know-how with regard to pre-hike prep is the first step to becoming a true all-weather hiking warrior. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the fundamental need-to-knows that will guide you around the various pitfalls in store for relative novices to hiking and let you hit the trails with confidence in your backcountry couture.
If there were ten holy commandments for hikers, using the layering system would surely be in the top three. This system, described in more detail in our definitive guide to how to layer clothing, is now all but universally accepted as the benchmark for backcountry habiliment.
The layering system works by utilizing, as the name suggests, multiple strata of clothing items instead of only one or two bulkier items, thus creating air pockets between each layer and allowing interior moisture (sweat) to evaporate as it passes outward through the layers. It also offers a great deal of versatility in changeable weather by allowing you to take gear off and put it on with the minimum of fuss as temperatures rise and fall throughout the day.
Before preparing your pack and getting dressed, study weather forecasts and allow a buffer for temperature variations and any forecaster whoopsies, particularly if your hike is taking you far afield.
Pro Tip: Elevation Gains & Temperature
An old-school, surprisingly reliable rule of thumb is that temps can drop roughly 3.5°F per 1,000 ft climbed (6.4°C/km). Using this simple calculation will allow you to estimate trail temps where forecasts are given for valley but not mountain locations.
Other factors to take into consideration pre-hike include conditions underfoot, humidity, the presence of bugs, trail aspect (in sun or shade), and the duration of your hike. These variables may require you to take along, respectively: gaiters or boots instead of shoes; quick-drying garments; facial bug nets; warmer individual layers; and, extra items (particularly if on a multi-day excursion).
Mountain-goers are not renowned for their style, and for good reason. Out in the wild, factors such as comfort, weight, functionality, durability, performance, and price trump fashion every time. While the odd backcountry fashionista is occasionally to be found, the chances are they’ve paid a pretty penny for their fancy togs and will almost certainly be that one, ever-present group-member imploring you to part with your spare sweater when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Whatever your budget, be sure to pick a pair of boots or shoes that are fit to task. Ill-fitting or poorly made boots or trail shoes can not only be a source of great pain or discomfort, but can also lead to injury by causing you to walk with an unnatural gait or skipping on important features such as ankle support, grippy soles, adequate cushioning, waterproofing, protective toe rand and/or ample bridge support.
Pro Tip: Take the Load Off
If you plan to fit in some overnight stops on your next trip, then consider taking a pair of lightweight, breathable camp shoes with you. There is a multitude of reasons why investing in pair is a great idea.
There are many opinions on whether boots that cover your ankles are a must versus wearing a pair of lightweight hiking shoes, or even hiking sandals. In the end it comes down to the type of terrain you'll be covering, your own walking style (injuries) and preference.
To avoid going through a long (and costly) process of trial and error before finding the boots or shoes that work for you, be sure to research the options thoroughly, read user reviews, and spend plenty of time trying out your would-be new footwear in the store before heading to the checkout.
While many top-of-the-range, technical hiking or mountaineering boots will set you back enough $ to sponsor a small war, there are plenty of more wallet-friendly options out there for those who have no intention of scaling the Eiger’s north face or traversing the Himalaya in winter. Check out our guide to the best cheap hiking boots to see our top affordable picks.
A bit of a wild-card entry here. Some old-schoolers are apt to lament the visual impact of hikers who look like technicolored candy wrappers out on the trail, but the benefits of wearing slightly garish garb far outweigh the traditionalists’ interests in defending their delicate sensibilities. If injured, lost, or otherwise in need of assistance, colorful threads will make you far more easily discoverable than more natural tones.
The success or failure of your future hiking trips depends largely on the choices you make when purchasing your gear. These days the number of options at our disposal is mind-bogglingly high. So much so, in fact, that novice hikers could be forgiven for grabbing the first decent-looking garments they lay their hands on to spare themselves the cognitive overload. To help you avoid this temptation, below we’ve listed the most popular hiking fabrics along with their benefits and drawbacks.
Fleece is a great, low-cost insulator that dries quickly and offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. Ideal as a midlayer, soft against the skin, and quick drying, the only drawback to fleece is a lack of wind-resistance when worn without a protective outer shell.
These synthetic fabric types feature in everything from shoes and gaiters to baselayers, shirts, jackets, and hats. They come in many forms and with varying specs, and most big brands offer their own trademarked variation such as Air Tech (Mountain Hardwear), Capilene (Patagonia), and Polartec (various).
Although polyester/nylon baselayers, shirts, and midlayers aren’t always as comfortable or stink-free as, for example, merino wool or bamboo products, they are usually a cheaper option and dry much quicker.
Most outer, shell layers also use polyester or nylon (or both) with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish to provide protection from the elements.
Wool has undergone something of a revival in recent years, mainly thanks to brands such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. Modern wool-made hiking garments are far more high-performing than those of yore and offer a slightly pricey but otherwise cozy, soft, stink-free, breathable, and high-wicking option that insulates even when wet and works particularly well in baselayers, as explained in the video below.
The only downside to wool is that it offers little wind resistance, is often pricey, and, particularly in meatier layers, can take a long time to dry.
The perfect insulator in dry, cold conditions. Down garments use different ‘fill powers’ (usually between 400 and 900) which refer to the amount of insulation offered by the garment’s feathered contents. In short, the higher the fill power, the more body heat a down product can trap.
If heading into high alpine environments, down is a great choice, but in more humid conditions synthetic fabrics are a better option — when wet, down loses most of its insulating ability and can take a small age to dry out.
Silk, really? Yeah, really. Though fairly rare these days, silk was once the fabric of choice for the world’s mountaineering elite, mainly due to its ability to provide superb insulation at an incredibly low weight. On the downside, it costs a small fortune, wicks about as well as your average sponge (i.e. terribly), and tears very easily.
Cotton is the junk food of the world of outdoor attire. It’s cheap, easy to get your hands on, looks and feels good for a while, but ultimately contains the capacity to be downright deadly.
Famous for soaking up sweat, failing to wick, and lacking in breathability, cotton is not only liable to cause fairly minor discomforts such as soggy undergarments and chafing, but can also lead to hypothermia and, in extreme cases, death — as explained in more detail in our article Why Cotton Kills. To be avoided at all costs.
Whatever fabric type you end up choosing for any garment, the label or product description will most likely boast one or more desirable properties or functions. But just what are these properties and when or where do we need them?
The term “wicking” essentially refers to a fabric’s ability to transport moisture (i.e. sweat) from inside to out, thus moving it from your skin or internal layers to the outer surface. This property is important for two reasons: one, so you don’t feel like the resident of an otter’s pocket while working up a sweat; two, you greatly reduce your risk of hypothermia, the chills, death, and other such nasties when your sweat cools down — a real possibility with fabrics that don’t wick so well.
Pro Tip: Research Marketers Claims
Nearly all baselayers and t-shirts will claim to be “high-wicking” (“low” and “middlingly” just don’t feature in the advertisers’ vocab), so before buying be sure to read a few user reviews or to pick the brains of a knowledgeable shop assistant.
In order to stay warm, you need to create a buffer between yourself and the ambient air and elements. A good insulating layer may take many forms — wool, fleece, down, polyester down substitute — but all of these do one thing well, namely keep in the heat produced by your body.
Generally speaking, the thicker the layer, the more insulation it will provide, but be wary of sacrificing breathability if opting for especially heavy midlayers, particularly those using synthetic materials inside a wind or water-resistant shell.
Shell layers may boast a number of desirable facets, features, and extra frills, but the undoubted “must-have” of these is their ability to keep out the elements. The most important thing to note when buying an outer shell — whether pants or jacket — is that nearly all garments will fall into either the “water-resistant” or “waterproof” category. What is the difference between waterproof and water resistant? The distinction is an important one. While the latter are made to keep you totally dry, the former are designed to shed only moderate precipitation, such as light drizzle or a short-lived shower.
A second point of note is that any garment that is entirely waterproof will also be windproof — handy given that wind can be as effective as cold ambient air and saturated clothes at spiriting away your body heat.
Finally, thanks to Hydrostatic Head testing (a.k.a. ‘Pressure Head’ testing), there are now degrees of waterproofing. Given in a measurement of mm, these ratings refer to the amount of liquid a garment’s material can withstand before allowing droplets to seep through. At the lower end of the scale, a jacket with a 1,500 mm rating will keep you dry if caught in a spot of drizzle, while one boasting a 20,000 mm rating with do the job even when things take a turn for the biblical and your neighbors start building arks.
For a more detailed guide to waterproof hiking duds, check out our guide Hiking in the Rain.
Perhaps the most important item on our list, “breathability” refers to a garment’s ability to transfer moisture from inside to the outside, rather than trapping it within any given layer. This is particularly important in the performance of your base layer, as it allows the moisture wicked through to the outside of the baselayer fabric to dry more quickly and takes the moisture away from your skin.
That said, if any garment in your layering system doesn’t breathe well, the rest of them are unable to fulfil their function. This can result in an accumulation of moisture trapped inside your layers and, at worst, the perfect environment for a significant loss of body heat, and potentially hypothermia, when you stop moving or temperatures drop.
A completely waterproof and breathable outer shell has long been considered the Holy Grail of outdoor attire, and these days the R&D departments of the biggest brands have just about delivered the goods. There is, however, a catch: the price. Yep, you can get your hands on a jacket or the "best rain pants" on the market that will fend off small tempests and monsoonal deluges, all while letting your body and inner layers breathe, but only in exchange for a tear-inducing portion of your savings.
More affordable options usually feature a compromise on either of these two above features, with the most breathable fabrics being less waterproof and the most waterproofed being less breathable.
At the economy end of the scale, there are coated non-breathable shells, which may look like they will do the job but a short way down the trail are likely to make you feel like you’re wearing a spacesuit in a steam room due to their lack of breathability. A happy medium, however, can be found in many mid-range Gore-Tex jackets such as the Marmot Minimalist, which breathes well, boasts a healthy 28,000mm waterproof rating, and also won’t break the bank.
As mentioned above, hardshell waterproofs will also tick the windproofing box and can be worn on top of even the lightest baselayers to ward off the windchill. If conditions are dry but cool enough to demand some degree of insulation, midlayer tops such as the Rab Focus Hoody feature a tight enough weave to resist the worst of the wind’s efforts while providing more insulation than thinner outer shells.
When out hiking, mobility is a big deal. Not only should clothing be sufficiently loose fitting to ensure you can move freely, avoid chafing, and allow for some air-flow between layers, but can be made all the more comfortable if it contains an element of stretch and/or added material in key areas.
Features like a stretch waistband, gusseted crotch, softshell inserts on hardshells, or fabric containing some percentage of lycra, elastane, or similarly stretchy materials can greatly enhance comfort levels and allow you to move without restriction.
Unless you happen to be a night-hiking enthusiast, choosing a fabric that boasts an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating is never a bad idea. The perils of skin cancer need no introduction here, but the added risks to hikers of this and other sun-induced illnesses are well worth noting. Hiking at altitude, on snow, and/or spending far more hours exposed to the sun’s UV rays all make hikers a particularly at-risk demographic in need of extra protection from the big yella fella.
In a nutshell, UVF ratings run from 15 to 50+, with the higher numbers offering superior protection (a UPF rating of 20 indicates the fabric of a garment will allow 1/20th of available UV radiation to pass through it, a rating of 50 will allow 1/50th, and so on).
The following overview is designed to provide a nuts-and-bolts guide for all-season hiking, working on the premise that you only need to add or subtract layers according to the temperatures you are hiking in.
Whatever the weather conditions, the fundamentals of the layering system up top remain applicable. We recommend starting with a breathable, high-wicking baselayer, varying the weight or thickness depending on temperatures. If you’re out in very cool conditions, this can be supplemented with a thicker fleece or down midlayer before being topped off by that all-important shell or water and windproof layer.
In warmer weather conditions where the outer shell is not necessary but you need more than a t-shirt, an outer layer with some wind resistance will serve you better than anything made of fleece or wool, both of which tend to have sieve-like qualities in anything more than a light breeze.
In very hot temperatures, you can either opt for a pair of lightweight trousers such as The North Face Paramount Trail Pants, or a pair of shorts or skorts — just be sure to check you won’t be wading through thorny or nettle-riddled brush before plumping for the latter. The ideal solution is to get your hands on a pair of light hiking pants with zip-off bottoms and ankle zips that allow you to remove the lower sections without taking off your boots.
Pro Tip: Remember to Buy a Bit Baggy
When buying outer shell layers, be sure to leave room for the layers you’ll have underneath.
In colder temps, a good idea is to start with a pair of softshell pants with some degree of wind resistance or to wear a baselayer pant or hiking tights below your standard trekking pants. If conditions are wet or particularly blustery, throwing a pair of lightweight waterproof rain pants directly on top of either your baselayer or standard hiking pants will keep your pins toasty and dry.
Your choice of footwear will depend largely on where you plan on doing your hiking and the conditions you’re likely to find there.
It goes without saying that in muddy, boggy, or snow-covered terrain a pair of backpacking boots will serve your purposes better. If you foresee doing most of your hiking on well-maintained trails and aren’t a fan of wet-weather wandering, however, a pair of waterproof hiking shoes could save a bundle of cash and offer a much more nimble, and often more comfortable, alternative. To help you choose, check out our guide to The Best Hiking Footwear of 2018.
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What duds you choose to wear in the outdoors can make the difference between a happy, wonderful experience to one of abject misery or even worse, a dangerous one. Always remember the Scandinavian saying "Der findes ikke dårligt vejr, kun forkert påklædning" which translates to "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing". If you learn to dress correctly, you'll be able to tame any outdoors adventure, no matter what mother nature throws at you.
There are multiple myths and misunderstandings around what is good (or not) to wear. As such, our in-house experts cover a range of clothing related subjects to bring you actionable advice to help you improve your skills and knowledge, to make all your future trips that much more enjoyable. Happy Trails!
Possibly the most critical gear to determine the success (and safety) of a trip is the choice of clothes on your back.
Not sure which jacket to buy? or what makes for a good pair of hiking socks? Don't fret! We test & review so you don't have to.
HOW MUCH WATER DO YOU NEED ON A HIKE?
Your body’s cells need water during every hour of every day. This natural, metabolic need is only amplified with activity outside. Despite its importance, I continue to pass large numbers of hikers on the trail who have forgotten or chosen not to carry any water.
Don’t risk your health and enjoyment while venturing into wild places. Check out our tips below for calculating the correct amount of water to take on a hike, as well as the best methods for carrying it. Ensuring that you will stay hydrated should be a primary planning concern for every adventure.
Looking to Learn How Much Water to Take on Your Next Hike?
You're in the right place! In this guide we will be covering the following:
This is akin to asking someone how much it costs to buy a car or a house, where the only reasonable answer is ‘it depends’. How much water you will want to bring along for a hike will depend on the length of your journey, weather, your level of exertion, water availability along your route, and your body’s personal hydration needs.
Familiarize yourself with these factors and accept the reality that your answer to the above question will, likely, be different for every trip. This is the best way to ensure that you stay properly hydrated.
This should be your first consideration in determining your water needs for an upcoming hike. Remember to address, not just the overall mileage of your intended route, but your expected time to complete it. Some hikes may be short in mileage but still require a long time to complete because of their rugged terrain or steep change in elevation.
A good starting point for your time calculations can be 30 mins/mile plus 30 mins/every 1,000 ft. of elevation gain. For example, you could reasonably expect a 5-mile hike that climbs 1,500 ft. to a mountain summit and back to take you 3 & ¼ hours to complete.
Keep in mind that any standardized method for calculating pace while hiking is only a generalization and that your actual pace may be, drastically, different based on your experience and current level of fitness. If you’d like a bit more detail about estimating your hiking time, check out ‘How to Calculate Hiking Time’ on Trails.com or enter your details into this handy hiking time calculator.
Once you’ve calculated a good estimate for how long you’ll be on the trail, consider bringing at least one cup of water for every hour you will be hiking. Warm weather and/or a high level of exertion are, both, good reasons to increase this amount.
The harder you work, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more water you’ll need to replace it. It’s a simple formula that gets overlooked far too often. If you will be pushing your physical limits, say on a trail run or a rugged hike with a time goal, consider adding to your standard water needs.
For example, I carry less water when guiding a slow group of beginner hikers than I might for the same route with more experienced friends who will be pushing harder. Ultimately, listen to your body’s needs on the trail and plan ahead with extra water if you are inexperienced or attempting any hike that you expect to challenge you significantly.
Always check the weather forecast before deciding how much water to bring. Typically, our bodies will need more water in hot and dry conditions, where sweat is quickly lost to evaporation. These conditions are responsible for numerous dehydration and heat illness instances every year. It can be easy to forget about hydration when you don’t have the constant beads of sweat on your skin as found when hiking in humid areas.
Everybody is different. Learn to recognize when your body is dehydrated and accept the reality that your fluid intake requirements might be different than the friends whom with you are hiking.
It’s so easy to get lost in the beauty and fun of a good hike that we, often, forget to drink as much as we should. Proper hydration is key to our bodies ability to manage heat, altitude, and cold, and the consequences of dehydration go far beyond feeling thirsty.
Not only does dehydration bring possible, severe complications itself, but it is frequently listed as a contributing factor to numerous other ailments. Familiarize yourself with the following signs/symptoms of dehydration and be sure to, always, listen to your body: