Preparing for a hiking trip can be a daunting endeavor, especially if you haven't explored the outdoors in the past. And one of the most difficult things is selecting the right camping equipment. There are so many options available that it can be confusing, not to mention expensive, to figure out the correct items that you need.
When making your gear list, consider both the type of trip and the environment through which you will be hiking. For example, hiking through high mountain passes for a week in the middle of the winter will require a lot of specialized equipment that will not be necessary for an overnight summer jaunt through a river valley.
No matter what kind of trip you plan on taking, you will require some kind of shelter. Tents are by far the most popular form of camping shelter and they come in a variety of styles. The classic double-walled tent comes with a separate fly, designed to provide maximum protection from the rain while also allowing for ventilation to prevent condensation.
Alternatively, single-walled tents do not have a separate fly, but rather combine the fly with the tent itself. The benefit is a lighter tent that is easier to pack and carry. However, single-walled tents are generally not as stable as double-walled tents and should not be used on trips where persistent storms are expected.
Of course, you do have options besides tents at your disposal. Some people like the simplicity of a tarp, the lightest shelter available. But you will not receive complete protection, either from the weather or from other curious animals. And despite their simplicity, it takes a degree of technical skill to properly set tarps up.
After deciding on a shelter, you need to select a proper sleeping bag for your trip. And you have as many options here as you do with shelters. The most important choice with any bag is its temperature rating. The key is to select a proper temperature rating suitable for the environment in which you will be camping.
If you select a bag that is too highly rated, you will wake up in the morning drenched in sweat. But if you select a bag that is too thin for its climate, you run the very real risk of hypothermia.
Once you decide on a proper rating, it is important to do your research on the various bag manufacturers, since some bags more accurately reflect their ratings than others.
Another important attribute of a sleeping bag is its insulation material. Your two options here are either goose-down or synthetic. Goose-down bags are lighter and more compressible, making them easier to pack. However, goose-down tends to be more expensive than synthetic alternatives. Further, goose-down bags lose much of their insulating value when wet, making them ill suited for rainy climates.
As with sleeping bags, you have two choices when it comes to backpacks: internal-frame and external-frame packs. Historically, external-frame packs were the most common thanks to their ability to easily carry a large load. However, advances in new suspension systems have made internal-frame packs by far the more popular choice today.
Perhaps a more important feature of modern backpacks is their size. Now, the proper size of a backpack is very much dependent upon the length of your hiking trip. The longer the trip, the larger the bag you will require. For a week-long trip without resupply, for instance, a bag between 50 and 60 liters will generally be sufficient to carry all of your gear.
Understanding the basics of camping and hiking equipment is very important in order to ensure that you are prepared for the unique challenges you will face while out in the wild. And with this guide in hand, you should be able to make more informed purchasing decisions.
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