From Weekender To Weeklong Hiker
You’ve mastered the quick, 3-day escape to the state park down the road, and now you’re drooling over a faraway 50-miler. Our advice: Start saving your frequent flier miles, and study the tips below to prepare mind, body, and gear for the challenges of a long, rugged hike.
Capacity of 4,500 to 6,000 cubic inches >>>>> $140 and up
Two pairs of wool or synthetic socks (plus two pairs of synthetic liners, if you use them), an extra set of synthetic long underwear, and a waterproof/breathable rainjacket >>>>> $250 and up
Should include prescription medications, blister treatment, bandages, a full-size SAM splint, one roll of 1-inch-by-10-yard cloth tape, ibuprofen >>>>> $25 and up
Supportive, all-leather uppers and minimal seams for maximum waterproofness >>>>> $125 and up
Pick Your Destination
To find your ideal 5-day trail, consult Web sites (start at www.backpacker.com/destinations), local bookstores, and trail clubs. After you get some leads, call the land-management agency and ask the backcountry rangers for information.
Roam At Will
Free yourself from well-trodden trails by learning how to use a map and compass. Here’s a start:
- From your local outdoors store, buy a compass and a 1:24,000 scale (7.5-minute series) topographic map that covers your neighborhood or a nearby park. Or, get the map from the U.S. Geological Survey, (800) ASK-USGS; http://ask.usgs.gov.
- Take the map and compass to an outdoors spot you can identify on the map. The more hills, rivers, and other geographic features you can see around you, the better.
- Account for the difference between magnetic north (where your compass points) and true north (where your map is oriented to). Here’s one way:
- With the compass set to 0 degrees, lay one long side of the compass against the MN line.
- Rotate the whole map, with the compass still sitting along the MN line, so that the compass needle is pointing to north, or 0 degrees. Now your map is properly oriented with the landscape. You’ll need to do this every time you must accurately read the map, no matter where you are.
- Note how the contours of the map reflect the landscape around you: Tightly spaced contour lines mean steep drops; wide spaces mean meadows or other flat areas; closed loops in the contours indicate hills or peaks.
- Draw a route on your map, then walk it, comparing what you see on the map with the terrain as you pass through it.
- Practice this until you can look at the map, visualize the terrain, and reach a destination using your map and compass.