First Night Out: On the Trail

How to dress comfortably and stay fueled while hiking.

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Start Smart

On the Trail

»Layer right Use synthetic or wool layers to stay comfortable on the move. Adjust layers so that you’re slightly chilled when you start; you’ll warm up quickly as you hike.

»Prevent blist
ers Reduce your odds of getting a blister by breaking in your boots pretrip; wearing clean, dry, wicking socks (not cotton); and letting bare feet air out on breaks or in camp. If socks get sweaty, swap them for a dry pair and hang the old ones on your pack to dry. If you’re especially blister-prone, smear problem spots with Vaseline or BodyGlide or cover with athletic or duct tape. Feel a hot spot? Stop—right now!—and cover the area with a piece of tape or donut-shaped moleskin.

»Fuel up Keep your engine humming with small, frequent snacks like trail mix, an energy bar, or a few dried apricots. Stay hydrated: A water bladder makes it easy to drink on the go. You’ll know you’re hydrated if your pee is light yellow or clear.

»Stay on trackThe difference between a typical 2D map and a topographic (or topo) map is in the elevation detail: The latter lets you “read” the terrain, revealing peaks, valleys, ridges, and cliffs. Topos do this through the use of contour lines; each one represents a particular elevation (say, 8,000 feet). The more closely packed the lines are, the steeper the terrain—like this slope (A) or cliff (B). Peaks (C) look like layered circles (and might also be marked with an X or a precise elevation). Ridges (D) and valleys (E) look like a series of Vs or Us pointing downhill (ridges) or uphill (valleys). A saddle or pass (F) (a low spot on a ridge or between peaks) resembles an hourglass.