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Hiking/Back Packing Stuff
#1
First let me qualify my remarks to say that I am no expert.  

I did quite a bit of hiking and backpacking in the 1970s, 80s and 90s and then again when I went to Alaska in 2015.  Technology has changed a lot since the old days particularly in the weight of equipment.

My wife and I are doing some hiking in a few weeks at all the national parks in Hawaii. Will also be going down to Smokey Mountain NP to get some trail time in on the Appalachian Trail this summer before our Andes Mountain/Inca Trail BP trip in Sept.  May or may not also run out to Colorado to try and get some higher altitude hiking/BP in as well. Let me also qualify my remarks to say the we are in our early/mid 60s so what works for us may or may not work for you.

With most of our gear being decades old we have started to look, shop and buy new stuff.  I thought I would document what we are doing in case anyone else is interested.  I will likely break it down between old stuff and new stuff.

First up...

Hiking Shoes/boots...

Old-Back in the day people wore hiking boots which were usually above the ankle with sturdy leather uppers and thick, pretty rigid soles.  The pair I wore to Alaska were about 15 years old at the time and fit that description.  They were well worn and by the time I got back from Alaska were worn out and thrown away. I don't even remember what brand they were.   

New: Running shoe technology has taken over and light weight "trail runners" have replaced boots.  I was somewhat surprised that hikers and even backpackers wear mostly low top shoes these days and those are like running shoes.  Those in the know say every pound on your feet is like 6-8 pounds on your back when you are BPing so lighter is better.  

Like everything else you can go cheap or go expensive. I try to find the best bang for the buck i.e, something that works but won't break the bank.  My research indicates that Merrell Moab 2s get consistently good reviews and don't cost an arm and a leg.   I have a pair of Moab 2 tactical boots I bought last fall for hunting. They are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn and were that way right out of the box so that's where I started looking.

 Merrell also makes the Moab 2 in both low top hiking shoes and mid height "boots" as well.  My high boots do tend to be warm in warmer weather and so I started looking at the mids and low tops as alternative for warmer weather hiking. They also all come in either waterproof or ventilated. Prices range from $90-120 depending on whether high or low, waterproof or not.  

High or low?

I have some ankle issues, had my right foot and ankle rebuilt 7 years ago so I tend toward higher boots. That was one of the reason I bought the 8" Moabs. Bushwhacking through the woods I need ankle support but I could also use them for hiking. On the other hand, most hiking/BPing is done on trails.   On the other, other hand, having lost a significant amount of weight 40+ lbs has lessened the strain on my ankles and I am most likely to do most of my hiking/BPing in warmer weather on trails.  I am covered for cooler, strenuous terrain with my boots so I decided to go with the low top Moabs for hiking.

Waterproof or Not? 

The next question is waterproof or not?  The advantage of waterproof boots is that if you hike in wet, cool weather your feet stay warm longer. But what's considered wet and cool?   Grass is usually wet in the morning even in the summer and your feet can get soaked walking through it. On the other hand, waterproofing tends to hold moisture and your feet get hot and sweaty anyway. They will get wet from the inside out. Waterproofed boots, even Gore-Tex ones tends to take longer to dry out.  When I was in Alaska there was often frost or snow on the ground in the mornings which would melt by mid morning. 

So for summer/warm weather hiking I think non-waterproof i.e, vented shoes/boots are best as even if they get wet in the morning they will dry out as you go and/or dry out faster so that's what I bought.

I looked around at prices for about a month and found that the low top Merrell Moab 2 vented hikers were around $100 in most places including Cabelas.  I ended up buying a $100 gift card for $80 online and bought them at Cabelas.  They are not super light weight (listed at 1 lb 15 ozs)  like trail runners but certainly better than the 3lbs+ boots I was wearing before.  I felt I needed the stability and extra durability of hiking shoes over runners.

Been wearing them for about a week and they, like the Moab boots I bought last fall are very comfortable. It is still cold here and we even had a couple inches of snow the other day so being non waterproof and vented they are not ideal now. They should be fine in Hawaii and this summer.

I am already thinking of buying the mid height waterproof Moabs for my Peru trip in Sept. We will be in the Andes mountains at 9-14,000 feet for 5 days. It is quite cold and misty there and the trail is steep at times so the added support would be helpful. And they could be worn in the winter around here as well. 

Other thoughts....

One thing that people don't think about when hiking/backpacking is that when going down hill (what goes up, must come down) your feet slide forward and jam your toes. When you do that for miles it is very painful particularly when carrying a pack. The one thing I like about the Moabs is that they have a very stable heal box which locks your heal in place. My hunting property has some very steep hills and I have found my feet do not slide forward in my Moab boots. That to me is a proven design and one reason why I bought the Moab shoes. I'm sure other hiking shoes do that as well but I know the Moabs do.

In regards to my wife. she used some light weight Under Armor mid height hikers in Alaska and complained of them rubbing her ankles sore after a couple days. She walks a lot and wears running shoes so will likely use those in Hawaii. For Peru she looked at and likes the Moab 2. She is leaning toward the water proof low ones.

Overall I think the Moabs are a good bang for the buck. We shall see in a couple weeks.

Stay Tuned....

Next up, sleeping pads.
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#2
You are correct that the technology and options have changed dramatically.

I did a trip around the world with Swiss mountain climbing boots and sneakers. Mountain climbing boots claimed space on buses and trains. Good defensive weapons. When in the Golden Triangle with up and downhill in the mud, wore sneakers.

We all know that shot fitting is a real pain! For the quality items, I go to REI and get measured and get a feel for the shoes - then order elsewhere. I have also bought shoes from Goodwill. Here are the options: 1. buy socks that allow you to wear the shoes comfortably and identify the shoes with the socks. I pack away the spare shoes with the socks that fit. 2, add layers of socks. There are smooth socks that can and are designed to go under sweats or special large size socks. Avoids blisters.

You also have to just bite the bullet. It will be impossible to buy shoes after shtf, much less get them repaired. So you do need multiple pairs - and repair components. You also have to be ruthless in either fixing shoes as needed or getting rid of them.

I do not fit into the regular sizes of blue jeans. Have to buy longer than I want. So, I just took two pair in and had them hemmed. Didn't like it, but it beats having to deal with it later.

I buy windbreakers/jackets from Goodwill. Just send one back to Goodwill that needed a new zipper. Only paid $10 and got a lot of usage out of it.
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#3
(04-10-2018, 12:31 AM)bdcochran Wrote: You are correct that the technology and options have changed dramatically.

I did a trip around the world with Swiss mountain climbing boots and sneakers.  Mountain climbing boots claimed space on buses and trains.  Good defensive weapons.  When in the Golden Triangle with up and downhill in the mud, wore sneakers.

We all know that shot fitting is a real pain!  For the quality items, I go to REI and get measured and get a feel for the shoes - then order elsewhere.  I have also bought shoes from Goodwill.  Here are the options:  1. buy socks that allow you to wear the shoes comfortably and identify the shoes with the socks.  I pack away the spare shoes with the socks that fit.  2,  add layers of socks.  There are smooth socks that can and are designed to go under sweats or special large size socks.  Avoids blisters.

You also have to just bite the bullet.  It will be impossible to buy shoes after shtf, much less get them repaired.  So you do need multiple pairs - and repair components.  You also have to be ruthless in either fixing shoes as needed or getting rid of them.  

I do not fit into the regular sizes of blue jeans.  Have to buy longer than I want.  So, I just took two pair in and had them hemmed.  Didn't like it, but it beats having to deal with it later.

I buy windbreakers/jackets from Goodwill.  Just send one back to Goodwill that needed a new zipper.  Only paid $10 and got a lot of usage out of it.

Good points.  Interesting you mention Goodwill.   I went up there last week and bought 3 like new Hawaiian shirts (for my trip next week) for $2-3 ea (senior citizen day discount) and a Hawaiian bathing suit. Why spend a lot of money on something you are only going to wear a couple times? Didn't think to look for jackets but I will probably head up there or the other one across town again this week and see what I can find.
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#4
Like me you've probably tried all kinds of mats to sleep on while camping from the ubiquitous thin foam mats to the luxurious inflatable beds.

When I first started BPing in the 70s the only thing available were the roll up closed cell foam mats. Back in those days all you wanted was something that wasn't hard and would insulate you from the ground. Being a lot younger and tougher you didn't notice or mind as much. As the 70's became the 80's the foam got thicker and better and was almost comfortable. If I didn't have to walk far I would sometimes use two mats. 

By the mid 1990s most of my camping and backpacking was as a Boy Scout adult leader. I used a full blown air mattress for week long summer camps and a foam one for weekend outing. Eventually Thermarest came up with a thin inflatable that not only insulated one from the ground but was comfortable to sleep on. It wasn't light or compact but it you could roll it up just like a foam mat and carry it on the exterior of you pack. The sleep to weight ratio was worth it. 

Fast forward to today...

I still have my Thermarest and was intending to use it in Peru. I did need one for my wife however. Looking for her reveal that technology has changed.

This link has some useful info on sleeping pads.

http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-sleeping-pads

Like with hiking boots I tend to look for the best bang for the buck. Thermarest is kind of the gold standard and I think I paid close to a hundred bucks for mine back in the day.  Back then it was about the only thing of it's kind that was available. Today there is lots of competition.

Ultimately I went around and tried various pads at REI and Cabelas.  I thought the best combination of weight, comfort,  compactness and price was the Klymit Insulated Static V.  I found a good deal on Amazon on one and bought it.  It is 72" long and 18 ozs..

After napping on the floor of the family room  several times I found it comfortable to sleep on but too short for me. My feet hang off the end.  I am 6'2", she's 5'6"  so it's fine for her.   I need the larger, 76" longer, 26.5 oz one.
The nice thing about these is they fold and then roll up into a small package unlike the older Thermarest that rolls up but it's full width. 

Klymit also makes decent sleeping bags and I 've been looking at them as well.

Her's typically sells for $50 to $100 online while the longer one is usually $80-110 depending on sales.  They do have a non insulated version in both sizes which are slightly lighter and slightly cheaper. As thin and light as these are I can't imagine what little insulation they put in them would make any difference but some insulation is better than none I suppose. 


https://www.klymit.com/sleeping-Pads.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyKzIpoGz2gIVVbXACh2E-ggGEAAYAiAAEgLcYPD_BwE

As I said they are relatively compact and light weight compared to older type pads.

[Image: MZwRjqB.jpg]

If I was going to backpack weeks instead of days at a time I might consider something more substantial and/or expensive. These get good reviews and are a good value. For my purposes, i.e, probably not more than a week per year, This will work....and it's small enough to put in my truck bag in case I get stranded somewhere.
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#5
Back in the 80's I'd use the Nike Lava Domes for most of my hiking. Boots still got the nod for serious backpacking trips and snow adventures though. That is generally true today as well but my last trip I did give some NB trail runners a try. I had one day of steady rain and they did well despite their lack of waterproofness. A synthetic sock liner and a mid weight wool socks were comfortable even when wet and I was able to dry them overnight.

Shoes are such a personal thing. I've had great luck with New Balance products and find them very comfortable. Some long distance friends recommend the Altra brand trail runners. They seem to be very popular with PCT hikers I see ever year. Next time I'm at REI I'll check out the Merrels too.

The durability of trail runners is a bit disappointing. On a normal (good) year I'll log about 1,000 miles of on trail hiking and burn through two pairs of shoes depending on the conditions. Rocky environs can eat them up pretty fast.

For trail use I typically buy a half to a full size larger than my regular shoe. It usually means a little more room in the toe box and if the trail is long my feet will swell. I like having a little extra room in the toe on steep declines too.

I used the closed cell foam pads until 1994. I bought my first thermarest, which I still have and use it on trail and even when visiting family. A few years back I bought the Thermarest Scout because it is lighter and rolls smaller. So far I'm impressed. If it lasts as long as my other I'll be even more pleased with it. A lot of my hiking brethren are using the Thermarest NeoAir, which are very light, compact and offer a lot more padding. They do seem to get holes in them easier especially if you aren't careful where you bed down.

Another item I've really enjoyed are these Butane 1 oz stoves. They work great compared to my old white gas stove + fuel bottle take up a lot less room. The alcohol burners are comparably less expensive fuel wise but that is the only real advantage I'm aware of.

Looking back over the decades I've noticed my pack is smaller and lighter than when I was younger. A good part is technology, the rest is choice. I dabbled some in with the ultralight philosophy but have discovered the older I get the more comfort I enjoy. My "Big 3" are under 9 pounds and depending on how much other "optional" gear (Cameras, menu items, etc) I can usually be under 35 pounds for a five day and under 30 for a long weekend trip including 2 liters of water.
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#6
I will address mats.  I use a GI mat and exercise on it outdoors everyday (California).  I also nap on it.
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#7
Just back from vacation and while we didn't do any overnight backpacking we did a lot of day hiking. I wore my new Merrell Moab II hiking shoes and like my Moab boots they were very comfortable right out of the box. The only issue I had is that they are low tops and are good for flat, level ground. My right ankle and foot was re constructed a few years ago due to an 40 year old motorcycle injury. As such it doesn't have the range of motion of the left. Uneven and rough terrain aggravates it. We were hiking a lot on rough, uneven ground (think lava fields) and my right ankle hurt every day. I am going to need the over the ankle boots for more ankle support and/or wear my ankle brace. The good thing about the low tops is that they were cooler to walk in warm weather.

I also used a new day pack. In doing research for my Peru trip in Sept I found recommendations for the Osprey Talon 33. It holds 33 liters and is recommended as a day or accent pack. I used it as a carry on on the plane and as a day pack. It holds quite a bit of stuff including a water bladder, 2 water bottles, trekking poles etc. It has a lot of compression straps for cinching stuff down. Because of the size I ended up carrying the water, food, rain gear and extra stuff for both my wife and I every day. Probably about 20 lbs worth of stuff. It was by far the most comfortable pack I've ever carried. We did several 10+ mile hikes with it and it works well.

Here is a a link to it on Amazon. My wife got mine on ebags.com on sale before we left. After carrying it for 15 days I've worn the shine off it.

https://www.amazon.com/Osprey-Packs-Talo...y+talon+33

I will say that the water bottle pockets on the side are marginally designed. It is nearly impossible to access the bottles while wearing the pack. Not a big issue on this trip as I typically used a water bladder to drink from and my wife used the water bottle.

I will also say that the Osprey is probably overkill for most day hikes. This pack loads from the top from under the top compartment. It has a lot of straps/clips and a draw string to get to the main compartment. A simpler front loading day pack would have been easier to access for frequent use. I think it is would make a good ultra lite overnight pack and should be good for our Peru trip. On that trip we only have to carry our personal gear for 4 days. Porters carry the tents, sleeping bags and other heavy stuff.
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#8
Great looking pack Mac66. it seems very well designed.

Would it fit girthier dudes?
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#9
(05-22-2018, 02:36 PM)justsaymo Wrote: Great looking pack Mac66. it seems very well designed.

Would it fit girthier dudes?

They make them in bigger sizes I think but it is a relatively narrow pack. It holds stuff tight and close to the body. It is made for short term packing, day hiking and as an ascent pack i.e. minimal stuff on the last part of a climb. Also good for biking though I haven't tried it for that yet.

Here's kind of a crappy photo of me wearing it. I'm 6'2" and about 220 and it fits me fine.

[Image: ZL7J7D0.jpg?2]

I should also mention that I never wore/connected the belt/hip straps even on some long hikes.
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#10
In my experiences, I believe the most important piece of gear you could have on the trail is a good pair of boots. I can deal with most anything but having comfortable feet takes top priority for me. I bought some waterproof, light pair of boots from Walmart. I felt like I was taking a chance in quality but they turned out being very nice.
History is not dead to the man who would learn how the present came to be what it is.

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