Thursday, March 08, 2007

Choosing the Right Gear-Part One: The basic equipment list.

Welcome to Part One of our nine part series on choosing the right gear for a village-to-village hiking tour through the Alps. Spring is just around the corner, which means that it’s time to inventory our fitness and our equipment. Part One examines the basic equipment list.

We don’t camp during our hiking tours. This means that we can travel light, cover more distance, and we don’t have to worry about all of the accoutrements that accompany a multi-night camping trip. However, we do spend full days on the hiking trail. The gear that we choose to wear and carry in our daypack can make the difference between a delightful vacation and a miserable death march. The following list highlights the essential items that will help you to further enjoy yourself on the hiking trail. Please note that we do not include eveningwear on this list.

Some of the items mentioned below may require further explanation so we’ll explore them in further detail during the upcoming weeks. Future topics will include:

Part Two: How to choose the appropriate footwear.
Part Three: Base layers and general hiking attire.
Part Four: Insulating layers.
Part Five: Raingear.
Part Six: Trekking poles-What to do with them and how to choose them.
Part Seven: Water-How to find it and how to carry it.
Part Eight: Extras-Simple additions for enhancing your hiking experience.
Part Nine: Backpacks-Putting everything together.


The Basic Ryder-Walker Equipment List:

Your general wear will probably vary depending on the weather. T-shirts and shorts will be adequate on some days, whereas long pants, shirt a long sleeve sweater or fleece will be needed on others. Knickers are an excellent option for all conditions, and many Europeans use them. Long wool or synthetic blend socks ensure warmth even if they become wet. Please do not bring blue jeans or chinos to hike in. Aside from these, here is a list of essential items needed for each day, and the most useful extras.(Click on the photo for a closer look at the attire.)

Essential Items:

Hiking boots or trail shoes. These should be comfortable, waterproof and well broken in. Use what works best for you. Newer lightweight boots have proven to be just fine for most alpine hiking.
Waterproof Jacket. This should be roomy, with a hood and extend to the top of one's thigh. Gore-Tex or other breathable, waterproof fabric is recommended.
Long sleeve insulating top. Preferably of synthetic fleece. Wool is also excellent.
Synthetic fleece hat and gloves. Again wool mentioned above works well too.
Water bottle or hydration system. A minimum one-liter capacity is ideal.
Trekking poles. These can reduce knee stress by as much as 30%. We recommend one collapsible pair per hiker.
Sun protection. At higher altitudes this is imperative. You will need good sunglasses, sun tan lotion with a high SPF, and a hat with a brim.
Passport. A few of our tours cross international borders during the day. We usually never encounter customs agents but it’s nice to have identification anyway.
Travel Documents. (Eurail passes, Swiss Passes etc), may offer reductions on many lifts and help you to amend the itinerary during the day.
Pocket change. Some hikes visit and/or overnight at various mountain huts. It’s always nice to have a bit of petty cash for refreshment and meals. We recommend $50 to $100 in local currency.
Daypack. Be sure this is of adequate size to fit the above items as well as a picnic lunch or other items. Generally 1800 cubic inches is fine. If your itinerary includes nights in huts or other overnights away from your luggage, a pack of 2400 cubic inches is advised.

Useful Extras:
First Aid Kit. (This is an essential item for self-guided travelers)
Zip Lock Baggies.
Thin Dry Bag. for your day pack.
Camera.
Pocket Knife. (Scissor features come in very handy).
Swimsuit.
Rain pants.
Gaiters.
Long sleeved polypropylene undershirt or other long underwear top. Some people may like bottoms as well.

Other items should be light. It is also advisable to bring supplies of any medications you may be taking. Should you forget something, the villages on your tour are well stocked with sport and pharmaceutical goods.

Trek Considerations:
The items mentioned above are required for our treks. In addition, some people enjoy the capacity of a larger backpack since our treks usually involve one or two nights in a hut or simpler bunk style accommodation. Under these circumstances one will need extra socks, slippers or running shoes, underwear, T-shirt, a towel and toiletries. A book and flashlight/headlamp (compact!) are often desirable. Some people enjoy a travel sheet or sleeping bag liner for the hut stay.

Join us next time for Part Two in our series: Choosing the appropriate footwear. As always, please contact Ryder-Walker if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.