Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring cleaning.

Did you know that Switzerland boasts more than 60,000 kilometers of hiking trails? That’s the equivalent of more than 37,000 miles of cross-country goodness. A person would have to through-hike the Appalachian Trail 17 times to rack up that kind of mileage.

Here’s another perspective. A person could walk around the entire circumference of the Earth at the equator and they would still only cover around 25,000 miles. This means that they would have to walk half way around the world again in order to bring their total up to Switzerland’s 37,000 miles. I think the stats are pretty impressive for a country that could settle down inside the borders of a state like Pennsylvania and still have plenty of room to spare. (Switzerland’s surface area is about 41,000 square kilometers compared to Pennsylvania’s 119,000). Switzerland is a small country that’s BIG on hiking.

Thinking about all of that hiking gets me excited so this morning I made a checklist of a few things that I like to do to every spring in order to get my hiking gear ready for the summer season.

1. Test the rain gear. Most rainwear features some kind of water repellant finish on the exterior commonly referred to as a DWR, (Durable Water Repellant). The DWR allows water droplets to bead up and roll off the garment. This action keeps the underlying fabric dry and allows the technical laminates like GoreTex to do their job more efficiently. The DWR can lose performance or even just wear off over time, especially following multiple machine washes or a history of downpours. Test the rain gear for leaks and reapply the DWR if the water just saturates the fabric instead of beading up and rolling away. Your local outdoor shop should carry a variety of easy-to-apply water repellant finishes.

2. Take your old footwear for a walk or buy new shoes and break them in. Are your shoes or boots still comfortable? Consider replacing the insoles. New insoles, especially custom insoles, make an old pair of hiking boots feel like brand new. Consider re-treating the water repellancy on your footwear as well. Spring is the time to break in your system to prevent blisters during your hiking vacation.

3. Inventory your socks. Do they have holes? How is that area around the heel and ball of your foot holding up? Do you have enough pairs?

4. Examine your gear for signs of wear. Look for worn or ripped seams and abraded fabric. Examine the zippers. This goes for backpacks too. Look at the area where the shoulder strap connects to the bag. Make sure that all the seams look tight and repair any problems. Try things on. Do they still fit? Do they still feel comfortable? Are they clean?

5. Make a gear wish list and then go researching. Summer gear inventories are large during this time of year so it’s a great opportunity to shop around and to see what’s new. Look through previous journal entries to remember things that worked and things that didn’t. Do you remember how your knees felt during last year’s long descents? Did you wish that you had trekking poles? You can look at our equipment list and get more ideas by clicking here.

Vacations don’t come along every day so you might as well make a production out of the whole affair. I find that it helps to prolong the excitement. So put on your gear, stash a few pieces of Swiss chocolate in your pocket, and tell the kids that you’re going for a walk. Take a walk in the rain. Go out in the sun. Beg for wind. Look for mud. Work out the kinks in your system before you go on vacation. Spring is a great time to do it.

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