About Hiking

Preparations
for a Long Distance Walk

If you are an experienced walker you can probably skip this section. In case
you starting your walking 'career', in this section you will find my own
experiences,  my interpretation of the experience of other long distance
walkers and the information provided by some of the manufacturers of hiking
gear.

Little of this information is scientifically proven (most information on hiking is
based on expert opinions) and using this information is at your own risk. The
information you find here is not intended to prepare you for hiking in
mountainous terrain.
Walking a long distance Trail is a pleasure. You are out on a holiday, in the
open air, going through nice and interesting countryside and meeting other
people. And it is healthy to. But this does not automatically mean that it will
be a pleasant trip. If your trip becomes a pleasant trip depends on many
circumstances. A few examples: Is your physical condition good enough for
chosen Trail and is the Trail easy to follow. Are you walking in the right
season. Are you carrying the right stuff for the circumstances on the Trail. Is
your pack not to heavy. How do your feet feel after walking the whole day. Do
you take enough rests during the day. When walking with another person, can
this person keep up with you or the other way around and is he/she pleasant
company. Are you carrying the right clothing for the climate.  This
section of the website is about how to make your walk a pleasant trip: proper
preparation.
The main message I want to make clear to you is that preparation and gear wise,
no walking trip is the same. The preparation and gear to take along depends on
You, the Trail, the climate, the time of the year, the kind of accommodation
you are using, facilities along the Trail, etc etc. Even when preparing for the
same Trail but in different seasons, you will find that you have to carry other
items for each trip.

This also applies to the gear you are carrying: the way the seller in the shoe shop
thinks your shoe laces should be tied, might suit your foot for 100 %, or just
his own feet. And the way you regularly tie your shoe laces might not fit all
the situations you find yourself in. Remember that the fitting of your backpack
was probably done when it was almost empty and took about 5 minutes to complete.
By the time this backpack is worn out, you will have carried it for hundreds of
hours. At times almost empty, at times almost to heavy to bear. Over flat and
hilly terrain, on paved roads and narrow mountain tracks. Changes are that the
conditions when fitting your back pack will only represent a few hours of the
lifetime of your backpack. So experiment with your gear to make it more
suitable for your situation and more comfortable. Adjust and experiment
and adapt your gear to YOUR body and Your circumstances to the
particular Situation you are in (AYYS-your gear).

Gear wise there are many items to carry. However, when preparing for a trip, the
most important item to have is a SCALE!! Weight, or the lack of it, will
determine much of your comfort during your walk. So when choosing items for
your equipment, let weight be an important factor; carrying a tent of 1.8
instead of 2.5 kilogram and  a sleeping bag of 1.4 instead of 2 kilogram already saves
1.5 kilogram and that are just 2 items.  

Physical condition

Walking is a physical activity. Walking for about 20-25 kilometers a day
is not like shopping or going to the mailbox to post a letter. While walking on
a Trail, you have to keep your body upright for at least 6 hours. This is
different than sitting behind a desk all day. But walking is not only about
using muscles, it also involves you metabolic system; a well trained body can
transport more oxygen to the muscles so you do not get muscle pain and a
trained muscle is more energy efficient.
Walking for about 6 hours a day without any preparation is not pleasant. So
unless you are a practicing nurse or have another profession, sport or activity
which involves walking a lot, prepare you body for a long distance walk. Start
with this preparation a few moths before your trip and start slowly with
integrating walking into your system. Instead of taking the car for short
distances, walk and preferably take a daily walk of about one hour. It is
better to start with frequent short walks during the week than one 20 kilometer walk each
weekend.
Once you have integrated walking into your system, build up the distance and
time spent walking. If possible, integrate walking up and downhill into your
walks and use stairs whenever possible. At the end of your preparation, at
least once walk the whole distance you are intending to walk daily during your
trip. This way you get a feeling for what is involved. Preferably you go on a
weekend trip with all your gear.
When on the Trail, make use of the whole day. Walking from 10.00 o'clock to
16.00 o'clock is very different from walking from 8.00 o'clock to 18.00
o'clock. In the last case you have about 6 hours extra to enjoy the scenery,
take a rest, take a long break for lunch, etc. Plan shorter distances in the
beginning of your trip. This way you will get used to walking, which takes
about 3 to 4 days. And after about 3 to 4 days you will notice that the walking
becomes (even) more pleasant and you go uphill more easily.
When new to walking, take frequent rests and enjoy the scenery; when on more or
less level ground, take a rest (about 10 minutes) after each hour walking. When
going uphill, take this rest after each half an hour. Take a long rest in
the middle of the day. When the sun is shining, take your rest in the shadow! While
sitting down, your body is still generating heat but is cooled less by wind.
Resting on a hot day not only means resting your muscles but also cooling your
body. Do not worry about that nice suntan, this you will get, even when the sun
is not shining.

Boots
The main reason to put Boots this high on the list is because what goes for
preparing your physical condition for a long distance walking trip, also
applies for preparing your boots and feet/legs for a happy marriage. It takes
time. Walking for about 6 hours a day in new boots without any preparation can
be very unpleasant.
What kind of boots: There are different types of walking boots. Some companies
use the A-B-C-D rating. This rating indicates the kind of terrain the boots are
designed for:
 


 

Class A:


 

 

designed   for daily use, walking on unpaved roads


 

 

Class A/B:


 

 

designed   for easy walks in more hilly terrain and unpaved roads, wide tracks


 

 

Class B:


 

 

designed to be used for more mountainous terrain and more demanding tracks


 

 

Class B/C:


 

 

designed  for mountainous terrain and narrow/bad tracks


 

 

Class C:


 

 

designed  for walks in high mountains, some can be used with crampons


 

 

Class D:


 

 

designed   for more extreme mountain trips, can be used with crampons


 

In this website and the books published by Walking Trails, the class of boots
needed, run from Class A to B and rarely into class B/C.
The class of boots to choose depends not only on the kind of terrain it is
intended for. It also depends on how experienced you are in walking long
distance Trails and how heavy the pack is that you are carrying. When rarely
going on a walking trip, changes are that your feet will need more support and
also when carrying a heavy backpack your feet need more support than carrying
a light backpack.
Choosing a higher class boot has the advantage that you are more flexible in
the kind of terrain you can walk in. In case you only walk in terrain that is
suitable for a lighter class of boots, choosing a higher class boot has the disadvantage
that these boots are usually more expensive and heavier (the difference between
a light A/B class and a heavy B/C class can be more than 250 grams per boot) and
take more time to break in.
When arriving at your accommodation it is a good practice not to use your
walking boots indoors; it messes up the interior. You need to carry
additional footwear that does not weight too much and does not take to much
space in your backpack. My advice is to carry hiking sandals for this purpose.
Since hiking sandals are proper walking gear, they have the advantage that they
can also be used in case you have problems with your boots or want to give your
feet a rest (and are great casual footwear at home!).
Gore-Tex or not: The idea to line walking boots with a Gore-Tex liner makes
sense; it makes a boot waterproof while your sweat can still escape. But the
situation is not as simple as that. Boots lined with Gore-Tex are more
expensive than regular leather boots and tend to be warmer during warm weather.
The main advantage of Gore-Tex lined leather boots is that they keep your feet
dry when there is a lot of water around (and you can keep the water (rain or to
deep a stream) from entering at the top of your boots). In other conditions, it
is the questionable if a Gore-Tex lining will improve your walking comfort.
Gore-Tex in combination of non-leather boots is another matter; here the
Gore-Tex is often needed to make the boots water proof and with non-leather
boots the warming up of the boots does not seem to be a problem.
Because leather boots with a Gore-Tex lining are waterproof, people tend to
think that the leather does not need any care. This is not the case. Treating
the leather will improve the live span of the leather and will protect you from
the wet even more. When wearing Gore-Tex boots, keep your toe nails in check so
they do not damage the Gore-Tex lining.
Fitting Boots: Because feet swell during the day, the best time to buy boots is
in the afternoon or evening. When going out to shop for boots, wear the same socks
that you wear while walking.
When fitting, put on both boots and lace them. You should be able to wiggle
your toes without your foot slipping too much at the heel. In general you
should be able to squeeze a finger between your foot and the heel of the boot.
Walk around the shop to feel if the boots are comfortable, length wise, width
wise and is there enough height for your toes to move around.
When female walkers buy their first pair of boots, they run the risk of buying
to small a boot. When you are walking in fashionable shoes most of the time,
walking boots looks colossal and the smallest size boot should be big enough!
This can be painful and might ruin a holiday. So when you are not sure that the
colossal boot on your foot is really comfortable, try on the next, bigger size.
After buying: Wear new boots around the house so your feet will get used to
them. During this time judge if you have a pair of boots that will only
need some breaking in. If it becomes obvious that you have bought a pair of
boots that do not fit, at this time you can usually go back to the shop and get
another pair. Once you used them outside, this service ends. When you are
certain that you have bought a well fitting pair of boots, break them in
further (actually breaking in a pair of boots usually means getting your feet
used to the new boots).

Experiment how tight the laces should be. When buying the boots the laces were
probably very tight. When walking a whole day this might not be comfortable. I
have met many people, who had trouble with their boots, loosening the laces
solved many of their problems. So experiment how tight the laces should be for
your comfort. When going downhill or uphill for some distance, it might be
comfortable to tie your bootlaces accordingly; when going downhill, lean your
leg backward somewhat and then tie your laces. When going uphill, lean your leg
forward.


Blisters: The main cause of blisters
is the boot rubbing on your skin. But this is only part of the truth. When not
walking on a long distance walking Trail, most people do not develop blisters.
So walking that long distance has something to do with it and probably is the
main reason you develop blisters. Walking a long distance Trail involves
walking all day for many days, walking in heavier footwear than usual, your
feet sweat more, perhaps walking in wet conditions and carrying a pack.
This means that when you are taking care of blisters you are taking care of
symptoms and not taking away the cause of the problem!! Which you don't want
anyway since it means that you should stop. This you don't want to do because
during the last few months you have been looking forward to walk this beautiful
Trail and you want to finish it.
Realize that when a blister develops, because of the underlying problem, it is
very difficult for the skin to heal on a multi day walking trip. The body needs
to get an opportunity to heal the blister. This also means that when trouble
develops, like a painful spot or chaffing, attend to it right away; during a walk
an unattended blister can take weeks to heal.
Preventing blisters and early remedies; treating the symptoms:



  • Prepare your skin to this rubbing, so break in
         your boot/feet

  • Use hiking socks that take up some of the
         friction by its thicker material

  • Use thin inner socks that will wick sweat away
         from the skin but also provides a layer for your boot to rub on, instead
         of your skin

  • When realizing a part of your feet is rubbed on
         and getting sore, protect this area with surgical tape. People also use
         Duct tape for this, but prevent direct contact between the glue and
         damaged skin (Duct tape has not been tested for use on humans!)

  • Alternate between wearing your boots and your
         hiking sandals, but only if this improves the situation; if you get
         blisters or sore feet from your boots and walking sandals, this
         will make the situation worse

  • Keep you toenails in check; prevent them from
         cutting into the neighboring toe. And filing your toenails will do a
         better job than clipping.

Preventing
blisters and early remedies; taking care of the problem



  • Take longer rests during the day

  • If possible walk shorter distances each day

  • If walking for a long period, take a rest day
         once a week

Taking care of blisters:

  • If a blister does not trouble you, leave it
         alone but try to prevent it getting worse

  • When a blister causes trouble because of the
         amount of fluid it contains, lance it. I use a safety pin for this
         purpose; it is bigger than a needle so it makes a bigger hole that will
         drain well. It is not as sharp as a needle so there is little chance to
         puncture the skin underneath the blister. Before lancing, I clean it with
         betadine, which I also apply on the blister. After the betadine has dried,
         I lance the blister on 2 and opposite places and let in drain. After
         lancing, I again disinfect the blister with betadine and if possible,
         cover it with band aid

  • If on a suitable place, I put compeed or an
         equivalent product on the blister, it protects the open skin of the
         blister and takes up some of the pressure

  • Blisters underneath the skin and underneath the
         foot can be very awkward, sometimes they can be drained but often they are
         located to deep and have to be endured

Clothing
Clothing for a long distance walking Trail is a compromise between weight,
comfort and the situation on the Trail. For comfort you might want to carry a
clean set of clothing for each walking day, but this will get a bit heavy when
on a 10 day walk. The clothing you carry can be different on each walking trip
and should reflect the circumstances on the Trail, the climate and your
personal needs.
Some basics: You might already have heard this, but while walking, use the
Three layer system. The Three layer system consists of a base layer, an
insulation layer and an outer shell. While it is commonly used for the torso,
it can be used on the whole body.
1. Base Layer/Thermal Underwear: The base layer consists of underwear which
does not retain sweat, but transports it away from the skin. This way the skin
remains dry and you do not get cold from sweat evaporating.
2. Insulation Layer: The insulation layer is worn on top of the base layer and
its main purpose is to keep you warm and also to transport moisture to the
outer layer. Usually the insulation layer is made of a fleece material.
3. Outer Layer or Hard Shell: This is the outside layer that will protect you
from wind, rain and snow. It is also capable to transport your sweat to the
outside world.
Soft Shell: A soft shell combines the insulation layer and the outer layer.
Depending on the product it is more or less wind proof, more or less waterproof
and made of breathing material. Soft shells are made of flexible materials and
were first used for sports where the combination a regular insulation and outer
layer would hinder the movement of the wearer. When you do not expect much rain
or cold during your walk, a soft shell can replace the insulation and outer
layer. When walking in an area or during a season where you can expect a
worsening of the weather, supplement the soft shell with a proper Outer Shell.
Shorts and Rain Pants: Most walking pants are more or less water-repellent, but
during a heavy rain, your legs are most likely to get wet. In most weather
conditions it is more comfortable to have wet legs than wet trousers and
wearing shorts in those conditions is a good option. When it is colder and
raining, your legs will get to cold and it is advisable to wear rain pants.
Warm weather: The three layer system is optimized for protection against the
elements and not optimized for warm weather. When expecting warm weather it is
likely that you will prefer to wear a loose fitting shirt or T-shirt with short
sleeves. Avoid cotton since it will absorb sweat and then keeps wet instead of
wicking it to the outside world.
Selecting what clothing to take: When preparing for a long distance walk,
consider the season you are walking in, the general climate conditions of the
region, the chances of rapid deterioration of the weather and the situation of
the Trail (low level or mountainous / open or forest). From these
considerations, determine what kind of clothing you will need. For instance
when walking in a mountainous area in mid summer, you most likely need a summer
outfit. But because of the mountainous terrain, especially above the tree line,
the weather can change drastically and for safety's sake your outfit should
also be able to cope with storm or winter like conditions.
Like adjusting the heating in the house it should be possible to adjust the
clothing to your needs for that moment. This is possible with the three layer
system when you select your outfit in such a way that it is flexible and
supplementary. For instance a thin short sleeved and a thin long sleeved
base layer offers more flexibility than one thick long sleeved base
layer.
When arriving at your accommodation for the night, it is a good practice to
have a separate set of clothing to change into. In principle do not mix these
'evening' clothing with your walking clothing (your fleece and outer layer
expected). This way you always have a dry set to wear and there is nothing
nicer at the end of a lousy and rainy day to chance into dry clothing. Getting
into the damp or wet walking clothing next morning is another matter, but
changes are dry clothing would be wet in a few hours anyway.
However, it is practical to choose items for your 'evening' clothing that
can supplements your walking outfit, for instance a long sleeved shirt to
supplement your insulation layer when it gets really cold, or a short sleeved
shirt for the unexpected warm spell.
Colour of your clothing: The clothing you wear determines if you are visible
for others. Safety wise it is preferable to wear clothing that will make you
easy to spot. In case you have an accident you are easier to find and there is
little change that a trigger happy hunter mistakes you for wildlife. Colours
like dark blue, black, brown, etc are to be avoided because they tend to blend
into the background, especially in low light conditions.
Ladies: Over the years I have heard a lot of male comments on the amount of
underwear carried by female walkers. What these guys appear to forget is that
their state of the art equipment needed for their manhood (GPS, handheld
computer, multiple lenses for the camera, mobile phone, multi tool knife and so
much light weight equipment that it weights a ton) is far heavier than a couple
of underpants. So ladies, go for it.


Backpack
A backpack is an essential item for your walking expedition. It contains and
protects almost all of your gear. Filled it weights somewhere between 12 and 20
kilos, so it is quite a burden and you want it to be comfortable. Actually the
backpack is most likely the heaviest item of your luggage, weighing between 2.5
and 3.5 kilos.
Size; how many liters: Backpacks come in different sizes. Which size to take
depends on the kind of trip you intend to take:

15-40 liters daypack
40-60 liters
pack for weekend trip
60-80 liters
hiking pack
80-100 liters
pack for extended hikes without much possibility to obtain supplies

The last pack is more specialized gear. When you go walking often you will need a
day pack and a hiking pack. The hiking pack can also be used on a weekend trip.

When buying a backpack be careful not to get a getting a bigger backpack than you
actually need; the backpack by itself will be heavier, probably more costly and
the temptation will be fill all that extra space. This of course will increase
your burden.

There is a direct relation between the volume of a backpack and the size of the
wearer. Because of the short torso length of a small person, the height of his/her
backpack will also be shorter which translates into a lower volume. With a tall
person with a long torso this translates into a higher volume. Most
manufacturers have models designed for females; wider hip support and shoulder
straps better suited for the female torso.

Size; fitting: A backpack is like a garment; is has to be of the right size and it
must be comfortable to wear. Most backpacks have a carrying system (with fancy
names) that can be adapted to the body of the user. These systems have their
limits so additionally, some manufacturers have also different sizes of
backpacks so even the small and larger walkers can find a fitting backpack.

When walking on a long distance Trail you will be carrying something between 12 - 20
kilos. When fitting a backpack, make sure that there is at least 10 kilograms in it, so
it represents the real situation. Before choosing a backpack, take your time to
find the best basic 'setting' for the carrying systems of the backpacks you
want to choose from.

External or Internal Frame: Backpacks with an external frame are still available, but
nowadays not so popular and sometimes hard to get. For the purpose of carrying
a heavy load these are great backpacks that have the advantage that they are
well ventilated and because most are front loaded and have some pockets on the
side, very easy to pack. The downside is that these packs are usually somewhat
top-heavy and because their total size, are prone to get stuck in bushes and
awkward to use in public transport. The pro's and con's switch sides with a
backpack with an internal frame. In general the backpack with an internal frame
is more compact and practical.
Packing your backpack: When packing your backpack, realize that it is not
waterproof. Most likely it will stand up to fog and a light drizzle, but when
it starts to rain, things inside will get wet. There are waterproof hoods
available that will protect most of your backpack and its contents against the
rain. The things I do not want to get wet I protect by putting these items into
waterproof containers or bags.
For the sleeping bag I use a compression bag and a wide bag made of tent
material. Clothing I double bag in wide bags made of waterproof tent material.
I use oversize bags because tightly filled bags will turn into round sausages
that don't fit efficiently in the backpack. Paper stuff and electronics I put
in large Zip-loc bag and then into a bag made of tent material. Over many years
this has proved to be a watertight solution.
Food, stove and walking sandals I pack into bags made of tent material. Using
these bags has the added advantage that it organizes the content of the
backpack. Emptying or filling is easy because there are only about 6 bags, each
with its own specific content.
When packing your backpack there are a few things to consider:
- Put the heaviest items low in the pack; this will increase its stability
- Put the items you are likely to use, in the top of the backpack
- Put the items you might need in an emergency, within easy reach

Food
For a walk to go smoothly, food is essential. First of al so that you will not
be grumpy to your fellow walker which makes live for him/her more pleasant. The
food situation is different from Trail to Trail and depends on the fact if the
Trail goes through villages or is away from civilization. It also depends on if
you are camping or staying in hotels or pensions and your budget; providing
your own meals is far cheaper than going to a restaurant each day.
When going from hotel to hotel for the whole trip, food is not much of a worry;
most likely you have breakfast in the hotel and can arrange for a lunch parcel.
The same more or less applies for going from pension to pension. Only here you
might have find a restaurant in the evening.
When camping or staying in accommodations that do not provide food, the
situation changes drastically. If there are no regular shops or restaurants on
the way, you have to get and prepare your own meals. And this will add
considerably to the weight you will carry.
Amount of food needed: The amount of food you need on a long distance walking
trip depends on the amount of calories you are burning and this depends on the
conditions of the Trail, weather, the distance you walk each day, the weight of
your backpack, your own weight and the duration of your walk.
On a long distance walking Trail, carrying a moderate weight pack, walking
about 4 kilometers per hour, walking about 24 kilometers each day, for about 10-14 days, on a Trail
with moderate differences in height and on a good track, the amount of calories
you use is most likely not much different from the daily needs of an active
live stile. This is something like 3000 calories for active females and 3500
calories for males. This would require you to eat/carry about 0.6 kilos of (dried)
food for each day.
On a trip it can be hard to manage to eat this amount of calories. This is not
much of a problem because the fat stored in your body will supplement the
amount of calories you eat. This is alright on a trip of about 10-14 days and
at the end of the trip, while standing on the scales, you will be happy with
the kilos you have lost. But this means that you have to be careful when you
are underweight; you do not want to loose any more kilos! Or when your trip is
of a longer duration; the amount of body fat is limited.
Fat and carbohydrates are the major sources of energy for your muscles, protein
is used primarily for building muscles and other processes in the body. You can
increase the amount of calories you take each day by eating more fatty food;
fat contains 9 calories a gram, protein and carbohydrates 4. This might sound
unhealthy but, while on the trip, you are burning this fat and not storing it.
When eating carbohydrates, avoid the simple carbohydrates like sugar, or candy
with a high sugar contend. When you eat simple carbohydrates before you start
your walk in the morning, your body will respond with producing insulin. This
 will store the simple carbohydrates in the cells, where they are of
little use to you. Instead eat snack which contain a high content of complex
carbohydrates, like cereals, grains and fruit. These products will release
sugar slowly into your body.
Your muscles use calories while walking. Body fat can provide the fat needed.
But there is only a small amount of carbohydrate stored in the body. This is
the reason that it is preferable to eat frequently or snack while walking.
Warm and Cold Weather: When walking in warm weather you are likely to sweat and
lose salt. Drink enough water so your urine does not become to dark, but also
take care of your salt intake. This can be in the form of salted peanuts,
crisps. Avoid coffee because this can make you urinate more. When walking in
cold weather your body needs calories to keep warm, so increase you calorie intake.
Packing food: It is practical to make rations packs. For each day make a ration
pack with all the food/snacks that you will need in one day. This way you have
control over what you take and consume each day. When it is easy to get fresh
supplies, take ration packs for only a few days and resupply when you are going
along. When you are away form the civilized world, take a ration pack for each
day and carry a few extra for the case you are delayed.
What food to carry: Food will be a major part in the total weight you are
carrying; about 600 grams  for one day when you are carrying breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. For 5
days this will be 3 kilos. So when you start, the heaviest burden will be
carried. The positive side is that your load will become lighter with each
passing day. But with the carrying of the food comes the carrying of the
kitchen; stove, pan, utensils, fuel. This will be at least another kilo to
carry.

Muesli with powdered milk is a pleasant breakfast. Consider to have snacks
instead of a lunch, otherwise take crackers along and use these with cups of
peanut butter or jam (pack both very well!!). For dinner use a dried meal that
is easy to prepare. There are high quality dried meals available from outdoor
stores, but they come at a price. Usually a cheaper alternative can be found in
the supermarket; in normal live it also sometimes nice to prepare a meal by
only adding boiling water to some dried stuff.
Personally I often use meal replacement bars intended for use in a slimming
diet. The way I use these bars does not slim me, but they are good to have for
lunch or a dinner, they pack a lot of slow releasing energy and have a high
nutritional value.
For snacks along the way, get some cheese, (salted) nuts, and dried fruit. A
chocolate bar, some packet biscuits. A possible alternative is to get or make a
trail mix of nuts, raisins, chipped chocolate. Use your imagination for other
items to be added.
When there are shops around, things get easier. You can stock up regular and
buy fresh food. Tinned food can be to heavy because of its water contend and
the tin itself. During warm weather the weight of the water in the tin is not
so much of a problem because for the preparation of a dried meal you also have
to carry water.

Sleeping bag
Enjoying your day depends for some part on the sleeping during the previous
night. Your sleeping bag will play a major role here. Not carrying a sleeping
bag will make you back pack a lot lighter, so the first question when planning
a long distance walk is, do I need a sleeping bag on this trip. When you are
walking from one accommodation to the other, the most likely outcome is no. But
when there a change that you might have to sleep in a mountain cabin or that
you can experience drastic changes in the weather and might have to seek a
shelter for a few days, take a sleeping bag.
Down or Synthetic: Down sleeping bags used to be the product for the serious
hikers while the synthetic was for camping with the boy scouts. Today synthetic
sleeping bags match down sleeping bags in many respects. Comparing the two
materials, both have their advantages and disadvantages in different
situations:
Price: Down is more costly
Warmth: Weight and size wise, down is warmer
Packing size: Down can be more compressed
Lifespan: Down can last a lifetime, Synthetic materials tend to deteriorate
over time
Cleaning: Most synthetic materials can be machine washed. Down needs special
care
Weather: When wet, down looses its isolation capabilities. Synthetic stays
warmer when wet
Drying: Down dries slowly, Synthetic dries faster
Weight: Warmth-wise, the down sleeping bag will be lighter
Allergies: Synthetic is more hypoallergenic than down sleeping bags
What to Choose: This does not make it any easier for to choose the right
sleeping bag; the right sleeping bag is the one that suits your personal needs
on the Trails you intend to walk. So here are some considerations to help you,
but remember your situation might be special and the choice might not apply in
your situation:
First Walk: Going for a first walk and you do not know if walking is really for
you: go for the cheap option; borrow one or get a cheap synthetic bag
(conditions on the Trail permitting). If walking is not for you, not to much
money is lost. If you will continue walking, upgrade to a higher quality bag
that suits your needs. The synthetic bag you first bought will come handy
somewhere (keep it in the car during winter).
Wet and dirty: Walking in wet conditions or sleeping outside where your bag
will become dirty: go for a synthetic bag; it will keep you warm when it is wet
and it will clean easily.
Cold: When it can get very cold on the Trails you are planning, get a down bag;
you will probably be carrying a good tent or staying in a hut/cabin where there
is little chance of getting wet. And when the temperature is below zero,
chances are there will be no rain.
Weight and packing size: When weight or packing size is an issue, go for de
down bag; it is lighter and packs smaller

Shape: Most sleeping bags for walking and hiking are shaped to the form of the
human body; this is warmer and lighter. Also available are bags that are shaped
to the female form: they are shorter and somewhat wider at the hip and torso.
Usually they are also warmer especially at the area of the feet. This shape
does not exclude the use of this bag for male users, if your form is shorter
and somewhat stubby, this might be ideal sleeping bag for you.
Sleeping Pad: In a sleeping bag, the material you sleep on will get compressed,
especially down. This will degrade the insulation at this point and when
sleeping on a cold floor or in a tent, might keep you from getting warm. To
prevent this, there are sleeping pads. Basically there two kinds of sleeping
pads; the closed cell type will keep you warm and the self inflating mattress
which will keep you warm and more comfortable on a hard surface (the open air
cell pads and air-mattress are less suitable for a long distance walk). Both
the closes cell type pad and the self inflating mattress come in several thicknesses
for better insulation and/or comfort.
The self inflating mattress will keep you warm and more comfortable. That is,
if you are not to heavy. When you are heavy, changes are that the mattress will
compress at points like hips and shoulders. Not only is this uncomfortable but
also it greatly reduces the insulation. The self inflating mattress are
heavier, more vulnerable (they can leak) and more costly than the closed cell
type.
For both types you can choose between different length. When insulation is not
to much of a priority, a pad from head to hips is a good compromise between
weight, comfort and insulation. When sleeping on a cold surface a full length
pad is preferable.

Lightning
When walking along a Trail changes are there that you encounter a thunderstorm.
Consulting the website of the National Weather Service of the USA learns that
it is not save to be outside when lightning strikes. The only save places are
cars en sturdy building with plumbing, electricity and preferably a lightning
protection system. Lightly constructed buildings that do not have electricity
or plumbing and car ports, sheds and tents might keep you dry, but will not
provide any protecting against a lightning strike. Now that is comforting!!

In general the rule is not to be the highest point around. For safety in a
thunderstorm you have to be on the low ground.

High tension wires are usually protected against lightning so when high tension
electricity wires are nearby, you can seek protection underneath them, but
stand away from the supporting towers. Stay far away from metal object, wires
or fences; they can conduct the lightning strike over long distances. Keep a
distance of about 30  meters between you and your backpack and hiking poles;
they contain metal. When hearing a thunderstorm approaching and the time
between the flash and the bang is lower than 30 seconds, it is high time to
seek protection; thunderstorms can travel fast. When caught in the open avoid
the isolated trees; these are the trees with the highest risk of being struck
by lightning. Seek shelter in clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height, or
in ditches, trenches or the low ground. Put on your raingear and crouch low
with feet together and hands on ears to minimize acoustic shock from thunder.
When in a group, keep apart by at least 30 meters; it decreases
the chance that more members are hit by the same lightning.
When you are not in a car or a sturdy building with plumbing or electricity,
the mentioned measures will not make it safe to be in a thunderstorm; it only
improves your situation, somewhat. But realize that only a few walkers are
struck by lightning each year.
When the thunderstorm has passed, wait another 30 minutes to feel comfortable
again.



For more information: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/outdoors.htm

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