Saturday, July 7, 2007

Backpacking Clothing

What should you wear for your adventure in the wilderness? Posted by: Andrew Engelson Filed under: Health & Hiking, Hiking Etiquette & Safety, Gear & Gadgets
Washington Trails Association
What should you wear for your night in the wilderness?Temperatures can range widely in the mountains, even in the height of summer. For safety and comfort, it’s crucial you keep warm when you’re in camp or resting, and also stay cool when you’re huffing it up the trail with a pack on. The key to clothing in the backcountry is layering. By bringing lightweight, but well-insulating layers, you can add or peel off clothing as your activity level or the outside temperature changes.
The first, or base, layer should be made of a wicking synthetic material that helps carry moisture away from your body, and can insulate even if wet. Polypropylene, Capilene, Thermax or other fabrics are ideal for this purpose. Bring both tops and bottoms of long underwear of this variety.The second, or middle layer should be a warm insulator. A fleece jacket, a down jacket or wool garment (or combinations of these) can help insulate you.The third layer is a windproof and waterproof layer. This means a water-shedding material, preferably one that "breathes," such as the famous GoreTex. Bring both jacket and pants. Other clothing to bring includes shirt, pants, sun hat, gloves and bandana. A warm knit hat of wool or fleece is absolutely essential. Shorts can be great in the sun, but when brushy trail or stinging nettles are encountered, a good pair of lightweight hiking pants is ideal. Avoid cotton clothing. The old mountaineers’ bit of advice, "cotton kills," is true. Cotton is a bad insulator when wet. Stick to synthetic clothing, wool, and waterproof fabrics to keep you warm—even your underwear.You’ll find an infinite variety of hiking socks, from wool to synthetic materials. To prevent blisters, many backpackers chose to wear two pairs of socks: an outer insulating sock, and a thin polyester liner sock.Photo of backcountry campers by Jason Zabriskie.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Backpacking News--Colin Fletcher

Colin Fletcher, acclaimed, reclusive writer on backpacking
By Valerie J. Nelson,
LOS ANGELES — Colin Fletcher, who was considered the father of modern backpacking for his lyrical and practical writings on hiking, including "The Complete Walker" and "The Man Who Walked Through Time," died in June in Monterey, Calif. He was 85.
Mr. Fletcher died at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula of complications related to old age and injuries suffered in 2001 after he was hit by a car, said Chris Cassidy, a business associate.
"He brought this idea that you didn’t have to be a nut case to take long solitary walks in the wilderness at a time when a lot of people were really looking for ways to create holistic lives and escape from the craziness of Vietnam and the stresses of the ’60s," said Jonathan Dorn, editor in chief of Backpacker magazine.
Bruce Hamilton, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club, said that Fletcher helped start a movement by "speaking as an adventurist who would share his own exploits then tell you to lighten your load by cutting your toothbrush in half."
"He was to backpacking what Jack Kerouac had been to road trips," wrote Annette McGivney in Backpacker magazine in 2002.
Romantic conflict inadvertently inspired Mr. Fletcher’s walking-writing career.
In 1958, Mr. Fletcher decided to hike the length of California from Mexico to Oregon so that he could engage in "contemplative walking" and decide whether to get married.
Six months and 1,000 miles later, he married his girlfriend and wrote his first book, "The Thousand-Mile Summer" (published in 1964), which detailed his route across the Mojave Desert and up the Sierra Nevada range.
The marriage ended within weeks, but the man some call "the J. D. Salinger of the high country" had discovered a way to communicate.
"He found he could touch people in a grand and far-reaching way and have friends without having them in his hair all the time," said Chip Rawlins, who helped update Mr. Fletcher’s "The Complete Walker IV" (2002) and considered Fletcher one of his heroes. The first edition of "The Complete Walker," published in 1968, is an exhaustive guide to outdoor travel that is regarded as the backpacker’s bible.
"Colin was cranky, opinionated, irascible, yet I found him quite wonderful, actually," Rawlins said.
Outside Mr. Fletcher’s Carmel Valley home hung a sign that said: "Beware of the Man!" Once he touched fame, Mr. Fletcher guarded his home’s location and scratched a decoy name on his mailbox.
In 1963, beckoned by the Grand Canyon’s beauty, Mr. Fletcher became one of the first humans to walk the length of the chasm. He wrote about the two-month trek in "The Man Who Walked Through Time" (1968).
"I saw that my decision to walk through the Canyon could mean more than I knew. I saw that by going . . . deep into the space and the silence and the solitude, I might come as close as we can at present to moving back and down through the smooth and apparently impenetrable face of time," he wrote.
The "artfully worded account" "introduced an increasingly nature-hungry public to the spiritual and physical rewards of backpacking," McGivney wrote in 2002. The book remains in print.
In all, Mr. Fletcher wrote seven books in a 35-year span, providing what he termed "great, granular detail" about camping, he told the Associated Press in 1989.
At 67, Mr. Fletcher hiked and paddled solo 1,750 miles down the Green and Colorado rivers and recounted the experience in "River: One Man’s Journey Down the Colorado, Source to Sea" (1997).
Of his need for the trip, he wrote: "I needed something to pare the fat off my soul. . . . And I knew . . . there is nothing like a wilderness journey for rekindling the fires of life."
Of his works, Mr. Fletcher favored "The Man From the Cave" (1981), possibly because he related to the main character — a gold prospector who inhabited a cave in the Nevada desert, said Carl Brandt, his longtime agent.
"He had worked out a life for himself that was very, very happy," Brandt said. "The three things he loved the most were walking and writing and then, oddly enough, tennis."
Born March 14, 1922, in Cardiff, Wales, Mr. Fletcher was an only child who traced his love of walking to his mother, who enjoyed venturing out in the rain.
He first backpacked as a commando for the Royal Marines in World War II and spent five years in Africa, mainly farming. Several odd jobs followed, including prospecting and laying out roads for a mining company in Canada.
Well into his 70s, Mr. Fletcher continued to hike. He was working on an autobiography when he was struck by a car while walking near his house. He suffered severe brain trauma, many broken bones, and other injuries.
As he aged, Mr. Fletcher had admitted it was harder for him to convey a sense of wonder about the back country. "I’m not young anymore," he said in the 1989 AP story, echoing a line from "The Thousand-Mile Summer:" "I’m no longer rich with the rewards of inexperience."