This page reflects my love of hiking.

You can access my hiking blogs via the pulldown menus on the inner site navigation bar above. Some of my favorite trails are listed at hiking trails but this is a work in progress.

In the photo above, Norma and I hiked in New York state on July 30, 2013. We followed MacIntyre Brook to the MacIntyre Mountains. Next, we entered the Arctic Alpine Plant zone, which is above the tree line. Eventually, we reached Algonquin Peak at 5,114 feet above sea level. Algonquin Peak is the second highest mountain in the Adirondacks. On that day, we hiked 9.1 miles with a total ascent of 3842 feet.


FootwearOpen accordion icon

Backpacking Shoes

Good backpacking boots are hard to find. For years I wore Wolverines which were great for about ten years. I still think of my Wolverines as my favorite hiking boots, even though they were made for hunting. When it came time to purchase new boots, the model I'd grown to love was no longer in production. That's why I recommend that if you find a pair of boots you really love, buy several pair...unless you like military issue boots which tend to stay around a long time.

After the Wolverines, I wore Montrail Torre GTX Hiking Boots. The Montrail Torre GTX is rugged, waterproof, and narrow in the heel. I've found most boots to cause blisters at the back of the heel due to friction while walking uphill but these boots have a heel cup that fit me perfectly. The toe area was a little narrow but with Feelmax toe socks, that was not a problem. After a few years, the narrowness in the toe area became more of an issue (maybe my feet changed) so I retired these boots.

My next boots were the EMS Summit GTXII. I found these to be comfortable and heavy duty but the sole came off both boots. At that point, I hadn't been doing much serious hiking but I had owned these boots for a few years so it didn't seem right to return them, especially since I bought them at a going out of business sale.

In 2017, I purchased Merrell Yokota Mid Weight boots. These were my first pair of Merrells though Norma has worn this brand for years. They fit great but after three years, they were no longer waterproof. In 2020, I started wearing Merrell Yokota Trail Mid Waterproof. I'm not sure if these are any better. I love the fit but they are not as waterproof as I'd like. By the end of 2022, the sole was detaching from the rest of the shoe. Great comfort but poor durability.

Hiking Shoes

For me, the difference between backpacking shoes and hiking shoes is mainly durability. If I'm carrying 45 pounds of gear over rocky terrain in foul weather, I want different boots than if I'm just carrying food and water on a dirt trail in nice weather. For several years, I wore Columbia Summit Crest Mid which fit well and were economical. In 2017, I purchased Merrell Yokota Trail Ventilator. Unlike my backpacking Merrells, these are low tops and not waterproof. These are great for light hiking.

Shoe Maintenance

I generally get my money's-worth out of shoes because I take care of them. I do general cleaning after hikes and a thorough once-a-year cleaning that involves applying something to keep them water-resistant. I also use Shoo Goo to reattach things. Sometimes I re-sew things together. But if I have to glue or sew things together more than once, it is time to throw things out.


For hiking, the most important piece of equipment is good shoes. After that, one might argue the next thing is good insoles.

SuperFeet: These are the top-of-the-line brand of shoe insoles...or at least they were. I used the green "Performance" insoles which provide maximum shock absorption.

Powerstep ProTech Control 3/4: After visiting a podiatrist for mild plantar fasciitis, I switched insoles to this brand. They are a little expensive but far cheaper than anything custom. These insoles have made walking much more comfortable. I purchased them from my podiatrist. I don't think you can buy them just at a regular store.


Farm to Feet Max Patch: These 100% American-made socks are my favorites as of 2022. If you're tired of really thick socks but you still want the benefits of wool, then these are a great choice.

Feelmax toe socks: If long hikes make your toes sore, try individual cushioning for each toe. Think if it like a glove for your feet. The CoolMax sport model is made of 80% polyester, 15% nylon, and 5% other fibers to help wick away moisture. Wear these thin socks under your thicker wool socks for the ultimate in hiking comfort.

SmartWool: These wool socks are pre-shrunk and hence "bachelor-proof" for those of us who sometimes forget to let certain things air-dry.
Close accordion icon

BackpacksOpen accordion icon
After good footwear, a good pack is probably the next most important thing. I want a good, comfortable pack that doesn't break the bank. I used an external frame pack in the military and shortly after, but eventually switched to internal frame. It seems like internal frame or frameless is pretty much the way things have gone.

There are a lot of great brands out there but the below is what I've chosen.

Gregory Makalu Pro 70: This four pound fifteen ounce, heavy duty, professional-grade, large backpack is great when you want to carry a lot of stuff for a multi-day trip.

Gregory Z30: This two pound six ounce, 1,831 cubic inch, light backpack is fantastic for a long day hike where you want to carry a lot of food, water, or extra clothes.

JanSport Gnarly Gnapsack 25: This one pound eight ounce, 1525 cubic inch (25 liter), small backpack is super for day trips where you don't need to haul much stuff. Its simplicity also makes it great to use in an urban environment or as a carry-on when flying.
Close accordion icon

TentsOpen accordion icon
I have had numerous tents. In the militay, we carried canvas shelter-halves (pup-tents). These were heavy and had no floor. When they got wet they were much heavier. This design had been in use since at least WWII. I hated them but they were also extremely durable. I'd never seen one rip.

The tents I've had as a civilian could be categorized as being for car camping or backpacking. The main difference is weight, which is only a factor for the latter.

My suggestion is that unless you are a minimalist, buy a tent rated for at least one more person than you actually plan to have sleep in your tent. Otherwise, you may feel claustrophobic.

REI Quarterdome Tent. This is a classic backpacking tent. It isn't ultralight but it is certainly lightweight and is just fine in a variety of conditions, including a fairly heavy rain. It has two doors and two vestibules. In my opinion, it is a good all-purpose, durable, backpacking tent that is great for one person or two normal-sized people that don't mind being close to each other.

For car camping, I had an EMS dome tent which I retired in 2017 after about 20 years of service. I considered several replacements:
  • Kelty Gunnison 3
  • Marmot Limelight 3
  • Big Agnes Chimney Creek 4 and other Big Agnes tents
  • REI Half Dome 4
  • In the end, I went with the Marmot Limelight 3. It makes excellent use of space, both in the tent and in the vestibule. The door opens big so getting in the inflatable mattress is easy. It provides excellent ventilation without the rainfly and mediocre ventilation with the rainfly. It is also light enough for backpacking, if you spread the load across two people.
    Close accordion icon

    Hydration GearOpen accordion icon
    When it comes to staying hydrated, you have many choices. As a kid, I had one of those half gallon metal canteens that one would typically associate with a Boy Scout from the 1950s. Then in the military, we had quart-sized plastic canteens. As of 2023, I've gotten away from plastic and typically carry a few liter-sized insulated metal water bottles (I still call them canteens). It is nice having a cool drink on a hot day but the insulation makes it not the most efficient means of carrying water when it comes to space.

    If you want to carry a lot of water efficiently, it is hard to beat a Platypus or Camelbak hydration system. There are probably other similar brands out there. These allow you to drink while on the move without having to be concerned about sloshing noises or wasted bulk from half empty canteens. I had a two liter Thermobak Camelbak but the screw on cap for the water bladder leaked after a few months. I also found it quite cumbersome for cleaning and airing out. I've had much better luck with the Platypus which are durable and easy to air out. I easily made a wire drying rack for it out of clothes hangers. The two liter Thermobak Camelbak bladder case is made of heavy duty nylon and quite rugged. I did speak to one mountain climber who told me his platypus froze and broke but that was just one fellow and I don't expect to be out hiking in those conditions.

    Don't forget your electrolytes. A normal meal will provide what you need but if you sweat a lot, you'll need more. There are a lot of sports drinks out there that provide this but many are criticized as containing too much sugar. Some of the kayakers I know mix regular Gatorade with equal parts water. That seems to work well for me. I've also heard good things about Pedialyte.
    Close accordion icon

    Other EquipmentOpen accordion icon
    Some folks want the latest and the greatest equipment to support their hobbies. I might be that way when it comes to kayaking and paddleboarding but that's pretty much it. The stuff I list below is gear that I have found very useful, practical, and (most importantly) economical. Lightweight and fast is nice but I'm more concerned about comfort, durability, and enjoyment.


    As a former Marine infantryman, I've learned to improvise, adapt, and overcome. That means if I can't find what I want or can afford, I make it myself or modify something similar. I've also done a lot of hand-sewing to customize and repair equipment.

    If you're like me, you have plenty of wet boots after backpacking/hiking in the rain or making those slippery stream crossings. To avoid the mildewy smell, I suggest drying things ASAP. I made my own boot drying rack based on plans I found at free boot rack plans.


    EMT Scissors: Emergency medical team (EMT) scissors are something that was introduced to me in 1990 by a Navy corpman. I watched him use these to cut a penny in half. Later, during the Gulf War, used them to quickly cut the metal bands securing mortar ammunition. Sometimes a knife is good but oftentimes, scissors are better. This is one piece of gear that I really love.

    Fun Gripper Flyer: This collapsable flying disk is easy to throw, easy to catch, and fits nicely in a backpack. It keeps camping from getting boring. I've found it most useful on group trips to pass the time when you're waiting on others.

    Garmin GPSMAP 64st: I know there's a lot of newer stuff out there but I like this particular global positioning system (GPS) unit. When I'm in the field, I mount a Garmin 25 MCX Antenna on the top of my pack for better reception. One of the big criticisms of this is how fast it goes through AA batteries. Then I found a website that recommended using Panasonic BK-3HCCA8BA eneloop pro AA High Capacity Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. They are a little expensive but well worth it. Using this type of battery made all the difference. I used to own a Magellan but I had problems with both that and the folks in customer service. Since then, I've owned Garmins for over 20 years.

    Kelty Triptease Guyline or PMI Niteline Utility Cord: If you are tired of tripping over nearly invisible tent guylines at night, then this is the stuff for you.

    Benchmade: This company makes great knives. Unless I am on the water, this is my knife of choice. Sometimes I carry Cold Steel, which is also very good, but more often it is Benchmade.

    Power Peg by Reliance: This plastic, lightweight six-inch or foot-long bright yellow tent stake will help ensure your tent remains where you want it. It has both a hook and a hole to secure various types of tents.

    REI UL (ultralight) trekking carbon fiber poles: Some people really love hiking poles. I use them if I'm carrying a lot of gear. I also like them when going uphill. But otherwise, I feel poles just get in the way. When I do use hiking poles, these are the ones I have. They are very lightweight and a little fragile. Then again, maybe I'm too rough on them. But since they are from REI, they have a great lifetime return policy, which I have used. Unlike aluminum poles, these will break rather than bend. Not sure if that is a good thing. The tightening mechanism is a little tricky in that you only loosen it a little bit to adjust, and if you loosen it too much, it seems you can turn it forever and it won't tighten up. But once you get used to them, they are very good.

    Tick Nipper: This tool is particularly helpful in removing ticks. I carry one in my first aid field kit and have used it numerous times. It also makes a great stocking stuffer.

    U-Dig-It folding hand shovel. Big military style e-tools are overkill if you only want to sh*t in the woods while the lightweight plastic shovels will bend if the ground is hard. But the U-Dig-It stainless steel folding hand shovel (trowel) is lightweight, compact, and comes with its own belt attachable carrying case. I had one taken away from me after I left it in my carry-on backpack at an airport so I suggest if you fly with it, check it in because you can't take it on a plane.
    Close accordion icon


    Skills and KnowledgeOpen accordion icon

    Hiking Etiquette

    These are some things I learned and wrote up when I was leading hikes with the Sierra Club and the Maryland Outdoor Club.

    As a general rule, stay on the trail.

    Step off the trail to let horses, bicycles, and joggers pass.

    Go far off the trail and well away from any water source to take a crap. Be sure to bury it and any toilet paper...don't just toss some leaves on it. In environmentally sensitive areas, be prepared to put it in a bag and take it with you. For more information, see REI - How to Go to the Bathroom in the Woods.

    If going up a steep hill, stay far enough away from the person in front so you have time to react in case they dislodge a rock and it comes rolling towards you.

    If going down a steep hill, stay far enough away from the person in front of you so you don't knock them down if you fall.

    Stay far enough away from the person in front of you so that their walking stick can't reach you if they hold it horizontally behind them.

    Be cautious of getting whacked by a bent limb from the person in front of you.

    Remain in visual distance of the person in front and behind you unless you have radio communication.

    Tell the leader to stop or slow down if you start to lose visual contact unless you have radio communication.

    If you have radio communication, perform regular radio checks. The lead person or the leader should have one radio and the sweep should have one also. If you lose radio communication, regroup.

    Don't rely on cell phones.

    Make sure someone is at any splits or turns in the trail so that others behind know where to head.

    The weakest hiker should not be the sweep.

    At least one person in the group (preferrably two) should have a first aid kit and know how to use it.

    If you have a first aid kit, make sure others know you have it.

    Make noise in bear country.

    Take regular water breaks.

    Bring more water than you need.

    Drink before you get thirsty and put on sunscreen and/or insect repellent before you really need it.

    Don't flip over large rocks and logs. That's where snakes often like to hike.

    Allow yourself plenty of time to finish the hike before dark.

    Have someone you know really well check you for ticks in places you can't see.

    Suncreen and Bug Repellent

    I hesitate to say "insect repellent" if keeping away ticks is also your goal. Ticks are not insects.

    There are many alternatives to repellents containing N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). I have tried some but found the more "natural" solutions to be less effective. But that's just me. Some folks have a much different experience.

    If using DEET, look for repellents that contain up to 30% of this ingredient. Use less than 10% DEET for children. In high concentrations over several days' exposure, DEET can cause insomnia and mood disturbances. Spray on clothes and exposed skin, then wash off once indoors [5]. I will use 100% DEET but only spray that on clothes that has little contact with my skin...never spray it directly on skin.

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't recommend combination products with both insect repellent and sunscreen because "sunscreen requires frequent application while DEET should be used sparingly." If you need both, apply your sunscreen first and allow it to dry before putting on the repellent. This reduces DEET absorption, though it may increase the passage of oxybenzone (a common sunscreen ingredient) through the skin [6].

    There are various insect repellents that are not advertised as such. Some of these are just things folks told me about and I have no data from any scientific study to back it up.
  • Avon Skin-So-Soft: Lots of military folk recommend this to keep away sand fleas. Unfortunately (if you're a dude), it may make you smell pretty.
  • Vics Vapor Rub: Just a dab here and a dab there.
  • Lysterine: Cheaper than bug spray.
  • Tobacco: A good reason to smoke.

  • Once a year, I spray some outdoor clothes with permethrin. This is highly effective at keeping away mosquitos and ticks for up to six weeks, but not deer flies. I haven't found anything that works for that. If you use permethrin, be sure to read the directions thoroughly. It is very dangerous until it dries. When I apply it, I put our cat inside, wear long pants, long sleeves, long rubber gloves, a breathing mask, and goggles. Don't take chances when using this stuff.

    Deer ticks transmit Lyme Disease, a potential debilitating illness. At the nymph state of a deer tick's life, it's about the size of the dot over this i. This is when they're most likely to pass on the disease. In 2000, 17,730 Americans were diagnosed with Lyme Disease [5]. I tested positive for it in 2022 but I had no symptoms. I then took anti-biotics to treat it. The key to this and a lot of other diseases is early detection. I spend a lot of time outdoors and live in a place where this disease is very common. So whenever I go in for my annual physical, I have my doctor test for Lyme Disease.

    If you've been bitten by a tick, grasp the tick down near its "head," as close to your skin as possible, and gently pull straight out. Mark the date you got the tick bite on the calendar. Call the doctor is you develop a rash, fever, fatigue, aches, headache, or joint pain. These could be signs of several tick-borne infections. Should you develop any mysterious symptoms within a month of a bite, tell your doctor about the encounter. Lyme Disease typically produces a red bull's-eye rash at the site of the bite but a solid red or mostly red rash can also signal the disease [5].

    The northeasten, mid-Atlantic (e.g. Maryland), upper-midwestern regions, and Northern California are known hot spots for Lyme Disease [5].

    Map and Compass Basics

    You've probably heard the term dead reckoning but did you know that it is short for "deduced reckoning?" Surprisingly, it isn't a last resort method of navigation when vultures start circling you [1].

    Not all norths are equal

    True north is the direction of the north star.
    Grid north is the direction of the north pole. The difference between true north and grid north is very small and for the most part can be ignored. Many maps won't mention grid north.
    Magnetic north and compass north are the same. They are the north as indicated by your magnetic compass. This value typically differs slightly from the true north [1] [3].

    Some maps will show concentric circles with degree markings. The outer circle shows the true north and indicates this with a star above the north indicator. The inner circle shows the magnetic north. Check the degree marking of the inner circle directly below the zero degree indicator of the outer circle. Account for annual increase over time. For Baltimore, this value is approximately 11 degrees of westerly variation as of the year 2000, with only five minutes of annual increase (a negligible amount for hiking or kayaking). The difference between magnetic north and true north is also known as magnetic declination or the G-M angle. If you are fortunate enough to live on the longitude line that passes just east of Florida or through Lake Michigan, then you live on the agonic line, which is where the variation is zero [2]. To find the magnetic declination at your location, see magnetic-declination.

    Given true north, ADD the variation to obtain the magnetic north.
    Given magnetic north, SUBTRACT the variation to obtain the true north.

    Given a true (grid) reading of 180 degrees with 11 degrees variation, the equivalent compass reading is 191 degrees.
    Given a magnetic (compass) reading of 345 degrees with 11 degrees variation, the equivalent true (grid) reading is 334 degrees.

    Pace Count

    You won't always have terrain features you can easily identify on a map. Or, visibility might be poor. So how do you estimate the distance you've hiked without a GPS? The answer: pace count.

    Measure off a distance and count the number of paces (counting each time the left foot hits the deck) it takes to walk that distance. Also, record your time. Walk at the speed you would normally travel on a moderate distance hike. A quarter mile track is a good distance that has been accurately measured. Wear the clothes and equipment you normally would wear while hiking. Ideally, you would want to measure your pace count multiple times and take the average. Record the conditions when you recorded your pace count and know that things like rougher terrain, very high elevation, and carrying more equipment will increase your pace count. Finish where you start to help normalize for elevation changes.

    My pace count: As of summer 2006, my pace count with a light (20 pound) backpack on a flat, paved, road was 69 for 100 yards at a moderate pace (3.2 mph).

    Pack Weights

    When hiking with a slower person or hiking for conditioning, you can add weights to your pack to get the desired effect. Iron weights will work but make sure they are wrapped in a towel before you place them in your pack. The last thing you want is the corners of an iron object rubbing up against and weakening the nylon of your pack. Throwing in a few extra water bottles is a great way to weight your pack. The large flexible bladders are best since they will conform to the shape of your pack and hence keep from sliding around. Best of all, if you decide you later don't want the weight, you can just dump it out. Another alternative is to use Duraflame logs. Their shape is perfect for carrying at the bottom of your pack. They are just the right width to keep from sliding and each weights about 5.5 pounds each.

    I do not recommend running with a pack, especially a weighted one. There is too great a risk of impact injuries, especially on your knees.

    Ridding yourself of skunk smell

    If you, your pet, and/or your clothes are sprayed by a skunk, wash in the following formula to remove the scent:
  • Two pints hydrogen peroxide
  • 0.25 cup baking soda
  • Two tablespoons liquid dish detergent
  • One pint tomato juice
  • Mix ingredients just before washing and leave on for 15 minutes [4].

    Paraffin wax balls

    Backpackers often carry fire starters. They aren't expensive but if you are a do-it-yourselfer or enjoy making gifts for others, here is something you can do to make your own:
  • Buy paraffin wax bricks at art supply store.
  • Melt the wax in double boiler.
  • Add a lot of dryer lint.
  • Spoon mixture into paper egg carton.
  • Optional: Add a piece of cannon fuse to each egg cup to be used as a wick.
  • Remove/cut individual balls with paper from egg carton in tact.
  • To use, peel off a piece of paper or lint then set ablaze. Or just light the wick if it has one. It should burn for up to 20 minutes.

  • Anyone who has tried to start a fire after a rain knows the value of a fire starter.


    Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain an irritant called urushiol. There are several products out there for removing urushiol after you've had contact but I've found the cheapest solution to be Dawn dishwashing soap.
    Though there are many products which claim to work, the following product has proven to work for about 95% of people who have used it.
    Best practice for preventing Poison Ivy/Sumac: Dawn Dishwashing Soap
    Within two hours of working outside around trees and bushes, thoroughly wash exposed body areas with Dawn dish soap and a wash rag. Wash and rinse thoroughly three times. Wash down tools and equipment with Dawn and water. Wash your clothing immediately and don't just throw it in a hamper where it could expose others

    If I will be someplace where there is a good chance I will be exposed to urushiol, I will put on Ivy Block as a precautionary measure.

    Miscellaneous Notes

    35-60% of all runners and walkers have weak feet [3].

    Approximately 15% of all people have unequal left and right legs [3].

    Hiking on a rough but level terrain burns about 50% more calories than walking on a paved road. This is great for burning fat but possibly bad if you are trying to conserve your food [3].

    Ascending a 14 degree slope requires almost four times the effort as traveling on flat terrain. Similarly, every 15 meters of elevation gain takes about as much time as running 100 meters on level ground. Use this rule of thumb to estimate if it is faster to go over or around a hill [3].

    At 10,000 feet above sea level, the blood may carry as much as 15% less oxygen than normal. This may result in headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath [3].

    You undoubtedly know the importance of wearing a hat in cold weather. The reason is that at least 40% of body heat escapes through your head [3].

    Honeybees are attracted to perfume, yellow and orange colors, and flowered patterns [5].

    To keep yellow jackets away from a picnic area, try sharing. Set a plate of food scraps and a cup of soda away from your table [5].


    [1] A 2005 class taught by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Flotilla 12 called "GPS for Mariners."
    [2] "Chesapeake Bay Chartbook, 7th Edition" by ADC
    [3] "Orienteering: The Sport of Navigation with Map and Compass" by Steven Boga. Published by Stackpole Books in 1997.
    [4] "Tug Hill: A Four Season Guide to the Natural Side" by Robert McNamara. Published by North Country Books.
    [5] "Splat!: How to Beat the Bugs of Summer" by Ingrei Chen. Published in Reader's Digest, July 2002.
    [6] "The People's Pharmacy" by Joe and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D., Spectrum, July 5, 2005
    [7] OMAG - Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac - Myth vs Fact
    Close accordion icon

    Food and Food PreparationOpen accordion icon
    A lot can has been written about what food one should carry for hiking or backpacking. Focusing on the latter, everything needed for its preparation obviously needs to be portable in a way that can easily fit into a backpack. If you're in a group, I suggest spreadloading the gear and responsibilities. In a big group, you might want to have two of everything so there is no single point of failure. For example, have two stoves carried by two people in a group of ten. There is usually no need for everyone to have their own stove.

    For many people, a nice meal after a long hike is something they really look forward to. But for me, I've learned to lower my standards to save space and weight. Even after I left the military, I would still pack meals ready-to-eat (MREs). Later, I brought tortillas, pepperoni, cheese, nuts and dried fruit. This wouldn't need to be refrigerated for a long weekend trip. Additionally, it was calorie dense and didn't take up much space. It also provided me with all the carbs, fat, and protein that I needed. None of this needed to be heated.
    Close accordion icon

    ChecklistsOpen accordion icon
    It's easy to forget things when you're packing. That's why I like to keep a checklist for various occassions. These are just ideas to keep me from forgetting things I might need. Don't think I'm suggesting you need to bring everything I list. These are just my personal checklists.

    Day Hike

    Anywhere from a stroll in the park to a 20+ mile forced march.

    Water: This will of course vary for individuals. Better to carry more than needed if uncertain.
  • One quart for five miles or less with moderate temperatures, hiking at a comfortable pace, carrying light weight.
  • One additional quart for each additional five miles under the same conditions (e.g. two quarts for 5.1-10 miles, three quarts for 10.1-15 miles).
  • An additional quart for each of the following conditions: very hot weather (heat index 95+ degree) or carrying a good amount of gear (30+ pounds). Hence, if I am backpacking in moderate temperatures and traveling 13 miles, I would bring three quarts of water. If it is hot, I'll bring four quarts.
  • An efficient means of carrying the water.

  • Food: Another rule of thumb from me.
  • 600 calories for every two hours with moderate temperatures, hiking at a comfortable pace, carrying minimal weight.
  • Be sure to include complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat. A large percentage of the calories consumed should be in the form of complex carbohydrates. A few simple carbohydrates are fine but the bulk of the carbs should come from the complex.
  • 200 additional calories if moving at a fast pace or carrying a good amount of gear.
  • Leave bulky food with few calories at home. Instead, pack calorie-dense, low maintenance foods if space is of concern. Nuts, jerky, and trail mix are perfect for this. Tortillas are better than bagels. Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are calorie-dense, well balanced, and last for years if unopened.

  • Good footwear and socks.

    Long trousers if moving on a poorly maintained trail or going off trail.

    For cold/wet conditions, avoid cotton. Remember that your insulation is useless if it is wet unless it is neoprene or certain other synthetic materials. Similarly, while cotton is cool, it also takes a long time to dry which could make it less than ideal in hot, sweaty conditions where you want to dry off quickly.

    For wet conditions, Gore-Tex or one of the similar waterproof/breathable products is good. Various plastic-like (or otherwise unbreathable) raingear may make you sweat so much that you might just as well get wet from the rain. But in heavy rain or cold conditions, the unbreathable raingear is sometimes best. The breathable stuff loses its waterproofness once it gets old or if it isn't maintained proprerly. Be sure to care for your breathable fabric properly. See How to Take Care of Gore-Tex.

    A hat keeps the sun out of our eyes, provides sun protection to our face, and helps retain heat.

    Doctors recommend wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Don't forget the tops of your ears and the part in your hair if you don't wear a hat.

    Insect repellant.

    Gloves or mittens in cold weather. A waterproof shell with a liner works best. If these two parts are separate, then you can throw the insulation in the washing machine while preserving the durability of the shell.

    Sunglasses. Recommended on a bright day but definitely a must-have in snow country on a sunny day.

    Bandana to keep the sweat out of your eyes and to look cool (required for me but optional for everyone else).

    Snot rag (handkerchief).

    Hair ties if you have enough to tie back. Always bring a spare.


    Emergency whistle.

    Photo identification.

    Map of area you are hiking and a waterproof map case if it might rain.

    Other waterproof bags as needed.


    Notepad and pen for taking notes.

    Global Positioning System (GPS) and spare batteries. Don't let having one substitute for basic map and compass knowledge.

    Walking sticks/poles. These take some of the weight off your legs/feet and can help provide better stability.

    Keys to your car if you drove to get where you are. DON'T forget these.

    Cell/smart phone.

    First aid kit. Definitely bring this if you are leading the hike.

    Ivy Block and protective clothing if there is a chance of going off-trail.

    If you plan on doing some long distance or forced march pace hiking, bring athletic tape to cover high friction areas on your feet BEFORE they turn into blisters.

    Camera. Bring a waterproof bag/box depending on the weather conditions. Don't forget spare film and batteries too.

    Knife. The Rambo knives look cool but a good short blade will almost always be sufficient.

    Toilet paper in waterproof bag.

    Small shovel to bury your toilet paper and number two.

    Don't forget about Fido. If you have a dog, bring a water bowl, food, a leash, and whatever else you may need. Make sure the place you are hiking allows dog. Also, be sure to maintain control over your pet so he/she doesn't disturb wildlife...or become a victim.

    Trash bag(s). Don't even think of littering.

    Binoculars if you think there might be something interesting to look at from afar.

    Water shoes in case you need to cross a stream that is deeper than the tops of your boots.

    Extra shoelaces.

    Dry bag or some other large waterproof bag to keep your dry clothes dry when it rains.

    Two way radio if you're in a group.

    Keep in mind the journey home. If you're smelly, sticky, and sweaty, you may not want your skin or clothes touching your car's upholstery. Bring a clean towel and/or a change of clothes for the ride home, especially if you caught a ride with someone else. Doing so will increase your chances of being invited back. If it is a long drive, consider bringing a pillow and snacks.

    If you caught a ride with someone else, be sure to compensate them for gasoline plus a little extra for auto maintenance/repair. Or, offer to pay for their meal if stopping to dine.

    Car Camping Trip

    This assumes you will be camping a short distance from your car and hiking during the day. Plan to pack your food, trash, and toothpaste in appropriate anti-bear storage if you are in bear country. Even if you're not in bear country, it is a good idea to pack away any food since rats will go so far as to make a hole in your tent to get at any munchies. Sleep with a long sleeve shirt and long trousers during warm weather to prevent that uncomfortable sticky feeling. Don't operate zippers near an insect net. An insect net gets easily caught in and ripped by a zipper. Include everything from the Day Hike checklist above plus the following.

    Change of clothes: Check the weather and plan for at least ten degrees colder than the coldest prediction and ten degrees warmer than the hottest prediction. If there is any chance of rain or snow, expect it.
  • Shower shoes: If there is a public shower available, don't expect it to be clean.
  • Socks: Plan for one pair per day plus a backup pair if you expect damp or cold conditions.
  • Trousers: Wear one and bring another and plan to rotate them every day. If bringing shorts, make sure to have at least one pair of long trousers. If you'll be gone for more than four days, bring extra trousers or plan to do laundry.
  • Underwear: One for each day.
  • Shirts: One for each day.
  • Belt: If you're not wearing one when you leave, will you need one later?
  • Swim suit and goggles: If you plan on swimming.

  • Food and food preparation: The calorie consumption guidelines from the Day Hike checklist holds true if you are on the move but you might want regular morning and evening meals too. I won't go into details as far as what foods to bring but just keep in mind things like space, storage requirements, and preparation.
  • Utensils.
  • Cookware.
  • Stove.
  • Fuel.
  • Wind shield to prevent or minimize heat loss from your stove.
  • Something to clean your cookware and utensils.
  • Things to clean your stove.

  • Tent or covered hammock. If you are certain it will not rain, you can sleep under the stars but I recommend using or at least bringing a mosquito net.

    Tarp roof covering for the common area. This provides shade and a dry area in very light rain.

    Tent stakes.

    Hammer for tent stakes.

    Tent footprint: This is the plastic sheet that creates a waterproof barrier between the bottom of your tent and the ground. Make sure this does not extend beyond the edge of your tent. If it does, it will only draw water to rest under your tent when it rains.

    Sewing/repair kit. Keeps small problems from becoming big ones.

    Sleeping bag.

    Extra blankets if the nights will be colder than your sleeping bag rating.


    Chair. Mine is a folding tripod chair. If going ultra-light, bring a Therma-Seat cushion.

    Isomat, Therm-a-Rest, or foam cushion to place between your sleeping bag and your tent.

    Clothes line and clothes pins so you can let your clothes air/dry out.

    Laundry soap, brush, and/or coins if you plan to wash your clothes.

    Towel and washcloth, preferrably one of those ultra-light, super absorbent camp towels.

    Flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries.

    Lighter or matches.

    Firestarter to get a stubborn fire going. Dryer lint also works well if you have a lot of it.


    Light stick or at least something reflective so you can mark your tent and get back to it easily in the dark.


    Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss.

    Shaving cream and razor. Bring a fresh razor and possibly a spare if you expect to be gone for several days.

    Water bowl, tub, or collapsible tub.

    Proof of auto insurance and drivers license. On a long trip, you may be asked to drive someone else's car for awhile. Be prepared.

    Alarm clock if you're on an early morning schedule.

    Glasses, glasses case, spare contact lenses (mark left and/or right), contact lens case (mark left and/or right), and contact lens cleaning fluid. If camping someplace cold, be sure to keep solution someplace where it won't freeze. Clean and air out the case once you get home.

    Moist towelettes.

    Shampoo, conditioner, and detangling comb.

    Dirty laundry bag.

    Book to keep from getting bored.

    Earplugs, so the fellow in the next tent or those drunk college kids don't keep you awake.

    Cash and credit card in case you need supplies, gasoline, or car repairs. Bring auto club card if you have it.

    Prescription medications if you are taking any.

    Feminine hygiene stuff if applicable.


    Afterwards, be sure to air out your tent, boots, and sleeping bag when you get home.


    Be sure to let someone know where you are going, when you will return, a description of the car that takes you to your embarkation point, any special medical conditions for you and the people in your group (e.g. epileptic, asthmatic, or diabetic), and any other important information. See the Day Hike and Car Camping checklists and add the below.

    Water purifier and spare filters.


    Tie down straps and/or bungee cords.

    Parachute cord.

    Duct tape.

    Carabiners. Not sure what you might use it for but I always seem to end up using them for one thing or another.

    To reduce the weight of extra clothes, bring not more than two pairs of trousers/shorts and shirts. You can wear one pair while the other dries at night or on the outside of your pack while on the march. Trousers with zip off legs are great because they double as shorts.

    Bag for storing food, trash, toothpaste, and anything else that might attract animals when you are sleeping. Also a rope for tying it up where animals can't get it, a good distance from your tent. We call this a bear bag. When hung, it should be at least 100 feet from your campsite, high enough so a large bear standing upright can't get to it. Also, the branch should be weak enough so that it cannot support the weight of a small bear. A bear canister is also a good option.

    Signaling and survival gear if you are really out in the boondocks.

    Lightweight food. Consider how long you will be gone. See Food and Food Preparation.

    Afterwards, be sure to check your scalp and body for ticks and have someone check where you can't.

    Some people believe in bringing all kinds of backups and spare this and that. I tend of be of the view, "If you can hack it, you can pack it." So as long as you aren't slowing anyone down, then feel free to pack the kitchen sink. Things that I like to have backups/spares for are water, socks, pen, lighter, food, batteries, toilet paper, earplugs, water purifier filter, and iodine pills in case the water purifier breaks.
    Close accordion icon

    LinksOpen accordion icon
    Most of my hiking information is at Hiking Trails. The links I felt did not fit in there but were still noteworthy are shown below.


    One Day Hike: How difficult can a one day hike be? Well it can be a lot tougher than anything I've ever done. The longest hike I did is about 23 miles carrying military weapons over hilly terrain at Camp Pendleton, California. But I think this "One Day Hike" might be more challenging. Thanks to Carmen for telling me about this and keeping me humble.

    Outward Bound: This delivers high quality educational wilderness expeditions throughout the world. Their trips expose you to adventure, challenge, and the thrill of the unknown - a chance to get out on your own and taste what it feels like to be alive.

    REI Adventures: Hike, cycle, paddle, trek, climb, cruise.


    Bears Den Trail Center: This is a hostel in Northern Virginia.

    Maryland Campgrounds and RV Parks

    Equipment Retail

    Adventure Medical Kits

    Back Country Gear

    Backpacker's Pantry

    Brigade Quartermasters

    Bug Baffler: Insect protective clothing.


    Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS)

    Enertia Trail Foods

    Eureka Tents


    Gregory Packs

    Hilleberg Tents

    Katadyn: Water purifiers

    Long Life Food Depot: Lets you pick your favorite MREs when ordering

    Mountain Sports

    Recreational Equipment, Incorporated (REI)

    Rite in the Rain: All weather writing paper.

    Western Mountaineering


    East Coast Greenway Alliance: The East Coast Greenway connects 15 states and 450 cities and towns for 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.

    Food Storage Chart: So you'll know how long food will last out on the trail.

    Leave No Trace

    Live Once Live Wild: Outstanding natural areas in the United States worth visiting.

    Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Information Center

    Mid-Atlantic Hikes - Forums: This is Mike J.'s forums page where you can post hike related information or ask question.

    Mid-Atlantic Hikes - Trail's End Restaurants: Recommended restaurants for after the trip.

    Unit Conversion

    Wilderness First Aid Classes

    More Trails

    This section lists trails not at Hiking Trails.

    AllTrails: This is my favorite source for hiking trails.

    American Discovery Trail

    Columbia Association (CA), Maryland - Pathways

    Garrett Trails: Trails in Garrett County, Maryland.

    Hiking Upward

    Howard County Recreation and Parks - Parks, Playgrounds, and Trails

    Mid-Atlantic Hikes: Mike J.'s web page; links to local hikes. In my opinion, this is the most valuable hiking resource for anyone that lives in the mid-Atlantic region.

    North Country Trail Association

    Tahoe Rim Trail

    Non-Local Outdoor Clubs/Organizations

    American Hiking Society: The national voice for America's hikers.

    National Park Foundation

    Pacific Crest Trail Association

    Outdoor Clubs in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Area

    Appalachian Mountain Club

    Capital Hiking Club

    Columbia Ski Club: They do some hiking, biking, and other activities in addition to skiing

    Mid-Atlantic Hiking (Meetup) Group

    Mountain Club of Maryland

    Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC)

    Quantico Orienteering Club

    Sierra Club - Maryland Chapter
    Close accordion icon