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I am going to hike the first half of Shenandoah National Park in April. I have only done small hikes, and never camped where I didn't have access to a car. I have some help, but need advice about what I should pack (and what I shouldn't). Any help is appreciated.
WB is a good place to be. Check out the articles and threads on gear, etc. by doing searches. Also threads here about hiking Shenandoah as well which is great in April. Hopefully you have most of your gear already? You will need a 20-25 degree bag still.
One thing undervalued by many car campers is a good pad (if you use a tent) under your sleeping bag. Comfortable pads are thicker than lighter pads which have less insulation and therefore aren't as comfortable (or heavy). Most people can sleep on a 1" self inflator. Some people prefer thicker, and the lightweight crowd that doesn't mind a little discomfort usually use a closed cell foam (non inflatable) pad. Air mattresses don't have any insulation in them and tend to be cold when the air temperature drops much below 50 degrees, more or less, depending upon the individual's metabolism.
The most important item for hiking is comfortable shoes. In SNP you could get by with running shoes or trail runners. The shoes must fit snugly and still be comfortable. Use wool or synthetic socks as cotton socks get cold when they're wet. Find the right socks first (I like Smartwool, myself) then go looking for the shoes while wearing the socks. Shop at a hiking store, not a one-sport-fits-all outlet store.
The second most important piece of gear is your pack. It must be sized to carry all the gear and food you'll need, but it must, first and foremost, be comfortable.
If you have your eye on any particular piece of gear, list it here, and you'll get a good number of opinions on it. There is too much to learn about hiking from the ground up to answer in a single post, and I just thought I might give you some food for thought.
'scuse me. "In my opinion...no cotton." :)
Check out the "articles" section. Plenty of good advice there.
its fun to stay at the YMCA! wool
The most important thing is clothing. What I do is consider the worst conditions you might possible get, perhaps heavy rain or freezing rain, followed by freezing temperatures. You want a clothing system that will keep you warm for days, even if your just sitting around, is manageable in terms of getting wet and getting it dry again, and is also flexible enough to be delayered for more normal conditions and higher levels of activity. One set of clothing is sufficient if its the right stuff, as will rarely be wearing all of it at once. Extra socks are good, but too much extra stuff becomes more of a liability as it becomes harder to find a place for everything and keep everything dry. In general, what works for me is to wear a wool sweater and shorts most of the time, and to add a base layer, fleece layer, wind shell, and rain shell as needed. Head and hand layers need to be covered also, and one of the shells should include a hood, and one of the insulation layers should have deep pockets or a pouch. Once you figure out a good clothing system, you will not have so much anxiety about all the other stuff, and everything will be more fun. Long day hikes and picnics in miserable weather are a good way to develop your clothing system. Have fun with that. ;)
I am thinking of doing the same, but in the fall months.. any I should choose from October to December? Historical weather data can only take anyone so far. And yes :) I am searching the forums
I wrote this article for the beginner in mind. Mainly for Colorado, but it can apply easily enough to any beginners trip: