Waist to Neck: 10 Tips You Need to Know for Hiking Equipment

Here is the follow up on our previous article, regarding hiking equipment advisory for all amateur hikers out there.

Do believe us… The first time you will find yourself dressed up properly for hiking, you will experience the difference during your walk.

As we said already, our torso is the part of our body that doesn’t constantly move, i.e. like our feet do. However, our torso usually carries something (from kids to backpacks) so it gets hot too.

Our advise here are is not “medical” related but comes from our hiking experience, plus through discussions with other experienced hikers. The whole purpose is to know what to wear/have during hiking in order no to get sick, while having fun at the same time.

Let’s start!

1. Dressed like an onion?

If your mom ever told you something like that, time to think it over. In hiking, being dressed like that is the secret to success. You may have heard it as the “layers”. The whole point is to be dressed in a way to be able to remove/add clothes depending on the temperature and the effort you apply.

So, if you get cold you wear some, which you will remove when you get hot. In that way, your temperature will stay relatively stable, while reducing excess sweating. You need that balance in order not to lose energy and lots of water. Clothing, along, with the weight you carry needs to balanced too.

Do not just wear 1 or 2 heavy sweaters or jackets as you will experience heavy discomfort.

2. Wear a t-shirt

Actually you must not wear a t-shirt but what is called as a base-layer. Such clothing has a dual role. It will get you warm in winter, while in summer it allows the sweat not to be trapped between the cloth and your skin.

That is why we must not wear cotton based layers, which get really soaked and trap water on your skin, while they do not dry up fast enough. Wearing cotton clothing may end up like wearing a wet towel after a while.

Trapped sweat will lead to catching a cold, when breeze blows. So, keep it out.

Such layers dry very fast, so they are suitable for other trips too. They can be washed and in a couple of hours, they are ready to wear them again.

There are isotherm cloths based on polyester, and some are knitted with elastic fibers to stretch better, or even with wool.

3. Short sleeves or not?

A long sleeve jersey or shirt will be very helpful in hiking. It is better to ask someone at the store for the best possible option since there are specialized hiking shirts that let your body breath.

However, we suggest wearing something with long sleeves because:

  • You get protected from insects bites and any scratches from plants and branches
  • They protect you from both the sun rays and cold

Of course such clothing is usually very stylish and you can wear them in many other cases too.

4. Boing-Boing Ouch!

With such a funny title we refer to Sports Bra. We are sorry for the metaphor but we thought to express it in the way many female hikers feel when they wear an improper bra.

All the jumping up and down, walking or running downhill carries the action on the muscular system and protruding parts of the body. It will get painful after many hours.

So, wear a sports bra. You do want all your body elements to be stable and on place after i.e. hiking for 5 or 6 hours.

Wearing such will also prevent you from scratches and irritations from a regular bra, plus you will sweat less at the covered area.

For all ladies that wear a big size bra, it will help them to avoid back pain. Better avoid the t-shirt/jersey bra’s as they are usually not so efficient.

5. What about Fleece jackets or mid-layers?

We do love that material. Its very lightweight and warm at the same time. We wear it all the time, even if not hiking.

Combine it with a long sleeve or isotherm clothing and you have a very comfortable set of layers for hiking.

Apart from fleece jackets there are soft shell ones, made from durable material and breathable.

6. The Jacket

Here things get a bit more complex. In case you want to go for climbing apart from hiking, it gets even more complicated.  Choosing the right jacket is like choosing a backpack. It needs some thorough research.

The thing is that rarely a jacket will be suitable for all kinds of weather. There is a huge variety when it comes to materials, weight, cost, usage, etc.

Here are some data to help you out.

There are those that are called as “membranes” or/and windbreakers, but in heavy weather they are useless most of the times. This as, they are usually tight and you can’t wear something warmer under them, i.e. a fleece jacket.

There are the vest type ones, either with sleeves or detachable sleeves. They are very convenient, ανδ along with a long sleeve since you avoid increased heat through your arms when you don’t need such. At the same time they protect your exposed chest and belly. Those 2 are not moving during a hiking so they are getting cold fast.

There are vests with extra insulation, super lightweight and filled with down/feathers.

Τhere are more technical ones. Some have a detachable layer (fleece or other). These are very convenient but depending on the jacket, that 2nd layer usually comes with shorter sleeves that end just before the jacket sleeves. So, you cannot wear the internal layer alone with such short sleeves, as it will look like a couple of sizes short.

A very important factor to all jackets is the ability of the jacket to allow your torso to “breath”. This, sometimes, raises the cost of the jacket, yet is is a very important element.

The reason? Your sweat creates humidity inside your body. With all the layers this humidity is trapped between your mid layers and jacket. A jacket that has openings (with zippers) at your armpits and front, allows natural ventilation. So, you sweat less and you feel warmer.

To all the above you need to decide on how water proof you want it to be. Do not try to get one and make it such with some water proof spray. It doesn’t work and soon you will ruin your jacket.

Check your budget for selecting the proper jacket. If you can, buy one with “ventilation” and detachable layers. These are money well spent.

7. Palms under your arm pits?

No. Try to walk like that in order to keep your hands warm and you will end up flat on the road.

Better, get a good pair of gloves. Do not choose “fancy”, leather ones. You need to wear ones with good insulation. You may need to grab or push something that is cold, along your hiking.

There is a small range of gloves to choose from. They need to be as water proof as possible and must be easy to wear them on and off. Your fingers need to fit well inside them; not too tight or too loose.

A good choice (especially for cold weather) are the ones with fleece insulation or some wool ones, but usually wool is not so water proof.

Some gloves even have some openings at the tips of your finger, in case you need to handle some device, but this is tricky when it gets cold or wet.

8. Umbrella during hiking? No.

You may think that you are tough and “some rain” means nothing to you.

But -as said- you also want to be comfortable. If you hike for long and it gets rainy then you will need extra effort to walk while getting soaked, even with water proof clothing (water proof pants will create extreme heat). The energy loss will be tremendous and you don’t want that.

You don’t want your backpack getting wet too.

An umbrella is not good to have since it will occupy one of your hands and you need both.

So, you have 2 choices.

The first is a backpack cover which covers it all except the part that touches your back (yet, water like run through that area) or one that is like a reverse pouch.

The second option is a water proof poncho. Easy to wear and remove, covers everything. You may look like a walking tent but you will be comfortable and wet.

Along with a pair of spats and proper shoes you will have 95% of your whole body protected.

When rain stops, you just remove it and place it at the external bottom pocket of your backpack and that is all.

9. Do I wear a neck scarf?

Well, not exactly. A wool one will get you really hot, really fast.

Better to buy a tube one. These are like a… long tube with a coated end. These things can turn to scarf or even a head band, depending on how you want to use it.

A variation of them are the short ones, usually made from thin fleece, suitable for very cold weather.

Choose such when it is too cold, as wind will find its way in the top of your jacket, directly against your neck.

10. Fine, but how to carry all these?

And here we come to your backpack. This varies depending on the kind of mountain or trekking activity you want to do. There are specialized ones even for rock climbing.

Rarely, you will have one for all cases. They come from lightweight versions (i.e. of the Camelbak type) to plain ones, and they rise to very technical ones for mountain climbing and such.

While many think of a backpack as… just a backpack it is far from that. Actually, it is a tool and someone needs to learn how to use it and even how to wear it properly.

If you wear it properly it will help you out. If not, it will bring many issues and pains.

For example, a good backpack must allow your back to breath. A backpack must sit properly on your shoulders, but especially to your waist since that is the area that carries the backpack. Many think that your shoulders do that, but that is wrong.

A backpack is chosen according to your torso length. It must have different ways to be adjusted on your body, so it becomes one with it and can contain your hiking equipment.

Since, in this article, we write mostly for the amateur hiker, we will present the elements to know for choosing a backpack for such.

Do not buy a backpack and then try to figure out how to fit and squeeze all the things you want to carry. It is the other way around. You need to think what you will carry and then buy the proper backpack. In fact, you must decide what you want to carry for single or multi day excursions.

So, there we have the term of “liters”. These are the numbers you see on different backpacks. These define their capacity.

If you are an amateur hiker then 1 or 2 different types of backpacks will be fine for you.

Let’s see some of their characteristics:

  • Support frame: There are ones with external and internal support frames, even with detachable frames. The ones with a frame are lighter, for short and simple hiking routes. The detachable ones are easier to wash.
  • Ventilation: Their back part is made of a special frame and in a special manner which allows air to get through. Some even have “chimneys” for the same reason.
  • Accessibility: This has to do with the various external pockets and openings and their easiness to be accessed. Some, even have zippers at their sides so you can access the interior without opening the top hatch.
  • “Pockets”: There are ones with external pockets on the backpack body, pockets on the belts that fit in your waist, even pockets and sleeves to strap your snow shovel.
  • Hatches (top area): Some have a dual hatch, where the top one is removed and the interior one seals with a cord.
  • Low back area: Some have an extra “pillow” there, to reduce pressure during walking.
  • Nooses and nets: These are used to hang things and be flexible to access them. There are ones with nooses to strap on your walking batons too.
  • Bottle pocket. This is used for the Camelbak set.

Finally, here are 2 very important elements to help you out with choosing the proper one for your body.

  • Check to see if the backpack fits for the length of your torso. See the numbers that are mentioned on the backpack. We usually measure the proper length starting from the top of the shoulders down to the upper hip area.
  • 80% of your weight relies on your hips/waist. Your backpack belt must fit there and allow for proper holding. Especially women must make sure this applies.

On top of all these there are the basic hydration backpacks. Very lightweight, with narrow back and they can contain a big bottle of water along with some basic stuff (wallet, phone, some snacks). If your route doesn’t need any other equipment then these are extremely comfortable.

So, along with this article and our previous one regarding hiking equipment from feet to waist, you do have a pretty good idea on what to choose. More will follow.

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Have fun and do share this with your friends.

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