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Packing Tips for Hiking Vacations

Want to challenge your spirit, body and mind in countless ways? Strap on those hiking shoes. In the United States, completing the almost 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail as a "thru-hiker" is a coveted accomplishment. Of the thousands of hikers who attempt to complete the epic journey in one continuous trip, only about 25 percent are successful, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

To prepare for longer hiking ventures, some people combine vacation time and volunteer opportunities. Choosing a travel adventure with a professional tour operator such as REI gives vacation travelers the best of both worlds. REI offers more than 150 vacation packages scattered on every continent. They also partner with non-profits to protect and preserve the natural environment, according to company officials.
Whether you want to go backpacking across Europe, climb the Himalayas, or even visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a few pointers on packing might help.

Pack Lightly

This one rule can’t be stated enough. Experienced backpackers will tell you if you over-pack, you will end up losing, tossing, or giving away your extras. Even when it comes to first aid items, veteran backpackers admit they brought too much on their first trips, according to StartBackpacking.com. You can find a great list of what first aid items to pack for international trips on their website.

Clothing

In general, unless you are staying at a hotel and just taking day trips out and back each day, two changes of clothes—the one you are wearing and a replacement set—are sufficient. Wear one set while the other is drying. Some group leaders who take college kids on volunteer events suggest you employee "the wear and toss rule" with socks and underwear.

This rule of thumb means every time you change clothes, you toss the worn socks and underwear, lightening your load as the trip progresses. Pack items nearing their replacement date. You can always replace those Nike Dri-FIT running socks and get your replacement panties at yumdrop.com when you return. The rationale is that on rainy humid days, your socks won’t dry, and there is nothing as uncomfortable as wearing wet socks and shoes.

Shoes

This one is simple. Darkly colored, heavy-duty, high-quality shoes that support your feet on long treks are vital. You could toss in a cheap pair of flip-flops for lounging around after hiking all day.

Jewelry

Leave everything at home except the wedding band. Some women even choose to wear a cheap alternative instead of their cherished rings. That choice is purely personal.

Bathing Articles

Bring disposable razors or a refillable version. A multi-purpose soap that can serve as shampoo, body wash, laundry, and dish soap is advisable over four different products. Choose something that has zero color or fragrance added. A small compact mirror is helpful for checking your face and hair in the morning and after you exit the shower—or river, as it may be. Definitely use spray deodorant compared to a stick version that will melt.

This is a getting-started-list. Before embarking on an extended hiking expedition, you should check with your tour guide. If you are taking a self-guided journey, ask the manager where you buy your camping gear for recommendations. Some stores have a preprinted list for new adventurers.
What hiking packing tips do you have? Share them in the comments.
Cover photo from Flickr user kcxd.

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