Monthly Archives: April 2017

Key Hiking & Backpacking

There is nothing quite like the thrill and adventure of the great outdoors. The growth in adventure and eco tourism offers new possibilities for hikers and backpackers to experience nature – and with the latest developments in hiking equipment, the experience is even easier.

For the novice hiker, we offer the following 9 tips to be considered before you travel.

1. Invest in equipment

Investing in the right equipment will increase the comfort and enjoyment of your hiking experience.

Backpacks: invest in high quality, internal frame backpacks suitable for your body size and shape. These will last longer, are lighter, offer better ventilation and will distribute the weight of your pack more evenly. A specialist retailer such as Cotswold Outdoor should be able to demonstrate how to pack, strap and adjust your backpack for maximum comfort.

Shoes: hiking shoes will offer greater comfort than your normal sneakers, especially hiking boots with ankle support to prevent your ankle from twisting on uneven surfaces. Your feet expand a little after hours of walking, so we recommend you try on shoes in the afternoon and wear thick hiking socks as you would normally wear. Choose styles made of breathable, waterproof materials.

Gear: Your hiking shop is a treasure trove of useful items. Must-haves includes: quick-dry, ultra light towels; headlamps (much better than torches as you can keep your hands free when hiking at night); ultra light sleeping bags; base layers; a rain cover; compass; sunscreen; First Aid kit; Swiss Army knife; drink bottles; rip-stop nylon tape. You can do your research and shop online through Cotswold Outdoor.

2. Pack carefully

The key word for packing is ‘multi-purpose’. Choose items that serve different functions and remove duplication, for example: your Swiss Army knife and an additional ‘spork’ (combined spoon and fork utensil available from Cotswold Outdoor) make up your cutlery set so no need to pack an additional knife for your evening meal; your quick-dry towel can also serve as a pillow, etc. Pack the items which will be used the least at the bottom of your pack and those used more frequently at the top for easy access.

3. Plan your trip

Making decisions on the hop can add excitement to the adventure for some, but in most cases careful planning will avoid frustrations. Map your route and plot in suitable rest stops. Research where you can buy food and drinks along the way to reduce the amount you pack. Plan your meals and snacks so you purchased what you need to stave off hunger. Make a contingency plan, just in case. If traveling through different countries ensure you have local currency in small denominations. Take photocopies of your passport with you, and be sure to have travel insurance.

4. Get ‘trip fit’

With hiking, white water rafting, abseiling and rock climbing on offer, it’s tempting for the intrepid traveler to be too ambitious. Start increasing your aerobic fitness prior to departure with cycling, jogging and walking to improve your stamina.

5. Look after your nutritional needs

Complex carbohydrates (wholegrains) will provide you with the energy you need. Consider dried fruits which contain the same nutrients as fresh fruit but are lighter and take up less space. Energy is released from Low GI (glycemic index) foods slower than high GI foods, so choose low GI foods to keep you fuelled for longer. These include nuts, certain cereals, most fruits, most vegetables, legumes and yoghurt. Keep hydrated with lots of water.

6. Communicate

Communicate your plans to friends and family and provide them with your itinerary. Touch base regular so they can track your movements. Register with LOCATE, the advisory branch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Advise LOCATE of your travel plans and they will know how to reach you in emergencies and inform you of travel warnings before you depart.

7. Learn local cultures and laws

The treatment you receive in different countries depends on the respect you show for local customs and laws. Be mindful of appropriate clothing, drinking in public and local law.

8. Be environmentally friendly

The views and scenery when hiking and backpacking can be spectacular – don’t ruin the experience for others by leaving your rubbish behind.

9. Have fun

If you’ve invested in the right equipment, planned appropriately and done your research you have maximized your opportunity to have fun. Capture it all on camera and be the envy of everyone you know.

Hiking & Backpacking Tips

Pack and Equipment

There are two basic pack types, internal and external frame.

The internal frame pack has superseded the external frame as the most popular type, though both have their pros and cons.

One of the advantages of the internal frame is that it is less prone to “snagging” if you are hiking through
heavily vegetated areas. It will also tend to sit more comfortably on your back as it is more form fitting than the external frame type and will make for better balance. Being closer fitting, this of course will trap more body heat, which often is not a bad thing.

The external frame packs are wider and therefore easier to load gear into and then to access it.

They will also sit ‘cooler’ on your back.

Don’t haul unnecessary gear. Go through each piece of your equipment and clothing before you start
and determine whether it is really necessary or whether another item you are carrying can double for
both tasks. e.g., one pot, cup, and a spoon should cover all your culinary needs. Clothing can double as
a pillow etc.

Consider the use of dehydrated type foods as they will save a lot of weight. Bear in
mind though, that they will require a water source to prepare them.

Lining your pack with a large plastic rubbish bin bag is a cheap and efficient way to help keep the
contents dry. Pack covers have limited success in heavy rainfall, none in river crossings, and are an
extra piece of gear that you have to haul.

As a general rule, load your pack with the heaviest items towards the top and close to your back.
This will lift the weight higher on your back making for an easier load to balance and carry.

Make sure that any items that may be needed in a hurry (heavy weather clothing, gloves, med kit,
etc.) are easily accessible and not buried in your pack.

The weight from a heavily loaded pack can sometimes cause the adjustment of the shoulder straps
to continuously “slip”, dropping the pack down your back – consider adding small strips of
hook & loop (velcro) tape to the ends of the straps and to a fixed non moving part of your pack,
(e.g., waist belt or standing part of the strap) so that the ends of the straps can be easily “locked”
down holding them in the desired position.

Plastic soft drink bottles (Coke etc.) make excellent water bottles. They are cheap, extremely
strong and almost weightless.
When empty they can be flattened to take up less pack space – blowing into them will return
them to normal shape.

An accessible way to carry a full 2 litre bottle, is to loop a cord noose around its neck, attaching
the other end of the cord to one side of the pack and running it across the top of the pack with the
bottle hanging on the opposite side. The bottle is then secured from “swinging” by a collar of
hook & loop (velcro) tape that is attached to the pack and secured around the lower part of the bottle.

Fire Lighting

It’s good practice to carry an easy means of cooking, such as a light camping stove along with fuel
and source of ignition. This way you are not dependent on weather conditions and availability of
natural fuel. However, there may be times when you have to build a fire from available material.
There are several methods and means of starting fire, amongst them friction methods, but they all
require time, a degree of skill and correct materials. However, here are a few easy ‘sure fire’ methods
of getting results…

Carry a few rubber bands cut from old bicycle inner tubes. These can act as “fire lighters” if
kindling is scarce or is wet. They will burn for some time and can also double as ‘elastic bands’ if

Cotton balls impregnated with petroleum jelly also make good fire starters.

Carry matches, along with a strip of abrasive in a waterproof tubular plastic film canister.

Carry a candle stub – this will save matches and will burn for longer.

A small magnifying glass can be used for igniting tinder on sunny days.

Waterproof matches can be bought, or you can make your own by sealing conventional matches in
layers of wax, in effect making miniature candles that will be waterproofed and also burn

Small gas lighters are convenient and the spark from them may be of use even when empty of gas.

Always strike your match in cupped hands, facing into the wind and with the head of the match in
a downward position.

Light your kindling on the windward side so that the flame is blown into the material.

Before starting your fire, gather and prepare enough fuel to keep it going.

If there is no small kindling available, kindling can be made by shaving a larger piece of timber
or stick. i.e., use your knife to slice a series of small thin “wings” on the surface of a larger stick.
The thinner “wings” will ignite easier and in turn ignite the larger body of the stick. This can be
helpful if the available wood is a bit damp or too large for using as kindling.

Make sure your fire gets sufficient oxygen by not building it too densely.

One method is to build a small platform of twigs an inch or so above the ground, supported at the
edges. Load the platform with tinder material (pine needles, smaller twigs, dry moss) then build a
pyramid or tepee of kindling sticks over and around this.
Once the fire is established, larger fuel can be added.


Lightweight “layers” that can be removed or added to is the best method – along with a good wind/rain
outer garment shell, preferably of breathable material.

Avoid cotton clothing. It will dry slowly and will be cold and heavier if worn when wet – use synthetic
materials such as polyprop or its equivalent. These are light, warm when wet and dry out rapidly. The
only cotton you may want to carry is maybe a light long sleeved shirt for sun protection. This applies to
jeans material as well, there are better alternatives. (long pants made from quick drying material, or
hiking shorts)

Headgear. This is necessary for sun protection and also for insulation in cold weather – the
majority of body heat is lost through the head and neck areas. Carry separate headgear for differing
conditions – a brimmed hat for sun protection and beanie/balaclava for cold weather insulation.


Make or type will vary with individuals preferences and intentions.

For extended trips carrying a heavy pack consider a leather boot such as produced by Asolo, Garmont etc. These will give the desired support and will also stand the rigours of being submerged in river crossings, or the attachment of crampons if ever needed.

Care should be taken to get the correct fit. Unfortunately, the only foolproof method of knowing you
have a correct fit is to hike in them!
However, the following points may help in selecting and using your footwear…

When selecting your boot, always wear the socks that you will be hiking in. Tap your foot
forward in the unlaced boot and you should be able to easily get a finger down between the back
of your foot and the boot. This will indicate the space you will have between the end of your toes
and the front of the boot.

Take out the boot’s insert, place the insert on the floor and stand on it – this will give you a good
visual on how your foot fits inside the boot. Remember, your foot will spread and expand when
you are hiking and carrying any weight.

Lace the boot up and walk around in it – some stores have an inclined area to see how the boot feels.
There should be no undue movement around the heel area, but the boot should also not feel as if it is
cramping the foot anywhere, particularly in the toe area.
Take into account that there will be a certain amount of “give” in leather.

As a general rule, you will want your boots at least one size bigger than your normal “town” shoes.

Always take care of your boots with a good application of protectant before and after a hike.
When they get wet, let them dry out naturally and they should last you for many miles.

Many prefer to wear two pairs of socks. A thin inner pair of synthetic material that will wick
moisture away from the foot and an outer thick hiking sock. This double sock method will help in
preventing blisters, as any foot slide will be more protected.

Flipflops make good camp footwear. They are cheap, extremely light and will allow your feet to air at the end of a day.


It is always a good idea to carry a compass and a map of the area you are entering and also to learn how to use them.

A GPS is an excellent aid to navigation especially if going off trail, but it should be looked upon as an aid – equipment that relies on electricity is always open to battery or component failure, and in the case of a GPS, also an inability to receive a signal due to terrain features or overhead tree canopy.

If you lose or damage your compass, you can use your watch to get a good indication of direction.

If in the Northern hemisphere, point the hour hand of your watch at the sun and exactly halfway between the hour hand and the numeral twelve on your watch will be South.

(Use your imagination to superimpose the numerals on the face of your watch if you are using a digital watch!)

If in the Southern hemisphere, point the numeral twelve of your watch at the sun and exactly halfway between the twelve and the hour hand will be North.

To travel in a straight line, sight an object on the bearing you wish to travel (tree, rock, terrain feature) and then head towards it. When you reach it, repeat the process on another object. This will prevent you tending to circle off course.

Lastly, whether hiking in company or hiking solo, always advise someone who cares, of what your intended movements are and when you intend to be back out.

More Than Just Hiking Backpacks

Known as versatile, durable, and very well made, Osprey Rucksacks are top of the line. Their most popular rucksacks are those designed for hiking and mountaineering, but they also make rucksacks for traveling, commuting, and for a day on the town. Outlined here are a few of the less popular, but just as high quality, Osprey rucksacks.

Travel rucksacks with wheels: The Shuttle, Vector, Meridian, and Sojourn series of rucksacks contain both convertible rucksacks and simple wheeled rucksacks. There are smaller bags that can be carried on as well as larger bags. Just a few of the features that make these bags great are high clearance bases, ergonomic pull handles, day pack attachment points, business card holders, stowable hip belt and harness, and compression straps. For every traveler these bags offer durability and comfort.

Travel Trekking rucksacks: A melding of Osprey’s backpacking suspension systems and travel friendly features, these packs are perfect for those needing to carry their luggage a lot. Just some of their great features are detachable day packs that can also be attached to the front of the harness, gear attachment systems, adjustable and gender specific harnesses, and compression straps.

Commuting rucksacks: Osprey has designed packs for bike commuting and for urban commuting. You can find them in the Momentum and Metron series. The bike commuting rucksacks feature an expansion zipper for extra capacity, a bike helmet and blinker light attachment points, an integrated rain cover, a laptop sleeve and a cell phone pocket on the shoulder strap. The urban commuting series includes a laptop and file sleeve, blinker and helmet attachment points, compression straps, a system for carrying a U-lock, and an integrated rain cover.

Flap style backpacks and courier rucksacks: The Flap Jack and Flap Jill series offer stylish bags that are suitable for a day on the town. Some of their great features include a padded laptop sleeve, weatherproof drawstring closure, blinker patch, and earbud wire routers on the harness. These packs are for the style conscious and have interchangeable webbing to customize the look of the bag.

Rucksacks made with recycled material: Osprey has been committed to sustainability since its inception, and they have a line of packs that show that commitment called the ReSource series. These over the shoulder packs are made with a majority of recycled materials. They come in several sizes and colors and feature removable hip straps, cell phone pockets, laptop sleeves, and MP3 pockets.

Osprey has a diverse range of rucksacks for every need. They are durable and have Osprey’s high quality workmanship and lifetime guarantee. Regardless of if you need a pack to use while riding your bike to work or a pack to use while traveling the world, an Osprey rucksack will suit just fine.