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Issue Date: July 2010 Issue

Suit Yourself

Whether you're taking an afternoon hike or spending serious time in the woods, the right gear is essential.
Amber Matheson
An afternoon of tiptoeing through the tulips can easily turn into weekend-warrior camping at its finest. Of course, that is, if you go all Boy Scout and properly prepare. Chris Potonic, manager of The Backpackers Shop in Sheffield Village, knows what it takes. Here's what you need for your quality time with Mother Nature.
Afternoon Hike
What You Need:
1. Mountain Hardwear Wicked T-shirt, $30
2. Osprey hydration backpack, $79-$139
3. Keen sandals, $95
4. LEKI trekking poles, $64.95-$119
5. The North Face pants, $65
Day hikes require little beyond sturdy footwear, a small backpack and plenty of water. Schlepping water bottles is passé — new packs have space for a water bladder, so you can slake your thirst with a turn of your head. "Because you're drinking more frequently, you're staying hydrated and you don't have to go to the bathroom [as often]," Potonic says. The numbers on the front of the backpack designate the liters it holds. A 10- to 14-liter pack is a good choice. Potonic recommends Keen Sandals because they're breathable but have a hard toe like a boot. But his secret weapon is a trekking pole. "People don't realize how much they actually relieve the knees and back over [a longer] distance," he says. "It's spreading out the pressure."

Overnight Hike
What You Need:
Keep the threads and poles; then upgrade to ...

1. Mountain Hardwear two-person tent, $165
2. Osprey 60-liter backpack, $229
3. Mountain Hardwear Lamina sleeping bag, $110-$165
4. Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp, $28
5. Marmot PreCip rain jacket, $99
6. Therm-a-Rest ProLite mattress, $89-$99

Turn your excursion into an overnighter and you'll need more stuff, and more room. Look for a 60-liter backpack with hip belt that goes around your waist and — if you're traveling with a buddy — plan to spend $165-$250 on a quality two-person tent that won't take up too much space in your pack or weigh you down. A headlamp is also a no-brainer. "You're hands free," Potonic explains. "The old days of putting a flashlight in your mouth and trying to do things are pretty much gone." A rain jacket is also a necessity. (It's Ohio, people.) A sleeping bag rated to 35 degrees Fahrenheit will give you the most versatility, and as every seasoned camper will tell you, buy the mattress. Yes, they're expensive. So are ruined outings.
Weekend Warrior Hike
What You Need:
Take what you've assembled, but with some swaps ...

1. MSR one-person Hubba tent, $279
2. Asolo hiking boots, $200
3. Smart Wool hiking socks, $12.95-$19.95
4. Jetboil outdoor stove, $99 plus fuel ($5.99 per canister)
5. Grand Trunk hammock, $49.99

Weekend warriors do it all, from pounding out mile after mile on the trail to cooking meals to setting up and breaking down camp. For you, the one-person tent is key. You'll be self-sufficient and snug, and the MSR Hubba is lightweight. You'll need hiking boots that support your ankles and merino wool socks that don't itch. And because every camp needs a little luxury, bring a nylon hammock. "It's not a necessity, but they are awesome," Potonic says. "Hang it between two trees on a gorgeous night, and it's just a very comfortable way to get off your feet." We agree, Chris, we heartily agree. 

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