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Resources for Beginning Hiking/Backpacking

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  • Resources for Beginning Hiking/Backpacking

    Hey guys,

    I have had the VFF KSOs for about 7 months now and have used them for sprints, lifting and general exercise. I also wear them in place of conventional shoes most of the time and feel like I am used to them completely now. I will be picking up the Treks soon (stepping on rocks/pebbles with the regular KSO can be annoying) and want to start hiking soon and possibly backpacking sometime in the future as well.

    I found a trail only a couple miles away, which is 5.5 miles long and mostly open plains without much steepness. Seems like a good, safe starting place.

    I would like to use this eventually for sprints/runs and other exercises also. I generally want to spend more time outside and visit a few interesting places along the way.

    Any help with any of the following questions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. How is this for a 1st hiking trip? (The one listed above)

    2. What are good websites for some basic info (what to pack, how to use first aid and other vital info)?

    3. What should I be looking for in terms of gear? What is the Primal community's preference for backpacks, clothing etc? I will be using Treks for my feet. For backpacks, I would just need something for water, food and smaller items. I will not need one for sleeping bags, extra clothes or cooking gear right now.

    4. Would fisherman pants be good for hiking? Should I wear something more conventional? The weather is going to be warm with very little rain most of the time.

    5. I live in the in the SF Bay Area (Hayward, 94544). Are there any resources nearby that might be useful (stores, other easy - mod trails)?

    6. I will most likely be going to Grad school starting next Sept, most likely choices are UC Davis and U of Alabama right now. Are those good areas (Sacramento/Davis and Tuscaloosa) for hiking/BPing?

    Thank you,


  • #2

    I really like the platypus water bottles and I have an Osprey Talon 11 that I really like. Its for light backpacking and really can hold everything I would need for a full day. As for pants anything that is convertible and breathable is the way to go. Mine can be pants, cropped or zipped off into shorts.

    Life on Earth may be punishing, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun!


    • #3

      That backpack looks perfect for my needs right now. The price seems to be the same at all online places, should I just use one of the official sellers if I choose to buy one?

      Any chance it will be cheaper in a B&M store?

      I have a couple of Camelbaks that are also BPA free, and I think I will use those for starters. I like the versatility of the platypus water bottles though and it looks like it would lower the weight for longer/bigger trips. I'll pick them up down the line but not a priority now.

      Any particular brands that you prefer for cropped/adjustable pants?


      • #4

        Yeah I love it. Its pretty small but eally can hold A LOT. I took it on my day trips through the (DEEP) Ecuadorian Amazon. I think I paid about 80 for mine, I did some looking around though and I think I got a special or something. Mine is lime green which it doesnt look like the offer anymoe... bummer! For pants I have The North Face and those were awesome in the 99% humidity! gId=10201&langId=-1&from=subCat&parent_category_rn=11721&variationId =001

        These are obv womens pants but its what I have! I believe I had to get a size larger than my normal size so keep that in mind.

        Oh and as as far as first aid kits go I would def include the stuff in the links below as well as: iodine for injuries as well as potable aqua (for longer trips), mylar blanket, whistle (keep this ON YOUR PERSON, not in the pack), H2O proof matches, flashlight/flare, TP (lol), cortisone... thats all i can remember tight now that is really important. Also, The best bug deterrent is def Ultrathon.

        Life on Earth may be punishing, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun!


        • #5

          For the trail you listed you really don't need anything. Bring some water and dress for whatever the current weather is when you leave. You'll never be far enough from the trailhead to worry about it. Try to make this as simple as possible. I hike or singlespeed mountain bike almost every day in the woods and unless you're going significantly longer than this you don't need any stuff. After you do it for a while this will seem like a very easy hike.

          bruce b.


          • #6


            I believe you are right that this should be a relatively easy trail for even a beginner. I plan on purchasing the items mentioned in this thread over the next few weeks as I read up more about hiking and backpacking but I will attempt the trail later this week. I should be able to get accustomed to it in a few completions. It is good to know that it is considered easy by someone who is more experienced.

            Tara tootie,

            Those pants look and sound familiar to a pair of underarmour shorts that I own and I can understand their usefulness. Although this seems more suitable for hiking. They do have these for men and they are the same price!

            Green is actually my favorite color but those other ones are decent. I think $90 for this type of pack is reasonable but I will look around slickdeals in case some deals are mentioned.

            I have many of the items mentioned and will buy the rest as I read the links you provided. My main goal here was to find out if I was starting out the right way and what gear to focus on, and those questions have been answered as far as light hiking goes. I think this will be useful for other users too if they gain interest in hiking/BPing.

            Many thanks and let me know if you have any other suggestions/relevant anecdotes/useful tips.


            • #7

              As Bruce said you don't need anything except, perhaps, water for the hike you listed. For actual backpacking where you will be out for days or weeks, here is a general gear list:



              Sleeping bag

              The above three are the "big three" and the areas where you can reduce the most weight. GoLite makes good ultralight packs, you can replace the tent with a one pound silnylon tarp from Campmor, and for sleeping bags look for a 25 degree (since its Cali, and you wont need much better unless you're thinking of climbing mountains or heading north) or so less than 3 pounds. All of these things will be more expensive and more delicate than sturdier and heavier pieces of equipment, but your back will thank you.

              Food (kept in a plastic garbage bag): nuts, chocolate, jerky if you want to stay Primal. Dehydrated rice and beans are very convenient.

              Cooking equipment: a small MSR stove with two fuel canisters and an MSR Titan with a spork should be fine. Only a bowl and a utensil is necessary if you don't plan on cooking.

              Water sanitation: iodine is fine.

              Water bottles: An old soda bottle will be the lightest thing you can take, and is plenty strong.

              Clothes: UnderArmour compression shorts, a pair of short/pants or one pair shorts and one pair pants, a good shirt, and your VFFs. Don't take a tank top; you will forget to sunscreen your shoulders and then you will be in serious pain for days when the pack comes on and off, or when you move.

              Accessories: a compass and map, a good knife, some string or rope for suspending food in a tree, a shovel and toilet paper (for sanitation, though leaves are often close by and I swear by them), sunglasses, and a hat.


              • #8

                That looks like the kind of trail my wife and I used to go out on every weekend before we had kids. Five non-steep miles isn't a big deal -- I think maybe you're overthinking all this.

                Water, appropriate clothes (including sun or rain protection as appropriate -- but this can totally be nothing more complicated than a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans), maybe a small snack or a lunch to eat while you hang out and admire the view if there are places to do that, maybe a pocket-sized camera if your inclinations run that way.

                I wouldn't worry about gear beyond that, just get out there.


                • #9

                  Oh, and my wife -- who gets eaten alive on the mosquito-infested trails we hike during humid New England summers -- says "bugspray!" If biting insects are an issue in your part of the world this time of year, definitely spray yourself just before you hit the trail.


                  • #10

                    One piece of gear you might want to take on any hike is a rain jacket of some sort. Even if the likelihood of rain is low, it doesn't hurt to have one. It can get very cold very quickly if you're wearing cotton clothing or if you get stuck on a hike longer than planned. Frog Toggs are a fairly popular lightweight, though less durable than some, option.

                    REI might be a good place to look for gear if there's one around and it's the same price as you can buy online. They have a lifetime warranty so if something happens down the line that the manufacturer's warranty won't cover you can exchange it.


                    • #11

                      Haha I second the bugspray one!!! But seriously Ultrathon is THE BEST! This is why I always take that and cortisone with me. Im like a super bug attractor!

                      Also, 5.5 mi is totally an easy one, but def keep these suggestions in mind for when you do longer ones.

                      Life on Earth may be punishing, but it includes an annual free trip around the sun!


                      • #12

                        My local Sierra Club chapter puts on a great Wilderness Basics Course that has actual classes + backpacking trips based on your level of experience. Check out the website and see if there's one in your area. I went through it, and it was very informative in every area, from equipment to safety to food.


                        • #13


                          I'm thrilled you started this topic. Finally a primal hiking resource.

                          I've hiked over 1500 miles. I'm on my way to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. Half way now. See my website.

                          I've been turning Primal in the last year. Changing diet and exercise.

                          I use Platypus's. They are great but will leak eventually. Always bring an extra one on the long trips. I use an Ultra Light Adventures Pack - ULA. It's a serious lightweight pack but worth it for long trips. I use convertible hiking pants from REI. Any brand on sale with do the trick though I get as many pockets as available on my models. I wear New Balance 812 trail runners and hiking socks. I've had one blister in all those miles. Always wear Gaiters - JoeTrailMan. I have Icebreaker shirts - wool and wonderful.

                          I'm converting my trail food to primal. I've been eating Macadamia nuts in lieu of trail mix on the last few trips. I'll be eating Pemmican Bars from U.S. Wellness Meats on the next trip as well as Lara Bars - the perfect pure food bar.

                          Once again I'm so please you started this topic. Eating clean on the big hikes is the big challenge.

                          Good luck on Grad School and don't forget to write your thesis in the end. You want that PhD.


                          Dana Law

                          San Diego, Ca


                          • #14


                            That bag looks good and it will be the first bag that I consider when I start going on longer trails. I can understand why weight is important to take into account and I am willing to sacrifice some money and durability for less weight. Now, I picked up an Osprey that Tara tootie recommended. I will keep my food primal for these early short hikes. I have no problem being satisfied with jerky and chocolate.

                            The clothing you mentioned is similar to what I already wear. I appreciate your advice, it is clearly coming with someone with a lot of experience in this field.

                            John R,

                            Much of the advice posted here will be considered for future trips. The main reason I posted that trail is because it is the closest to my house (~5min away) and it was chosen since it is easy. I did end up going there earlier today. It actually is steep in a couple places, but overall it was easy. My new Treks held up great in rocks, sand and mud. But not surprisingly, it has trouble in extremely slippery places. This was the longest time I spent on natural ground with a pair of VFFs, it will be interesting if I am sore tomorrow. Most of my legs should be OK since there were only a couple of steep areas and I did not run, but I could imagine my toes and feet being a little sore for being used on mostly pavement all this time.

                            I will take a camera with me the next time, and probably will keep one for future trips too. Bugs were not a problem on this trip, but yes, they are going to be one of my next buys.


                            A rain jacket does sound important and the material you suggested looks good. Most of my early hikes will take place during the day and the Bay Area stays warm most of the time and rain is rare after Feb. But I will get one to keep in my bag at all times eventually and I am sure it will be important for night and longer trips. Actually not something I even considered.


                            • #15

                              Tara tootie,

                              I ended up getting the Talon 22. It does not look like I can find the 11 for ~80, and the 22 was $99 shipped so only a small increase from the 11s prices right now. I got the magnesium/grey colored one. The reviews for the 22 were about as good as yours for the 11.

                              And yes, 5.5 was totally easy. The muddiness was surprising, but it went by a lot quicker than I expected. I will go back there a couple times before moving on to ones that are more difficult. I have a pretty good sense of where everything already is, though.


                              They have a chapter close to where I am. Their website seems to be filled with a lot of good info. I will check out if they have the courses still.


                              I have 5.5 miles under my belt now so it wont be too long before I catch up. I skimmed through the front of your blog, it looks like a fun trip. You look very happy and the environment looks beautiful. I will read some of your write ups when I have a little more time. But keep enjoying the trip.

                              I have been eating mostly primal (and fat-only dairy) for about half a year now. I think I can go mostly primal most of the time. Primal food and hiking sounds like a perfect fit and hope you saw some benefits once you made the switch.

                              I still have some interviews to do, but I do want that Ph. D (going for cognitive neuroscience). Although if I do not get into a Ph. D program right away, I will most likely start with a Masters at SDSU, so I will be in near your location.

                              Thanks to everyone who contributed. Many novice hikers/backpackers should benefit from this thread (I did).