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Going Hiking or Camping?

Below is an overview including many of the essentials you will need to follow for a great outdoor experience. If your adventurous side is calling, carefully read while planning your excursion. Start with a plan outline and also see our checklists for printable versions you can easily follow. Best of all, an Outfitters staff member can help you anytime. Drop by the store and talk to an outdoor expert.

Remember, Outfitters staff take every opportunity to explore in their neck of the woods whether it be kayaking, camping, snowshoeing, trail running or any and all of the above. They know the areas, the products and are here to help you. 

How to Dress and Prepare for Camping

Cooking

Camp Stoves

Tents

The Basics of Footwear

Hiking Socks

Hygiene and Sanitation

Backpacks 101: How to Choose the Right Pack

Map & Compass

Hiking Tips

 


How to Dress and Prepare for Camping

Dress for the Occasion

As with any other outdoor activity, you need to dress appropriately when you go camping. Temperatures outdoors can pose a safety hazard if you are not prepared, and when you're camping, your only options are what you decide to bring with you. Proper planning and preparation will help you to dress for camping appropriately.

Here are some tips that can help you dress better for the weather… no matter what the weather.

 

Dress in layers

  • No matter the situation layering is the golden rule when you dress for camping, as it will allow you to adjust to variations in temperature simply by shedding layers in warmer conditions and adding them in cooler conditions.
  • Choose a next-to-skin layer (baselayer) that regulates body temperature. Cotton clothing is actually the worst choice to wear because it absorbs and holds moisture, dries slowly and doesn’t insulate when wet. Finding clothes made of merino wool or synthetic fabrics that draw moisture away from your body and insulate tend to be much better options.
  • Wear clothes in your middle layer that help you to insulate. While the inner layer keeps you dry, the middle layer should keep you warm. Look for fleece vests, wool sweaters or lightweight jackets, which trap air near your body and protect you against the cold.
  • Select outer layer clothing designed to protect you from the weather/elements. Waterproof or water-resistant fabrics work best, especially if it rains or snows unexpectedly. Look for fabrics with laminated membranes (like Gore-tex), coated jackets (like Hyvent). When in a pinch or on a budget even a simple plastic poncho can work effectively if paired with the right layers underneath.

Bring good socks

  • Extremities tend to be affected the most during cooler weather. Good socks not only keep your feet warm, but they also increase your comfort generally and prevent blisters if you decide to go hiking. Like the clothing try to avoid cotton and instead opt for fabrics made of merino wool or synthetics.

Dress in durable, quality footwear 

  • Look for outdoor footwear that emphasizes comfort and won't wear out quickly if you decide to hit the trail. Waterproof footwear makes sense as well, especially if you plan on moving through areas with standing water or camping during a period when it may rain.

Wear a hat when camping

  • Baseball style hats keep the sun off in warm conditions while toques retain body heat in colder conditions.
  • Carry sunglasses with you, even if you don't expect sun. They help to shield your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays while providing protection when you are hiking in the direction of the sun.

Prepare for the trip

  • Decide where you want to go and for how long you will stay.
  • Pre-booking a camping spot, particularly in peak season will ensure you won’t be disappointed when you get to your destination.

Decide with whom you are camping

  • If it is just you or your family, the next step is not quite as important. However, if you out with someone unfamiliar or a group of friends, read the next step carefully.
  • A little knowledge on who is going and their experience level can go a long way in making it a comfortable trip for everyone involved.
  • Make sure you get all necessary insurance and health information for your camping party
  • Because you will be away from home if someone is injured on the trip, the insurance information will make a huge difference in the care they receive. 
  • General health information regarding the members of your camping party is also very important in planning the trip, for example, you cannot pack peanut butter if your friend is allergic to peanuts. If someone who is coming needs routine medication, make sure they have it etc…
  • Make a trip “needs list” Doing this and checking off the items as you go/pack will ensure you don’t forget the most important parts of your camping kit.
  • Get a good first aid kit. Every camper needs one. If you are not sure what to put in it seek advice from a reputable outdoor store or purchase a pre-prepared medical kit. Adjust your supply level in the kit by how many people you have in your party. Generally speaking the more that go, the more supplies you should have.

 

Pre-plan meals and pack an appropriate amount of food

  • Enough for three meals and an optional snack per day. Try not to pack too many perishable food items, like cheese, chicken, and milk. Basically, try to avoid dairy products and meat, because they can make you sick if you eat them when they go bad. Trail mix is great for snacks, fruit for breakfast, crackers for lunch, and leftovers for dinner. Also, remember to pack lots of water
  • Gather all things on your needs list and try to pack them in small, lightweight containers that have themes
  • Doing this will allow your routine at camp to be as seamless as possible because you will know exactly where your stuff is when you need it. It also creates less mess by promoting organization while making the task of packing/unpacking the car a lot easier too
  • Don't over pack 
  • One of the biggest misconceptions about camping is that you can’t survive comfortably without everything. This is obviously not true. Because you are car camping you will also have the luxury of being able to bring “a little extra” here and there but in general there is more risk involved with bringing too much and not being able to fit the kids in the car
  • If you forget or leave something minor that you can probably borrow from a fellow camper
  • Finally…Load everything into your car as best you can, hit the road and have fun

 

 

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Cooking

  • When you are car camping you tend to have a little more time to devote to the finer things such as camp cooking. For the backpacker, freeze dried meals can taste perfectly fine but when you've got a little more time and energy, you can easily turn regular dehydrated (packaged) foods into mouth watering meals. If you're taking a car camping trip and really want to spice things up, weight is also not your chief concern so it will often allow you to set up a much more complete kitchen compared to if you were say backpacking or kayaking…this also means you don't you don't need to skimp on really anything making it an excellent group activity that can be a lot of fun.

Your Camp Food

  • Despite the fact you are car camping, things are still a little more tedious than if you were say in a cabin so a little meal planning and some food pre-preparation at home can often make things a lot easier.

 

To make things a little easier here are some tips that will help you create great camping meals fast:

  • Prepare your veggies early by cutting and seasoning them the night before you leave storing them in a zip lock container when you’re finished. When it’s time to cook, simply open the container and you are good to go. 
  • Boil up some instant rice or noodles and you have a no-fuss veggie stir-fry.
  • Fresh fruit is a welcome treat anytime while camping, but it is often heavy, bulky, and fragile, so make sure you bring something you really want. With car camping it’s often a better idea not to precut or pre-prepare fruit dishes because they will often be mush by the time you go to eat them.
  • If you want to make things really simple and still decide to go with dehydrated and freeze-dried meals but find them a little bland, you can easily set yourself up with a backcountry spice rack that really improves the taste of a pre-prepared meal.
  • Salt and pepper, sun-dried tomato flakes, oregano and basil, hot pepper spices, olive oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, and OXO flavor cubes, garlic cloves and/or garlic powder are all great things you can bring that really improve taste without taking space.
  • Bringing some everyday basics from home gives you more options and often makes things a lot more interesting. Powdered (dried) eggs, milk, cheese and flour are great examples of things you can bring that make camp cooking even more fun. Aside from being really tasty additions, the added bonus is that since they are powdered so they keep a lot better without refrigeration and thus you don’t need to worry as much about spoilage and waste.
  • Finally for snack foods, trail mix and nuts, dried fruits and veggies, and dried jerky are tasty backcountry classics that go anywhere and stay fresh longer.

Your Camp Cooking Equipment

  • Most outdoor meals can easily be cooked on a single-burner backcountry or deluxe car camping stove with one or two pots. However, if you're aiming for larger meals with more variety or something simply more gourmet, you might want to think about adding a few extra pieces of kitchen equipment that will make your cooking experience a lot easier.
  • A stove that simmers at variable temperatures (with a dial) can really come in handy. Some white gas stoves are designed to burn at a max output all the time. This is excellent if you're just boiling water, but not great for making fluffy pancakes or frying up fish. To make things substantially easier look for a stove that has a heat control dial. 
  • Bear in mind that simmering will generally extend cooking times and thus use more fuel... make sure you have enough fuel with you before you leave so you don’t run out.
  • Enclosed “backcountry ovens” that fit over the stove base will allow a camper to make an assortment of tasty things (that require baking) that would otherwise be impossible, examples include everything from tarts to bread and even cakes!
  • Always remember to bring a good knife (with a  good handle) and a small cutting board.
  • Basic kitchen utensils for cooking such as a plastic spatula or long soup spoon also come in very handy.
  • A large pot (say starting at 3L) will often make things a lot easier when it comes to portion adjustments and ease of use. Keep in mind however that a larger pot will almost automatically mean a larger stove/stove base to accommodate the larger pot.

The Big Cleanup

  • Cleaning up after a great meal is not the most enjoyable part of the cooking process but doesn’t have to be that bad with a little preparation beforehand. Once again since you are car camping and space and weight is not your chief concern there shouldn’t really be any need to leave the basics of cleanup behind so you shouldn’t really have any problems.
  • Remember to bring a mobile water container a medium sized washing tub, some biodegradable dish/camp soap, a pot scrubber (for the inevitable scorched pancake) and at least 1 washing and 1 drying cloth. 
  • Try and use cloths instead of paper towels… it does require a little extra work to maintain instead of “use and toss” method but they are much easier on the environment! If you have a proper pack towel for camping it drains roughly 90% of the water just by wringing it out!
  • Remember also that when disposing of kitchen waste you make sure to follow your camping areas specific disposal procedures and guidelines. Doing so will ensure the cleanest possible campsite with the least amount of mess that could potentially attract some unwelcomed visitors (i.e. rodents or even worse).
  • Remember everyone… its about no trace.

 

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Camp Stoves

Types of fuel that are most commonly used in stoves:

  • Compressed gas
  • White gas
  • Less common options such as kerosene or alcohol
  • Last resort options such as diesel

Types of stoves

  • Canister stoves for regular cooking  such as pocket rocket (super compact) or the simmer lite
  • Canister stoves for extreme environments (reactor)
  • Compact white gas stoves for regular cooking and boiling such as the dragonfly and the whisper lite
  • Compact white gas stoves for extreme environments (XGK)
  • Hybrid stoves that burn either (these are the most versatile stoves but also often the most expensive
  • Traditional white gas stoves with the double burner such as the primus profile or the classic Coleman camping stoves

Stove setup

Things to look for when finding a place to set up the stove:

  • Flat ground
  • Shelter from the wind as much as possible
  • Nothing in the direct vicinity that is flammable (grass, trees, dead leaves etc.)

Canister stoves

  • Check to see how much gas there is before leaving home
  • Make sure that there is a good seal between the stove and the canister to avoid leaking
  • Set up windscreen before lighting if there is one available
  • Talk about and show the universal stove base which helps in uneven terrain

White gas stoves

  • If MSR make sure to shake the stove upside down to clean the jet
  • Be sure that the pump is clean and in good working order
  • Put pump in fuel bottle and pump 25-30 times. After doing this stop for a moment and listen to make sure there are no leaks between the bottle and the pump
  • Pre-heat the stove to ensure the white gas is hot enough and light. After lighting slowly bring the stove up to full burn before turning down to desired level
  • After you have cooked
  • To turn off the stove make sure that you burn off whatever fuel is left in the lines
  • After the large flame has gone down and it is just a small fireball make sure to blow it out as there will be carbon deposits left behind if not.
  • Always remove the fuel pump from the bottle so as not to cause extra wear on it
  • Always wait for the stove to cool before putting it back in its bag/box

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Tents

Basics of Tenting

Choosing the Right Tent for you

Types of tents
  • 3 season vs. 4 season
  • 3 season tents are more mesh than wall and they often have less strong poles and fabrics
  • 4 season tents are built much more strong, the poles and fabric of the tent can take a beating before there are any problems
Space vs. weight
  • Some tent styles sacrifice comfort for weight. Often superlight tents will forgo multiple entrances and extra headroom in order to make it smaller and lighter
  • Car camping vs. backpacking
  • Car camping tents are always bigger heavier and less resilient in bad weather such as wind and rain, this is because they are generally used by people in sheltered camp grounds in fair weather (except for the May 24th weekend in Newfoundland)
Things to keep in mind when buying/renting a tent
  • Often times what a manufacturer estimates for the number of people a tent holds will be different from your estimate, for example most 3 person tents are known a 2 man comfortable.
  • When buying a tent always make sure that you set up the tent before leaving the store so you can see how much space there is inside, how easy it is to set up, and if the style is right for you.
  • Look at the pole setup, more poles means more weight and more complex setup. Also look at how the poles attach, sleeves for poles are stronger but they also make setup more complicated whereas clips are simple but not as strong. Ask about the warranty for the tent so you will be informed in case of a problem down the road.
Setting up Your Tent Site
  • Take a look around the general area and make sure there is no glass or other sharp objects that may pierce or rip your tent.
  • Try to find the most level spot that you can for your tent, grass is preferable because it will allow some comfort on top of that of your sleeping pad.
  • If it is possible set up your tent in the shade, prolonged exposure to the sun will cause the tent fabric to degrade quicker.
  • Be aware of the slope of the land where you are tenting, in most set up camp sites there is nothing to worry about but for some more primitive sites you will want to know which way water will flow in case of rain, floating in your sleeping bag is never fun.

Setting up Your Tent

 

  • Lay out the tent body flat on the ground
  • Peg in the corners of the tent, making sure that the pegs are inserted on an angle towards the tent
Clip tents
  • Put the poles in the grommets on the corners
  • Clip in all the clips
  • Set up the fly and peg out the guylines if the weather requires it
Sleeve tents
  • Put the poles through the sleeves
  • Put the poles in the grommets on the corners
  • Set up the fly and peg out the guylines if the weather requires it

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The Basics of Footwear

Trail Running

Typically, the lightest shoe available for rough conditions; these shoes are similar to sneakers but tend to be constructed to last. They will usually have a more pronounced tread pattern, as well as a more durable upper.

Approach

These shoes are designed for short or day hikes. They usually have a 3/4 shank in the sole for support, are light and durable and can take a beating. They are usually below the ankle and therefore provide less support for your ankles than boots do, and so are not recommended for strenuous hikes. 

Light Hiking

Typically, light-hiking boots are designed for weekend hikes. Usually these have a polycarbonate shank, and a softer interior. Designed for day or weekend hikes.

Trekking/Expedition

Built to last. A heavier boot that often has a break-in period. These boots will have a strong shank and good support. 

Mountaineering

The heaviest and strongest of all boots; Usually, they have a steel or thick polycarbonate shank that provides the boot with rigid support. Some boots may be crampon compatible and are designed for extreme conditions. 

Fitting Hiking Boots

Every shoemaker uses a slightly different mold and every human foot is different. So matching the right shoe to the right foot is essential. 

 

A heavier boot will require some break in, so an all-leather boot will not feel perfect right away - while a hiking boot will require little to no break in. Boots should feel snug but not tight in the heel, with good wiggle room around the toes.

Consider the Materials

The materials used in a boot or trail shoe will affect its weight, breathability, durability and water-resistance. Boots made of different fabrics can be very similar in performance; however, personal preference is often the key when choosing between them.

 

  • Nylon mesh and split grain leather - Nylon and split-grain leather boots are lightweight and breathable, which makes them perfect for warm- to moderate-weather use and short to moderate backpacking trips. They tend to be softer on your feet, they take less time to break in, and they are almost always lighter than full-grain leather boots. They also cost less. Unfortunately, nylon/split grain boots tend to be less water-resistant than full grain leather boots (although styles that feature waterproof liners such as Gore Tex will be just as watertight).
  • Full-grain leather - Full-grain leather is extremely water-resistant, durable and supportive (more so than split-grain leather or nylon). It's used primarily in backpacking boots designed for extended trips, heavy loads and hard terrain. Not as lightweight or breathable as nylon/split grain combinations, but it typically lasts far longer. Full¬ grain leather usually requires a break-in period. 

 

Tip: The water-proofness (or water-resistance) of your hiking boots depends significantly on how well you treat them. Be sure to follow all care instructions that come with your boots so that they can perform well and last a long time.


 

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Hiking Socks

Socks can have a significant effect on a backpacking experience. Like footwear, socks must be chosen carefully to match the kinds of conditions you expect.

Consider the Kinds of Trips

Backpacking socks:

Designed to provide warmth, cushioning and abrasion resistance in a variety of conditions you expect. 

Liners:

Sock liners are thin, lightweight, wicking socks designed to be worn right next to your skin. These liners wick sweat away from the surface of your foot to keep you dry and more comfortable. Liners also limit the amount of abrasion between your outer sock and your skin. They are designed to be worn under other socks. 

Lightweight hiking/backpacking socks:

Designed for warm conditions and easy trails, lightweight backpacking socks stress wicking performance and comfort over warmth. These socks are thicker, warmer and more durable than liners alone. They also provide more cushioning. But they are relatively thin so that you can stay comfortable on warm weather trips. Because most lightweight backpacking socks are made from wicking materials, they can be worn with or without liner socks. 

Midweight hiking/backpacking socks:

These socks are designed to provide reliable cushioning and insulation in moderate to cold conditions. They tend to be thicker and warmer than lightweight hiking socks. Many models have extra padding built into high-impact areas like the heel and the ball of the foot for maximum comfort. These socks should be worn with liners.

Mountaineering socks:

Mountaineering socks are the thickest, warmest and most cushioned socks available. They are designed for long trips, tough terrain and cold temperatures. Usually, mountaineering socks are too thick and warm for basic backpacking journeys in warm conditions.

 

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Hygiene and Sanitation

Good camping hygiene can have profound consequences on your health and well-being during even the most innocent of car camping trips. This section includes some great information that will help you to stay healthy outdoors while considering the environmentally issues of doing so.

Staying Clean

Most stomach problems experienced during or after a camping trip are due to poor hygiene, particularly unwashed hands. This point becomes even more important when considering the preparation of food. To prevent illness while camping remember to:

 

  • Bring a bottle or package of biodegradable hand sanitizer. Use after bowel movements and always before handling food. Sanitizer comes in very handy for spot use when you're on the move or water is not as easily accessible. (i.e. When speed and convenience is prominent, sanitizers are a great option).
  • Soap and water is probably the better hand-cleansing option because it is often more thorough and by rubbing you rinse away more than through applying a disinfectant. To ensure the best environmentally friendly experience, remember to never use soap directly in a fresh water source (sitting or running). 
  • Remember to never lather up directly in a lake or stream.
  • Dispose of soapy water on soil or lichen-free rock far from any lake, river or stream, at least 200 feet away, more is better if you can (see directions below). 
  • Finally, try not to share clothing, toothbrushes, razors, water bottles, eating utensils, etc.

Evaluate all water sources

Waterborne pathogens can exist in car camping areas make sure to check up on the latest park information board for information on the current state of the parks water supply. Even if signage indicates the local water is okay to drink, it would still be recommended to boil, filter or chemically treat up all water before consuming it.

 

When in the backcountry and away from camp things can change and information regarding the water sources you may encounter may be unavailable. In these instances remember to always boil, filter or chemically treat your water before consumption. Some things you might want to look out for include:

Always Maintain a Clean Camp

Since you are car camping your campsite should always be a previously impacted area with the following features:

 

  • The sleeping surface should be on a specific, marked rock or grass space 200 feet (or more) from any shared water source.
  • Ideally there should be a comfort station or outhouse nearby to handle human waste. In instances where this is neither possible nor available, all waste should be deposited preferably at least 200 feet from the campsite and from any water sources. Dig a small hole, deposit the waste and cover the hole back up with soil.
  • Treat all dishwater/wastewater the same as you would human waste. To dispose of it dig a small hole at least 200 feet from both your camp and any water source, deposit the water and cover the hole back up with soil.
  • Treat all food waste the same as you would human waste. If proper garbage containers (rodent and bear proof) are not available or appropriate (i.e hot grease) always, bury the food waste (never just throw it in the woods close to your or anyone else’s camp). To remove the waste without a garbage it dig a small hole at least 200 feet from both your camp and any water source, deposit the waste and cover the hole back up with soil.

Keeping a Clean Camp Kitchen

  • Preparation of food is a vital part of the camping experience, however, if the proper steps are not taken to keep a clean cooking and preparation environment you could run into problems. Some tips to help keep a clean kitchen include:
  • Cleaning the camping pots, pans and utensils without modern conveniences such as a full sink or dishwasher can be difficult when camping. However, it’s important to clean the kitchen gear with a good biodegradable soap after every meal will avoid attracting negative attention such as insects in the camping area. In addition, other wild animals (i.e. birds, rodents and bears) may smell and investigate the odors produced from dirty kitchen gear.
  • As space may also be an issue in a smaller area, be sure to not contaminate or cross contaminate foods by laying them down in areas where raw foods have previously been placed and not cleaned, or placed directly on areas that may be dirty or contaminated. 
  • Anyone who is ill or appears to be ill should always stay away from all food or food prep areas and avoid handling all foods that may be consumed by others, especially if they have not washed their hands.
  • After finishing your meal remember to always thoroughly wash and air dry all community/shared kitchen gear with a biodegradable soap.
  • As stated already, remember to treat all dishwater/wastewater the same as you would human waste. To dispose of it dig a small hole at least 200 feet from both your camp and any water source, deposit the water and cover the hole back up with soil.

 

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Backpacks 101: How to Choose the Right Pack

The backpack is an icon of travel. A quality backpack can be your travel partner as you visit wild and rarefied places from the East Coast Trail to destinations around the world - places perhaps that are best discovered with only the things you can carry on your back.

 

There are countless sizes, models and brands of backpacks sold at The Outfitters, and choosing one is not always a simple task. Some packs come equipped with special functions and are intended for a specific use while others are more all-purpose and can be used for a number of different outdoor activities. This guide aims to help the reader choose the backpack that is best by basing their choice on what we see as the three, most important factors to consider when buying a backpack, those being trip style, duration of use and the users body shape. Whether it is your first pack, for a trip to a foreign country or your fifth pack that you want for superlight trekking, The Outfitters has what you need to start your adventure.


Your goal is to find a backpack that fits your personal style of backpacking:

  • Are you traveling through a country or trekking in a remote wilderness area?
  • Are you more into comfort or weight savings?
  • Is your gear old and bulky or weight and space efficient?
  • Trip length/duration: Are you going for a dayhike, an overnighter or for a week or more?

Body type

What is your body shape; specifically what is your torso length? Remember, it is your torso length; not your overall height that matters most.

Choose the Right Capacity

Most packs are sort according to their capacity - the volume of space available inside a pack. This is most often expressed in liters, and is often indicated in a pack's name.

 

What volume is right for you? It varies by person, sometimes by a wide margin. The following chart provides a general guide for which pack sizes typically work well for backpackers during summertime hikes. Your results may vary, naturally. Think about the types of trips you most often pursue to gauge where you fit on this grid:

 

Type of trip*

Pack capacity (liters)

Empty pack weight (lbs.)

Day

20-30

.5 to 2.5

Overnight (1-2 nights)

30-50

2.5 to 4.5

Weekend (2-3 nights)

50-70

3.5 to 5.5

Multiday (2-5 nights)

60-80

2.5 to 5+

Extended (5+ nights)

80+

4 to 6+

*Based on a Summer standard. Spring, fall and winter trips usually require a larger pack.

 

FAQ When Choosing a Pack

Q: How many days is my typical backpacking trip?

A: The Outfitters uses trip length as one way to categorize packs for easier shopping.

 

Q: What if I do both short and long trips?

A: You could consider 2 packs: a smaller, lighter model for short trips and a large pack for longer trips or cold-weather hikes. Alternatively, you could also choose 1 pack that can carry enough gear for the longest trip you expect to pursue. Larger packs (60L and higher) will work fine for shorter trips, particularly when tightening the side compression straps.

 

Q: What liter capacity might be right for me?

A: This is difficult to answer particularly given the many variables that exist.

  • 50 to 80L (multiday) packs are an excellent choice for summer-weather backpacking trips lasting 2 or more days. Efficient packers using newer, less-bulky gear can really keep things light on 1-2 night trips by using a pack in the 30 to 50L range or on 2-3 night trips in the 50 to 70L range. Just be aware that packing light requires self-discipline and careful planning. Carrying less gear can often make an overnight trip a lot more enjoyable, so keep that in mind when deciding top pack that extra clothing.
  • Extended trips of 5 days or more usually call for packs of 80L or larger. However, this is possible with smaller packs as well. Just be aware that until you have mastered ultralight packing techniques, a pack can fill up pretty fast, particularly when weather is unpredictable.
  • Packs 80L and larger are also usually the preferred choice for winter treks lasting more than one night.

Adults taking young children backpacking. 

Mom and Dad wind up carrying a lot of kids' gear to make the experience enjoyable for their young ones.

Shop The Outfitters selection of backpacks - in store.

Q: What if I consider myself an ultralight backpacker?

A: “Ultralight” is a term open to broad interpretation. At The Outfitters we apply it to experienced backpackers who work on minimizing bulk and weight, even if doing so requires the sacrifice of some comfort and convenience features. Depending on the skills and aspirations of the individual backpacker, an ultralight pack can carry sufficient gear for 1 night to 1 week and beyond.

 

Q: What time of year do I plan to backpack?

A: If you are backpacking in summer use with the guidelines outlined in the above chart.

If you explore in the chillier portions of spring and fall, regularly spend extended time at higher elevations or camp in winter, a larger capacity backpack (75L+) is the best choice. Larger packs can more comfortably accommodate extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag and a 4-season tent.

 

Choose a Pack That Fits Your Torso

Pack capacity is a key consideration, yet nothing is more important than choosing a pack according to your torso length. No matter how little or how much gear you're carrying, you want your pack to fit your frame comfortably.

 

The right fit is one that offers:

  • A size appropriate for your torso length
  • A comfortably snug grip on your hips

 

Your torso length is the distance between your C7 vertebra (the most noticeable protrusion on your upper spine) and the rear "shelf" of your hips. You should know your torso length before you begin fitting potential packs.

 

Once you know your torso length, check the specs of a pack that interests you. See if it available in multiple sizes (small, medium, large) or if it offers a single size with an adjustable suspension that can be modified to fit your torso.

 

What about waist size? It's also good to know your waist measurement as the majority of a backpack's weight (80% or more) should be supported by your hips.) To find your size, take that flexible tape measure and wrap it around the top of your hips, the "latitude line" where you would normally place your hands on your hips.

 

Some packs offer interchangeable hipbelts, making it possible to swap out one size for another. Most people do not need to switch hipbelts, since backpack hipbelts usually accommodate a wide range of hip sizes, from the mid-20s to the mid-40s. People with narrow waists, though, sometimes find they cannot make a standard hipbelt tight enough and need a smaller size.

 

Some Osprey packs feature a special IsoForm Custom Moldable Hipbelt. When heated and worn they mold perfectly to the shape of the customers hips The Outfitters is equipped with a small oven, specifically designed to allow for customization the shape of this hipbelt in just a few minutes.

 

Women-specific backpacks: These are engineered to conform to the female frame as follows:

  • Torso dimensions are generally shorter and narrower than men's packs
  • Hipbelts and shoulder straps are contoured with the female form in mind

 

Youth-specific backpacks: These typically offer smaller capacities and include an adjustable suspension to accommodate a child's growth.

 

Women's backpacks, with their smaller frame sizes, often work well for young backpackers of either gender as well as small versions of some men's packs.

 

Fitting tip: When trying your pack in-store throw some weight into packs that interest you and try them on. The Outfitters is equipped with weighted bags that can create a basic approximation of how a typical pack load might feel. Every brand fits a bit differently and offers different support features. It's wise to try on at least 2-3 models and spend some time meandering around the store wearing them on your back. It's not exactly the same as walking on a trail, but you'll at least be able to tell if you and the pack are compatible.

Fit Customization Tips

The sections above are the primary considerations of pack selection. The following information is less important, but still worthwhile to consider. Below are some ideas to personalize your pack fit:

 

Adjustable suspensions: On some packs, the shoulder harness can be repositioned (often using a "ladder" system of adjustment points) to provide a better fit. This is a nice feature for backpackers who have "in-between" torso lengths-almost medium, not quite large, for instance.

 

Adjustment points: The weight of a backpack, as noted earlier, should rest primarily on your hips. Your back, shoulders and upper pectoral region will share in the task secondarily. To optimize comfort and stability, play around with your pack's adjustment straps:

 

  • Load-lifter straps: They're stitched into the top of the shoulder straps, and they connect to the top of the pack frame. They don't necessarily "lift" the load, but the name has stuck. Ideally, they will form a 45° angle between your shoulder straps and the pack. Kept snug (but not too tight), they prevent the upper portion of a pack from pulling away from your body, which would cause the pack to sag on your lumbar region. Left too loose, they allow the pack to tip backward, compromising balance. Note: If load-lifter straps are angled higher than 60° or flatter than 30°, the pack is likely not an ideal fit for your torso.
  • Stabilizer straps: Found on the side of the hipbelt, they connect the belt to the lower region of the packbag. Keeping them snug improves balance.
  • Sternum strap: This mid-chest strap allows you to connect your shoulder straps, which can boost your stability. It can be useful to do so when traveling on uneven cross-country terrain where an awkward move could cause your pack to shift abruptly and throw you off-balance.

Load Support

Our hips, part of the pelvic girdle (one of the body's biggest bone structures) which is also supported by the body's largest muscle group -the quadriceps and hamstrings of the upper legs -  make it together, the body’s best load-bearing structure.

Accessing Your Gear

The ease of which you can access the gear in your pack depends entirely on your pack configuration. Below is a listing of the main accessibility points found in all packs sold at The Outfitters.

Main compartment

Top-loading openings my include a light, nylon extension piece to add some space to a fully loaded pack but other than that, most are fairly standard. Items not needed until the end of the day, such as a sleeping bag, go deep inside and on the bottom of single-entry backpacks while heavier items go close to the middle, flush against the back panel with lighter items again on the top portion.

Pockets

People like them and find them handy, even if they add fractional weight to a pack. Typical offerings of many packs may include:

  • Elasticized side pockets: These are quite convenient. They lie flat when empty, but stretch out to hold a water bottle, tent poles or other loose objects.
  • Hipbelt pockets: These can be quite convenient as well. They accommodate tiny items like snacks, lip balm, etc.
  • Shovel pockets: A more specialized, larger pocket these are basically flaps stitched onto the front of a pack with a buckle closure at the top. Originally intended to hold a snow shovel, they now appear on many 3-season packs, serving as stash spots for a map, jacket or other loose, lightweight or wet items that you do not want on the inside.
  • Front pocket(s):  Sometimes added to the exterior of a shovel pocket, these can hold smaller, less-bulky items.
  • Side zippers, front zippers or front panels: This is a feature that makes it possible to access a pack's interior without removing everything solely from the top. These access points are not on every pack and can add some weight to a pack. It can also be argued that they add a potential weakness/breaking point to the pack design if compression straps are not used.

 

Camping

Lower/Sleeping bag compartment: This is a zippered stash spot near the bottom of a pack. These are useful primarily to people who shun a stuff sack for their bag or like to compartmentalize their gear by weight by keeping everything separate.

 

Top Pocket Lid: Many packs offer a zippered top lid where most backpackers store quick-access items: sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, snacks, map, etc. Some lids detach from the main pack and convert into a hipbelt or fanny pack for day trips from basecamp.

 

Attachment points: If you travel frequently with an ice axe or trekking poles, look for tool loops that allow you to attach them to the exterior of the pack. Rare is the pack that does not offer at least one pair of tool loops.

Other Pack Considerations

Hydration

Nearly all packs offer an internal sleeve into which you can slip a hydration bladder (almost always sold separately) plus a hose portal through which you can slip the sip tube allowing you to drink on the go; without stopping.

Back Ventilation

With all of the packs we sell, the backpanel rides entirely on your torso, cutting air flow and accelerating sweat production. To combat this, designers of have addressed it in a variety of ways. Ventilation channels built between the foam or into the back panel are one of the key ways sweating is reduced. A few packs have also engineered an alcove like design also known as tension-mesh suspension. With this system, your back rests against a mesh-only back panel, and the mesh provides improved breathability. The frame rides along a few inches away from your back providing outstanding air flow and in-turn a less sweaty back.

Materials and Durability

Ultralight packs use ultralight materials, a factor that lightens your load but can put the pack's durability at risk if used improperly. For best results try to choose a pack that best matches the users profile and specifically, the frequency of use to be put on the pack. If you are a heavy user of your pack or are someone who is not as careful with their gear, an ultralight pack (despite the benefits) may not be the best choice for you.

Padding

The move by most companies to lower pack weight has sacrificed some padding in hipbelts and lumbar pads. If you keep your pack weight low, this is usually not an issue. But overloading a lightweight pack with a fairly minimalistic hipbelt and lumbar pad can sometimes cause sore spots on your hips and lower back. If this is the case for you, consider using a more padded hipbelt.

Climbing Packs

The Outfitters carries a few packs designed primarily as climbing packs. Most, though, have modest capacities (50 liters or less) that are appropriate only for day trips or overnighters. Common features include:

  • Ultralight but strong, rip-stop nylon fabric designed for minimum weight to durability ratio
  • The ability to strip down the pack to its minimal weight (removing the lid, framesheet and possibly the hipbelt) for use during a summit push
  • Several points for external tool or accessory attachment
  • A daisy chain -a length of webbing stitched to the outside of a pack- to provide an abundance of gear loops for attaching accessories or tools
  • A narrower profile, permitting more freedom of arm movement
  • Gear loops on the hipbelt or low on the pack body that are useful for carrying small gear

Daypack

Earlier this article mentioned a detachable top lid as a desirable feature when planning smaller “day trips” out of a backcountry basecamp. Another option is to carry along a featherweight daypack. These featherweight packs take up considerably less space and weight then a regular day pack and greatly increase the versatility you have when planning short day trips as part of a longer trek.

Rain Cover

For, weight, cost and practicality reasons, most packs are not designed to be totally waterproof. Instead, most pack fabric interiors are usually treated with a waterproof coating and don’t have sealed seams making them water resistant. However, we know that all packs have seams and zippers where water can seep through, and the nylon of a packs exterior does absorb some water during a downpour.

 

The solution for this issue in most cases is to simply use a fitted pack cover. Some packs actually come with their own pack cover but in most cases they don’t. Check when buying your pack if this is a feature because having access to one can be invaluable if the weather turns! An alternative to a pack cover can be bundling gear internally in waterproof stuff sacks. Dry sacks can sometimes even be a better option in very windy conditions where strong gusts of wind have the potential to suddenly blow a pack cover right off. Regardless of your methods or accessories, it is always a good idea to “waterproof” your pack through some means before you leave on your trip to ensure comfort.

 

For all other inquiries or questions regarding backpacks or anything we sell please phone us at 709-579-4453 or (toll free) 800-966-9658 or email us info@theoutfitters.nf.ca, during our regular operating hours and we will be happy to assist you.

 

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Map & Compass

Parts of the Compass

  • Sighting mirror
  • Talk about importance of sighting mirror for use in the field
  • Sight
  • Sighting Lines
  • Luminous index point
  • Magnetic needle
  • Roamers
  • Declination adjustment

Parts of the Map

  • Scale (1:50000 or 1:250000 are the most common)
  • 1 cm = “x” cm
  • Contour lines (each line normally represents 10m)
  • Colors
  • Blue - Water
  • Green - Vegetation
  • Legend of all symbols on the back

How to Shoot a Bearing

  • Set the compass to the bearing you wish to go to
  • Hold the compass out in front you, making sure that the compass is flat thus avoiding needle malfunction
  • Slowly turn until the “red is in the bed” 
  • Pick a unmoving point in the direction of where you are going this will allow you to put down the compass which will allow easier movement over uneven terrain

How to Estimate Distance

  • The average person’s stride is 1m but that is just a rough estimate.
  • Have them walk 100m (which will need to be set up beforehand) and back counting their paces. The average of the two will be what they use to estimate.

Practical Use in the field

  • Break up into groups of two.
  • Provide each group with their bearing, start point, and distance (in 100m increments).
  • Have them find a small flag (piece of flagging tape on the ground which is visible but slightly hidden) which contains some kind of small prize like a hard candy each.

 

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Hiking Tips

Break-in your boots. Ensure that your boots are well broken-in before your hike. To do this you can wear your boots around the home, around town and of course, use them on trails. 

 

Avoid Cotton:  Cotton is inappropriate for hiking as it does not wick moisture but rather stays wet and in turn will make you cold and chilled. We recommend synthetic or wool fabrics. 

 

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We carry the largest selection in Newfoundland of outdoors and active lifestyle products.

 

800-966-9658