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Photo: Buff

Q1 2018

Kitting out the hiker

Hiking is the new yoga, predicts trend-forecasting company WGSN. Retailers can therefore expect to see more new hikers looking for recommendations, in addition to their more experienced hiking customers. CARIN HARDISTY asked some suppliers for advice on what to recommend to hikers

The popularity of hiking is growing, and according to trend forecasters hiking is going to become the most popular fitness fashion over the next few years. This means that retailers can expect to see a growing number of hiking newcomers seeking advice on what gear to buy.

One of the most important pieces of equipment to recommend for a hiker is his footwear: if his feet aren’t comfortable and stable he will not enjoy the hike. He’ll also want good grip, waterproofing and moisture-wicking, for example.

Hiking boots tend to give more support compared to shoes, especially boot styles that go up to the ankle. Leather boots are the most durable, but synthetics are lighter. Something to keep in mind, though: the heavier the pack, the sturdier the hiker’s boots should be.

When fitting your customer’s boot in-store, ask him to try the boot on with hiking socks, which tend to be thicker than everyday wear ones and will give him a more accurate view of how the boot fits. Sock liners will also help him avoid blisters and they’re an added hygiene barrier. Bridgedale, distributed by Adventure Inc, has a range of fine-knit, mid-calf liners.

Either way, he’ll want a pair of waterproof footwear that is light and gives good traction.

  • The Michelin rubber outsole on Hi-Tec’s Altitude OX i Waterpoof boot provides grip, durability and safety for scrambling up rocks. In addition, the XLR8 injected midsole absorbs impact, the Ortholite sockliner adds cushioning, and the boot is treated with waterproof I-shield to repel water and dirt.
  • In order to get more bang for their buck, people want boots that also look good and that they can also wear in everyday life. Hi-Tec’s Equilibrio Bijou Low waterproof boot is sleekly designed with pops of pastel blue, MDT traction that provides grip, Ortholite for long lasting comfort and i-shield that repels water and dirt.
  • The V-Lite Wild Life Scorpion in Hi-Tec’s outdoor crossover category has youth appeal and offers versatility from trail to city. The lightweight XLR8 midsole technology is lighter than regular EVA, and provides better rebound and energy absorption.
  • Boreal’s women’s Ordesa and the mens’ Pointer and Zanskar hiking boots, for example, feature a waterproof and moisture-wicking Dry-Line lining system. Boreal is distributed by Traverse Outdoor Gear.
  • This distributor also supply the Zamberlan range, featuring, among others, the versatile, unisex Trail Lite GTX boot, which can be worn on mixed terrains and conditions. The brand’s SH Crosser Plus GTX RR men’s and women’s boots are lightweight and responsive, but also stable and protecting. The188 PERK GTX RR light hiking and trail hiking boot is protective, yet flexible, thanks to the Vibram sole.
  • La Sportiva’s Mountain Hiking category is for people who love to move confidently and rapidly in the mountains, and features the waterproof and breathable Goretex Surround technology, as well as the breathable Nano Cell technology around the upper. It is distributed by Adventure Inc.
  • Saucony’s Peregrine 8 shoe, the successor to Peregrine 7, offers good traction across various terrains.

Backpack recommendations

Wheher the hiker will be going on a day trip or on an overnight trek, the following features are important to keep in mind when recommending a backpack:

  • The pack’s weight should rest on the hips, instead of on the shoulders.
  • The straps are there to keep the pack upright, and not to bear the brunt of the weight. Therefore, some backpacks have adjustable backs or hip belts.

Vango’s Quick Adjust system, for example, in the Contour backpack, combines a contoured alloy frame with a webbing ladder arrangement that allows the back length to be adjusted. This won the DofE* (Duke of Edinburgh) award and The Scout Association also recommends this pack to their members. Vango is distributed by Ram Mountaineering.

Gender-specific backpacks are designed to ensure a better fit.

  • Black Diamond’s Diamond Mercury backpacks for men and the women’s Onyx feature the ergoACTIV XP suspension system with a custom 3D pivoting hipbelt. They have a gender-specific fit and SwingArm shoulder straps for increased stability and dynamic load transfer. Black Diamond is also distributed by Ram Mountaineering.

Breathability is as important in a backpack as it is in clothing and footwear, if not more.

  • Medalist’s Venture day pack has a padded breathable mesh back, and the Nomad and Trail Scout hiking packs have S-curve shoulder straps with breathable mesh padding. In addition, Nomad also has a back panel covered with breathable mesh padding and Trail Scout has a sculptured back system with removable aluminium rods. Medalist is distributed by De Wet Sports.
  • Nitro and Magnum, from Black Diamond, both have an OpenAir back panel and shoulder straps that allow warm air to escape through the mesh-design. Nitro also has the reACTIV suspension system that helps to make the pack comfortable to carry, and Magnum has contoured shoulder straps and an easy-to-remove 20mm webbing hipbelt.
  • Ventis Air Pro features Vango’s Air Adjust vented back system with a concave frame that positions it away from the body, allowing warm air to escape and minimising the curvature within the pack.

When it’s not being used, the backpack can take up a lot of space. Not so with Medalist’s Pac-Lite day pack that folds up into its own small pocket.

The required size of the backpack is influenced by how much gear the hiker needs to carry in it, and the size of the person who will be carrying it. Typically, the bigger the person, the larger the volume (litres) he needs as his clothing will be bigger, for a start — but at the same time, due to his size, he should also be able to carry more.

When packing, the hiker should also try to fit as much as possible inside his pack, since items that are carried on the outside have a chance of getting snagged or damaged. Just warn your customer not to over-pack his bag.

A raincover for the backpack is also a must — getting wet from rain during the hike is one thing, but when the spare set of clothing and sleeping bag also gets soaked… Some packs come with a built-in cover, but if his desired pack doesn’t include it, the hiker might want to invest in a separate waterproof cover.

Tents for all conditions

In the end it all comes down to the fact that the hiker doesn’t care how smart or fancy the tent is, if he struggles to pitch it, he’s not too likely to use it often.

Vango’s one-man Blade and Soul tents are quick and easy to pitch (under 10 minutes), and also easy to pack ,thanks to their fast pack tent bags with an oversized opening and compression straps to control the pack size.

The weight of the tent he needs to carry is of prime importance to a hiker. When weight requirements trump the need for a lot of sleeping space, suggest a bivy.

Black Diamond’s Twilight (300g) and Spotlight (610g) are made from water-resistant, breathable, NanoShield fabric, that keeps the weight down and packs very small.

Hikers also need to consider the weather conditions that they might face: they don’t want a tent that will let them down in bad weather.

With its Tension Band System (TBS) that braces the pole at three points and prevents sideways motion, the 2.4kg Vango Banshee performs well in bad conditions, especially in strong winds. It is also recommended by DofE.

The tent’s waterhead rating helps to gauge how much water pressure the flysheet can take before the tent starts leaking.

  • Medalist’s two-man Sahara tent (1.5kg weight) has a 180T polyester shell that is rated for 450mm of rain.
  • Sloped tent walls will help to get rid of water and prevent it from piling up on top of the tent canopy. Hilight from Black Diamond has steep, water-shedding walls and a canopy made from water resistant, breathable NanoShield fabric. The 1.4kg tent can be used as a comfortable one-person, or as a cozy assault-style two-person, tent.
  • Black Diamond’s Firstlight also has steep walls and a NanoShield canopy. It weighs 1.5kg and, with only two DAC Featherlight poles inside the tent, it is easy to pitch. It sleeps two people.

A double-wall tent construction, where the inner pitches separately from the flysheet, gives the user the option of leaving the flysheet off on warm, dry evenings.

  • Vango’s 2.7kg Zephyr two-man tent can be used without its flysheet in warmer climates, but if the hiker encounters bad weather, the flysheet and Powerlite alloy poles make the tent strong enough to withstand the conditions.
  • Sleeping under the stars has a lovely ring to it, but it’s not often that a tent is made with this purpose in mind: the front third of Black Diamond’s Skylight has a mesh wall, allowing for ventilation and a panoramic view. The canopy can be rolled up in good weather or rolled down for protection.

Sleeping systems

When it comes to recommending something to sleep in or on, the end choice will come down to the temperatures your customer expects to be hiking (and sleeping) in. He’ll want a sleeping bag, though, at the least.

The three biggest factors when determining how well the bag will fare in the expected temperatures are the manufacturer’s temperature rating, the filling type, and the sleeping bag’s shape.

Of the sleeping bag shapes the mummy, which tapers towards the toes, will keep him the warmest and heat him up quicker since it has less dead space to heat up. If the sleeping bag has a head and chest baffle, this will also help to lock in warmth.

A down filling is more expensive than a synthetic hollow-fibre one, but your customer will get what he’s paying for: down is more lightweight, thinner (when compressed), and it will handle temperatures better. A hollow-fibre filling tends to suit more people’s budget, though.

  • The Insulite Helix insulation in Vango’s Latitude 300 mummy bag is a mixture of hollow- and multi-channel fibres that regulate temperature and wick moisture away. The sleeping bag weighs 1.8kg and is rated for use in temperatures between -7oC and 20oC.
  • Vango’s Latitude 200 mummy bag also features the Thermal Embrace System and Insulite Helix insulation, weighs 1.5kg and can handle temperatures of -3oC to 20oC.
  • Medalist’ range of hollow-fibre sleeping bags can be used in a variety of temperatures, ranging between -20oC and 20oC, depending on the bag and the amount of filling used. The lightest bag weighs 1.1kg and the heaviest in this range weighs 2.2kg.

A sleeping bag liner is lightweight, packs small, and is a versatile investment: it provides added heat if used together with a sleeping bag, or it can be used on its own. If used with a sleeping bag, it will also keep it cleaner for longer — besides, it is easier to just wash the liner than the whole sleeping bag.

Lifeventure’s Thermolite stretch liner is made from Polygiene odour-control technology, regulates temperature and is moisture-wicking. It will increase the warmth of a sleeping bag by 11-20oC. It is distributed by Traverse Outdoor Gear.

Sleeping mats provide added insulation and protection from the cold ground. Like sleeping bags, the type of insulation makes a difference in how much the mat can help keep the sleeper warm.

  • JR Gear’s Traverse Core Standard mummy-style mat has a thick (8.9cm) insulation layer for support and comfort, horizontal air core chambers for better support, and Infrared reflective technology for extra warmth. The insulated mummy mat in this range has two different grades of Primaloft for added warmth. JR Gear is distributed by Ram Mountaineering.

These mats each come with their own repair kits. Alternatively, recommend that your customer invests in a patch kit to repair his mattress or mat if he punctures it on a sharp object.

Headlamp tips

The easier something is to operate, the better. This also goes for headlamps.

  • The MH2 headlamp from Ledlenser can be focused with just one turn and is easy to operate, due to the Advanced Focus System, Rapid Focus, and Smart Light Technology. It is distributed by Awesome Tools.
  • Black Diamond’s PowerTap technology allows the user to instantly change between full and dimmed power with a tap on the side of the headlamp — no need to fiddle with buttons.
  • Icon’s programmable brightness memory gives the option to set the brightness level when it’s turned on. It has a high-power output of up to 500lm.

It’s a given that an overnighting hiker will need lighting equipment, but it’s also a good idea for a day hiker to take a headlamp along. You never know if something might happen to delay his return and he might have to complete the return journey in low light conditions.

Ion is Black Diamond’s smallest, lightest and most compact headlamp that can easily be packed into a dayhiker’s pack for just in case.

The newest addition to Medalist’s headlamp range, Micro, is another small handy-to-have headlamp.

Feeding himself

A hiker will need to to eat and drink something warm during his hike, especially if it is an overnighter. Camping stoves and cooking systems are designed to be compact, yet still perform in often difficult conditions.

Stoves that screw onto canisters are by design small and lightweight, quick to light and often the flame simmers well. It can happen, though, that the arms aren’t long enough to support large pots.

  • Not so with GSI Outdoor’s Glacier camp stove, which is designed with serrated 125mm diameter pot support arms that create a stable and secure cooking platform. The burner is also designed to evenly heat larger pots and pans. Ram Mountaineering distributes GSI.
  • Similarly, Fire Maple’s lightweight folding gas stove, Fire-Fuse, has wide, folding pot support arms and a large burner head.
    • Wind can be a problem when it comes to keeping a flame lit. Fire Maple’s Fire-Force foldable gas stove has a three-way wind shield on the burner to prevent wind from blowing the stove out once lit.
    • The Fire-Flint has an angled burner head that distributes heat, while Fire-Fleet also has a large burner head. Traverse Outdoor Gear distributes the range.
  • Jetboil’s Flash cooking system is designed to be one of the safest on the market. The 1L cooking cup clips onto the burner, and the canister tripod provides stability — which all prevents accidental spills. It lights with the click of a button and boils two cups of water in just over two minutes. The cozy even changes colour to let the user know when the contents is hot. Because of its cooking cup that allows the user to get a low spoon angle and the strong metal handles, a hiker can cook in and eat straight out of MiniMo’s cup. Jetboil is available from Ram Mountaineering.
  • Sea to Summit is expanding its camp kitchen range and local retailers can now order the new pot and other products from Advenure Inc. The existing kitchen range includes items such as bowls, mugs, plates, cutlery, kettles, buckets, and pans.

When cooking gear fit inside each other, it will save space for the hiker.

  • GSI Outdoors’ Pinnacle Soloist mug, bowl and pot cookset pack away into each other, and the folding handle securely locks it all in place for transport. The nesting design allows for an ultralight stove or canister to be stored inside.
  • The brand’s Halulite Microdualist nested cookset is designed for two people: it consists of a 1.4L pot, a strainer lid, two bowls, two insulated mugs and lids, and two telescoping foons (fork and spoon attached to each other on a swivel lever design).
  • The Fire-Fanatic pot set from Fire Maple consists of a 900ml pot and a 400ml lid that can double as a bowl or a small pot. The range also includes the 1L Fire-Fly pot and lid.The Fire-Friend two-person set consists of a 1.25L pot, 900ml pot, and 500ml and 400ml lids that fit the respective pots and can double as a bowl or small pot.
  • Cutlery and other utensils

    The spork is the ideal eating utensil for hikers, for whom less is definitely more.

    • Atka’s spork is made from durable food-grade plastic and includes two knife blades for added flexibility. It is distributed by Awesome Tools.
    • Lifeventure’s Ellipse camping cutlery set includes a knife, fork and spoon that click together on top of each other to pack away compactly.

    Should your customer be in the unfortunate position of having to fix a piece of equipment, he’ll appreciate a multi-tool. After all, the need for the right tool on an overseas trip is how Leatherman, distributed by Awesome Tools, was founded.

    • Taking Leatherman’s 19-piece Signal multi-tool on a hike is like having a kitted-out workshop in the pocket: it provides two different pliers (needlenose, regular), 154cm replaceable wire and hard-wire cutters, a wire stripper, 420HC combo knife, a saw, hammer, an awl with thread loop, ¼” hex bit driver, bit driver, ¼” and 3/16” box wrenches, a carabiner, ferrocerium rod, and a diamond-coated sharpener. In addition there is also a can and bottle opener, and a safety whistle.
    • A knife can help the hiker with various functions, from preparing food to cutting ropes. Opinel’s durable No.8 Outdoor knife is water-resistant, can withstand extreme temperatures (-40oC to 80oC), and has a very strong stainless steel blade that is serrated to cut natural or synthetic ropes. It also has a shackle key, and its handle has a very comfortable for grip. Opinel is also distributed by Awesome Tools.

    Safety and rescue equipment

    It is important to emphasise the need to take safety and emergency equipment on a hike.

    Backpacks often come with built-in whistles, but your customer won’t go amiss by taking a dedicated emergency whistle with him. “If you can’t be seen, you may be heard,” reminds Atka.

    • Lifesystems’ emergency whistles can emit duo or tri-tone sounds that can be heard from quite some distance away. The brand is distributed by Traverse Outdoor Gear.
    • A signalling mirror could also be picked up over a distance: Atka’s comes with a lanyard and star aim indicator. It also has handy usage instructions on the back of the mirror.
    • An emergency blanket is designed to retain body heat, so it’s a good idea for customers to pack one. The all-weather emergency blanket from Atka is made from strong, lightweight, waterproof and visible reflective Mylar. It will keep the user warm in the cold and reflect the sun in hot climates.
    • Lifesystems’ survival bag is durable and lightweight, and offers protection from the elements. It is made from heavy-duty polyethylene and is wind and water proof, and lightweight. It is bright orange and can also be used to signal for attention.

    Also remind your customer to pack a first aid kit — even if he only plans to be hiking for a few hours. Like the old adage goes: rather safe than sorry.

    Other necessities

    • A reliable compass is an essential, inexpensive necessity.
    • If your customer will be hiking somewhere local, it’ll be a good idea to recommend he invests in a trail map as well.
    • A GPS device will also be a handy investment for navigating.
    • If your customer plans on crossing rivers, a dry bag will keep his items dry. Atka offers four different sizes: 5L will hold personal electronics and small valuables, he can carry a spare pair of shoes or set of clothing in the 10L, bulky items such as jackets or sleeping bags can fit in the 15L, and a small tent or a full change of clothing and shoes will fit in the 20L.
    • Its pocket chain saw is the fastest cutting pocket saw in the world, claims Atka, and can cut through a 7.6cm diameter limb in under 10 seconds. It is useful for trimming and clearing branches and limbs, cutting firewood and constructing a shelter.
    • For drying off after being caught in the rain, or after a wash, a lightweight and quick-drying towel will be handy. Lifeventure’s Softfibre and Softfibre Light travel towels respectively absorbs 9 and 6 times their own weight, and dry 8 and 9 times faster than a standard beach towel.
    • Squinting into the sun’s no fun, but products such as hats, caps and sunglasses will bring a hiker relief. Buff, known for its technical scarves and headwear, has now expanded into caps and hats. This collection launched in South Africa in February.

    Nature is fashionable

    By 2019 hiking will be the new It fashion trend, attracting even influencers out from the familiarity of their fitness classes and onto the trail, reports trend-forecasting company WGSN. “As we look to disconnect from life and reconnect with nature, traditional outdoor pursuits will gain luxe appeal.”

    There’s a willingness to reconnect with nature and have a more authentic experience, agrees Jennifer Karuletwa, who presented her footwear trends talk, titled Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone, at The Materials Show earlier this year. Karuletwa is a senior trend and business consultant for Peclers Paris, a global trend forecasting and product development firm.

    Her Rural Visionary trend leverages nature’s healing powers with virtual and immersive technologies, she said.

    Earthy neutrals, fresh greens and vegetable colours are tossed in together with a technological blue to create the trend’s colourscheme.

    Materials are strong, taking inspiration from the roughness of nature. Materials such as knits and different weaves with a rough and raw look, heavy gauge knits, hemp ropes and structures with natural effects create an impression of rustic.


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