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Although an ounce of technique is still worth 10 pounds of equipment, the average family will live better and enjoy a backpack trip more by taking along certain "luxury" items recommended by the Macks. The best lightweight backpacking gear (and clothing and dehydrated foods) can be found at specialty shops in major cities across the country. A number of ski shops and some of the better sporting-goods stores also stock comparable equipment.
BOOTS AND BAGS: The Macks prefer oil-tanned leather hiking boots, five or six inches high, with heavy-duty neoprene lug soles, padding around the ankles to prevent rock bruises and bellows-type tongues to keep out sand, gravel and water. For growing children, sturdy leather boots with rubber soles, to which lugs can be added by a shoemaker if desired, are adequate. Lugs do get clogged with wet earth, and backpackers who must hike most of the time over wet ground should consider rubber-bottomed leather "pacs." To protect their feet, hikers can put tape on pressure points (ankle bones and the balls of the feet), and moleskin or Band-Aids on tender areas before starting out. Tape should never cross or go around the foot, where it might cut off circulation. The Macks prefer down-filled sleeping bags because of their lightness, warmth and compressibility. A washable snap-in liner of raw silk or flannel adds 10� more warmth. A separate waterproof nylon ground cloth serves the same purpose. The Macks stuff their bags into six-ounce waterproof sacks and lash them to their pack frames.
TENTS AND AIR MATTRESSES: On most weekend trips the Macks find that two waterproof rain-fly sheets (11 by 14 feet), pitched as tarp tents, are adequate protection against infrequent showers. When they expect to encounter heavier rains, cool weather or mosquitoes, they carry two-man water-repellent mountain tents, complete with collapsible poles and aluminum stakes, sewn-in waterproof floors and zippered mosquito-net doors and windows with weather flaps. They lie a fly over the tent, leaving an air pocket in between to allow the tent to breathe. The beginning backpacker should set up his tent in the backyard before he camps out, and he should remember to allow for some slack when pitching it to prevent wet guy lines from ripping out grommets or tearing tent walls. Most families will find inflatable "half" mattresses (shoulder to hip length) a worthwhile luxury. Foam pads are punctureproof, but they add more bulk to the pack.
CLOTHING AND FIRST AID: The most useful hiking garment is a wind-proof, water-repellent shell parka with a full-length zipper, waist drawstrings and hideaway hood. The Macks wear tailored but loose-fitting khaki bird-hunting pants, cuffless and double-faced in front, for walking in brush. Soft, well-washed jeans that do not bind are also good. Women's stretch pants are not. On warm days the Macks wear short shorts that do not bind at the thighs. On weekend hikes each member of the family packs an extra pair of pants, a change of underwear, bandanna handkerchiefs, three pairs of wool socks, a sweater or down shirt, a pair of soft moccasins or sneakers and a light, knee-length poncho that flares out at the back to cover the pack. Linn adds a scarf, hair ribbons, one lotion in a plastic bottle for hands and face and one mirror. In addition to a Swiss army knife and lip salve, each person carries insect repellent, toilet tissue, a hotel-size bar of pumice or borax soap, a towel and 50 feet of nylon lashing rope. Other extras include fishing gear (there are excellent fly and spin rods that fit into 24-inch cases and can be lashed to the pack frame), one map in a plastic case, one compass, one camera, a roll of electrical tape, a small whetstone, a coil of pliable wire, two flashlights, one flat-folding candle lantern and a tube of sun cream. The Macks also carry a small first-aid kit prepared with the help of their family doctor.
FOOD AND COOKING EQUIPMENT: Linn supplements dehydrated foods, which are always tested at home before being added to the trail menu, with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat, and manages to serve at least one family favorite at every meal. The Macks carry 12 to 15 pounds of food on a weekend trip. Linn saves weight by using squeeze tubes of jelly, peanut butter, mustard and mayonnaise. She also takes eggs (in an aluminum egg carton), butter (in a plastic-lined tin), and packs other staples like sugar, cereal and coffee in polyethylene bags, bottles and jars.
Cooking gear consists of nested pots and pans in which are packed aluminum foil plates, aluminum mix-serve bowls, forks and spoons, cold-water detergent, scouring and soap pads, aluminum foil, canvas gloves, clamp-on pot grippers, salt and pepper, spices in tiny pill bottles, a few lemons and onions and a garlic clove. To this she adds a spatula, aluminum cups, extra containers and bags for leftovers, Wash 'n Dri kits, a dish towel and a plastic ground cloth to spread food on and to cover food and firewood at night.
ADDITIONAL LUXURY ITEMS: A folding saw, folding shovel (which is also a hammer and an ax), a steel grill with folding legs that can be lashed flat against a pack frame and a tiny stove that burns alcohol or white gas.
The total cost of the Macks' equipment, excluding clothing, personal items and food, is $400 to $500. They use the best backpacking equipment and find that it will last for years.
The Macks split up their load for a weekend so that Josh and Jeff each carries 15 pounds, Linn 25 and Dick 30.
WHERE TO GO: There are 104,600 miles of hiking trails in 154 national forests and 10,200 miles of trails in 32 national parks. Most such areas permit off-trail bushwhacking, but backpackers should check local regulations, obtain maps and fire permits and leave word with rangers or wardens before setting out. Some parks and forests do not allow pets, and all insist that garbage be buried or burned. Only downed timber may be used for firewood in national parks but standing dead trees may be cut in most national forests. When driving from low elevations into high country, it is a good idea to spend at least a day acclimatizing to the altitude before hiking away.