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March 7, 2009 5:44 PM   Subscribe

How should we prepare for a 10 mile/8 hour guided hike through the NJ Pine Barrens?

My boyfriend and I are signed up to go on a hike that is scheduled from 8:30AM to 5:30PM with a one hour lunch break that takes us through the NJ Pine Barrens. We're both in good shape and are experienced hikers. The distance doesn't concern us but we've never hiked for that amount of time before and want to ensure that we are prepared for a full day of exertion.

We'll have a guide and will also bring our digital compass/gps in case we get separated from the group.

What do you recommend in terms of food and supplies? Is there anything else we should know about hiking for that long? Anyone else hike through the Pine Barrens (Franklin Parker Reserve) in March?

We're staying at a bed and breakfast the night before the hike and won't have access to a refrigerator so all food we bring will have to be non-perishable.

Thanks in advance!
posted by ginagina to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A few things to keep in mind:

Bring extra socks because wet socks are truly unpleasant, and they can give you blisters after many hours. You'll probably want to bring moleskin or duct tape for blisters. I find this is the difference between a grueling long hike and a pleasant long hike for me. If you find yourself getting a blister a few hours in, stop and fix it before it becomes terrible.

I'm sure you know to bring plenty of water... are you looking for food suggestions? Since you have an hour for lunch, you might consider bringing a tiny portable stove and some fuel, so you can make noodles or hot chocolate or something in a little pot. It's not necessary, but it can be really fun, and it doesn't add much weight to your pack. Other than a lunch food involving hot water, I think the best thing to do is bring a LOT of simple, calorie-dense snack foods. (You can also go for Clif bars and the like, which are great, but sometimes they taste a bit mealy.) Bring more than you think you'll need. Each person will probably use about 2 pounds of food. Bring very easy-to-eat foods that don't get sticky stuff all over your hands and don't need to be prepared in any way. Bonus if they can be crammed in to a side pocket without being damaged, so you don't have to stop to snack. I usually bring cashews, peanuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, dates, dried cranberry, chocolate, and some sort of salty cracker or pretzel. Think about what sorts of foods you crave when you've just been exercising - some people are thrilled to have candy when they're really hungry, it just tastes AMAZING, and other people can't stand sweets and want salty food. Over a long day of hiking, it's nice to be excited about a limited selection of food that you have. It can really suck to be incredibly hungry after many hours of hiking but be almost unable to eat the 1 type of food you have left.

As experienced hikers I'm sure you know this, and your guide will too, but if you're hiking many miles away from any sort of shelter or civilization, it's generally good to think about what you would do if you got stuck there for the night. Some people bring full survival kits (which can actually be quite tiny and light), and other people just go for a stove, a few iodine tablets, and an emergency blanket. A headlamp is a good idea - in case you end up walking at night.
posted by Cygnet at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2009

That doesn't sound like an extremely rigorous hike, but on long day hikes I always bring a complete change of clothes (or two, depending on the weather forecast)., or at least a change of socks and shirt. There's not much worse than stopping for a well-deserved rest only to find that you can't stop shivering because your clothes are drenched in sweat, or rain, or from the creek you slipped and fell in. For food I usually bring about 2 liters of water, a nice lunch, a hard boiled egg or two, and some trail mix. Besides that, a small first aid kit --moleskin is an essential item in my first aid kit because blisters can make a long hike absolutely miserable -- cameras, binoculars, a walking stick...
posted by Balonious Assault at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2009

OH, and one more thing:

Unless you're hiking on a trail with regular maintained stops, you'll want to bring toilet paper. And plastic bags, if it's a leave-no-trace area.
posted by Cygnet at 6:19 PM on March 7, 2009

They should not be too active in March, especially if the temps are not too warm, but the Pine Barrens has a fair amount of ticks, so just be on the lookout (I grew up in that area and found out later I had once had babesiosis, a tick borne disease.)
posted by gudrun at 6:24 PM on March 7, 2009

I've hiked throughout the Pines, and they are dead flat, flatter than flat. I don't think you'll have trouble with exertion.

Of course, bring more water than you think you will need.

Bring layers, because the weather can be changeable and even if you are warm in the sun, it's shady year-round in the woods there because there are so few deciduous trees.

The Pines are extremely sandy, and sometimes if you have hard walking, it's only because you're in deep sand. An extra few pairs of socks come in handy if one pair gets loaded with grit.

For hiking nonperishable lunches I like wheat crackers with a stick of cured salami and perhaps some cheese that's fairly stable - if you buy a brick of cheese the day before it should still be fine, especially if you're willing to carry a cold pack with your lunch. The inn will probably be happy to chill a cold pack for you. But the cold pack is mainly for texture, to keep the cheese from turning to mush -- hard cheeses stay fine for a long time. All you need to eat this lunch is a knife and a couple of wet-naps to clean the knife up with. Just slice some cheese, slice some salami, make a little cracker 'sandwich' and much away. Since it's a day hike it's so easy to carry those things, and there really is no reason to obsessively try to keep pack weight down.

Second what Cygnet said about making a yummy GORP of dried fruit and nuts and whatever else you like. Another good trail snack would be some homemade cookies that are energy-packed, like maybe oatmeal-cranberry (with or without chocolate, as you like). Again, since it's a dayhike, you can bring all sorts of stuff you wouldn't bring for a 4-day trip. Apples make it to lunch just fine. Celery and carrot sticks do well, maybe with a bit of hummus to dip them in sealed in tupperware.

I think water gets boring because you essentially drink it all day as you hike, so when it's time to stop for lunch a tastier drink is a nice refresher. You can just carry some tea powder or Emergen-C and shake it up in your water bottle.You really aren't going to need tons of food - a little trail mix for walking on, a decent lunch, and maybe a slightly more substantial afternoon snack to tuck into about 3:00 or so.

Enjoy it! The Pine Barrens are such a great, different environment.
posted by Miko at 6:43 PM on March 7, 2009

Oh - and I know this sounds ridiculous because it's March, but - be ready for mosquitos. Bring whatever you like to use to ward them off.
posted by Miko at 6:45 PM on March 7, 2009

Best answer: Oh, also, if you want more info. on the region, read John McPhee's The Pine Barrens. It is 40 years old and a bit dated now, but still worth the read.
posted by gudrun at 7:26 PM on March 7, 2009

read John McPhee's The Pine Barrens.

Take it with you. With an hour for lunch, you've got seven hours to cover ten miles. Even at a leisurely 3 mph, you've got close to four hours to kill.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 7:56 PM on March 7, 2009

read John McPhee's The Pine Barrens

By coincidence, just finished reading The Pine Barrens this morning. Definitely recommended.

(Along with anything else by McPhee, such as his magnum opus.)
posted by flug at 1:13 PM on March 8, 2009

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