Trailblazer

You need more than a bag of gorp and a bottle of bug spray to take on New Jersey’s hiking trails. This guide will enable you to stave off blisters, poison ivy, ticks, sore knees, and sunburn.

APPAREL: Wear a hat to protect against the sun and loose-fitting clothing made of nylon or Capilene, a quick-drying polyester material made by Patagonia. If the temperature isn’t scorching, wear long sleeves and pants to combat ticks. To prepare for a sudden shower, stow a lightweight windbreaker with a waterproof polyester shell in your backpack.

SHOES AND SOCKS:  Start with a pair of sturdy shoes with a supportive midsole and an aggressive tread to provide traction and prevent slipping. Look for shoes with a breathable, waterproof lining such as Gore-Tex to wick away sweat. “The right sock is almost as important as the right shoe,” says David Weitzman, owner of the Outdoor Store in Montclair. “Look for a technical sock made of a quick-drying synthetic or wool blend with a reinforced arch and padding in the heel and toe.”

BACKPACK: Bring a waterproof nylon daypack strong enough to hold ten to twenty pounds of gear.

JUST IN CASE: Bring a multi-tool pocket knife, a cell phone, a flashlight, waterproof matches, and at least one liter of water per person.

TREKKING POLES: Descending hills or steep inclines can wreak havoc on knees and increase pressure on joints. Todd Edelson of Montclair Physical Therapy recommends a pair of trekking poles to provide stability and relieve pressure on knees and joints. “Do a series of stretches before going out on the trail to prevent injury,” he says. “Stretch all the major muscle groups, especially hamstrings, quads, and calf muscles.”

COMPASS AND BINOCULARS: A compass with a rotating bezel and clear base plate allows for easy map reading. Bring lightweight binoculars with a wide-angle field of view and a 7x or 8x magnification for landscape panoramas.

FIRST AID KIT: Make sure it includes tweezers, burn cream, sterile pads, gauze, antiseptic wipes, sting relief, Band-Aids, cotton balls, medical tape, aspirin, antacids, allergy medication, moleskin (for blisters), and latex gloves.

FOOD AND WATER: Pack fresh (or dried) fruit and vegetables. Energy bars, granola, and gorp (trail mix) contain enough carbohydrates and protein to boost energy when you tire.

SUNSCREEN AND BUG SPRAY: Use a waterproof sunscreen that does not contain insect-attracting perfumes. Insect repellents with a 30-percent concentration of DEET effectively repel ticks and mosquitoes. The Outdoor Store’s David Weitzman recommends Ultrathon, a time-release formula that lasts up to twelve hours. (Studies have shown that in rare cases exposure to DEET may result in neurological damage. Citronella-based repellents are a natural alternative, but they do not repel ticks.

LEAVES OF THREE: New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of poison ivy in the country. If exposed, use rubbing alcohol within 30 minutes to deactivate the plant’s oily resin. If a rash forms, hydrocortisone cream will help reduce swelling, inflammation, and itching. Severe cases can last up to 30 days. [Source: Dr. Kenneth Grossman, Little Silver dermatologist]

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