HIKING EQUIPMENT ON THE HEXATREK

The full list of essentials

The Hexatrek is a long self-guided hike. And the most important word here is “long”.

Certainly you will be in the mountains as in a classic hike, but you will above all have to carry all your equipment , your water, your food, your sleeping system.
So we are not approaching a long trek, lasting a week or several months, like a day hike, and you will have to quickly get rid of the objects “just in case”.
 

Weight is your enemy, and if some trekkers can completely walk with 30 kilos on their back, it is knowingly transforming a leisure activity into torture, or even completely preventing you from advancing after a few days on this diet.

Without reaching the overpriced extremes of a complete ultralight bag weighing less than 8kg with water and food, arriving below 15kg will already be a huge plus to appreciate the life of the trek.

Here too, it is a question of the budget, a few grams saved on the gear often translates into several tens or hundreds of euros more. But here is at least the minimum list required to leave with peace of mind and enjoy the trip.

Clothes to put in your bag

Hiking shirt or t-shirt
one is enough, anyway you will quickly become one with the smell of sweat, like all walkers. From time to time you will wash it in a river or a sink, but otherwise embrace your scent of adventure! Avoid cotton, once wet it dries slowly and will draw on your body heat, with a risk of hypothermia on cool sections.

 

Hiking pants
shorts possible, watch out for sunburn on the calves and ticks/brambles.

 

2 pairs of underwear
one on you, the other in the bag. When you wash one, put it on the bag to dry and wear the other. Favor materials such as merino wool that resist rubbing, dry quickly and… stink less.

 

2 pairs of hiking socks
same advice as above. Warning: always have dry socks for the nights. So if it rains two days in a row, you put your wet and cold socks back on in the morning. At the time it's atrocious, we hate each other, we regret all our life choices, we imagine friends lounging on the beach with a serene hatred tinged with jealousy, but in the evening when we put our toes back in dry socks for the night it feels like the greatest tactician since Sun Tzu.

 

A headgear of your choice
a Buff to regulate the temperature and fight against the sun, a cap for greater protection against the elements and which passes under the hood, a hat possibly for the cool nights, a stetson if you want to play it cowboy, a beret if you want to play the shepherd of the Pyrenees, etc.

 

First thermal layer
tights and a long-sleeved top for sleeping or stuffing under your clothes in case of severe cold. Lightweight, they help keep down clean longer and regulate temperature at night.

 

A hiking fleece or down jacket
Your first layer against the cold, rather used in the evening at camp or during breaks, it can also be worn while walking when it is very cold. A good fleece should suffice in the summer on most of the HexaTrek, but a very light down jacket can help withstand passages at altitude.

 

Rain jacket (and possibly pants) 
Serving as a windbreaker and raincoat, prefer models with a breathable and very light membrane. In pouring rain lasting several days, there are few jackets that will not eventually give way through infiltration, but this protection is essential to avoid hypothermia.

Shoes: Rando or Trail Runners?

The debate over the best way to approach mountain footwear is raging, and long-distance walkers have been setting new standards for a few years.

In Europe we are still very attached to our big solid and waterproof leather boots, where American thru hikers swear by light canvas shoes.
 

What is certain is that the grip is essential. The sole must have studs, if possible must be from a well-established brand (independent like Vibram, or proprietary brands like Contagrip, Goodyear, etc.) in order to resist the many stones of the HexaTrek.

Avoid waterproof footwear .
If it seems tempting to keep your feet dry, it only lasts for a while. Any waterproof shoe will eventually puncture, and your feet will get soaked. And a shoe, let alone a boot, that is waterproof will take long days to dry, ruining your stride and causing many blisters.

Airy shoes will get wet the second someone sneezes in them, but they will dry out just as quickly as they get wet . Each step will wick away moisture. Waterproof shoes are great for a day hike, but on a multi-day effort the drama of constantly getting wet just isn't worth it.

High or low shoe?
the boots provide more ankle support, but therefore place more stress on the knees.
Whereas without support, your ankles will naturally develop muscle for the first few days. Boots protect more, but can cause more blisters. Finally, they are heavier.

But if you're a heavy build with a big bag, they might make more sense.

It's all a matter of personal choice, but just remember to take up to 2 sizes up. During a very long hike, the foot tends to swell disproportionately.

consistently not worth it.

Equipment to have on you

The bag
a hiking bag with lumbar belt, brand of your choice. No need for a 65 liter bag: the bigger it is, the more we tend to want to fill.

 

bag liner
no bag is truly waterproof, so consider covering the inside of the bag with a waterproof layer to protect all your sensitive items. A heavy-duty trash bag or commercial waterproof bag will work.

 

walking sticks
essential to lighten the load on the knees on descents, an aid for climbs with weight, an ally in the event of more hazardous passages. An essential strategic advantage that the old ones have kept to themselves for too long, now accessible to everyone!

 

Hiking kitchen
a simple titanium cooking pot to heat your dishes, light and associated with a small burner to put on a gas cartridge. Think of the spoon-fork!

 

Knife
You have the choice of taking any Opinel carbon number 8. But like really, be crazy, any Opinel carbon number 8 (or 7 for small hands). In any case, a simple small knife to open packets of freeze-dried food or cut pieces of sausage is enough. No need for a big Rambo knife, we haven't spotted any battalions from the USSR in our mountains for a while.

 

A lighter
enough to light the stove and, where permitted, a campfire.

 

Headlamp
practical for getting organized at camp, or for continuing safely on the way if the night catches up with you. Waterproof and lightweight preferred.

 

A powerbank battery and cables
you will have your phone with you, and even if it is economical to switch it to airplane mode to follow the GPS track, it will inevitably need juice. Calculate the power of your secondary battery based on the number of possible recharges on your phone.

 

Hygiene/care kit
toothbrush, mini tube of toothpaste, sunscreen, biodegradable soap, biodegradable toilet paper (alternative option: more ecological and practical travel bidet!), large bandages, possible medication (those you need, plus possibly anti-inflammatory and doliprane/aspirin). The deodorant is totally useless, certainly it is difficult to imagine leaving without at the beginning, but it is quickly released. You'll stink, it's OK. We all stink when hiking. But stinking of old sweat and chemical deodorant over it is even worse.

 

Repair kit
the
patches of your mattress, thread and a needle, a little tape, a little light rope.

 

Water filter
You will not always be able to count on drinking water taps where you go. Certainly in the mountains you will have access to springs, sometimes in abundance, of clear water. But a quick trip through the filter is the assurance of never drinking polluted water. There is nothing more unpleasant than a severe tourista when the nearest toilet is a hole to be dug in the ground in the rain along a steep slope...

 

Mini microfiber towel
very light, it will mainly be used to wipe your meals and your parts after a bath in the river or a shower while camping.

THE BIG 3: Essentials for autonomy

Tent
probably the most complicated element to recommend. There are so many variations in weight, price, style, practicality that nothing is clear.

First of all, think about lightening yourself up, that's the main problem. The tent is there to protect you from the rain and insects mainly, and to provide a little warmth, nothing more.

Some manage to leave with a simple tarp stretched between their walking sticks, minimal protection, but non-existent clutter.
Others prefer a traditional double roof , but in a sarcophagus to save weight. Finally, the most advanced models in Dyneema offer space and minimal weight, but at an exorbitant price. Your budget will change everything there.

Sleeping Bag
provide a down comfort temperature 0° . The nights are cool in the mountains, and it is better to be safe than sorry. Choosing an old-fashioned sleeping bag or a lighter quilt version depends on your preference. If you have a good insulating mattress, the quilt is increasingly favored by long-distance walkers.

 

Mattress
today there are inflatable mattresses for less than 400g . The materials have evolved enormously and offer comfortable nights for a minimal weight, while insulating from the cold of the ground. A good night's sleep promises a better day's walk. If you are looking for economy, a fully foam mattress is also possible, sacrificing comfort.

TRAIL

HexaTrek Association represents a 3034 km trail, linking 14 of the most beautiful natural parks and crossing France from the German  to the Spanish border.

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