Basic Equipment Needed for Hiking In Italy

basic equipment needed for hicking in italy

Lago Misurina Hiking the Mountains of Italy

It is necessary, indeed vital, for the hiker to have good mountain equipment. These days the market offers a huge range and variety of all sorts of products and technical specialities for use in all seasons. A trained, professional sales assistant can help you to choose the best product for your needs, but we feel obliged to offer some advice of our own.

he choice of underwear is extremely important. The traditional cotton and wool garments have been replaced by products in polypropylene and other materials, often combined with polyester or newly-designed materials (the textile industry evolves continually, and by the time this guide is published, even more innovative products will probably be available), which have the advantage of expelling sweat and thus keeping the body dry.

The famous “grandma” style thick woolly socks are now almost a distant memory, and today hikers use products created with synthetic fibres of various types, which are warm and allow the skin to breathe. To protect their legs, many hillwalkers use very light nylon knee-length socks (women’s pop-socks), which give excellent protection to the skin and a fine natural wrap for the muscles.

Hiking boots must be chosen with particular care. In the southern part of the route, light trekking shoes are sufficient, but on the snow- covered mountains of the northern sector it is vital to have a more technical, robust type of footwear, specifically designed for that kind of terrain, and to which crampons can be applied if need be.
Sunglasses are indispensable at least when crossing areas covered in snow.

Knickerbocker type trousers, comfortable as they are, are rarely worn in Italy, although they are still popular in other countries. The kind of trousers normally worn these days are long, very technical (i.e. light, elasticised, with numerous pockets, brightly coloured to aid visibility, water-resistant, etc.); there is a vast range of choice, depending on individual taste and budget.

The old-style heavy woolen shirts have also been replaced by synthetic fabrics (fleece), but you can also find excellent models in breathable cotton or other fibres that the market offers hikers, who want to keep up with the times (and with fashion).

Fleece is an exceptional fabric, which has been used for years now and is continually evolving, allowing the hiker to wear a splendid sweater which is lightweight, breathable, warm, waterproof and comfortable.

The same material is also common these days for gloves and hats.

It is not difficult to choose a good wind-cheater jacket. Polyamide jackets are the lightest, the most waterproof and also breathable. Unfortunately the high price puts many people off buying this extremely useful type of technical jacket, but if you take advantage of the sales, and ignore fashion trends, you can save a lot.

Telescopic walking sticks, adaptable and extremely lightweight, are very useful in ascent because they save you about 30% of the effort; they are practically indispensable for anyone with any kind of knee problems because they lighten the burden of the rucksack, transferring some of its weight onto the arms, which should therefore be kept in good shape. Even this extremely useful piece of equipment has its limits, however: it should not be used when crossing on ledges or on steep paths half way up the mountainside, for example, because they can cause you to lose your balance and trip; it should not be used anywhere you need to use one or both of your hands on the rock; it is not recommended in steep descent; if they get stuck between the shoulder straps of you rucksack and your back, they can collide with the rock and cause you to lose your balance.

It is unadvisable to carry too big a rucksack, because it gets in the way on difficult stretches; an average size rucksack is sufficient, with a few useful pockets to carry recommended items: personal documents, cellphone (very useful; it has saved many lives, although it cannot be used everywhere), membership card of mountaineering associations, to get discounts in the refuges, topographical maps and guides, a pen and perhaps a diary, Swiss knife, water flask, compass and altimeter, camera, first aid items (especially common ones such as painkillers, vitamin C, saline integrators, plasters, gauzes, bandages, thermometer, and anything else the individual hiker might need) and all those little accessories that personal experience and requirements demand.

Never forget a change of underwear, socks, handkerchiefs, sheets in synthetic fibre (on sale in many refuges), sleeping bag-lightweight bivouac for emergencies (you can buy them at a reasonable price, and they weigh about 200g), something to shelter you from the rain (the old-fashioned cap is not often used these days, with hikers preferring a small umbrella, which must, however, be able to stay up in strong wind), lightweight climbing shoes or other footwear for use inside the refuges, a waterproof cotton hat (the “desert” type is best, as it protects you from UV rays and also covers the neck and ears). A length (about 20 meters) of lightweight rope is useful, as well as some snap-links.

On the vie ferrate it is compulsory to use a helmet, snap-links and a ferrata harness , so these should also be carried in your rucksack. Crampons are also necessary (on the market you can find an extremely lightweight model for hillwalking, which is quite sufficient.

To tackle the Europa High-Altitude Trail 6 it is not indispensable to have a rope, but it is certainly useful for some rocky stretches, ice-cove- red rock plates or other cases in which help might be required. In the case of groups walking together, members could take turns carrying the rope.

Those who want to experience the old-style climbing environment can experience the beauty and majesty of the mountains by spending the night in a tent, curled up in a warm sleeping bag, sometimes lulled to sleep by rain falling softly on the roof. The only price to be paid for such an unforgettable experience is a few extra kilos to carry!

Extremely important: NEVER forget to bring adequate water supplies and, of course, a little food for daily use, which you can buy in the various refuges, without weighing down your rucksack at the outset with all manner of urban delicacies

How to Pack and Organize Your Backpack

HOW TO PACK AND ORGANIZE YOUR BACKPACK FOR LONG HIKES

Loading a backpack is pretty simple. If possible, first load your backpack at home. You can spread out your gear on a clean floor, visually confirm you've got everything and feel less rushed as you load up.

Use a checklist to ensure you've got everything you need. This lessens the chance something gets left behind.

THE BASIC WAY TO PACK YOUR BACKPACK FOR LONG TREKS

As with anything this suggestion is a good starting point.  Most individuals tend to find this method works well, each hiker may wish to make adjustments based on their body shape and individuals likes.  However, I would suggest packing close to this method for the first days of walking to get a good feel of your equipment and how to make best use of your backpack. 

The Bottom of the Pack

Virtually all backpacks have large openings at the top and are known as top-loading packs. A seldom-seen alternative is a panel-loading pack which uses a zippered sidewall flap.

Most backpackers shove their sleeping bag into the bottom of the pack. On some packs, there is a zippered opening at the bottom of the packbag, known as the sleeping bag compartment, for this purpose.

The bottom of the pack is also a good place for other items you won't need until you make camp at night: long underwear being used as sleepwear, for example; a pillowcase; maybe a sleeping pad, if it's the kind that rolls up into a tiny shape.

Any other needed-only-at-night items can go down low except a headlamp or flashlight. Always have your light source in a readily accessible space.

The Pack's Core

Your heaviest items should be placed 1) on top of your sleeping bag and 2) close to your spine. Usually these items will be:

  •  Your food stash, either in a couple of stuff sacks or in a bear canister.
  •  Your water supply, either in a hydration reservoir or bottles.
  •  Your cook kit and stove might also go here,though both could be wedged into the periphery of the load if small and light enough.

Carrying a hydration reservoir? Most newer packs include a reservoir sleeve. This is a slot that holds a reservoir close to your back and parallel to your spine. It's easier to insert the reservoir while the pack is still mostly empty, so that leaves you 2 choices:

  • If you prefer efficiency, insert it at home. You'll have a loaded pack ready to go as soon as you reach the trail head.
  • If you want the coldest water possible, carry the reservoir in a cooler and load it and your other middle- and upper-pack contents at the trail head.

Heavier items should be centered in your pack—not too high, not too low. The goal is to create a predictable, comfortable center of gravity. Heavy items too low cause a pack to feel saggy. Too high and the load might feel tipsy.

In the past, traditional pack-loading advice recommended that for trail-walking, heavy items should be carried a little higher in a pack. Today, with most packs designed to ride close to the body, it's best to simply keep heavy items close to the spine and centered in the pack.  If you have an older style of pack with external frames you might wish to move heavy items a bit higher.

On the Outter sides and Outsides of the Pack

Wrap softer, lower-weight items around the weightier items to prevent heavier pieces from shifting. What items are these? Your tent body,rainfly, an insulation layer, a rain jacket. These items can help stabilize the core and fill empty spaces.

Stash frequently used items within easy reach. This includes your map, compass, GPS, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, bug spray, first-aid kit, snacks, rain gear, pack-cover, toilet paper and sanitation trowel. Place them in the pack's top pocket or other external pocket, if one exists. Some packs even offer tiny pockets on the hip-belt.

If carrying liquid fuel, make sure your fuel bottle cap is on tightly. Pack the bottle upright and place it below your food in case of a spill.
Other Tips

  • Fill up empty spaces. For example, put utensils, a cup or a small item of clothing inside your cooking pots. Fill up your bear canister.
  • Split the weight of large communal items (e.g., tent) with others in your group. You carry the main body, for example, and your friend can carry the poles and rain-fly.
  • Tighten all compression straps to limit load-shifting.

The Desired Result

Ideally, a well-loaded pack will:

  • Feel balanced when resting on your hips.
  • Feel cohesive, a whole unit, with nothing shifting or swaying inside.
  • Feel stable and predictable as you walk, at one with your upper body.


Other Packing Tips

  • Tent poles: If your pack offers elasticized side pockets, place the poles down one side of the pack, behind one or more compression straps, with one end of the poles in the pocket.
  • Sleeping pad: You may need an extra set of straps to attach it to a lash point on the top of the pack or near your waistline on the outside of the pack. Another option: Put it beneath your top pocket (lid) and the top opening of the pack, then tighten the lid to the pack. The pad may be vulnerable to slipping out either side, so secure the pad to the pack with an extra strap or 2. Note: It's fine to carry tent poles and a sleeping pad inside a pack if you have the space.
  • Trekking poles: Same deal; just put the grips in the pocket and the tip pointing upward.
  • Ice axe: External tool loops make it possible to carry an inverted axe on your back until it's needed.
  • Crampons: Carry them inside your pack in a protective case. Or, lash them to the outside of the pack as long as you use protective point covers.
  • Other tools: Some packs offer a series of external stitched loops called a daisy chain. Use it to clip or tie small items on your pack.

Note: Minimize the amount of gear you attach to your pack's exterior. External items can potentially get snagged on brush in areas of dense vegetation. Too much external gear could also jeopardize your stability.

  • Carry a pack cover. Though some backpacks are made with waterproof fabric, they have seams and zippers that are vulnerable to seepage during a downpour. A pack cover is worth its weight when rain becomes persistent.
  • Bring a few repair items. Wrap strips of duct tape around your water bottles or trekking poles; in case a strap pops or some other disaster occurs, a quick fix could keep you going. Take along a few safety pins in case a zipper fails.
  • Consider a camera case. The need for one depends on your camera and your desire for quick access when shooting.

Italy Trail Markings and Difficulty Levels

TRAIL MARKING AND DIFFICULTY RATING TO KNOW WHEN HIKING IN ITALY

Hike Italy, Trail Marking and Signs

TRAIL SIGNS USED IN ITALY

Along the mountain hiking trails in Italy, the hiker can find three types of signs at all the main points.

  1. Painted triangle with the High Altitude Trail number inside; this type of sign is a little less common than the following;
  2. Path sign consisting of two horizontal red stripes with a white stripe in the middle on which you can find the path number in black. Along paths that require more frequent signs, in between those above you can find simple red or red and white signs.
  3. Wooden chart signs on fixed poles (old types in metal).

The coordination of signposts on the network of alpine paths in most Regions of Italy is constantly monitored, sector by sector. Where the triangles, path signs and charts are found to be in poor condition and thus difficult or impossible to see, the hiker should pay careful attention to the indications from guides, local maps, and have a good knowledge of land navigation skills.

RATING THE TRAIL DIFFICULTY OF HIKES IN ITALY

A scale of difficulty for different mountain routes has also been introduced for hiking.  All hiikers, should learn the rating scale and take seriously so that they are able to avoid unpleasant surprises.  The Trail Difficulty Scale involves four distinct grades of difficulty:

T: Tourist path. Easy path or forest road, not very long, very evident not posing problems with bearing.

E: Hiking, Path without technical difficulties on variable ground, even rough and bumpy and at time steep; can sometimes include prepared crossings which do not require special equipment; most of the paths in the Dolomites belong to this category.

EE: for Expert Hikers. Marked path, over more treacherous ground, at altitudes even elevated, with open stretches which call for sure footing and no dizziness. Prepared stretches call for the correct equipment (karabiners, metal friction plates, harness and ropes).

EEA: for Equipped Expert Hikers. These are routes and prepared paths with frequent open stretches , difficult also because they are long and high up; they call for the know how of safety measures (helmet, metal friction plates, ropes and karabiners). Using these aids must not make you forget that you are moving in a high mountain environment.

With all these rating and understanding it is still necessary to remember that if you feel unsure you should undertake the route with an Alpine guide.

Minimum Impact Hiking In the Dolomites

MINIMUM IMPACT HIKING IN THE DOLOMITES

Hiking is one of the most pleasant and healthiest outdoor pursuits, but it also requires increasing awareness of the negative impact that it can have on nature and on the landscape. High in the mountains the mantle of humus is often very thin and the vegetation is extremely vulnerable to the damage caused by people walking over it: 3000 crossings of a stretch of alpine field in a year are enough to turn a grassy area into a barren terrain.

Hikers on the High Altitude Trail must do their best to avoid shortcuts to limit the effects of washing away of the waters and prevent unsettling the ground; they must also try not to go off the paths so as not to disturb wildlife, and to reduce noise pollution, particularly when crossing protected areas or biotopes of particular scientific importance. They should not leave rubbish behind, gather mushrooms, berries, flowers or fossils. If you have to light a fire, do so with extreme caution and only in appropriate areas.

leave no trace hiking

REMEMBER THE LEAVE NO TRACE SKILLS

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Use and Impact from Fires
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors
  • Other Leave No Trace Considerations

Weather and Climate of the Italian Dolomite's

WEATHER AND CLIMATE IN THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

cinque torri, hiking in the Dolomites

The Dolomite Mountains offer some of the best weather in all of the Alps and are perfect for year-round active adventures. As a mountain range, the Dolomite's receive less precipitation on an annual basis than do the majority of the Alps. The southern Dolomite's (the Brenta Group and Lake Garda area) tend to be struck with cold spells created by storms that have pushed up from the south, and more fog created when the cold air mixes with the warmer air from nearby Venice. The Northern Dolomite's (Sudtirol / Alto Adige) have the least amount of precipitation, as the southern Dolomite groups break up the big storms from the south, leaving the north with more desirable conditions.

The summer months (mid-July through September) have warm temperatures and plenty of sun – perfect for hiking, climbing, via ferrata, and cycling trips!  While the average maximum temperature may reach some 80 °F / 25°C on the valley floors, the gentle wind of the Dolomite's guarantees refreshing moments in the shade of rich green woods.

In fall the temperature drops, but weather conditions remain stable and pleasant, making the Dolomites a perfect place to plan a “late summer” adventure!

Winter snow usually begins to accumulate in December, lasting through March, and sometimes April. While temperatures fall below freezing, and snowfall is ample, the sun shines an unparalleled 8 days out of 10 in the Dolomite's – more than any other range in the Alps! The sunny winter paradise of the Dolomite Mountains make skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing adventures here unbeatable!

Spring returns in with warmer weather and longer days, but also with rain. But this too is welcomed, as it clears the air for spectacular vistas and brings beautiful green valleys and pastures overflowing with wildflowers!

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