Test gear before you buy it

There isn’t much worse than a backpack that doesn’t fit right. Or hiking boots that give you blisters. Or maybe a rainsuit that doesn’t keep the rain out.

Don’t just buy your gear because it looks good. Buy it only if it fits you properly. Hiking boots that don’t fit you well will give you blisters, and you’ll spend your entire trip sitting around in camp, dreading the walk back out. A backpack that isn’t the right size or shape for your back will do the same thing.

Pants, shirts and jackets that are too loose might not hobble you, but they might allow rain or snow to get in. Fabrics that aren’t designed to wick your sweat away from your body can make you feel pretty miserable, especially if they’re too tight.

When you go to buy your gear, whether it’s a hat, a pair of boots or anything in between, try it on. Walk around the store for a while with it on. If it pokes you in a bad place or feels too tight or too loose, put it back and try something else. It’s not going to get any better when you’re loaded down under a full pack out on the trail 10 miles from your truck.

Just about every company that makes backpacks these days builds different packs for different bodies. They have large, medium and small packs for large, medium and small people, and they even have packs designed specifically for women.

But don’t trust the size. Not everyone is built exactly like the model they used to come up with their measurements.

The straps may dig into your shoulders, or the waistbelt could hit you too high or too low. Try all the different sizes and all the different brands before you buy. Spend your money on the one that fits you best.

If it’s a pack you’re looking for, ask the salesperson if it’s OK to load it with some extra gear while you test it. You’ll learn more about the pack when it’s loaded than you will when it’s empty.

On the same token, ask if it’s OK to load a pack and wear it while you’re testing the hiking boots you’re trying out, or bring in your own pack for the test walk. Like the pack, the boots may feel different when you have a load on your back.

So give all your gear a good test before you plunk down your hard-earned money. It could mean the difference between a great trip and one you’d rather forget.

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