Ah, hiking. A nice, leisurely ramble along a wooded path, with scenic vistas and a trailside picnic...right? Uh, no. This is power hiking¿the kind that makes your quads moan, the kind that gets you in shape for skiing. We're not saying there won't be lovely views; it's just that you'll be too fatigued to care.
When you're hiking to get your ski legs back, having the right gear is essential. You need stuff that performs but won't slow you down. And don't forget that picnic. You're going to need it.
Whip-your-butt-into-shape hiking requires a different kind of boot than Thoreau-style meandering does. Merrell's sticky-soled, well-bolstered Blade provides the traction, protection, and support your feet need to hustle over rough trails without one ounce of extra anything to weigh you down.
It wasn't long ago that the only way to quaff while hiking was to perform yogi impersonations trying to reach your water bottle in your backpack. Then came hydration systems, which worked great¿unless you needed to carry water and gear. CamelBak's new PeakBagger solves the dilemma: It combines a 100-ounce reservoir with a pack big enough for light overnights (2,300 cubic inches). But it's not too cumbersome for quick ascents.
At 14.3 ounces, Sierra Designs' Alpine Start jacket for women is one of the lightest waterproof-breathable laminated jackets on the market. It's vented via zippered hand pockets so you won't overheat, it's got a roll-away hood, and it's great for spring skiing. The 16-ounce men's version is called the Peak Bagger.
$189/Sierra Designs/800-635-0461/ www.sierradesigns.com
Mountain Hardwear's deluxe Trail Shorts feature a seamless microfleece lining that reduces chafing from pack belts and feels splendid against the skin. The shorts' cut is loose but not baggy, and they have plenty of pockets.
$75/Mountain Hardwear/800-953-8375/ www.mountainhardwear.com
SmartWool Hiking Socks really don't itch. Plus, they're cushy and wick moisture for comfort over the long or short haul.
If you tend to power hike deep into the backcountry, Garmin's eTrex GPS device can help you find your way home. Just over four inches tall and weighing only six ounces, this nifty unit features a waterproof 12-channel GPS receiver that works for 22 hours on two AA batteries.
Smith's Zipper sunglasses fit close to the face for protection against wind and sun, but not so close that they fog up. Grippy ear pieces hold them in place even during knee-buckling descents.