Project WILD has been running trips in the mountains of North Carolina for 40 years now, and our experience has taught us that one must be prepared for all types of weather on the Pre-Orientation Trip. It will be hot in the day, quite cool and possibly cold at night, and potentially very, very wet at any time. The mountains are beautiful, inspiring and powerful places, but you need to be prepared so that you can enjoy them. Make your trip more enjoyable by following this list as closely as you can.
Bringing Your Own Gear
It is imperative that your gear is adequate for two weeks of backpacking. Sleeping bags should be warm and lightweight camping bags (it does tend to get cold at night, especially at high elevations). Backpacks should be at least 4,200 cubic inches (70 liters) in carrying capacity. Do not bring items such as stoves, fuel, and tents.
A Note on Cost
It's one of our main goals at Project WILD to keep our adventures affordable and available to everyone. Our equipment list is designed to keep you safe and comfortable at a low cost. Therefore, we do not recommend running out to your local backpacking store and buying lots of expensive new gear. You will most likely have some of these items; others you can always borrow, and others you may find at a thrift store or Army/Navy surplus store (these stores are popular among Project W.I.L.D. staff for their own gear). This ought to make it possible for everyone to find all the gear in the “Critical” and "Required" sections. This gear is necessary for your own safety, and we require that you follow these sections closely. Gear in the "Optional" section is helpful and for comfort, but NOT completely necessary.
What Project WILD Can Provide
- sleeping bags
- sleeping pads
- pack covers
- chlorine and iodine for water purification
Project WILD supplies all group gear (tarps, compasses, maps, cookware, stoves etc).
A printable version of the gear list is available here.
You must have these items to go on the trip.
- broken-in high top hiking boots
- water-proof (not water-resistant) rain jacket (not a poncho)
- headlamp with extra batteries
- official ID (driver’s license)
- medical insurance
- prescription medication (if needed)
- money ($20 and a credit/debit card)
Although there is a chance you can borrow these items, PWILD has a limited supply and cannot guarantee sizes. If you have these items, or could purchase them, you need to bring them.
- 1 warm upper-body layer
- 1 pair running shoes for personal challenge event
- 2-4 pairs of non-cotton hiking socks
- 1 set of long-underwear tops and bottoms (non-cotton)
- 2-3 pairs of comfortable quick-drying shorts
- 2-4 t-shirts (better if non-cotton, and made from quick-drying synthetic material)
- waterproof or water-resistant pants
- 1 wool or fleece hat
- 1-3 bandanas required for personal challenge event
- durable spoon and bowl
- 4 1L durable water bottles/canteens (such as nalgenes or camelbacks)
- toiletries (just the essentials: toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, sunscreen, anti-bacterial gel)
- women: tampons/pads, even if you don’t think you’ll need them
- if you have contacts, bring a pair of glasses as well
These are items staff members think are nice to have, but are not in any way necessary.
- liner socks
- bug repellent
- large Ziploc bags (useful for staying organized and keeping clothes separate)
- pens and a journal
- Crazy Creek
- Tevas/Chacos/Crocs/flip flops
- pack cover
- 1-2 small, non-weight-bearing carabiners
- folding pocket knife (no fixed blades)
- brimmed hat/baseball cap
Do Not Bring
These are items you should not bring on PWILD.
- deodorant, razors or cosmetic items
- watches or books
- toilet paper
- tobacco products, drugs, or alcohol
- extra food
More information on Gear
First, make sure you have HIKING boots. Work boots will cause your feet lots o' pain. Next, make sure your hiking boots are comfortable while wearing a pair of wool socks. Always err on the size of a boot that is a bit too large, rather than too small. Your feet swell in the afternoon, so a smaller boot will cause you more problems and give you blisters. If you are buying boots, take your time in the store and walk around in them for a while (15 minutes or more). Make absolutely sure they are comfortable. If something feels uncomfortable now, it probably won't feel better after a fewdays of backpacking. Try on different sizes and different kinds. Lastly, be sure to BREAK THEM IN BEFORE THE TRIP. For most boots, this means wearing them for at least TWO WEEKS prior to the trip. Your feet may not be pleased with you if you do not break in your boots (read: painful blisters and sores). Remember, your feet carry you around all day when you're backpacking, so take the time to do this right. Check out this backpacker.com Footwear Guide for more info.
What do you have against cotton?
Cotton can be a trouble-maker in the wilderness. It can soak up over 100% of its original weight in water, which can make you dangerously cold after sundown. It takes a long time to dry out, and will not keep you warm while its wet. For this reason, it's fine to have some cotton t-shirts and underwear to hike in (cool and comfortable), but you really need to have some warmer clothes. Wool is cheap, warm, and flame retardant. Fleece (polyester fleece, like those fuzzy jackets. Brand names such as Synchilla, Polartec, Pile etc.) is more expensive, but lighter than wool and less water-absorbent.
So it is imperative that you have non-cotton socks (cotton socks will tear your feet apart after a day of sweaty hiking), non-cotton long underwear, and non-cotton warm layers (i.e. fleece/wool stocking cap, fleece jacket, wool sweater).
Thermax, Polypropylene, Capilene (and many more...) make great long underwear. They actually wick moisture away from your body, leaving you feeling warmer and drier. Ah, now that's better living through chemistry!