Thursday, April 29, 2010

Best Hawaii Hiking, Backpacking, and Camping Books

I have hiked just about every trail on Oahu and many trails on the other Hawaiian Islands. Plus, I am a writer and avid reader. As such, I have developed a good sense for what are the best books about hiking, backpacking, and camping in Hawaii. Here is the list.
  • For hiking on Oahu, the top tome is Stuart Ball's The Hikers Guide to Oahu.  When I first began hiking in 1993, I carried this book (or photocopied pages from this book) with me on just about every trail I hiked.  I even bought a second copy, one for my backpack while hiking and another for my home library.  Best book on Oahu hiking, bar none. 
  • For backpacking in Hawaii, Stuart Ball has also written the primo book: Backpacker's Guide to Hawaii. Ditto my comments above buth for backpacking.  While it is true that there are not a slew of backpacking opportunities in Hawaii, for the outings that exist, Ball has written the most detailed and comprehensive guide.  This is a must have for anyone who wants to backpack in Hawaii, especially the little-known routes like the Koolau Summit Trail.

  • For hiking on the other islands, Stuart Ball is again the kingpin author with his book Hikers Guide to the  the  Hawaiian Islands.  No one has matched Ball's comprehensiveness for hiking on the other major Hawaiian Islands, so this book is a good resource.  While not extensively thorough, this book covers the major trails in the islands, with good pictures as well.
  • For the botanically inclined, an excellent book about trailside flora is John Hall's A Hikers Guide to Trailside Plants in Hawaii.  Hall is a retired University of Hawaii professor and scientist and a legendary hiker.  A great read. 
  • While not a comprehensive trail guide, Peter Caldwell's Adventurer's Hawaii  is a good read for those who are looking for recollections of great outdoor adventures in Hawaii.

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Hawaii Hiking Gear -- Top Three

    Assuming you have the basics like a daypack/backpack and shoes/boots with good tread, what other gear would be beneficial for someone hiking a trail in Hawaii? Here are my top three:
    1.  Camelbak hydration system.  Hawaii is in the tropics, hence warm weather, hence the need for very good hydration.  A dehydrated hiker is an unhappy and unsteady hiker, so it is important to drink fluids constantly, especially in the Hawaiian climate, where a typical day on the trail will be in the low to mid-80s F even warmer in the summer months.  Since I am a big guy, I require a lot of fluids; hence my system of choice is the camelback 100 oz reservoir which I fill and then slip into my daypack.  Cost is $24 from
    2. Gaiters.  Hawaiian trails can get quite brushy and overgrown, so gaiters help protect the legs, prevent dirt and brush from getting into shoes/boots, and keep shoelaces from becoming undone by trailside bushes and brush.  An inexpensive pair can be purchased from Amazon for about $12.
    3. Hiking pole/staff.  I used to have problems with sore feet and knees and even had a bout with plantar faciitis.  The solution for me was to hike with a hiking pole.  What the pole helped me with is balance and cushioning.  A hiking pole, which can be cumbersome when trails are overgrown, is nonetheless a blessing for most hiking trails in the island, especially when conditions are muddy and trails are steep.  There are all kinds of hiking poles on the market but an inexpensive one can be purchased online for less than $20.
    Yes, there are all kinds of  gadgets and gear available for hikers, but the three I have mentioned here will help make your Hawaii hiking experience a better one.