Hike like the pros

Posted on 14 May 2020 By Matt Sterne

Gear Editor Matthew Sterne asked eight guides to recommend their favourite hiking gear and then tested the kit himself.

Most likely to be found in: Tsitsikamma

Recommends: Thule Guidepost Backpack 85L
‘The best feature is its size, as most other packs on the market are much smaller. When carrying gear in winter, a lot of the clothing is bulky, not necessarily heavy. It can also carry heavy loads though – I usually take about 25 to 30kg on a Northern Drakensberg Traverse. To help with this load, the pack has a swivel hip belt which eases the stress on your back considerably compared to a rigid hip belt.’

Thule Guidepost Backpack 85L

R5,399 thulestore.co.za
This backpack has two striking features – the sheer size of it and the smart engineering typical of a Thule product. I can see why a guide, who normally carries extra gear, would love this pack with its ample packing space. And the clever design? The waist belt has a just-pull-to-adjust system, the shoulder straps can be modified according to your torso and in wet weather there’s a water-resistant front pouch for your phone or map. The swivel hip belt is a game changer as it can move independently of the pack.

Most likely to be found on Table Mountain

Recommends: Garmin 735XT
‘The one piece of hiking gear that I value the most is my Garmin watch. When I discover new and unfamiliar hiking routes the GPS feature always helps me find my way back to the starting point. You cannot get lost! Furthermore, the watch provides lots of important information like your pace and heart rate. This is really useful in order to estimate your return point and how to use your energy wisely.’

Garmin Forerunner 945

R11,099 capeunionmart.co.za
The much-improved 945 is the latest iteration from Garmin. There’s an optical heart-rate monitor, barometric altimeter, pulse oximeter, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, as well a a thermometer — all in a 13,7mm-thick watch case. It can track more than 30 different sports and your sleep as well as monitor your stress. For hikers, colour maps and on-the-go route planning means you can explore new places and never fear getting lost again.


Most likely to be found on: Table Mountain

Recommends: La Sportiva TX4
‘As much as I like a good backpack, or the joy my GSI coffee plunger gives me, I would forfeit all of them for a good pair of hiking shoes. There’s no single shoe that’s perfect for all conditions, but the La Sportiva TX4 comes pretty close. It’s sensitive and grippy enough for technical terrain, while still offering enough support for carrying a medium-weight backpack – it has become my “go-to” shoe for guiding on Table Mountain.’

La Sportiva TX4

R3,599 adventureinc.co.za
The TX4 is a hybrid between trail and approach shoes, which are what rock climbers wear on their ‘approach’ towards a rockface. This is the third shoe in the TX range and is a great balance between comfort and durability. Made in Italy, the lace section is long, extending towards the toes, allowing a tight fit which helps your foot get a really good grip on the small edges of rocks. I can understand why Arno loves them – he’s probably able to move really quickly and steadily over all kinds of terrain.

Most likely to be found on: Table Mountain

Recommends: foldable solar charger
‘I use my cell phone as a camera, tracker for fitness and as a backup for emergency calls. My torch and headlamp are also rechargeable so I really value my solar charger, especially on multi-day hikes. I have two RED-E powerbanks but these tend to lose charge quickly. So I purchased a solar panel that fits onto the back of my backpack and charges while I walk. If there’s cloud cover then at least I have the powerbanks partially charged should there be an emergency in the mountains.’

Foldable Solar charger

R600 wish.com

Tim bought his no-name-brand charger on Wish, which took about six weeks to reach him and was cheaper than in-store prices. It’s not compatible with iPhones but does charge most Androids as well as powerbanks so there’s more than enough power to recharge his cell, torch and headlamp on a five-day trail. The ability of the solar charger to fold out, attach to your backpack and charge as you walk seems like the best system out there to stay connected on a long hike.


Most likely to be found in: Drakensberg

Recommends: Sea to Summit X-Pot 2.8L
‘I love this pot! It folds fl at and can feed up to five people. Imagine carrying a solid pot that can do that. It sparks a lot of conversations, even with the silent types (they usually poke the pot in disbelief). The design allows for two folding bowls and two cups to fit in it as well so I can surprise my clients like Mary Poppins with her handbag. It also cooks super fast which pleases a lot of “hangry” clients on the trail.’

Sea to Summit X-Pot 2.8L

R999 adventureinc.co.za
As Sam says, there’s a sense of magical theatre to this shape-shifting cooking pot, especially considering the small space, between the lid and the base of the pot, to store foldable cups and bowls. The lid features a built-in strainer for rice or pasta and there are measurement marks on the wall of the pot. Its base heats quickly but don’t plonk it on open fires as the silicone material can only be used on gas stoves.


Most likely to be found in: Drakensberg

Recommends: Crocs
‘After a long day of walking, you need a break from your hiking boots and my Crocs have proven to be very useful just for that. Walking up and down to the river to get water or to wash, you need something you can put on quickly, and Crocs just make life easier. They’re better than flip-flops, which often slip or break when walking on steep ground.’

Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandal

R899 crocssa.co.za
Initially, I was a little surprised by Godfrey’s recommendation but after seeing the stretch-mesh uppers and feeling the massage pods on the footbeds of this particular Croc model, I actually think it’s a fantastic option on a multi-day hike. Water escapes through the mesh so your feet won’t stay wet and they can breathe after a long day of walking, while the soft soles seem to mould into your feet. And decent traction is the cherry on top (or bottom).


Most likely to be found in: Cederberg

Recommends: sarong or kikoi
‘This is one versatile (read: crucial) item for all hikes that isn’t even a technical piece of hiking gear! It can be used as a scarf for keeping the neck and ears warm in an icy wind, as a towel for head protection in the sun or as a cooling wet “lappie” in high heat, and even as an extra layer in your sleeping bag at night. The humble sarong is one functional item that I always carry.’


R300 kikoy-za.com
A kikoi is a slightly heavier cotton version of a sarong but is equally versatile and useful on a hike. Hand-loomed from Indian cotton, these kikois come in 12 colours. Unlike traditional kikois, this range has a very thin layer of towelling on the reverse side. Due to being slightly bulkier than sarongs, kikois add a bit of weight inside a backpack, so are probably better for shorter trails rather than longer ones where weight is an important consideration.


Most likely to be found in: Drakensberg

Recommends: chamois absorbent cloth
‘While hiking in the Drakensberg, my tent, eating and sleeping space must always be clean and dry. A chamois fits the bill perfectly. If you spill something in your tent, no problem, just wipe it up. It’s especially useful for drying your tent (inside and out) when you wake up in the morning with ice, frost or water on it. They’re cheap and you can buy one anywhere. And by the way, you can wipe yourself with it too.’

Shield Absorber Chamois

R50, most hardware stores
I haven’t handled one of these since my dad used to give me ‘the honour’ of cleaning his car with them as a kid. The cloth is extremely absorbent and can be durable as long as you treat them right – don’t let it dry in the sun and when you store it the cloth should be slightly damp, otherwise it loses that moist chamois magic.


Featured image by Shane Quinnell


This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of Getaway magazine.
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All prices correct at publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please check with them before booking or buying.


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