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Hiker 101

Before setting foot in the mountains, knowing the basics of keeping yourself safe while respecting the wilderness is very important. The 10 Essentials will help you know what to pack, hikeSafe is a hiking education program focused on preparation and safety, and Leave No Trace’s 7 Principles is a framework for minimum-impact practices while outdoors. Aspirants Chair, Chris Adams has put together detailed videos, important links, and further reading to help educate new hikers.

The Basics

The 10 Essentials

Learn more about the 10 Essentials and see how it can help you be a prepared hiker.

Trail Markers

The trail markers that guide your route help to tell a story. Check out this video to learn what these markers can tell you.

The Canisters

Fourteen of the trailless peaks on the 3500 Club Tally have bright orange Canisters on their summits. Learn all about the Canisters in this video, including what they are for, etiquette, and some tricks for opening a frozen Canister.

Bugs in the Catskills

From ticks and mosquitos to gnats and the dreaded black flies, these mountains have no shortage of things looking to buzz in your ears and face to annoy you—or even worse, extract some blood or leave behind nasty germs. Here are some tips for protecting yourself.

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles are a popular accessory for hikers. They are great for adding stability to tired legs and they can be invaluable if you experience a leg injury in the woods. Here are some tips on what to look for in a pair of hiking poles.

Winter 101: The Essentials

Hiking during the winter presents a host of challenges that you need to be prepared for. From keeping warm but not getting sweaty, to successfully hydrating and fueling, to keeping upright and on your way, and even knowing where to park when there is snow, here are some tips on what you’ll need and what preparations you should make before heading out on a winter hike.

Dressing in Layers

Accumulated moisture through sweating can make you susceptible to hypothermia, so controlling sweating is very important on a winter hike. The best way to achieve this is through adjusting a series of layers of clothing to maintain comfort—like the three little bears, not too hot and not too cold.


Anytime there is a chance of a measurable snow of about eight inches or more on the mountains, you should have snowshoes. Even if there is little or no snow at the trailhead, conditions on the mountain may be different. Here’s the basics of what to look for in a mountain-ready snowshoe.

Traction Aids

For very hard compacted snow and, especially, ice caused by freeze-thaw cycles, microspikes are often great for the job—and sometimes heavier-duty crampons are necessary. Here’s the rundown on the basic types of traction aids and their best uses.

Hydration & Food

It is very important to hydrate and fuel up during your winter hikes. However, cold weather can present some challenges. Check out these tips for successful hydration and fueling during the winter.

Winter Hiking Prep

The Catskill 3500 Club has a comprehensive, informative Winter Hiking Preparedness Class, hosted by Tom and Laurie Rankin, that covers many topics that relate to hiking in the winter.

Catskill 3500 Club
Community on Facebook

The Official Catskill 3500 Club Community page on Facebook is a great resource for connecting with your fellow hikers, sharing information, and staying informed on the Club’s activities.

Navigation Resources

Navigation is a necessary skill for hikers. While it is great to get out into the mountains, making sure you safely get back to your car at the end of the day is important. First, you need maps for where you are hiking. The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference’s Catskill Trails map set is popular among Catskill hikers.

Digital navigation tools are also popular, but they shouldn’t be your only means of navigation, as batteries die, screens freeze, apps crash, satellites occasionally have issues connecting accurately, devices can fall out of pockets or get broken in a fall. Popular navigation apps include Gaia and Avenza; the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s Catskill Trails map is available in digital form on Avenza. While AllTrails is a very popular app and it does have its uses, it isn’t the best app for navigating in the Catskills because the app has a mix of useful, misleading, and wrong information that is hard to discern.

To keep your navigation skills sharp, practice is important. Here is a fun game using physical maps and a map app that can help keep your skills sharp.

There are many resources online for learning map and compass skills. Compass Dude has a great guide that offers guidance on all things map and compass related—from reading a map, to knowing what declination is, to utilizing red in the shed for a compass bearing.


Knowing where you are is not only important for your own safety, but also for being respectful to landowners who have property that you should avoid when you are hiking. The 3500 Club has a useful guide for avoiding private property when hiking.

Be Seen, Be Safe:
Hunting Season in The Catskills

Certain times of year, hikers and hunters share the Catskills woods. The most important safety measure to take during this time is to ensure that you will be seen, by wearing fluorescent orange or pink. Here’s the rundown on being safe and being seen.

Further Reading

The Adirondack Mountain Club’s Catskill Trails book is a wonderful resource on the area’s trails. The latest edition—the 5th—was edited by Tom Rankin.


The Boy Scouts of America Field Book, now in its 5th edition, is a comprehensive resource on basic and advanced skills for outdoor adventures. There is a wealth of information included on being a prepared, responsible hiker.


Wilderness Navigation, by Mike Burns and Bob Burns, is a bestselling book on outdoor navigation. Now in its 3rd edition, this book is used in many outdoor education courses.

Giving Back to the Catskills

Giving back to the Catskill Mountains that we all care about, volunteering is an important part of the Catskill 3500 Club’s activities. You can participate in our Adopt-a-Trailhead program, which places trailhead stewards at Slide Mountain and Woodland Valley trailheads. The Club also conducts trail maintenance on the Peekamoose-Table trail as well as Adopt-a-Highway litter cleanup on Route 214.


As recognition for volunteer efforts, the 3500 Club offers two patches: The 3500 Club Service Award and the Trailhead Steward Patch

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