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Backpacking and Hiking

Adirondacks, NY


There are lots of wonderful places to hike locally, including the Finger Lakes Trail that has good options for overnight trips. Further afield there are the Catskills and the Adirondacks.

Where to Go

Local destinations:

  • Cornell Plantations
  • Finger Lakes Trail (see link for maps).
  • Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail by bus!

Regional destinations:

  • Tug Hill region (New York) state forests suitable for 1-2 day outings
  • Adirondack Park (New York) 6 million acres, 2.6 million public, 2000 miles of maintained trails and at least as many unmaintained, largest park in US outside of Alaska. Maps available at this link. COC possesses several maps and guidebooks as well.
  • Catskill Park (New York) 700,000 acres, 300,000 public, many on- and off-trail hiking possibilities. Some maps available at this link.
  • Alleghany Park (New York) 65,000 acres, all public, over 100 miles of trails
  • Shawangunk region (New York) Unique area distinguished for it white, quartz-conglomerate cliffs is a popular climbing destination but also offers numerous hiking possibilities and one of the best dwarf pine forest habitats anywhere. COC possesses several guidebooks and maps of the Shawangunks.

Guidelines for Trips


Follow these simple steps when you lead a trip:

  1. If you haven't led a backpacking or hiking trip before with the outing club, please speak with the backpacking chair or another individual in the list of club officers and chairs to make sure you are aware of your responsibilities and the resources available to you.
  2. Announce the trip, including when you're leaving, where you're going, when you're returning, and estimating the level of difficulty in terms of:
    • distance,
    • amount of ascents, and
    • conditions of the trails (maintained? unmaintained? true bushwhack? true bushwack through dense, high-elevation forest? winter travel in unbroken trail?)
  3. Send logistical email to interested participants including basic information about trip and detailed information about where to meet for departure, how to get to the trailhead, the itinerary of the trip, and what gear to bring. You may wish to refer people to this site on the last point.
  4. Do the trip.
  5. File a trip report at the following location: COMING SOON.

Key things to remember:

  • Don't sign up for or lead a trip that's beyond your abilities. If you don't know whether you're up for the trip, consult with the trip leader, the backpacking chair, or other knowledgeable members of the club. Three factors that should help you decide whether you're up to it are: distance to be traveled, elevation to be gained, and condition of the trail. Also consider how much of the route will be done in full packs and how much will be in lighter packs.
  • Don't wear cotton! The capacity of a material to insulate generally depends on its effectiveness in trapping air between the outside environment and your body (often called loft). Cotton loses its loft when moist and thus becomes useless as an insulating layer. It also picks up weight and tends to chafe. It will not keep you warm in wet (typical) conditions of the northeast and you should bring wool or fleece alternatives.
  • Report discomfort and "hot-spots" on your feet right away. If you start to feel burning on your feet during a hike, tell the leader right away and apply appropriate tape, moleskin, and/or second skin to prevent or reduce the severity of blisters. Blisters can make hiking extremely painful and ruin an otherwise pleasant trip -- and they can make the slowest person in the group which is never fun. Trip leaders should remind new hikers of this issue at the beginning of the trip.
  • Bring a flashlight. Even if you don't plan to get caught out in the dark, this is an easy possibility. Without a light, safe travel is impossible in the woods after sunset.
  • Treat all water. Generally, water on state land is free of contaminants; however, all water must be suspected of contamination with Giardia, a parasite which causes gnarly intestinal problems described as giardiasis or "Beaver Fever" because the illness is thought to be spread in water largely by beavers. If a clean tap is not available treat your water with iodine, filter it with a filter appropriate for removing Giardia, or use another method suitable to removing this parasite. If you experience symptoms of giardiasis in the weeks after drinking untreated water, alert your physician to the possibility of infection with this very curable illness.

What to Bring:

It is helpful to distinguish between personal gear which is each participant's responsibility and group gear which is the trip leader's responsibility. In the following lists we also try to distinguish gear which the club can lend out from gear which participants must provide themselves. A complete inventory of backpacking and camping gear is available here: COMING SOON.

Personal Gear:

Each participant is responsible for bringing certain gear on the trip. The following list includes items which everyone should bring, including many items which can be borrowed from the club inventory.

Required Personal Gear in All Seasons:

The following items are required and available from the club:

  • Backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Tupperware or bowl for eating, plus utensils
  • Travel mug or other container for drinking
  • 2-3 liters of water carrying capacity

The following items are required and not available from the club:

  • Food for personal meals and snacks
  • Plastic bags to keep equipment dry
  • Separate warm, dry clothes for sleeping
  • Shell jacket and pants for wet weather
  • Appropriate clothing for duration and weather conditions of trip
  • Hiking boots
  • Wool or fleece socks for each day plus extra pair

Required Personal Gear for Cold, Wet Conditions in Any Season:

If you're camping in the Adirondacks or any other mountainous region, you must prepare for temperatures at or near freezing in any season. Consider bringing the following items, which are not available from the club:

  • Fleece jacket
  • Long underwear for hiking
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves

Required Personal Gear for Winter:

Winter conditions require additional gear. The following items are available from the club:

  • Winter-approriate boots (double plastic boots are fine)
  • Insulated water bottle / thermos (club has limited number)
  • Snowshoes or cross-country skis with ski boots or telemark skis with tele boots required in NY when more than 8 inches of snow are present on the ground

The following items are not available from the club but should be considered requirement:

  • Heavy insulation layers for legs and body (fleece is good; down jacket highly recommended)

Suggested Personal Gear:

You may wish to bring certain other items on trips. The club can provide the following:

  • Wetsuit (for autumn and spring swimming)
  • Bug net (generally unnecessary in northeast, maybe during May-June blackfly season in Adirondacks)
  • Gaiters (to help keep debris, water or snow out of boots)
  • Liner socks (wicking layer in all seasons; consider vapor barrier socks in winter)

There are other items which the club does not have:

  • Swimsuit and towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Camera (digital pics can go on a special COC website)
  • Game or book for inclement weather

Group Gear:

The trip leader is responsible for bringing common gear to be shared among participants. Many of these items may be borrowed from the club's inventory.

Required Group Gear in All Seasons:

The following items are available from the club:

  • Cook set (generally two pots, one pan, one or more potholders)
  • Cooking utensils (generally 1 large spoon, 1 large spatula, 1 pasta strainer)
  • Group meal materials (anything not announced to be personal for the trip)
  • Biodegradeable soap and scrubbing pad
  • Trowel, toilet paper (baby wipes, if desired)
  • Tents
  • Groundcloths for tents
  • Rope for bear bag with biner or bear canister (some areas require bear canisters)
  • Stoves with ample fuel (2 recommended in case one fails)
  • First aid kit
  • Compass
  • Map of area

The following items are not available from the club:

  • Food for group meals
  • Water purifying filter (adequate for many camping situations)

Required Group Gear for Winter Conditions:

Winter conditions require special attention and additional gear. The club provides the following required group gear:

  • At least 2 stoves with lots of fuel (you should be prepared to melt your drinking water)
  • Four season tents (if camping above treeline)

Recommended Group Gear:

There are some other things to consider bringing on a trip.

  • Crazy creek chairs
  • Hammock

General Camping Etiquette:

Two phrases are often used to summarize good camping etiquette: "Leave only footprints, take only photographs." and "Leave no trace." Pack out everything you bring in. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Pack out trash. You may burn certain materials in the campfire if they can be burnt.
  • Use privies or bathrooms where provided. If such facilities are not available, human waste should be disposed of at least 150 feet from any road, trail, body of water, or campsite. Use a trowel to dig a hole 6-12 inches deep, cover the hole when you are finished, and place an upright stick in the hole to indicate to future visitors that they should avoid the spot.
  • Do not wash food utensils in bodies of water. Instead bring the water to the utensils and wash them over a hole similar to that described for human waste. When finished, cover the hole as with human waste.
  • Do not attract animals to the campsite. All food, snacks, and even toothpaste should be stored in a bear bag or bear canister and kept at a reasonable distance from tents. Utensils used for preparing, handling, or consuming food should be kept a small distance from the campsite as well. Never feed wild animals.
  • Hang your bear/mouse bag well. Even when bears are hibernating, mice will happily chew through your bags to get at your food. Conventional wisdom is to keep the bag 15 feet from the ground and at least 8 feet from the trees between which it is suspended so that mice cannot crawl into it.

Camping on New York State Land:

New York State (NYS) owns and manages most public lands in New York (as opposed to the federal government, local government, or private organizations).

  • Where to camp. NYS law generally permits camping on state land except special use areas and state parks (excepting, of course, the Adirondack and Catskill parks). In state parks and certain special use areas, camping may require reservation and daily fees. Check with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for details about specific areas. For many locations including those in the Finger Region, Adirondacks, and Catskills, the club library has extensive information about the locations and condition of campsites. At many campsites privies are provided. Also, the state manages many three-sided log structures called lean-tos which are open for public camping up to capacity. Camping is generally permitted anywhere below 3500 feet in elevation that is 150 feet from surface water, roads, and trails. Camping is also permitted wherever a state "Camp Here" marker is placed and prohibited where signed "Do Not Camp Here". Camping is always prohibited over 4000 feet in New York and is prohibited except where explicitly designated otherwise between 3500 and 4000 feet.
  • Maximum group size. Group size is limited to 8 in most wilderness areas but may be up to 12 depending on the area.


The Cornell outing club has a huge amount of gear to equip outdoor trips. Most of this gear is located in the basement of Carpenter Hall. To borrow any of our gear, please contact our backpacking chair(s) or our gear managerA descriptive list (with brands and ratings) can be found here. Below is a brief summary of our gear:
  • Ten sleeping bags
  • Four sleeping bag liners
  • Fifteen sleeping pads
  • Twenty two tents
  • Twenty three backpacks
  • Four bear cans
  • Several collapsible hiking poles
  • Limited amount of warm clothing
  • Headlamps and lanterns
  • Compasses and whistles
  • Stoves, fuel, cook sets, bowls and thermos
  • Water purification systems (iodine pills, chemical solutions, and UV pens)
  • Camp showers
  • Mountaineering equipment:
    • 28 pairs of mountaineering boots
    • 6 mountaineering axes
    • 8 pairs of snowshoes
    • Microspikes
    • Crampons
    • Emergency blankets
    • 27 helmets
    • Gaiters
    • Avalanche beacons
  • Maps and guidebooks for:
    • Adirondacks
    • Catskills
    • Other areas in NY and the rest of USA
    • Wilderness search and rescue