Gear Guy

What hiking gear should I use following a hip replacement?

Dr Gear Guy, please realize that you are completely indemnified from any liability as to the efficacy of your answer, but I'm wondering what gear you'd specifically recommend for a hiker who has undergone a total hip replacement and refuses to cast a deaf ear to the call of the wild? I have a pair of good trekking poles. Anything else come to mind? Keith Columbus, Ohio

Oh, yeah. THAT will really stand up in court!

Attorney: "But Your Honor, the plaintiff clearly stated in his e-mail that he would not hold the defendant, aka the Gear Guy, responsible in the event of misleading advice on his part. We, therefore, believe the plaintiff has no basis for this $25 million lawsuit!"

Judge: "Overruled. Guilty as charged!"

Anyway, thanks for the disclaimer. The fact is, I'm happy to recommend any number of things, simply because you're trying to get out there with a bad hip when most people with good hips don't even bother. I suppose the main thing is to carry as little as reasonably possible. If you have any "heavy" gear—a big ol' Gore-Tex parka, hefty daypack, heavy boots—replace them if at all possible. These days, a jacket like Marmot's ultralight PreCip ($99; www.marmot.com) is perfectly fine in most weather conditions. Ultimate Direction's Skyline ($85; www.ultimatedirection.com) is a fine, light daypack. And boots such as Asolo's FSN 95 ($150; www.asolo.com) offer surprising support in a boot that won't weigh you down.

The other thing to do is cushion your footfall. Add some after-market insoles to the Asolo boots, preferably something like the Spenco Hiker Insole ($19; www.spenco.com). If you can, add under that a Spenco Polysorb Heel Cushion ($10). Do all you can to ensure that as little shock as possible is transmitted up your leg bones to your hip. And yes, use trekking poles. Usually I am not terribly keen on the "shock-absorbing" models, but in your case, I think every little bit helps. If you want to try some other poles, REI makes a pair called the Ultralite Anti-Shock Trekking Pole that goes for a reasonable $95.

Do all that, then get out there and enjoy yourself. Count the hours in the woods, not the miles you cover. It's all good.

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