Winter hiking and camping in the Washington area is very like going out in any other season, except that you will need more food and clothing and more respect for Mother Nature, who may fine you a toe or two for the kind of carelessness that might cost you only a long limp home in summer.

For the beginner the place to start is with a good book, among which there is no end of choices, including Movin'On by Harry Roberts, editor of Wilderness Camping magazine (Stone Wall Press, $4.95). Any good outfitter will have a selection; take them home to read before coming back for gear.

If you know what you want, almost any reputable store's outdoors depatment will have all or most of what you need. If you're not sure, take along an experienced outdoorsperson. Failing that, shop around until people give you confidence; ideally, they will themselves be campers and hikers who have used the stuff they're selling.

Probably the best store to shop is one that offers rental service. In the first place whose' sales-people give you confidence; ideally, they will themselves be campers and hikers who have used the stuff they're selling.

Probably the best store to shop is one that offers rental services. In the first place they will know how the equipment stands up to hard use by amateurs, and if you can't make up your mind about, say, which pack to buy, you can rent one or two for a tryout. Don't be in a hurry to buy a pack, especilly: your relationship with it will be intmate.

Outdoorspeople tend to be equipment freask who argue endlessly over the merits of down vs. synthetic fiber, and no attempt will be made here to arbitrate, beyond the simple assertion that wet fiberfill is warmer than wet down, and in cold weather, Cotton Kills (because its insulation value in less than zero when wet).

If you start from scratch, outfitting yourself for winter wandering can be terribly expensive. More often than in many other lines of merchandising, the price relects the quality, and the price of quality is high. So is the need for it, in a season where the margin of safety can be narrow. Look for sales, but don't scrimp, especially on boots. Try on the clothing, and the price of quality is high. So is the need for it, in a season where the margin of safety can be narrow. Look for sales, but don't scrimp, especially onboots. Try onthe clothing in the store, and take your time - if you're in the right place, they will encourage you to do so.

Presumably you already have much of the clothing and equipment, but following is a list o equipment laid out by the manager of a local store when asked to outfit one hypothetidal hiker.