All the gear and all the ideas you need to take your walks to the next level
While walking offers the ease of being able to simply step out of your door and go, you might reach a point where you want to step your hobby up a gear and try hiking. Perhaps there’s a famous route you’d love to tackle, such as Snowdon in Wales, or Helvellyn in the Lake District? Having a goal to work towards offers excellent motivation to keep up with your regular walks as training. If you’re new to hiking, before setting off on a challenging trail, there are a few things to consider first not only to ensure your comfort, but also your safety.
The right kit
Hiking is generally a budget-friendly activity but there are a few pieces of equipment you’ll want to invest in. Footwear is of course key. The main impact hiking has on your body – even though relatively limited – is on your feet. So it’s important that you wear shoes that are not only comfortable but also appropriate to the trails you’ll be tackling.
Summer hikes on unchallenging terrain, like clear, well-defined paths, for example, can be done comfortably in trainers or walking shoes, but for wetter conditions, uneven surfaces or steeper ascents and descents, a sturdier pair of hiking boots is best. What you need here is a strong, protective toecap, a durable sole with a good grip to prevent slippage, plus ankle support, cushioning and moulding. These features help with safety and injury prevention, and for comfort you’ll want to ensure they’re made from a waterproof, breathable material. Try to wear them in first, so avoid any big walks straight away! Don’t forget to get yourself a decent pair of socks, too. For long hikes, go for breathable, moisture-wicking varieties with some zoned cushioning.
When it comes to clothing, always dress appropriately for the weather – ideally in layers that you can shed as and when you need to. A waterproof, breathable coat and a thermal base layer are good choices, and you might need water and wind-resistant trousers, depending on the weather conditions and time of year.
Plan your hike
Not sure where to find the best trails at the right skill level? Research and plan your hikes based on where you want to go, and consider the distance you’d like to walk and the difficulty level of the trail. Ordnance Survey Maps and National Trails are great places to start planning. Here you’ll find clear maps of the route you should be taking on your hike so that you can set off with a definite plan of where you need to go. Ordnance Survey maps are available on your phone through the OS Maps app (from £4.99, shop.ordnancesurvey.co.uk) where you’ll find thousands of ready-made routes across the country. You can also create and plot your own routes so you can explore the way you want to.
Wherever you decide to go, preparation is always key to every safe and happy hike. It’s always a good idea to use a checklist, so here are some of the essentials to pack for a day hike according to the hiking enthusiasts and experts at Compeed, to help you get properly equipped and prepared:
Mobile phone: Useful in an emergency – just make sure it’s fully charged, and ideally bring a portable charger too.
Map and compass: Yes, you have your phone, but it can run out of batteries. With a map and compass, you’ll know that you can always figure out where you are – and that you can navigate to wherever you need to be.
First aid kit: You will only need a few basics for a day hike: paracetamol, plasters (such as Compeed blister plasters), antiseptic wipes and a foil blanket.
Bottled water: Staying hydrated is vital, so it’s always better to overestimate how much water you might need than not bring enough. Two litres is a good rule of thumb for a full day’s hike
Food: Small, high-energy snacks are best: nuts, flapjacks, chocolate fruit – and, if you’re planning lunch, maybe a sandwich.
Whistle: If you end up getting injured, a whistle is an effective way of letting others know where you are.
Torch/head torch: Particularly for hikes in the winter months, but it’s good to be prepared in case your trip ends up taking longer than expected.
Sun cream: Protect yourself from UV rays all year round.
Sunglasses: Just as useful on bright winter days as in the summer.
Ziploc bags: Great for storing your mobile phone and anything else you don’t want to get wet – or anything you don’t want leaking.
Spare shoelaces: To save you from the annoyance of breaking a shoelace on a walk and not being able to do your shoes up.
Emergency contact details: Carrying this information lets people know who should be contacted in a worst-case scenario.
Remember, you don’t want to over-pack either and be weighed down! That list should fit into a small (ideally waterproof) 25-30 litre backpack.
Prepare for adventure
Always check the weather before you head out – not just for what to wear, but also to make sure you’re not heading out into any extreme conditions. Make sure you leave details of where you are headed and when you expect to be back with a friend or family member – it may sound overcautious, but it’s always better to be prepared.
Hiking newbies are wise to go with a friend – ideally one who is more experienced than you. It may be tempting to set off on your own and revel in the head space and peace and quiet of nature, but it’s best to hold off on this until you have more experience as a hiker.
Now you’re ready to set off and enjoy the beauty of nature! Don’t forget to keep it that way by leaving behind as little trace of your presence as possible to minimise your impact on the environment.