Some might claim trainers or walking shoes are
adequate and in many circumstances they might be. However, if you are
planning much countryside walking and especially if venturing on to moorland
or hills, I strongly recommend boots. Two reasons:
1) The higher sides will help keep the
inevitable mud/puddles out;
2) On rough/steep ground, the boots will provide more support and help
prevent turning an ankle.
Fabric or leather? My first pair of boots
were a cheap leather pair of unknown brand, which I think came from Poland.
Hardened walker would have laughed. BUT, with plenty of regular
waterproofing they did the job for a year or two until I could afford
something better. So, if you are strapped for cash, go for cheap leather not
cheap fabric. I once bought some fabric boots for summer simply
because they were 'a bargain'. They were rubbish and leaked on first time out,
despite having been sprayed with waterproofing. My advice would be not to
buy fabric, unless you can afford really good quality, Gore-Tex type boots.
Take the socks you intend to wear, when you buy them to get the right size.
Some cheap loop pile socks will do. Long ones
are good for tucking your trousers into, to keep them cleaner and keep out
insects, especially ticks. With leather boots, I like to wear a thin base
layer sock under thicker, loop pile ones but this is down to preference. With
fabric boots in summer, I wear one pair of shorter, loop pile type.
You may have a whizzy smart phone and think you
can rely on that plus some App or other for navigation. However, Mountain
Rescue Teams regularly get called out to people where this approach has
failed - phone run out of power or whatever. However else you economise,
please take a 1:25000 scale Ordnance Survey map and compass. See my section
A waterproof map case will protect your valuable
map. A wet map is quickly an ex-map!
Any cheap cagoule and trousers are
better than nothing. "Breathable" waterproofs are best but expensive. The argument for the breathable type is that they let out
perspiration, whereas with the cheap type you get soaked with it. Well, true
but I have found that I get soaked, even with expensive Gore-Tex, which seems
to stop breathing when it gets wet. The main thing is that even the cheap
type will give you protection from wind and reduce risk of hypothermia.
Minimise perspiration by reducing layers of clothing underneath.
Shirt (base layers)
At a pinch, any man made fabric items in your
wardrobe will do. Avoid cotton shirts which are cold and clammy when
wet/damp. Man made breathable base layers are available from many outlets quite
cheaply. If it is warm enough, I use these as single T-shirts when
walking. If I anticipate getting really hot and sweaty, I sometimes take a
spare shirt and change at the top of the main ascent.
Any cheap fleeces will do. They are mostly made
of similar stuff. The main thing is (depending on the weather) to carry 2/3,
mostly thinner ones
so that you can adjust your layers to regulate temperature. A mixture
of fleeces/jumpers/shirts can be used. Avoid wool which can be heavy if it gets
Put an extra layer on (or waterproof) as soon
as you stop for lunch in cold weather. Don't get chilled first!
I would avoid windproof fleeces as they can
make you too hot. Use extra layers or waterproof instead, if you need wind
protection. This is more flexible.
You could use any roomy trousers made of
man-made fabric. Proper walking trousers are best as they dry quickly if
they get wet. Those with the zip off legs which convert to shorts are useful
in our fickle climate. Some seem to like lycra but it is not for me.
Above all, do not go
walking in jeans. If they get wet, they are heavy, will not dry and so
increase the risk of hypothermia, not to mention just being dammed
unpleasant to walk in.
Depending on the temperature and your own susceptibility
to cold, consider base layers (or coms!) for the lower body/legs, underneath
your trousers or wear insulated trousers. A pair of ladies tights also makes
a big difference - I have tried it.
Nothing is designed to make you more miserable
than freezing hands. Any cheap manmade fabric will suffice until it rains,
at which point waterproof gloves come into their own. These are relatively
expensive but worth it. Mitts are always warmer than gloves but can be
cumbersome depending on what you are doing and might need frequent removal e.g.
to use a phone, eat sandwiches etc.
For day walks, a 20 to 35 litre capacity
rucksack is the range to go for. There is not a huge difference between the
weights, size for size. What weighs is what you put in them! Therefore, get
too large rather than too small. Most importantly, get one with
a lap belt AND chest strap. These stop the rucksack moving about. The chest
strap stops the straps slipping off your shoulders, which can be a
particular problem when wearing relatively slippery waterproofs.
Rucksacks are generally not waterproof. Plastic
liners are cheap and will keep spare clothing etc dry. To be honest, I just
use a strong bin liner! Also take a small plastic bag for smaller zip
compartments, where you might stow a wallet, guide book etc. Some rucksacks
come with a built in "raincoat" or you can buy separate slip on
In summer you might need protection from sun but
in winter you need a hat to keep warm. My preference is a balaclava, which
can be pulled down to protect the face in biting winds or turned up to form
a cap. My summer hat is a simple, cheap cotton, small brimmed hat. Larger
brims can blow off easily, unless you tie them on and I don't like the
string under my chin. When it rains, I do not like the waterproof directly
on my head so even in dull weather will wear the hat.
Unless it is a very short walk, I would always
take food. My preference is sandwiches, tomatoes and cake/biscuit plus apple.
Some prefer snack bars to munch on the go. I have tried this and it is ok
but I like to have a proper stop. Some extra high energy food is a sensible
precaution if venturing into exposed areas.
I carry a metal water bottle (Sigg). In cold
weather, I take a small flask for a hot drink. In hot weather, I dispense
with the flask and take extra water. Try at least to get a reusable plastic
bottle, rather than pollute the planet with disposable ones! Some prefer
bladders but these can produce off flavours depending on how cleaned/stored.
Especially in winter, it is important to be able
measure your progress against time/daylight available.
First Aid Kit
It is inevitable that sooner or later you will
get a cut/scrape at least, on a walk. Comprehensive first aid kits can be
quite pricey and heavy. As an absolute minimum, I would suggest you take a
range of plasters, including blister plasters, antiseptic pads, micro porous
tape, crepe bandage plus safety pins, paracetamol and a tick removal tool. Ticks are
nasty blighters and need proper removal as soon as possible. Consider lip
I would pop any pills out of their blister packs
into a small plastic container to put in the rucksack, rather than risk
popping them outside. Sometimes, they seem spring loaded! Better to take
before you go if possible.
Easy to write this off in the days of
electronics but should you ever have the misfortune to need rescuing, this
cheap little tool could be invaluable to attract rescuers. See section on Safety
for the signaling technique.
I would only class this as essential if you are
venturing into exposed hills, as they are quite heavy.
There is a weight issue but if there is any
danger delay could cause you to be on the hills at night, or you might want
to look into a cave, I would regard as
essential. See section on Safety.
You never know! You don't need a full roll!
If it is bright sun and especially if there is
snow on the ground, sunglasses are a good idea, Reflections off snow can
quickly induce a headache. If there is wind and driving rain, or especially
hail, goggles can be a boon.
Plan your route in advance, assessing the time
it might take - see Walking
Time Calculator. If climbing to mountain tops, in case of mist/cloud, it
is worth noting strategic compass directions before you go, in comfort,
rather than in a howling gale! Consider emergency escape routes and leaving
details of your plans with someone.
Consider/Nice to Have?
I walked for years before these were
invented/affordable, so obviously, they are not essential but nowadays, it
makes sense to carry one for emergencies. Bear in mind, you cannot assume a
mobile signal is everywhere. I carry a cheap, push button, non smart type.
Smart phones can do strange things if the screen gets water on it. They are
also power hungry. For those reasons, I would not recommended them as the sole
means for navigation. A map and compass should always be carried
(see Essential section)
These are better for electronic navigation than
phones but are relatively expensive. In any case, a map and compass should be carried (see
Spare Batteries/Power pack
What you need depends on what electrical gadgets
you take, relative to the time of the walk.
These are as cheap as chips and weigh (next to)
nothing. Broadens scope for somewhere to sit for your picnic, if dry rocks
benches etc are not available. A wet bum is a cold bum!
I walked for years without poles. However, once
I tried them and with advancing years, I now always carry two, if there is
any steep ground to walk. In particular, they greatly help protect the knees on steep
downhills. I find they also help prevent backache on steep climbs, carrying
a heavy rucksack. If you are young and fit, you can perhaps do without these - for now!
When I started walking, I managed without.
However, a few wet feet situations persuaded me to get some. Some are quite
cheap. It really depends where and when you are walking as to whether these
are worthwhile. I find they make my legs hot in warm weather.
If you are just starting out, you are not likely
to (will not!) need these. Essential for winter walking in snowy
mountains and you need to know how to use an ice axe for emergency braking
in the event of a slide. Crampons are not suitable for all boots, especially
cheaper ones. Seek advice first.
Some would not go anywhere without one. I have
never carried one. Note rules on penknives say the cutting blade must be 3
inches or less and foldable - not a lock knife.
Depends on your susceptibility. I get bitten to
death!. I do not believe all the old wives tails about eating garlic,
marmite or Avon products. The only thing that works for me is Deet. When
venturing into midge territory, I have found a face-net invaluable.
Relatively heavy. It depends on your attitude to
hygiene. Many never bother with this product in the rucksack, although if you
use the toilet paper mentioned in 'Essentials' you might like it!
As above. Please never flush these down a
toilet. They clog the drains!
Could be classed as essential depending on how
much you can cover up and skin type.
More weight but nice for the memories.
Obviously, most modern phones also take good photos but beware power usage.
More weight again! Depends on whether you are a
keen wildlife watcher or whether you think there will be anything worth
seeing. I carry mine less as I can use the zoom on my camera.