Walking is possibly one of the simplest activities to get involved in, just get out there! It is something that can be done in any environment, there are many sections of walks out there that go straight through major towns and cities. In many cases, specialist equipment is not required however there are some basic ‘must haves’ for any budding walker to have on their person.
‘Must have’ equipment
- Rucksack. The size is dependent on the walk, and what you are carrying. 25l is often a good size for a day long hike, this size is big enough to stow away food and warm clothes, but also not so big that you are lumbered with a large backpack all day*.
- Warm clothes. Even in summer this is a must have, although perhaps not to the same extent as you would in the depths of January. A general rule of thumb is when you stop walking you will cool down, so it is always a good idea to stow away a fleece. In the winter this is even more important. I always find Buffs offer a great amount of comfort and warmth, I have three -including a fleece one- in my rucksack at all times. They are brilliantly flexible, can be worn as a hat, ear warmer, or around the neck, and in the summer they can can double up as sweat bands.
- Gloves. In colder months, these are a necessity. In autumn and winter I carry a pair of SealSkinz. Although they are quite thin, they are water and windproof, so they do take off the chill whilst walking but they are not ideal in the winter. During these times I have a thick pair of gloves from Trespass. A great no-frills lower mid range company, their kit is great for people on a bit of a budget, or those just beginning to walk. And always have a pair of liner gloves, they keep you warm, and makes changing gloves easier, merino is best.
- Boots. The most important piece of kit in a walkers arsenal. The boots I was ‘easing in’ in my trip around Rosedale were my new Meindl Borneos. These really are great boots, and will last years if treated well (always get the companies brand of boot care, if that is not available use Woly Polish). However, if you are on a lower budget Trespass and Mountain Warehouse are good places to start. My previous boots were from Mountain Warehouse, and they did a lot of miles before giving up the ghost. It goes without saying that you ought to try boots on in a shop, and get them fitted before buying, do not leap straight in and get them online before testing them. Try and avoid ‘walking shoes’. You never know whether your next walk will be more difficult than the last, ankle support is always a good thing. Walking socks are mostly one and the same, I tend to prefer Bridgedale and Rohan socks, but really it is what you can get your hands on.
- Map. OS maps of the area are always good to have stowed in your ‘sack. They are almost always available in walking shops such as Millets, get one of the area you are walking in. If you are only walking there once, and do not want to stretch to a proper map, Street Map is a great site if you are walking in Britain. It offers maps of the UK, from road atlas level (1:1m) to in depth 1:2500 maps. Print them off, and keep them. Also, if you are doing a national trail, have a look for the official website. Many walks such as the Wales Coastal Path with have downloadable OS maps of the route.
- Things to wear. Quality varies here, some things you can get away with doing on the cheap, for example fleeces, walking tops, baselayers, and to some extent walking trousers. Warm and comfortable items by CragHoppers can often be found in places like TK Maxx and Go Outdoors. If you want to go for slightly better quality but still stay cheap Cotswold Outdoors is always good if there is a sale on and outlets are good shouts too. Rohan, The North Face, and Rab often have such shops with cut down prices.
- Waterproof. Really something not to skimp on, go for a good dependable brand. Outlets come into their own here, whilst in America I picked up a great The North Face 2-in-1 waterproof and puffer, incredibly warm and very waterproof. If you know it is going to be raining, get a good coat.
- Food. Finally food is a must have. Something with lots of energy, and without need to chill is ideal. I find a Soreen loaf always does the trick whilst walking and I can eat a whole loaf in one go. Cereal bars offer slow release energy via oats and grain, and often have a sugar hit too. If you want to make your own there are plenty of recipes, but when it comes to food -especially on day walks- keep it light, and energy packed. You can always eat something warm and comforting in a pub/restaurant at the end of the walk.
- Walking poles. Not necessary, but they ease a lot of strain on the legs, allow you something to lean on whilst resting, and definitely speed things up on the flat. They don’t have to be something like Lekis, I have a set from Trekrite and they still do a good job.
*if you are the leader of a walk -either in a family or group- a larger rucksack may be required. 35-40l might be better as they offer more space to carry other peoples clothes, extra food and water, as well as often having a good place to hang a rope if you have taken one
Additional equipment could be torches -small LED lights are the best- you never know if you might be stranded in the dark. If you are walking in a group a confidence rope is also useful. It need not be too long, around 10m of 9mm rope should suffice, it is most useful if someone in your group gets a touch of nerves, or is stranded in a river.
Although walking can cost a lot, it needn’t. Most of the clothes can be found in the back of a wardrobe, and it is only really the ‘sack and boots that could prove pricey. Finally, a good rule is to have kit for two, the walking you and the cold you. Carry a spare set of everything in your rucksack, clothes get wet in the rain or another person in the group could get into difficulty, you can then share your food and kit with them if anything happens. Plus, it is always nice at the end of a walk to put on a set of clean dry clothes, it is kinder to the people sitting next to you in the restaurant as well!