Getting out for a walk may be one of the simplest forms of exercise – but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the right kit to make the most of it. Effective layering and fabrics designed for the outdoors will make sure you’re comfortable and prepared for any weather, whether it’s your local park or a woodland path.
Our sponsor, Cotswold Outdoor, have pulled together this expert kit list for all your walking needs. They are offering 12.5% discount for all Bristol Walk Fest participants at their Bristol Broadmead and Filton stores and online with the code LM-BWF23 until 30th June.
Whatever the weather looks like when you head out, we all know a shower is rarely far away! Being prepared for a downpour aside, a waterproof jacket is a great layer to carry for a little extra warmth and protection against wind chills, or as the final layer in your layering system in colder weather.
Waterproof jackets should keep you dry on the outside, but also on the inside – make sure you choose a breathable waterproof, which will allow sweat vapour to escape and help to regulate your temperature. We also recommend looking for a waterproof jacket that’s lightweight and packable, as this will mean it can be easily stowed in your pack without weighing you down when you don’t need it and isn’t a burden to carry just in case.
Your mid-layer is where you’ll get your warmth from and can be an insulated jacket or a lighter option if it’s a warmer day or your activity is more strenuous. Fleeces make an excellent lightweight mid-layer, as they offer great warmth for their low weight and can even be worn with other fleeces to find that just-right temperature.
Arguably the most important piece of kit in a walker’s wardrobe, the right footwear can make or break even the shortest venture into the outdoors. Walking footwear comes in a variety of types to suit your activity and the weather, all of which will be equipped with technical features to enhance your comfort and prevent fatigue and injury.
When choosing walking boots or approach shoes, look out for a waterproof and breathable material or membrane like GORE-TEX, or a brand’s own version. This membrane is crucial for keeping your feet dry, both from puddles or rivers on the outside and sweat on the inside, preventing the dreaded wet socks and greatly reducing your risk of blisters.
If the weather is warmer and you don’t plan to be hitting any technical trails, a sturdy pair of outdoor sandals could be what you need. Look for good grip and a shock-absorbing mid-sole for stability and comfort.
Hat, Gloves and Buff
Bringing the right accessories will help you adapt your kit to the weather conditions. In the summer, windproof gloves are ideal for breezy summits, while a sun hat and lightweight Buff will protect you from the sun. In the winter, warm and windproof gloves, a thick hat and a fleece Buff are essential to keeping warm.
First Aid Kit, Whistle and Torch
A first aid kit is essential for any hill walker. If you choose to buy an ‘off-the-shelf-kit’ make sure you know exactly how to use everything in it. If you do choose to build your own, consider all situations as well as the quantity you will need if you’re heading out in a group.
You may never have thought of packing a whistle, but if you encounter any issues and need to attract attention, it takes a lot less effort to blow a whistle than to scream and shout.
Even if you plan to still be out when it gets dark, plans often change without prior warning – for example, you might have taken longer than expected to complete your route. If a rescue team needs to come and find you, it will be much easier with a signal from a torch.
A Hearty Hill Walker’s Lunch
Prepare a lunch of slow-releasing carbohydrates which will replenish the energy you use on your adventure. A well-filled sandwich or pasta in sauce are great options. When packing your snacks, consider the temperature: packing chocolate when it’s warm will only lead to it melting all over your rucksack! A trail mix combination of nuts and dried fruit is a great source of energy and relatively heat-resistant.
Keeping hydrated is the key to a great day on the hill. Between 1.5 and 2 litres is always a good place to start, but it’s entirely dependant on the length of time you plan to be walking and if it is likely to be a warm day. In winter conditions, be careful of your drink freezing – non-insulated bladder tubes are notorious for this!
Eye Protection and Suncream
Eye protection may be top of your priority list in summer, but don’t forget that the sun is still there, even when you can’t see it! Sunglasses are normally enough to protect your eyes, but if you’re going to be hill walking in snowy conditions, a pair of ski goggles offer extra protection against the light reflecting off the snow’s surface. And, no matter the season, always remember to wear suncream!
Map and Compass
Even if you think you know the area like the back of your hand, always take a map and compass or GPS device out with you. You never know when you might have to change track, and you can end up stranded if you can’t find an alternative route.
Walking poles are great for helping you to move more confidently over difficult terrain, or to provide support to your knees if needed. They can also come in handy for crossing streams or uncertain-looking bogs!