Last updated: February 3, 2017 at 12:10 pm
Imagine the scene: the wind is whipping around your face and the fresh, clean air is filling your lungs as you look out over the world below. Reaching the summit of a mountain after a long afternoon of hiking is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have outdoors. Here’s our handy beginner’s guide to walking and hiking, so you can go outdoors and grasp the opportunity with our expert guidance. Whether you aim to tackle our highest peak here in the UK or start somewhere a little more accessible, this guide will take you through what to wear, what to bring and where you can go climbing if you’ve never done it before.
What to Wear
The first question everyone will ask themselves before they head out on their first hike is, ‘what should I wear?’. If you have little experience with hiking or preparing for the outdoors in general, it can be daunting to kit yourself out properly on your own. Working from top to bottom, we have put together a guide to clothing and accessories for hiking so you know before you go.
Your first must-have is a waterproof jacket which will keep you protected, dry and comfortable when zigzagging through forests, hills and lakesides. We all know how quickly the weather can change, and at higher altitudes, a sudden shift in weather can be dangerous if you aren’t appropriately prepared. Look for a good waterproofness level combined with significant breathable properties, as this will help you stay fresh when you’re on the move – ideal for brisk treks and mountain climbs.
Your mid-layer is just as important as the outer layer, as it insulates heat and can be used as a light cover-up when the weather is fine. A fleece zip-up is a good choice of mid-layer, as it is a multi-use garment and provides protection from icy winds and temperatures.
A base layer will complete your gear for your upper half, wicking away moisture when you’re getting hot and sweaty from exerting yourself, yet still insulating your body heat when you’re cooler.
Just think about how sore your feet get when you are just breaking in some new shoes; now add rocky terrain, steep inclines and many miles on top of that. For these reasons, top-notch hiking socks are an absolute essential for walking, hiking and climbing trips. We recommend that you choose a sturdy, thick pair of socks that are preferably not made of cotton – cotton will soak up moisture without drying properly, which will cause painful rubbing and blisters.
Add a pair of quality walking boots to your outfit to make sure that your feet are able to tolerate the strains and stresses of walking long distances across diverse terrain. Trainers or slip-on shoes just won’t cut it on the hills and mountains, plus varied trails below. You will need a pair of boots that has a rugged grip sole, good support around the ankle and preferably a waterproof outer layer.
Walking poles are optional, but recommended if the ground is particularly rough and the going is tough.
Lastly, you will need a sturdy backpack to keep all of your essentials safe. A 33-litre capacity is a great size of backpack for hiking, as it provides enough space for your essentials while not being too big to constrict your movements and put strain on your back throughout day.
Make sure you have the best clothing and equipment possible for your hike.
What to Take
Our list of essentials for what to take on your hiking trip is based on a day trip. However, if you are staying overnight, don’t forget that you will need a durable tent and extra clothing layers for keeping warm. Make sure that you are fully prepared for a night in the wilderness, no matter the weather.
These are the necessary items you will want to add to your hiking and walking kit:
- A traditional paper map, as this will never run out of battery. Also, make sure that the map covers the entire area you’re exploring.
- A compass – and you should know how to use it!
- A GPS tracker, either as an app on your phone or a handheld device.
- A flask with a hot drink.
- Plenty of fresh water.
- Snacks and energy-filled food, such as peanut butter and cereal bars.
- A small emergency kit containing plasters, bandages and a heat-retaining blanket. You can buy readymade first aid and emergency kits to take with you.
Where to Go
If you’re any good at pub quizzes, you will know that the highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis, located in Scotland. Ranging from a summit of 1344m right down to the minimum of 600m, there is a peak to suit everyone, so lace up your boots and get started. You don’t have to walk or hike up a hill, however – it’s perfectly fine to trek across forests, moors and other terrain on flatland.
Before you head out, ask yourself these questions to help you find the perfect trail and make sure that you’re 100% prepared:
- How long do you want to hike for?
- Are you going to take friends, go solo, or hike with the family?
- Do you know the route?
- Will you be back before dark?
- Have you told someone where you’re going?
These questions will help you pick the right trail or route and ensure you stay safe as you go. The last question there is vitally important; before you leave civilisation, make sure that you tell a friend where you’re off to, how long you plan on being away and also remember to give them your contact number. This will help the authorities find you quickly if you happen to get into trouble and require emergency services. Read about what to do when faced with an outdoors emergency here.
Always make sure that you tackle a peak or route you can handle with your current skill level – if you haven’t been hiking before, it isn’t a good idea to start with Ben Nevis or Snowdon. Instead, train and work your way towards higher mountains by taking extended walks and slowly building up your stamina and experience.
Record the ups and downs of your experience the first time and make a mental note of any improvements, additional gear or equipment that might enhance the next walk or hike in the series. You’ll be glad to feel the exponential growth in the quality of your walking and hiking as time goes by. Practice makes perfect!