As a self-confessed runner, I love all adventure on foot. Running has taken me to places that I have never been before and there is no better feeling than being around nature’s scenic sights!
During the last couple of years, especially in between injury, I took up hiking as opposed to ‘pounding the pavement’ weekly. It is completely different to running, of course, but it gives me the same joy; just at a slower pace.
This year, I luckily got to travel to the Lake District to climb Skiddaw Mountain. It was the perfect little trip after spending months and months indoors; it was just nice to be outside and moving!
As a fairly new hiker, I was still getting to grips with what to take with me, however, I have learnt a thing or two from previous trips with others. So I thought I would share what I know so far – what to take when hiking alone or with a friend/partner. When there are less of you, it may seem a little daunting, but fear not. You can still enjoy the mountain views as a beginner and get it right.
Here are a few tips on what I found out during my last trip.
- Take water
This might seem like an obvious one but, I tend to fail at keeping up with my water intake whilst on my mountain walks. Usually, you are hiking for 2-6 hours, which means it will definitely become thirsty work. Even when it is cooler in the winter time, you will still sweat a fair bit. Make sure you keep a flask in your backpack, or even better, carry a bladder with a straw for easy drinking. Having the straw reminds me to keep myself hydrated along the way!
- Take substantial food
Even though you may only plan to walk for X amount of hours, it may be worth believing that you could be out for longer. Things can happen along the way, or maybe you decide to take a picnic break which lasts longer than expected. Having substantial food in the pack may be better than just having a couple of snacks. I enjoy taking sandwiches or bagels, which are easy to make/eat and store, as well as being a great source of energy. This could be anything delicious and carby, but make sure that you have something more meal-like packed in your backpack.
- Take snacks
This one is a no-brainer. Who doesn’t love snacks? These are great to have along the way, especially if it is a longer walk. Think easy to carry, no hassle/fuss-free snacks that will give you a great amount of energy. I personally take things like fruit and nut/oat bars or chocolate biscuits. As well as satsumas and bananas for a more refreshing boost. P.S. Always remember to keep your rubbish with you, no one likes a litter-bug!
- Take a map/compass
This one is fairly important, especially when hiking with a smaller group/alone. It may be worth picking up some extra knowledge on map-reading, or at least knowing the basics. I went to a map-reading event last year which helped me out a lot (although I did forget most of it – if you don’t use it, you lose it!) So I was thankful to be partnered up with someone who knew their stuff. We were also given a protective waterproof bag to put the map in – very useful. If you don’t have a map, make sure you look at and download OS maps on your phone. This is great for walking and hiking!
G even brought a compass which came in handy… thankfully he was more clued up on his orienteering!
- Take an extra layer
This one may seem obvious too, but it is extremely beneficial to take an extra piece of clothing in the pack too. The weather can change drastically throughout the journey towards the summit. One minute it is lovely and warm, the next it is freezing cold and windy. Don’t take any chances! I took an extra long sleeved T-shirt, a rain coat and water-proof trousers. They were lightweight and easy to roll up and store in the back pack. These can be bought from most mountaineering clothing stores or online.
- Take socks
People laugh at me for this one, but there is nothing worse than having soggy feet on a really long hike. Not only is it uncomfortable, it can cause blisters, so it is better to have a spare set to change into, just in case. Plus, if you visit a pub on your way back home, it is 100 percent worth taking that extra pair in your pack. Thank me later!
- Take a couple of buffs/hat
If you don’t go out in a hat, it is best to pack one for your hike. I ended up putting mine on just before I hit the summit as the wind was wicked and cool. I hate having cold ears, so a hat AND a buff was a great addition for me. A buff can also be used as an ear muff or scarf and are super light to carry. Do not forget to pack one of these!
- Take an emergency kit/blanket
Now this is probably the most important one of them all. We picked up our emergency kit from Decathlon on the cheap which included the essentials. We also bought an emergency blanket, just in case we were to have an accident. I know it is never nice to think about, but it is better to be safe than sorry! You may not need it, but someone else might. In the unfortunate circumstance that someone does need it, you can be sure that they will be kept safe and warm until the emergency services arrive. You can also buy these cheap online… They really are an essential bit of kit!
- Take a torch and whistle
Following on from the essential items above, we also packed a torch and whistle. Sometimes we may stay out for longer than expected, or we hike during the winter times. Having a torch may be needed when the darkness creeps in, or even just to make others aware of your presence on the mountain. Another item to carry in case of emergency, is a whistle. This could be a life-saver in case you need to attract attention whilst out on your trip.
- Take plasters
Again, another item which may come in to good use. I took a selection of plasters and was actually teased about this before we set off. However, one small accident later and we needed a small finger plaster… You never know what little nicks you may get along the way, no matter how small!
- Take gloves
This one will be a key piece of kit from many hikers far and wide. My hands tend to get cold day-to-day let alone when climbing the mountains! I wore a thin pair which I could take off during our hike, but also packed some insulated ones for when it got really cold at the top. This was such a blessing!. Make sure you pack/wear at least one pair!
- Take a small microfibre towel
This may not be essential but I think this can be a handy for your hike. You can use this as a sitting blanket, especially if its cold and muddy, or you can use this to dry yourself or your feet when wet and changing clothing. You can also use this item for multiple other uses and is easy to dry and use again.
- Keep your phone on airplane mode
This one is fairly important. You may want to take your phone because you want to take pictures and have a point of contact; but if your battery is low, then it may be fairly risky. You may need your phone in an emergency and it is always good to have some extra juice, even for after your trip in case you need to call a taxi/friend or partner etc. Your phone battery run’s out faster on the mountain where there is little signal in the area, as your phone works harder to gain GPS, so keep in on airplane mode to stop this from happening.
If you have space, a battery pack could also come to good use too.
There we have my main pointers for hiking as a beginner. If you have any more tips and tricks then please pop them in the comments box below. As long as you have:
- a decent sized mountain-made backpack
- a long-sleeved base layer (if you get cold easily, long john’s too)
- some waterproofs (top and bottom)
- a good pair of hiking boots
- a good pair of socks
Then you should be all set to go!
Make sure that the material is sweat wicking and comfortable; practice by going for shorter walks prior to your trip in your hiking kit. There is nothing worse than finding out an item of clothing rubs or holds sweat, a couple of hours into your hike with a few more hours to go! Material is key, but see what works for you!
What to wear? Where to go? If you need a little inspiration to which brands I use and love when hiking, take a look at this list:
- Mountain Warehouse
- The Collective/Faction
- Eat Natural bars
I am looking forward to getting some more mountain trips in to my 2021 calendar, including a trip to Croatia, France and Scotland. If you have any favourite hiking areas, spread a little inspiration to those around you – let’s get the nation MOVING! Now is the time to show others the joy that climbing the mountains can bring!
Stay safe, and enjoy your upcoming trips in the near future.
This post was written for the AliKats’ Dream of Mountains Challenge in hope that I can visit the mountains again soon – I miss them so! Fingers crossed for me. (Link below)