Everything you need
to know about hiking

Hiking, rambling, walking whatever you want to call it, it’s a great way to get outdoors and experience the mountains. Hiking has taken me through the Welsh mountains, up into the Cairngorms in Scotland and down to the tarns in the Lake District. It’s a great way to have yourself a little adventure and to explore the national parks that run up and down the country. The beauty of hiking is that hikes come in all shapes and sizes, it can be a wee 3 mile walk or you can try the 268 miles Pennine Way. You can go hiking through ancient forests, across mountain ridges, along wild coasts, through smugglers trails and past medieval castles. I mean hiking without the beautiful and interesting scenery is pointless, might as well make up the hours on the treadmill, right?

How to get into hiking

If you are just getting started doing easy trails in the summer is a great way to get outside. Go somewhere that is popular and not too far from civilisation and pick an easy and short route. That being said, always respect the hills and mountains. If you are doing easy trails approach shoes or some lightweight summer hiking boots are more than fine. However, if you do choose to go further afield or decide on going on steeper ground I would definitely advise on spending the money and getting more specialist hiking boots. Go to an outdoor shop and ask around. I’ve always found Cotwold are absolutely brilliant, I can’t speak for other stores but all the staff in the one in Manchester are really knowledgeable and helpful.

There are plenty of hiking and adventure groups you can join if you’re feeling nervous on meetup.com or even on Facebook. We have a Home Grown Adventure group add yourself and meet some people. Beyond that, the British Mountaineering Council have a massive list of clubs that you can join. Please note that when joining a group use your common sense and own judgement if they are an unofficial group. I have seen some fairly bad practices like people taking hikers up climbing routes without any climbing gear. But, definitely don’t be put off with meeting other likeminded people but just word of warning if you not experienced at all or are very new be cautious, use your common sense as there are some absolute donkeys out there.

What should I take with me when I’m hiking?

You don’t need to spend a small fortune on outdoor gear like I did when I first started. TKmax, Decathlon, GoOutdoors all do some absolutely brilliant budget stuff. Also eBay has great second hand gear. Here are some of the things you should bring with you.

Map and compass and more importantly the ability to use them. There are many books and online resources and mountain leaders you can learn navigation from.

Waterproof coat and trousers. The weather can be unpredictable and you lose a lot of heat when you are wet and it is more difficult to stay warm which means you are more likely to get hyperthermia. So investing in a waterproof coat is extremely important. You don’t have to spend an arm and leg you can pick up a cheap one for around 30 pounds from Decathlon or Go Outdoors. It might not be as breathable as the more expensive jackets but it will do the job and that is all that matters. If you do have a little bit more money to spend why not have a look at some alpine cut jackets. Alpine cut jackets are specially designed jackets which are designed for active use. So they are a slimmer and more fitted. Which makes them a bit more stylish. No it won’t be featured in the latest catwalks in Milan but they do make a great everyday coat.

What food and drink to take hiking

You need energy when you are hiking and you burn lots of calories, especially on a cold day. You want to bring things which can be wrapped up and are easy to carry and have a relatively long shelf life. Sandwiches are ideal and dry foods like granola bars and flap jacks that have a lot of calories are perfect. If you have decent Tupperware or food containers anything with rice or pasta has lots of calories in which you’ll need when you’re on a longer hike. But don’t forget your spoon or fork. I’ve done that a few times but managed to fashion a spoon out of some cardboard from a 10 pack of Speckled Hen this one time, wasn’t the best spoon but did the job.

For a water bottle a 1 litre Coke or Fanta bottle is ideal. I’d go for one of the bigger brands like Coke because they tend to be better made. Coke is a global brand and the bottles are designed to be transported long distances so they are designed for some wear and tear. We’ve all probably done this at some point, you shake up the bottle for few seconds and you let it explode in someone’s face when they open it. The reason this happens is because it is pumped full of fizzy gases. A fizzy bottle, by regulation is designed to take pressure of up to 150 psi for safety reasons. That is an awful lot of pressure. So it will be more than adequate for holding juice or water which isn’t pumped full of gas and doesn’t have that kind of pressure.

Before you head out it is a good idea to have a good breakfast. But it is also important to take food with you. Good hiking foods to take with you are energy bars, the high protein bars for the gym are ideal, but quite expensive. Flap jacks, granola bars and chocolate are high in calories which you will need, and they are a brilliant energy boost on the trail. However, if you are hiking in hot weather in the summer the chocolate can melt so things like Smarties and M&Ms are always a good choice. Also, things like trail mixes, sunflower seeds and nuts are great hiking snacks. Beef jerky is great because they have lots of calories and you can keep them for a while. In fact, hunters throughout history and even till today will make jerky out of meat if they are not going to eat it straight away and have no immediate storage facilities. Anything you can leave out in the sun for a while is always a good choice.

Hiking Medical Kit

What should I pack? Well there are a few things to take into consideration when you are planning what you going to pack in general and in your medical kit. How long you are going on for? Are you going to be camping? What other activities are you planning on doing on the trip, like wild swimming? You need to bare in mind health and safety and what you will need in an emergency. You need to be thinking of these other factors when you are planning your trip. In the worst case scenario something happens to you or a fellow hiker or someone in your party you need to be able to contact someone and stay warm and safe while help comes. So your mobile device is very important. An emergency bivi bag one those bright orange ones are the international signal for distress. So if you see someone in a bright orange bivi bag it means they are in trouble and are in need of aid.

So here is a an en example of a medical kit you can either make one yourself or buy a readymade one from an outdoor shop.

  • Emergency whistle
  • First aid kit is important. Here is a list of things you should keep in a  first aid kit.
  • Plasters
  • Blister plasters
  • Wound dressing
  • Plasters
  • Blister plasters
  • Bandage
  • Crepe triangle bandage
  • Scissors and safety pins
  • Micro pore tape
  • Gauze swabs
  • Anti-septic cream and wipes
  • Tweezers

Hiking Safety

Always let someone know. Have you ever seen 127 hours? With James Franco? Right, well if you haven’t watch it. It’s great movie. But in short, it is based on a true story and a guy goes out hiking by himself. He doesn’t tell anyone and he gets his arm stuck in-between a boulder and a rock. No one comes for him because no one knows he is gone and has to cut off his own arm with a blunt knife to get free. It probably won’t be as dramatic for you but if you strain your ankle miles away from civilisation and you are not being able to get back, the dangers are very real. It can and does happen and if no one knows you are gone how can they call for help? Facebook, text, phone or email someone and let them know where you are going and when you will be back AND what they should do if you are not back by that time. That is absolutely crucial, no point just randomly messaging people, make sure they understand the severity of it if you don’t message them.

Here are two great videos on hiking safety and the essentials you need. I have no affiliation with Simply Hike. I actually think their stuff is overpriced but, the videos are very useful.

What are the benefits of hiking?

Well there are many benefits to hiking. It is good for you, it’s great exercise. It is a great way to meet people. It gets you outdoors out in the open enjoying nature. Being in open spaces helps you relax. The national parks are like life’s breathing spaces. I love being outdoors and the idea of living somewhere that is truly into the wild is appealing, but I don’t want to leave my entire life behind. I still love my job and still like my friends and family and it is important that I have them around. So hiking and camping trips are a great way to give yourself that breathing space when life in the city gets too much. It’s an opportunity to get out and relax the mind.