Before heading out on any hike - regardless of how short or long - it is imperative that everything is prepared before stepping out the door. This includes ensuring everything is packed (maybe even ticking items off a list to guarantee nothing is forgotten), testing batteries for power levels, checking the weather and getting up to speed with keys on a map.
It's better to double check that all your equipment is packed and in full working order, rather than only finding out something is missing when halfway up a windy and blustery mountain. However, it's as dangerous to over-pack as it is to under-pack, with the unnecessary weight sapping energy but enjoyment as well.
You should also always leave a route card of where you are going and when you expect to be back with someone - a friend, family or your accommodation provider - so that in the event of a problem emergency services can be alerted.
Plan circular routes, your walk will be far more interesting if you do not need to retrace your steps within the distance you are walking.
- Always let somebody know where you are walking, and when you expect to be back.
- Create a route card, to be left with someone in case of a no show at anticipated return time, detailing:
- Start and anticipated finish time
- Detailed route (i.e. via village....., stop at ..... etc.)
- How many in party
- Emergency contact number
- Any other critical info
- No matter how short the distance, get into the habit of carrying water, using a water bottle holder or camelbak means your hands are free to concentrate on your technique!
- Sunscreen is one of those things that often gets forgotten but you can get caught out so carry some with you just in case
- Don’t forget to carry some snacks if you are heading out on a long walk.
- Be seen and be sure to wear high visibility clothing
- If you mainly walk in the evenings or after work, test your route in daylight first.
- Try to avoid quiet pathways, especially if they are lined with hedgerows or bushes.
- Walk with a friend or join a group…..there’s safety in numbers and it’s much more fun!
- Make a note of places such as a garage or shops on route where you could buy water, use the toilet or get help in an emergency.
- If you’re young, talk it over with a parent or guardian. It might be better to start on a school running track to see how far you can go. Or why not form your own walking group with friends or family
Food and drink
Another item to pack with careful consideration are the food supplies. Walking is physically demanding at the best of times, even more if you are going overnight and laden with a heavy bag.
Again, this is a trade-off between weight, space and what is actually needed. For beginners, though, it's always best to slightly over-estimate the amount needed than to under-estimate, as exhaustion can set in surprisingly quickly. If weight is a consideration, some high-carbohydrate, high-energy bars can be bought from most outdoor retailers.
Your need for water or drinks will depend on your exertions and the weather, but around two litres per person is normal for a full day. Increase this in hot weather.
Don't rely on the mobile
Mobiles can save walkers who are caught lost or injured, by helping them contact the emergency services and also be located with pinpoint accuracy. However, mobiles are often the reason a great many more people get lost in the first place, with an over-reliance on their smartphone maps leaving far too many people well and truly lost.
Most smartphone maps are not as detailed as their printed alternatives. Many map apps also rely on an active data connections, which may not be available in some of the more remote areas you will be visiting. There is also the issue of power, with some mobiles possessing a battery that would give mayflies a run for their money where lifespan is concerned, especially when the GPS function is active.
For these reasons, if you do use a mobile for mapping, ensure that it shows sufficient detail for the areas you will be hiking in, preferably showing not just roads, but also footpaths and contours. Check that the mapping app works reliably without a connection to the mobile phone network before you set off, and consider bringing an external battery charger for longer trips. For a mapping app that shows the complete details and will work with no data connection, have a look at Ordnance Survey Maps online.
Whatever you use, it's wise to bring a paper map plus a compass as a backup in case of emergencies and to ensure your mobile will always have enough power to call for help in case of an emergency.
What to avoid
- Avoid wearing headsets or listening to music with both ears. It can be extremely dangerous if you limit your awareness of surrounding noises.
- Avoid hooded tops, they may be cosy but can also restrict your vision.
- Avoid wearing kit that could be seen as unsuitable.
Pack the essentials
- Take money in case you need transport home
- Keep cash, keys and all essentials in a secure pocket or rucksack
- Carry your mobile phone; make sure it is fully charged and store any numbers that would be needed in an emergency under ICE (In Case of an Emergency).
- Keep any medical or useful information that could be vital in the unlikely event of an accident, written on the inside of your rucksack.
- Remember your map and compass
When things don’t go to plan
- Try not to panic, take a deep breaths to release tension. This will help you to think more clearly.
- Always put your own safety first, possessions are replaceable!
- Call for help if necessary