My walks do not span more than a day, excluding travel and overnight stays. My expertise, if you can call it that, is limited to my own experience, I have no formal training, although mum says I could walk by 8 months old. I am not a mountaineer, heights and other dangerous places scare me. I am rarely more than a few hundred metres from civilization. These conditions effect my choice of equipment as well as personal preference, practicality and my desire to achieve certain results. I am sure a professional will find issues with my choices, perhaps even the odd tut tut and finger-wag, so please keep that in mind if you are going to consider some of the options on my list.
Essential Backpacking and Hiking Gear.
- Hi-Tec Men’s Eurotrek WP Dark Brown 83918-034 10 UK
I have used Hi-Tec walking boots for years because they are light, long lasting, good grippers, easy on easy off, and offer good protection against moisture when cared for properly
- Layered Clothing (Wikipedia)
that you adapt for the environment in which you are walking. Wikipedia explains this in detail and is interesting even if you have been wearing clothes all your life.
- Hiking First Aid Kit
Hopefully never needed but useful if you succumb to rogue barbed wire or splintered wood on stiles.
- Route Card. See Create a Route Card in Word for details.
- Map compass
Don’t go for cheap but no need to spend big either. Silva have always worked well for me.
- Maps. Since April 1st, 2010, Ordnance Survey data is free to use for commercial and non-commercial purposes. This means new map providers will be created and inevitably some specialists for walking and hiking. I continue to use paper based maps but for a small annual fee you can print them direct from Ordnance Surveys getamap website. There is also a free option or print per map cost.
- Rucksacks. Your preference and the amount of stuff you carry with you determines which you should choose. Features to look for are external loops and clasps so you can add items that wouldn’t fit on the inside such as camera tripods, walking sticks and folding seats. I take a lot with me, including packed lunch, change of clothing (dry socks always important) and weather protection (see Layered Clothing). If you carry a lot of weight remember to carry needle, thread and string so that should a shoulder strap fail you are not left hitching it over one shoulder.
Walking Gear from your local Outdoor Shop
Not mandatory outdoor equipment and can be left out if you don’t want to carry the weight.
- Cameras & Camcorders etc. Not so heavy these days and if you fancy sharing the experience with relatives and friends can be fun
- Mobile Phones. Most people will add this to their mandatory list for safety and I confess I wish I had the nerve to leave it behind, damn thing.
- Map Case
Keep your maps clean and dry and together with your compass. Remember to unhook the straps and throw them away, if you don’t keep your map and compass in your hand then you don’t need them or are lost.
- GPS. I rarely use GPS on walks, if I do its only to record my track for review later. This is not a snobbish anti-progress attitude, I just don’t find them useful, they are good at telling you where they are but not so useful for telling you were to go unlike the GPS in your car as paths, even on O/S maps, are rarely accurate beyond offerring a general direction. My attitude might be different if I tried out newer models (mine is 14 years old now), it would have to be extremely light to engender long term interest for me to use one.
Advice for walkers and walking groups
Planning your walk on Ordnance Survey’s website will help you find places where you are allowed to walk.
One exciting result of planning a walk is visiting places you would not normally vist, to see things that you do not often see. This summer I have seen a Grass Snake 4ft long, I have seen two Adders (less than 5 miles from my home), I have glimpsed several deer, seen evidence of badgers (poo pits), plenty of rabbits and a hare the size of a Labrador.
I have experienced both sight and taste of plants, blackcurrents are in season (choose those hanging more than 3ft above ground and only those that have turned black, aim for blackcurrents at the tip of the plant as that’s where they’re sweatest). Also Elderberries, Raspberries and Gooseberries, Field and Wood mushrooms, Lime Blossom, Redcurrent and Shaggy Cap to name just a few. Who needs Tesco?
Create a Route Card and give a copy to someone who can check your return. Let them know what time you should be home by.
Check the weather and pay particular attention to the specific variations where you intend to walk. Mist, rain, wind and snow have little impact on your safety when walking in most low land locations but Dartmoor, Cumbria, the Yorkshire Moors, Scottish Borders and Highlands and similar locations you can expect warm sunny conditions to change to life threatening low vision blizzards in minutes. If you use metal hiking sticks put them down when there’s a threat of lightening!
Are you a rambler or walker?
Be choosey because some ramblers are tarnishing the respectable passtime of enjoying a good walk by antagonising land owners. If someone appears upset it could be for several reasons and just because Ordnance Survey or the local council marks a path does not mean it is a public footpath.
Recently I met a farmer who in 1996 allowed people to walk through his farm yard. His insurers suffered a spate of thefts from farm yards and told him if he allowed it to continue his insurance would increase, the new price seven times higher.
Naturally he put up a gate and signs to show the property as private. This antagonised a group of people from the ramblers association who continue to attempt to walk his land to this day.
The local council shows a public footpath on their map and try to put up signs and ask him to remove the gate every two or three years. The farmer’s lawyer writes the council and reminds them this has been dealt with and depending on the mood of the local planner the hassle is either progressed to the court steps or shelved until the next planner decides its time for renewed action.
Ramblers attempt to make it a path by walking the farm yard and the farmer, instructed by his lawyer, has to challenge them, something which at age 81 he wished he did not have to do; they are often rude and ignore him.
They also ignore he has several farms and diligently looks after public footpaths. They ignore that he would not mind them walking through his yard if it had no impact on his insurance. They ignore that he cannot afford to pay the insurance and neither they or the council are willing to contribute to the cost of the insurance. They ignore that he offers an alternative around his yard which the council 17 years after being invited to add this alternative to their map still have not done so (what, precisely do we pay the council for?).
The hedges are cut, the stiles, and public gates kept in good working safe order, this much more than the local council that allows their paths to overgrow, stiles and gates to crumble. I mean it, he actually grasses and trims the paths beyond any I have seen. All he asks is people walking his land avoid the yard as his insurers deem them too dangerous for the public to walk through.
Example of path upkeep, note wide grass path and both grass and hedge cut back with all obstructions removed. How many paths do you find in similar condition?
So if someone challenges you for walking on their land be polite and remember your map maybe wrong, be prepared to leave by the shortest route. It costs nothing to apologise and to be nice and who knows, they may understand you or the map maker has made an unintentional mistake and you may discover they too are reasonable and nice people, just like you.