With the weather changes that can occur while out walking, it is essential to know what kit you need to be safe? So here are the essentials and why you may need them.
There are three main factors with regard to equipment to be taken into consideration when planning a walk. These are:
- The time of the year
- The terrain in which you are walking
- The area of the country in which you are walking
Equipment can be split into three categories:
- Safety and survival
- Comfort enhancers
For all walks it’s best to wear comfortable, sturdy walking boots or shoes. After a while you will come to rely on your boots, as the terrain gets tougher they allow you to relax and therefore avoid injury.
With these boots you need a pair of thick socks, some say two pairs. Some people put talcum powder on their feet to reduce friction and therefore blisters. It’s really a question of what’s comfortable for you as you will be spending a lot of time in them.
The best way to prepare for the conditions is to listen to the weather forecast, but don’t believe it all. In places like the Peak District and the Lake District, the weather can change very rapidly. In one eight mile walk around Crummock Water one Easter, the weather included rain, clear bright sunshine, then mist followed by more sunshine followed by one inch of snow! The weather forecast for that day was bright with isolated rain showers.
In the winter there are more essentials when it comes to clothing. Waterproofs, both jacket and leggings are a must, as are gaiters, especially in hilly regions. But more important is the number of layers of clothing. It’s better to wear five T–shirts than one jumper. The reason for this is simple. Between each layer is an air gap which is the insulation layer and the more layers the better the insulation. As a by–product of this you also have better temperature control. With just one jumper you will either be too hot or too cold, both of which are unsafe.
Another essential winter item to carry with you is a hat. Over 60% of your body heat is lost through the head, and a lot more if you’re a little thin on top, so it makes sense to keep it covered. In the summer you need to guard against sun burn and heat-stroke so a hat is also a summer item.
The final essential, that’s especially a relief in the winter, is what is left in the car for your return – a change of clothes. There is nothing worse than having to travel back from a walk in damp clothing.
In the summer, layering is not as essential but it’s a good idea. If you are wearing cotton T–shirts, do take a couple of extras to change into just to keep yourself dry. Waterproofs are a good idea but if you are wearing shorts and the weather is hot, you can forget the leggings as odds on you will be wetter wearing them than not.
While we are still on clothing, here’s a tip that could save you a lot of energy and a bad cold at least. Don’t go walking in denim jeans. There are two reasons: they are heavy and when wet they are very, very heavy and take a long time to dry out. In fact they have been the cause of many cases of hypothermia as they are poor insulators especially when wet.
The next area is safety/survival equipment. These items should be carried by at least one or two people in any group, but the more people who carry them the better.
There are three important things you need to survive. You need to know where you are, you need to keep warm and in the event you that you have an emergency, you need to be able to summon help.
To this end you need as part of your survival kit enough food and drink to last you through the walk. In winter take a flask with hot water or a stove to heat up water plus your usual cold drinks. You will also need to take some additional high–energy “survival” rations such as chocolate, Kendal Mint Cake or flapjacks. These all help to keep you warm and on the move. Remember you will need more food in winter than summer to complete the same walk.
Whilst out on the hillside you should also increase your liquid intake in hot weather. If you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Doctors recommend that for every 5°C of temperature you should take one pint of water every 24 hours and that you are better off sipping the water frequently rather than in large amounts. Alcohol will increase your rate of dehydration.
In addition you need to have a map and compass to know where you are and where you are going. More importantly, you need to know how to use them. (Walk leaders are usually happy to give tuition during a walk, so ask. It is also possible to arrange more in depth training).
If an accident happens, you may need to provide first aid to a member of the party, therefore a basic first aid kit is essential, as is a survival bag with any spare clothing to protect a casualty from heat loss and the elements. (The Club’s walk leaders have first aid training. If you have current training or would like it, we would be pleased to know.)
You will then need to be able to summon help. The most basic of methods is with either a whistle or mirror, but in the days of advanced telecommunications, a mobile phone is good. But remember don’t rely on a mobile as you may not be able to get a signal or your battery may fail. A whistle is particularly useful for indicating your position in mist and fog.
If you do take a mobile into the countryside:
- Switch it off so that its ringing cannot spoil the silence or put it on vibrate mode. (see our telephone code)
- Pack it so that it cannot be damaged or get wet
- Only use it in emergency
There are some things you can live without but when you take them, a good walk can become a great walk. Things like a sit–mat will enhance your lunch stop tenfold if it is wet, cold or very rough terrain.
Suntan lotion is getting more and more important as the ozone layer is depreciated, especially in early spring and late autumn. It is essential in summer if you burn easily.
If you’re woodland walking in summer in the England or Wales but especially in Scotland, then insect repellent is essential to enhance your comfort. There is nothing worse than being bitten to death and it can really ruin a walk.
If it has rained it’s great to have a towel with you so that you can dry yourself off and then you can really appreciate that dry set of clothing. A towel can also be useful if you need to take your boots off to wade through a stream (some Walking Club members will remember when this happened).
You may have appreciated by now that you’ll need a reasonable size rucksack to carry your equipment. Not many rucksacks are waterproof so put the gear you want to keep dry in a polythene liner or bin bag.
If you take the equipment recommended here then you’re going to be prepared for most eventualities. But remember that Mother Nature has had millions of years of practice at being unpredictable, so anything can still happen. So enjoy yourself and have fun.
Don’t forget the journey home. If it has been raining all day, you will be more comfortable in a change of clothes. If it has been hot, a spare tee shirt is a good idea. And don’t forget to bring a change of shoes so that you do not get mud over the cars.
Click here to see a check list that will help to remind you what to take.