Preparing for a hiking trip

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Whether it’s a quiet country walk or an expedition to the Highlands, hiking can be one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy beautiful natural scenery.

But there’s more to a good hike than simply strapping on a pair of walking shoes and donning a mac. Whether you’re a serious hiker or a novice, it’s important to prepare for a trek carefully to make sure you have all the essential equipment and clothing you need.

The Ten Essentials

When enthusiastic hikers talk about the Ten Essentials, they’re referring to a list of must-have equipment put together in the 1930s by a Seattle-based climbing group called The Mountaineers. The original Ten Essentials were: A map A compass Sunglasses and sunscreen Extra food Water Extra clothing A headlamp or a torch Matches, or another kind of fire starter A first aid kit A knife Despite being 90 years old, this list still largely holds true today and it’s important that your hiking kit bag contains all of these essentials. While many people in the 21st century depend on their smartphones for map directions, it’s crucial that you pack a map in paper form as electronic devices will eventually use up their battery life. Packing a few extra batteries also means that your torch will always have a power supply too: just make sure you choose the right battery size. Extra food is something you can’t do without on a hike. Small but energy-giving foods like cereal bars, oatcakes, bananas and apples are easy to pack and consume on the go. However, some specialist outdoors shops now sell self-heating meals, the same kind sometimes used by the police and the armed forces. All you need to activate the heating mechanism is a little water or the press of a button – so if you’re going camping or on a long trek, these meals are ideal. When packing your first aid kit, make sure that you have enough plasters, antiseptic wipes, anti-histamines and antiseptic cream, particularly if you dipped into your supplies on your last hiking trip. And don’t forget to throw a few modern additions into your hiking essentials bag too: for instance, an old pre-pay mobile phone (i.e. not  a smartphone) loaded with a few essential numbers may be a lifesaver if you get lost or stranded. But make sure you save it for emergencies to conserve its battery life

Invaluable hiking clothing

Having the right clothing is essential to staying warm and keeping cool during a hike – particularly in the UK, where it’s not uncommon for hikers to see four seasons in a day. The key to dressing successfully for hiking is layers: make sure you wear a base layer, for instance a t-shirt or a vest, followed by another warm but breathable layer of clothing. On top of this goes your outerwear – like a waterproof jacket or mac – but ensure that you pack an extra jumper, a hat and gloves in your backpack in case of sudden temperature drops. Walking trousers are also very handy as they can keep you dry. Some hiking trousers also zip-off at the knee to turn into shorts, making them perfect for summer expeditions. Perhaps most important of all is having the right footwear. Walking boots are absolutely essential for hikers. While many people make do with trainers, walking boots will better protect your feet and minimise the damage caused by a long walk. They should also keep your feet dry, but make sure you pack an extra pair of socks too, in case of accidental splashes. For more information on the best hiking gear, blogs like Live for the Outdoors review equipment and clothing, to help you decide what to buy. Magazines like Men’s Health assess gear often too.

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Carole Tidball
24th Jan 2014
Thanks for voting!
This is a helpful list. A compass and map are so important as is the ability to read them properly, as you may be unable to get a phone signal in some more remote areas. As a woman who loves getting out in the countryside and often hikes alone, I'd add: a stick with a point at the end - very useful for pushing away brambles, testing the depth of streams and boggy ground, helping provide balance when scaling slippery slopes, and self defence; tissues and hand gel for when you put out a hand to steady yourself and end up covered in mud or worse, or for an emergency loo break; some sort of headgear for warmth, to keep the wind from blowing my hair in my face and to disguise me so I look more like a man; and a camera. I am a keen photographer, but I also like the security of knowing that if I ever found myself in a potentially dangerous situation in a remote area, my best defence against a potential attacker might be to say that I have taken and e-mailed their photo to a friend. Or maybe I should just get a big dog!

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