Sadly there is not time for a lengthy, self-indulgent post today, so I thought I would give a run-down of my top essentials for walking in the UK.
There may be no bears or dangerous snakes (asides from the rarely seen Adder) in the UK, but that does not mean that you should underestimate British countryside. As these stats from the Lake District show, accidents can and do happen while out walking. In 2012, there were 269 incidents involving people walking in the Lake District during the summer months. It therefore pays to always be prepared when you go out hiking or walking.
1. Navigational tools
Even if you are following the best marked route in the world, it is best to always carry a compass and map around with you. I’ve lost track of the number of walks I have been on where the signposts suddenly disappear. This is especially the case if you are following a public footpath. Often trees and bushes grow over the signs, so they can no longer be seen. If you have no idea how to use a map and compass, check this out.
2. Protection from the elements
As natives will know, it rains in the UK. A lot. So taking a good waterproof coat and/or umbrella is a very good idea. Waterproof trousers may also come in handy and have the added bonus of giving you another layer to keep you warm. However, if it is summer, you should always take along some sun cream as well. This is especially important if you are climbing high, because the air is thinner and you will burn more easily. Don’t be fooled by a cloudy sky. If you have fair skin, the clouds will not protect you. Trust me, I know.
3. Extra layers
The weather in the UK can change quickly. One minute it is sunny and fine, the next minute you are engulfed in rain and gale-force winds. Don’t be caught out. Always carry an extra layer or two with you to keep you warm. If it’s winter, a hat and gloves are essential.
4. Hydration and fuel
You may just be ‘popping’ out for a quick stroll, but this does not mean that it is a good idea to bypass the idea of taking food and water with you. What if you decide to extend your walk? What if you get lost? A few snacks and enough water to last you for your outing and a bit extra won’t do you any harm. Try to always take a little more than you think you will need. I’ve been on a long walk with my parents on a hot day and we ended up having to ration the water on the way back. Not fun.
5. First aid
I’m guilty of not always taking a first aid kit with me, but it is something I vow to take more seriously. You don’t have to take suture kit with you, but plasters, antiseptic wipes, a few bandages, disposable gloves, scissors and tweezers are all super handy items. If you haven’t had any first aid training, it may be a good idea to do a short course. Otherwise, pack a small handbook on basic first aid inside your kit.
You may plan on returning home before dark, but it is better to be safe than sorry. A torch or headlamp could come in handy. Pack some spare batteries, too. It may also be a good idea to carry a lighter or box of matches, just in case.
Few of us go anywhere without our phones now, but remember to always check that your mobile is fully charged before you head outside. If you’re worried about not getting any signal in an emergency, or if you are really planning on going off the beaten track, you may want to invest in a Personal Locator Beacon. A whistle could also be a useful thing to pack.
These are your basic basics. Depending on what you are planning to do, you may also like to consider the following:
- Makeshift shelter: bin bags, tarpaulin or space blankets
- Insect repellent
- Repair kit and tools: duct tape, spare shoelaces, pliers, scissors, fabric repair tape etc.
- Ice axe and crampons