I’ve only been walking for twelve-months but it didn’t take long for me to learn that it is quite essential to kit yourself out properly, if you’re going to do this seriously. I’m not talking about spending hundreds of pounds on lots of expensive clothing items with breathable membranes. After all, I’m only climbing the local hills. I’m not looking to scale Mount Everest (just yet)!
Along with a decent pair of walking boots (much sturdier and more comfortable than trainers – my current ones were about £35), there are a few other items I would recommend to anyone who’s thinking about walking or hiking as a recurrent hobby. After a recent shopping trip to a local outdoor clothing store, I felt that I would share some of this here with you this evening.
It all started with the backpack you see above (Craghoppers Kiwi Pro). My other backpack is something I bought for my return to college back in 2007. It’s fine for occasional use but the straps tend to dig in to your shoulders when you’re hiking uphill with 3lt of water pulling on you! I learned in February that it’s anything but waterproof, after eleven-hours of wintry weather on top of the Cotswolds near Cheltenham. My new bag relieves the pressure and the strain. It has added straps for securing across your chest and also, around your waist (yes, I really should have a ‘selfie’ here, in a backpack-wearing pose). On the reverse, it’s covered with a breathable material that helps to prevent your back from getting too sweaty and it has storage and accessibility pretty well catered for.
On my previous bag (which is now used primarily for work – and how welcome it is to have separate bags for separate tasks), I could fill it up halfway and it would bulge out as I’d over-prepared for a trek across the Sahara Desert or something! I felt embarrassed carrying it, especially on a dry day. But I can fill my new bag and it still looks compact. I payed a little extra for the 30lt option over the two smaller sizes but I doubt I’ll live to regret it. They always say it’s better to have a little extra (just like when cutting wood).
That was the main rear compartment (with plenty of room for lunch, bottles of water, a coat and more) and this is now the front compartment, with various pockets and holding places.
Simply buying a new bag was a big improvement for me. I do wonder whether I should’ve gone for the navy one but then, my other bag is navy and I’m looking to move onwards with my walking. I also bought a few pairs of socks at the time (no pictured) because they were on special offer. I think one set was £15 for a pair and they have socks to cover each of the four seasons. I’ve been wearing mine all over the place and even to work and they’re greatly reduced the wear on my soles (which reminds me – I must buy a new pair of work boots as the others are splitting apart).
So, the bag was £40 and I bought (I think) two pairs of socks. I should mention that this came from Country Innovation in Congresbury; about halfway between Bristol and Weston-super-Mare, just off the A370. I’d been aware of this local business for several years but I’d always assumed they’d be no cheaper than the online retailers… I was pleasantly surprised when I first glanced over their website and then, even more so, when I was offered a 10% discount off non-sale prices for presentation of my valid membership card to The Ramblers! 😉
I went back there last week (forgetting to take a photo for this post) to purchase a pair of waterproof trousers, which were being advertised in the local papers at a reduced price. They were £12.50 and branded under the company’s own name. Apparently, they’d proven to be so popular that they’d completely sold out of green which left me with my preferred choice of navy. I haven’t yet had a chance to try them out but I really could’ve done with these back in February (to give you an idea of how ‘traumatising’ that walk was; I don’t even have one photo to share with you). Anyway, these trousers are like a lightweight coat I bought elsewhere last year; in that they can be rolled up and packed away in to a tiny zipped bag.
But I would generally prefer to wear waterproof trousers when it is raining constantly. If it’s only mud or long grass then you might be able to suffice with a pair of gaiters, which you can see above. They basically cover the lower portion of your legs and ankles, below the knees and even the cheap ones will keep your trousers clean. Condensation was an issue with the first pair I bought but after a few months I managed to break them (due to a lack of care and cleaning) where I tried to force a mud-tight zip open and over my walking boots… Those were less than £10 for a pair and I’ve since decided to spend over £10 on a pair that uses toggles to secure them around your legs. I still haven’t put these (above) to the test as the weather’s been remarkably good since I bought them but I’m sure that day will come quite soon!
It wasn’t until I’d joined The Ramblers (as part of your subscription, you receive free copies of the Walk magazine, every few months) that I learned what gaiters were, when I glanced over an advert in the classified section of a magazine. After two months of changing socks and trousers, they seemed like the solution I’d been hoping for.
In the last week, I’ve been busy on eBay adding more to my walking arsenal. These two items should help to improve my appearance as a now-regular walk leader of the group (more on that to come). It will help me to look the part, I think and also to look after some of the necessary equipment. It was a struggle to squeeze that portion of the OS map in behind the protective screen but there’s room in another wide pocket for storing a second map as well. To the right, you’ll find smaller pockets (including one for my compass and pens) and the whole thing can then be folded up and slung comfortably over a shoulder or across your torso, using the strap.
After one year of walking, I decided it was time to buy a compass! I do think this is something that will mainly help me to appear ‘more leader-like’ when I’m out and about and ahead of a group. Somehow, I’ve survived without until now and I’ve always made it home at the end of each day. Admittedly, that has sometimes been a very long day but I’m not sure how a compass would’ve helped me any more than an accurate GPS system. Maybe this’ll come in to its own when I one day venture out on to unfamiliar land… I went for this style (which you can position directly over your map) because it looks similar to one a friend used when we did a walk on Easter Sunday/my birthday this year.
This post might help someone. Among other things; it was great to discover a local firm who can supply me with most of all I need because I do prefer to support these business, especially in these hardened financial times. I’m hoping to do some more walking this weekend but we might be waiting on the weather for that. Next week will be my next experience as leader and even before that, I can update you on what I got up to and where I went this past weekend.
Thanks for reading.
- Backpacker’s checklist: What to take and how to pack light for a trip? (hitchhikershandbook.com)
- Outdoor pursuits: not for women? (thefword.org.uk)