Hill Walking Tips
- Gear advice
- Thursday 21st December, 2017
- By Susan
New Year, new me? Or maybe you’re just looking for a bit of fresh air over the festive season. Here are some of our hill walking tips to set you up for success so you’ll keep up this healthy habit throughout the year.
Plan Your Route
When planning your route be realistic about your fitness levels. Choose a trail that is well marked if you don’t have navigation skills. Loop walks are a good choice from a psychological point of view as you don’t have to double back over the same track and each step is taking you closer to home. Even if you are walking with a group; take a look at a map before you set off to have an idea of the route. Are there any landmarks or difficult terrain to watch out for? There’s plenty of choice of easy familiy walks that can be found either printed or online.
If you have planned your route properly you will know what time you’ll be back at the car. Tell a friend what time you’ll be finished at. It is good practice for safety and they might have the kettle on for you when you get back!
This gives you more time to stop for breaks, take photos and admire the scenery without having to rush to make it off the hills before dark. This is especially important during the winter months and you should take a headtorch just in case things take longer than you expect and you are caught out.
Break in Your Boots
Let’s assume you’ve been measured by the amazing staff *cough,cough* in Great Outdoors, chosen the right boots and you’ve even bought proper hiking socks that cushion your feet in all the right places. You don’t want to undo all your preparation by wearing your boots for the first time on the hills. That is a recipe for disaster, and blisters. Be kind to your feet, wear your hiking boots around the house (We give you 28 days to try out your boots at home), and on short trips out and about. That way they will be properly broken in before you head out on a proper walk.
Bringing something to snack on gives you an excuse to take a break, catch your breath and enjoy the view. Hill walking isn’t just about getting to the top and back down again without appreciating your surroundings. If energy is flagging, a small square of chocolate can raise spirits and energy. Be the hiking friend with snacks.
It might be sunny where you parked the car, but the weather can change and the temperature can drop by 2°C for every 300m climbed. Even on a beautiful bright day, the wind can bite so wear layers, pack gloves, a hat and a buff so you can enjoy the view for longer, never be afraid to have another fleece in your backpack, it’s always better to have than have not. We recommend hillwalkers to carry a small first aid kit with a whistle and an emergency shelter. They may never need to use them, but they are light to carry and invaluable if things go wrong.
Be Prepared (to Turn Back)
We all know the weather can change quickly and sometimes the weatherman can get it wrong. Even if you are kitted out properly, if it starts bucketing down and you are feeling miserable, don’t be afraid to call it quits and turn back.
Leave No Trace
We want hillwalking to be enjoyable for all. Be responsible and take your rubbish, close gates and take only photos.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Sometimes the hardest part of hillwalking is the way down and this is when the most accidents happen. You’re tired, you are hungry, and you are wondering what’s for dinner. When walking downhill try not to learn forward, keep your knees slightly bent as your foot makes contact with the ground. If you are carrying a pack with hip straps, tighten these so your pack isn’t moving about and throwing you off balance. Other techniques such as walking in a sideways zig zag will help you keep control as you walk down steep sections. Walking poles help can take 20% of your body weight off your knees and help steady you on steeper ground. If you can, choose two poles rather than one for balance.
After a walk get into the habit of taking care of your gear. This will make them perform better and for longer. If it is dirty, give it a hose down. If your boots got wet, remove the insole and allow them to air dry and apply a suitable conditioner.
Now all that’s left is for you to get outside and enjoy yourself!
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