Some essentials you will need to take on a walking trip around the UK
The UK is world renowned for its beautiful scenery, with miles of rolling hills, dramatic cliffs, ancient woodlands and wonderful coastal paths.
It’s also pretty well-known for its temperamental weather. There is a saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes, and it will change", so before you head off on any walking holiday, make sure you’ve packed some of the most important essentials!
I cannot stress heavily enough that you need the right footwear. Even the naked rambler wears boots. So, boots or sturdy walking shoes please. Not flip flops, sneakers or killer heels. I can hear you thinking, “That’s obvious”. You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
If the walk is going to be a long, or strenuous one, or you are headed out for an extended period, walking holiday etc., make sure you break in the boots / shoes well. New boots are notorious for rubbing tender skin, and blisters are every walkers nightmare. If you don’t do this, you might well need item 7.
A good pair of walking socks can also make the most strenuous walk just that bit more bearable. Cheap cotton, or even worse, nylon (yuck) socks can rub, and make your feet sweaty. The best socks I have are made of wool with a bit of added polyester material to make them tougher. They will help keep your feet dry, and anti bacterial socks can keep the odour down. There’s nothing worse than turning up at a nice pub, that asks you to remove your muddy boots, and having to worry about stinky feet.
Waterproof jacket and trousers
You might have checked the forecast before leaving, but you should always expect the unexpected when it comes to any walking trip in the UK. Sudden showers and downpours are common – the last thing you want is to be caught out with wet clothes!
An extra jumper or other warm clothing
It can get chilly and windy, often the temperature given in forecasts, doesn’t account for wind-chill factor. So some extra warm clothes are essential. Lightweight knits and fleeces that can be layered and easily packed away if it gets warmer are the most practical.
And don’t ignore the undies. Chafing is not pleasant, and a good set of passion killers can be delightful when it’s chilly and everyone else is moaning about how cold they are. Just remember - any fool can be cold and wet.
Hat and gloves
Certainly a necessity in autumn and winter, but even in the summer a hat or cap will help to keep you protected against the elements, and in the winter you really want to keep your fingers warm. Go for practicality and comfort over style. Choose hard-wearing fabrics that will not snag easily, they are a better option than delicate wools or cashmere.
Sunglasses and sun protection
With the unpredictable weather, you might occasionally chance upon some sun! It’s always important to wear sun protection to prevent burning, even in cooler months. Sunglasses are handy, when it gets especially bright.
High energy snacks
While there are many cafes and tea shops dotted around popular walking routes, it’s always helpful to have some extra snacks to nourish you on your way. These are also useful in emergencies if you get lost. Snacks like Kendal mint cake, chocolate, oat or sport energy bars are easy to store away for a quick nibble.
Water or drinks bottle
Having a spare bottle of water, or other cold (non-alcoholic drink) is essential. Walking can be difficult and tiring work, and you may get dehydrated easily, especially over longer distances. A favourite among many British walkers is lemon barley squash, which is refreshing, and gives a sugar boost too. In winter, you can pack a thermos flask of something warm.
First aid kit
In case of minor injuries, having a small first aid kit can be very useful. Basic essentials to include are plasters and dressings, an anti-septic cream for cuts and grazes, and an anti-histamine in case of allergies to any insects or plants.
If you are walking in the winter months, it can get dark very quickly, so a torch is always helpful to have in case you lose your way. A small, lightweight torch with a bright beam is the best choice to include.
Some common insects you may encounter include midges, wasps, bees and ants. An insect repellent will help keep them at bay, while a bug bite cream will help to soothe any itchiness in case of bites or stings.
Last but certainly not least, a map of the area you are walking in is absolutely essential! You may have the latest smartphone with Google maps, but what if you drop it, or you can’t find a signal. Some areas of the UK are very remote, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. The Ordnance Survey provides comprehensive maps of different regions in the UK, and it is always a good idea to pack one, just in case.
A comfortable backpack will help you keep your hands free for getting over any stiles, and climbing steep, rocky areas. If you are out for an easy stroll a daypack is fine, but for a longer holiday / walk, a good sturdy, waterproof backpack will help you carry all the equipment you will need and keep it nice and dry. A good backpack is adjustable, but go to a proper outdoor shop to get advice on the correct fit, one size does not fit all, and it could save you a lot of backache.
A walking stick is not just the province of little old ladies, or people with an injury. They are a real aid to any walker, helping with balance, reducing the impact on your legs, and joints, especially when walking downhill. You can also use them to test the ground in front of you, and to push away any loose obstacles like branches or long grass, or fend off any over inquisitive dogs, sheep or cattle.
Some people like a traditional wooden stick (me), others use trendy, adjustable trekking poles, but to be honest I’ve seen too many of those abandoned because they have bent or keep collapsing. Again, you need to be careful when choosing, make sure it’s comfortable to hold, and the correct length to give you the best balance.