Whether you are undertaking a self-guided or a guided walking holiday, the fundamentals of hiking are the same for everybody. The following are some tips for you if are taking to the trail.
1. Keep hydrated. Even if it’s not that hot it’s important to drink regularly. It’s best to drink little and often. Even if not thirsty it is still important to drink water. Obviously, if it is hot you will need to drink a lot more so it’s important to keep yourself well-supplied. There are generally plenty of places where you can re-supply (public taps, shops, bars, etc.) Keep an eye on your walking notes/guidebook so you will have a better idea of where you can next get water on the route.
2. Bring snacks with you. While there are generally a few places where you can stop on a route to get food, it is important to bring some easy to carry / easy to eat food with you. Food such as bananas, cereal bars, glucose tablets, raisins, rice cakes and good old-fashioned sandwiches or rolls are good suggestions of what to bring. You should remember that when you are undertaking a multi-day walk you are not just necessarily eating for the moment but for the days ahead. If you find yourself ‘running on empty’ or thirsty during a walk you may feel the effects a lot more in the next few days. Sometimes dry foods such as rice cakes can have the added benefit of making you drink more. When you are finished your walk, you should try and eat something in the first 20 to 30 minutes when you finish. This will help your muscles recover better for the following day. If it is very hot it is a good idea to bring salt tablets which can help you avoid leg cramps. Likewise, sachets of electrolyte powders which you simply add to water are a great way to avoid dehydration. They could also prove important if you find yourself having a bad stomach at any stage during your trip.
3. Bring sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburn and heat fatigue. Even if the sun doesn’t feel particularly strong, you could potentially be getting hit by harmful UV rays. Insect spray is essential to help keep mosquitos and ticks away.
4. A light raincoat is generally an essential item to bring. Even if it doesn’t rain the temperature and the wind could change leaving you feeling exposed. A coat can help to keep a cold breeze off you.
5. A small first aid kit consisting of some plasters, antiseptic cream, bandages and safety pins should be considered an essential piece of kit. Remember that what may seem like a small cut or injury may prove more serious if you are a long way from help.
6. Look over your route maps and notes before you leave. Identify where you can get supplies and places on the route which may prove difficult to traverse. Look at where you may need to rest to prepare for sections ahead which may be tough. Sometimes there is nothing worse than discovering that you have a tough climb towards the end when you are already struggling. Always check the weather forecast before you leave so you will have an idea of possible rain, temperature and wind direction.
7. Cotton clothes are generally a bad idea as they retain moisture. Having wet clothes can cause problems if the temperature drops. A base layer made from merino wool and breathable outer layers are generally a good idea.
8. If you purchase new boots or walking shoes make sure you have broken them in fully. Make sure you are comfortable in them over the distances you will be covering on your holiday. You should wear good thick socks which will help to avoid blisters and other foot injuries.
9. Having a headtorch and batteries may seem a bit over the top but they can prove extremely helpful should anything happen to you along the route or if you get caught out by time. The space they take up in your bag and their weight are minimal. Likewise, a whistle should be considered an essential piece of kit if you are going on a trail which is more ‘off the beaten track’.
10. Walking poles can be a great help on uneven terrain and for prolonged climbing. They can be somewhat of an extra limb as you walk.
11. Remember that if you are using an app on your phone or a GPS as your sole means of navigation, that these can suffer from battery loss, malfunction and damage. It is always best to stick to the marked trail and use walking notes and maps or a guidebook.
12. Finally, no matter where you are you should always remember the seven principles of ‘Leave no Trace’:
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Be considerate of others
- Respect farm animals and wildlife
- Travel and camp on durable ground
- Leave what you find
- Dispose of waste properly
- Minimise the effects of fire
Regardless of whether the tips seem like overkill, the fact remains that the Scouts motto remains true: Be Prepared. If you are undertaking a short walk or a long walk, if the weather is good or bad, the fact is that you need to take care of yourself. Remember that you are undertaking your walk, in order to enjoy it. Preparing for possible eventualities will increase your safety and your pleasure.