The group expects members to bring all of their own personal clothing and equipment. Both vary depending on the activity and when and where it is being done. A walkers clothing and equipment differs somewhat from a cyclists. Members of the group may be able to offer advice about clothing and equipment. The following paragraphs are mainly focused on the clothing and equipment that walkers require.
Walking Boots - Recommended
Boots serve two main purposes, firstly they keep your feet dry and warm and secondly, they reduce the damage done to your feet and ankles when you walk over rough ground for a day.
Dry and Warm
In the colder months the ground can be wet and muddy regardless whether it is actually raining. If the ground is wet or muddy trainers will just soak up the dampness and leave your feet cold and wet. Unfortunately this also increases your chances of getting blisters, so realistically a pair of boots is a must. If the weather and terrain is kind you may be able to survive with an ordinary or basic pair of boots for a few walks.
When walking over rough ground much of the stress of balancing is put on the ankles. If you slip, then that stress will increase significantly causing you to twist or 'go over' on your ankle. This can be minor, or a major disability requiring much rest to recover from. Bearing in mind that this will happen on a walk where you may be some miles from road access it can be a problem. Having said that it is rare for such an accident to be completely disabling and part of the benefit of going on a led walk is the fact that you have a built in support team to fetch help.
Waterproofs - Recommended
If you're walking in the colder months there is almost always a possibility it might rain and so you'll need to be prepared for that. One of the big causes of discomfort on a walk is getting wet. Being wet is a bad thing because:
- It's uncomfortable.
- It increases the chance of chaffing and being sore.
- It makes you cold. When you're wet all the natural air insulation in the clothes you are wearing is gone so you will cool down very quickly. In very cold weather that can be bad enough to get hypothermia, but generally it is just not very nice.
Having decided you need waterproofs what should you have? Well firstly in the autumn and spring months you can often get away with a conventional waterproof jacket. This will be enough to keep you dry through short showers.
If you are going walking regularly or in the winter months you really need to get yourself a proper waterproof. Waterproof jackets basically come in two types breathable (more expensive) and non-breathable. A breathable waterproof will allow moisture (sweat) to pass through the jacket from the inside out, but not let rain from the outside in. These are much more comfortable. The main drawback of any walking is that the exercise makes you sweat. If you are wearing a non-breathable jacket then this collects inside the jacket and makes you just as damp.
Waterproof trousers can be very helpful in prolonged rain. If you are out and it is raining for an hour or so all the rain that falls on your jacket runs off onto your trousers making your legs cold and wet. So if the weather looks like its settling in to be wet for the afternoon and you have to walk back you'll be happier if you have a pair of waterproof trousers.
Tip for buying waterproofs: Waterproofs seem to be a fashion accessory now, so there are new styles coming out every season. If you buy your waterproofs in August you should be able to get last seasons stock heavily discounted - and it's just as good.
If you don't have any waterproofs at all and you would like to go on your first weekend without having to buy some then it's probably worth asking if anyone can lend you some as some people may have spare old sets.
Rucksack/Backpack - Recommended
Some people consider a rucksack and essential item, some don't. What is essential is something to carry all everything you need - spare clothing, first aid kit, food, water, medication, money. Rucksacks/Backpacks have the benefit of leaving your hands free while walking.
Winter walking can be difficult. When you are walking you will be generating a lot of heat so will not need much extra insulation, when you stop (for breaks/lunch etc) you'll cool down very quickly and you'll need more. This is the reason you are recommended to wear lots of thin layers as this lets you add and remove layers as necessary.
- Comfort layer
You should have a thin comfort layer next to your skin, cotton tee-shirts are good for this. The main purpose of this is to ensure you don't experience rubbing and soreness. There are also a range of modern fabrics designed to stop you getting sweaty. These work really well and are worth investing in.
- Insulation layers
These are the layers that keep you warm. You should build up from the thinner layers to the thicker layers on the outside. In practice sweatshirts and jumpers are fine for this, although most regular walkers will buy a fleece at some point.
- Protection layers
This is what keeps you protected from the elements. In cold but windy conditions a windproof layer is useful, and when it's raining you'll need a waterproof.
As a rule of thumb you should take two extra layers for warmth with you when you set out not including your waterproof. This will cover nearly all situations where you might get cold. If you are not using waterproof trousers the trousers you wear are important. In particular they are more likely to get wet as any rain running off your jacket will go onto you're legs. Your trousers should be quick drying and not made of a heavy material that will soak up water (i.e. jeans are not good!).
Summer walking has less problems but the same general rules apply - it's just that you're likely to start the walk wearing less. Remember when it's hot you will definitely need a sun cream or sun block and it is strongly recommended you have clothes that cover you up. Surprisingly it can be cooler wearing light coloured light fabrics (long trousers and long-sleeved shirts) than a t-shirt and shorts. You must also have some form of sun hat or head cover. Sunstroke is very unpleasant and can be dangerous and a hat will help prevent it.
Finally, remember it is entirely possible to be caught in hail and thunderstorms in June/July and you can get very cold and wet if you are unprepared.
Food - Essential
You should bring food as you cannot rely on pubs or shops being open or able to serve or that the route remains as planned (weather or problems might necessitate a change). Walking uses up many calories so you should probably bring some 'high energy' foods (i.e. lots of sugar - chocolate) and some longer acting carbohydrate (i.e. to stop you getting too hungry - sandwiches, rolls, pies, pasties). Fruit and nuts provide a mix of healthy complements.
Drink - Essential
You must bring water for walking. When you are out all day walking you will lose a lot of fluid. You may not notice it if there is a breeze but it's happening all the same. On cold days you can lose around a litre and on hot summer days it can be as much as 3 litres or more. Even on cold days some people prefer to drink water, but most will choose a hot drink in a thermos flask. If you are taking a flask on a walk be careful if it is of the mirrored glass type as they break very easily.
You should inform someone if you have any medical conditions, medication and what to do in an emergency. If you have any medication you need to bring it with you. Likewise if you need ankle/knee supports. If you are prone to blisters then please bring relevant plasters or Compeed. For all these prevention is better than cure.
Over time you might want to use the following:
- Whistle - for emergencies - 6 blasts, pause for a minute, then repeat.
- Hats - baseball for summer, woolly for winter.
- Map case and compass - for when you lead walks or are interested in navigation.
- Gaiters - divert rain over your boots to prevent inside getting wet.
- Crampons - for added grip in ice and snow.
- Sunglasses - for bright days or bright snow.
- Sun cream - for hot days and bright sun.
- Gloves - for cold days and nights.
- First aid kit - for emergencies.
More information about equipment and first aid can be found in this Word document