Last year, I completed the Malhamdale Meander which is a 23-mile walk in the Yorkshire Dales. It was pretty gruelling, especially since I’d only started training for it about a month beforehand and had never walked over 10-miles all in one go before then. I completed it though, but not without some serious hiking faux-pas, one of the biggest of which was that I’d forgotten to pack a map. You’d think this would be common sense, but not for me. So, in order to save any prospective hikers and long distance walkers from similar disasters, here’s my essential guide to packing for a long walk:
Get a hydration pack
One of my main problems when completing the Malhamdale Meander was that I didn’t take enough water with me. I only took a two litre bottle and managed to finish it within the first two hours and then had to wait another two before I got the chance to refill it. This made the first stretch of my walk pretty un-enjoyable – hiking up the biggest hill (I’m tempted to call it a mountain) I’ve ever seen with an intensely dry mouth isn’t an experience I’d ever like to relive.
Everyone around me was using hydration packs, particularly useful for cyclists travelling long distances on their mountain bikes, which I’d thought I could do without but obviously couldn’t. If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re lightweight backpacks that come with an insert that you can fill with water. They’ve also got a handy drinking tube that you thread through the bag and clip to the shoulder, so it’s close to your mouth when you’re desperately thirsty.
Take a first aid kit
Halfway round the walk my friend started to get some horrific blisters, but none of us had thought to bring a first aid kit with us, so there weren’t any plasters in sight. The only thing we were able to source were a pair of scissors, so she resorted to cutting the backs of her hiking boots out so that they didn’t rub on her heels. This wasn’t ideal though, since they hadn’t exactly been cheap. It would have been much easier to pop a plaster on and soldier on.
Buy a raincoat
Now, when I say raincoat, I don’t mean the hulking great winter coat I took with me. The last thing you want when you’re hiking is a coat with a fleece lining – if you’ve any sense you’ll wear layers and one of them will be a fleece, but if your coat is too warm you’ll end up getting light headed from the heat. You also don’t want a heavy coat, as the hiking equipment, tents and supplies you may be carrying will create enough weight to contend with. Instead, take a lightweight waterproof raincoat or poncho, something that will protect you from the rain without making you feel like you’re going to faint.
Remember the snacks
Possibly my biggest mistake, other than forgetting a map, was that I didn’t take any snacks with me, or any actual food for that matter. When you’re hiking you need to keep yourself motivated and one of the best ways to do this is fill yourself up on high-energy snacks. Peanuts, chocolate, dried or fresh fruit and Kendal mint cake all work excellently.
So, whether you’re off on a quick hike along a national trail or are planning a day long slog up a nearby mountain, remember to pack your bag the night before and include all of these essentials.