* Prices may differ from that shown
I've always been a keen walker. Since I grew up with no car in the house my family always had to take public transport or walk everywhere. As I've grown up I've kept to this ethos, and even now, in my mid-30's I live in a car-free home. This can be a pain for getting to some out-of-the-way places as using public transport can involve planning usually associated with a military operation, but most of the time Hubby and I bump along quite nicely without a tin box on wheels.
So now I do walk pretty much everywhere. I live a 30 minute walk from the local city centre and have a big shopping centre a 15 minute walk in the opposite direction. Walking gives me a breathing space in my day, letting my mind drift into a Zen-like calm. If it's light outside and I know my way I usually listen to music, Radio 4 podcasts or even language learning materials. Walking also gives me exercise, saves me money and allows me to slow down from the frenetic pace of modern life. And, of course, it's free!
I don't use anything fancy but, depending on the weather and my health I do use a variety of equipment.
A stick - I have joint problems and if my joints are painful, or I have to negotiate hilly terrain, or if it's slippery underfoot I'll use a stick. I have a nice walking pole which is light, strong and has a spike for grip in icy weather.
Bags - I almost always carry a bag when I walk, as I always walk with a purpose; this could be shopping or going to work, both of which necessitate me carrying a great deal of material. I have a good, strong rucksack which allows me to spread the weight over both shoulders, plus a variety of cotton bags which allow me to distribute weight across both hands. For especially heavy loads I have a 'wheely'; my faithful trolley which I can pull behind me with ease.
Clothing - A jacket or coat is usually a must. I have several of varying thicknesses depending on the temperature outside. All are light, breathable and give me freedom of movement.
Shoes - Good, comfy shoes are essential for walking. I usually wear a pair of Army surplus trainers in summer, thicker trainers in autumn/damp weather and hiking boots in rain/cold weather. All are strong, protect my ankle and give me good grip.
Wet weather gear - I've built up quite a collection of this over the years for when the weather is especially bad. I have a floppy hat, rain trousers which slide on over my regular trousers, wellies and a raincoat. Plus a brolly of course. I hardly ever leave the house without one!
Cold weather gear - As the weather gets colder I move into a variety of cold weather clothing, which includes thermal under trousers and vests, thicker coats, hats, scarves and gloves. I find my hands get very cold when I walk, so again, these are a must. On the other hand I work up a sweat easily even on cold days, so layers are essential as they allow me to cool down/warm up according to what my body needs.
Walking in the dark - In winter I end up walking along busy roads in the dark and for this I have a pair of high-visibility armbands, plus reflective bands on my bag. I also make sure I'm wearing bright colours so I can be seen easily, and I never listen to music when walking at night as I need all my wits about me to negotiate traffic safely.
Walking is wonderful but, inevitably not driving does limit me in the places I go. Some places are just too far to walk, especially if I'm not feeling well.
Also, when I have to go to work I have to turn out in all weathers: wind, rain and snow can't stop me and I have no nice, warm, dry car to relax in. There's not much in life more miserable than being tired, cold, windswept and wet knowing you have another two miles to go before you reach your destination!
Walking has also taken a toll on my health; it's certainly exacerbated my joint problems, plus I have to wear ankle and toe protection to save further damage.
Hiking is a big step up from the town walking I usually do. For many years I've enjoyed walking in the countryside, and, when I was fitter, I joined a local rambling group. This gave me a great opportunity to socialise with like-minded people, visit new places and have access to places I wouldn't tackle on my own.
Over the years I've been lucky enough to hike in the USA, Poland and the UK, climbing the highest mountain in Poland, plus Ben Lomand and many areas of the Peak District.
Many ramblers and hikers go all out to have special clothing, shoes and all manner of paraphernalia but my hiking equipment is much the same as my walking equipment, save for a few additional items to deal with being out all day, such as food & drink supplies, as well as some more robust walking gear like gaiters.
Maps, a compass and a whistle are also very handy, although as I always hike in a group I don't have to depend on these as much as a lone hiker would.
Unfortunately, as my health has deteriorated I've had to give up hiking as it was just too painful on my joints, and too much of a strain on my frequent low-energy levels. Hiking is physically demanding and my body just can't do it any more.
Members of rambling or hiking groups can be at vastly different levels of fitness and so it's all too easy for the group to get 'strung out' with the fit and able members steaming ahead whilst those less able are straggling at the back. Thankfully the group I belonged to took great pains to make sure an experienced hiker was at the back of the group, and that everyone stopped frequently to allow the slower people to catch up, but even so, eventually the physical toll became too much.
I still love walking, and I hope to be able to return to hiking one day. For now I enjoy easier town and country walking which still allows me access to all sorts of lovely sights (and sites!).
Oh, and the title? What's the most enjoyable form of exercise I know? I'll leave that to your imaginations ;-D
Ever since I was a little girl I have always enjoyed walking. We lived opposite fields and mom, dad and I often used to walk across them looking out for anything of interest that dad could teach me about and of course we went picking blackberries in the autumn.
Now I live on The Great Orme in Llandudno which provides stunning scenery and great walks but we are also on the edge of Snowdonia which opens up a whole other world.
Whilst I still enjoy walking I can only manage small walks these days as walking uphill gets me so out of breath I have to stop every few yards!
The reason for my writing this review is to say to you all out there - if you are going to do a serious walk - BE PREPARED! While we are on the subject teach your children the same message.
Our local news often carries stories of rescues performed by our Mountain Rescue Teams and the Air Ambulances and, whilst some of them are genuine accidents which have happened to the best prepared, some of the stories make for ridiculous reading!
There was a group of people a few years ago who decided to climb Snowdon. They were wearing shorts, t shirts and flimsy sandals and one of them was pushing a child in a push chair! They had to be rescued as the weather deteriorated and the child was suffering from hypothermia!
Let's begin with Snowdon - I am not talking about mountaineering here that's something that is completely different. What I am talking about is mountains like Snowdon where there are various paths up the summit. This means that anyone of a decent level of fitness can walk up to the top.
So what do you need to think about?
Well firstly the weather conditions at the base and at the summit can and often are completely different from one another. It can be beautifully sunny at the base but up on the top it can be cold, foggy or even snowing! Think about how long it will take you to get to the top and get back down. Don't start out at 3pm thinking you can get to the top and back before tea time! If you are not sure - ask a local.
So the first thing to think about is what you are wearing. Make sure that you have something warm and waterproof in case you need it. Wear sensible footwear that will protect your feet and ankles - the paths are all steep in places and they are tracks not tarmacked streets! Take a walking pole (or two) with you to help you to balance as you negotiate the rougher bits or as you cross streams. It helps if you have a rucksack or backpack of some description as you can then put all your bits and pieces in it, pop it on your back thus leaving your hands free for scrambling on the steep tracks.
Take a map and a compass with you and make sure that you know how to use it. If it does get misty it is very easy to lose all sense of direction. Take something to eat and drink too - if you do end up getting lost and taking more time than you anticipated you will need something to keep you going.
Make sure that at least one member of your party is carrying a well charged mobile phone as this could save your life. Having said that don't make it your first or only form of safety equipment. Take the other precautions to protect and look after yourself as described above and call the emergency services as a last resort. There are too many people these days whether up mountains or at sea who think that, as soon as they are a little bit lost or something minor goes wrong, they should call 999 and let someone else (usually a team of volunteers) take responsibility for their actions. I don't advocate putting yourself in great danger but do at least make an effort to sort yourself out rather than just calling 999.
This has been mainly about mountains - Snowdon in particular - but the theory is there for any walk that you may embark upon. Just take reasonable care, know where you are going and let someone know where you are and roughly what time you will return.
As I have said I am certainly no expert in this field (if you'll forgive the pun) but I do hear such ridiculous stories of people going out, ill prepared to the point of stupidity, and then calling the emergency services as soon as anything goes wrong.
Basically - use your common sense!
We have all heard the saying "walking is the best exercise". I wouldn't go that far, but it is definitely one of the easiest to do exercises. The fact that you can be having a gentle workout that's beneficial to not only your heart health but your overall good health while seeing the sights or even shopping means this form of exercise is assessable for most people (some people with underlying conditions may find walking, even gentle walking to be strenuous, uncomfortable and even painful arthritis of the knee and hip for example) and you can take it at your own pace and increase your speed and the incline as needed depending on your location. Why spend money on a gym only to be stood there staring into space on a treadmill when you can simply pop on a coat and some suitable footwear and have a comfortable stroll around your town, village or city. If you want to track your progress pedometers are an affordable way to do this. They will record how many steps you have taken and how many calories you have burnt all in a wrist watch like device.
The great thing about walking over other forms of exercise is it can be a very social experience compared to the solitary existence of exercising at home or on your own at the gym. To increase the effectiveness of walking wrist weights can be worn and tensing and then realising your abdominals and your glutes over and over again will not only help you burn more fat but it will also increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular health all the while toning your tummy and lifting your butt (to use a charming American term).
Take your walk to the hills or even to the mountains and it becomes a serious workout. The incline will really increase the severity of an otherwise light form of exercise. Before you begin this extreme form of walking / hiking or in fact any new exercise routine you must first consult your GP to ensure you are in good health and up to this new, healthy, active chapter in your life.
When hiking the fresh air fills your lungs and you can't help but feel alive, the higher you go the more stunning the views will become and you will feel a great sense of achievement when you reach your destination. It doesn't have to be the very top, just set yourself a goal and aim for it.
As with all forms of exercise it is important to stay hydrated and take a drink along with you, a good electrolyte based drink should do the job. If it is going to be a strenuous trek remember to warm up first and never set off on a trail alone, travel in pairs or more for safety health wise and also for your own personal safety.
We are so prone to driving everywhere nowadays, if we could drive to the kitchen we would. This sedentary lifestyle can only be detrimental to our health. Walking can be as gentle or as hard as you like, it's free, it's good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles and even your mind. The fact that you are getting out and seeing the world, having a chat as you go, can only be a good thing. So next time you reach for the car keys think twice, after all the good summer weather is on its way.
Thanks for reading :0) 2night
Walking is a sport which we all take for granted and many do not enjoy it in the modern way of life. I have to admit I hated it to since the routes I walked were always the same (uni-flat, flat-uni, flat-town center, flat-bus stop...) where I knew the exact minute I have to leave home to get to the desired spot, If I would close my eyes I could always knew where I was and this routine certainly takes the charm away from this sport.
But over the years I did finally realized there is some joy in this cheap sport. All you have to do is move away from the routine rout or have a decent companion. When walking becomes a "I walk here because I want" instead "I walk here because I must" it gets a whole another perspective and gets quite enjoyable.
No expensive equipment is needed to "exercise" walking, but I do suggest comfortable shoes, "bad" shoes can distinguish your desire to walk with blisters. Light clothing is also a must to get most of the experience.
Walking is really underestimated, it is one of the healthiest sports for our organism, it comes natural to the body and it will really do you good. It is especially good if you have back problems, vascular problems, heart problems and well any other disease or condition or lack of condition. Walking is healthy for you and the best thing is you don't even need to have preparations to engage this sport.
If you want to pump it up a bit you can also practice fast walking, this is more intense but you will have to do it properly I reckon. Getting yourself some more fitting sports equipment is needed here, fast walking gets close to running and although we can run in a loose tracksuit and and old T-shirt, running outfit feels so much better. I never understood why people would spend money on running suits until I was gifted one, the feeling is much better, you can feel the skin breathing :). Well recommended if you are up to running or fast walking.
*** Hiking ***
I am not a hard core hiker but I like my mountains here and there. This sport needs some more thought into though and some more equipment.
First what you have to do is decide or get information on where you are going. There certainly is a difference in going to your local hill or Himalayas. And based on that you do your shopping and preparations. It is good to have some condition before going hiking (even to not so demanding routes). Never go hiking alone, even if you are completely confident in your skills and the route does not seem demanding accidents can happen, there can be a rock slide, an evil snake behind the rock, anything from small dangers to grand but in any case you will want someone besides you to "in the worst case scenario" will run for help.
I am an easy router so I only use the basic equipment, so here goes!
*Shoes - probably the most important thing when it comes to hiking, they have to be quality and high enough to protect your ankle (you would not want that braking on the moutain). I use Alpina's leather boots I got on sale a few years ago (they were around 100Euro). Well satisfied. It is wise to spend a bit more on these shoes they will last long enough you won't be sorry you paid that much plus better to pay a bit more than loose you ankle.
*Socks - always have hiking socks, once I ran out and used the regular kinds and that night I had a blister on the blister on the blister.
*Pants - I use a broad variety of hiking pants and am satisfied with all of them, I think the ones that can (with a few unzips) turn into shorts are the best, the weather can change fast and that way you can adjust quickly.
*Sunglasses or a hat - I have a hard time getting sunglasses so a grey Nike's baseball cap is my companion
* Wind stopper - very handy if there are strong winds or rain starts falling.
*T-shirt - I normally use regular bright T-shirts but am lately buying hiking shirts (you will not stink after the day is over)
*Backpack - it has to be of good quality
Other things I carry around - magnesium pills (since you sweat allot and can loose minerals this will keep you up), sun cream (logically), sugar products or even better chocolate (fast energy boost), lots of water.
Hiking can be really enjoyable. It is certainly a relaxing sport although it can be a bit hard at the beginning, but when you see the end result (view) you will know it is well worth it. I truly enjoy (easy) hiking.
Walking is seen by many as something people simply do to get from A to B. The idea of going out into the countryside and walking for the fun of it is a foreign concept to many. The word rambler has an unfortunate reputation and is seen only for middle aged men and women in anoraks carrying flasks of milky coffee whilst singing all things bright and beautiful. However, walking/hiking is not rambling. The word hiking implies strenuous effort to attain a seemingly unreachable goal. When one goes out hiking, this is not simply an amble in a field, this is a challenging adventure to see parts of the world that very few people ever do.
My love for walking or hiking started at a very young age. My parents were always very active people and they often took me and my little sister out walking. Our first real hike was when I was six years of age. As a family we spent the day climbing up mount Snowdon in Wales. This was a real achievement for me and my four year old sister, especially due to the fact that we were wearing wellies at the time. Throughout my childhood we explored the mountains, rivers and lakes that this country has to offer. We went on holidays to places like the Scottish Highlands and in places like that my love of the great outdoors blossomed.
So what about now? Well this year I reached the grand old age of thirty. I'm still in love with the outdoors and love nothing more than getting out into the wilds and hiking up the biggest most gnarly looking mountain I can find. I have a few friends who also enjoy walking and am lucky enough to have a girlfriend who also enjoys hiking. So as often as possible I hop in the car and head to one of our many beautiful areas and simply walk. But that's enough about me, my job here is to convince you the reader that there is something very special about this simple pass time. I want to give you an idea of where to walk, how to walk and what exactly you need to do so.
Why & Where
First of all let me tell you why you should walk/hike. The simple fact is, when you reach the top of a mountain or the end of a long path or simply your final destination there is a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and achievement. The harder the walk, the more effort you have put in then the better the feeling you get. There is one quote that I keep going back to, when asked why I love to climb mountains I often fall back on this one. 'The higher I climb, the further I see. The further I see, the more mountains there are to climb.' That simply mentality is not really something you can learn, you either have it or you don't, but the only way to discover if you have that mentality is to get out there and do it.
So if you do want to get into walking where exactly should you start? Well obviously this depends upon where you live. There are lots of areas of outstanding natural beauty here in the UK. I live in the North West of England so my playground is the Lake District. But we are also not that far from the Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia and The Peak District. All these areas are places I often visit when I want to get out there.
There are plenty of other wonderful areas in the UK that are well worth exploring. The Brecon Beacons in South Wales is very nice, the Cornish Coastline has some stunning scenery. My favourite place is the Scottish Highlands, if you are looking for some wild mountains and the best of the British scenery and wildlife then Scotland is most certainly the place to go.
The fact is though that wherever you are based there will be somewhere within an hour or two where you can go walking. We are lucky in this country that everything is pretty much close together so there are no major issues with travel. Some people plan walking holidays, booking a holiday cottage up in Scotland or down in Wales is a great way to spend some time getting intimate with some of our best countryside.
What Do I Need
You may think that walking is a cheap hobby and to some extent you would be right. However, if you want to get serious then you may have to invest in some decent equipment. The most important area is obviously your feet. Buying a good sturdy pair of walking boots is essential. Don't opt for cheap ones, spending around £100 is well worth the investment as boots like this will last you along time and keep your feet safe and comfortable. Also make sure you get a good pair of walking socks.
Then you need to think about clothing. Obviously it depends what time of year you are going to be walking and what kind of weather you will be walking in. The fact is though a good pair of waterproof walking pants and a good walking jacket are again, well worth the investment. If you want to get serious you can spend some serious money on some incredible light weight, breathable, waterproof and windproof kit. When you are out in the wilds this clothing really does make a big difference and it will keep you warm and dry. You may also want to invest in a nice soft shell which can be very good as a base layer. Some decent gloves and a good warm hat. If you plan on walking in wet or wintry conditions then some gaiters to keep your legs dry will be very useful.
Another essential if you are going to be doing any serious hiking or walking is a rucksack. You can buy some really good quality ones these days and these are very comfortable and pack down very nicely. As with everything else it depends how much you are willing to spend as to the kind of quality you will get.
For anyone venturing into the wilds or even simply going for a wander in the local hills, there are safety concerns you should be aware of. First of all there are certain things you should take with you. In cold weather spare clothing in vital. A spare hat and gloves are recommended and an extra layer for if the weather gets extreme or you are involved in some form of accident which means you have to wait for help. It is also said you should carry a whistle which can be used to draw attention in an emergency. A survival bag is a good idea, these are big orange bags that you can put in the bottom of your rucksack, if you need to survive a night in the cold they can give you basic shelter and are also easy to spot if someone comes looking for you. Also take plenty of food and water to make sure you have all the energy you will need.
These days we are blessed with some excellent people who work for many different mountain rescue teams around the country. However, these are only to be used as a last resort. The majority of call outs are from people who have gotten into trouble because they were not adequately prepared. So when you go out hiking make sure you plan your route carefully. Make sure you are aware of the dangers or risks in an area. Check the weather forecast and don't attempt dangerous routes that are beyond your level of experience. The most important thing you should have with you is a map and compass and the ability to use them! Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
Hiking really is a wonderful pass time. It gets you fit, puts you in a better mood and lets you see some of this countries most beautiful spots. The great thing about hiking is that you can really do whatever you want to suit your ability. It can be a little two mile stroll along the banks of a river, or it can be a twenty mile hike up and down the biggest mountains we have at our disposal. Whatever it is you do when you get out there chances are you will find this a wonderful relaxing experience and you will want to get out and explore more and more. Happy hiking.
Hiking is our favourite passtime and we have, over the years, kitted ourselves out with all kinds of kit.
I have been a keen hiking since I was little and so have tried all kinds of equipment and brands and the one bit of advice I would say is the most important is dont buy cheap. You really do get what you pay for.
Walking around "Cotswold outdoor" it seems like an expensive passtime but once the kit is bought there are no other outgoings and the kit really does last years.
I started off buying things cheap from places like Asda and matalan thinking they would last and would do the job but have found myself with blisters, Chafing and soaking wet through.
I love a bargan and to buy cheap but learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for. Pay peanuts get peanuts. I'm not saying get the most expensive item you can find but really do go to a proper hiking shop and get the proper gear.
I used to hate walking in the winter in the Snow, rain I loved but always got soaking wet. I decided last year to get a proper coat and trousers for the winter as my partner loved the winter walking and is like a radiator so did not feel the cold as much.
I bought a Jack Wolfskin coat which did not give me much change from £200 and some thick thermal trousers for £20 and have enjoyed every snowy walk since then as I have been so warm it is unreal.
I used to suffer from blisters on my feet and just put up with them for ages. I got my feet measured and boots fitted properly and since then have not had any blisters and it feels like I'm walking in slippers!
There are so many items you can buy for hiking too, some essential, some just for enjoyment. Things like maps, compus and first aid kit really are essential.
Depending on where you go depends what else you need to take with you. I started off easy and so just had a map. As I took on more difficult walks I invested in more items which were then needed. Now that I have got into Geocaching I take my GPS with me everywhere too!
I cant emphises enough though to buy decent kit, one off payment and they last years if looked after well. Mountain and search and rescue are there for real emergencies not because someone has attempted a walk and not kitted them selves in the correct kit.
Hiking is not really a fashion show, it is about comfort and performance. This doesnt mean you can look good whilst out on in the hill but dont put looking good first. I but needs first and am happy if I end up looking ood at the end!
As I write this review on a Sunday afternoon, there will be a huge proportion of the population sitting on their fat bottoms, stuffed full of Sunday lunch or just back from the pub. You'll be feeling full, feeling lethargic, feeling sleepy, feeling wretched, feeling exhausted, feeling depressed...... and so it goes on.
Whether or not you are obese, there are huge issues suffered by many, with an apparent inability to control our own weight - a huge surplus of calorie intake over calorie expenditure. Sadly, we all know we are indulging to excess and lapsed gym memberships up and down the land are testament to the difficulty we seem to have with overcoming our inertia and getting to grips with exercise.
And yet, we have a great way of exercising that is both fun and free and few of us do enough of it. Most of us are blessed with two feet and together with our legs they are designed to take our body weight and propel us hither and thither.
There have always been walkers in our family, but I was particularly inspired by some near neighbours of ours, recently retired, who had both let themselves go to seed and it got to way more than just an unsightly muffin top.
They realised they had to do something and they each started to walk. Every day, you could see them walking somewhere and on a Saturday morning, after he had worked up to a level, the gentleman of the house walked to the local village to get his newspaper! People used to stop for him, believing his car must have broken down, but No - he was doing this voluntarily!
After a few weeks it was apparent that these people were losing weight. Over the course of a summer, they later told me they had lost 4 stone between them... and they are still walking today to keep them at a much healthier weight.
So, dooyooers, get up off the sofa, turn the telly off, get some shoes on and get yourself outside. As with all forms of exercise, start slowly and build up from a low base. Don't go out there and seek to do 5 miles on your first day. You will be full of aches and pains and soon give up. Here are a few tips to help you get started. If you start off in fairly good shape, you can skip the first few.
1. Dress for the weather - no need at the outset to get special walking shoes - any stout pair will do for starters but do wear clothing that is warm enough for the weather and which is not too tight fitting.
2. Choose a route and distance that you know you can easily manage. Avoid hills or difficult terrain at this early stage. Don't go far for your first few walks and try to get a selection of local routes to add variety.
3. Get a walking partner if you can. You can help to motivate each other and have a good old gas as you walk.
4. Don't walk every day until you are used to it - build up slowly and rest in between. Don't expect to lose pounds in your first couple of weeks. Patience is a virtue.
5. Don't reward yourself with a cream cake when you get home - settle for a nice cup of tea - ditch the sugar if you haven't done so already.
6. If you feel uncomfortable or out of breath, then listen to your body and stop. It's a good idea to take a phone with you and let others know where you are walking, how long you expect to be.
7. This advice assumes you are fit enough to walk but of course consult your doctor if you are in really poor condition at the outset.
8. Walk in daylight to start with and walk in places where you feel safe. Take your dog if you have one. They need exercise too.
9. Don't dawdle too much, Just a vague wander won't do much good - you need to feel slightly out of breath and achieve a warm glow.
10. Set yourself goals whether by distance or time and work up to them - nothing to be gained by setting unrealistic targets and failing to achieve them.
Now at this stage after your first dozen or so outings, you will know whether walking is for you. You should hopefully feel good about walking, will have enjoyed it, will have started to see more of your local neighbourhood and probably met and talked to a few more people in your community. You're ready for stage 2, which could include some or all of the following:
1. Visit the library or Tourist Information Centre. They will have information on walks of various lengths and difficulties and will be able to advise you on any local organised walking groups.
2. Consider investing in a decent pair of walking/hiking boots and push yourself a bit on distances
3. Get a pedometer - it's good to see how far you are going
4. Try a few cross country routes rather than just sticking to the roads and pathways.
5. Walk to local destinations rather than taking the car - you can get there and back for free
6. Only after a month or so should you climb on the scales and maybe find out that you have shed a few pounds.
Hopefully, you will understand how and why so many of us actually enjoy the great outdoors and get a lot out of walking. It's much more fun than that awful treadmill in the garage. It feels good and by golly it does you good.
So come on then - how come you are still sitting there reading this?
As a latecomer to walking/hiking may I suggest that if you are 'new' to walking you start off with some gentle exercise, make your first walk no more than a mile out from your base (home/car etc) that means you have a mile back! it does not sound a lot, but if you are new to hiking be assured it will be sufficient for your first walk, should you decide to make your first walk a longer more strenuous one be assured you will suffer stiffness and muscle pain the day after which can of course be very off-putting, I of necessity took up walking quite late in life, having had a heart attack my first walk after coming out of hospital had to be no more than 200 yards!!, I slowly worked my way up from that, decided I enjoyed walking, so instead of sitting there worrying if/when I should have another attack, and buying a bigger TV to watch my wife and I decided to 'invest' in walking gear, as I said earlier we worked our way up gently, and are now cover quite a few miles on our walks, and thoroughly enjoy it, you will see lots' of things when you are out walking you will never see through a car window.
I both hillwalk and have a motor cruiser, so a GPS was something I'd promised myself for some time, though admittedly I've managed all these years without one. As a walker, I've found that its often worth looking for equipment in places other than specialist walking / outdoor shops sometimes - particularly for items which can serve other purposes too. So when I saw the 320 at £160 in a marine mail order catalogue as opposed to £185 in a local "outdoor" shop, I thought that now was the time to finally get it. The 320 differs mainly from the 315 in A. being more expensive and B.having an additional navigational aid database for use at sea (making a total of database of 15000 cities and navaids apparently). I cannot say that I find the sea navaids much use, as I can barely see them on the small LCD (though its no smaller than other handheld GPS screens) screen, and find it becomes too cluttered to read the names anyway. However, I suppose that if ever you end up somewhere you have not got a chart for then you MIGHT need it (providing you've kept it updated of course). The unit itself is excellent, and I find it gets a position and lock in my criusing area much quicker than I've heard folks talk about elsewhere - whether thats down to the unit or my location I'm unsure. Despite the manual looking like a small telephone directory and thus initially scaring the life out of me, I found that in fact, its very clear and logical, and it took all of 10 minutes to familiarise myself with the basic operation. The unit is nice and light, fairly rugged, and mobile phone sized. Having a secondary nav screen allows you to set it to something other than chart datum, so mine is naturally enough also set to OSGB so that I can use it for hillwalking without having to reset everything . I've never actually been "completely" lost out hillwalking (ahem!), but it is nice to know that its there in my rucksack (especially whe
n there is a chance of fog) just in case. All in all a good product, and particularly suited to the dual use I make of it. For walking only the 315 would be just as good, and cheaper though.
If you are a runner or jogger these dark evenings are probably meaning that you have to restrict where you run or when you run if you do not want to risk your safety. My husband is a commited runner and must run every day come rain or shine, dark or light. He has all the right clothing with reflective strips etc but they don’t offer him a great deal of protection and they also do not let him see where he is running if there is no street lighting. We live in quite a rural area so until recently this has been quite a problem. He has recently found and purchased a head torch which has a battery pack which is worn on a harness round his chest, it comes complete with a halogen bulb but no battery. The torch is Petzl Chrono and cost £28.00 plus P&P, it was on special offer, from Hugh Lewis, web address www.outdoor-leisure-uk.com He does look a bit funny with the harness on but he says that it is very comfortable, the torch gives a very strong beam and above all he is a lot safer with it than without. I think that this is a great buy for all runners,joggers and outdoor sports people out there.
Walking, it has to be said, is an expensive hobby. If you want to stay comfortable, you might have to part with some money. But buying the most expensive model of everything isn't always the answer - there's a lot of shopping around that needs to be done. But with so many brand names and different "systems" to look at, it can get confusing as to finding out what you need. Over the last year or so, I've been replacing my old kit, so I've put together a guide to some of the more important bits of kit. Here goes... Boots ~~~~~ Unless it's just an easy stroll around the lake, trainers won't do for fell walking. Proper walking boots give your foot more support, the soles are more solid and are designed to grip the ground better than trainers. Boots fall into two main categories - 3-season and 4-season (aka. winter) boots. Winter boots are for anything which involves using crampons. So if you're not planning Ben Nevis in December just yet, a pair of three-season boots will do - they tend to be comfier, giving a bit more flex for going over grassy ground. If you're not sure which you need, there's the crossover 3/4-season boots. These give some flex so they're comfy on easy walks, but are also firm enough for wearing grade 1 crampons (some take grade 2) and walking all day on snow. Since you're likely to be wearing the boots for at least 4-5 hours of walking, it's vital that you get the right ones. Don't go straight for one pair just because your mate recommends them, or because they've got Goretex or something. Likewise, the most expensive pair in the shop might not necessarily be the best ones. It's not as clean-cut as "buy cheap get cheap". Make sure the shop has a good range of boots to try, there are salespeople to help you out, and as a bonus, some shops let you take the boots for a "test drive" for a week or so. You don't
get this offer everywhere, so it could be worth asking. Names to look out for: Scarpa, Meindl, Zamberlan, Brasher, La Sportiva, Salomon Prices: £70 - £150 Socks ~~~~~ "Socks? What's he writing about socks for?" Believe it or not, there's more to a sock than a woolly tube. Socks for walking tend to have a lot more padding, keep your feet warmer, and are designed to keep blisters away. Walking socks are still simple though, and there's only two things to look out for. First is seams - turn the socks inside out and look at the seams. If they stick out, they'll probably rub and lead to blisters - no fun, believe me. Second is the material - cotton socks aren't good, because when wet, cotton gets and stays cold. Most walking socks are made from a combination of cotton and polyester. Wool socks might be OK but they tend to get itchy. Names to look out for: Thorlos, Bridgedale, any "own brand" socks Prices: £5-£10 per pair Waterproofs ~~~~~~~~~~~ This is Britain, you're likely to get wet at some time of your time walking. Even if it's warm and dry at home, it can be totally different a few hundred feet up. Waterproof jackets aren't just waterproof either - they're windproof, so it helps to cut out the wind chill effect. Likewise with overtrousers, although they're not as essential as a jacket. But still, having cold and wet legs is no fun either. The big word to look out for in waterproofs is breathability. Fact - in one hour of exercise, you pump out about one litre of sweat. If that gets trapped in underneath a jacket, it really is uncomfortable - speaking from experience! Breathable fabrics work by having small pores to let moisture (ie. sweat) out, but not letting water droplets (ie. rain) in. It gets more complicated than that with fabrics like Goretex, but that's the basic idea. Like boots, it's
important you get the right jacket. When trying it on, make sure it's not too tight or too slack, especially around your shoulders. Look at the seams as well - they should be downwards so water runs off them rather than collect up in them. Moving onto the zip - zips tend not to be waterproof or windproof themselves, so good jackets have flaps of fabric across the zip. And pockets - hip pockets should be big enough to put gloves in, with room to spare. A map pocket is a good idea as well. And last but not least the hood - a fixed hood is better than a hood that tucks away into the collar, because fixed hoods tend to be firmer and hold up against strong wind. Likewise, a wired peak will keep its shape in strong wind. When it comes to overtrousers, there's not as many things to look for. The main features are a long zip from the ankle towards the knee (so you can put them on while you've got boots on), a drawcord waist (to stop them falling down - elastic doesn't tend to work well on its own), and preferably no separate lining - terrible for getting caught up when you're putting them on over boots. Names to look out for: Lowe Alpine, Berghaus, Sprayway, Crag Hoppers, North Face, Rab Prices: Jackets £100-£200, Overtrousers £40-60 Layering ~~~~~~~~ When it comes to clothes for a walk, layering is the big word. Three thin layers are better than one thick jumper, because the air between the layers acts as an insulator. And if you get too warm or cold, you can remove or add layers to control your temperature. Overheating can be as bad as being too cold - if you've only got one layer on, you might get some odd looks if you take it off! Base layer - anything thin as long as it's not cotton. I think I've already mentioned this, but wet cotton stays wet and cold. If you don't mind paying a bit more, some tops are made from material that wicks away excess moisture from
your skin, so you don't get too sweaty. (A normal T-shirt will do, although for cold days, a long-sleeved top is better) Next to the base layer comes slightly thicker layers. Anything will do - at a push, cotton might be alright since it's not next to your skin. Layers closer to the outside should be ticker, such as a fleece or some kind of pullover. There's a great debate over fleeces - full-length zip versus pull-over. I prefer the full-length zips, since you can keep it unzipped if it's too warm, but then like a jacket, the zip itself isn't windproof. More expensive fleeces (around £60) have extra folds around the zip to keep the wind out. It's a personal choice on this one. Names to look out for: Lowe Alpine Dryflo, Sprayway, Helly Hansen Prices: £20-£30 Hats/Balaclavas ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ You lose about 2/3 of your body heat through your head (heat rises, remember), so on cold days, you need a hat or something. Nothing major, any kind of hat will do, as long as it's warm. Hint - many outdoors shops sell all kinds of wacky hats, as long as you don't mind being the "fool on the hill"!! Or if you don't mind paying more, you can get fancy walking hats, with extras like waterproofness, ear flaps, chin straps, wired peaks, etc. Although they're a fashion nightmare, balaclavas are a good idea for cold and windy days - a normal hat doesn't really keep the rest of your face warm. Names to look out for: Normal hats - Thinsulate, Walking hats - Lowe Alpine, Berghaus Prices: Normal hats no more than £5, Walking hats £20-£30 Gloves ~~~~~~ Different people have different opinions on gloves. Some people don't get cold hands so make do with normal woolly gloves, others (like me) get numb fingers at the first sign of anything cold and need chunky gloves. There's a bit of debate over Gloves v
s. Mitts. Mitts keep your fingers warmer by keeping them together, but gloves give you more use of your hands than mitts do. It's personal choice, really. The main thing is that your gloves/mitts are warm, reasonably windproof, and don't get cold when wet. More expensive gloves have fabric outers that are waterproof, and have more features like wrist loops, velcro fasteners and reinforced patches for holding things like walking poles. Names to look out for: (any glove as long as it fits!) Prices: £5-£30 Rucksack ~~~~~~~~ And finally, once you've bought your waterproofs, gloves and hats, you might just come across a day where you won't need them at all (it does happen, honest), so you'll need somewhere to carry them. Rucksacks come in different shapes and sizes. Their sizes are measured in litres. The best all-round size is 35 litres. The shape is important as well though - a tall and narrow 35-litre rucksack will be harder to pack a bulky jacket into than a short and wide one. As well as the shape and size, look at the straps - the shoulder straps should be reasonably close together, but without digging into your neck. There should be plenty of adjustment in the straps - you might want to adjust the straps depending on how heavy your load is. Also look for a chest strap - holding the shoulder straps together takes a lot of weight off your shoulders. A waist strap is important to stop the rucksack flopping about, and should have padding so it doesn't rub or dig in. A waist strap is also useful for things like camera pouches and water bottles. More expensive rucksacks have extra features like air circulation between your back and the rucksack (eg. Berghaus Freeflow, Lowe Alpine Air Mesh), and some have extra adjustments to keep everything balanced (eg. Crag Hoppers Dynamic Balance). Names to look out for: Any rucksack will do, but for extra features look at
Lowe Alpine, Berghaus, Crag Hoppers, Karrimor Prices: £20-£50 And Finally... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It sounds strange, but there's a fashion market in walking gear. It's not strictly true, but you might be able to get a good piece of kit, such as a jacket, at last year's prices just because this year's model is a different colour. OK, it's not the full story, the new model might have a few extra features and tweaks, but that doesn't mean that the previous model is unusable. For example, my waterproof jacket was reduced from £170 to £139, since in the new model, some small features like under-arm zips had been added. But overall it's still an excellent jacket, and I saved over £40. So remember to shop around. ** Update : 5/2/2001 ** (Updated to fix a few typos, and to add to the Layering section) ** 17/2/2001 ** Added the "fashion" note at the end
Walk into any high street outfitters and you will be horrified at the prices for hiking equipment: even buying a pair of trousers will set you back a minimum of 20-30 pounds, and by the time you get on to boots, compasses and rucksacks you will be considering remortgaging the house. There are several ways to reduce the outlay. The first (and perhaps most obvious) is to BORROW! This is especially true if you are trying hiking for the first time - you might spend a fortune on kit and then decide it simply isn't something you enjoy. Even if you do continue, you might buy stuff that you simply don't need and which ends up sitting in your cupboard for evermore. Find a kind-hearted friend or relative you will advise you on what you need and who might even accompany you on a day hike or overnight expedition. An extra possibility is to buy kit between a group of people - especially items such as maps which you won't use every time out. Secondly, IMPROVISE. Why buy a map case when a re-sealable bag from the kitchen will do the job? Next, find ALTERNATIVES to the high street. Mail order can be an option, though make sure you can return things if they don't fit or aren't what you expected. I have a particular liking for military equipment which can be picked up for reasonable prices - lightweight trousers, though a painful shade of green, are light, dry quickly and are great for walking so long as it isn't too windy. Army ration packs are cheaper than commercial dried meals - maybe not so tasty, but who cares after a long day's walk? Mess tins are lighter and handier to pack than round cooking pots. In short, USE your head - and the Yellow Pages.