What gear do I need for hill-walking?

26 June 2008 15:08

The right gear makes the difference between enjoying and enduring your day on the hill.

Spare warm layers, waterproofs, and plenty of food and water are vital to let your body cope with the ever-changing demands the mountain environment places on it. A rucksack offers the closest thing to effortlessness when it comes to carrying all your kit.

Waterproof jacket
Keeping dry is nice, but keeping warm is vital. Waterproof jackets keep rain off, but also block the wind, and trap warm air inside. All walking jackets breathe more than your old cagoule, but take care not to overdress underneath as they can’t get rid of all the condensation your body can throw at them.

Cold hands annoying, but they also make it hard to carry out normally easy tasks like operating a compass. Thin windproof gloves are useful all year round.

Walking trousers
The best walking trousers are stretchy, quick-drying and water-resistant, with reinforcement on knees and bum, and a comfortable waistband that does’t rub with a rucksack waist-strap done up over it.

Good quality walking socks provide insulation, padding and moisture control, and help improve the fit of your walking boots.

Walking boots
Help reduce the risk of foot and anle injuries on rough terrain, provide grip and waterproofing. There are different boots made for varying walking conditions.

It may be warm in the valley, but it’ll be a different story on the summit. Up to 70 per cent of body heat-loss is through your head, so a hat’s warmth-to-weight ratio is peerless.

The layer nearest the skin, designed to transport moisture away before it can make you cold or uncomfy.

Made from synthetic fleece, they all keep you warm by trapping warm air. The latest ‘soft shell’ designs also offer water- and wind-resistance in differing combinations, but are more expensive.

Map & compass
A map and compass are as good as any GPS when combined with a sound knowledge of how to use them – essential before you venture into the hills.

Stop the bottom of your walking trousers getting soaking wet and water getting into your boots over the ankle cuffs. Not essential, but a major boon when you step in the inevitable bog.

Hydration system
It’s essential to stay hydrated when walking –  a hydration system means you don’t have the hassle of taking off your ’sack to get at a water bottle.

In case you’re still in the hills as night falls. An LED torch is the most hassle-free.

DIY first aid kit
Make your own, including the following: paracetamol, medical gloves, wound dressing, big bandage, plasters, safety pins, whistle and tape. Keep in two watertight bags.

Waterproof overtrousers
Wet legs are chilling and miserable – any overtrouser is better than none.

Survival bag
This or a group shelter will keep you warm if you become stranded on a mountain and have to await help or daylight.