Listen to Your Body
The first rule of hiking, listen to what your body is trying to tell you. After a couple of hours of hiking, you need to start paying attention to the strange feelings your body is giving you before they become a problem.
As an example, not putting your hiking boots on correctly will cause your socks to rub against your hiking boots. At some point, you’ll feel a pain point starting to develop, which needs to be dealt with urgently, or it will become a painful blister. If you’re carrying your medical kit in your day pack, you can quickly stop and take care of the problem before it becomes more serious.
Another example is listening to your body when you’re getting tired. You need to understand your limits and to whats realistically, possibly with the levels of fitness that you currently have. Last year I walked the summit of Mount Snowdon, Snowdonia. The idea was to hike Y Lliwedd Summit at 2,946Ft, follow this up with Mount Snowdon at 3,560Ft and finally on the route home, walk the Llanberis Path to Crib Goch Summit, however after two days of solid hiking and over 10,000 Ft of ascent, the legs simply would not allow it. If we had push along with the final summit, the consequences could have been anything from a pulled muscle to a slip and a broken leg.
Prepare To Hike At Night
I have no intention of hiking at night unless I have no choice. It’s not something I enjoy, but that hasn’t stopped me training for a night hike. Over the years, I’ve met many walkers who’ve set out to complete a hike, it’s taken longer than they had expected and now they’re walking at night and finding it difficult.
Navigation is more difficult at night. It’s more difficult to see both the pathway and your surroundings. This means is very easy to miss where the path splits and therefore much easier to get lost. Often it’s not the getting lost that’s the biggest problem, it’s fact that they’re underprepared. It’s all very well having that map and compass, but if you cannot see the map, it’s hard to read. On the same token, you can have the best GPS in the world, but if you don’t know how to use, it’s not much good.
Hiking Boot Are a Personal Preference
Your feet are not the same shape as mine and what’s a perfect fit for me, could well be absolute hell for you. Yes we’ve written boot reviews and can point you in the right direction to what we think are great boots, and what we think are poor performing boots, but just because we have given a pair of boots a five-star rating, doesn’t mean they are going to be perfect for you.
One point, hiking shoes are the latest fashion for walkers in the countryside. They’re light-weight, cheap to buy and look great, but they provide no ankle support and very little foot support. If you want to get into the countryside to do some serious hiking, forget the hiking shoes, and buy yourself a proper pair for hiking boots. I saw 13 suspected broken/twisted ankles on the hills last year, and everyone was wearing some form of hiking shoe.
The Day-Pack is a MUST
Even if you’re out for a walk in the countryside, make sure you have your day-pack and the essentials. It’s not just you in the countryside, and that medical kit you’re carrying around could save someone else’s life.
I carry three things in my day-pack a first-aid kit, an emergency kit and my essential gear. This means that I’m prepared for everything the countryside can throw at me. You can check out my first-aid kit here, my emergency kit here, and as for my essential gear, you can check that out here.
How Big Is Your Backpack?
I think it’s brilliant the number of walkers in the UK that are now walking with day-packs, but what’s in yours? How big is it? Do you really need two waterproof jackets and three set of trousers.
I’m a firm believer in keeping my pack as light as possible. If I take everything that I own for a week camp, my pack only weighs 26kg. This includes around 800grams per day of food, two sets of clothes, camping gear tent, sleeping gear and cooking equipment.
Over the years, I’ve seen people walking around with day-packs larger and heavier than my camping pack. What’s amazing is when you ask them what’s in it? Two Kilo survival packs that they bought off the internet, extra-large-four season sleeping bags for mid-summer, three different types of waterproof jackets just in case, and my personal favourite, 30 meters of rope, just in case they needed to abseil down the side of the cliff.
What on earth is in yours? I’m a firm believer that you need to bring an emergency kit and a basic medical kit on every walk in the mountains. That said, buying a “survival pack” off the internet that has been recommended by some expert is not going to help.
I’ve seen people walking around with survival/medical kits that contain fishing hooks, Fishing wire, Candles, can openers, spare gear such as batteries, shovels and axes and my personal favourite, cooking equipment even though they carry no food.
If you want to check out what I take in my survival pack, then check out my survival pack here.
Trail etiquette comes down to twofold, respecting those around you, and respecting the mountains themselves. The basics involve sticking to the pathways, taking your rubbish with you, sticking to the left side of the path as you cross a fellow hiker and watching your noise level, however they extend to being responsible for your personal safety.
Nothing annoys fellow hikers more than getting into trouble through lack of preparation. Mountain rescue are there to help. They are staffed by fellow mountaineers who love the mountains and countryside, but hate it when they’re called out to an emergency situation to find the hiker is not prepared for the mountainside.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
As a general rule, you’ll need to drink 0.5 Liters of water per hour of walking. You can increase this by another 0.25 Liters for each 5-degrees above 15-degrees. This means if you’re out walking in 25-degree heat, you need to drink around a litre per hour.
If you don’t drink water every hour while you’re on the mountainside, it’s likely you’ll start getting dehydrated which in the worst case, is life-threatening. The first sign of dehydration is a dry mouth which, while is not life-threating, is very annoying. If you don’t drink any water, your head will start to hurt, and your muscles will start to cramp up. You’ll also find it very difficult to concentrate and make decisions which in turn means you’ll probably easily get lost. If you start to feel dehydrated, don’t think that you can simply drink a litre of water and everything will be okay. Sadly the body can only absorb so much liquid per hour.
Your focus should be on consuming a set amount of water each hour to stop dehydration. I would also highly recommend that you replace your lost electrolytes, specifically sodium and potassium, through energy tablets. Finally, just because its cold, doesn’t mean you’re body is not sweating.
Check The Weather
This needs to be the first thing you do before you go out in the countryside. We’ve talked about the importance of day-packs and while making it as light as possible is important, taking the right gear with you, is also very important. The weather forecast will give you this information allowing you to prepare for the expected.