The Essential Hill Walking Kit Checklist
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What do you need for a safe trip up the mountains? Here’s our quick run-down of the kit you shouldn’t leave home without and few optional extras that are just good to have. Depending on conditions, you may want to take spares of many of these. If you expect your gloves to get a soaking, then you might be grateful for a spare dry pair to change into half way through the day, just don’t take two of everything just in case.
Rucksack – Somewhere between 15-25 litres is about right for a day pack. This one’s rather an obvious item for the list, and essential to carry all the stuff we’re about to mention in. The larger the pack, then the more likely you are to fill it up! Likewise, don’t go for a pack that’s so small that you’ve got to leave kit behind. Can be substituted for a waist pack with care!
Survival Bag – It’s good practice to bring an orange survival bag, just in case you get stuck on the hill. You won’t be comfortable, but it’ll improve your chance of walking off the mountain the next day. We’ll be reviewing all the available options in the next few weeks.
Whistle – These cost about a quid and are essential if you need to alert rescue.
Suntan Lotion and Sunglasses – Both summer and winter. You’ll be surprised how easily sunburned you can get from sun reflecting from snow, and you’ll need some sort of sunglasses to prevent snow blindness. For more tips for hot weather, read this article about Keeping One Step Ahead of the Heat.
Emergency rations – preferably something you won’t munch beforehand! Kendal Mintcake is the usual emergency fare, but anything high calorie will do. We’ll be reviewing different options in the next few weeks.
Torch – If you’re pushing it for time, perhaps setting off late or undertaking a challenging walk and there’s a possibility you’ll be close to sunset then a torch is worth carrying. Don’t forget spare batteries!
Food and Water – somewhere between 1 and 2 litres of water should be enough, depending on how hot it is. Food is hardly rocket science and a sandwich and some snacks should see you fine. In some cases you can pick up more water on the way – but read this article on Clean water on the go for more info. If it’s a bit cooler, then a flask is most welcome during stops.
Boots and walking socks. We won’t go into how you choose your boots, that’s an article in itself. Make sure they’re a good fit with the socks you intend to wear. You’ll need thick socks in colder weather, but can lead to overheating, blisters and sore feet in warmer conditions.
Waterproof Jacket and leggings – Goes without saying that you’ll need a waterproof shell in case it rains. You can also get some waterproof trousers that are designed to be worn all day (Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers) or you can just buy cheaper over-trousers.
Non denim or cotton trousers and Non-cotton base-layer. Any clothing you wear needs to be effective in the wet. So jeans and cotton t-shirts are out. You can pick up synthetic tops quite cheaply, with running tops both ideally suited and cheaper than walking tops (often with little difference). If you expect to get sweaty, then a spare top is always handy to change into.
Fleece and/or an Insulated jacket. When you stop, you’ll get cold. This is especially so when you’ve built up a sweat ascending the hill and stop for a breather. You could also take a lightweight down pullover or a thicker jacket depending on the weather.
Gloves and hat – You may need these in summer on the mountain tops. In the warmest weather, a sun hat can be the difference between getting heat exhaustion or not.
The Marmite Items
Gaiters – These really are a love ’em or hate ’em bit of kit. While they serve a useful purpose to keep both the bottom of your trousers dry and mud free, and make you less likely to suffer a boot full of water while crossing streams and bogs. The problem is that they tend to be a faff to put on and end up falling down by your ankles.
Walking Poles – Can be a useful item, but generally less effective walking through Betws-y-Coed than they are on the mountain. Many people don’t appear to know how to make best use of them, swinging them wildly as they exit summit shelters and just being an all round liability. Used properly, they’re an essential bit of kit for rough terrain and for protecting impact on the knees. I used to use it for the latter, but found that strengthening the knee was a better option for me and now they only appear in my pack when I know I’m going to need to use them to test the depth of a bog before I cross gingerly.
There should be at least one of these items in the party. Just make sure you know who’s carrying what before you set off. If you’re leading a party, then it’s always handy to carry some spare essentials such as gloves and hats, just in case! Remember that it’s more than fair to distribute this kit across the entire group.
First Aid or Emergency Kit which should contain some regular bandages, gauze, plasters, scissors, triangular bandages and antiseptic wipes. Though none of these are much use without knowing how to use them. Your best bet is to buy an outdoor first aid kit and to customise that as you see fit. It’s good to add some cream for stings and some painkillers as you’ll be more likely to make use of those than the bandages (or so you hope!) I prefer to take an emergency bag – pictured above.
Map and compass – With the ability to use them! While it may seem obvious, do make sure your current map covers the entire route before setting out.
Mobile Phone – Smartphones are useful to check your location quickly, but shouldn’t be relied upon for any reason in the mountains.Signals tend to be patchy and most mobile phones don’t prosper in the damp and cold environment on the hill.
GPS – These make navigation quicker, but this is in addition to carrying a map and compass not instead of!
Group Shelter – An optional little extra, but worth it just in case.
Camera – This is an essential for me!
Penknife – I’ve personally never used one of these when I carry one, with a pair of sharp scissors sufficing for repairs and so forth Have we missed any of your favourite kit? Add it below!
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siDave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.