Who doesn’t love a walk around the great outdoors?
I’ve grown up going on family trips to the Lake District, Scotland and Wales and the mountains feel like home to me.
With lockdown being eased slightly here in the UK and travel not being an option for the time being, people are re-discovering the abundance of outdoor opportunities in their own back yard.
So if you are someone who is new to exploring the beauty of the UK (or anywhere else in the world you call home), I’ve put together a little beginner’s guide of where to go, how far to walk, what to pack and how to plan your hike.
Where to hike
At the moment it’s best to stay as close to home as possible. Don’t be one of those people travelling 3 hours to the Lakes and contributing to the overcrowding of trails. Start off exploring your local parks and nearby tracks and trails. You’ll be surprised by how many little public footpaths you’ll find!
Once it’s okay to travel a bit further afield, however, I have some great recommendations for where to hike. The Peak District, in Derbyshire, is full of gentle rolling hills suited to beginners, hikers with young children, and more experienced hikers alike.
The Lake District is also well suited to all levels of hiking ability; slow ambles around the many lakes, nature trails in Grizedale Forest and more challenging climbs up Helvellyn and Scafell contribute to the Lakes’ amazing diversity, and it’s why it has a special place in my heart.
For more ideas, research the Yorkshire Dales, Dartmoor, Cornwall’s coastal paths, Hadrian’s Wall, Snowdonia National Park, and so much more. (One day I’ll get around to writing specific guides to these places and what hikes to do there!!)
How far to go
For beginners, it makes sense to start out small and build up as your passion for the outdoors grows. Don’t head straight for Scafell Pike or Snowdon, just enjoy a nice 5 mile walk around a nearby park, lake or woodland. Once you’re confident with carrying your gear, challenge yourself to something a bit more hilly or difficult!
When to hike
The short answer is: any time!
But for beginners it’s best to stick to the good weather, especially up in the hills. Avoid snowy and boggy conditions, so maybe stick to hiking between April and September. You can easily check conditions before your hike at https://www.mwis.org.uk/.
To begin with, take a comfortable backpack with back support and around 20L storage space, and make sure you have a decent pair of walking boots and socks which won’t give you blisters!
Footwear – I have the Meindl Bhutan walking boots for long mountain hikes, and these are great to add crampons for hiking in snow. They’re on the more expensive side (I used to work for Go Outdoors so I got over 50% discount at the time) so I also recommend Karrimor Mendip as a similar and lighter all-year-round budget option.
Rucksack – I have the Lowe Alpine AirZone ND 24L rucksack, but there are so many options out there with good back support such as the Osprey DayLite and the Berghaus Arrow 30L. Most rucksacks have a female and male version so that they fit differently and more comfortably.
What to pack
It’s vital that you prepare for your hike. Not just the route, but the gear you must take with you.
- Water – make sure to take at least 1 litre per 5 miles that you walk. This is a very rough guideline and I’d recommend taking more than this, especially if you’re hiking in the heat and in case of emergency.
- Food – pack light when it comes to food. Avoid things that are bulky, food which needs refrigerating, and items which will easily squish or perish, like bananas. My staples are usually jam sandwiches, apples, cereal bars, and dried fruit and nuts. Make sure to pack extra emergency food in case you get stuck.
- Extra layers – pack an additional fleece, gloves and a hat if you’re hiking in shoulder season, where it might be colder at altitude.
- Waterproofs – take a waterproof jacket at the very least, and if you can, pack waterproof trousers too. Do not take an umbrella!
- Sun protection – at any time of year you should pack sun protection for your hikes, including a sunhat and SPF.
- Map – if you’re hiking in the hills (or anywhere that’s not an enclosed park), make sure to have a map on you. Preferably a paper map in case your phone runs out of charge.
- First aid kit – you don’t have to go out and buy one of those huge first aid kits with absolutely everything in it, but do make sure you have some basics with you in case of heat stroke, burns and blisters.
- Additional optional items you could pack might be a torch and compass.
It’s super important when hiking to follow these simple rules and abide by hiking/trail etiquette:
- Leave no trace. This is soooo important – take your rubbish away with you, even fruit skins which you may think will magically melt away still take months or even years to decompose.
- Go to the toilet far enough off the path and at least 200m away from any water sources. Some hikers stop to fill up their water at streams and don’t want to end up with contaminated water!
- Don’t feed or disturb any wild animals
Most importantly, enjoy your hiking experience and stay safe!!
Comment any suggestions you may have below 🙂