It’s a journey, a true adventure of the most raw and honest kind. Hours with nothing to care for but conversation, breathtaking views and a boost of endorphins you simply cannot measure. Perhaps, like me, you appreciate the simple solitude; A break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. There really is nothing quite like a day of walking in the mountains.
Picture this; The sun was shining when you left the car park, but that warm sunshine on your hat-less head now feels like a distant memory. Clouds are forming above you – Was that a drop of rain? The regret of not packing a waterproof coat quickly seeps in. It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve all been there, right? The mountains of Britain get their fair share of rain, wind and all-round horrendous weather alongside the sunny days. Mother Nature can’t spoil us too much, after all.
To help you prepare for the best day out you’ll ever have (in my opinion anyway!), I’ve written this helpful guide outlining what I will always recommend packing for a hill day:
- Rucksack. Make sure it has a chest and hip strap, to help you carry your gear with ease. A rucksack of 30 to 40 litres in size should be just fine for one day.
- Water. I take one to two litres of water, depending on the length of the route.
- Food. Be sure to bring enough to keep you energised for the day, for example fruit, jelly babies or trail mix. Remember, you’ll probably need higher energy food than you would normally eat at home.
- Waterproof jacket. This is one thing I never, ever go on a hill walk without. Even if it doesn’t rain your waterproof can double-up as a handy wind-proof outer layer.
- Waterproof over trousers. I’m not a fan of these, if I’m honest, but this wouldn’t be a very good packing list if it didn’t include them!
- Map. Never leave home without the correct map covering the route you plan to take.
- Compass. It’s important to have the knowledge of how to use it with your map, especially in bad weather.
- First aid kit. I take basic items such as plasters, ibuprofen, antiseptic wipes, microporous tape and a small roll of bandage.
- Hat and gloves. I never leave these at home other than on the hottest of days. Summit temperatures can get a lot colder than at sea level, even in the summer.
- Sunglasses. You never know when the sun will make an appearance.
- Sun lotion. Ideally SPF 30 or above for when you’ll be out in the sun all day.
- Mobile phone. It’s important to have a way of contacting friends, family or mountain rescue if you need assistance.
- Waterproof phone case. I learnt this one the hard way.
- Tissues. For toilet emergencies as well as blowing your nose!
- Ziploc food bag. I will put my rubbish and used tissue inside the bag to prevent it getting blown away. I simply pop the bag in a bin when I’m down from the mountain.
- Emergency whistle. Some rucksacks have a whistle built-in to the chest strap, but they are relatively cheap to buy as well.
- Walking poles. Not always an essential, but they can make a walk much more pleasant when descending steep ground or if you suffer from knee, hip or back issues.
- A waterproof rucksack cover or dry bag. I personally take a rucksack cover, but I know many walkers who put a dry bag inside their rucksack to keep their gear dry.
- An extra layer. Even if I don’t intend to wear it, I’ll pack an extra fleece or a lightweight thermal jacket for colder days.
- Head torch and spare batteries. A second torch would be even better. There’s no streetlights in the mountains, so once it’s dark, it’s pitch black. Often a walk can take longer than you planned.
- Small battery pack. Essential to re-charge your phone for emergency use when the battery gets low.
- Emergency shelter. It is what it says on the tin: a shelter for emergencies. I’d specifically recommend carrying one in bad weather or during the winter months, but hopefully you’ll never have to use it.
I’ve fine-tuned this packing list from half a lifetime in the mountains and the many rookie mistakes I made during my first days spent in the mountains of Snowdonia. I’ve endured a cold, wet walk after I hadn’t packed a waterproof coat. I’ve become fantastically lost after not taking the correct map with me. I’ve walked down a mountain in pitch black after I didn’t pack spare batteries for my head torch. I’ve even done something as simple as put my phone in my jacket pocket on a rainy day – needless to say it died a slow, wet death. If you fancy a day in the hills but don’t want to go unprepared, maybe you’d like to use this list to help you plan.
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Now grab that expertly packed rucksack and head to the hills!