Wear the right clothing and shoes
You don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on gear designed for use on Everest if you are walking in the North of England. In fact, ordinary loose fitting clothes and good trainers are fine for most low-level walks. If you are wanting to get out walking regularly, then there’s a range of walking kit available at the outdoor shops to suit most budgets. We recommend the good pair of walking boots and a waterproof jacket.
Take route directions, a map or a GPS
If you’re new to walking and going to places you’ve never been before, always take route directions from a website like Walks Around Britain, or follow a route from a book – this will make sure you get around the route safely. When you get more experienced and want to try longer walks, then a map is essential – the orange-coloured Explorer range from Ordnance Survey are the most detailed for walkers. If you like your tech, you could use a GPS – which is like a SatNav for walking – and these can be either as dedicated hand-held devices or as apps on your smart phone.
Wear a backpack
Backpacks are much more comfortable than regular bags – and they have the benefit of keeping your hands free for opening gates, looking at maps and allowing you to swing your arms whilst you walk. And research suggests we burn off 5 to 10% more calories when we walk whilst swinging our arms. Again, there are backpacks to suit most budgets – just make sure you buy one of the right size; not too big you’re carrying a mostly empty bag, and not too small you have to carry another bag to get it all in. 25 litres should be a perfect size for most day walks.
Carry water and some food
Even if you’re only going out for a short walk, it’s a good idea to pack some water and a few snacks in that backpacks. Water is the best liquid to keep you hydrated, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s plain or flavoured water either. If you’re going on a longer walk, the advice is to drink a litre of water per hour of walking. And even if you’re planning on a eating at a pub or a café at the end, take a few snacks just in case you get hungry on the way. Bananas are a slow release, high energy food.
Wear several thin layers
It’s been a long tradition in Britain to wear a big thick coat when going out… but actually it’s much better to wear several thin and light items of clothing, as they trap the air and keep you warmer. This is called layering. And if you get too hot, wearing several thin items means you can take off a layer or two to be able to control your temperature better. Lightweight fleeces are fantastic for just rolling up into a backpack for the times when you get a bit too cold.
Remember sun cream, hats and gloves
It doesn’t have to be the temperatures of Spain for you to get burned in Britain, so on warm, sunny days remember to use plenty of sun cream – especially on children. You can get outdoor clothing now which has sun protection and protects against insects as well. Bear in mind, it doesn’t have to be very sunny for you to get sun burn or prickly heat – so sun hats are a good idea as well. In winter, a warmer fleece-lined hat will have keep you warm, as will gloves. You can buy gloves now which will work the touchscreens on mobile phones – essential if you use your phone as a GPS.
Use public transport
Using public transport wherever you can to get to and from a walk is the best way to make the most out of the day. Using trains – and buses – means you’ll be more environmentally friendly, won’t have any problems about parking or worries about car crime. Northern’s services can take you to some of the most scenic walking areas in Britain – as well as historic and interesting towns and cities too. And the train is the best way to do linear walks – go by Northern to one station, walk to the next and come back via Northern. Easy.
Know where you are going
If you’re using a route from a book, TV series or downloading one of Northern’s walking route, use the information provided to select one which you’re interested in and that matches your ability. If any of your walking group have issues with mobility, a route either without stiles, or just one or two, would be a good idea. If you’re walking with younger children, then planning a “short cut” is a good idea, just in case they get too tired.
Let someone know where you are going
Every week, the volunteer teams at the various Mountain & Lowland Search & Rescue Teams across the country are called out to find walkers who aren’t adequately prepared for the type of walk they are doing. So, if you are going to do a longer distance rural walk, it is always a wise idea to let someone who isn’t going with you where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you have a walking route, let them have a copy too – it will give Rescue teams a head start to find you.
Take a fully-charged mobile phone
Although it’s tempting to use your mobile phone to take photos of your walk, and perhaps to use it as a GPS too with an app, it’s worth remembering all of these uses will zap your battery – and in an emergency, your mobile phone could be a lifeline. If you are using it to take phones, a cheap power bank will keep it charged whilst you walk. And some of the more rural parts of Britain only have a signal to allow calls, so make sure you download any route directions you need at home or when you have a strong signal.