Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hiking Essentials

Hiking EssentialsIt is far too easy to put off getting out and enjoying the outdoors these days. We've got T.V on demand, tablets and smart phones that will gladly waste your day feeding you videos of people falling over and games more addictive than some Class A schizel. However, the technology backlash is coming....kind of. It's cooler than ever to get out there and enjoy our wonderful countryside, just don't forget to take a selfie!

Before setting out on a hike there are a number of 'essentials' that you really should consider investing in and most cost very little but could be vital if you don't want your hike to end in disaster. In its most basic of terms 'The Ten Essentials' were first described by the Hiking and Mountaineering Club, The Mountaineers in the 1930's. It consists of  ten simple items that will ensure your well-being if things go awry.

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses/Sunscreen
  4. Extra food
  5. Extra water
  6. Extra clothes
  7. Headlamp/torch
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Fire starter
  10. Knife
1.  Map
Maps-GPS-NavigationWhile every modern phone features some form of GPS these days, there is one fatal flaw that could let you down with this handy solution - battery life. My phone is named after a certain fruit and if it lasts the day I'm lucky. Dedicated GPS systems are good and becoming more readily affordable, but still suffer from battery dependence. So the humble map could be vital if you are venturing any real distance as it can tell where you are and which way to go. It will also tell you where the nearest pub is!

Maps             Garmin eTrex 20        Garmin Fenix 2
2. Compass
CompassesSame as above, phone compasses are unreliable at best. So a cheap compass will aid your map reading and if you don't have a map, will at least keep you moving in the same direction if lost. *So you know which direction the nearest pub is!

3. Sunglasses/Sunscreen
Bit of a gimmie this one, but important non the less. Sunglasses will protect your eyes, but protection for your skin is really is important. Sun burn is unpleasant and can be extremely painful. Hats and long sleeved t-shirts will keep you well protected from the sun, especially if they carry an SPF rating, as will a high factor sun screen as long it is applied regularly.

4. Extra food
If you do get stuck out longer than anticipated then is important that you have some energy rich food to keep energy levels up. When the bodies sugars are low concentration is decreased and this may lead to poor decisions being made that would not normally be made. Lack of food will also lead to weakness and irritability.

Hiking foodThere are plenty of energy bars available that won't weigh you down, Kendal Mintcake is one such food stuff that will give your energy levels a better boost than a crate of Red Bull! If your planning on staying out longer there are dedicated boil in the bag solutions for meal times that are loaded with energy rich food. These are small in pack size, can be really lightweight (de-hydrated) and will provide you with hot or cold meal full of energy rich foods. After all, a full stomach is a happy stomach!
5. Extra water
Probably the most important 'Essential' on the list. Water makes up two thirds of the average persons body weight and it is claimed that we should drink 1.6 to 2 litres of water every day. When experiencing hotter temperatures and / or exercising more, more water needs to be drank to replace what is being lost through perspiration.
There are plenty of modern ways to take a good supply of water with you on your hike, there is, of course the humble bottle which is both convenient and easily transportable. But to carry larger volumes of water (1.5 to 3 litres) it is much more comfortable to utilise a Hydration Pack. A hydration pack is essentially a rucksack that contains a reservoir of water and drinking tube. Camelbak, Platypus and Geigerrig all offer decent systems, all of differing prices and other manufacturers make rucksacks that are 'Hydration Compatible'. So there really is no excuse to not keep yourself properly hydrated when conquering that Tor.

Hiking Hydration

Rule of 3's
 -Three minutes without air- 
-Three days without water -
-Three weeks without food-

6. Extra clothes
Now with this one it could be argued that with today's modern materials and technologies it is no longer important to take extra clothes, just the right clothes. There are lightweight waterproofs and insulating layers, windproofs and breathables that will keep you comfortable in any environment they have been tailored for. So for the sake of this article here are a few recommendations:

Hiking Waterproof JacketsWaterproof jacket to keep you dry, which it turn will help to keep you warmer. There are jackets that offer windproof and breathable technologies along side waterproofing all of which are easily stowable when not needed.

Hiking Midlayers

Berghaus Stormcloud                  Rab Atmos
                      North Face Sangro             Arc'Teryx Beta

Midlayer will depend on your climate, a good weight fleece in colder climbs and lighter in warmer.
 Lowe Alpine        North Face  
Vault           Gordon Lyons

Hiking BaselayersBaselayer appropriate to the climate you are hiking in. A thermal vest if the temperature is low and a T-shirt if warmer. Moisture wicking baselayers will actively take moisture away from the skin keeping you more comfortable.

Hiking Trousers

Trousers that are up to the conditions you will be facing. A convertible pair of trousers is a good choice when the temperature can't make up its mind or you will be stopping and starting a lot.

Hiking Footwear
Rohan Kiwi Conv     Kuhl D'Lux

Boots or appropriate walking shoes are a must. Walking any distance in uncomfortable footwear will have you cursing at the sky and anyone around you. It is advisable that the footwear is supportive enough for the terrain you are walking and supports the ankle if needed.
Emergency Shelters-Blanket

In severe terrains it would be a good idea to have a shelter of some description that will keep you out of the elements and warm if needed. There are emergency shelters available that are similar to a tent in their construction. A less bulky alternative would be an emergency foil blanket will serve you well in a pinch and really pack away small.

     Vango Storm Shelter      Emergency Blanket

7. Headlamp / Torch
Modern LED torches are far brighter and last much longer than they ever have before. It is important to have one just in case your hike takes longer than expected and you are not at your destination before nightfall, they are also good at attracting attention.

Coleman Alu LED              Petzl Nao              
Hiking First Aid8. First Aid Kit
Admittedly most wouldn't bother taking a first aid kit, but a small kit with a few plasters and a bandage or two could be invaluable if you or one of your party take a fall or injure themselves.
Hiking Fire Starter

9. Fire starter
Unless your Bear Grylls or Ray Mears you won't be able to get a fire going without one. So if you do get stuck out overnight or injured a fire will keep you warm, moral up and serve as a signal to your location.
Hiking Knife-MultiTool

10. Knife
A small knife or multi-tool is a handy thing to take with you that will help with first aid and repairs.

Here's an extra that is even more vital than the rest..........

11. Rucksack carry it all in!

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