The beauty of hiking (other than the surroundings) is that it’s free to do. You don’t need to pay for expensive lessons, and it’s the perfect way to enjoy the great outdoors all year round. Rambling is so accessible and easy for beginners to enjoy. It’s great exercise and a nice way to meet new people. Few other sports or activities are so open to people of all ages and budgets. But having the right gear can make all the difference, not just for keeping warm and comfortable, but also for staying safe on those rocky paths.
- Hiking boots: more commonly known as walking boots, are very important as you need something tough and durable so you can move easily over those rocky paths, especially in wetter weather. And there’s lots of choice out there, from ultralight trail shoes, to more sturdy day walking boots. Make sure they fit you properly as a pair of poorly fitting boots will make your hike very uncomfortable.
- Rambling clothing: is a must for hiking trips. Multiple layers are better and more comfortable than one or two big thick layers as you can peel them off if you get warm. Choose clothing with anti-chafing and moisture-wicking properties for comfort. You’ll also need special walking socks which help prevent blisters.
- A rambling backpack: is needed to carry your belongings on your hike. You’ll won’t need to carry much as you’ll likely only be out for 4-5 hours, so a 10 - 30 litre day pack will be just fine to carry those essentials (food, extra layer of clothing, map etc). It gives you enough space for all your supplies, without weighing you down. Take your time whilst shopping for the ideal bag, and make sure you choose one that’s right for you. And go for something waterproof so it will keep everything dry.
- Hiking poles: are an increasingly common sight on footpaths as they enable you to travel faster and more safely. Using one or two poles can help with balance, especially on slopes or rocky paths.
Other useful pieces of kit for your hike are navigation tools such as a map or compass (remember your phone may not always have signal in the countryside or in remote areas). A knife or multi-tool, first-aid kit, a headlamp or torch, and plenty of food and water to keep you going throughout the day.
How do I know which walking boots to go for?
Hiking footwear varies a lot. So when choosing your walking boots, make sure they are suitable for the type of walks you’ll be going on. To tackle rough terrain you’ll need boots with good ankle support, heel moulding, toe protection, and good grip. And make sure you wear them in before going on that first hike as the last thing you’ll want is to get blisters half way through.
There are several types of rambling shoes and boots to choose from, ranging from those suitable for short leisurely hikes, to multi-day backpacking trips. Here’s a quick guide:
- Walking sandals: can be a great option for casual or beginner hikers, especially in the summer months. Sandals are often very light which makes it much easier to move about. They’re also perfect for crossing water as it will run straight out rather than being trapped in your shoe, and they offer good ventilation, perfect for the hot sticky weather. Opt for a sandal with a toe guard to help protect your feet against sharp rocks. You’ll want a sandal with tough soles and good arch supports, but it’s best to stick to short, well-maintained trails when wearing sandals as they offer less support than walking shoes or boots.
- Low-cut walking shoes: are light and flexible, making them perfect for short walks and day hikes. They have a soft and flexible midsole for support and comfort. And the outsole is equipped with the right lugs and tread to give you enough traction and grip on less demanding terrain, particularly when the weather is good. This type of shoe can be good for beginners who want to start with shorter and easier trails, but the main downside of low-cut walking shoes is they may not support the ankle as well as sturdier boots which sit higher up the ankle.
- Day walking boots: these mid-cut models are a good choice for day hikes, particularly if you don’t have much to carry. They flex easily and they don’t need much time to break-in. If your trail has streams or rivers, or if there are likely to be muddy puddles along the way, make sure you choose a boot with a waterproof upper, good stitched soles, and a Gore-Tex® (waterproof and breathable) inner lining. Just remember that day walking boots offer less support and durability compared to backpacking boots, so aren't ideal for longer hikes.
How do I choose the correct size walking boots?
It might sound like a silly question. You know your shoe size, so are walking boots really any different? Well, the last thing you’ll want is boots which start to hurt half way through your trail. Hobbling along for the last 2 miles is never going to be fun, so when trying on boots, make sure you try both on with walking socks. Try on several models or sizes if necessary, and check the bottom of the heel and the front of the foot going downhill (some stores will have an area for you to test this). They shouldn’t hurt or feel too tight anywhere. Feel free to walk around the store. And gradually wear in your boots so they conform to the shape of your feet.