Walking Gear Essentials

Picture of a well-kitted-out walker on the Bradford Millennium Way

Walking in Yorkshire will not elevate you to the lofty heights of the peaks in areas such as The Lake District, Scotland or Snowdonia. But the weather can still close in very quickly. There are some bleak and lonely places up on the fells, moors and dales. It is important that you plan and prepare for such occurrences - even though you may hope never to encounter them.

Relaxing in a country pub, enjoying an after-walk drink with son Dave, and Hendrick (one of his pals), the conversation turned to just that. We had just finished a walk around Buckden in Wharfedale. Sunshine, blue skies and a light breeze had been our companions. It was difficult for me to imagine the need for more than just the light tee shirt and shorts we had stripped down to as we climbed the fellside.

As they regailed me with tales from their trecks, it became clear that blue skies and sunshine could very quickly be hidden by low-flying soggy clouds. The way would then become obscured by thick mist and the temperature would plummet. It got me to thinking about how I should prepare for just such an experience and I asked my companions for their advice. Dave and Hendrick started to reel off the items they would always take with them. Between us, helped by one or three pints of good Yorkshire ale, we wrote down a list of gear that should be included for a good day's walk. In the hope that it may help when you come to plan your walking trips, I've included that list here and added a few notes. Below the list you'll find twelve tips to help you enjoy a good day's walk.

What to take on a Day Walk
Good Boots Good quality, waterproof and sturdy Boots (or shoes if you prefer) are the foundation on which to build your walking gear. Look after your feet. If they're not happy you won't go very far!
Socks Inner and outer You can get socks that have both a thin inner layer and thick outer layer combined.
Trousers Lightweight - Not jeans Jeans will not dry out quickly enough after a shower, becoming very heavy and uncomfortable
Base Layer with or without sleeves This could be a thin tee shirt or purpose made
Inner Fleece A thin fleece Second layer out from the skin.
Outer Fleece Heavier fleece The idea is to have a number of layers of clothing to trap layers of air as insulation. It is easy to shed individual layers as you warm up. Or add them as you reach higher altitudes.
Hat Warm hat to keep out the cold and reduce the loss of heat. Sun hat to avoid sun burn and overheating which leads to dehydration. I like a hat with a neb to help keep rain off my glasses. If we're having a sunny day the neb reduces bright glare
Gloves Thin, breathable fleece inner lining. Waterproof outer Gloves and hats can be used to regulate body temperature.
Snood Bit like a soft, fleecy donut. Worn around the neck to block draughts. It is like a continuous scarf.
Waterproof Jacket Breathable "Goretex" or similar material A thin, lightweight jacket helps keep out the wind at higher altitudes.
Waterproof Trousers As with the jacket, try to find a breathable material. As well as being waterproof they will also keep out the wind.
Waterproof Gaiters Bridge the gap between trouser bottoms and boots Channel rainwater onto the outside of the boots. They also help keep mud off socks and trousers.
Water bottle 1 litre minimum Dehydration is very dangerous. First signs could be a dry mouth, headache and/or dizziness. It creeps up on you but can quickly overwhelm you if you ignore the signs. Obviously on hot days you will need to replace lost fluids more frequently.
Flask Hot tea or coffee is very welcome. A hot drink will help to recover lost body heat in cold weather. Conversely it also cools you down in hot weather! Don't know why but it works for me.
Food Nice tasting (sweet) Packed in plastic bag. Not in a sandwich box.
Dave and Hendrick recommend soft white bread - not crusty rolls. They can be difficult to eat with a mouth dry from exertion. And moist food (they suggest lots of tomato ketchup - but that's up to you!) is easier to eat when you're tired.
Snacks For on the move e.g. mints/dried fruit to give an energy boost when needed
Emergency rations Kendal mint cake
2 bars chocolate
Again to provide an energy boost or sustenance should you be delayed in your return to base - perhaps due to injury.
Map of your walking area Waterproof map case You've probably seen people with map cases around their neck. Keeping a map dry and avoiding the need to stop and unpack your rucksack
Compass use in conjunction with your map If you can see two or better, three, landmarks featured on the map, their bearings could help pinpoint your position.
Whistle Perhaps on a lanyard? To attract attention in a rescue situation.
Penknife multi purpose Cut material away from a wound. Cut twigs for a fire or just to get into a pack of biscuits.
Torch Check batteries before setting off from home. May be needed when a delay means a return in the dark. In a rescue situation it could help rescuers find your location in the dark.
Matches In a waterproof container. Hot water will be needed to wash a wound. It may be possible to collect tinder and wood for a fire.
Survival bag or blanket Reflects radiant body heat Reflect searchlight beams which, in a situation of poor visibility makes identification easier
First-aid kit Be sure to replace any items used At home, regularly check the contents and replace any that were used on a previous walk.

12 Tips to Enjoy a Day Walk
1 Read your map Look out for any prominent features such as a church. The real thing might help you pinpoint your position.
2 Read it again Really get to know the area your walk will cover. Look for contour lines. Are there any really steep bits?
3 Set off on the right path Don't just follow other walkers, assuming they are going to the same place as you
4 Walk in threes If one is injured, one goes for help and one stays to help
5 Learn how to give a grid reference If the worst happens and you need help, the rescue services need to know exactly where you are.
6 Learn how your equipment works before you have to use it e.g. satnavs
7 Don't rely on one item It is not unknown for a compass to stop working!
8 Relate the area to the map It is very easy to convince yourself that the features around you fit the map
9 Take water - not fizzy drinks It can be used for washing wounds or boiled to make hot drinks
10 Pay attention to where your feet are The ground will obviously be uneven and it is easy to slip on wet boulders. You don't need a twisted ankle!
11 Check your kit before you leave home Especially if you normally keep all your kit packed in the rucksack. Dave says he once got to the Lake District from home in West Yorkshire before realising his outer fleece was left behind!
12 Don't get complacent on the way back to the car Going downhill you can easily fall

To help when you're planning your walks you may like a copy of these lists in PDF format.

Click here to read the PDF in your browser, or right-click to download it.

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Tips and Advice for Walkers
Find advice and tips to help you stay safe and enjoy your walks in Yorkshire. Click here

Essential Walking Gear
Find a list of essential gear for that great day's walk. Plus a dozen tips to help you enjoy it. Click here

Download your own free copy of my lists of Essential Walking Gear and a dozen tips to help you stay safe and enjoy your walks.
Essential Walking Gear PDF