Your First Hiking Holiday: The Ultimate Checklist
The world is full of some truly beautiful cities and towns, but many travellers will agree that sticking to settlements mean you can often miss out on all the staggering natural beauty some countries have to offer. If you’re sick of lounging around on sunbeds and taking historical tours through crowded streets, you may have decided to get off the beaten path with a self-guided hiking holiday. A lot of newbies rush into these without the proper preparation, and wind up having the holiday from hell! If you’ve set a date for your first hiking trip, here’s a checklist of what you need to pack.
Waterproof Outer Layer
No matter where you’re going or the time of year you’re going there, there’s a chance that it’s going to rain. Obviously, you don’t want to be caught out in it without some dependable waterproof outers. While it’s good to be prepared, you don’t want to be slugging around any unnecessary weight, so do a little research on the conditions you’ll be expecting, and pack accordingly. If you know it’s going to be cold, windy and wet, bring a winter-quality waterproof jacket. If there isn’t much chance of rain, bring something lighter. Ideally, these can be rolled up, stuffed into your backpack and forgotten for most of the trip. A lot of walking jackets offer a great middle ground between the two.
To make sure you’re as comfortable as possible on your hiking trip, plan to pack with a layering system. Again, the climate you’re heading off to will dictate the number of layers you bring. As a bare minimum, take two long-sleeved tops and two short-sleeved tops. If you’re trying to maximise the space in your backpack, and want to wear your base layers for more than a day at a time, it’s recommended you choose tops made from yak or merino wool. Woollen clothes will take much longer to get smelly compared to more conventional, synthetic products.
Trousers and Shorts
When it comes to what you’ll be wearing on your legs, the number one thing to think about is comfort. You’re going to be walking for hours on end, and you don’t want any hems or seams rubbing against your skin for all that time. If you’re expecting a lot of sun, look for trousers or shorts with fabrics that have good breathability, and a decent sun factor rating. If you’re off somewhere where the weather’s going to be unpredictable, (for example, literally anywhere in the UK) you might want to buy a pair of walking trousers that zip off into shorts.
The footwear you take on your first hiking trip is obviously one of the most important choices you’ll have to make. Be sure to bring socks that are comfortable and made to reduce odour so you don’t cause anyone to pass out when you set up camp for the night! Again, Merino wool is a great option for this, as well as socks that are a fusion of synthetic fibres and wool. When it comes to hiking boots, they’re all pretty much universal in terms of quality, so beware any that seem too cheap and aren’t on sale. Most importantly, make sure you start wearing them in a week or two leading up to the start of your trip. This is not a job you want to be doing when you’re trekking up the side of a mountain!
The idea is to pack light, so when it comes to accessories, don’t bring any if it’s at all possible. However, certain light accessories should definitely be considered depending on where you’re going to be walking. If you’re going to get a lot of sun, bring a cap or wide-brimmed hat. If you’re expecting it to be cold, bring some gloves and a beanie that can easily be stuffed into your pockets.
Medication and First Aid
You’re not going to be climbing a lot of sheer rock faces and base jumping from dizzy heights, so it’s generally not necessary to have any specialised medical kit on you for a walking holiday. Having said that, having a splitting headache while you’re walking around in the blazing sun, or having an injury and nothing to treat it with, can really take the fun out of your holiday. Bring a small kit with an assortment of plasters, painkillers, any allergy medication you may need, and antibiotic cream for cuts and scrapes. You may also want to source some Norethistrone if there’s a chance of a visit from aunt Flo while you’re out on a hike. Hiking doesn’t have a lot of incidences of fractures and other serious injuries, but it’s also a good idea to bring a sling or bandana and some gauze. Better safe than sorry!
Buying walking poles for your first ever hiking trip may sound like you’re going a little overboard, but these can be an absolute godsend for certain treks. If you know there’s going to be a lot of steep climbs and descents, walking poles can make the hike much more manageable for newbies, especially over long distances.
Depending on where you’re going and how far away you’ll be from your accommodation, you may need various toiletries on your hiking trip. Consider any possible situation where you’d need those bathroom essentials while you’re out on a hike, and make sure you’re prepared for them. Don’t rely on the hotel’s tiny bars of soap!
The Little Extras
After preparing the items above, you’ll be pretty well-prepared for any hiking holiday. However, if you’ve got any more room in your backpack, bring the various useful extras that you might want or need out there. A phone can distract you from the surrounding natural beauty, but you don’t want to get lost out there with no way of contacting someone other than smoke signals! A good head torch can also be very handy if you decide to stretch your walk out a little longer, and need to find your way back in the dark.