Walking holidays do not have to mean paying out a lot of money on specialist clothing or equipment, but you do need to consider essential items. Here are some tips for your first walking holiday.
Even if you’re following detailed route directions, a good map which shows walking paths will help to ensure you don’t get lost. A specialist walking company may provide relevant maps for your holiday. If they don’t, get advice on the best map to use for the region/area. If you’ve never used maps before, you need to learn the basics of map reading
before you go.
Choosing the right hiking shoes or boots will largely depend on the type of terrain you will be walking on. Experienced mountain walking requires quality, sturdy hiking boots with good grip and ankle support. For lower-level walking, hiking shoes should be all you need. Shoes and boots should fit comfortably, allowing for the thicker socks you’ll be wearing. As a rule of thumb, with your boot/shoe fastened and your toes at the top, you should be able to slide a couple of fingers between your heel and the boot. But don’t have them so loose that your foot slides in and out – that will cause blisters.
NB Ensure that, when your hiking boots/shoes are fastened, you hook the loops of the bow around the hooks on your shoes to hold them in place. Otherwise, they could catch on the other foot and bind your feet together – something that has happened to me on more than one occasion.
Choose lightweight, breathable materials that will dry easily if you get caught in rain. Layers are always the best way to dress for walking. Start with a base layer or tee shirt, then add a fleece and, depending on the season and location, a warm windproof or waterproof jacket. Choose comfortable, breathable (not cotton or denim) trousers with pockets in which to carry your compass/map/GPS device/phone etc. Even if you’re walking somewhere that’s usually arid, it’s sensible to have a light, waterproof jacket that you can carry with you too.
If you’re planning on walking on consecutive days or over long distances, it’s worth investing in bespoke walking socks. They are fitted around heels and toes, so snugly that they have a L & R to denote which foot they go on, ensuring they don’t slip and cause blisters. You may be out in the sun for lengthy periods, particularly in southern Europe; having a hat with a brim wide enough to cover or cast shadow over the back of your neck, is critical.
Having hands free while walking is essential so you will need a comfortable, lightweight rucksack/backpack with removable waterproof covering. It needs to be large enough to take your daily supplies (sandwiches, map, compass, waterproofs, first aid items etc.). Deep side pockets ensure you have somewhere to keep your water flask.
Some people may find long descents hard on the knees. Invest in basic knee supports and your knees will thank you.
Unless the terrain can be tricky, or there are some steep ascents/descents involved, it’s not essential to have walking poles. Having said that, lots of people do like to use them, regardless of distance or terrain.