If you’re heading up one of the more popular tourist-ridden mountains this summer where the paths are reasonably well marked, you might be wondering what to take. After all, many kit lists include all manner of equipment, from compasses and OS maps to survival bags. Fear not, we’ve got a quick and easy list for you that’ll keep your pack light (and hopefully your mood, too).
Adequate gear is essential for being in the mountains. Weather can change dramatically very quickly and so you need to be prepared in order to stay comfortable and safe.
This is a list of items which you will require.
Decent, well fitting boots are important, considering you’re going to be walking about for a good number of hours each day on your feet. Even if you’re joining a group, you will need your OWN pair of boots.
These range in prices from about £12 to a few hundred pounds – so you may want to give this a bit of thought. Look for things like breathability, cut and waterproofness obviously.
Personally I like to buy the sort you can put over whatever else you’re wearing if it’s wet, and fold up in your bag if you don’t need one.
You will require a pair of these as when it really chucks it down and it’s freezing cold they’ll stop your legs falling off. When you wear them is a very personal thing. Some people wear them all day long, others only when it rains, and others only when the weather gets extremely Welsh.
Again, I like the sort you can fold in your bag and put over what you have on, personally. Layering rather than going for the warmest pair does help when the weather turns out unexpectedly nice.
This should be large enough to hold all the stuff you’ll need for a day’s walking. This includes items such as waterproofs, extra layers, lunch and water. You will want to keep your stuff inside your bag dry, as most bags aren’t waterproof you’ll need to use a liner to put inside your bag. A bin bag will do though you can get longer lasting liners pretty cheaply.
Wicking tops, t-shirts, shorts, fleece jackets, jumpers – whatever does the job for the conditions you’re expecting – and the ones you’re not. Under Armour gear is just the best, especially their range to keep you warm when it’s bloody freezing. Remember it can be equally uncomfortably sunny, so shades and suncream are a must.
NOT JEANS!! They dry too slowly and you can get very cold very quickly with them wet. Walking trousers or leggings are fine. Though if you wear a pair of Ronhills people might laugh.
On my very first trip up a mountain (Ben Nevis) I wore snowboarding trousers, thinking it would be freezing cold. It was pretty nippy at the top but I think I lost half my body weight in sweat on the way up. Layers are the key.
Together with your boots, these must help look after your feet. If they can wick away sweat, keep your feet warm and help stop blisters they’ll be good. You may like to wear two pairs of socks if you get blisters – this minimises the rubbing on your foot.
Personally I’m a massive fan of Sealskinz. When I say they keep your feet dry, I am not kidding – you can literally run them under a tap with your hand inside and it won’t get even a little wet.
Some sort of insulating hat is very good. Heat can escape through your head just like anything else you leave exposed. I do have a Sealskinz hat but honestly, I usually wear one that a lovely lady knitted for me. It’s warm and it makes me look less like a burglar.
On warmer days you’ll want a sun hat to protect your head.
Hands cool down quickly so either put your hands in your pockets or wear some gloves. If it’s going to be wet you might like two pairs in case one gets wet. I have Sealskinz gloves which are quite fitted and do keep my hands dry (which usually means warm) but on really cold days, I take my snowboarding gloves instead.
It’s often better to eat little bits regularly rather than have one big lunch stop. So think about splitting your lunch up – cut sandwiches in half, buy two mini mars bars rather than one big one etc. Obviously food is a very personal thing, and you’ll get an idea of what works for you over time – bear in mind though you will probably burn off more energy when doing a day’s hillwalking rather than sitting in lectures.
1.5 to 2 litres is usually enough for a day. A thermos flask is nice if you like a hot drink when sitting in a puddle, in the wind, only halfway up the b*st*rd mountain. It will make you happy.
If you get lost or die – blow the whistle and people will come and help. Hopefully. 6 whistle blasts is the international distress signal – not just what you do at a techno hardcore super happy rave.
So another happy story from my first ever mountain – I did something nasty to the muscle on my inner thigh on the way up. This meant that the whole trip up and down took me 9 sodding hours. It was unusually clear that day and therefore really, really worth every minute for the staggeringly beautiful views – but the light went during our descent and that was a little scary, not least as we were the only two people left on the mountain. At this point I was really grateful to taken this little torch with me.
It doesn’t cost much and it doesn’t weigh much. When you’re heading up Snowdonia or Ben Nevis and you’re enjoying the company of the crowds of tourists around you, you’ll probably laugh and wonder why you bothered. But like I said – you might injure yourself, the light might go and you might lose visibility. I’ve been in a white-out on two mountains now. It happened in less than a minute. You cannot see your hand in front of your face so you don’t want to be wondering around if you can’t see (just for example, there’s a sheer drop at the top of Nevis). If it doesn’t clear soon enough, you might be grateful of the bag.