How do you start hillwalking?
Firstly, avoid going alone and ensure you are physically fit to start hillwalking. Next, build up some navigational skills, research your route, check the weather forecast and invest in basic equipment like a waterproof jacket and boots. Also, take water and snacks, get to your destination early and tell others where you're going.
10 hillwalking tips for beginners
My top ten hillwalking tips for beginners are really important to consider to help you stay safe, happy and comfortable on the hills. Let's take a look at them in detail.
1. Find a hillwalking partner
Until you've built up some confidence on the hills, avoid heading out alone. Instead, find some like-minded people that you can plan an adventure with.
If friends and family aren't keen to tackle a hill then there are many hillwalking groups that could take you out. This is also a good way to get comfortable on the hills and gain lots of tips and advice from those already experienced in hillwalking.
Check out Ramblers UK or do a quick internet search to see which walking groups are available in your area.
2. Get some basic navigational skills
Phone signal can be temperamental on the hills, plus routes are unlikely to be sign-posted all the way to the top. So, to avoid getting lost on your first hillwalking trip, make sure you set out with some basic navigational skills. This includes knowing how to read a map and compass, for example.
In the UK, organisations such as Mountaineering Scotland provide one-day navigational courses that are perfect for beginner hillwalkers.
3. Research your route
Before setting out on a walk, familiarise yourself with the route ahead. For example:
- •Check out user reports
- Download a route map (Ordnance Survey Maps are a good option here) or have a paper map
- Be aware of key points on the route to look out for
- Find out how long the activity will take
- Consider how challenging the activity will be and ensure your fitness levels are up to tackling it.
Researching your route in this way should help to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
4. Check the weather forecast
It can be easy to get lost in any fog on the hills, whilst persistent rain can, at times, be a trying experience on a walk. So, to avoid either of these situations, make sure you check out a mountain weather forecast before setting out any plans to go hillwalking. These provide a detailed and accurate picture of the weather on the hills and are therefore more reliable than looking at the weather forecast for an area as a whole.
Also, keep in mind that, even when the weather at the bottom of the hill looks good, often at the top it is a completely different experience. There might be wind, rain, and chilly temperatures, for example. This makes it really important that you pack a backpack with clothing that will cover all eventualities.
In the UK, use the Met Office's Specialist Mountain Weather Forecast tool to prepare for your trip.
Note: Hillwalking in winter can be dangerous and should only be attempted by those with significant experience and suitable equipment, such as an ice axe and crampons.
5. Invest in some basic equipment
As a beginner hillwalker, you may not want to invest in lots of equipment right away. However, there are a few key things to own to make the adventure as comfortable as possible.
Comfy, waterproof boots are a must to keep your feet supported and blister-free. Layers of clothing, including a fleece and waterproof, are also essential to make sure you're prepared for changes in the weather.
Breathable tops, plus trousers that allow for easy movement (no jeans!), should also be looked out for any hillwalking trips.
6. Get the clothing right
Even when it is sunny, remember that the top of the hill will often provide a different experience in terms of weather. So, always pack a waterproof jacket and fleece to keep you warm at the top.
In preparation for achy feet, take a spare pair of socks with you and swap them over halfway through the walk. This is so refreshing!
Hillwalking is very physically demanding and, whilst this shouldn't put you off getting outside, it is something to bear in mind. Depending on your fitness levels, a day's hillwalking trip may take a longer/shorter duration than the route guide sets out, for example.
Before going hillwalking, try to build up your fitness with some local walks. Focus on increasing your mileage and choose routes that have a bit of elevation in them.
8. Bring plenty of water and snacks
Hillwalking uses up lots of energy and calories. The body's water reserves can also be depleted through sweat. So, to keep yourself fuelled up for the activity, make sure to bring plenty of snacks, lunch and lots of water – no less than 1.5 litres (if not more, especially on a warm day).
A good hillwalking lunch should include wholegrain bread or pasta. Not only is this filling, but it also releases energy slowly to keep you going through the activity. Pair it with the likes of broccoli and a bit of pesto for some extra nutrition.
Homemade cereal bars, nuts, seeds, fruit and some dark chocolate are just a few good snack options for hillwalkers.
9. Get to your destination early
Hillwalking has increased in popularity recently and, whilst it is great to see so many people enjoying the outdoors, it can make routes and car parks busy. So, to avoid the rush of crowds, make sure you get to your destination as early as possible. It is not uncommon for the car parks used by hillwalkers to fill up by 8am at weekends!
10. Tell others where you’re going
Last but not least, make sure you let others know where you plan to hike and when you will return. This is essential to ensure you are safe on the hills. Once you've done that, as well as the other steps listed here, you'll be all set for your adventure!