Winter Hiking Gear – walking to lose weight #hiking #hikingandweightloss #hikingforhealth #hillwalking

Winter Hiking Gear and walking to lose weight

Walking the hills requires prior preparation and planning to prevent poor performance ! Just taking off with your mobile phone in your pocket and a rough idea of where you want to go is simply a recipe for disaster whatever part of the country you live in. I plan to give simple commons sense guidelines on togging up for a warm walk in the hills, describe some basic gear to stock up with, cover some basic planning tasks prior to heading out and outlining the benefits of hiking and walking for losing weight.

Planning and Preparing for your hike

Number one – tell someone your plan. Its really sensible to research your plan, write it down and leave a copy with someone before you leave. Included in your plan should be

  • numbers in your party, names, ages, any medical conditions.
  • equipment and gear you have with you and are wearing.
  • description of clothing each person is wearing.
  • your start date and time and co-ordinates of start point.
  • your planned return date and time and co-ordinates of end point.
  • if possible – a photo of the bottom of your hiking boot.

When picking your hiking or walking route, consider how much time you have allocated, a few hours, a half day or a full day. Think about your fitness level and honestly appraise what you can achieve. You want to enjoy your walk and not feel it is a burden on your body. There are options for everyone wherever you live. The average walking pace is generally 3 mph, your pace may be slower depending on terrain, the elevation gain and how much you are carrying. Elevation gain can add considerably to your time, so check the heights on your planned route carefully. For evey thousand feet of gain on your route you will add a good hour to your walking time. The weather and time of year of course play a critical part in your planning.

Getting kitted out – Your Feet First

Footwear is one of the most important items you will choose, and is a personal choice. Some hikers prefer different styles of boot with different support options, others like lighter weight alternatives that still give support.

For a great guide to equipment lists try the Walkhighlands guide.  

Similarly for a great guide to selecting boots try the Tiso Walking Boot Guide.

A great all – rounder for walking boots :

  • GORE-TEX Performance Comfort technology prevents water entry and allows moisture to escape
  • Outer Material: Leather
  • Inner Material: Manmade
  • Sole: Gum Rubber
  • Closure: Lace-Up
  • Shoe Width: Normal

The Health Benefits of Hiking

  • Lower stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental wellbeing.
  •  A reduced risk for heart disease.
  •  Lower blood pressure.
  •  Lower cholesterol levels.
  •  Improved control over healthy weight.
  •  Lower body fat.
  •  Improved bone density.
  •  Improved osteoarthritis outcomes.

The Essentials

Your feet are number one but clearly you cannot safely head out walking or hiking without some basic gear. This list is not exhaustive but gives a general guide for the equipment to have at hand once you have planned your route.

  Free and available right outside your door, hiking and walking is the ultimate all year round activity. A walk in the country enables you to get out, exercise, absorb amazing scenery and take in much-needed lungs full of fresh country air. Its well documented that along with the benefits listed above, walking releases endorphins into the brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure and possibly through the link in the latter part of the name endorphins – ‘orphins’ from the notorious pain reliever, morphine could reduce pain.

Gaining feelings of happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment, leads in many cases to walkers challenging themselves to much more involved adventures. The key of course is to start small and build up over time.

Few other sports or activities are so open and accessible for people of all ages and budgets. Getting the right gear makes all the difference – keeps you warm and comfortable and above all safe on more demanding walks. As discussed above the most important of these is your footwear Hiking boots are not cheap or particularly fashionable, but they will offer you the best all-round protection. Walking boots need time to wear in so don’t head out on a massive walk immediately you buy them.

Warm and waterproof coats should be worn along with wind-resistant trousers or even waterproof trousers to cover all weather conditions. On warmer days less gear is needed so the concept of Layering Up will allow you to put on and take off layers of clothing as the weather changes, so wear multiple layers of warm tops as you start off and you can remove these along your route. Pack a waterproof even on good days.

Additional to your feet, taking along a pair of walking poles can be beneficial, look for light and tough poles, small enough to fold down to be stowed away when not needed.

Ideally pair up with someone to go walking, avoid walking alone.

Build up your experience and train for the bigger longer walks by completing a series of shorter less challenging walks.

Get prepared as noted above, double check your equipment and packing and leave the note mentioned above with someone before you head out on your walk.

Remember food and drinks. Walking is very physical and demanding at the best of times. Its always best to slightly over estimate in the early stages, as you gain experience you will be better placed to gauge what you need to take along. Ideally take high carbohydrate, high energy bars or food. Take water or energy drinks.

DO NOT RELY ON A MOBILE PHONE – Mobiles can save walker and hikers lost or injured by helping you contact emergency service and locating you accurately. However, mobiles are often a reason people get lost on the hills, an over reliance on smartphone maps. Many map apps are simply not as accurate as the paper based first choice map. GPS signals are not reliable, battery reliability is poor and basic phone signals are unreliable. Always bring a paper map along, plus a compass as a backup and of course learn how to use them.

Once you have read through the basics, its time to get out and about. Ideally get out early to maximise your daylight hours. Check out your countryside code  

Time to get out and walk

So I’ve covered some basics to get you started on hiking and walking. In future posts I will cover more individual areas for you. The key point is to take priority over your feet and safety, make plans, leave plans with someone, get the right gear and begin enjoying the benefit of walking and hiking helping you to lose weight, feel fitter and healthier. Most of all ENJOY.