Whether you’re taking on your first organised hiking challenge or just looking to pick up your pace on your next adventure, it’s important to make sure that you’ve got the right gear. We asked Covent Garden staff member, Rory McCrea, to recommend ten, fast and light hiking essentials that will help you to achieve your goals, without holding you back.
‘Fast and light hiking is all about optimising performance; getting fitter, stronger, carrying less weight and moving faster. It’s also about compromise, carrying less weight can mean less comfort. Here are my top 10 must haves to ensure a safe, ‘fast and light’ day out in the British hills.’
One of the most important pieces of kit for any trip is good footwear.
The theory is that they’re lighter than a pair of boots(therefore less tiring), provide better shock absorption and allow your body to move as it’s designed to move. The converse being that you don’t get the benefit of ankle support, meaning that you might not feel as stable or have the protection that you would get from a boot. If you’re relatively fit, experienced in moving over rough terrain and confident in your body’s ability to deal with fatigue then shoes could be a good a option.
As the name suggests, mid-height hiking shoes are hiking shoes with ankle protection, making them a great compromise if you prefer something a bit more substantial.
Ultimately there is no right or wrong, it just depends on what you feel more comfortable using. The most important thing is to make sure that whatever you choose fits you well and that you give yourself enough time to wear them in and allow your feet to get used to them.
Walking poles aren’t necessarily essential, but they will make a massive difference, especially on the way down when you’re feeling tired. In the short term they help with balance, load bearing and energy conservation. In the long term they minimise the impact on knee cartilage.
A 20- 25L pack should offer than enough storage. Make sure that you choose a pack that fits your torso correctly; a body hugging fit is ideal for movement. Look for a back panel system that is lightweight and well ventilated to prevent you from overheating when you’re working hard and lots of exterior storage points to give you easy access to equipment and essentials when you’re on the move.
Staying properly hydrated is critical; it affects concentration, decision making and muscle fatigue.
Water bladders are a really good idea as they will ensure that you are getting enough water whilst moving , helping massively with endurance, concentration and motivation. Most modern backpacks are hydration compatible, with a special compartment to accommodate a reservoir and a port that holds the drinking tube in a convenient position for fast, hands-free hydration.
If you’re not so keen on the idea of carrying a water bladder, make sure that you have at least one, 1L water bottle easily accessible to ensure that you stay well hydrated. Many water bottles have an attachment or corresponding pouch available that allows you to carry them on the hip belt of your backpack.
This is a great ‘go to’ layer when the weather is a bit windy, drizzly or both. A softshell gives you a bit of insulation by acting as a wind break; has plenty of stretch for comfort and they come in a wide range of weights and styles, offering varying degrees of water resistance. If the weather is really atrocious you can wear your soft shell underneath your waterproof for extra protection.
Go for something ultra lightweight, if you’re lucky with the weather it will live in your bag so you don’t want anything bulky. There are lots of different technologies out there to cater for all types of activity and budget so you need to decide what additional performance elements are most important to you, be it breathability, durability or packability.
Carrying a couple of energy gels and a bar will provide a welcome boost when you feel yourself flagging. There are loads available so try a few out and see what works well for you. If you struggle to get on with bars and gels, foods such as banana bread are a convenient and effective alternative.
An electrolyte mix in your hydration pouch replenishes vital salts lost through sweating, helping to prevent cramping, fatigue by speeding up the body’s absorption of water. You can get pure electrolyte drinks or blends that can incorporate stimulants and energy.
A head torch might not seem like an essential but it can prove invaluable for early mornings, evenings and negotiating the camp site if you’re on a multi-day excursion. There’s a head torch out there to suit every budget and they range from simple on/off operation to the more techie end of the spectrum where you get into the realms of ingenious light reactive technology.
It’s a good idea to carry a neck warmer and a pair of light fleece or stretch gloves just in case, as well as a spare phone battery or portable charger. It’s essential that you have a first aid kit, survival whistle and thermal bag in your pack at all times. Hopefully you won’t need any of these items but you’ll be grateful for them in an emergency.
It is essential to carry maps and a compass with you, however you may also want to invest in a GPS. GPS devices make navigation easier, allowing you to plot your route or pinpoint your exact location in a matter of seconds. You can download or enter way points and many units come equipped with full ordinance survey mapping, so you only need to have your paper map on standby as a backup.