Whether you’re taking on your first organised hike or just looking to pick up the pace on your next adventure, it’s important to make sure that you’ve got the right gear.”Fast and light hiking is about optimising performance by getting fitter, stronger, carrying less weight and moving faster,” says Rory McCrea at Snow+Rock Covent Garden. “It’s also about compromise. Carrying less weight can mean less comfort!” Here, Rory recommends 10 fast and lightweight hiking essentials to help you achieve your walking goals faster:
In theory, shoes are lighter and offer better shock absorption and flexibility, but lack the ankle support, stability and protection of a boot. If you’re reasonably fit and experienced in walking rough terrain, shoes are a good option.
Mid-height hiking shoes include ankle protection, which is a great compromise if you prefer footwear that’s a bit more substantial. Use what’s most comfortable! Whatever you choose, make sure it fits you well and that you give yourself enough time to wear them in.
Walking poles aren’t essential but they can 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 impact on knee cartilage.
A 20-25L pack should offer more 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 overheating and lots of exterior storage for easy access to essentials when you’re on the move.
Staying properly hydrated is critical. It affects concentration, decision making and muscle fatigue.
Bladders ensure that you are getting enough water while on the move, which helps endurance, concentration and motivation. Most modern backpacks are hydration-compatible, with a special compartment for your reservoir and a port that holds the drinking tube for convenient, fast and hands-free hydration.
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 windbreaker, has plenty of stretch for comfort and has varying degrees of water resistance in a wide range of weights and styles. If the weather is really atrocious, you can wear your softshell under your waterproof for extra protection!
Go for something ultralight! If you’re lucky with the weather it will live in your bag, so you don’t want anything too bulky. There are lots of different technologies out there for all activities and budgets. You need to decide what additional performance elements are the most important to you, be it breathability, durability or packability.
Carrying a couple of energy gels and bars will provide a welcome boost when you feel yourself lagging. There are loads, so try a few out and see what works for you! If you struggle with these, foods like banana bread are a convenient alternative.
An electrolyte mix in your hydration pouch replenishes vital salts lost in sweat. This helps prevent cramp and fatigue by speeding up the body’s absorption of water. You can get pure electrolyte drinks or sachet blends that incorporate stimulants and energy.
On early mornings, evenings and in-camp, a head torch can prove to be invaluable. There’s a head torch out there to suit every budget, ranging from simple on/off torches to techie light reactive technology.
It’s essential to 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’s also a good idea to carry a neck warmer, a pair of light fleece or stretch gloves and a spare phone battery or portable charger.
It’s essential to carry a map and compass, 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 waypoints and many units come with full Ordnance Survey mapping.