Walking in Comfort: Essential Gear You Can't Miss on Your Next Expedition
Walking is one of the most accessible and affordable forms of exercise that anyone can undertake anywhere. It could be a way of escaping the desk job or relaxing on the beach, but it is still a physically demanding activity. With good equipment and appropriate clothing, walking can be an enjoyable and comfortable way to stay fit, explore new places or simply enjoy the scenery around your neighbourhood.
In this article, we'll be discussing the essential gear items that every walker will need for a comfortable, efficient and safe walking experience. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting on this new journey, we've got you covered. So, step up your walking game, get comfortable and let's dive right in!
Comfortable, sturdy and well-fitted shoes are one of the most critical components of any walker’s gear kit. Your feet are the foundation of your whole body, and appropriate footwear is vital to ensure that your feet are well-supported and protected during long walks.
Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose, as they may cause painful blisters, calluses or even wounds. While walking shoes may seem similar to running shoes, they differ in that they offer more stability, protect the feet better and are generally better suited for more varied terrains.
When selecting a comfortable walking shoe, ensure that it fits properly and has sufficient arch and heel support. Look for shoes with a decent level of cushioning in the sole to keep your feet comfortable as you walk for extended periods of time. Breathable materials, such as mesh or Gore-Tex, will also help your feet stay cool and dry.
Ultimately, walking shoes need to be comfortable and able to withstand the terrain for which they're intended. Remember that it's worth investing in the best pair possible within your budget, as this will ensure that your feet and ankles do not bear the brunt of rough terrains or uneven paths.
Padded walking socks
In addition to comfortable shoes, padded walking socks are another critical gear item that can provide much-needed comfort for your feet while walking. These socks offer extra cushioning to your feet, absorb moisture and reduce the risk of blisters or calluses.
When selecting walking socks, consider the type of fabric used. Padded socks made of natural materials such as wool, bamboo or cotton are breathable and often more comfortable than synthetic materials. They're also great at regulating temperature, keeping your feet warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather.
Another factor to consider is the thickness of the sock. The thickness of the sock should match the type of shoe you are wearing, specifically complimenting the level of cushioning your shoe provides. Too many pads and your feet might be uncomfortably squashed inside the shoe. Too few pads and your feet might lack much-needed cushioning for your soles. Socks should be snugly fitted to your feet to provide maximum comfort — usually referred to as 'hugging' the foot.
Clothing and layering
Wearing multiple layers of clothes is the best way to ensure that you can stay warm or cool, depending on the weather conditions. The base layer should wick moisture away from your skin so you stay dry as you walk. The insulating layer should keep you warm, and the outermost layer should offer protection against wind and rain.
When selecting your clothing, it's best to avoid cotton, as the material retains moisture and will keep you wet, which is a crucial contributor to chafing, blisters, and other uncomfortable experiences on walks. Instead, opt for materials such as wool, synthetic blends, or merino wool, as they're breathable and moisture-wicking.
The aim of layering is to have multiple clothing items you can add, remove or adjust depending on the time of day, weather, and altitude changes. You can start with light jackets, sweaters or fleeces, and take a waterproof and windproof shell for the outer layer, and as temperatures get lower and colder, gradually add more layers.
A walker's blanket is a versatile accessory that offers warmth and comfort during rest stops or overnight stays during walking expeditions. The majority of walker's blankets are lightweight and compressible, making them easy to pack in a backpack without taking up too much room or weighing you down.
There are several types of blankets depending on their use, size, shape or material. A suitable walker's blanket should be durable, beautiful, moisture-resistant, and washable. Generally, wool blankets remain one of the most popular among walkers because of their impressive insulating performance and breathability.
The best walker's blankets are lightweight, packable, and large enough to cover your feet and wrap around your body comfortably. They offer an additional layer of warmth, making them perfect for chilly evenings, windy weather, and for when rest stops are taken.
In addition, a walker's blanket can be an excellent emergency shelter. In case of an unexpected, sudden weather change, a walker's blanket can provide extra warmth for you or others in your group. A walker's blanket that is insulated can make the difference between a cold, uncomfortable break and one where you can rest, feeling warm and secure.
Hydration and nutrition
Lack of sufficient water and food can lead to dehydration, fatigue, muscle cramps, and even heat stroke. Carry a water bottle or hydration pack with you to ensure you're constantly hydrated, especially in hot weather. Portable water filters and purification tablets come in handy if free-flowing water sources are scarce. Electrolyte tablets can be added to your water to restore salt and minerals lost through perspiration.
Nutrition is equally important during walking expeditions as it provides you with the necessary energy to keep going. Carry high-energy snacks such as nuts, energy bars, and dried fruits to keep your energy levels up. A small meal, sandwich or wrap can also be part of your snack pack to help replenish energy.
Tailor your food and hydration plans to match the length of your walk, terrain, and climate. Supplies will differ if you're walking for under an hour or if you're planning longer hikes across several days. Some walking locations have cafes or shops nearby, and you may be able to buy food or water along the way.
Navigational equipment includes maps, compasses, and GPS devices. Walking trails can lead you through a myriad of terrains, elevations and often diverse and expansive areas. Without navigational equipment, you can quickly get lost, which can significantly impact your plans.
Traditional paper maps depict the topography of an area, show landmarks, and offer a local knowledge of the specific walking trail. On the other hand, GPS tracking devices provide more comprehensive, real-time geolocation information, along with information about the terrain, altitude, and weather conditions.
Compasses help to identify your orientation relative to your surroundings and are useful for identifying potential marks and points of interest. They're also useful for avoiding dangerous areas, such as cliffs, steep inclines or uneven terrains.
For a day walk, a map or GPS device might be enough, but for extended walking expeditions, it's essential to carry backup navigational equipment such as a second map or a manual compass. Smartphones with GPS and mapping apps can be used to complement traditional navigation tools.
Safety and first aid
Being well-prepared and carrying essential safety gear can mean the difference between a fun and fulfilling experience and an unpleasant or even dangerous one. The primary objective is to minimize risk and prevent or address any incidents that may occur.
Carry first aid supplies such as bandages, disinfectants, pain relievers, and allergy medicine. Blisters often form on your feet during long walks, so it's wise to carry blister treatment and protection in your first aid kit. Make sure you have essential emergency supplies, such as a whistle, a flashlight, matches or lighters and an emergency blanket or bivy.
Inform someone of your walking plans, including your walking route and when you expect to return. It’s wise to take a walking partner with you, but if you’re walking alone, make sure you are aware of your surroundings and have communication devices on hand should you need them.
Finally, research the walking trail before you leave, and check the weather forecast. Be aware of any potential hazards, such as narrow paths, steep cliffs, or rapid temperature changes. Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is the key to a safe and enjoyable walking expedition.