Walking is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. If you ask me, there’s nothing better than getting out into the countryside on a sunny day and wandering without much of an end destination in mind.
Walking and hiking, however, are worlds apart. And that's something that I hadn't really considered beforehand. I've spent most of my life walking, wandering through the countryside in a pair of wellies, ambling across fields and taking in the views. Hiking is not something that I've done much of as an adult, and I realised quite quickly that it requires a lot more preparation and definitely a better set of clothing than a simple walk across a field does.
On my first long hike, I turned up in little pumps, a cotton t-shirt and with not even nearly enough water or food packed into my bag. Needless to say, I returned home feeling grumpy, with the worst blisters you can imagine and vowing to never hike again.
And then I signed up for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. No, I'm not sure how I went from never wanting to step foot onto a mountain again to thinking it would be possible to hike three in a day either, but for some unbeknown reason, that is what happened.
And so suddenly it became imperative that I sort out my hiking wardrobe. I've spent the past six months slowly building up a collection of summer hiking clothes and one thing that has shocked me, is how much of a difference having the right clothes can make to your hike. Wearing the right hiking clothes really can make all the difference in how you feel, both physically and mentally, while out on a hike.
These are my tips for picking the right clothes for your summer day hike:
Keep your summer day hike outfit comfy
Comfort was, without a doubt, the most important quality I looked for when selecting my hiking outfit. I could imagine nothing worse than having to complete a 26-mile hike through the Yorkshire Dales in leggings that were chaffing or in a top that clung to my body in odd places.
I refuse to believe in the ‘wear it in’ motto that is often chanted in relation to new clothes. I, instead, lived by the mantra of 'if it wasn’t comfy in the shop, it wasn’t coming home'. Every single item of clothing that I bought for hiking in was comfy before setting out on my hikes and I can assure you that it made the world of difference to both my training and the final 26-mile hike.
Opt for layers
Layers have been my best friend on every hike I’ve taken in the past few months. Hiking in British summertime is hard; you can go from walking along in the rain one second to sweltering in the sunshine the next so you have to make sure that your hiking outfit is adaptable. Of course, that’s virtually impossible so the next best thing is to layer up and then add or remove layers as necessary.
Take a light raincoat
I’ve been reasonably lucky with the weather on my hikes so far but even so, while it’s too warm to need a coat all the time there is nothing worse than getting stuck out in a shower and having to finish your hike feeling soaked through. I always make sure that I’ve got a light raincoat packed in my bag for those unpredictable bouts of rain that we British are all too accustomed to.
Pick quick-drying fabrics
Sweat. Rain. Splashes of mud. Chances are, you’ll experience all three at some point if you’re going on a hike in Britain. I’ve made sure that all of my hiking clothes are made of thin, quick-drying materials so that when I do get a little bit hot, experience a downpour or fall in a muddy puddle (true story), it doesn’t take me hours to dry off.
Find a good pair of hiking boots
Ah, hiking boots. The most difficult thing to buy and yet the most important thing you will purchase ahead of your summer hike. Or any hike for that matter. There are a HUGE number of hiking boots on the market, all with varying prices and supposed benefits. I don’t know much about hiking but what I do know is that, if you’re clumsy like me, then having a pair of boots with a high ankle can save you a trip to A&E. I was a little bit daunted when I first went shopping for hiking boots but I ended up coming away with a pair of £35 Quechua Hiking Boots and I will admit that they did give me blisters the first time I wore them, and in the final mile of the challenge but other than that they’ve been perfectly adequate. In hindsight, I would probably splash out a little bit more if I were to do another long hike but for smaller scale day hikes, these did the job just fine. Key things to look for are good ankle supports, cushioned soles and a lightweight feel, as there's nothing worse than getting tired simply from lugging around your heavy shoes.
Don't underestimate the importance of hiking socks
This is one tip that I definitely learned in hindsight. I completed my longest hike yet in everyday socks and came to regret it very quickly after returning home with two feet covered in blisters. Meanwhile, my friend came home with no issues at all due to her specially designed hiking socks. Lesson learned? Don’t underestimate the difference that something as small as a pair of good quality socks can have.
A summary on my summer day hiking outfit:
The clothes you can see me wearing in this post (minus my hiking shoes) were gifted to me by Decathlon. The top and the jacket exceeded my expectations. This was the first day I had worn any of the items sent to me and it was an incredibly hot day to be heading out on a summer day hike but the jacket kept me warm (without making me hot) when we reached the breezy summits and the top was made of a breathable fabric so it stopped me from descending into a sweaty mess on the way up.
The leggings, however, were a little bit disappointing. They are quite seethrough and so, while I did combat that by wearing dark underwear, it did leave me feeling a little bit self-conscious throughout the day. Especially as the area we were hiking in was quite a popular location. They are, however, very comfortable and incredibly soft – just perhaps not quite what I was looking for in a set of hiking leggings.
My hiking boots did me well on this day but they didn't fare so well on longer walks - although they may well have done had I had proper hiking socks on.
What to pack in your bag on a summer day hike:
While your outfit is undeniably important, you also need to put a little thought into the bag you take with you on your summer day hike, and on the items, you pack into it. I bought my Karrimor backpack a few years back and it’s still going strong today. It’s got a padded back and straps which help to keep me comfortable and I’m not lying when I say that it’s like Mary Poppin’s bag inside – it never ceases to amaze me just how much I can fit inside of it!
Plenty of water
Taking water should be a given as it’s the most important thing you can have in your bag. Always take more than you think. On my first hike, I didn’t take nearly enough and it made the final few miles far harder and less enjoyable than they should have been.
Pack some snacks
Similarly, don’t undervalue the importance of taking snacks with you on a hike. They will keep you going in the hardest parts. I always take a couple of breakfast bars, a banana, some raisins, a pack of sweets and a bar of jelly cubes with me, alongside some more savoury items, as I find these are great for giving me a little boost when I need it.
A first aid kit
You just never know when you might need one so it’s always best to have it to hand for those ‘just in case’ moments.
Take sunglasses and a raincoat
I’m not joking on this one. A raincoat and a pair of sunglasses will be of equal importance on your hike in Britain so make sure that you take both. You might feel ridiculous packing your hiking bag with items built for both rain and sunshine but trust me, you’ll be glad you found the space in your hiking bag when you experience Britain’s unpredictable weather system.
Take some extra clothing
I’ve already spoken about layers but if you’ve got the space in your hiking backpack then try to squeeze in some extra clothing. Depending on how high up your hiking, it is cooler and breezier at the summits (even in summer) so you’ll often find yourself feeling glad that you’ve got a thin jumper to throw on while you admire the view from the top of the mountain.
Once you reach the summits you’ll be glad that you squeezed your camera into your bag as the views, no matter where you are in the country will blow you away. On a clear day you can see for miles, so you’ll definitely want to snap a couple of photos before you begin your descent.
*Some clothing featured in this post was sent to me complimentary by Decathlon.
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