When you go hiking, choosing the right equipment to bring is probably the most critical factor. Hiking equipment consists of the clothes you choose to wear, the hiking backpack you carry, the boots on your feet, and the supplies you bring with you.
Waterproof trousers from Helly Hansen, Rab down jacket from Snow + Rock, boots from Keen
It often baffles me when I see people go hiking in shorts on even some of the most backwoods trails. There have been some relatively rocky, open mountain paths that I wouldn’t mind wearing shorts on, but on any type of grassy or wooded trail, long pants are a must. Also, DO THESE CRAZY PEOPLE NOT FEEL THE COLD?! But seriously, they protect you from scrapes, contact with poisonous plants, and most importantly, contact with pests. The last thing you want is to get a tick on you and risk contracting Lyme disease. I couldn’t recommend the Helly Hansen waterproof trousers enough. They managed to keep me dry, despite being almost constantly in rain for entire week, no ticks and under £100 – 5 stars!
They type of shirt you wear also depends on the conditions of the trail. The best materials, even for cold weather, are those that are used for runners and other athletes. Light weight, synthetic fabrics that wick away sweat from your body. Trust me, you’ll soon warm up trekking up a mountain! That said, at the summit and on the way down can be really cold! I have a Rab down jacket from Snow + Rock (under £200!) that I wear underneath my Helly Hansen shell and it keeps me super toasty. There’s nothing worse than freezing your butt off on top of a mountain.
A hat is extremely important, rain or shine! Whilst you probably don’t need to worry too much about sunstroke on Ben Nevis, you’ll need to keep warm. You loose so much body heat through your head, so wrap up warm. I also wear buff to keep my face warm, which is perfect for protecting your face against harsh winds. To be honest, I even wore it to bed some nights.
The best hiking boots are those designed specifically for going hiking. I have tried many times to go for a hike in running shoes or cross trainers, but always end up with terribly sore feet. Invest in a pair of some of the best hiking shoes, and your feet will thank you in the days following your hike. Expect to spend anywhere between £100-300, but trust me when I say that they are well worth it.
Make sure you break them in before you go away on a long trip though! I did this during our wild camping adventure in Dartmoor just a few months before, you can read about it here.
We camped on Ben Nevis for three nights, so we needed to take all our kit with us up the mountain. However, it wasn’t easy carrying 1/3 of my weight on my back (hence why on our second day, when we summited, we left them at camp).
If you’re taking a larger bag with you, don’t forget to take a small rucksack with you, too! I’d got a great little expedition dry bag that folds up and sits in the bottom of my bag. I fill it with cold water and a few snacks, depending on how long we are out on the mountain for. I also carry small, portable first aid kit, mobile phone (contained in a plastic zip-lock bag to prevent any damage), and a map of the hiking trail.
Other Hiking Equipment
Hiking poles are nice, but not really necessary at all unless you expect to climb steep slopes, or need a little bit of extra support when you are walking. If you’re climbing Ben Nevis, I’d recommend picking up a pair before you go. I’ve got a set from Komperdell and they took so much weight off my knees and gave me the extra support I needed when maneuvering the trials. They also fold up and fit neatly in the side pocket of my rucksack!
Hikers should also always carry a handheld GPS unit (or at least a map and compass to prevent getting lost). You may even consider a GPS emergency locator system… just in case.