Having the right kit in your rucksack will not only make your walk more enjoyable but also keep you safe. I spent years trying to find the perfect kit list before realising there’s no such thing. Every walk is different and you should tailor what you carry accordingly – you don’t need to carry suncream on a rainy day in November, for instance. There are, however, some things I’d never be without and I make sure I have them all in the ‘sack by doing a quick SWANS check before setting off:
S – Safety
You should always pack a first aid kit (see here for my favourite), survival blanket and whistle. A small head torch wouldn’t go amiss either; it’s amazing how quickly it gets dark in the hills. Hopefully you’ll never need these but they should be seen as fundamental pieces of kit to carry on every trip. Put the first aid kit and survival blanket in a dry bag and you’ll always have them to hand. I like to clip my whistle to my rucksack so it’s close by.
W – Waterproofs
A decent waterproof jacket makes being out in torrential rain only mildly irritating, as opposed to truly miserable. It’s your protection from the elements and a decent jacket is never a bad investment. Waterproof over-trousers can be a bit grim to wear and they will hopefully spend more time in your rucksack than on your legs but you’ll be glad you’ve got them when the heavens open.
A – Additional clothes
This is something which changes throughout the seasons but think of this as ‘an extra layer in case it’s a bit colder on the tops than you were expecting’. As a bare minimum, I always carry a fleece gilet in the warmer months and swap this for a down jacket in the cooler months for when I stop for a rest. I almost always have a woolly hat, gloves and snood in there too, except on the warmest of Summer days.
N – Navigation
Always carry a map and compass and know how to use them. You don’t have to be a navigation ninja to enjoy being outside but being able to appreciate where you are on a map and the different points on a compass will make all the difference when the mist comes in.
S – Sustenance
While it’s quite possible for your safety equipment, waterproofs, additional clothes and map to stay in your rucksack all day, any decent hill walk will require that you dig out the odd Mars bar. Make sure you pack enough food and water and take a little bit more for emergencies.