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Some of my Personal Thoughts on Long Distance Walking


Whatever you do, don't get all your clothes wet

Rule 1. Keep dry clothing for the evening, especially if you're camping. This could save your life in bad conditions. Keep some dry stuff in a plastic bag in your pack, and get a pack cover. When you head out in the morning, put your wet clothes back on. If it's dry, they'll dry with your body heat anyway. If it's wet, they'll get wet anyway. If you get all your clothes wet and you have to camp out in bad weather, you could be in trouble, so listen to Uncle Ian.

Everyone knows you need comfortable boots for walking, with ankle support, which rules out trainers. If you're reading this, you've probably already got some, but if not, go and get some and wear them in before setting off. These days, many people use walking poles and several swear by them. I tried them for the first time in June 2016. I have to admit I liked them, and I recommend adjustable ones so you can change the length - short for ascending and long for descending. My arms were satisfyingly tired at the end of a day's walking, meaning that I'd reduced the load on my deteriorating knees. On multi day trips, I don't carry the extra weight of a full change of clothing for the evening - I wear one of my spare dry T shirts, a lightweight pair of trousers and sit around in the bar in my socks attracting funny looks from "normal" customers.


The big question is waterproofs. Weather forecasts these days are very reliable, and weather radar allows you to spot approaching rain and head for the nearest pub. For a single day walk, I believe that expensive waterproofs are a luxury, as if bad weather is forecast you simply don't go! However, for a 500 mile walk such as the Wild Yorkshire Way, it's inevitable that you'll get some rain, so you'll need a good quality breathable jacket and possibly over-trousers. Don't expect to stay perfectly dry - you'll sweat even under the best quality fabric. You'll also get wet while you're fiddling about putting your over-trousers on when it starts raining, so make sure you get some which you can put on over your boots. Many people dispense with over-trousers and simply let their legs get wet.

Under your waterproofs, the big principle is LAYERS. Several thin layers can be adjusted for all weathers. Next to your skin, spend a bit more for sweat-wicking odour-cancelling T shirts and underwear, which can be of great social benefit when meeting people in pubs along the route. They can also be washed by hand in hotel rooms or (without soap) rinsed through in mountain streams. If you're lucky enough to get a hotel room with a Jacuzzi bath, you can make a very effective washing machine (tip: there's one in Malham). Make sure you've got something wind-proof for when it's cold and windy, but not raining. In winter, take a fleece hat and gloves. In summer take a baseball cap against the sun. Get some gaiters, especially when wallowing in black porridge on Saddleworth Moor or Little Whernside.

Rule 2. Keep dry clothing for the evening. And don't wear jeans. They look good, but they don't like getting wet. If they do, they'll weigh 8 tons, strangle your thighs and take 2 years to dry.