10 Top Tips for Long Distance Walking
These are my top tips for anyone trying to complete a multi-week long distance walk. I’m sure I could think of more, or maybe you can. If so – then feel free to share them with me.
- Don’t Think Too Far Ahead: Try to set small targets. Within each day set hourly or small distance targets – particularly when the walking is tedious or featureless. When considering upcoming route details look no more than a few days ahead, enough to be able to compensate and maybe adjust to even out tough and easier days. When considering logistics think of weeks at a time. Only think of the whole project when making your initial plans, if you think that big when you are actually walking it can easily overload your mind.
- Comfortable Boots: It might seem silly to put this as a top tip, but if they don’t fit like slippers then trouble will brew very quickly. It’s not the brand name that counts nor the slightly dubious personal reviews you often see. It’s your choice. Just make sure that they do not even mildly pinch, squeeze, slip or flap in any way whatsoever. Only after comfort has been assured should durability, weight and waterproof qualities come into consideration. Remember that despite what you may have heard, boots are more likely to break your feet in before you break them in.
- Wear Multi-purpose Clothing: Do you want to keep taking off layers and putting them on again? Do you want to carry more than you wear? If the answer is no, then consider lightweight thin layers and maybe a windshirt. For nearly 90% of my walk I wore one top-notch base layer and a thin top quality windshirt. The only layers I ever put on or took off were my waterproofs. For cold weather I just added another base layer, long johns, gloves, a hat and a buff. Regulating temperature was often easily done by removing my gloves and / or the hat.
- Get a Good Weather Forecast EVERY DAY & Learn to Read the Weather: With decent technology and quality phone apps there really is no excuse for not knowing what to expect these days. Just make sure you check the forecast at both ends of your day and as late before setting out as you practically can, you’d be surprised how much it can change. Watching the approaching clouds is definitely worthwhile even if it only gives you a few minutes warning to put those waterproofs on or to find cover. Getting caught in a winter white-out, a hailstorm or a heavy thunderstorm is not the wisest thing to do on the planet.
- Moisturise Your Feet: As a child I was taught to soak my feet in surgical spirit to toughen them up. Noooooo! Modern thinking now tells us to moisturise them and keep everything nice and supple. This really does work and there are some manly proprietary creams out there for those who might be shy about buying the stuff. I tried to do this at least once a week.
- Catch Blister Development: Blisters can develop in a matter of minutes. So if you feel a hotspot in your feet or something rubbing or digging in, stop ASAP. A minor adjustment in your socks or boot lacing could make all the difference.
- Keep Essentials Accessible: Snacks, drinks, camera, GPS/maps, iPod, minor cash were my essentials and they all went in my rucksack side pockets or trouser / windshirt pockets. I might add to that little list if weather dictated a need for sun-cream or hat and gloves. The last thing you want to have to do is keep taking the rucksack off to find something quickly. And if the weather closes in put the less weatherproof items inside small plastic sandwich bags.
- Look Back Often: Sometimes the view from the opposite direction is even better. Don’t miss it.
- Don’t Stop When Climbing a Steep Hill: Stopping just drags it out, unless you really can’t do it.
- Don’t Go Too Fast: That’s when you will give yourself blisters, overstress bones and potentially slip or fall over. Find a comfortable rhythm for you and stick to it.