Walking Gear

I’m not one for gear, at least not ostentatious gear like walking poles or fancy boots. I’ve always liked Walking rather than Hiking or Trekking – you don’t need much more than a comfortable pair of shoes for Walking. Most of the walks I’ve described in this blog have been just that – walks, just with some longer than others.

But there are times when a walker needs proper gear, whether it’s footwear or outerwear or packs or water bottles. I’ve written previously about my bucket list of walks, and starting this year I want to try at least one of the Big Walks I’ve been planning. That means it’s time to invest in some proper gear.

As I plan these Big Walks, I’ve realized that I’m going to need certain things:

  • Footwear
  • Pack
  • Walking poles
  • Clothing
  • Support stuff – hydration, rain gear, etc.

Footwear is obvious and it’s something I’ve focused on up until now. Generally I just looked for a good pair of running shoes, but for these long walks which will include significant amounts of trails and off-road terrain, I need a good pair of boots. I have a few criteria for these: good arch and ankle support; well structured/cushioned footbeds; water resistance; durability; comfort and breathability; and room for the custom orthotics I need to wear.

For the pack, I did some research and some thinking about what I will need to carry. It came down to the types of long walks I’ll do – will these be wilderness walks where I’ll need sleeping and camping gear? I’ve decided against that. My long walks will be based around finding accommodation at B&Bs, inns, and so on, so I just need to carry clothes, water, food, and some support stuff. That means a a pack in the 30L – 40L range should work. I also want features like easy access pockets, waist belt pockets, water bottle storage, loops for poles, water resistance, durability, comfort, and light weight.

Then comes walking poles. I’ve never been one who used poles, but I’ve read enough to know that they really make a difference when carrying weight. I want poles that are lightweight, quick to breakdown and assemble, comfortable to grip, adjustable yet sturdy, and water resistant so they won’t rust.

For clothing I’ve assembled quite a bit over the years. I have a collection of light, sweat-wicking training gear, compression socks, light clothes that fold tightly yet look dressy enough for dinner, fleecies, hats, and so on. I’ve also read about the benefits of using natural fibres, especially light silks and merino wools, which wick away sweat yet rinse out and dry quickly, and are good for the environment because they are made of biodegradable materials.

Finally, the support stuff is also important. Hydration for me is just a couple of water bottles which I already have. I find water bladders that go into your pack to be too fiddly to fill and keep clean. I’ll also need things like a compact first aid kit, a blister kit, sewing kit, and eating utensils. Rain gear is a must, especially when I start walking in the UK. And of course, you can always find a use for a good old Swiss Army knife like the one I’ve had for 30+ years.

All that adds up to a significant investment – I have budgeted about $1000 CAD for my gear. I’m hoping it will be repaid in the walks I’ll be able to do more comfortably, and over the coming months I’ll post about the gear I’ve chosen and how it performs.

Walking Books

There have been many books written about walking – the techniques of walking, the destinations, the journey, the effort, the spirituality, and so on, and there will likely be many more to come. This is a by no means exhaustive list of those books in English which I have read and which have inspired me. I’ll update this list from time to time as I come across new ones. Let me know which books about walking have inspired you.

Author/TitleDescription
Author: Bill Bryson
Title: A Walk in the Woods
ISBN: 0385-408161
Comic, instructive, insightful, and far better than the film made of the book. Read it and draw inspiration from a middle aged guy who found the determination to walk the entire Appalachian Trail.
Author: Nick Hunt
Title: Walking the Woods and the Water
ISBN: 978-1-85788-643-6
The subtitle is “In Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn”. Wonderfully well-written, charming, inspirational
Author: Nick Hunt
Title: Where the Wild Winds Are
ISBN:978-1-85788-656-6
A follow-up to his previous book, walking in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor. In this new book, he walks about Europe tracing the paths of famous winds – the Foehn, the Mistral, and more.
Authors: Lonely Planet
Title: Epic Hikes of the World
ISBN: 978-1-78701-417-6
A candy store of a book, with more than a hundred walks worthy of your bucket list. Dip into it on a rainy winter’s evening and make your plans.
Author: Barry Stone
Title: The 50 Greatest Walks of the World
ISBN: 978-178578-063-9
A subjective listing, of course, and somewhat overly interested in walks in Europe, but nevertheless it covers not just the biggies – the Camino de Santiago, the Appalachian Trail, etc. – but also many lesser known, shorter walks that are bucket listable and achievable by the average walker.
Author: Levison Wood

Title: Walking the Nile

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2633-7
An account of a walk the length of the Nile river. The journey is fascinating, the people he meets are more so, and the landscape is bucket-list stuff.