Here’s a list of recommended equipment that you should bring along even on easy or low-level walks. We appreciate that you may not want to spend a lot of money before your first hike, but remember that it’s your responsibility to be suitably dressed and equipped. If you show up for a hike in totally unsuitable gear for the weather and terrain you’re likely to encounter on the day, the walk leaders for that day may strongly recommend that you don’t come along. This is for the safety of both you and the rest of the group, so don’t be having a hissy fit 😉
• Sturdy Footwear
Proper walking boots are obviously the best footwear for hill walking, worn along with a thick pair of socks to help prevent blisters. If you don’t own a pair of hiking boots we recommend that you wear sturdy boots or shoes with good grip and ankle support. We don’t recommend trainers, flat-soled shoes, sandals, carpet slippers or stilettos, unless we’re doing a walk that is specifically described in the calendar as featuring paved footpaths or tarmac. It’s also a good idea to bring along a change of socks and a spare set of footwear: leave them in the car so you can change into them if your feet get wet during the hike.
• Warm Clothing
It’s better to wear several thin layers instead of one heavy item. This way you can regulate your temperature by removing or adding layers as required. We don’t recommend denim jackets or jeans as they get really heavy and uncomfortable when wet and take ages to dry out. Combats are a good alternative and they look hot too 😉 On cold or windy days bring a hat and gloves. Feather boas tend to get caught in barbed wire and brambles and will frighten away the sheep. It’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes and leave them in the car in case you get wet or mucky up the hills.
• Waterproof & Windproof Jacket
Hello? This is Northern Ireland, not Playa del Ingles, people! Just because it’s sunny in the morning doesn’t mean it won’t be pissing down by lunchtime, so always bring a coat. Even on warm days, it can be surprisingly cold when you gain a bit of altitude and the wind starts blowing, or when you sit down to have your lunch.
• Waterproof Over-Trousers
Not strictly necessary but you’ll really appreciate them on rainy days or during sudden downpours. They’re also handy if you end up sitting on the grass when you’re having lunch – nobody likes a soggy arse.
Another useful but non-essential piece of kit… great for walking through wet undergrowth, protecting your shins from brambles etc…
• Drinking Water
Those beautiful, bubbling brooks and cool, gushing streams are, in actual fact, nature’s urinal. There’s a good chance that the crystal-clear water has been filtered through through a couple of dead sheep as well. So unless you like a bit of yellow hanky-panky, bring plenty of water with you and don’t dring from mountain streams!
Mixing alcohol with hill walking is a really bad idea, so don’t show up for a walk under the influence of alcohol, and don’t bring alcohol with you on the walk (no matter how decadent you want to appear!). There will be plenty of opportunities for a drink afterwards, there’s nearly always a get-together at somewhere convenient after we’ve finished our hike.
• Packed Lunch
All our walks will have a stop for lunch around the half-way point: bring something light so you don’t get a stitch on the way down the mountain, but make it nutritious (a Mars bar and a tin of Coke isn’t going to be enough). A flask of hot tea is a good idea too – you’ll be surprised how quickly you feel the cold when you sit down, even on a sunny day.
VERY IMPORTANT: Bring all your litter home with you, including the remains of your lunch, whether you think it is biodegradable or not. Fruit peelings, banana skins, apple cores and sandwich crusts are litter too – you wouldn’t be very happy if they were thrown into your front garden so don’t leave them behind up the mountains.
• Sun Screen
If, like me, you’re cursed with fair hair (I just can’t bring myself to use the word “ginger”) and a tendency to get freckles if the brightness is turned up too high on your TV, then you’ll understand the need for sun protection. Even darker haired people will burn quickly when in the hills and mountains, and not just on sunny days either – cream up or you’ll end up looking like a wrinkled old prune…
• Insect Repellent
As soon as you sit down to enjoy your picnic, you’ll have a swarm annoying pests buzzing around, getting into your mouth and crawling through your hair. So whether it’s midges or simply other hikers who’ve forgotten to bring their own sandwiches, some form of insect repellent is invaluable.
Please check the site if you intend to bring man’s best friend along for a walk, as dogs may be prohibited in some locations (usually due to the presence of livestock). If you can’t bring pets it will say so in the walk description. Make sure he’s suitably restrained where necessary and remember that you will be expected to clean up after you pet, so bring whatever you need to facilitate this and never allow them to foul footpaths or areas that would be suitable for picnics or where children might play.