The list of items you could, should or would like to take hill walking can go on and on and on. But all hill walkers and mountaineers will have their own "must haves" that they grab as soon as they know they're heading on a trip. I have listed below my personal top 5 items I MUST take with me hill walking. Whether it's to ensure a happy and safe trip, or whether it's something that would help in an emergency, these 5 items (in no particular order) are the first to be shoved into my backpack when getting ready for a hike:
1) First Aid Kit
For me this always includes: plasters (a lot of them), painkillers, antiseptic, bandages and safety pins. Safety pins are just a godsend for quick fixes of any sort! I also include an emergency foil blanket in here too. Not quite first aid, but you never know when you might be trapped overnight and need to keep warm in rough conditions.
I always make this a must after heading up Schiehallion with my Dad, and getting surrounded by a horrific dark cloud when at the top, then heading back down with the sun chasing us, Both of us turned to each other and said "have you brought a torch? I haven't". *facepalm* Never again. We were lucky to just reach the bottom before the sun set, but it could have been a dangerous walk back down in the dark if we hadn't!
3) A Pair of Decent Boots
Boots can make or break your hike, particularly a long one. If you buy new boots, try and break them in as much as possible before you head on a large trip, by wearing them around the house or to and from work, for example. This softens the fabric and lets your get used to the way the boots feel. It also means that if you really don't take to the boots, you've got time to grab another pair.
WATER = SURVIVAL. The basis of your survival in day to day life relies on keeping hydrated, and when you're exerting yourself in physical exercise, you'll need a hell of a lot more water than you may think! I recommend a water hydration pack, and this makes it very easy to drink while on the go, as if you're having to faff around with a water bottle, you may find you're not drinking as much as you should be. If you're staying overnight, try to camp near a water source, such as a stream, if possible. That way you can easily boil water from the source, to make it drinkable, rather than rationing a supply you brought from home.
5) Compass and Map (Okay, technically two items, but they're like a package deal)
Always recommended for any walk, but particularly mountain and hill walking. This is because it can sometimes be unclear where the path lies, particularly heading back down. Even where the hill or mountain has a clear path, weather can change fast, and if clouds roll in quick and cover your view of the path ahead, you'll need a map and compass to guide you.
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