Heading into the Hills – The Basics
There are so many amazing places to explore and they can be enjoyed to the max if you’re well prepared. In this post we are going to share everything you need to know to get out and enjoy the hills and Mountains of the UK safely.
The Metoffice or Mountain Weather Information Service have up to date forecasts specifically for mountainous areas and are worth checking before heading out for the day. You should carry different kit depending on the forecast, We’ll look at this in the ‘kit list’ below.
Remember, for every 100m height you gain, the temperature goes down by 1c, add wind-chill to that and it can be pretty chilly on the tops. Throw in a bit of unexpected rain and a forgotten waterproof and a lovely day out can turn into a bit of a nightmare.
What to Wear
It’s not uncommon to see people on top of a mountain in horrendous weather wearing jeans and converse trainers, they generally don’t get back to the car with a smile on their face. Outdoor clothing doesn’t have to cost the earth but can make a world of difference when it comes to enjoying your time outside. Local retailers as well as Decathlon and Cotswold Outdoors do a variety of clothing and equipment for a range of needs and budgets.
A general rule of thumb is NO DENIM OR COTTON. Here’s our realistic basic recommendations:
- Warm and Wicking top layers – Sports tops and fleeces are perfect.
- Fast drying, light trousers – Walking trousers or lighter tracksuit bottoms are great.
- Thick socks that show above the ankle of your boots – fluffy bed socks aren’t very comfortable but sports socks or ski socks are fine. Just be sure to try your boots on with them before going out on a 10mile stomp.
- Walking boots or shoes – These are worth having a decent pair of, go to an outdoor retailer and try out a few pairs. Think about what you need – Waterproof, full ankle protection, the flexibility of the boot. Talk to the guys in the shop, they’re generally pretty knowledgeable.
- Waterproofs – things to look for when buying waterproofs;
- Taped Seams – Looks like tape stuck along all of the seams
- Waterproof – Is it waterproof, of just water resistant?
- Does it have a hood? – You want a hood!
- Is it a ski Jacket? – you’ll get too hot if it is!
Here’s our ‘never go out without it’ List, there are a few exceptions/variations below that are weather or venue dependant.
- Comfortable rucksack, preferably with a waist strap
- Map and Compass
- Waterproof Jacket and Trousers
- Spare Fleece or Insulated Jacket
- Woolly Hat, Buff and gloves
- First Aid kit (Able to cope with blisters, blood, breaks, sprains incl. pain killers and duct tape!)
- 1 Litre minimum Water
- Food plus extra snacks/sweets
- Small shelter, orange bivvy sack or at the least a foil blanket.
- Portable phone charger and cable for emergencies.
- A dry bag to keep clothes/electrics dry. A carrier bag does a pretty good job if you don’t want to invest in one.
A few variations
- Really Hot and Sunny, 0% chance of precipitation
- Extra Water, 2 litres plus
- leave out the waterproof trousers
- Sunhat and sunglasses instead of Wool hat and gloves.
- Snow or Cold weather forecast
- Hot Flask
- A few extra Layers
- Spare gloves
Need to know skills
Simple use of a Compass
The red arrow always points North.
Hold it flat on your hand and line up the red arrows so they both line up. If you have your hand flat and fingers facing North you should have South Behind you, east on your left and West on the right.
Apply it – You’re at a footpath junction, the footpath shown on the map goes east. Use the compass to identify the correct path.
Starting out with an OS Map
Familiarise yourself with the map key. Knowing the kety features oif your map is important. Slow down when youre learning to navigate and identify ‘catchment features’ that you will see whwen you arrive at the next check point.
Apply it – Plan a route and identify everything you will see along the way. For example: I will go up this hill, the stream will be on the left, I’ll cross the boundary at the corner of the woods and after 1 mile I will arrive at the car park on my right.
The orange lines all over the map are contours and they can take a bit of getting used to when it comes to navigation. The main thing you need to know is that each contour shows a height change and allows you to determine whether you are going up or down at any point. Ordinance Survey have a great article about the use of contour lines here.
Regularly check your map to stop yourself going too far from your designated route and make a habit of stopping and relocating at obvious features such as a river, crossing a boundary and path junctions.
If you find yourself unsure of your location there are a few things you can do to relocate yourself.
- Retrace your steps back to your last know location.
- Use features in the landscape around you to identify where you are.
- Use features on the map to help you find yourself again. eg. If there is a wall that runs along the east of you or at the top of the hill, follow your compass to find the wall and then follow the wall to a specific location such as a path.
- Use the OS Locate App to help you pin point your location on your OS Map with a grid reference.
Always tell somebody where you are going, including details of your route and what time you plan on getting back.
If in doubt, you can always do one of the many outdoor courses available around the country, or get out with some friends that are able to show you the ropes before venturing into the hills on your own.
we may like to get away from them every once in a while but they’re a brilliant tool when you’re outside. Just be sure to protect it from the elements, carry a power pack and remember that signal isn’t always available. We recommend the OS Locate App, this allows you to get a fairly accurate 6 figure grid reference and altitude reading, great for checking on your navigation abilities or in an emergency. You can also buy and download OS maps onto your mobile which can be very useful.
In an Emergency
Contacting Mountain Rescue should not be taken lightly, they are an all voluntary organisation of local mountaineers. If you cannot take care of the situation yourself, note your location, Call 999 and ask for the police, they are the ones that have the authority to call out MR. You can (and should) also register you mobile to be able to contact the emergency service via text message, which is great when you’re going to areas that have poor signal, making a phone call difficult but a text possible. Simply text ‘register’ to 999 and you will receive a follow up message. Click here for more information.