The Right Way to Hike

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The Right Way to Hike to stay on the #RightSideOfOutside

Hiking has become so popular over the last year with more and more people getting outside and enjoying new terrain. It’s great to see so many people getting into the mountains, but it’s not the same as a regular old walk, mountains are a different ball game altogether, you need to know the right way to hike. Don’t worry though, we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need to get you started on your journey so that you can make your way to the top safely – and of course, make it down again.

Comic Image of two people packing before a hiking trip

Preparation

Firstly, choose a walk that matches your ability – we know some people make it look easy and make mountains look like mole hills but the reality is it can be a long and sometimes difficult way to the top. Figure out the best route for your level of fitness and ability – you can use WalkNI to find this, by using the map on the homepage to search. It also helps to read other users’ walk reviews to make sure it’s right for you.

Check the weather forecast – it might be a lovely sunny day in the car park, but the weather can be a lot different when you’re up the mountains, and even more variable at the summit. There are some great apps to help you with this. We recommend: The Met Office, YR and Windy. These all provide forecasts for mountain summits, which is critical to know when you’re planning your activities.

The Met Office app tells what the temperature will feel like, taking into account the wind, and Windy allows you to see how strong the gusts will be, plus you can compare forecasts from five different sources. All three provide hourly predictions for rainfall. They’re still only forecasts, so you always need to be prepared for the weather to be potentially worse, but they allow you to plan you activities taking into account the most likely weather conditions.

Group of hikers sitting next to wall up Mourne Mountains with snowfall

Plan where to park your car – we know it seems obvious, but this is the first step for most people and if you don’t get a space, you might have to rethink your whole day out. We’ve got a full page of advice for this one that you can check out but, put simply, go early to get a space and have a plan B if your first destination is full. It might mean you take a different route that day but it also means you can get to enjoy the hills without circling a car park for an hour or having to abandon your plans and go home.

Car Park full with cars in every space

Wear appropriate clothing – again, this is an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at the number of people we have seen lately who have attempted a summit climb in just a t-shirt and shorts. As you go up and down the mountain, the weather and temperature can vary a lot. We advise you to carry light layers so that you can add or take away as you feel comfortable. Prepare for everything; you can get all four seasons in one day so it’s a good idea to prepare for heat, sun, rain and cold.

Wear sturdy footwear – good grip and a stiffer sole are important, we all remember those infamous hikers in flip flops and how well that turned out! Sturdy hiking boots or trainers will help you as the terrain changes throughout the hike. Make sure they’re comfortable and the correct fit, and always carry a few blister plasters just in case.

Legs overhanging from a rock showing their hiking boots

Bring enough water and food – Always overestimate how much food you’re going to need, but be reasonable, you’re not going to need the full contents of the fridge! Hiking can exert much more energy than you think so you’ll need the right amount of fuel and more. We recommend a sandwich or two, some fruit, sweets or chocolate and some trail mix  – ultimately it’s whatever is going to get you through. Energy bars are a great back up in case your hike goes on longer than expected. Don’t forget about your water. A good general recommendation is about a half-litre of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. You may need to increase how much you drink as the temperature and intensity of the activity rise. For example, strenuous hiking in high heat may require that you drink 1 litre of water or more per hour. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to fine-tune how much you drink. Keep your water handy and take small sips regularly.

Don’t forget your (charged) mobile phone in case of emergencies. If you’re planning to use your phone to get to your location, to take pictures etc. then please remember that this can eat into your battery life so it is important you leave enough battery in case of an emergency. We’re all about the ‘gram’ and getting that picture on the summit (if you didn’t get a picture did you really climb the mountain?) but if your selfie costs you your battery life and you need assistance, it won’t be getting many likes.

Avoid bringing dogs to the mountains – dogs are not welcome in most upland areas but the good news is that there are lots of alternative dog friendly walks to choose from. Upland areas are often home for livestock like sheep or cattle as well as wildlife such as low-lying nesting birds or badgers. Although your dog might normally be well behaved, they can scare these animals or disturb their nests causing them to fall ill or die. This is extremely important in lambing season which falls between February and April, however it may be longer than this.

It is also important to think about what your plan would be on how you would get back to your car if weather conditions turn bad. It might not be the same way down that you had planned.

Do you know what to do in an emergency?

  • Dial 999 and tell them you need mountain rescue

Other things to help are using what 3 words to find out your location and familiarising yourself with ASSIST – the Mourne Mountain Rescue plan for preparing for an accident in the outdoors.

To help you plan your day even further we’ve included some additional advice from Mountaineering Ireland and AdventureSmart.

 

Advice from Mountaineering Ireland

Mountaineering Ireland are the experts when it comes to the mountains and the hills. They know how to prepare and train for the best experience. On their website you will find some useful advice on planning your walk, what to bring with you, getting a weather forecast and who to call in an emergency. You will find some useful advice on planning your walk, what to bring with you, getting a weather forecast and who to call in an emergency.

They have a brilliant checklist that you can also use for your walks:

Checklist for what to bring on short and long hikes.

You can also check out their ‘Happy Hiking’ leaflet here.

Mountaineering Ireland have just produced a beautiful leaflet showing some of the flowers and wildlife you may come across in the mountains; being able to recognise some of these can add to the enjoyment you get from your day – (hard copies available free of charge at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre in the Mournes, or contact helen@mountaineering.ie).

Mountaineering Ireland are running a new campaign this year called ‘One From The Hills’. This is a challenge to all hillwalkers and climbers to remove one item of litter from the hills or crags each time they’re out. Read more about it here.

 

Advice from AdventureSmart

AdventureSmart logo

AdventureSmart is a simple way of figuring out if you are prepared enough to go for your hike. If you score 3/3 on these questions, off you go, have a fantastic day! If not, read on to find the answers you need to be kitted up and in the know to be safe!

Ask yourself the AdventureSmart 3 questions before you go:

  • Do I have the right GEAR?
  • Do I know what the WEATHER will be like?
  • Am I confident I have the KNOWLEDGE & SKILLSfor the day?

To find out more about these 3 questions and how to check if you really are prepared, check out the AdventureSmart website.