Weather conditions can and do change extremely quickly, even on lower level hills and leisurely walks and it is essential to be fully prepared for and have the necessary kit to deal with potential changes.The following items are normally regarded as essential for any lower level trails; hill walks or forest trails in Ireland/UK:
Low volume, lightweight, durable. Nothing too fancy, just suitable to carry everything you require for the day.
Waterproof / windproof jacket and over trousers:
Wet is the enemy of warmth, so decent waterproofs are vital – (breathable fabric recommended but not essential).
Warm inner base layer:
Cotton is not good and jeans are particularly cold when wet – it is best to avoid both. A sports type base layer of moisture wicking material works best such as a sports jersey, jogging or gym top. This will help evaporate off any sweat and stop you feeling the chill on breaks. Cotton doesn’t allow this to happen and when damp, stays damp!
Warmth layers i.e. fleece/shirt/sweater: Insulating layers like fleeces are important to keep you warm. It is better to wear several relatively thin layers than a single thick one so you can more easily adjust your temperature.
The choice of footwear depends on the seriousness and steepness of the route, but good quality, good fitting comfortable boots (without a heel or steel toe!) are probably the most important part of your kit. Trail shoes/trainers though not recommended, will suffice but be aware they do not support and protect the feet and ankles adequately and do not have the more aggressive and better grip on the soles that modern light-weight mountain walking boots do. Flat soled shoes are NOT acceptable.
A good pair of hiking socks can make all the difference between an enjoyable hike and an uncomfortable one. The best walking socks are high wicking, meaning they move moisture away from your feet to help regulate temperature and keep them dry to prevent blisters.
Head wear: Warm hat or wide rimmed sun hat / peaked cap depending on the season, sun protection, lip balm.
Adequate amount of drink:
You will require at least a litre. A sweet sugary drink is always a welcome treat and perhaps a flask of hot drink in colder weather.
Lunch and snacks:
Enough but no need to overdo it as remember, you have to carry it all!
The following are also recommended but not essential:
– Walking Pole/Poles: Assist forward movement, reduce impact on your knees, and help with balance in difficult, uneven and boggy terrain. A pair is best but many hikers also just use one.
– Re-sealable plastic bags to keep equipment/phones dry
– Sit Mat
– Sun Glasses
– Sun Cream