It can be tricky knowing what to pack for a day walk if you’re new to walking or walking in unfamiliar territory. You don’t want to be weighed down with too much but if you pack too little or the wrong things, you may end up lost, hungry and wet. If I’m only sauntering out for a couple of hours, I do nothing more than see if I need a coat, slip my phone in my pocket and set off. But, if you’re going out for longer, you need to be a little more prepared.
We started our first long distance walk along The Thames Path with everything stuffed into the capacious pockets of our farm coats but soon learnt that a thoughtfully packed rucksack was more comfortable and made the walking easier.
This is a list of what’s packed in my rucksack for a full day of walking on reasonably gentle terrain (rather than walking in mountains or in remote and wild places) in the British countryside; there’ll be things that I consider essential that you may think frivolous and vice versa, but I hope you’ll find it a good starting point.
- Contact Details
- Mobile Phone
- Food & Water
- First Aid Kit
- Waterproof Clothing
- Torch & Whistle
- Spare Laces
- Light Shoes
Write your phone number on a slip of paper and tuck it into your rucksack in case you lose it. It’s also useful to add the phone number of someone who should be contacted if there’s an emergency.
Who wouldn’t take a full charged phone, especially as it can also act as camera, torch, compass, map, timetable checker, note taker and much more?
I always take a paper map, usually an Ordnance Survey Explorer map but sometimes just a print out, because I’m nosy and want to know where I’m going and what’s on the horizon and be able to change my route. I use a highlighter to mark the route to make it easy to pick out. If you also take a compass, you can check your position.
I also have the OS app on my phone but tend to use that only when I’m hopelessly lost as I don’t want to drain my battery. If you’re planning to walk in remote places with indistinct landscape features like a moor, you might want to invest in a hand-held GPS device and conversely, if you’re on a well signposted trail, you can probably manage with a guide book that includes good maps.
FOOD & WATER
A stainless steel one litre water bottle is usually all I need unless it’s a hot day and if necessary, I refill it as I walk. Water points are often marked in guide books, ask at a pub or shop, look in the churchyard for a tap or use the Refill app.
We usually take a packed lunch when we’re walking as a lunch stop in a pub or cafe (if we can find one open) can take an age. Something solid like a filled huffer roll (safely enclosed in a beeswax wrap) is ideal as it can withstand being squashed or tipped upside down in the rucksack. I also carry harvest bars or nuts, fruit and a rubbish bag, even if we’re planning to eat in a pub.
FIRST AID KIT
The First Aid Kit is one of those things that I pack but hope never to use. My kit is very basic and contains only blister plasters, antiseptic wipes, wound dressing pads, micropore tape and a penknife.
I (nearly) always take a lightweight waterproof coat that folds down into a small pack even if a sunny day is forecast though I only pack my waterproof trousers when rain is possible.
TORCH & WHISTLE
I’ve only used the torch to get back to the B&B from the pub in the evening but, even if we are going straight home after the walk, it’s good to have a torch in case the walk takes longer than anticipated. I hope never to blow the whistle to attract attention, but it seems foolish to leave it behind as it takes up so little space.
It’s good sense to pack a spare pair of bootlaces when they have so many uses like tying walking poles to your rucksack, replacing broken straps and (probably) 101 other things.
I have a lightweight sarong for unexpectedly windy/cold/sunny days as extra protection. It’s also good to sit on while eating lunch, can be used as a towel and could be fashioned into a bag to carry things.
At the end of a long walk it’s good to take off my walking boots and wear a pair of flip flops, especially if we have a long journey home on the train. The downside is that my walking boots don’t fit into my small daypack, but I can tie them on or carry them in a bag.
Most of these things stay in my rucksack all the time, so I don’t have to hunt around for them whenever we decide to go walking. However, batteries run out, first aid supplies go out of date and handwipes dry out, so it’s a good idea to empty the rucksack and check the contents regularly. Not to mention delving to the bottom to retrieve empty sweet wrappers. Or worse, unwrapped sticky sweets.
If you’re all packed up but aren’t sure where to walk, try these inspirational long distance walks.