What To Pack In Your Rucksack For A Day Walk

 

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.

 

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.

DAYPACK ESSENTIALS

Rucksack essentials for a day walk
  • Contact Details
  • Mobile Phone
  • Map
  • Food & Water
  • First Aid Kit
  • Waterproof Clothing
  • Torch & Whistle
  • Spare Laces
  • Scarf
  • Light Shoes

CONTACT DETAILS

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.

MOBILE PHONE

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?

MAP

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.

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.

WATERPROOF CLOTHING

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.

SPARE BOOTLACES

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.

SCARF/SARONG

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.

LIGHT SHOES

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.

 

 


View from Monarch's Way

An Escape

During our walks along long distance paths in England, we’ve often merged with or crossed The Monarch’s Way and eventually, we decided to discover more about this path, which appeared in so many places.

I’m sure that at some time in my schooldays I studied the Civil War and the flight of Charles II from England, but I regret that I am woefully ignorant of the period. Following a little research (if ploughing through a rather tedious Georgette Heyer novel counts as research), I now know that after a heavy defeat at The Battle of Worcester 1651 and with a price on his head, Charles II spent six weeks hotly pursued by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces as he tried to escape to France. His journey was circuitous as he first headed north, then doubled back down to the south coast and finally across the downs to Shoreham and The Monarch’s Way is a 615 mile footpath based on this escape.

 

Monarch's Way Worcester canal

We thought this walk would keep us busy for a while, so made a start earlier this month. We walked from Old Powick Bridge, just south of Worcester, in glorious April sunshine along the banks of the Rivers Teme and Severn into the hustle and bustle of the city and then headed northwards along the towpath of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which was busy with boats, fishermen, cyclists and dog walkers. We watched the fisherman, sat firmly on their stools with their copious paraphernalia spread within arms’ reach, as they picked bait from their varied selection and then used a catapult to send it flying to the other side of the canal where their line dipped into the water. I was hoping they might mistake their packed lunch for bait and catapult a sandwich across the water or pop a maggot in their mouth but it didn’t happen. Fishing remains a great mystery to me. Leaving that canal and skirting a rather unlovely industrial area we returned to the countryside and finally walked along the towpath of the sleepy Droitwich canal into Droitwich Spa.

Westwood House, Droitwich Spa from The Monarch's Way

The following day we headed out across the fields, past the impressive Westwood House, around numerous fishing lakes, had a chat with a man about ducks as we tried to find our way out of a nature reserve, followed the footpath from the road through a gate in the wall into a private garden where it ran for about ten metres and then emerged back onto the road (which was very strange), across a point-to-point course where they were putting up the rails for the forthcoming races, past a beautifully kept community orchard and into the village of Chaddesley Corbett. For once, our timing was perfect as we arrived bang on lunch time and the pub was open; normally we arrive too early, too late or the pub is shut. After a swift lunch (we were the only customers) we headed off through more green countryside, up and along a ridge with views across Worcestershire and to the West Midlands and finally into Hagley. An enjoyable start to The Monarch’s Way.

Next time we walk the path, we have a dilemma. The first two days were ideal for us – walking through villages and beautiful countryside, exploring a small city and both days there was a railway station conveniently close to the start and finish. The next few sections of the trail are less appealing as they include miles of urban pavement walking, a long stretch of rural road walking and an area with no regular public transport. We are walking for pleasure, not through a desire to retrace the royal escape route nor to tick off a completed long distance trail, so I think we will probably skip a chunk of the trail. It feels a little like cheating but I can’t see the point of walking where I don’t want to be when there are so many places that I do want to explore.

Would you grit your teeth and do the whole thing properly or would you ignore the official trail and walk your own shortened route?


A Little in Love

 

I have fallen a little in love with Devon, though in truth, if you walk through any part of the countryside at this time of the year, it’s difficult not to be smitten when everywhere is green and verdant and the hedgerows and verges froth with blossom and wild flowers.

 

Devon Coast to Coast Path near Wembury

 

Bill had a big birthday to celebrate this year and as he decided how best to celebrate, he remembered a conversation we had last year on the West Highland Way when another walker enthused over his recent walk along the Devon Coast to Coast Path. The path runs between Wembury Beach on the south coast and Lynmouth on the north, passing across Dartmoor and Exmoor, so we decided to walk part of this and also look around the area where the Wheaton family came from.

 

coins in tree trunk 2 Moors Way

Despite the rain, Devon was glorious. We found the farm where Bill’s family farmed nearly two hundred years ago and walked just over a hundred miles through the Devon countryside. We found sculptures on river islands, tree trunks embedded with coins and a giant photo of a family tree hanging in a tree.

 

Exmoor 2 Moors Way

 

I’m glad I walked through the wilds of Dartmoor with its granite tors and boggy ground (I managed to sink my foot below the top of my boot in a wet muddy patch) though rather like The Fens, I don’t feel the need to walk any part again. In contrast, Exmoor (above) seemed less harsh than Dartmoor with easy to walk wide open ridges and steep sided combes covered in trees.

 

Mid Devon on 2 Moors Way

My favourite part of the walk was the middle section where we could stand on a hill and look across the patchwork of fields and woodland. We walked alongside rivers and down lanes banked with wild flowers that led to tiny villages with thatched cottages so different in design to our steeply pitched Essex thatch.

 

Lynmouth from 2 Moors Way

With the exception of our diversion into Widecombe, which was a big mistake, the joy of this walk was the quietness and feeling that we were miles and miles away from everyone and everything for so much of the day. No traffic noise or planes flying above. No phone signal or public transport.

Having visited the area where Bill’s Great Great Grandmother was born, I think that when I reach the grand old age of 60 we should visit the place that my Great Great Grandmother was born. It seems only fair don’t you think? Especially since she was born in South Australia.

Lynmouth

If you’re interested in walking The Devon Coast to Coast Path (Two Moors Way), go for it.