What’s stopping you?

For a long time a few things stopped me getting into hiking. It was something that I only did as part of a group whilst on a rare adventure in a far flung country, or with other more ‘outdoorsy’ friends. It didn’t occur to me that I could jump on a train by myself and go for a beautiful walk just outside of London. And never in a million years did I expect to find myself crossing Californian wilderness with a tent on my back for 220 miles.

A lot of my friends have told me that they would like to give hiking a go, but also have things that are holding them back.

I don’t want anyone to be held back from enjoying hiking. So here are some common questions and concerns, along with my suggestions. I hope this will help you to overcome what’s stopping you.

Isn’t hiking expensive?

Like any sport or hobby, there is a bit of sliding scale. You can of course spend a complete fortune on gear, clothing, courses and travel. But this doesn’t have to be the case. As with running (my other great sporting love) you really only need minimal items to give it a go; a pair of hiking or trail shoes, decent socks, a comfortable backpack and – if you live in a wet or cold country – a water and windproof jacket. You may be able to borrow all of these items, or buy second hand. I always wait for sales to buy new items.

If a train ticket is prohibitive, you can look at places reachable on your local transport network. For example, Epping Forrest and Richmond Park, both just outside of London, can be reached on the underground and overground systems.

I always take a packed lunch and flask of tea or coffee to save some extra cash.

If I want to stay overnight I look at hostels. These can be very cheap, especially mid week and out of season. If you have or can borrow a tent, then camping is even cheaper at around £8 per tent (or free!). If I’m looking to treat myself, a BnB outside of London can cost as little as £40 a night.

What should I wear and take with me on a day hike?

But I don’t know where to go

If, like me, you are based in a city you’ll probably need to travel. As I live in London, without a car, I look at places that have a simple and fast train connection with travel under 1.5 hours each way for a day trip. The South Downs is a great option from London as is most of Kent.

If I fancy going a bit further afield I consider things like the time of year and weather conditions, as well as travel costs. I love the Lake District and Snowdonia and I’d like to see more of Scotland.

2016-17 281
Seaford – Eastbourne, U.K.

Where can I get some inspiration?

  • My blog! I’m slowly adding records of my day hikes and longer walks.
  • I love reading other people’s blogs. The Walking Englishman is brilliant.
  • Books and websites, including the Time Out Book of Country Walks, and National Trail/ Park websites.
  • Social media
  • Maps

I don’t have anyone to go with

I actually love hiking by myself, but I know this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t feel comfortable going by yourself there are many, many groups that you can join. Have a look at meetup.com, search for groups on Facebook or Instagram, or see what’s on offer at your local outdoors shop.

You could also try and rope in your friends. I have found that many people are keen to go for a walk – they just need someone else to do the planning!

Going solo: hiking the John Muir Trail alone 

I don’t have a car

Granted, this can be more or less of an issue depending on where you live. But in London and much of the U.K. it definitely doesn’t have to hold you back. There are many great walks that begin and end at a train station. Even in more remote areas like parts of the Lake District there is usually a bus or shuttle service. It just requires a little more planning and time.

Google Maps, Rome to Rio, local transport system websites/ apps, and thetrainline are all really useful for planning. Also, you can often find travel information for specific routes on hiking blogs (like mine!)

Many hiking groups offer car share options or a place on a coach for their outings.

I’m not fit enough

Pick a route to suit your fitness level, starting small and building up to a longer route. Think about the elevation of the route too – a shorter, but very steep route will probably be harder than a longer flat one. You could begin by going for walks in a local park, before building up to somewhere further afield.

There are other things that can help, including a comfortable outfit and good shoes. Staying hydrated and taking some food is important too.

Physical issues can be eased by warming up and stretching properly before and after a hike. Consider taking hiking poles for a steeper route, or if you have joint issues. I also wear a knee brace for longer routes due to an old injury.

I’m worried that I’ll get lost

This is a legitimate concern. It’s a good idea to start small and stick to clearly marked trails. Lots of places like National Trust sites have very clearly marked walks of varied lengths and simple maps that you can pick up from the visitor centre.

If you are feeling more adventurous a GPS app is invaluable. They work like Google Maps, showing you both where you are and where you need to go. I use the Outdoors GPS app (UK only) which works even in aeroplane mode. It’s great! There are plenty of other options that work worldwide including Viewranger. Find and download your route before leaving home. It’s a good idea to have a paper map as backup – I try to use one in conjunction with the app.

I always take a portable phone charger and ask my companions to download the app and route to their phone too.

You could also do a navigation course. I did a brilliant weekend course with New Forest Navigation. Many places – such as the Northface shop in Covent Garden – offer free introductory courses.

Isn’t hiking only for outdoorsy people?

No! Hiking is for everyone, whatever your budget, age, shape, size, gender or skin colour.

Please don’t let anything surmountable hold you back.

Want to find out more?

How to plan your first day hike

7 thoughts on “What’s stopping you?

  1. I’ve just bookmarked The Walking Englishman…always looking for hiking inspiration 🙂 I’m a keen hiker but find it disheartening when I can’t find someone to do the longer hikes with. Plenty of people happy to do shorter hikes. Group hikes are one solutions, but I find they’re quite expensive. My navigation skills need a bit of work before I would trust myself out on the longer hikes on my own. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Ah thank you so much. He’s the man, I’ve used a lot of his routes in the Lake District. Yeah longer hikes can be a bit trickier to get people along for. Although I have managed to build up a couple of friends to that point. I also ended up finding a couple of hiking partners from my running club – one of whom lives in north wales now, so we’ve done some great walks together in Snowdonia. I keep meaning to go to a hiking specific club but haven’t got round to it yet. I’ve seen some who run fairly inexpensive trips on meet-up.com (compared to holiday type companies anyway). Not sure where you’re based, but the navigation course I did was so so good and great value. I feel so much better when I’m out and about having done it ☺️ I’m planning to go back for the next level course at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A navigation course would definitely help me – there are the occasional ones held here, so I plan to do one before too long. I just need to make longer hikes a priority and do what I need to in order to make it happen, whether that means teaming up with some other people or getting myself to the level that I can do it on my own. In the meantime I’ve got a nice, long list of walks I’m working through, so plenty to keep me occupied 🙂

        Like

      2. Yay awesome. I’m planning one for the new year now – runs left to right across the Lake District ☺️ the tent will likely be packed away til then!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ps I’ve found popular trails quite a good option for going solo but meeting lots of people. I did the west highland way in Scotland last year and from the first eve ended up with a little crew for the rest of the week. It’s also good as it’s almost impossible to get lost! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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