“There is no such thing as bad weather only unsuitable clothing” Alfred Wainwright (1907-1991)
British Hill Walker- Devised the Coast to Coast walk in 1971 – Author of the Pictoral Guides to the Lakeland Fells
Between us we have walked the Coast to Coast, Herriot Way and Pennine Way (the Pennine Journey being on our ‘to do’ list) and looked after many guests walking these routes too. Below is some general guidance and things to consider before taking on these walks. This based on our own experience and what we have gleaned from our guests, who arriving at Frith Lodge have walked the best part of 100 miles on the C2C and 120 miles of the Pennine Way.
General Fitness – You will need first and foremost a general level of hill walking fitness, not (as we have been told on more than one occasion) the ability to walk 6 miles around a shopping centre/mall! Even with a general level of hill walking fitness expect some muscle fatigue along with aches and pains. These trails involve distances with big ascents and descents on multiple consecutive days. Building in some rest days is an idea and it also gives the opportunity to explore a particular location across your route, and keeps you moving! A training regime that walks hills on consecutive days will serve you well. Consider this… Everest is around 29000 ft above sea level with most climbers starting at 11000 ft, Base Camp is at 17,000 ft. The total ascent for the Coast to Coast is around 28.000 ft and for the Pennine Way 36,600 ft. Do your training walking up hills!
Maps & Compass – We cannot stress enough how important it is to carry a map, know how to read it and know how to use a compass. Your mobile phone or GPS device may very well successfully navigate you from start to finish on your trail, but it’s no use to you if you drop it in the river, the battery fails or the technology just doesn’t play ball. The Coast to Coast is not an official National Trail and therefore especially in the Lake District waymarkers cannot be relied upon alone for navigation. Both the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast OS Maps are available as an entire route through the A-Z Series, if you want some step by step instructions as well then the Trailblazer series is the popular choice.
Walking Boots – Sturdy worn in walking boots, not trainers, trail shoes, sneakers or gym shoes. The C2C, Pennine Way/Journey and Herriot Way cross some tough terrain on indistinct paths, ankle injuries and blisters are the prime reasons walkers do not finish their trail. The cause of blisters is friction on the skin, if the skin is wet it softens and causes the damage more quickly. Too much friction can be prevented by wearing the right footwear, laced correctly and wearing the right socks…
Walking Socks – Apart from the obvious comfort walking socks primary function are to keep your feet dry, synthetic fabric or merino wool are the best choice with liner socks (a second thinner pair) worn generally by those prone to blisters. Bridgedale, Darn Tough and 1000 mile are brands that we use.
Waterproof Socks – These are great to have in your rucksack ‘for emergency use’ think crossing a river and water goes up over your boot top or your trusty boots give up and split! Wet socks means wet feet and wet feet mean blisters and we all know where that leads us! Sealskinz socks will keep your feet dry even if the inside of your boots are a big puddle.
Base Layer – As you can tell from the list so far the aim of the game is to keep dry, that’s from rain and sweat. So the base layer is another piece of armour in this battle, generally close fitting and made from Merino wool or a synthetic mix but definitely not cotton. It’s aim is to draw sweat away from the skin keeping you warm and dry. We only use base layer tops and find our waterproof trousers give sufficient extra warmth on cold dry days so don’t bother with leggings under our walking trousers.
Fleece – Again your fleece should have some water resistance and breathable properties to it and in the right conditions be used as your outer layer of clothing, the main function of a fleece is warmth.
Walking Trousers – There are some fabulous walking trousers on the market now, we especially like those which are ‘showerproof’ just saves a scramble to get the waterproofs out for a light rain shower. Also ones which have some stretch and give to them, great for getting over styles etc. It can be hot and sunny in the north of England, so walking trousers that convert to shorts in the time it takes to operate a zip could be considered too.
Waterproof Jacket – An absolute must. Don’t think because you are walking in the British summer it’s all parasols and sunscreen. Borrowdale in the Lake District is the wettest inhabited place in England and you can be absolutely sure the fell tops of the North Pennines will always have different weather conditions to the valley. It’s not uncommon to set off in glorious sunshine and by midday be in torrential rain…. be prepared. Make sure your jacket is roomy enough to comfortably wear a base layer and fleece underneath and is both waterproof and breathable. The cheaper waterproof jackets whilst they do a great job of keeping the rain out will slowly steam you from the inside!
Waterproof Gloves – Whilst fleecy gloves are great keeping your hands warm and cosy they are useless in the rain, encasing your hands in a cold wet soggy mass. Again Sealskinz are our favoured brand they have a fabulous range of waterproof gloves that don’t make you look like you are attempting Everest!
Waterproof Trousers – We are talking overtrousers here, again these need to waterproof and breathable. These trousers also do a great job of keeping you warm in really cold, windy conditions.
Hats – Pack a couple. A baseball type cap for keeping the sun off and a warm hat for cold conditions. Be mindful you’ll want to put your hood up over your hat so avoid bobble hats. Alternatively a Tilley hat will work for sun and rain. Buffs are also really versatile gear which can used as hats, headbands, scarfs, bandanas and beanies.
Walking Poles – Walking poles are really down to personal preference. If you have never used them before, your long distance walk isn’t the best time to start, they do take some getting used to! They have stability benefits when you are carrying a heavy rucksack, act as an anchor crossing rivers and take some strain away from your knees on steep descents. We use Leki poles.
Gaiters – Gaiters are a useful piece of kit for walkers; again with the aim of keeping feet dry. They protect your boots and preventing your trousers from getting covered in mud and bog.
Day Sack 25/30 litre – A lightweight rucksack with a removeable waterproof cover that will fit everything you need for a days walking. We would recommend a sack that has a mesh back panel so the sack doesn’t sit directly on your back allowing some airflow. Some sacks have hydration systems incorporated allowing you to drink on the move. A small first aid kit and whistle should be a permanent item in a day sack.
Water Bottle/ Flasks – Hydration is one of the most important factors on a days walk. On many days of the C2C and Pennine Way/ Journey you will need to carry all the food and drink you need for the day as you won’t pass anywhere to get supplies on the route. We love to carry a Thermos for a good cup of Yorkshire Tea, along with some homemade flapjack…. perfick!
If you have got this far down this list and are thinking “Wow, thats a lot of kit!” yes, it is! But looked after properly it’s kit that will serve you well for years and give many hundreds of miles of comfortable and happy walking.
And finally…. in all likelihood your long distance walk will be an enjoyable and trouble free experience, however as we all know accidents can happen or illness can strike and you may require some emergency assistance. Here in the UK we are fortunate to have dedicated teams of voluntary Mountain Rescue Services. The Mountain Rescue can be reached by dialling 999, ask for the Police and then ask for Mountain Rescue. The MOST important thing if you are in need of rescue is to know your location, download the app OS Locate which will give you an immediate grid reference using GPS or what3words which will give you 3 words which are unique to the 3 metre square that you or your casualty are postioned in, again using GPS.
Along any route you follow you will find collection pots in pubs or your accommodation for the various Mountain Rescue teams that cover the area you are in… please consider dropping in a donation, these organisations receive no central government funding relying totally on donations and dedicated volunteers who recieve no payment. Thank you!