Hill walking essentials

Gear for days out in Britain's high country

15th September 2017
Aquapac Kaituna waterproof map case
Kaituna waterproof map case

Aquapac, £18

A paper map can be ruined by a few minutes’ exposure to rain. Keep it pristine with this transparent polyurethane bag, sealed with a roll-top and Velcro. A lanyard is supplied it you want to hang it round your neck, and there lots of places to attach the case in various ways, so you don't have to worry about the wind snatching it from your hands and flinging it off the nearest precipice.

 

Petzl Actik Core head torch
Rechargeable: the Petzl Actik Core head torch
Actik Core head torch

Petzl, £50

A torch is an essential device on mountain walks. If anything goes wrong and you end up coming down in the dark, a torch allows you to see – and be seen, which could be useful in an emergency. Head torches are far more practical than hand-held torches, as they allow you to keep both hands free.

The Aktik Core head torch is rechargeable using a standard USB port, which stands to save you some serious money in the long run.

If the rechargeable battery runs out on the hill, conventional AAA batteries will also fit, so do pack some spares.

The batteries should last two hours on maximum setting, a super bright 350 lumens; seven hours on standard (100 lumens) and 160 hours on dim (five lumens).

Usefully, there’s the option to switch to a red bulb, which provides just enough light to see a few feet ahead; more to the point, unlike white light, it won’t affect your natural night vision, allowing you to make out much more in the landscape around you – and it won’t dazzle your companions.

And there’s even an emergency whistle on the strap, if you come a cropper.

 

Daghir Insect Shield scarf from Buffwear
Snug: Buffwear's Daghir Insect Shield scarf keeps bugs away
Daghir Insect Shield scarf

Buffwear, £23.26

Ultra-versatile tubular scarf that serves as hat, bandana or neck-scarf. The fabric delivers high UV protection, filters out cold wind and feels comfortable when you are hot; it’s also treated with insect-repellent to drive away midges or mosquitoes in summer. Lots of colours and patterns available.

 

 
Rab's Aerial LS Tee
Soft: Rab's Aerial LS Tee
Aerial LS Tee

Rab, £35

Mountain walkers ask a lot of base layers – to keep us warm and cool; to feel dry, but soak up sweat on the uphill. The best base layer is one you never notice. The Aerial is made of lightweight stretchy fabric that dries quickly. There’s a hint of static crackle about it, but otherwise it’s a very discreet presence.

It stays fresh-smelling over a couple of days or more of activity, thanks to the Polygiene treatment (which inhibits odour-causing bacteria). It also makes an excellent running top. The cut is relatively loose; so sizes seem fairly generous.

• Men’s and women’s versions available in long and short sleeves.

 

Yumpa bars
Delicious: Yumpa bars contain powdered crickets
Yumpa energy bars

Alpkit, £7 for three

Cashews, apricots and almonds form the bulk of these bars but the next ingredient on the list is the one to catch the eye: cricket flour. Yes, ground-up hoppy insects. These critters are rich in protein – and, we’re told, farming them is much more sustainable than beef. So with a little cricket, one of these bars delivers around 7g of protein – roughly 10% to 20% of your RDA, depending on your weight. (And note that you’ll want much more than your RDA on a day when you are burning energy, yomping up hills.) The texture is soft and slightly chewy with no crunch at all. So no whole cricket heads. True, there are ways of absorbing protein that cost, well, peanuts, in comparison, but they do not will provide an interesting talking point on the long schlep up Scafell Pike. Also available in cocoa, orange and cardamom flavour.

 

Mammut Crea Tour rucksack
Back to basics: Mammut Crea Tour rucksack
Crea Tour 25 women’s rucksack

Mammut, £75.

No fussy straps and logos on this day pack, cut for the female form. It’s refreshingly simple and neat appearance omits belt pockets but does include two stretchy side pockets, a small central zipped pocket and one lid pocket big enough for lightweight waterproofs. Pole hoops, a red rain cover, and a really good ventilated harness that works well in hot weather. The attractive monochrome blue keeps things simple.

Mammut describe it as ‘hydration system compatible’ but note that there is no internal sleeve to contain a water bladder – just an aperture to feed the drinking tube through.  

• The men’s version is the Creon Tour.

Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 poles
Collapsible: Komperdell Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 poles
Carbon Ultralite Vario 4 Compact hiking poles

Komperdell, £189.95 (pair)

Walking poles give you security and stability on slippery or uneven surfaces, and take the pressure off your knees – especially on the descent.

Poles attached to the outside of packs can be clumsy and awkward. One advantage of these poles from Austrian firm Komperdell is that they can be unscrewed into three foldable sections that will fit inside your pack during the long periods when you don’t need them. The flipside is that if you want to hang the pole temporarily from your shoulder harness – and many modern packs provide attachments that allow this – your pole has a minimum length of just over 1m, much longer than conventional telescopic poles.

When you’ve got to haul yourself up hundreds of metres of vertical ascent, weight matters, and the gear obsessives out there like to shave off every gram. The Ultralite Vario 4 poles are mainly carbon, which keeps weight down to just 181g each (compared to Komperdell’s aluminium poles, which weigh around 250g). And Komperdell say that if anything they are more durable than all-aluminium poles.

At the time of writing, the Ultralite Vario 4s were available for around £150 the pair from several online retailers, a big discount on the RRP.

 

Reliable: Helly Hansen Odin 9 jacket

Odin 9 rain jacket

Helly Hansen, £300

This excellent jacket stays reliably waterproof even during long periods of heavy rain. It’s made of a hard shell fabric: slightly stiff but very well vented under the arms for warm weather or hard walking.

The pockets have an innovative design, accessed via a pair of long zips, and doubling as more vents. The arrangement seems strange at first but you get used to it.

The hood fits well, though the peak could stick out more. The cut is quite close, and especially snug with a midlayer, so choose your size carefully; pockets won’t cope well with bulky gloves etc.

Reinforcements on the elbow and hem withstand scrapes, while a fluorescent yellow collar betrays Helly Hansen' s heritage as a maker of sailing gear: and is presumably meant to make you visible if fate finds you bobbing inadvertently on the ocean.

 

Berghaus Spectrum 2.0 Half Zip fleece
Lightweight: Berghaus's Spectrum 2.0 Half Zip fleece
Spectrum Micro 2.0 Half Zip Fleece

Berghaus, £50.

Schlepping up mountains is the ultimate clothing challenge: sweating up a sheltered slope one moment, you are balancing on a ridge top next, pummeled by an icy wind. Multiple layers are the solution. This thin fleece offers that little bit of extra insulation you need when driving hard for the summit on a cold day; the half-zip allows you to cool off when your temperature rises. When you need to add insulation, it keeps a low profile, so you can pull on another midlayer – or wear a thermal baselayer beneath.

• Men’s and women’s versions available.

 

Haglofs Mid Fjell II pant
Comfortable: Haglofs Mid II Flex pant

Mid II Flex Pant

Haglofs, £130

The big thing about these trousers is the excellent fabrics (billed by Swedish firm Haglofs as ‘tough as workwear’). Both are durable man-made materials that include elastane, making them stretchy when you need them to be – schlepping up hills for example; the stretchier of the two fabrics is used over the knees and behind.

These are a very good cut, snug over the waist, more roomy in the legs, and with ‘knee articulation’ (basically, tiny seams sown in such a way as to provide space for the knee to flex). It’s worth taking the trouble to find the right fit.   

The fabric is also what Haglofs call ‘Climatic’, is breathable enough to keep you cool in warm weather.

The thigh pockets are a prominent feature, with a long zip on each upper side; and will either suit you or not. To me it seems a little odd to load up pockets on top of your leg – a place where you can feel constantly aware of what’s in them. Aren’t such pockets better at the sides? 

They’ve also been given the DWR treatment – spray-on water-resistant chemicals – but be aware that this will wear off and will need renewing.

 

French firm Hoka One One's Tor Ultra Hi boots
Striking: Hoka One One's Tor Ultra Hi boots
Tor Ultra Hi WP boots

Hoka One One, €220.

They may look chunky but they are remarkably light at 500g – less than half the weight of some other fabric boots.

If you have wide feet, you may find some Hoka footwear too narrow. The Tor Ultra Hi is noticeably snug in the mid-section of the foot.        

While the comfortable midsole clasps your feet securely, the ankle support is relatively flexible – it’s a matter of preference, but you may prefer something more substantial.

The Event waterproof membrane is breathable, keeping your feet cooler in hot weather.

The Vibram Megagrip outsoles – widely used on trail running shoes – combine two materials, one softer than the other; 5mm lugs cope well with rough, slippery terrain. If you are a fan of gaiters, note that the Tor Ultra’s outsole has a rather minimal gap under which to pass the rubber gaiter fastenings, so expect some wear on these – and maybe pack a spare.

 

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