I'm often asked what is my favourite piece of walking kit or, at Christmas or birthdays, is there something I would like as a present?
Apart from the basics which you should always carry (boots, waterproofs, rucksack, map, compass, headtorch, first aid kit, bivvy bag etc), the five top walking gadets / pieces of kit that I find most useful are:
- i-pod nano - for listening to classical / Frank Sinatra (who sings at walking speed) / jazz whilst I'm out walking on my own.
- Iron Oxide hand warmers - I use these in winter. They're like teabags that are full of iron filings that oxidise when exposed to the air, which then produces heat. Perfect for putting in your winter mitt gloves to keep your fingers lovely and warm.
- Thermos flask - I know it sounds a bit 'red socks and bobble hats', but you can't beat a cup of hot chocolate whilst sheltering behind a stone wall on a rain-lashed moorland. The first sip transports you back to somewhere warm, dry and cosy!
- Group Shelter - I've got three sizes of group shelter -2 person, 4-6 persons and 8-12 persons. I've used these several times 'in anger' when some people in the walking group have been cold and there's no shelter. Within seconds you're warm, out of the wind and rain. The only downside is that the warmth is damp body heat, which makes the inside rather like a sauna, and the trick is to be very quick packing it away as you soon get cold again. Potentially a real life saver if you have an injury in a remote location.
- Gaiters - some walkers love them, some hate them. Try walking through wet heather or bracken without them.
GPS? I never use mine. I've got one, but it sits at the bottom of my rucksack for that moment when I don't know where I am, which has not happened yet! If you have good map and compass skills then you'll never need one. And a GPS is useless unless you have good map and compass skills! For me, a major part of the enjoyment of walking is navigation, and that means reading and interpreting the landscape around you, which you can only do with a map. If you're thinking of buying one, then spend your money on a navigation course instead. Have I mentioned that I run weekend navigation courses in the Yorkshire Dales?