Walking Gear - What to Buy, and Where to Buy it
What to Buy
There are no high mountains in the south east, so you do not need too much expensive equipment.
In the summer you’ll need a hat, sun lotion, and a large water bottle (you’ll be outside for several hours). For your feet, trainers are fine. Especially on hot summer day, drink plenty of water, more than you think you need – it makes a big difference (pubs will often refill your water bottle for free).
In the winter, you’ll need proper waterproof walking boots because of the mud.
At all times of year, a compass is strongly recommended to check directions, and so is a waterproof jacket if there is any chance of rain. Some people like walking poles, but its a personal choice.
What to buy - walking boots
In the summer you have a choice of open (sandal style) walking shoes, trainers, as well as traditional walking boots
In winter you will need something waterproof. Lighter with a flexible sole is better. Don't buy a stiff boot suitable for crampons - they are very heavy and tiring to walk in.
The secret to healthy blister-free feet is to keep them dry. This means stopping water coming in, and also letting sweat escape as well. Some people like totally waterproof shoes made with a "Gore Tex" or "Event" breathable lining. Others think that they are not breathable enough, and you feet end up drowning in their own sweat even on a dry day, which encourages fungus and hard dry flaky skin. The jury is out, but if you use them, and find your socks damp when you take them off, try using antiperspirant on you feet while you get used to them.
What to buy - waterproofs
You could but a cheap lightweight waterproof mac that you can keep in your rucksack - after all, you probably wont got if its going to be heavy rain. Look for "taped seams" (otherwise the rain comes in through the stitching)
There are more expensive 'breathable' jackets
But if you decide to buy a top of the range breathable jacket (it lets sweat evaporate, but keep the rain out), you have to decide between 2 options
- Event - is by far the most breathable fabric available, but there is a drawback. Oil and salt (i.e. sweat) stop the fabric from working, so you have to wash it regularly, say every 20 uses. Washing waterproof jackets is a drag - first, you have to use a little detergent to clean it, then a second wash (to make sure all the detergent is out) with a "re-waterproofing" liquid that makes water 'bead' on the outside, rather than soak in to the fabric (If the water soaked in, the jacket would still be waterproof, just not breathable). So brilliant for walking, but maybe not for wearing around town everyday.
- Gore Tex - is the brand leader. No maintenance issues - only wash when it gets too dirty. Just not quite as breathable.
Where to Buy
High Street Chains
Specialist in outdoor gear
- Millets (www.millets.co.uk) and Blacks (www.blacks.co.uk) - both part of the same group)
Other place to try
- SportsDirect.com (http://www.sportsdirect.com/) - especially good for cheap Karrimor walking boots.
- Tescos - rucksacks
- TK Max occasionally has last season's waterproof jackets and walking boots
- Aldi and Lidl also sell inexpensive walking equipment, e.g. walking poles, but only once or twice a year.
Specialist Retailers and the Internet
- Cotswold Camping (www.cotswoldoutdoor.com) and store on Picadilly
- Field & Trek (www.fieldandtrek.com) and store in Covent Garden
- Go Outdoors (http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/) and store in Collingdale
Also worth visiting, and in a class of its own, is Decathlon (www.decathlon.co.uk), a French sports mega store with a wide range of everything for walking, by Surrey Quays tube station, and another near the Croydon IKEA.