What equipment do you need for hiking in Europe?

If you’re a fairweather walker who is embarking on a longer or more strenuous trip than normal, it can be difficult to decide what additional equipment you’ll need for a hiking trip in the UK or Europe. Not all trails are the same and what you might need for a 3 day walk on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path that I’ll be doing next weekend could be different than what you need for a 12 day Alpine trek like the Tour de Mont Blanc that I’ve also experienced. Weather, terrain and your budget will all be a factor in what you take, so here are some tips on picking the right gear for your hiking holiday.

Hiking in the Alps with my friend Julia Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hiking in the Alps with my friend Julia

Weather considerations

In most parts of Europe, at most times of year, you can expect the odd shower, so a lightweight waterproof jacket will generally be essential. Even warmer regions of Europe can be surprisingly cool at night and your jacket will ward off evening chills. However it’s worth checking the general temperature and likelihood of rain before you make any new purchases. For instance if you’re hiking in Mallorca as I will be in September, it probably wouldn’t be worth purchasing a new waterproof, or if you do it’s better to go for an inexpensive and lightweight one, whereas for a hike in the Alps it would be worth investing in a good Gore-Tex jacket.

Budget considerations

I’m a believer in keeping costs down by using what you have or borrowing items for occasional use, but investing in a few good pieces of equipment when you really need them. Consider what you really need and how much you are likely to use it after your hiking holiday, then look at what you already have in your wardrobe or can easily borrow and make your purchases accordingly.

Walking on the coastal path in Cornwall Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking on the coastal path in Cornwall

What’s the terrain?

Some hiking trips will be on more demanding terrain than others. When I walk in Cornwall or Pembrokeshire in the UK, it’s generally on flattish terrain, so I may not worry too much about walking poles which would be essential on a mountain trek. Also, if you are up in the mountains, away for days from any major towns or villages you’ll want to take everything you need as it could make all the difference to your comfort and safety.

Choosing your walking boots

Let’s start at the bottom with boots and socks that you’ll need for your hiking holiday. For anything more than a country walk on flat terrain, where trainers may be fine, I would recommend investing in a good pair of boots or well supported walking shoes. There are many hybrid styles of boots available these days and if the terrain is not too demanding or the climate hot you may prefer to go for walking shoes or mid height boots. However for longer trails on demanding terrain I would definitely choose a boot with good ankle support, to avoid twists and ankle injuries. If you are buying new boots you always need to try on as many pairs as you can in a local outdoor equipment retailer such as Cotswold Outdoor, before making your final choice and buy only what feels comfortable from the moment you put it on, even if it is a bit more expensive than others. Some well padded hiking socks will also be a good investment and I always have plenty of plasters, especially the specialist blister plasters in my bag, just in case. Read my article on how to choose walking boots for your hiking holiday.

Choosing your walking boots for hiking in Europe Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My walking boots take a well-earned rest in the Tour de Mont Blanc

A Waterproof Jacket

The next most essential item for hiking is normally your waterproof jacket. Unless you are going to an area that is reliably dry, it’s worth ensuring that you have a good jacket to keep you comfortable and dry in any rain showers. My waterproof jacket cost around £100 and is made of breatheable Gore-Tex but there are good jackets to suit all budgets. Look out for features such as plenty of zip pockets to keep cameras, phones, snacks and lip salve close to hand and for under-arm zips or vents to keep you cool, as well as drawstrings and visors on the hood to keep you extra dry in a downpour. It’s likely that your jacket will be in and out of your rucksack, so it needs to pack up small and light too. For longer treks with high likelihood of rain, you’ll also need waterproof trousers, but I don’t normally take them on shorter treks where I can check the weather beforehand or find a friendly pub to shelter.

Walking on Dartmoor Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My waterproof jacket kept me comfortable in all weathers on Dartmoor

Your rucksack

Another important items to consider is the rucksack you will be carrying all your gear in. Again the size and style will depend very much on the type of hiking holiday. For some types of holiday, where you are doing a circular walk from your accommodation, or where your luggage is transported as part of an organised walking holiday, you can get away with a day sack. On longer treks such as the Tour de Mont Blanc where you are carrying all your walking gear for the whole trip, you will need a 30L to 45L rucksack, but then it’s worth reducing the amount you carry to the bare minimum. Look out for a rucksack with side pockets and easily accessible compartments, so that you don’t have to unpack the whole rucksack on the mountainside to get at the one thing you need. Also consider the waterproof qualities when buying a new day sack or rucksack, or invest in a waterproof cover for longer treks and consider packing clothing into plastic bags inside your rucksack.

My friend Julia with her rucksack on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My friend Julia with her rucksack on the Tour de Mont Blanc

Wearing lightweight layers

You’ll want to stay dry and comfortable while walking, but your clothing is one area where you don’t necessarily need to spend lots of money as you may already have suitable items in your wardrobe. It’s a good idea to have a pair of lightweight, quick drying walking trousers with zip-off legs to convert them into shorts, if you are walking for more than a couple of days and are likely to encounter showers. Otherwise choose other lightweight, stretchy and quick drying trousers or shorts you already have in your wardrobe, but avoid jeans or any fabric that will take ages to dry once wet. On your top half you can wear any lightweight t-shirt or longer sleeved shirt and I often use a running t-shirt or anything that will wick away sweat. You’ll also need a lightweight fleece or two, as even in hot destinations as the temperature can drop in the evenings. The key is to have clothes that can be layered, are light, quick drying and comfortable. Here’s my article on what I packed for the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Walking on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

A stretchy running t-shirt is fine for most hikes

 Walking poles

Before I walked the Tour de Mont Blanc, I never used walking poles for my walks in the UK, but now I wouldn’t be without them on longer hikes. On longer walks and especially where you are carrying a heavy rucksack, they really support your legs and knees and on uneven or slippery terrain such as coastal paths or mountain treks they will help you keep your balance and avoid twisting a knee or ankle. Once again there are walking poles for every budget, but I would look out for telescopic poles that fold up small and are more practical to transport when travelling. Read my article about walking poles for the Tour de Mont Blanc.

Choosing your walking boots for hiking in Europe Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking poles are essential on longer treks like the Tour de Mont Blanc

Whether you’re walking a coastal path in the UK, planning a major mountain trek or doing some hiking as part of your summer holiday, it’s worth spending a little time considering what equipment you’ll need and then making the purchases that will be most useful, according to your budget, for a comfortable and enjoyable walk.

This article was brought to you in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor where you can shop online for Outdoor Clothing and Footwear, Climbing, Camping Equipment and more for the outdoors.

 More useful reading

How my Leki Vario Poles saved my legs on the Tour de Mont Blanc
How to choose the perfect walking boots for the Tour de Mont Blanc and other hiking trails
The mountain clothing you’ll need for treking the Tour de Mont Blanc

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing Guide

Click here to get the FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing guide

You’ll also be subscribed to our free monthly newsletter for great travel resources, news and offers, but you can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your e-mail.

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

How my Leki Micro Vario walking poles saved my legs on the Tour de Mont Blanc

When my friend Julia and I started walking the Tour de Mont Blanc three years ago, we weren’t convinced that we needed walking poles at all. We’d done plenty of walks around Britain without them and couldn’t really see the point. In fact I remember that Julia had to hire one pole from the local ski hire shop in Les Houches, while I had one and borrowed another from Hotel Slalom, which I managed to break before the end of the trip.

Viewpoint at Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

With my Leki Micro Vario walking poles at Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc

Three years on and we are both totally convinced that walking poles are essential on a mountain hike that is as arduous as the Tour de Mont Blanc. In the second year of our walk Julia suffered from altitude sickness and we had to cut short one of our days walking because of it, so she really regretted only having one pole to support her on that trip. Last year I had some inexpensive telescopic poles, but they managed to get wedged together, so that I couldn’t pack them down small, and they had to go. This year I was convinced that I needed some quality walking poles that would stay the course and see me a through a few mountain treks in years to come, so I checked out what my local Ellis Brigham store in Bristol had to offer. My eye was caught by a pair of Leki Micro Vario carbon poles which admittedly weren’t cheap at around £145 but which had the great advantage of packing down much smaller than anything else I’d seen.

Leki Micro Vario Walking Poles Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Leki Micro Vario Walking Poles break down to only 38cm

Why do you need walking poles?

Perhaps you’re planning a long mountain trek like the Tour de Mont Blanc and are undecided on whether you need walking poles, so let me tell explain why they are essential. Firstly, if you are walking for up to 10 hours a day, carrying a backpack that is 10kg or more, your legs deserve all the support you can give them. The poles spread the load on your knees, legs and ankles through your whole body, so you’ll be less exhausted at the end of the day and with less risk of twists and sprains. Secondly, the walking poles help you balance on uneven ground and sleep slopes, when your rucksack makes you top heavy, or you’re picking your way across a slippery stream.

Trudge up the mountain for 3 hours or more as we did regularly on the Tour de Mont Blanc and the poles will help propel you up the hill, steadying you on the climb. I remember that when I went Nordic Walking on Dartmoor, it was described as “like walking in 4 wheel drive”, which is just the traction you want on an uneven mountain trail. You might think that once you’re over that mountain crest, the walk downhill will be a breeze in comparison, but in fact that can be just as tough, if not more so on your knees. The path may be quite slippery with shale or mud and there could be stones or boulders along the way, so you are just as much in need to poles to support your legs on the downhill run.

Tete Nord de Fours on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

With my Leki poles at Tete Nord de Fours on the Tour de Mont Blanc

Why I chose the Leki Micro Vario walking poles

When I looked around the range of walking poles in Ellis Brigham, I knew that Leki were one of the leading manufacturers of high quality walking poles, so I shouldn’t have any of the mishaps with breaking or locking poles as I’d experienced in previous years. I decided to try the Leki Micro Vario poles because they have a unique design and fold up into sections for storage, making them some of the smallest and lightest poles I’d seen. We were travelling to Geneva on cabin baggage only, keeping our packs as small as possible, so this was a big bonus, as my poles could easily fit easily into the side pocket of my rucksack. The fold-up design also meant that I could pack up my poles and store them in my  room in the mountain refuges, rather than leaving them in the communal boot area. Although I’d met the most friendly people on the mountain, I did have a mysterious experience one year when I discovered a piece of my pole had gone missing, so I was a little wary.

Walking down from Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Walking down from Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc

How to assemble your Leki Micro Vario Poles

You may think that it would be completely obvious how to assemble a pair of walking poles, but I found that my Leki micro vario poles had a locking button that was hidden when the poles were broken down, and I puzzled for quite a while to work it out, so I’ve made the video below to show you how.

  1. First fit the two lower sections that are joined by cord together
  2. Next extend the third section until a small metal button clicks into place to secure the whole pole firmly
  3. Extend the fourth upper section until you have it at the correct height, marked by the rings on the pole, then push the locking lever down against the pole to secure
  4. Finally adjust the wrist straps by pulling the top strap upwards to flip up the locking mechanism, adjust the strap length from the underneath and then flip the locking mechanism back down to secure.

I hope you find the video below useful, about how to assemble your Leki Micro Vario Walking Poles

 

If you can’t see the video above about the Leki Micro Vario walking poles, watch it on my blog here or on Youtube here and you can subscribe using the button above.

Subscribe to all my videos in I-tunes
If you enjoyed this video, check out the others in my Video archive

Another great feature of these poles is the grip handle which was extremely comfortable with an egg shaped top that fitted into the palm of your hand and an equally comfortable shaped grip with soft wrist supports.

Who are these poles good for?

I should mention that at around £145 the Leki Micro Vario poles are at the expensive end of the range of poles stocked by Ellis Brigham. There are plenty of options for poles from Leki and other manufacturers, but none that pack so small and light. If you are not a regular hiker and plan to do the Tour de Mont Blanc or a similar mountain trek as a one-off, then I would probably buy some walking poles at the cheaper end of the range. However, for frequent walkers and those who like to travel light, the Leki Micro Vario poles are an excellent investment, the sort of kit that is always a pleasure to use. These poles are also great for those who combine hiking with climbing and need poles that will pack away easily into a rucksack pocket when they need their hands free. Whatever your budget,do make sure that you have walking poles of some sort on the Tour de Mont Blanc as it’s an arduous trek and you really do need them.

The Leki Micro Vario poles are made from carbon for minimum weight with maximum strength. They pack down to around 38cm and extend from 110cm to 130 cm in height. The poles feature the Leki Aergon grip which allows a range of gripping options, with a wrist strap adjustment that is easy to use, even when wearing gloves. The speedlock, external locking mechanism allows the height of the poles to be adjusted easily and securely. The poles also have replaceable metal tips in case one gets caught or breaks. These poles retail at around £145 for the pair, but other walking poles are on sale from £50 per pair.  Thanks to Ellis Brigham who gave me a pair of Leki Micro Vario Carbon Poles to try for this review and specialise in all kinds of Mountain clothing and equipment.

FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing Guide

Click here to get the FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing guide

You’ll also be subscribed to our free monthly newsletter for great travel resources, news and offers, but you can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your e-mail.

 

More great gear for the Tour de Mont Blanc

How to choose the perfect hiking boots for the Tour de Mont Blanc
The mountain clothing you’ll need for treking on the Tour de Mont Blanc - video
What I packed for my mini Tour de Mont Blanc – video

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

How to choose the perfect hiking boots for the Tour de Mont Blanc (and other mountain trails)

Sometimes on the Tour de Mont Blanc I felt like a mountain goat, leaping from rock to rock down a steep path made up of glacial moraine. At other times, my feet felt like lead weights as I toiled up a never-ending zig-zagging path to reach the mountain refuge at the end of a 10 hour day. Either way, I was very glad to have a decent pair of walking boots like my new Berghaus Explorer Light boots from Blacks to keep me company on the trail.

My last pair of hiking boots had certainly earned their keep. Over the last few years they’d taken me around three-quarters of the Tour de Mont Blanc circuit and were still looking fine on the outside, but inside the heel lining was wearing thin and the bones of the boot were starting to poke through the padding with an increasing risk of blisters. My boots made it through last year’s walk mainly because I covered up the sharp edges with plasters, but this year I didn’t dare risk that again. It was definitely time for a new pair of walking boots. Fortunately Blacks, the UK specialist in outdoor clothing, came to the rescue with an offer of a new pair of boots to help me finish my Tour de Mont Blanc, but now I needed to choose which of the many options would be perfect for the Alpine trail.

My Berghaus Explorer Light boots from Blacks on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My Berghaus Explorer Light boots from Blacks on the Tour de Mont Blanc

Boots with ankle support

Fortunately I’d had the benefit of three previous years walking in the Alps so I knew what my boots would have to cope with; Dusty dry paths that wind uphill through the forest; Boulders and stones of glacial moraine; Stony paths with rough steps leading steadily upwards; stepping stones to cross fast flowing mountain streams; Slippery shale, uneven turf, bare rock, even occasionally patches of snow! My boots would have to cope with all these different mountain terrains,

To protect against twisted ankles on uneven paths, I knew I’d need boots that had some good ankle support. I’ve read people questioning whether you can get away with trail shoes on mountain walks like this and of course the TMB Ultramarathon runners do the whole thing in lightweight trail shoes. I also think that a tough pair of trail shoes or walking shoes with minimal ankle support are fine if you’re on holiday in the Alps and just want to do the odd day ‘s walking, perhaps getting a cable car up to the top and walking for a few hours down to the valley. However, for those doing the whole Tour de Mont Blanc which is a 10-12 day trail, I would strongly advise a robust pair of boots with ankle support. When you’re walking for up to 10 hours a day, for many days in a row, on all terrains and in all weathers, your feet will thank you for it.

Viewpoint at Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Viewpoint at Col de Bonhomme on the Tour de Mont Blanc

Boots that are light-weight

When you’re carrying a 10kg pack for long walking days, the last thing you want is to feel that you’re carrying heavy weights on the end of your legs. When I was trying on boots, I was conscious of weight, going for boots that were a combination of leather and mesh fabric, lined with Gore-Tex. If you are going in for serious mountaineering you may need something heavier weight such as an all leather boot,  but my Berghaus Explorer Light boots were the ideal combination of robust support without weighing me down. The combination of leather and fabric was also ideal for summer walking as your feet can get pretty hot and sweaty, especially when the sun is shining (as you hope it will be).

Boots that are waterproof

We’d had fantastic sunny weather on our previous walks on the Tour de Mont Blanc, so my boots had not been heavily tested on the waterproof front. However, if we’d experienced several days in a row of rain which can easily happen, I’d have been very glad to have a pair of boots lined with Gore-Tex or other breathable, waterproof membrane. The nearest my boots came to getting soaked was when I slipped crossing one of the shallow streams, but as I jumped out the water ran off my boots in a very satisfying way. My daughter when treking in Nepal on a school trip during the monsoon, found that the only parts of her body that stayed dry were her feet encased in Gore-Tex lined boots. She was most scathing about the so called waterproof jacket I lent her, but that’s another story. You will pay a premium for Gore-Tex branded boots, but look out for boots that use similar unbranded waterproof membranes that can be more affordable. The key thing is that you need your feet to stay dry.

Refuge Maison Vieille above Courmayeur Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Taking a well earned rest at Refuge Maison Vieille above Courmayeur

Finding a hiking boot that fits your feet

It’s important, when choosing a new pair of walking boots, to try on as many different pairs as you can before making a choice. Make sure you take a pair of walking socks when trying on in the shop (who wants to share socks with a stranger’s sweaty feet?) In my local Blacks store in Bristol,  I tried on as many different styles and sizes as were available and found that different brands had different fits – some seemed narrow in the toe while others were roomy. My normal size 6 was fine in some styles of hiking boot, while in others it was too tight and I had to move up a size. I would not even consider any boot that you can feel rubbing or is uncomfortable in any way when you first try it on – life is just too short. If you can feel it in the shop, believe me it will be ten times worse after a long day on the trail. By trying on lots of different styles you will find a boot that feels instantly comfortable when you put it on, and for me these were the Berghaus Explorer Light Gore-Tex boot.

My feet at the end of our Tour de Mont Blanc Walk Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

My feet at the end of our Tour de Mont Blanc Walk

How did I get on?

My boots felt comfortable from day one, but I have to admit that by day 2 and 3 I was starting to feel areas on my toes and heel that were starting to rub. I think that this was probably not the boot’s fault as I should have allowed some more time to wear them in and let them mould to my feet by wearing them on my walk to work, or even around the house. I managed to stop the blisters developing by wrapping all the sore areas in plasters, especially the specialist Compeed padded heel plasters that I’d brought with me and were worth every (expensive) penny. By taking this action I was able to prevent painful feet and my boots and I are still the best of friends and ready for the next mountain adventure.

A good pair of hiking boots will typically cost between £80-150 and if you’re doing a long distance hike like the Tour de Mont Blanc, this is one item of kit where I wouldn’t economise. If the boots that feel most comfortable to your feet are at the higher end of the price scale, I would buy them and scale down the costs in other areas. After 10 days walking your feet will be thanking you for choosing the best you can afford and your boots should last for years.

My Berghaus Women’s Explorer Light Gore-Tex boots cost £100 at Blacks, the UK online and high street retailer who specialise in Outdoor Clothing for walking and hiking. The boots have a substantial rubber sole for good grip, suede and mesh fabric upper and are lined with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane. As the name suggests, the boots are lightweight, yet provide good ankle and foot support and are ideal for walking in warmer climates. Thanks to Blacks for providing me with a pair of boots for this review.

FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing Guide

Click here to get the FREE Tour de Mont Blanc Packing guide

You’ll also be subscribed to our free monthly newsletter for great travel resources, news and offers, but you can unsubscribe at any time and we’ll never share your e-mail.

More tales from the Tour de Mont Blanc

Tour de Mont Blanc Diaries – Courmayeur to Chamonix and over the pass into France
Tour de Mont Blanc Diaries – Champex Lac to Ferret and a walk in the woods
The mountain clothing you’ll need for treking the Tour de Mont Blanc – video

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Subscribe to Heatheronhertravels Don’t miss out – subscribe to Heather on her travels

Next Page »