Three Rules for Hiking

These three rules will help you on your adventures to be safe and respectful of the environment you travel through. Clearly they are geared at new hikers, but those of us who have been doing this for a while always run the risk of getting into bad habits…

Number 1, Be Prepared

As a Scout I had this motto drummed into me over a number of years. It is however true…

In this case It means having the right skills and gear for whatever may happen.


Over the course of a day you will experience a range of temperatures. Whether that is related to the time of day, a change in the weather, or a change in elevation. It is 100% guaranteed that what you experience in the carpark when you leave your car will not be what you have for the rest of your trip.

Night time in the hills and mountains can get very chilly. Windy conditions can cool you rapidly too. Not to mention rain or snow!

Heat and strong sunlight can have just as great an effect on you as cold does.

You need to bring multiple layers that are up to the task of keeping you comfortable, whatever the conditions.

The same goes for your sleeping system. I had a Scout who was very put out when I removed her nice, light, small summer sleeping bag in favour of a much bigger and bulkier winter one. You need your sleep to recover from your previous day’s exertions.

You need to do your homework before you go on your trip. Check the weather forecast. In the UK we are very lucky to have the Mountain Weather Information Service who put out detailed mountain specific forecasts daily for all the UK mountain ranges. Look at the average temperatures for when you are going to be on your trip. Read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from others who have been to the same places.

Make sure your equipment is ready to go. Break in those new boots. Put fresh batteries in that torch and GPS. Trim those toenails so they don’t dig in.

Navigation is a Critical Skill

Know your route and how to navigate it. I once had someone ask me if they could photograph my map on their phone so they could go and climb Scaffel Pike!

I will use either the Ordnance Survey or Garmin InReach Apps on my phone for convenience when I hike in the UK. But, you can bet the farm that I have a paper map and compass in my bag too!

Navigation is a perishable skill. It needs to be practices regularly to ensure that you are able to effectively use that map and compass when you need it. If you are just starting out, you would not be wasting money if you were to take a navigation course with a reputable supplier like Maddog Adventures or First In Events.

Tell Someone your Plan

Leave your itinery and route with someone you can rely on, and check in with them regularly. If the worst happens and they need to call out Mountain Rescue to find you, being able to pass on the route you are taking could mean the difference between being found or not. It also gives your loved one peace of mind. Especially if you hike solo like I do. That’s why I now carry a Garmin InReach satellite tracker. The Missus can see where I am and, if I need to, I can hit the SOS button to call in the cavalry right to my location.

Number 2 Pack Light

This does not mean ultra-light, edge of death, snapping toothbrushes in half. You can put a heavy pack on in your living room and feel all manly for going heavy. Trust me, a couple of hours into your hike you will be regretting your life choices. Ex-military are the worst culprits for this. We have that “I’m off for a couple of days, but it could be a couple of months, so I’ll bring everything” mindset. You don’t need that any more!

Ideally you don’t want to carry more than 20% of your bodyweight. Don’t take this a written in stone, as there are occasions you may need to carry more. You usually need to go heavier in winter due to bulkier gear and extra warm kit.


Water is often a big culprit for big pack weights. It comes in at a kilo a litre. You can save weight by having a means to purify water you find on your way rather than carry all the clean water you may need from the start. In northern, and southern latitudes you can generally find the water you will need on your way. If you have the means to purify that water, and have planned your route to take in water sources, you will be able to carry less with you.

This goes back to being prepared, and doing your homework. I carry a Grayl Geopress water purifier, as well as some collapsible water bags, so I can collect water on the fly, and carry more when I need to.


Yes, you are going to burn more calories while you are hiking. You are going to need about 1000 calories more. This sounds like a lot, but in reality it is an extra meal like a Wayfarer All Day Breakfast. That’s only 300g. You should be looking at about 1kg per day for food, maximum. Throwing in that multipack of Mars Bars may seem like a good idea, but the weight soo builds up!

Pack Fitting

If your pack is not fitted properly, it will not carry the weight effectively. A modern hiking pack is designed to transfer the weight to your hips so that it is carried by the strongest muscles in your body. It also puts the weight of your pack at your body’s centre of gravity. Go to a high end store that has a fitting service for the packs they sell. Or, buy a pack where the brand has detailed YouTube videos telling you how to fit it.

As a note, do not go and buy an ex-military bergan rucksack. I’m looking at you Bushcrafters! They are not designed to be used as a standalone item. They are part of a load carriage SYSTEM, and are just a dead weight off of your shoulders with out the full set up.

Keep your Kit Inside your Pack

From an aesthetic point of view, nothing winds me up more than seeing a rucksack with kit hanging all over the outside of it like some Fantasy novel peddlar. It’s a really good way to lose or damage kit, as well as do something horrific like dump your mug in sheep poop. Seriously, if you can’t fit everything you need inside your pack you need to take a look at what you’re bringing. Unless you’re going to go and trek a true wilderness, unsupported, for long periods of time, you will not need a pack larger than 65litres.

From a ergonomics point of view, it unbalances your load. If your load is unbalanced you body will have to compensate. This can lead to extra fatigue and/or injury.

Number 3 Take only Photos, Leave only Footprints

If we want to continue to enjoy the few wild places we have left, we need to look after them. If we want other to look after the places we love, we have to set the example of doing it ourselves.

Stay on the Trail

If you go off track you will damage plant life or other delicate areas. In area that attract a lot of traffic National Park Authorities will often spend a great deal of effort making sure the trails are robust. That’s why there’s a veritable motorway running up to the peak of Pen Y Fan.

The same goes for when you camp. Try to use places that people have camped before so that the impact is more limited.

Take your Rubbish Home

Take home all your rubbish. Even things that are “biodegradable”. A banana peel takes up to 2 years to rot away. Teabags 6 months. Your rubbish will sit on the trail, where you left it for that long. Even longer for plastic wrappers. Have a bag for your rubbish and use it. You don’t actually have to take it home with you. It can go in the bin in the carpark when you get off the trail.

What the Bear Does in the Woods

Doing poopy in the wilderness is a topic of discussion all of it’s own. With that said the two golden rules are; don’t surface lay, and don’t roll a rock on it. It will be found. Most likely by some poor soul at night.

Dig a hole, poop in it and bury it. Keep well away from the trail, if only for privacy. Make sure you are a good 60 metres away from water sources too. Your hole should be at least 15cm deep so that what you leave is well buried!

No Campfires

You are not Jerimiah Johnson. As alluring as a campfire is, you don’t need it. In many places it is also illegal. In the UK all land, even in National Parks, is privately owned. You will be doing damage to private property, not to mention leaving scars on the landscape which mar it and soil its enjoyment for others. Finally you could be responsible for a wildfire.

Respect Wildlife

They live there, you don’t. Feeding them makes them dependent on humans for food. Fiddling with a nest could cause a rare species not to breed. Being aggressive towards animals could cause them to be aggressive towards humans. Just leave them alone!

Be Considerate of Others

For many of us, getting into the hills is an escape form modern life. That last thing I want to hear in camp is your music or you shouting at each other while you’re sinking 10 cans of Stella. Nor do I want my tent buzzed by your drone you bought from Don’t be THAT person.

From one lover of the outdoors to another, I hope you have found some useful information in this piece, and I hope you can go on to have some amazing adventures outside on the hills!

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