Blisters 3 min read

Five things to remember when you’re packing for your next hike

Five things to remember when you’re packing for your next hike Five things to remember when you’re packing for your next hike Five things to remember when you’re packing for your next hike

When Wendy Searle sets off for Antarctica in December she will have packed with meticulous precision. And with good reason. When you’re skiing for 715 nautical miles in one of the harshest environments on earth – and trying to break a world speed record in the process – you don’t want to be carrying any unnecessary weight.

Everything from her tent and medical supplies to five weeks’ worth of freeze-dried meals will have been put on the scales before being carefully arranged in her specially designed sledge, called a pulk. It’s an arduous process but one that could be the difference between success and failure.

Given Wendy’s experience, there’s nobody better placed to share packing pearls of wisdom so Compeed picked her brains on behalf of any beginners heading out on a hike.

Layers for all weather

The weather can change at any moment in Britain, so that means layers are absolutely essential. Even if the sun is shining and the skies are blue, I make sure to have a waterproof top in my rucksack when I leave the house. If you’re tackling something steep, a hat, scarf and gloves are advisable and I’ve always tended to have a sunhat or baseball cap with me as well. As for the rucksack itself, my main advice is to focus on weight. You want something lightweight if you’re going to be on your feet all day. Psychologically, it makes a difference to me knowing I’m travelling as light as possible. And with that in mind, avoid heavy water bottles, plastic ones will do the job! Just to be clear, you don’t need top-of-the-range kit to have a great day in the hills. You’ll learn what works for you over time.

A map and compass

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Even if you’re pretty confident about where you’re going, you can never be too safe, so I always carry an old-fashioned map and compass. While GPS is pretty good these days, it’s not fail-safe. For one, your reception could drop out of the blue or your phone battery could run out. I’ve also heard countless stories of people blindly following maps on their phones and getting into difficulty with the terrain. If you’ve never used a compass, they are very easy to get the hang of. Guides can be found on both the Ramblers and Ordnance Survey websites.

A fully charge mobile phone 

Before you head off on a hike, it’s advisable to let friends and family know your rough coordinates and when you plan to complete your journey. There have been plenty of cases in the past where people have found themselves stranded, unable to call for help and without anyone knowing they were missing in the first place. Those cases are rarer these days thanks to mobile phones but they are only useful if they are charged. Make sure yours has a full battery before departing and do your best to stay off it until you’re done for the day. You don’t want to run it down checking out social media only for it to be dead when you need it. If you’re struggling with reception, you can often still use SMS texting to contact the emergency services. There’s even a special service you can register with before you go, in case you need it as a last resort.

Food supplies

I can’t stress this enough; take things you want to eat not things you think you’re supposed to be eating or things you’ve bought and never tried. Clearly, what you take will also be dictated by how long you’re planning to be out in the wild. You’ll likely need snacks to power you along. Perishable items (like sandwiches) are fine on a short trip but if you’re heading out for longer and have no means of keeping them properly chilled, you might want to avoid them. Trail mix, nuts, freeze-dried fruits, energy bars, granola and shelf-stable meats like dried jerky are great and also easy to pack. For multi-day trips, you’ll likely want hot options in addition to the above. Dried soup, pasta, couscous and rice are great if you have the ability to boil drinkable water. On the subject of H2O, hydration is incredibly important. Drink lots before you depart and plan to have a couple of glasses (from your light water bottle) every hour or so along the way.

First aid kit

A basic first aid kit is essential. In addition to tweezers, tape, assorted bandages and a multi-tool (used for cutting the aforementioned), I tend to carry sunscreen, insect repellent, paracetamol, tape, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitiser and, of course, Compeed blister plasters. My heels are quite susceptible to blisters, so I tend to apply the plasters before setting off as a preventative measure. If you’ve got space, a foil blanket is useful to have, along with a torch.


To learn more about Wendy Searle’s upcoming adventure and our #EmbraceLife campaign, click here.