Hill-walking kit guide
From hiking boots to sunglasses, here is our expert review guide on the best gear for hill-walking this summer and autumn.
From hiking boots to active clothing suitable for the trail, here is our expert review guide on the best gear for hill-walking this summer and autumn.
Tough and hard-wearing, this waterproof jacket – in men's and women's versions – gives you a strong sense of security and protection from the elements.
It's made from the three-layer GoreTex fabric (lower-priced GoreTex jackets are generally made from two or ‘2.5’ layers). That extra layer delivers more reliable waterproofing that will protect you from hours of teeming rain.
Gore Tex is breathable, allowing moisture that builds up between skin and fabric to escape through the fabric, which keeps you more comfortable as your body heats up on steep climbs. The Extrem 5000 also has generous under-arm vents help you cool down while leaving the main zip up to keep out rain or wind.
The robustness of this fabric seems more than capable of coping with the scrapes and nicks that occur on a day’s scrambling over high crags.
The hood has a good wired peak but the is hard to adjust to keep the collar snug at the neck and chin, a disadvantage in strong winds and driving rain - so pack a scarf.
The hand pockets are positioned high to sit above the belt of your backpack, and are large enough to fit an OS map in.
Sky Kaha boots
Hoka One One, E220
These boots come from a French company that began life making off-road running shoes and branched out into hiking boots a few years ago.
Early boots were strikingly different-looking, with garish colour schemes that looked more suited to Alpine summers than Pennine winters.
This new style continues the innovative approach, but with a relatively toned-down colour scheme (check out the even more muted ‘black olive/green’).
They are instantly comfortable and extremely well-cushioned. On the move, they feel pleasantly smooth and fluent– the outsole is slightly curved, with no heel (so wearing gaiters may be tricky as the stirrup will be exposed to a lot more wear).
They look chunky, but feel noticeably lightweight at 508g. While pleasantly stable, they also nimble and, despite the cushioning, responsive. The Vibram MegaGrip outsoles keep them grippy.
Uppers are made of full grain leather; a shame that these uppers do not repel water more effectively straight from the box – crossing dewy grass, the leather immediately absorbed water on my first test: so you might wish to proof or wax them yourself, rather than rely on the waterproof ‘bootie’ lining to keep your feet dry.
If you are tackling serious mountains, you might want to consider something with more substantial toe protection and a beefier rand (the rubber bumper around the foot, which you tend to find on really tough boots).
• Read more hiking boot reviews
These stylish shades make a very good transition from glare to shade and a refreshingly liberating broad field of vision. Lightweight yet tough and grippy they have an optional adjustable cord to enhance security against wobble. The frames are close-fitting but ventilated to avoid foggy lenses. Exceptionally comfortable, they also infuse your world with a pleasant golden light. JB.
Beck XMR80 sunglasses
Very good all-rounders with excellent adjustment from bright light to shade with a close, almost tight yet comfortable and secure fit. Affordable, too. Downside: the adjustable nose clip can snag in tied-back hair when resting on your head. JB.
Protect your eyes
from the sun’s glare throughout the year with these stylish sunglasses. The comfortable lightweight frame stays put even while running and biking. I was impressed by how the lenses sharpen focus, while the light tint makes these a useful pair of glasses for overcast days when you still want to protect your eyes from UVA rays. CM
CoolNet UV+ Insect Shield multifunctional headwear
That’s a long name for a snood, but then again this handsome tubular scarf comes with some built in bonus features: insect repellent and UPF 50 sun protection. Wear in any manner of ways on your head and neck. The fabric is 95% recycled, too. Available in lots of patterns and colours (this one is ‘solid stone blue’).
Men’s Capilene Cool Trail Shirt
This clever fabric dries really quickly … and feels relatively dry even when wet. The polyester weave feels like an organic fabric. Treated with Polygiene to keep it smelling reasonably fresh for a couple of days or more, even after hours of hot and sweaty hiking.
Why did the nation’s walkers ever fall out of love with breeches?
They are comfortable and practical; they don’t pull on your knees, and have all the benefits of shorts … but when things turn chilly up high, they offer that bit more protection.
Yet while hipsters and have made the bobble hat, anorak and knapsack all hot again, breeches remain firmly at the back of the closet.
One of the few people now offering them is Highland firm Hilltrek. Its Clova breeches are made from highly breathable, close-weaved cotton Ventile, which is wind and shower-proof. It is also really tough, with reinforced seat and knee for good measure.
The design is super-simple, with two pairs of pleasingly big pockets, one at the hips and one at the back, and Velcro-fastening below the knee to adjust the fit.
Hilltrek offers lots of options to find a pair that fits you; and a waterproof version in double-layered Ventile.
Frustratingly, I found the fit tricky as the Clovas came up small around the waist. I ended up with a size bigger than I’ve ever worn before, which was fine at the waist, but far too baggy almost everywhere else.
So my search continues. I see that Patagonia something called, believe it or not, make something called Rock Knickers, which might fit the bill.
Kiwi pro (stretch) trekking pants
If you are looking for hard-wearing, affordable outdoor clothing, Manchester-based Craghoppers are a good option. Made of a stretchy polyester fabric for a close fit over hips and upper leg, these have what in the world of jeans is known as a boot cut - a slight flare to the lower leg means they drop comfortably over your hiking boots. Quick-drying and UPF 50+ solar protection. Men’s version also available.
Multimat Compact Kumfie Sit Mat
Cotswold Outdoor, £6
Weighing a mere 40g, and folding down neatly, this foam mat is a welcome comfort on a hike, ensuring a soft, dry and warm place to rest your weary behind. Especially welcome on wet or rocky ground. An unsung essential for a hill walker’s backpack.
Nine Trails backpack
This well-designed pack has enough functions for less challenging summer hill walks.
The back is vented to stop it getting too sweaty on a summer hike. There’s an internal sleeve for a water reservoir (those rubber bottles with a drinking tube), and there are various loops on the outside to attach hiking poles and other bits of kit.
Stretchy side pockets soak up bottles or other gear, and a waterproof jacket and trousers will squeeze into the big central exterior pocket, also stretchy.
I like plenty of room in accessible parts of the pack, for all those small items you want to grab without ferreting around in the main compartment: sunglasses, glasses case, wallet, sweets, scarf, gloves, suntan lotion, and so on. The two zipped two top pockets, one in and one out, and the pair of pockets on the belt, are a little too small for all these bits and pieces.
The fabric is DWR-treated, which makes it shower-proof, but – surprisingly – there’s no integral raincover to keep your pack dry, so in steady rain you’re best off stowing the contents of your pack in dry bags.
The 20L volume is probably enough for the basic gear you need for easy summer hikes. But if you enjoy tougher tests, especially in autumn and winter you’ll no doubt be carrying more layers and other kit, and the larger versions will be more suitable (28 and 36-litre versions for men; 26L for women).
Stopping to take a bottle from your backpack is a faff and many summer hill walkers end up dehydrated as a result. It’s much easier to keep sipping all day via a tube to a water-reservoir like this, which slides easily into most backpacks. A wide-opening slide-seal top makes this one really easy to fill and clean – you can even pop it in the dishwasher. Available in 2L or 1.5L sizes.
Bothy 2 emergency shelter
Terra Nova, £45
If you are planning a serious mountain walk, this provides peace of mind. In the event of storm or injury, this instant shelter will keep you and a friend dry and relatively warm, out of the wind and rain. There’s even a built-in window, for the claustrophobic. On a wet or blustery day it even makes a pleasant place to have lunch out of the elements. At 370g, it's pretty lightweight. In case you were wondering about the red appendage stirckg out of the top, this is a sleeve into which you slide a hiking pole, which holds the roof up and gives the shelter a basic structure.
• More advice on essential safety kit for hill walks.
After a hard day’s adventuring, rest your weary posterior in this pleasantly comfortable chair, which packs
down into a startlingly small pack, and weighs a featherlight 488g. JP
Words: Joe Pontin and Julie Brominicks (JB).
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