From walking boots to the tastiest rehydrated meals, here is our expert guide on the best kit for multi-day hikes.
Zamberlan, 209 euros
These appealingly retro-styled boots are made from a single piece of leather – a bonus in leather boots as minimising stitches helps keep water out – and treated with Zamberlan’s own Hydrobloc water repellent. The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining is also waterproof, and designed to allow your feet to breathe in warm weather. Cushioning beneath the uppers is minimal – useful in warm weather, but less suited to freezing winter walks.
When lacing up, a ‘locking’ side hook helps you find a close fit; normal to narrow feet are likely to fit best. The outsole has triangular lugs designed to perform in muddy conditions.
Ankle support is more modest than a mountaineering boot, but on summer hikes that helps you stay cool. Nevertheless if you plan to carry heavy weights over rough ground, you may want to consider something with a higher and more supportive ankle.
Guide to buying hiking boots
Your hiking boots can make a massive difference to your day outdoors. If you’re thinking of investing in a new pair, fit, it goes without saying, is crucial. Your experience of a pair of boots may differ from a reviewer’s, simply because your feet are shaped differently.
Komperdell, £39.95 (pair)
These light (260g per pole) and easy-to-use aluminium poles cost a fraction of the price of many others on the market. Twist to adjust – a simple turn of the wrist locks each joint. They retract to a conveniently short 64cm, tucking neatly tucked away when stowed on your harness. It’s a shame the handles are not grippier: they are small, hard and a little too slippery for my taste.
Versatile, lightweight and breathable, the tubular scarf can be used around the neck or head in a range of combinations. The fabric protects skin from harmful UV rays, and feels cool in the sunshine. Perfect for climbers facing the rock, cyclists worn with a helmet, and sun-basking walkers. Available in dozens of colours and patterns; this one is ‘Harq Stone Blue’. JB
The secure fit is not compromised by being super lightweight, and neither is the comfort, despite the lenses being rimless. Very good in bright light but slightly less so with early morning glare. Oh: if you have long hair like me, you might find that the adjustable nose-clip gets tangled in tied-back hair when resting on head.
Helly Hansen, £75
Super-lightweight waterproof overtrousers, which pack down small and are great for stuffing into a rucksack. They provide good wind as well as water resistance and long side zips enable you to pull them on and off without removing your boots. They come a little small so be prepared to go up a size.
Teko, £35.90 for two pairs
Your choice of socks is one of the most crucial kit decisions for a long-distance walk. For a multi-day hike, look out for heavily cushioned socks like these, to protect pressure points, and soften the impact of tens of thousands of daily steps. Low-profile seams reduce friction, and ribbed sections keep them close-fitting. The 80% merino wool fabric draws moisture away from your skin; it also smells remarkably fresh after a day’s hike.
Teko, £30.51 for two pairs
Some swear by wearing two pairs of socks for long hikes: ideally, special liner socks made from a fabric designed to wick moisture away from your skin (beneath a pair of the aforementioned hiking socks). They may be made of naturally wicking merino wool, or a synthetic fabric. These close-fitting merino wool socks can also be worn one their own, in hot weather.
Bridgedale, £18.99 for two pairs
Made of synthetic fabric that feels pleasantly cool and dry.
There’s no delicate way of saying this: after a full day’s walking, you may find that you feel tender in places you hadn’t expected to.
Again, soft fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin is ideal. Merino wool underwear like this does just that, and stays remarkably fresh for day two on the trail.
Even so, you might want to apply some petroleum jelly before you set off, to protect your skin from the effects of chafing. There: I said it.
In case you were wondering, while they are made of wool, I found that these boxers don’t feel especially hot even in warm weather: the fabric is thin and breathable. It also retains its shape well.
Food and drink
The Befree revolutionised my trekking experience. The filter cleans water quickly – and not having to carry so much water is a real blessing. Note that the filter removes biological impurities, but not chemical ones, so it’s only safe to use in wilder places upstream of agricultural or industrial areas. Nevertheless, with a little common sense, this is a useful addition to your pack. Available in 600ml, 1L and 3L versions. JB.
Joe adds: The BeFree has won a bunch of stuff – Product of the Year at the UK Outdoor Industry Awards in 2018, as well as an ISPO Gold Award – the outdoor industry’s Oscar for new products.
Solo Stoves, £75 and £56
Used with caution, stoves like this are a safe way to cook your supper… and there’s nothing like a morale-boosting fire beneath the stars.
Solo Stoves are designed to burn twigs efficiently. A handful of dry twigs or other organic matter produces a surprisingly hot flame. The twigs burn fast, so you’ll need to keep feeding the fire.
The Solo Stove Lite weighs 255g; the pot set (above) 660g, but to offset this, you will be saving a little weight by not having to carry fuel.
Both stove and pots – with pan/lid and gripper – are stainless steel, slightly heavier than aluminium, but it keeps your food hotter for longer, and there’s no danger of corrosion.
Designed to fit all Solo Stoves, they pots are wobble-free even on my tiny Solo Stove Lite. They’re a compact set, though it’s a shame that the stove doesn’t pack inside the pots – you’d need a single Solo Stove Pot 900 for that. JB/JP
• JOE adds: Alternatively, go for a gas-burning ‘stove sytem’. These are compact, include a pot, burner and other features in one neat bundle, and weigh between 400g and 500g (plus gas).They are good for boiling water or heating other liquids, so best suited to basic meals such as noodles or dried trail meals. Leading makers include Jetboil, MSR and Primus, whose prices range from around £110 to £150.
Firepot, from £6.95
Food may end up being one of the heaviest things in your pack. Dehydrated meals are an excellent way to save weight – and so easy: just add hot water. That may be all you feel like doing at the end of an exhausting day.
The snag is that while in most cases you may not expect much from a flavour point of view, you may still be disappointed. Most dried trail meals are at best a mediocre eating experience, at worst pretty disgusting, even with an appetite sharpened by hours of fresh air and exercise.
But not all. Firepot meals are a glorious exception and by far the most appetising we have tried – in fact they are startingly good to eat. Meals include spicy pork noodles and porcini mushroom risotto (one of several tasty vegan options); they do breakfasts too.
• If the price puts you off, there are plenty of cheaper low-weight alternatives to deliver those carbs you need to keep going.
GP PowerBank, £19.99
A working mobile phone can be crucial on a multiday hike. This lithium polymer battery contains enough juice to charge an iPhone X twice (5000 mAh). It’s about the size of a smart phone, a weighs a modest 147g. (On longer trips, keep it topped up using a solar panel attached to your backpack.) You can also use it to top up a rechargeable torch or other device. The colour-conscious have a choice of four hues.
This fine-looking pack for women is neat, functional and comforable, and with a volume of 60L, big enough for all you need on a summer backpacking trip.
Fit is very important in a pack. The belt harness should sit just above your hips, where is can take weight off your shoulders, while the pack should snugly over your back and shoulders. The Aircontact Lite comes in one size, but is easily adjustible, and finding the right fit seems fairly easy.
The well-cushioned harness has breathable padding designed to keep you back cooler on a hot day. The belt is also padded and easy to tighten over your hips.
This comfort has a price in terms of weight: the pack clocks in at 1.75kg, not unusual for a substantial and well-featured pack like this, but a significant base weight to bear in mind.
The main storage area is divided into two, with a bottom compartment suitable for lightweight gear such as a sleeping bag. The zipped main compartment is easy to get into. Stretchy pockets at the sides and front are good places to stash wet waterproofs or water bottles.
The lack of a rain cover seems a little mean, but you can buy one for an extra £21.50.
• Also available for men.
This superbly lightweight pack (from 1050g) is also extremely comfortable with a 12kg payload.
Miraculously, it includes most of the features of heavier packs, while weighing half as much as many others on the market. It retains an aluminium frame, a comfortable, ventilated panel to cool your back, a rain cover, stretchy external pockets for rainproof gear and water bottles, more pockets on the belt, and loops for stowing hiking poles.
Something has to give though and in shaving off grams the designers have inevitably made compromises: the main pocket can only be accessed from the top, so pack carefully.
The pack comes in three sizes to fit your stature (note that the pack volume varies from 52L to 58L according to size).
• The men’s equivalent is the Optic.
Shelter and sleep: best tents for hikes
Weighing only 1.54kg, the Arete2 is seriously light for the space it offers. There’s plenty of room for a solo camper, or even a pair going top-to-toe. (You had better make this a close friend – they may never have been closer.)
With headroom of 105cm, there’s space to sit upright, and the 60cm porch is (just) big enough to stow two 60L packs out of the rain.
It’s very easy to pitch, and its crouched stance has an aerodynamic profile that copes well with gales.
Terra Nova, £130
There are two reasons to take a tarp; either for some shelter outside your tent – somewhere to cook and east in the rain, for example – or to replace your tent altogether. They are far lighter and cheaper than tents. This quick-drying tarp packs down easily into a small pouch. Although light at 290g it is also strong and robust, and provides shade and protection from rain and frost. The eight reinforced rings allow it to be used to make a range of shelter designs (we tried six) in combination with cord and pegs (not provided) and / or walking poles. It also made a good groundsheet. JB.
Mountain Equipment, £250
If you want one bag that will see you through nippy spring or autumn nights as well as cool summer ones, a three-season bag like this is ideal. This is pleasantly light at 855g for a voluminous bag with 385g of filling, of which 90% per cent is duck down – super-warm, super-light. It’s meant to keep you comfortable down to temperatures of -3C, although in practice 5-10C may be a more realistic limit for most mortals. There are some thoughtful touches like the internal pocket and extra insulation at the box to keep your toes from freezing. And the feel is luxurious, with soft lining and enveloping hood. The waterproof stuff sack packs down to just 24cm x 20cm. JP
This summer sleeping bag weights only 700g – a whopping weight saving compared to many synthetic bags on the market. It is filled with 90% duck down – ethically sourced, according to Vango, and treated to repel moisture.
There are baffles around the shoulder and zip keep cool air out, and an internal pocket.
It packs into a waterproof stuff sack measuring a very compact 27cm x 13cm.
If you do find yourself camping on a chilly night, you might need to layer up before you hit the sack. It’s officially ‘comfortable’ down to a minimum temperature of 9C, but as ever with such estimates, many campers will prefer to use at significanty warmer temperatures. JP
A compact, streamlined, ultralight (at 365g) and fully inflatable sleeping mat, this is super-comfortable and kept me warm even in sub-zero temperatures.
It comes supplied with a 60g pump-sack (pictured above) to prevent moisture from the breath entering the mat; it is simple and satisfying to operate – just wave the bag in the air to fill it, then attach to the mat and squeeze to empty its contents. Less than two bags of air fill the mat. Being waterproof, the pump-sack doubles up as compression sack or even bucket. The downside is the Synmat, like, it seems, all inflatable mats, is prone to puncture. Mine did so when sliding off my compressed foam mat onto bare ground, despite its good grippy finish. If you’re on the trail, fixing a slow puncture is not easy. Best used in a tent or on a ground sheet. (If the puncture is not easily repaired, Exped will do so at a repair centre) JB.
A very comfortable, warm and lightweight mat at 720g which packs down nice and small. Being self-inflating, it is relatively fuss-free, and doesn’t need much topping up. As with all inflatable mats, punctures are a possibility and mine picked up a slow one which was difficult to fix, when it wriggled – despite its non-slip fabric – off my foam mat on to bare ground. JB
JOE writes: As the sleeping mats didn’t work out so well, we’ll try to bring you some more reviews this summer.
Reviews by Joe Pontin and Julie Brominicks. Photography by Steve Sayers and Getty Images