Firstly, choose a walk that matches your ability – we know some people make it look easy and make mountains look like mole hills but the reality is it can be a long and sometimes difficult way to the top. Figure out the best route for your level of fitness and ability.
Check the weather forecast – it might be a lovely sunny day in the car park, but the weather can be a lot different when you’re up the mountains, and even more variable at the summit. There are some great apps to help you with this. We recommend: The Met Office, YR and Windy. These all provide forecasts for mountain summits, which is critical to know when you’re planning your activities.
The Met Office app tells what the temperature will feel like, taking into account the wind, and Windy allows you to see how strong the gusts will be, plus you can compare forecasts from five different sources. All three provide hourly predictions for rainfall. They’re still only forecasts, so you always need to be prepared for the weather to be potentially worse, but they allow you to plan you activities taking into account the most likely weather conditions.
Plan where to park your car – we know it seems obvious, but this is the first step for most people and if you don’t get a space, you might have to rethink your whole day out. Put simply, go early to get a space and have a plan B if your first destination is full. It might mean you take a different route that day but it also means you can get to enjoy the hills without circling a car park for an hour or having to abandon your plans and go
Wear appropriate clothing – again, this is an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at the number of people we have seen lately who have attempted a summit climb in just a t-shirt and shorts. As you go up and down the mountain, the weather and temperature can vary a lot. We advise you to carry light layers so that you can add or take away as you feel comfortable. Prepare for everything; you can get all four seasons in one day so it’s a good idea to prepare for heat, sun, rain and cold.
Wear sturdy footwear – good grip and a stiffer sole are important, Sturdy hiking boots or trainers will help you as the terrain changes throughout the hike. Make sure they’re comfortable and the correct fit, and always carry a few blister plasters just in case.
Bring enough water and food – Always overestimate how much food you’re going to need, but be reasonable, you’re not going to need the full contents of the fridge! Hiking can exert much more energy than you think so you’ll need the right amount of fuel and more. We recommend a sandwich or two, some fruit, sweets or chocolate and some trail mix – ultimately it’s whatever is going to get you through. Energy bars are a great back up in case your hike goes on longer than expected. Don’t forget about your water. A good general recommendation is about a half-litre of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. You may need to increase how much you drink as the temperature and intensity of the activity rise. For example, strenuous hiking in high heat may require that you drink 1 litre of water or more per hour. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to fine-tune how much you drink. Keep your water handy and take small sips regularly.
Don’t forget your (charged) mobile phone in case of emergencies. If you’re planning to use your phone to get to your location, to take pictures etc. then please remember that this can eat into your battery life so it is important you leave enough battery in case of an emergency. We’re all about the ‘gram’ and getting that picture on the summit (if you didn’t get a picture did you really climb the mountain?) but if your selfie costs you your battery life and you need assistance, it won’t be getting many likes.
It is also important to think about what your plan would be on how you would get back to your car if weather conditions turn bad. It might not be the same way down that you had planned.
Do you know what to do in an emergency?
- Dial 999 and tell them you need mountain rescue
To help you plan your day even further we’ve included some additional advice from Mountaineering Ireland.
Mountaineering Ireland are the experts when it comes to the mountains and the hills. They know how to prepare and train for the best experience. On their website you will find some useful advice on planning your walk, what to bring with you, getting a weather forecast and who to call in an emergency. You will find some useful advice on planning your walk, what to bring with you, getting a weather forecast and who to call in an emergency.
They have a brilliant checklist that you can also use for your walks:
The following is a simple way of figuring out if you are prepared enough to go for your hike. If you score 3/3 on these questions, oﬀ you go, have a fantastic day! If not, read on to find the answers you need to be kitted up and in the know to be safe!
Ask yourself the 3 questions before you go:
- Do I have the right GEAR?
- Do I know what the WEATHER will be like?
- Am I confident I have the KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS for the day?