21 top walking tips for beginners

Whether trekking abroad or closer to home, this advice extracted from Paul Besley's new book '1001 Walking Tips' will help any novice-experienced walker improve their rambling skills...

4 mins

The basics of walking

Find a friend to walk with (1001 Walking Tips)

Find a friend to walk with (1001 Walking Tips)

1. Walking is good for your health and the planet. It is low-cost and sustainable, needs no special equipment to begin, can be done anywhere and at any time, and has low impact on the environment.

2. If you are just taking up walking as an activity, be realistic about your fitness levels. It is a simple equation: the fitter you are, the more you will get out of walking. Work on fitness daily. A simple morning routine of stretches can free muscles and bones from their night-time structures.

3. Have a walking friend, someone you can meet up with, go on a walk with, have a coffee and a chat with. The mental health benefits of something as simple as this are beyond estimation.

4. Learn how to walk. Weight over the centre of gravity, just before the sternum, posture up right, balance evenly distributed. Being bent over, falling under the weight of a heavy pack will restrict movement and breathing. Walking upright helps give the body more oxygen, and takes strain away from the back and legs.

5. Balance is important when moving over uneven terrain. One way of assessing how good you are at balancing your body is to walk over rough terrain while going up a steep slope – a scramble section, a rocky slope below an escarpment or a decent boulder field with not too many leg-breakers. Practice moving up and down the area with your arms folded across your chest. This brings your core into play a lot more and reveals how balanced you are.

Day walks

Day walks can have different terrains (1001 Walking tips)

Day walks can have different terrains (1001 Walking tips)

6. Day walks are the most popular way of getting outdoors for some exercise and refreshing of the mind and body. Each of these may be a single walk which starts and ends at the same point (the most popular) or a linear walk which starts at point A and ends at point B, using public transport or cars to deliver or collect people. Multi-day walks string together several linear walks into one long journey. Day walks can be enjoyed at any time of day, even at night

7. Day walks are perfect for those last-minute decisions to get out and look at nature. Walk with friends, take a picnic. They make taking advantage of the good weather, or making the most of the bad weather, an easier choice.

8. A 10km walk can take all day or a few hours, depending on what the terrain is like – The Cullins on the Isle of Skye as opposed to the Yorkshire Dales, for instance – and what there is to see.

9. Always use a map, paper or electronic, to navigate with. It is rare, but the maps in guidebooks can be wrong, as can directions – telling people to turn left and walking them into a reservoir, for example.

Read next Best day hikes in Europe

Walking in winter

10. Some of the best days’ walking can be had in the winter, with blue skies and the sun beating down, and a feeling of adventure in the bones.

11. The daylight is shorter, beginning later, with darkness falling earlier. It is better to walk into the light, setting out in darkness, than to walk into the dark, returning after sunset.

12. Learn how to assess windspeed. At 10 miles per hour, the wind will have little affect on you. At 20 miles per hour, you will feel the wind ruffling your hair. At 25 miles per hour, walking will start becoming something to take care of. You can get knocked over by the time it reaches 30 miles per hour, so stay away from ridges and exposed lines. At 40 miles per hour, you will be leaning into the wind, so its time to start getting lower down. At 50 miles per hour, you will need to get off of that hill as the wind will start to take your legs from under you.

13. Don’t use a hydration bladder in winter conditions. The cold combined with the wind chill will freeze bladder tubes and mouth pieces, depriving you of fluid. Carry water bottles inside your pack and stop regularly to rehydrate.

Navigation and safety

Watch out for fields of cows (1001 Walking Tips)

Watch out for fields of cows (1001 Walking Tips)

14. If you walk into a field of cows and don’t feel safe, find another route around them, particularly if they are in a field with a public right of way. You have the right to be able to walk safetly.

15. When walking along roads in lowland areas, always choose the side of the road that gives you and the driver the longest view, even if that means crossing the road a few times. Better to be seen than end up in a ditch. 

16. Open access means you don’t have to stick to the public right of way, but can walk anywhere within the access area. These are shown on OS maps as a shaded line enclosing the limits of the land. Always use access lines wherever possible and try not to climb over stone walls and fences. On fenced access land there should be a stile every 100 to 200 metres along the fence line.

Walking abroad

Pack gear for all seasons (1001 Walking Tips)

Pack gear for all seasons (1001 Walking Tips)

17. Store important contact details online, such as travel companies, travel insurance and local consulate information.

18. Don’t carry all your important documents and money in one place. Spread stuff around so you always have a backup if something gets lost of stolen.

19. Long trails can extend across different seasons, so you will need to establish what gear you need. Summer gear is not much use in winter or on a high-altitude section. This means you might have to use resupply stations, such as a post offices in local towns, for pick-up or return of gear.

20. If you’re using a guidebook, copy the pages you need and take only these with you, or get the book on an electronic reader.

21. Wear your boots on the flight out. That way, if your gear gets lost, you still have boots that fit well. You can buy more gear, but boots will need breaking into for a long walk.

1001 Walking Tips by Paul Besley is out now!

Liked this? Learn even more about navigation, safety, fitness and gear with Paul Besley's new book 1001 Walking Tips. On sale now at an RRP £25.

Learn more at adventurebooks.com

Buy now

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