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Advice For Long Distance Walking | First Time Trekking Tips

Going on your first long-distance trek? Or maybe you’re just dusting the cobwebs off your old walking boots. Either way, here’s some top tips from outdoor adventurers to get you well on your way.

Going trekking for the first time can be daunting. You might wonder if your body is up for the taskwhat hiking gear you’ll need, and just how in the hell you’re going to make it up a route called the Devil’s Staircase with your sanity still intact. 

Fear not; here at Outdoors Magic we’ve gathered some top tips from experienced hikers, fell-hoppersand long-distance trekkers, about what to know about before embarking on your first big adventure. Answering the question: ‘with hindsight, what do you wish you knew before your first trek’, these experts take you through some key advice on how to have the most enjoyable trekking experience possible.  


Ash Routen

Ash is a scientist and outdoor adventurer who once completed a 640km end to end trek of the world’s largest frozen lake in Siberia. He’s soon to undertake a 700km trek along the frozen coastline of Baffin Island. 

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from long-distance treks is the need to be attentive. First by paying attention to your body and in particular your feet. Wash them, moisturise them, and powder (anti-fungal) them daily. Pay attention to hotspots immediately, swap wet socks for dry ones etc. – whatever it takes to keep your feet in good shape.

Related: How To Take Care Of Your Tent | Essential Advice

“Second, be attentive when using your equipment. Slowing down and being purposeful when using stoves and putting up tents etc. reduces the likelihood of breaking something. It’s so easy to snap a tent pole or similar when rushing at the end of a long day.

Photo: @AshRouten
Photo: @AshRouten

Nicola Hardy

Nicola is an adventurer, komoot ambassador, and peak-bagging hikerAmongst a plethora of achievements, she has hiked 282 Munros in Scotland, trekked to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and has climbed all of the Lake District’s Wainwright fells.


“When I look back now at how heavy my backpack used to be, I can’t help but laugh – I’ve no idea how I managed to carry it up a mountain. So I’d always encourage people to pack as light as possible to help avoid crippling backache, which can really spoil the experience. By packing light, you can move fast and nimbly through the mountains, and have more energy for relishing the beauty and escapism. Other than investing in high quality, ultralight gear, the best way to save weight is to carry fewer clothes and toiletries (you’re going to smell anyway so just take one t-shirt and ditch the deodorant) and avoid over-doing it with food supplies. Obviously you should always carry the essentials for mountain safety, such as a shelter and a first aid kit, but often we’re all tempted to carry luxuries and non-essentials.” 

James Forrest

James is the author of ‘Mountain Man’, a peak-bagging record holder, and full-time outdoor journalist. He is well-known for having climbed all 1001 mountains in the UK and Ireland in the fastest known time. 


“At 4am, one stormy night in the Brecon Beacons years ago when I was a novice trekker, a rough night of wild camping turned into a disastrous one. My cheap tent, after hours of howling winds and horizontal rain, finally gave up. The central pole buckled, collapsing the tent into a flimsy, spineless mess, and waking me instantly from a fitful sleep. The relatively firm ground I’d pitched on the night before had transformed into a soft, squelchy, disgusting quagmire. Basically, I was lying face down in a peaty swamp. I’d orientated the tent incorrectly to the wind, chosen a far too exposed camping spot, not taken enough pegs for guy lines, and picked an awful weather window – a litany of schoolboy errors. So, my advice would be to build your wild camping skills in advance; buy a sturdy weatherproof tent and learn how to erect it precisely and stably. That way you’ll never have to wake up face down in a swamp.”

Related: Wild Camping In The Brecon Beacons | Where To Go

Abbie Barnes 

Abbie is a long-distance backpacker, trail runner, traditional archer, and wellness coach. Amongst an impressive list of other qualifications, she is also the founder and director of Spend More Time In The WILD, an organisation which seeks to inspire and empower individuals to don their walking boots and head outside for the benefit of mental and physical wellbeing. 

“I started hiking long-distance when I was 16 years old, beginning with the famous West Highland Way route. Since then, I have hiked trails all over the world, carrying everything I need on my back. It has been amazing, but at times a steep learning curve. I have discovered so many things along the way. Perhaps most notably, the importance of mindset. It has often been so easy to get caught up in the planning and logistic side of things that I would forget to actually check in with myself and keep an eye on my mental health. At times I would start a trail exhausted, and then have hundreds of miles ahead of me through which I would pull myself together. 

“Nowadays I have taken on board these lessons and learnings and understand that there are many ways to hike a trail. You can tackle it with a fast, light, and powerful set-up, doing as much as you can as quickly as you can. Or a slower, more mindful approach, having shorter milage-days or even just doing day hikes. I enjoy a mix of all approaches, but ensuring I jump onto a trail understanding exactly what I want to get out of it means that I can mitigate any unwanted pressure, maintain an open mind and heart, and enjoy the trail for exactly what it is; a wild adventure in a new natural and cultural landscape that can grow me on a personal level, and help me tell a story through film.”


Anna Blackwell

Anna has trekked solo 1000km across Northern Scandinavia, kayaked all across Europe, spent five weeks walking across the wilderness of Arctic Sweden alone and 1000 miles across France and Spain, to name but a few achievements. She is an adventurer, writer, photographer and speaker.

The biggest thing I learned was how important packing is: specifically, pack less than you think you’ll need. Yes, it’s important to have the essentials, but make sure that you can justify carrying every item you pack and that each item has a purpose. A lighter rucksack is pretty much the quickest way to have a more enjoyable trek. 

“Another thing I wish I knew before I walked 1,600km across France and Spain, was just how monotonous and boring long-distance trekking can be at times. I realise it’s a potentially controversial thing to say, but the reality is that some stretches can just be incredibly samey, whether that’s endless roadside paths, or day after day of poor conditions and limited visibility. You’re in for a lot of time in your own head, especially if you’re solo… Though that’s one of the challenging aspects of long-distance walking that I also find rewarding.

Will Renwick

Will is the editor of Outdoors Magic, the president of Ramblers Cymru, and an expert in all things hiking related. He has trekked the length of Spain and the Italian Dolomites, walked coast-to-coast through Scotland and circumnavigated the entire boundary of Wales, his homeland. 

“The hardest days on a trek for me are nearly always the first couple, I guess mainly because it’s all a bit of a shock to the system. With that in mind, when the muscles feel sore and the task ahead is looking daunting, I just remind myself that things will get easier – and fairly quickly too. It’s actually amazing how fast your body can adjust the life on the trail. The same can be said for the mental side of things too. So I guess my advice would be to just concentrate on getting through those first hard days and stick at it, because the rewards will come.”

“What I absolutely love about long-distance walking is the sense of freedom that it brings. Life becomes a lot simpler. For me personally, I like to maximise that freedom and its rewards by keeping my schedule and itinerary as loose as possible. Ideally I won’t even have an end date to aim for. That means if I want to stop in a pub, I can. If I want to have one extra pint, maybe two – no problem.

“I think for certain trips, particularly those in unfamiliar countries, a schedule can be important. But on, say, a UK hike where you’ve got all your wild camping kit etc on your back, I’d definitely recommend the go-with-the-flow approach. We spend our lives on a schedule and this is one of the only chances you’ll get to break free from it.”


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