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My favourite five hiking books

Even if feeling particularly adventurous, having some good trails on hand is always useful and recommended. To that end, here are my favourite five hiking books:

1.

I absolutely adore this classic of a book. Though it has a heavily British influence, there are also some wonderful international routes, from places a far afield as Jamaica and Germany. With some walks taking up to an hour, and some week long treks, it’s a great book to flick through, even if you’re not intending on doing any of the walks!

2.

If you’re looking for something a little closer to home and some great hikes and walks locally, then this is the book for you. You really get a wonderful feel for the variety of the British countryside, and the rich and diverse nature around us.

3.

Now if you’re going for more of the coffee table vibe, then this is 1,000% the book for you. It’s large and truly stunning and this fabulous hard book belongs in your home. Written by Christopher Somerville, this is likely the most comprehensive overview of the British hiking scene.

4.

Now this is a book I hope you’ll never have to use! To be honest, I like it mainly for interest and not out of a feeling I’ll ever need to use, it but as you never know what could happen, it’s always good to stay reminded of important survival guides.

5.

This book is about how landmarks are the power that shapes our concept of space. A truly remarkable guide to nature and the words used to describe it throughout Great Britain, this is a must read book especially for newcomers to walking.

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How important are the right socks?

Over the last month, we must have had ten people emailing us, asking questions about the importance of hiking socks, and so I thought it about time to write a new blog post.

Well the short answer: VERY!

You can buy the best hiking boots in the world, but if you don’t wear the correct socks for your feet, and the weather, you’re going to end up with sore and blistered feet. Relatively speaking, hiking socks are not at all expensive, and so to spend over £100 on a great pair of boots and not to spend a few extra quid on decent socks, is not very smart to say the least.

Now, if you’re going on a long hike, and really willing to invest in some serious socks, my top recommendation would probably be a pair of Dexshell Aqua Thermal’s which will set you back a shade under £30. As silly as it sounds to say for a pair of socks, these are serious! Completely waterproof, warm and yet breathable, they are actually made of three separate layers and have extra support around the toes and ankle. Personally if I’m going for a brief walk I don’t use these, but save them for longer and more serious hikes.

Of course, not everyone is up for spending this much on a pair of socks, and if you’re a casual hiker, this is totally understandable. If you want something on more a budget, then go for these nice H. J. Hall Merino Wool socks. They’ll do the job, and will cost you a more reasonable £9.25. They don’t have anywhere as much technology in them as the Dexshells, but being made of high quality wool, they’ll keep your feet warm and help protect your feet.

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I hope this comes in handy, they’re the socks I use, and they’ve kept me pretty snug up until now!

Daniel.

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Where to Find Cheap Hiking Gear

About two weeks ago I went on a short two-day hike with a friend. It was a great walk but as I’m writing this post one particular thing stands out in my memory. Half-way through the trip we met a guy who seemed to have all the latest gear. If you’ve done any serious hiking, you’ll know the kind of person that I’m talking about. Spanking new boots, top-of-the-range walking poles, nifty little gas-powered stove to cook his dried meals, and of course a pristine Osprey pack. The list, I’m sure, could go on.

hiking-49897_640Fair play to him, I say. If I had the money, I’d do the same. For a lot of us, however, an unlimited budget isn’t something we posses. Or we might just take satisfaction in bagging a bargain. In this short post I want to look at what I think are some of the best places to buy cheap online

eBay

At the risk of sounding obvious, you should always check eBay. You can set up notifications  for newly listed items using the android/smartphone app if you’re looking for a particular brand or model and don’t mind waiting a while. It’s also worth making use of the “Make an Offer” feature on “Buy it Now” items where the seller has included it. You’d be surprised how low some people are willing to go, especially when there’s lots of the same item available.

Gear Trade

I think Geartrade.com is a very under-utilized marketplace. It’s not an auction site, but there are still some fantastic deals to be had. The search function doesn’t always work so browse by category. You can often find brand new gear with significant reductions on the retail price. It’s also, along with eBay, a great place to sell your own used gear.

Amazon

Amazon allow people to sell used products in most categories, so they’re worth checking out. Generally you’re not going to find many deals here. What Amazon can be useful for is both discovering and checking out lesser-known brands (which invariably tend to be cheaper).

Forum Classifieds

Again, massively under-utilized. There’s usually a section in walking forums dedicated to second-hand gear. This is probably where you’re most likely to get a serious deal. A lot of forum users are just looking for a quick sale and are very amenable to letting gear go cheaply if you get in touch. Search some of the main forums like backpackinglight.com, backpacker.com and walkingforum.co.uk.

Other Tips

If you’re buying new, you should always try to take advantage of offers and loopholes with the big companies. Cotswold Outdoor, for example, have numerous schemes that allow for a percentage off the retail price (you can get 10-15% off for example if you’re either a member of the National Trust or a student) and GO Outdoors also offer a 30 day price guarantee if you can find a product cheaper elsewhere, with certain conditions of course. Make sure you look online for vouchers too.

I hope that gives you some things to be getting on with! Please share your own ideas in the comments section below.

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This short post explores some of the ways to stop annoying heel slippage when you’re hiking. Most walkers experience one of two common problems: blisters or slipping. Both are interrelated and by solving one you can often eliminate the other.

All of the heel pads outlined here will work for any kind of shoe and any kind of walking activity. My suggestion is that you experiment with a few different types. You might also want to try using some different lacing systems (especially the “heel lock”) which I know from personal experience can have a significant benefit.

Slip Pads

In my quest to find the antidote to slipping, I’ve tried most “grips” that are available to buy. Generally speaking, they are made from either suede or silicone gel. The way that the pads work, as far as I’m aware, is by decreasing the volume in the heel area of the boot. By limiting the space in which your heel has to move, they essentially reduce the tendency of your foot to slip.

The fact that your heels are slipping doesn’t necessarily mean the boots don’t fit. Some boots just have roomy heel cups and it may mean, due to their make-up, that your feet just don’t sit well in them. A small, and I do mean small, amount of slippage is also very common (even normal) with heavy-duty boots that have thick, stiff soles.

ProFoot Heel Snugs: These foam pads offer the most cushioning of any product that I’ve tried. Whether you choose the less bulkier suede grips or these (I’d recommend that you get both and sample them) will be a matter of how much space you need to fill in the back of your boots. If you’re in America, the “Heavenly Heelz” Foot Petals are very similar.

Generic Heel Grips (Suede): These are by far the most widely known and used footwear accessories designed to stop slipping. There’s lots of different retailers selling a fairly standard model like the one pictured on the right. They tend to be quite robust and are excellent for combating small amounts of slippage.

Gel/Silicone Pads: These sound enticing, but be careful. The problem with most gel pads (and I’ve tried a lot) is that they easily come away from the back of the boots. The most significant benefit of gel pads is that they’re also very good at tackling blisters. I’ve yet to try attaching them with super glue (my poor boots) but that’s one option I know a lot of people swear by.

Let me know what your own experiences are in the comments section below.

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What I’ve Read This Month: January

Welcome to the first post on the new Bestwalkingboots.org blog! I’m launching the blog with what I hope will turn into a regular occurrence: my monthly round-up of some of the best hiking-related content and news from around the web. The whole Best Walking Boots project is a new and fast-growing one, so please do sign up for the newsletter if you like the idea.

martindale-1116467-mI’ve teamed up with a foot-care professional (Si of Mountainfeet.co.uk) and he’s going to be regularly contributing to the site. We are genuinely striving to become the web’s most in-depth and extensive walking and hiking boots review resource.

There’s a great deal of work to do and we’re working on a robust review format along with more individual reviews for the coming months. It’s still early days but things are looking bright!

So, let’s jump in…

Boots And Gear:

There have been several new boot models publicized this month. Teva have announced that they’ll be launching their three-season Riva Peak boots and Merrell have a new hiking shoe on the way. You might also want to have a look at the new Salomon XA Pro 3D. It’s a gorgeous trail running shoe.

Ever thought about attempting a long-distance trail in a pair of walking sandals? Check out this article about light hiking footwear by Chris Townsend, it may well change your entire perspective on boots.

For those of you who aren’t already aware of Engo, it’s probably fair to say that they’re offering the best blister-prevention product in the world today. I’ll be doing a full field-test and review of their patches at some point next month. The experiences I’ve had so far are all incredibly positive.

I also watched this video by Asolo. It’s about what’s involved in the boot manufacturing process. The quality isn’t great but it’s well worth a watch.

Hiking

I stumbled across this lovely little site about hiking that’s aimed at people who live in London. The woman who runs it, Catherine, seems to be very knowledgeable about how Londoners can incorporate walking trips into their busy schedules and there’s lots of good ideas here. I wish I’d found this resource when I was a student in the big city.

Great post from Pilgrim Chris about wild hiking in the Peak District (where I live coincidentally). Reading this might encourage you to get out for a night under the stars.

Alastair Humphreys also has a new project for budding adventurers that you may find interesting…can you manage £20 a week for the adventure of a lifetime?

Other Bits & Bobs

Mountain Safety: Andy Luke, a keen outdoors enthusiast, has started this new project that covers everything from trail-walking to mountain-climbing safety.

UKHillwalking.com: A relatively new site about hill walking in the UK. Lots of good content.

Finally, I bought my first bottle of Smidge (well, it was actually a gift) so I’ll be testing it out in the countryside in February.

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