Part Two

Advice & Equipment

Ultimate Guide to Walking Groups: Rambling Further

Posted on October 9, 2018


So, you've decided to dive into the world of rambling from scratch or merely rekindle your past love of walking in the countryside, but the prospect feels somewhat on the daunting side. What should I wear? What equipment do I need? What kind of walk should I start things off with? The good news is that this pastime doesn't ask for too much by way of gear or experience, aside from one or two fundamentals.

The fact that there are so many variables means you'll need to focus on just the most important basics in order to ensure that you have the most enjoyable experience possible - and, crucially, set yourself up for a lifetime of rambling happiness. Thankfully we have four walking group organisers on hand to give you the essential info on what to take and how to approach your first few outings.

Advice for first time ramblers


Alan Crisp - Sheffield Walking Group

"Invest in a good pair of shoes if you're serious about walking. Hiking over hills and dales in poor shoes won't do much for your feet or your balance but a good pair of walking boots will be a worthwhile investment. For people new to walking I'd recommend starting with shorter, easier routes and building up the length and difficulty gradually. Many walking groups offer walks of varying difficulty for this reason."

Julian Mitchell - Footprints Walking Group

"Give it a go! Find a walking group near you. Start out with shorter walks (depending on your fitness level) and build up your stamina with longer or more hilly walks. Don’t go for longer or more strenuous walks straight away, but build up your confidence so that you know you can manage the distance and level of exertion. If you would rather go walking alone - buy a compass and learn to read a map. There are plenty of courses and books that can teach you how to do this."

Peter Rowsell - Doncaster Ramblers

"Invest in a good pair of walking boots, they don’t need to be expensive, but should be comfortable. Thick socks too. For new comers it’s best to begin on short two mile flat rambles and build up over time to longer and more ambitious routes. The key is to include walking in your routine and continue at least once a week.  Some groups only walk monthly, that’s OK, join two or more groups! The Doncaster Ramblers usually offer two or three walks a week of between eight to 10 miles."

Richard Cyster - The Harrogate Rambling Club

"For those new to walking, the best advice is to start with shorter walks and to walk with a Group, such as Harrogate Rambling Club. This will introduce you to an enjoyable and social pastime. As your ability and your confidence grows, so can the length and the challenge of the walks you attempt. HRC has up to 6 programmed walks each Wednesday, organised to cater for different walking abilities. Then, when you have 'found your feet' in the Club, comes the time when you can lead your first walk. There will always be someone to help you if you're unsure."

What to pack for rambling

Alan Crisp

"Weather can be unpredictable at all times of year so it's best to be prepared for all eventualities. Always pack some extra layers and waterproof clothes. It's also a good idea to have a small first aid kit and a torch in case of emergency. Bring plenty of water and a spot of lunch too. Don't forget the map!"

Julian Mitchell

"It very much depends on the weather and the level of walk. If the walk is for any length of time you will need food and drink. You also need clothing and footwear appropriate for the conditions. Most walking groups can help you out with advice on this - our group has a recommended list of gear that you should take on a walk. It is also worth mentioning that there are plenty of mid-range clothing and waterproofs that perform reasonably well, so there is no need to splash out on expensive gear until you know that walking is for you!"

Peter Rowsell

"Regardless of the weather forecast a spare set of clothing usually waterproofs is recommended.  Walking makes you warm, but once you stop, it can become chilly. Plenty of fluids and a snack are essential. If walking independently (say with a guide book) a fully charged mobile phone, and tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. A compass, map, first aid kit are also useful."

Richard Cyster

"This will, to some extent, depend on the type of walk being contemplated but should always include wet weather gear (waterproof jacket and trousers) an extra fleece, a first aid kit, a whistle, a torch, an Ordnance Survey map of the area being walked and a compass. Depending on the weather you should also include a sun hat, a thermal hat and gloves. If the walk is likely to be muddy, gaiters may be required.  Walkers should always have suitable footwear - walking boots or stout walking shoes - and many also favour the use of trekking poles."

The key pieces of advice are easy to remember:

  • Pack clothing for multiple seasons (or just all of them!).
  • Wear good quality, sturdy boots - preferably worn-in to a certain degree.
  • Be prepared for the worst by taking first aid essentials, a charged phone and letting someone know where you'll be walking.
  • Take an appropriate map and brush up on your orienteering basics.

That said, the benefits of being a member of a rambling group is that there will always be others more experienced than you in preparation and guidance. The upside is that you'll be able to just tag along for the ride and simply enjoy all the best bits of a wonderful walk in the countryside.

What do you pack on your walks? Do you have any tips for first-timers that you benefitted from? Let us know!

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