Start with the Right Equipment
1. Sturdy Walking Shoes or Boots
2. Wet Weather Gear
3. A snack to keep you going
4. A bottle of water
5. A small first aid kit with plasters
Temperature and water
In cold weather the greatest danger is hypothermia or exposure: this occurs where the body temperature is chilled to a life-threatening level, and is aggravated by wind chill. To avoid it make sure you have enough warm clothing and extra food and plenty of water.
In warm weather, the principle hazards are sunburn, windburn and dehydration. Sunhats, sun cream, and water can prevent serious sunburn or heatstroke.
Don't underestimate the amount of water you need. Doctors recommend drinking 1.5-2 litres of water a day even for an ordinarily active lifestyle, and you will need more if you walking strenuously and/or the weather is hot. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Still mineral or tap water is adequate: fizzy drinks are not recommended as they take longer to drink, a problem if you need to rehydrate quickly. Avoid drinking unboiled or unpurified water from streams, and when in the hills carry emergency water purification tablets.
You should not walk in remote areas without a basic knowledge of first aid. At least one person in a party should know how to bandage an ankle or apply a splint to a broken limb, and hillwalkers should be able to recognise the signs of hypothermia and how to respond.
Carry a basic first aid kit, which should include:
10 plasters in various sizes
2 large sterile dressings for management of severe bleeding
1 medium sterile dressing for care of larger wounds
4 triangular bandages to support suspected broken bones, dislocations or sprains
1 eye pad in case of a cut to the eye
4 safety pins to secure dressings
disposable gloves to implement good hygiene
Ready-made first aid kits for walkers are available from outdoor shops. St John Ambulance Supplies sell kits, as do the British Red Cross. Bulk supplies of first aid kits may be cheaper from ESE Direct.
The fundamental rule of first aid is warmth, rest and reassurance. For more see Suggested Reading below. Even more useful is a short course on basic first aid.
Blisters are simply the result of friction, but they can make a walk a miserable experience. To help prevent blisters:
Wear comfortable, good-fitting, worn-in boots or shoes, especially on long walks
Wear good walking socks in the right size; consider wearing two pairs
Keep your toenails trim
Change your socks daily
Quickly remove any foreign bodies from your socks and boots
Ensure that the tongue and laces of your boots are arranged correctly and evenly
Check your feet carefully and regularly for any sign of rubbing and tenderness
Walk as much as possible in your boots so that hard skin develops at friction points
Act immediately you feel any friction or discomfort: blisters can form very quickly
If you feel a blister developing, stop walking, take your boots and socks off and examine your feet. Consider applying some material cushioning or padding, or a breathable waterproof plaster, or possibly some strips of surgical tape.
There is some controversy over how to treat blisters when they do occur. Some walkers prefer to burst the blister carefully and immediately apply a sterile dressing. Others argue this runs the risk of infection, and instead recommend keeping the blistered area clean and protected.