The best time to start is now!
Nearly two years on from my first hike and I still struggle with impostor syndrome every time I step out into the great outdoors! Growing up in the north of England I had a typical upbringing for an industrial town none of which involved spending time outdoors other than the local park. Dinners were meat and two veg while weekends were spent either at the seaside or in the local pub. As I grew older the local park was swapped for boyfriends and the outdoors was never anything more to me then local dog walks and the odd walk (on the flat) with friends. In all honestly in my twenties, I had no idea that there was such a big outdoor community and the idea of climbing a mountain had never crossed my mind.
How I got into walking
Fast forward to me being 34 years old, I was struggling to find a purpose. I had been single for a while and felt like something was lacking on day trips out. I would visit Wales every weekend, visiting new towns and beaches but felt like something was missing from my days. Not wanting to give up my trips to Wales I bought a book of "things to do in North Wales" after flicking through the pages I kept coming back to a walk they suggested in Anglesey along the Welsh Coastal Path. At the time I had no idea that Wales even had a coastal path let alone a fully intact coastal path along the whole shore.
The walk was 16 miles. Again, with no idea how far 16 miles was or how long it would take me to do it, basically I had zero knowledge about hiking. It never even crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to walk to it. One night on a whim I decided to order some North Face walking shoes, looking online I had no idea about brands or what I even needed but North Face was at least a name I recognised. Within a couple of days, they arrived and the next week I decided I was doing the walk.
Next step was my safety. More out of fear of getting lost I gave my best friend the route I was planning on taking and promised to text her every hour to let her know I was safe, I bought a £10 backpack from Mountain Warehouse, filled it with a spare layer (I was a wimp when it came to weather) 2 litres of water and snacks. I also downloaded OS Maps to my phone and looked at the route online before heading out. Within the first five miles I was in love and already planning my next walk.
Now almost 2 years on from that day, my little world's been filled with the most incredible adventures. Adventures I would never have of dreamed as a child. I spent Christmas hiking on the Isle of Skye, hiked 400 miles of the Welsh Coastal Path, walked part of the South West Coastal Path, Kayaked, Paddle boarded, climbed my first mountains. And I have even more adventures planned for the next 12 months. Including cycling across Europe.
The biggest obstacles I found in my first year was the worry of having the wrong equipment, non-branded clothing and in general just worrying that I didn’t know what I was doing and that other people would notice and judge me.
Lighthouse along South West Coast Path, Anglesey
Walking tips for beginners
Here's 5 tips that I've learnt from starting walking, and if the same worries are holding you back, I hope these reassure you so you can start your adventures today... instead of waiting to have the right boots or the latest coat.
1. You don’t need branded clothing!
Other than my North Face shoes that first day I had nothing branded, I wore gym leggings and vest. A year on and I just ordered my second pair of North Face Shoes and I picked up a pair of Salomon boots for £50 in the sales. Regarding what I wear while hiking none of it is branded, even now. I either pick up bits at charity shops or wear outdoor shops own brands. I would rather save my money for adventures than names.
You are best spending your time researching what works best for you clothing wise. The most money I spent in the last year on a piece of clothing was on a coat because I was hiking through the winter and wanted to make sure I would be warm enough. Again, not branded but I researched what I would need and found the perfect coat. The most important thing is that you are safe, if you are hiking in the snow don’t go out in shorts or if you are going climbing don’t do it in flip flops. FYI, no one has ever commented on what I wear, ever!
2. People will help you find the right equipment
There are lots of online communities on social media filled with people willing to help you, whether that’s wanting a new pair of boots or a paddleboard. It is also ok to put what your budget is, you will get honest answers and helpful tips. You will also meet people while out walking or adventuring, I have lost count of the number of times up a mountain I've stopped to ask someone about what they are wearing/using. I have also found the outdoor community will tell you everything you need to know including the best place to get it at the best price.
Emma walking with friend
3. There are lots of online tools and books to help you
When it came to finding new places to hike, I would ask people on my social media where they suggested, I would then read up online as to what to expect and find routes that best suited my ability. I have also done an online course on navigation.
Other useful resources to look up are the green cross code (something I hadn’t looked at since the girl guides), RNLI for sea safety and the Met Office website (weather plays a big part in your safety). Don’t forget to download OS Locate and have the local mountain rescue phone number saved in your phone.
4. You are fit enough to start
This was my most used excuse I told myself mainly out of worry of starting “there is no way I am fit enough to hike”.
You are fitter than you think but only you know your own capabilities. I only started climbing mountains after 6 months of hiking coastal paths and hills and not going to lie, that first mountain I thought I would never get up, but I did, very slowly. If you really think you are not fit enough why not start with a walk around your local park, then start adding miles from there.
Walkers signpost on South West Coast Path, Anglesey
5. Still worried, take a friend
The outdoors is the perfect place to turn your phone off and reconnect with people, whether friends, family or someone you have been chatting to on social media (as long as you are safe). Even when I am hiking alone, I make sure to text a friend at certain points along the way so they know I am safe. Between two or more of you most worries should be easily resolved, plus twice the snacks.
I hope this has inspired you to get outdoors and just start, I know its daunting at first, but I promise you it is absolutely worth it. The beautiful sunrise over Snowdon doesn’t care how much you have spent on clothing. Nor does the sunset over your local hills worry that you got lost a couple of times. The outdoors is the perfect place to figure it out as you go along.
Stunning views along South West Coast Path, Anglesey
Have you started walking yet? Share your adventures with Ordnance Survey - tag them on social media and discover new walks, footpaths and routes on your doorstep using OS Maps.
Remember to take care of the great outdoors and follow the Countryside Code at all times.