I am rarely seen out walking without a backpack. Ok, I don't tend to take it on short dog walks close to home but I do have a rule...
Regardless if I am walking alone or with clients, I will always take some key items in a trusty backpack. I have two, one that is light and minimalist and the one pictured that holds more and has better ventilation to minimise a sweaty back. I keep weight to a minimum but always have these key items:
Number One. A phone with a full charge. I like to leave it buried for the purposes of a true digital detox. However, I cannot ignore the comfort provided by this mini-computer in my bag. Yes I will use it for photographing the wonderful things I come across; but the danger of this is seeing notifications when I wake it up.
It holds two critical apps for me;
OS Locate which will find me regardless of network coverage and tell me my grid reference to an accuracy of about 20 metres. Not all emergency services will accept this though, my walking companion was once attacked by a dog, tried to call the police and they wanted a postcode (she was in the middle of nowhere with no roads or visible dwellings).
The other one is WhatThreeWords this will do much the same to an accuracy of a 3m x 3m square. The emergency services do seem to recommend this as a preferred method. I haven't had to test it (and hope I never will) but I have tried it on the moors and it does give you a position.
Number 2. A basic first aid kit. This seems like a no-brainer but I see many folk in the forest a good few miles from the road carrying nothing that would seem to help in the event of an accident. It's the simple things, gloves, sterile wipes, plasters, gause and a couple of basic bandages. I will have alcohol gel, antihistamines and paracetamol too.
If you are a coach and you take clients walking, I do recommend a basic outdoor first aid course. Mostly so you have some idea of what to do with the stuff in your kit. These courses run for two days, they are not expensive and the skills are simply useful in other scenarios. It also demonstrates a level of consideration and care for your clients. I'm surprised that my insurance didn't insist on it but there you go.
Number 3. Water, again seems obvious. Not only for drinking but for rinsing mud and crap (yes sometime's actual crap) from grazes and scrapes. I prefer a metal container that sunlight can't penetrate and keeps your supply cool on hot days. For long walks, I have a Camelback bladder with a tube so I don't have to faff about with a bottle. Even on a short client walk, I will have water handy.
Number 4. A compass. Seems excessive for a walk in a London park and it is. I'm no where near London parks and many of my walks are in forest or moorland areas across the South West. Mostly these are easy to navigate but I have been turned around on past excursions. A fallen tree can block a path, a simple diversion can spin you about and because of the tree cover, landmarks and waypoints are obscured. On open moorland, fog can descend rapidly and, frankly I find that really unnerving.
There is often no phone signal or 4G in remote areas so looking at your phone is often futile. It's simple and accessible to learn to navigate. I learned via the National Navigation Award Scheme (again very affordable and enjoyable courses). Being able to get a bearing is deeply reassuring to me. To my client again it can offer a sense of comfort that they are in good hands (particularly if being lost in the woods is a new sensation). My compass lives in my backpack and depending on the walk and my own familiarity, is often accompanied by the OS explorer map for the location.
Number 5. Weatherproofing! This is England, at least for me that is where I do the bulk of my walking (occasional forays into Wales). Even on a hot day, a light squash-able waterproof is in the bottom of my bag. If nothing else it's something to sit on for lunch or to create shade if needs be. The other thing is a small bottle of factor 50 again even in the winter. I am fair skinned and have a nose that just wants to go bright red and peel at the first hint of sunshine.
There are other things, luxuries I suppose. I hate being without lip balm, I like a walking pole for hilly descents and nothing tops off a long walk than treating myself to chocolate along the way. Snacks for energy and, for day walks of course, a packed lunch / flask of soup.
Because many of my walks are on the wider land of English Heritage / National Trust estates there is often the potential for finishing with a cuppa and some cake.
Cake tastes so much better when you feel like you've really earned it!
So travel safely and travel well when exploring nature. For impactful coaching in natural environments, give me a shout. Photo credit to Nick Cole Photography and Alisa Anton (Unsplash) for the Cake.