It’s June 2017, and twice this year we have guided teams on the Welsh 3000s challenge. The weather conditions for both these events I can only describe as biblical. If you had been living in Old Testament times you’d have been looking over your shoulder at a smug Noah and wondering why you hadn’t heeded his advice. Take this article as a modern day parable and since none of us has a crystal ball maybe take the time now to start building your ark.
Cotton Kills in the Hills
I always write in my joining instructions “don’t wear anything that is cotton”. For a short walk, on a dry day, it’s great. But when the day ahead is going to be a long one and conditions can be wet, wearing cotton can exponentially increase the risk of hypothermia. It absorbs water (from rain and sweat) and then takes heat energy from your body to dry itself. When dealing with hypothermic casualties the first thing I do is not give them layers but remove the cotton ones. More on this subject here. Better than cotton is to wear synthetic layers or even wool and merino.
Replace or reproof your kit
I know – waterproof coats and trousers aren’t cheap. When you spend several hundred pounds on a coat you expect it to work … for life! The sad reality is, that your waterproofs will work wonderfully in the first few years but over time as they take on the appearance of a parched paper Dead Sea Scroll, they will need reproofing. Personally I’d recommend reproofing your kit with Nikwax products. In my experience these products do the job and because they are water-based and Fluorocarbon free they are environmentally friendly too. I would recommend regularly reproofing all your waterproof layers and your boots after every outing too.
If your kit looks as if Baden Powell might have had the first use of it – maybe it is time to say your fond farewells and invest in some new garments. If you’re not a regular walker this may seem an expensive option but if you look around you’ll be sure to find some bargains to sweeten that bitter pill!
Once you’ve reproofed your kit, take a needle and cotton to it – or if it’s a membrane shell – start patching it up. There’s no point having a wonderful waterproof jacket all proofed up if there is even the slightest hole in it. Water will get in. The same applies for internal seals that have come apart from the item. There are purpose made patches for Goretex that you can use on hard-shell layers – read more here.
Line your day sack with a waterproof liner – or two. This could be a dedicated inner dry-bag designed for the task or simply a rubble bag from the local DIY store. In a parallel universe of dreamland you may be thinking that the cover that your bag is supplied with will keep your kit dry. In reality this will actually allow your kit to get soaked and will flap around your face adding insult to injury. Line your bag.
On the day – eating
The key to finishing a walk is to keep your fuel reserves topped up. Also a key way to stay warm is to eat food which will in turn allow your body to metabolise energy. But on a soaking wet day who wants to stop for a picnic? Chances are you don’t even want to stop and open up your bag to the elements. The solution is to pack lots of snacking food in pockets that are close to hand. Personally I like to keep my breast-pocket topped up with food so that I can eat whilst on the go. Everytime you do stop – top up this “nose-bag” and you’ll do the distance!
Hopefully if you let paranoia kick in and you do all the above then you know that come the day it won’t rain anyway: job’s a goodun’!
Have a great walk!
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