Look after your gear and it will look after you

Whether you’re gearing up for the three-peaks challenge, striding out along a coastal path or enjoying a local ramble, the blue skies, patchy sunshine and gentle breezes of late spring make for perfect hiking and walking conditions. However, making sure your gear works hard for you is key to a successful excursion.
Below, we’ve singled out footwear and backpacks for special attention – arguably your most essential pieces of kit for staying comfortable outdoors…

Your footwear
Firstly, make sure you are wearing the right socks for the activity. Is it a long hike? Then look for a pair of close fitting, padded socks. Are you planning an energetic walk in warm weather? Breathable, wicking socks will do the trick. Will the conditions be cold and snowy? Look for insulated socks made of materials such as wool.

Choosing the right footwear is also essential for your comfort and enjoyment on the hills and mountains. Different materials offer different benefits, and a well-fitted boot or shoe will ensure your feet are supported, comfortable and safe. However, even the best brands can agitate your toes and heels, rubbing them and causing blisters – particularly if your feet overheat and get damp.

You can reduce the chances of discomfort by ensuring your footwear will perform at its very best. If it is dirty there is a risk of reduced breathability, which can cause your feet to feel damp and increase the risk of rubbing. Cleaning your footwear regularly with a specialist cleaner, such as Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel, which is designed to revitalise the water repellency and breathability of all waterproof footwear, will help to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Specialist cleaners also care for the integral components of your shoes, such as glues and seams, without risk of damage.

After cleaning your footwear, you should concentrate on proofing it, as boots and shoes that let water seep in will contribute to an uncomfortable hike. For leather footwear we recommend our Waterproofing Wax for Leather, which adds instant waterproofing to all smooth leather footwear. For combination (fabric and leather) footwear, Nikwax Fabric & Leather Proof is the go-to product. Don’t underestimate the importance of aftercare to protect your shoes – and your feet! Plus, the added bonus of Nikwax footwear aftercare is that it will increase the useable lifetime of your boots and shoes, so you can enjoy them for longer.

Your backpack
A decent backpack enables you to carry your hiking belongings safely, but how do you choose the right one for you? Whilst size and features are key, fit is the most critical factor. Go Outdoors recommends you load, adjust and wear your pack around the house before leaving for a trip – a correctly fitted backpack should carry 70-80% of the weight on your hips with the rest on the shoulders. The weight should be held close to your back and remain there without excessive movement when you move up and down, or side to side.

As for size, although much of this depends on the terrain of your route, and the weather, a pack sized between 10L and 25L will hold your water bottle, picnic, jacket and sunscreen, which are usually sufficient provisions for a daytrip. For all the campers out there, a 20L – 30L pack is generally suitable for a multiday hike that entails camping and cooking for yourself, whilst serious adventurers should consider a 35L pack. The longer the hike the higher the chance of extra gear, as well as unpredictable weather, tiredness, and clothing changes.

Most backpacks are waterproof, lightweight and flexible, providing maximum protection for the products inside them whilst keeping you comfortable. However, did you know that a dirty backpack can affect its performance, as well as that of your jacket, fleece or base layer? Keeping your pack clean and renewing its durable water repellency periodically will stop it, and your clothing, from wetting out in rainy weather.

Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarWash® is the only cleaner designed to revitalise the water repellency of weatherproof textiles. Recommended for all synthetic and canvas tents and gear, it will clean your backpack effectively, increase its tear strength and protect against UV deterioration. Follow with Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof® for added water repellency and extra UV protection. Using the right aftercare for your backpack will keep it working hard for you, whatever the weather, and extend its useable life.

Look after your gear and it will look after you! Happy hiking and remember to stick to the Countryside Code.