By Bruce Perkins at
This is a simple guide to the essentials for new-comers to Nordic Walking.
This guide is specifically for those who have just completed their Nordic Walking Learn2, gained their Freedom Passports and may not have walked much before & are now planning on lower-level walks on well-trodden paths, (South West Coastal Path is exhilarating) beaches, sand dunes or to smaller hill summits. (or not so small in some cases!!)
However it can also serve as a reminder to the more experienced walker
More so than any other outdoors activity, walking requires specific kit for each season and with spring/summer just around the corner, most experienced Nordic walkers are now preparing their walking gear and rethinking what they carry in their rucksack/on their person/or within a group when out walking.
Spring/Summer walking equipment (depending on location/time of day) can include:
Extra base layer, extra fleece, waterproof over trousers, summer gloves, hat, map, compass, water, food, first aid kit, tick card, sun cream, insect repellent etc.
Winter walking packs would have all above (less sun cream of course) with additional base layers or two, a lightweight insulated jacket, a heavier insulated “over jacket”, thick winter hat, down gloves, balaclava, neck warmer, extra energy bars, a flask of tea or coffee and a head torch.
In addition to carrying extra equipment walkers should also wear extra layers too, and ensure they have a good-quality waterproof and windproof jacket.
As for what to wear:
Obviously, when heading outside in the rain, the primary goal is to be suitably dressed for the occasion and the weather.
However, when out on the trails, your clothes are really going to be put to the test as they will be exposed to rainy weather for a much longer, arduous period than when you’re simply out for a short walk in the rain.
This is why you should kit yourself out in a 3-tier layering system consisting of Base layer, Fleece & Waterproof jacket. More on these to follow
FACT – The foot has 33 joints, 26 bones, more than a hundred muscles, tendons and
ligaments, as well as a sole loaded with nerve endings and a variety of touch receptors that allow us to feel, giving us vital proprioception to keep our balance as we walk, run and jump. Over protecting our feet will stop this all from working therefore when selecting the right footwear for you consider the following:
MUST be flexible soled, comfortable, not too heavy and ideally waterproof but footwear is a very personal thing so no one make or style fits all.Waterproof and breathable are a must. For lower-level Nordic walking a summer-style boot/shoe will suffice, but it still needs to have good grip. Rubber is well-known for its ability to provide good traction on a variety of different terrains – including wet surfaces – therefore aiding balance. Ensure your boots are well broken in prior to a long walk, as new/stiff boots that aren’t adjusted to your feet are far more likely to cause blisters
Boots/shoes must be comfortable. Make sure you try them on with walking socks and ensure there is enough space at the front for your toes to move (squeeze that lemon). The footwear should fit snugly but not over-tight. Boots that support your ankle whilst allowing for flexibility in the ankle are best for Nordic walking. There are many different boots/walking shoes from a wide spectrum of companies, but everyone’s feet are different so ensure you try on a lot of footwear before making your final choice. You may also add a pair of waterproof socks (just to make sure)
Base layer: A lightweight, easy-to-move-around-in base layer will help you keep fresh even when out in the rain, as it will wick away sweat, insulate your body heat and keep external moisture at bay. These are thin tops (long sleeved and short) that are worn next to the skin. They are made from a magical material that keeps you warm but also allows sweat to wick away to the outside. Base layers can be worn under other layers, such as a thin fleece and a waterproof jacket, or on their own in warm weather. Choose what suits you best and for the climate in which you are walking, this includes crew neck, v-neck, quarter zip, etc.
Fleece: Synthetic insulators such as fleece will retain their feel, warmth and function when exposed to rainfall, whereas natural materials, such as down, will become weighty due to moisture and slow-drying properties Several base layers are better than one thick fleecy layer. The layers trap heat between them and can be peeled off or put on as required to keep you at a constant and comfy temperature. On colder days consider wearing a base layer, a thin fleece and then a waterproof jacket.
Waterproof jacket: For a jacket to be deemed waterproof, its shell must have a waterproof rating of 2,000mm or above, as well as feature taped seams. Look out for styles that have a mesh lining or underarm ventilation zips to aid breathability Windproof, waterproof, breathable but not too bulky that inhibits your Nordic Walking technique. These are all musts for a good jacket. Ensure the jacket also has a hood. If possible consider a jacket with a thin fleece patch on the inside top of the zip so that when the jacket is zipped up to the top it doesn’t scratch your face/chin. It’s a good idea to have sleeves and hem long enough to prevent rain drops going inside your gloves and trousers!
Walking trousers: A pair of jogging bottoms or leggings will be fine for most walkers but if you’re looking for the ultimate comfort while out on the hills/along the coast, walking trousers/shorts are a great choice. They are designed to fit comfortably while walking and help to avoid skin rubs.
Gaiters: You might think these are just for rambling-types but the waterproof protectors are ideal for keeping your feet and trousers dry when walking over wet ground. There is plenty of that across the moors!!
Waterproof over-trousers: Ideally they need to be breathable but this is not essential and make sure they have zips/buttons/poppers that allow you to put them on over your walking boots so that you can pop them on and off according to the weather conditions.
Socks: You’ll also need to consider the type of walking socks you’re wearing, as wet socks can rub against your skin and quickly lead to blistering and athlete’s foot.
Choose socks that make use of anti-blistering technology which means that even if your feet get wet, you won’t have to worry about sore feet halting your progress and ruining your walk.
Accessories: Hats, gloves, socks, neck warmers, tissues.
Back: If you’re still going to be carrying or wearing wet-sensitive gear, you need to wrap these up in garbage bags, dry sacks or Ziploc bags. Not only will they be protected from getting wet, but they will also come in handy for separating items in your backpack and keeping everything organised.
Fully waterproof backpacks are the best option but they can also be pricey, so you can always make do with a rucksack cover. Remember that a wet backpack (or anything else that gets drenched, really) means a heavier backpack.
Packs Map, compass, GPS: If you plan to walk solo you will need to know how to use a map and compass. It’s vital, in fact. Remember that a GPS/mobile phone may not always work and so you can’t always rely on these gadgets.
You should also note that you need to dress for the temperature as well. When choosing your layers, you’ll need to consider how hot or cold it is and dress appropriately. If you’re heading out in changing conditions, we would suggest layering up as you can always take an item off should it become too warm, but underdressing can’t be remedied!
Whether you’ve been a regular hiker for years or you’re planning a one-off walk in the woods, hiking in the rain can pose some serious challenges. The autumn months guarantee a rain spell or two so you’re sure to be out and about in a shower when you’re chasing trails. The option to nip inside for shelter won’t be there, so you’ll have to think of alternatives for tackling the torrential downpours.
As always, the weather doesn’t faze us when it comes to our love for the outdoors, but we do recognise the need to be well-informed, and therefore, well-armed for the elements.
Know the Trail
As with any walking trip, making sure you’re familiar with the trails and the surrounding terrain is a must. When selecting your route, you’ll want to consider the steepness of the land you intend to walk through.
If the trail veers towards upward inclines at steep gradients, keeping your balance will be more difficult and the mud will make it easier for you to slip and injure yourself. Furthermore, you’ll need to take into consideration the surrounding land as poor weather causes the terrain to erode and can end up blocking your planned route, or making it difficult for you to reach your point of departure on the way back.
Ideally, you should select a route that is on flat land, with the area around the trail also being flat. This will allow you to enjoy your walk more and you won’t have to worry about falling and injuring yourself halfway through your trip.