It’s the start of February 2021. The country has been in Level 5 lockdown for over a month. We are going to be in Level 5 lockdown for at least another month. No leaving the house except for essential travel. Exercise limited to a 5km radius around your home. Put all of this together and you get….1) very depressing reading and 2) difficult conditions to write a hiking/walking blog. As such I am trying to focus more these days on writing about useful information that will help people plan for hiking trips when the country opens up again in (hopefully) March. With this in mind, I have gathered together some of the hiking frequently asked questions that I receive.
1. What are the Do’s and Don’ts of hiking?
I have a complete post on this topic. It’s a list of my own guidelines for how to act when out on a trail. The general gist is Be Prepared, Be Sensible and Be Sound to others.
2. How long should you hike?
The great thing about walking and hiking is that you can personalise your journey to suit your needs. There are beautiful walks all over Ireland that are only a few kilometres long. There are also hikes that are hundreds of kilometres and will takes days and weeks to complete.
So my take on this is that you should hike as much as you’re comfortable with. The longest I have hiked in one day is 42km when I completed the Dublin Mountain Way. I had a nice rest day to look forward to the day after though. For through hikes, about 30km per day would probably be the max I’d be able for.
Be careful to not just judge a trail’s difficulty based on distance though. The amount and severity of inclines in any route will have a major impact on how tough it is to complete.
3. How fit do you have to be for hiking?
Similar to the above, there are tracks and trails all over the country that will cater to every level of fitness. My advice is to start off small and see how you get on. Keep progressing until you come to end of your comfort zone. You will see your fitness levels improve if you are regularly out walking and this in turn will open up more walking options for you.
It’s difficult for me to gauge my own personal fitness levels. I’d see myself as reasonably fit. I can run a 10km in less than 50 minutes. This reasonable fitness level gives me the comfort that I can take on the longer hikes.
4. What is your favourite hike?
Ireland Day Hike:
Wicklow Way – Curtlestown Wood to Roundwood
Ireland Through Hike:
5. What exactly is a through hike?
A through hike (or Thru-hike) is a long distance walk along an established trail from point A to point B. Usually completed over a number of days. Examples would be the Camino Way or The Royal Canal Way. Many of Ireland’s National Waymarked Trails would be considered through hikes.
6. What do you need to take with you on a hike?
In general, I would include:
- Lots of water
- Packed Lunch and snacks
- Phone and power bar for extra battery
- Warm Top (layers are important)
- Woolly hat
- Sun cream
- Small first aid kit
I have a separate post on my packing for the Wicklow Way which goes into way more detail. Plus a downloadable packing checklist which might come in handy!
7. What are the best foods to bring on the trail?
The more you pack, the heavier your bag is going to be. With this in mind, ideally you are looking to bring food that is light weight and full of nutrients.
So nuts, berries, seeds are all great. Energy bars or granola snacks come in handy. I always bring chocolate as it brings a lovely energy boost. I like to bring a sandwich or wrap as well to have something a bit more substantial.
Finally, if you have room to bring a small flask, a break to have a cup of tea or coffee while looking out over amazing views is just bliss!
8. What’s your most important piece of advice about hiking?
The most important thing is to have good footwear. Look after your feet. You should not be getting blisters after hikes. Have good boots and proper socks.
9. Best resources for planning a hike
The Sport Ireland website has a useful resource for walkers. It lists hundreds of trails throughout Ireland. Plus the best thing is that you can filter by county, difficulty level and distance.
10. Plans for 2021
If we are ever allowed out again I would love to take on the following challenges for 2021.
- Complete the Wicklow Round.
This is a 100km looped route which takes in 26 different mountain summits. The information available online for those wishing to take on the challenge is very limited. So I’d love to complete it and do a few posts about what it’s like to complete.
- Spend a week taking on another of one of the longer National Waymarked Trails. To be decided exactly which one. The Burren Way is the front runner at the moment though.
- Hills of Westmeath
Uisneach – I have climbed the Hill of Uisneach before. I was much younger though and I don’t think I really appreciated it. It has so much history and legend about the place that it deserves a proper investigation.
Mullaghmeen – I also think it’s bad form that I haven’t summitted the highest point in my home county yet. So I want to right that wrong in 2021.
I’m definitely open to inspiration though so love hearing what other people’s plans and targets are for the year ahead.