WARNING: Graphic content related to pee, poop and periods. Probably best not to be read over lunch.
The thing about going for a long walk is that at some point you are going to need the loo. For blokes, this is less of an issue, certainly when it comes to peeing. But women face a few more challenges in the toilet department. As someone who drinks a lot of water, who has given birth to two children and whose pelvic floor isn't what it used to be, I pee a lot. Sometimes just heading outdoors into the cold will bring on the need for a pee, even if I've already been before setting off.
But it's not just peeing. Sometimes - particularly after eating and then walking a few miles - your body might let you know that an evacuation of a different kind is required. And then there's what to do if you have your period.
So let's just get over any embarrassment and discuss it:
Let's start by saying that if at all possible, go before you set out. But your body may have ideas of its own and if you're doing a multi-day walk or wild camp, it's not really an option to just not go!
Your basic bush pee
There are all sorts of devices on the market now to help women pee anywhere (more on those in a moment) but in all honesty, you can't beat the basic bush pee. Find a bush or long grass, pull your pants down, squat, pee, dry and go. Let's break that down (for some of you, this may be blindingly obvious, but I have met many women who have NEVER had an outdoor pee. So I'm going to run through some basics):
The hiding spot: You will want to find a spot that is hidden from anyone coming in any direction. This is important. When you're in a rush, it's easy to look one way, forgetting that someone might come along the path in the opposite direction. It's best to stray slightly off the path to avoid spectators - but don't get lost! Avoid going right next to water or on the actual path. Start looking for a spot well before you're desperate, particularly if there is a lot of foot traffic on the path. If necessary, get a friend to be on kaka-kaka duty. This is a technical term invented by my son who was about 9 at the time. He suggested that I go pee behind a bush and he would make a bird call that goes 'kaka-kaka' should someone approach..... We've used it ever since because it makes me laugh every time.
Pants down and squat: Simple really. Just mind where you squat. You don't want to squat over long scratchy grass or a patch of nettles for example. I have done this. It isn't pleasant. Also be aware that if you are in a very muddy area, your pulled down trousers can get filthy. You will require some quad strength to squat and hold. Build squats into your fitness routine. Even if peeing outdoors strikes terror in your soul, trust me, you can do this. It's remarkably liberating actually and often you get a great view while peeing!
Pee and dry: When you pee, take note of the wind direction and hill slope to reduce blow back onto your boots. If you leave your pack on, be sure to check for any dangling straps that may get in the way too.
If you can try and check your pee colour to ensure you're drinking enough on a long hike. If it's dark yellow, you need more water. If it's completely see through, you're drinking too much. It's important to stay hydrated while walking.
Now if you have no risk of getting caught, plenty of time and quads of steel, you can remain in your squat while you 'drip dry'. However, for speed and dryness, you can use a tissue. BUT you need to bag it up or burn it. Take a little sanitary bag or one of these Fab Little Bags to store your used tissues in. Alternatively, consider using an ultra thin panty liner to keep your knickers dry. Do not leave your used paper lying behind.
The advanced or technical pee
If you prefer to stand up and pee so that you're not exposing your backside and bits to the world, you could try a portable urinal device. They can be more of a faff than they're worth, but are useful if camping and you don't want to get out of your tent at night or if you just can't find privacy to hoik your pants down. Some of them you can even use while lying down in your tent, although this takes some practice and a lot of confidence! Remember, you will need to dispose of your urine somewhere away from camping spots, rivers or picnic areas.
Shewee - this device has a cup that you fit to your bits, with a tube that attaches to direct the pee away from you, either onto the ground or into a bottle. Practice using this in the shower first. Easy enough once you've got the hang of it. Comes in its own case making it easy to store. It weighs 100g but if you're using it in a tent, you will need a pee bottle to pee into. Do not confuse your pee bottle with your drink bottle....
Peebol - this is good for in-tent peeing. It's a plastic bag filled with the same gel you find in babies nappies. A cardboard rim holds the bag open while you pee into. Again, it takes some confidence letting go into a bag that you hope will fill. But the gel works well. It holds up to a litre and can be resealed and reused until full. Be warned, it might just be two pees at most! You will have to find somewhere to dispose of it - not suitable for a hike unless you fancy lugging a gel-filled bag of pee with you for miles. They come in 3, 8 or 12 packs.
TravelJane - I have not personally tried this product but it looks like a cross between the shewee and peebol. Same issues as the Peebol - having to dispose of the gel after use, but good for camping.
Uriwell- Now this one I have a good deal of experience with. It is a solid plastic cup with a concertina plastic tube. You extend the tube, place the cup strategically over your bits and pee. You can use this lying down, standing up or squatting. As it concertinas it doesn't take up much space when collapsed, so good for a backpack. BUT and this is a big BUT, you can only concertina it twice. Thereafter, the plastic becomes too fragile and it will leak. Let's just say I learned this the hard way (as did the person sharing my tent).
Dealing with a number two
It's not just bears that shit in the woods.....sometimes, if you are on a multi-day hike, wild camp or just get caught short, you need to poop. Ideally you should try to poo before you leave, but we can't always control our bodies and there's no point getting embarrassed about it. So here's what you do.
If you are unlucky enough to get your period while on a hiking trip, you have a few options:
Tampons and sanitary pads
You cannot bury tampons or towels, so if you use them, be sure to bag them and take them away with you to be disposed of once you find a bin. These FabLittleBags as mentioned above are brilliant for that as they can be opened with one hand (leaving your other hand free to remove the tampon/pad) and seal up tight. You can use these to store the applicators or wipes too. And they're biodegradable.
If you're long distance hiking and want to cut down on weight, then a menstrual cup might work best for you. They are lightweight, environmentally friendly and comfortable to wear (once you've practiced using it). But you will need to bury the contents of the cup and will need to be able to clean it out, not always easy when you're hiking. If you don't have warm water and soap to clean it, you can just wipe it with toilet paper (which you'll then have to burn or carry out).
I find it best to carry a toilet bag with me containing:
- tissues or toilet paper and tampons plus a spare panty liner
- a bag for putting used paper/items in
- hand sanitiser
Have this bag easy to grab so that should a suitable bush appear, you can grab and go!
For longer hikes, I'd add a trowel and lighter to burn the paper.
That's it. If you have any toilet tips please share them. OR join the Glamoraks community to get other tips and advice for women who love to walk.
If you are a keen walker, particularly if you like long distance walking, you will know just how important it is to look after your feet. It seems crazy that a little thing like a blister can end your adventure, but they can and do. So how can you take care of your feet?
I asked Sophie Gooley, a podiatrist at The Boxgrove Clinic, to share her advice on how to keep feet in perfect shape for long walks. If you take nothing else away from this post, know this: Blisters are enemy number one. Blisters are caused by friction. Reduce friction and you reduce your chance of blisters. Sophie shares how to with her tips below:
1. Cinderella - get boots that fit
Looking after your feet begins with the correct footwear. A poor fitting shoe usually means there is more movement in the shoe, which means more shearing forces (friction) on your toes and feet and that results in blistering. Bottom line is - does the shoe fit?! Here's how to check:
When trying on shoes or boots, make sure you are wearing the socks you're likely to walk in. If you have specialist insoles, make sure you take the existing boot insoles out and use yours instead. Lastly, remember that you will need to walk your boots in. Go for short walks to in your new boots before attempting a mega hike.
2. Lace Up
If a lace needs to be pulled more in one area of the shoe, particularly around the midfoot, then it might mean you have an ill-fitting shoe. Lace your laces in the hole furthest to the back of the trainer or walking shoes and tie them tightly. This gives you more support around the ankle and again less movement within the shoe. But you may also want to try these lace tying variations depending on your particular feet issue.
3. Socks matter
No matter how good your boots are, if you wear the wrong socks, you can still get blisters. You want to keep your feet dry so look for moisture wicking socks rather than cotton socks. Vary them by season to ensure your feet stay warm but don't overheat and sweat. Some people swear by wearing two pairs of socks - a thin liner pair underneath a thicker pair. Experiment and see if this works for you. Regardless, it is worth spending money on good quality socks.
4. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it
Once you’ve found a shoe that works & is supportive and comfortable, stick with it. If possible buy two pairs as your feet will thank you for forward planning. A shoe brand often makes the same shoe in different guises, so if you cannot get the exact shoe again, ask the retailer which is the closest to the original.
5. Be wary of Tape
Many people use tape to prevent friction but this is actually adding an extra layer of material which has the potential to cause shear and create additional tissue stress and therefore a blister. Also the adhesive in the tape over time can increase the risk of tissue breakdown. However, taping can be useful if the foot needs support or if you develop something Iike a tendon problem. Bottom line is that tape can be useful but not as a preventative measure.
6. What to do it you get a blister
Even with all the best preparation, blisters are a common side effect of long distance walking. You'll start to notice a blister forming when you feel a 'hot spot', an area on your foot that feels literally warm and possibly a bit painful. It's best to stop and protect the area immediately, rather than waiting for the blister to develop fully.
If you notice a hot spot or a blister has come up, put some semi compressed felt behind or around the blister, not on it. Adding another layer is only going to increase the friction at the contact point. Adding something behind it or around it should help alleviate the pressure.
If a blister has formed, keep the area clean. If it is still painful with felt behind or around the blister, then prick the blister with a sterile needle, gently squeeze the fluid out, keep the blister skin in tact to prevent an open wound and cover with a blister plaster. You may still protect with the felt to take the pressure off the area.
7. Toenails & general foot care
Foot care extends to toenails, which should be trimmed straight across the nail and not rounded at the corners. Your big toe, in particular, is more prone to an in-growing toenail if you cut your nails too short. Once clipped, your toenails, should be smoothed down with a file to remove rough edges. Toenails which are too long can cause pressure on the bed of the nail which can result in extreme discomfort, bruising & loss of the nail.
Looking after the skin on your feet is also essential. Some people believe that having thick, callused skin on your feet prevents blisters but this isn't true and blisters on callused feet can be difficult to treat. A callus file and a moisturising cream (Flexitol) can soften problem areas for good foot care. It is also vital to prevent cracks in the skin of your feet, especially on your heels, as they are prone to split open which is both incredibly painful and open to potential infection if not treated.
8. Rest feet when walking
When you stop for a break or the night take your boots & socks off and give your feet a chance to rest and breathe. Open them to fresh air and direct sunlight and wear flip flops or sandals will allow them to recuperate better.
9. Foot Care Kits For Hiking
Carrying a small foot care kit in a Ziploc bag is not going to take up much room and will give you much relief from the problems associated with walking. Things like blister patches, sterile pin to drain blisters, cotton wool and felt can make the difference between carrying on or not.
Share your best footcare tips on the comments below or over in the Glamoraks community.
As much as I love sleeping in a tent alone on the side of a hill, there is something to be said for a little bit of pampering while walking too. With National Spa Week taking place this month, I thought it would be a good idea to do a round up of walks that have a spa en route. Whether you want to break your walk up and spend a day at the spa or simply book in for a foot treatment or massage after a long day on the trail, here are some destinations to tempt you:
Carbis Bay Hotel - St Ives, Cornwall, England
Situated on the South West Coastal Path, this luxury spa hotel looks incredible! Whether you're tackling a good stretch of the coastal path or just doing a day walk, this is the perfect stopover. For £60, you can book the private hot tub on the beach for two of you. Add champagne and strawberries for an extra £20. What a perfect way to rest weary feet and bodies after a walk along some of Britain's most stunning coastline.
The Malvern Spa - Malvern, Worcestershire, England
This spa hotel features hydrotherapy pools, a crystal steam room, salt grotto, herb sauna, kelo sauna, ice fountain, drench shower and personal foot spas (hoorah for tired feet!) You can spend your days exploring the gorgeous Malvern Hills, tackling any of the walks listed here.
Appleby Manor, Appleby-in-West Morland, Cumbria, England
This hotel and spa, situated in the Eden Valley, is close to the Lady Anne's Way , but is also perfectly placed for the Dales Highway, The Westmorland Way and The Pennine Way. Alternatively use it as a base for day walks in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines. The spa offers an Aqua Thermal journey including different heat experiences, hydrotherapy pool with massage loungers, bench, volcano pads and shoulder cannons, just what you need after lugging a heavy pack.
The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire, England
This is the kind of place you want to head to for a weekend of long lazy breakfasts and short strolls, with a good side dose of spa pampering. But from the hotel you can take in 2 mile, 4.5 mile or 8.25 mile walks over some idyllic Yorkshire Dales scenery or use it as a stopping point if you're doing the Dales Way.
Cameron House, Loch Lomond, Scotland
For anyone doing the West Highland Way in style, this is the place to go. You will walk along the banks of Loch Lomond on the opposite side to the hotel. After an exhausting day scrambling up and down the loch banks you'll make your way to Balmaha on the loch shore to get a ferry over to the hotel. Here luxury awaits. The spa (which is a short distance from the hotel but has a shuttle bus to get you there) is the perfect place to rest your weary legs before continuing on your journey into the highlands.
Killarney Park Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
The Kerry Way is one of the longest signposted walking trails in Ireland and takes in some of its most stunning scenery. At 135 miles its a challenging walk, that starts and finishes in Killarney, which is why this hotel with its spa is the perfect place to recover after your epic trek. Revel in your achievement in the outdoor hot tub or simply relax in the pool, steam room or bubble pool.
The Snowdon Cafe, Llanberis, Wales
A cafe?! Ok so this is not a spa. It is a tiny tea garden/pub in an old Welsh stone cottage on the lower slopes of Snowden on the Llanberis track. I discovered it after walking up Snowden via the Pyg track and then coming back down Llanberis. Our feet were tired and as it is the first sign of life you come to, we felt a little sit down and something to drink was just what we needed. Unbeknownst to us, the place is famed for its almost ridiculous generosity. First a free glass of home made lemonade. Then some free bara brith, spread thickly with butter. But it was when I took my boots off and massaged my feet, that the owner, came rushing out with a foot spa complete with essential oils. So not a luxury spa, and I can't guarantee the foot spa will always be available, but a lovely treat all the same.
Are there any other spas that you can recommend that add a bit of pampering on a long walk? Tell me in the comments below. If you're the kind of woman who loves to get outdoors hiking, but is just as partial to a bit of pampering, you're a Glamorak. Join the community here.
Yesterday a man on Twitter disagreed with one of my blog posts. Called '25 walks women should put on their bucket list', the post was a round up of a survey I did with Glamoraks members about which walks they'd like to do. Plus tips on how to make them happen.
The gentleman felt that they should be walks for people - rather than women - to put on their bucket list. He felt he had done several of the walks and he couldn't understand why women had been singled out. He felt if walks had been selected for people based on the colour of their skin, there would be outrage, so surely walks being selected based on their gender should be viewed just as poorly.
I did point out that it was aimed at the readers of a women's walking group, hence the female bias in the blog post. And nowhere did I say that men couldn't do the walks. To which, he said: 'In the age of equality, why single out women?'
And that is an interesting question. You could argue that sadly, there still isn't equality. But leaving that aside, is it sexist to have a women-only walking group? If there was a male only walking group, would women get upset?
I suppose the answer to that would be based on why the group was male-only or what the reasons were for that decision.
So I want to outline why Glamoraks is a women-only walking group:
I want the Glamoraks group to be a place where women can meet like-minded women to go walking with. I want them to feel comfortable saying to a complete stranger on the internet, 'Let's meet at this walking trail'. Sure there is a chance that a woman can be a complete psycho, but largely, women will feel more comfortable meeting an unknown woman for the first time in a remote place than they would a man.
Rightly or wrongly, women are warned repeatedly to take care of themselves. Just this week, the York police issued a statement urging women not to walk alone at night following three sexual assaults in as many days. They later went on to adjust their statement, saying that 'everyone should take care walking alone at night'. But women are taught from a young age to be careful and not put themselves in potentially dangerous situations - like meeting a strange man in a quiet bit of woodland on their own. Hence the need for a women-only website so that they can share where they'll be walking without worry.
This is a generalisation - so apologies - but feedback I've had from some women as to why they don't enjoy mixed sex walking groups is because many of the walks are led by men who tend to turn it into a competition to see who can get there first or navigate best. It all becomes a bit of a route march. And if you are a woman who enjoys that, go for it. But many women prefer to go walking for the relaxation it brings, rather than to prove a point about who can get there first.
Confidence and guilt
The reason I set up Glamoraks was because I can see how many women spend their 30s, 40s and 50s juggling the demands of kids, careers and ageing parents. I'm not saying men don't have these demands, but women seem to feel more guilty about taking time off for themselves. They spend much of their life enabling other people to do things, while putting themselves last. This has a knock on effect on their confidence. They don't feel as fit, brave or adventurous as they used to be. Sometimes they don't feel it's right for them to leave the family for a week so that they can take on a long distance walk. The group was set up to inspire them to regain their confidence, to set aside their guilt and to rediscover that person they used to be. I'm not saying that men don't need to do that, but I think this is typically more of a feminine issue.
Peeing, periods and personal stuff
There are things that women have to deal with that men just don't. Like periods and how to manage those on a big walk. Or the need to squat behind a tree to pee. Or which bras are most comfortable and supportive when walking. Or how walking might help with the menopause. Even just which kit is lighter or designed with women in mind. Men are most welcome to join in these discussions, but I imagine, most wouldn't want to. I think it's ok for women to have a safe space to discuss any of these topics without feeling as though it's awkward. What's more, the conversations women have with each other while walking are different, more honest and more personal when there are only women around. And I think it's ok to create that female-only environment so that those conversations can happen.
I walk with my husband and many Glamoraks walk with their husbands, partners, fathers, brothers and friends. And I have done group walks with men and women, including climbing Kilimanjaro where there wasn't too much left to the imagination or privacy. It is a wonderful - and completely different - experience to walking with just women. Glamoraks is not trying to eliminate men from the walking agenda or be sexist. It is simply trying to create a female-focused group to address all of the areas listed above.
To the man on Twitter, sorry if I couldn't respond adequately to your questions but it took more than 140 characters.
I welcome any thoughts on this issue. And if you are a woman and would like to find other like-minded walkers, join the Glamoraks community here.
Distance: 5 miles (more if you get lost)
Difficulty: Moderate (some hills to climb and map reading required)
Type: Farmland, forest
Start point postcode: YO62 5HH - Cowhouse Bank Carpark, North Yorkshire, UK
After days of being trapped indoors due to a combination of work and utterly foul weather, I decided to head off on an easy 5 mile walk on the edge of the North York Moors. I have a little book called Short Walks in the North York Moors, by Collins. Now this book has given me plenty of really good walk suggestions and the instructions are typically easy to follow and as each walk includes a map, there is no need to take an additional big map with you.
The walk I chose was one called Upper Riccal Dale, that starts from a Forestry Commission carpark called Cowhouse Bank. To find it, head out of Helmsley, through a tiny hamlet called Carlton and shortly thereafter you find the exceptionally quiet carpark. There is bench with lovely views over Bransdale from the carpark.
I parked up, the only car there and got that lovely sense that I was the only person in the world. You start out by crossing the road you've just driven in on and heading off down a forest track. Through gaps in the trees you get glimpses of the views over the dale below, dotted with sheep. The path was exceptionally boggy underfoot on account of the three days of torrential rain we'd just had but I didn't care. It was peaceful and quiet. If it's been raining, wear gaiters!
The path went back on itself down the side of the hill until reaching a farm track. It was here that my first navigation issue arose. According to the book, 'Go right on the farm road. Cross the bridge and climb through two fields away from the stream towards Howl Wood Farm.' But at the entrance to that farm road were two big signs saying PRIVATE - NO ENTRY. That's never a welcoming sign. I couldn't see any right of way signs or footpath signs but everything else seemed to indicate that this was the way I should go. So I went in.
Although there was a stream (very pretty) and a bridge, there were no fields to climb through. Just a track that made it's way up to the farm buildings. I figured it must be right, so I kept walking. The book said, 'Go left through the farmyard and left through a gate beyond the farm tip to follow a faint track ahead.'
I really, really don't like walking through farms. Firstly, it feels as though I am trespassing on someone's property - and the big PRIVATE - NO ENTRY signs certainly reinforced that. Secondly, there are always old, empty barns creaking in the wind, with rusty hooks and other dangerous looking pieces of equipment lying around. I always expect a scary bloke to come out carrying a bloodied meat cleaver while spitting out chewing tobacco, telling me to either 'Get orf my land' or 'To come in for a visit....' (I have an over active imagination.)
Add to that, there is invariably at least one (in this case four) farm yard dogs that aren't known for their friendliness. They started barking furiously, while a gaggle of geese hissed at me as I passed them. Then the cows (luckily behind a wall) started to add to the cacophony, lowing their discontent at my presence. Luckily there was a single footpath arrow on one of the gates, so I headed at pace for that and made it through the other side breathing hard. I am very rarely scared walking on my own but on remote farms, my heart does race a little.
After that excitement, the next set of instructions was simply, 'Cross the stream by the footbridge'. I was still following the 'faint track' as described by the book but eventually I reached the end of the wall line and my path was blocked. I had obviously missed a path down to the stream where the footbridge was, but there really hadn't been a path anywhere! I retraced my steps, found no path but eventually followed sheep tracks down to where I could hear the stream flowing. Reaching the stream, there was no footbridge. So I bashed my way along the stream edge until at last I found the footbridge. Somehow I had obviously missed the path down. My advice if you're doing this walk, is when the 'faint track' starts to bend slightly north, head down the hill to your west.
Crossing the bridge, I headed up through two fields until I found a rough bit of grazing land and the Forest Chapel that the book mentioned. Like something out of Hansel and Gretel, the chapel was very sweet tucked into the forest (picture top right above). But here again, the instructions were light to say the least. 'Cut across an area of rough grazing and walk towards the road, aiming to the left of the forest chapel. Cross the metalled road and go onto a forest road.' I stood in an overgrown field with no signs of a road. Beginning to despair of my navigation skills, I saw the first - and only - person I encountered all day. A cyclist, or rather a cyclist's head, whizzed past. That must be the road!
I found a gate that led to a very overgrown track to meet the road. Should you be doing this walk, don't worry about the fact that you can't see the road or a gate or a sign of any kind. Just keep walking towards the fence line and it shall reveal itself to you.
After that, it was a simple case of following the forest track back up a steep bank to get more lovely views over Bransdale. Even though I thought I was home and dry at this point, I made one final mistake. The book said, 'At the open field, turn left away from the road on a path between forest and the field's upper boundary.'
I found the open field and turned left, but the word I missed was UPPER boundary. I turned left to soon and ended up back on the road. By which point, I thought 'Sod it' and walked back up the road to find my car where I'd left it.
The moral of the story: When going on a walk, take your time to read the instructions VERY carefully and look VERY closely at the map. Tiny signs like contour gradients, side paths and streams all give clues if the instructions aren't very detailed. I couldn't even blame my getting lost on chatting too much - which is normally the reason I go wrong.
Despite getting lost, what made this walk lovely was the remoteness of it and the fact that I didn't see another soul (other than the cyclist). If you want to escape the world for a bit, get expansive views and see plenty of wildlife, this is a great walk. Besides all the farm animals, I saw plenty of birds, hares, bunnies and a gorgeous roe deer. And now that I've found out that you can walk through the farm despite the no entry signs, you can do so with the confidence I lacked.
Below is a little video of my experience.....
If you are a woman who likes walking - either on your own or with others - please join Glamoraks community where you can share your walking experiences, get inspiration or find people to walk with. Also sign up for the Glamoraks newsletter to get details of any events we have planned.
You'd think that walking in summer would be the easiest of all the seasons. Right? Glorious sunshine on your back and not having to contend with blizzards or deluges or biting winds.
But walking in summer can actually be a bit of a challenge. Here are my top six summer walking hazards and how to deal with them.
In the UK at least, it rarely feels hot enough to worry about overheating. But a long march across a shade free field in blazing sunshine can get very hot and it's easy to get sunburnt. And if you're in a hotter country, it's easy to get heatstroke if you're not used to walking long distances in high temperatures. Always apply sunblock, take a sunhat and drink plenty of water. And I mean a lot of water. Drink little and often to stay hydrated as you go. I just carry a water bottle for a short walk, but for a longer hike, I'll fill my 2 or 3 litre hydration system to ensure I don't run out. If you are hiking long distances, make sure your backpack is well ventilated, with space between your back and the pack, to allow air to flow through. You stay much cooler and less sweaty that way. I use this one, which works great.
2. Nasty plants
One of the joys of winter walking is that you don't get nettles. Well not many. As soon as summer comes round, many of the footpaths become massively overgrown and nettles threaten to sting your legs as you brush past them. They're particularly prevalent at styles and kissing gates, where you have to squeeze past while the nettles prickle menacingly through the gaps. Wear lightweight long trousers (I swear by these Craghoppers), rather than shorts. This will give your legs some protection. Also, find a Nettle Stick* or use a walking pole. (*A large stick to hold nettles and other overzealous plants back as you squeeze along a track - they're free. Look on the ground!) This stick will come in handy for hazards 3 & 4 too. If you do get a nettle sting, look for a dock leave and rub the leaf on the sting. It helps relieve it (a bit).
Another poisonous plant to look out for is Giant Hogweed. This can grow up to 5 metres tall, and is normally found along footpaths and riverbanks. If its sap gets in contact with your skin, it can cause really nasty burns, which are made worse by sunlight.
It's not just poisonous plants that can cause problems. All the vegetation suddenly springs up and unless the keepers of the footpath or farmers are on the case, you can find yourself walking along paths with plants that are neck height. Not fun. Firstly, you can lose track of where you are as the paths are more difficult to follow. Secondly, it's much easier to go over on your ankle as you bash your way through. Thirdly, your trousers get soaked from the dew or condensation on the plants. Use your stick as a walking aid and as a weed thrasher. Even though it's hotter wearing walking boots, you may find they give better ankle support on uneven, overgrown ground. And wearing gaiters can help keep the bottom of your trouser legs dry as you bash your way through.
Cows and their calves (and often the big bulls) are out in force at this time of year. Cows can be dangerous and very protective of their young. I use my nettle stick as a form of comfort when I have to walk through a field of cows. Knowing that I have a large stick makes me feel slightly braver (even if it wouldn't really do much against a charging bull!) With cows, I tend to walk as close to a fence or wall as possible so that should I need to escape a field in a hurry, I can. Walk quietly but with purpose, around the herd if possible - they will typically get out of your way but do assess them before you head into a field. I was once held up for about 40 minutes by a field of young bullocks who were simply curious more than anything else, but it didn't feel safe going into their field. In situations like that, try to find an alternate path. Be even more careful if you have a dog with you.
The warm weather brings out bugs of all kinds, but midges, mosquitoes and horseflies are the most painful. Carry insect repellant on you and if you're going somewhere super midgey you may want to get a face protector too. It ain't sexy - but then again, neither is a face full of bug bites. Bitey bugs also don't like the smell or taste of garlic or vitamin B, so grab a handful of wild garlic you'll find growing in early summer and carry it with you. Or eat marmite sandwiches. Seriously. Apparently midges fall into the Marmite Hate It camp. Who knew!
In the UK there is only one venomous snake - the adder. It has a dark brown, reddish or black zig zag from head to tail with spots on its sides. Some (rare) are entirely black. They typically have their babies in late summer and will mostly be seen basking in sunny spots, in heathland, bogs, moorland, woodland edges or rough grassland. They are shy and will only bite when cornered, alarmed or picked up. I have never seen one in the UK (unlike in my native South Africa where I had a puff adder sidle under my sun lounger one day!) If you see discarded snake skin or winding trails in dirt tracks, be aware there may be snakes about. To scare off snakes, stomp your feet as you walk. Snakes pick up on vibrations through the ground and will disappear. They're more afraid of you than you are of them. Again, walking through long grass means gaiters, long trousers and sturdy boots gives you more protection should you stand on a snake (highly unlikely!)
Although snakes, poisonous plants and grumpy cows may seem alarming, walking in the UK really is pretty safe. These few hazards are simply worth being aware of and preparing for. If you are walking elsewhere in the world - particularly in a country you're less familiar with - take a moment to look up any local plants, animals or pests that could pose a danger. Better to be safe than sorry.
Now head out and enjoy that sunshine! And remember, one of the best things about walking in the summer is the longer days and evening, meaning you can still fit in a good length walk after work and enjoy watching the sunset.
Got any other summer walking tips? Share them below.
Join the Glamoraks community to meet other women who also like to walk.
Women join Glamoraks because they want to find someone to go walking with. It gives them a chance to meet new people, have companionship and feel safer or more confident when heading out for a walk. But even with the wonderful global community of Glamoraks, there may be times when you don't have anyone to go with you, particularly if you're planning a last minute walk. Or you may just feel the need for some solitude.
Don't let a lack of walking buddy stop you from putting those boots on.
While walking with others helps you connect at a far deeper level than our instant society normally allows and the joy of an experience shared is joy doubled, walking alone can be just as good for the soul. Here's why:
Without human company, you get time to simply be. Your thoughts are free to fly in and out of your mind with gay abandon. There's no need for conversation, although talking out loud to yourself can be liberating. As is singing loudly without a care about being off key. You have the time to absorb the beauty of the world and marvel in it. And being witness to the magnificence of nature feels like a secret gift that is yours entirely. Your time is yours, the pace your own. You choose when to stop, when to move on. Added to all of it is a slight frisson of fortitude. You are alone and that in itself is a brave thing in an overcrowded world. Your inner spirit of adventure will raise its head and you will want to yell, 'I am woman, I am fearless. Hear me roar!'
So if you are in need of some time to yourself and an escape from the masses, here on some tips on walking solo:
Share your solo walking experiences with me below. And feel free to join the Glamoraks community so that on the days you do want walking company, you can find someone to walk with. Also be sure to sign up to the newsletter to be kept abreast of walking ideas, events and initiatives.
Packing for Kilimanjaro is no mean feat. You need enough stuff to span hot, humid temperatures all the way through to sub-zero, freeze your face off stuff, plus the possibility of a lot of rain. On top of this, you need to take a lot of miscellaneous stuff - what feels like a full medical cabinet and plenty of snacks. All of this adds to the weight. And the weight thing gets complicated. Your packing skills become a balance between how much things weigh versus their necessity.
So I have created this blog post and video to help you with your packing. I have done this before I have actually climbed Kilimanjaro, so there may be things I've packed that are completely superfluous and there may be other things I really should have more of. But this is my best guess as to what I will need. I hope you find it helpful. Let's start:
You need two bags: your backpack and your duffel bag. The porters will carry your duffel bag up the mountain for you and it mustn't weight more than 15kg. Your backpack will be your hand luggage for your flight/s, your duffel bag goes in the hold. If you are connecting from Nairobi Wilson Airport to Kilimanjaro Airport, you may be limited to just 15kg for all of your luggage combined for that flight. That is pretty tough going given how much stuff you need. In addition, you may have a third bag with spare clothes for the safari afterwards that you will leave behind at your hotel before you climb up. Weight for that needs to be factored in too. My stuff will be over the 15kg airline allowance by about 6kgs....
Some bag related considerations:
I've probably got too many socks (but I'm paranoid about keeping my feet dry and warm and comfortable) and my big worry is whether I will be warm enough on summit night, but I've gone for many layers rather than one big coat as I typically get too hot when I walk. Beneath the video, I have created a packing list including what I intend to wear on summit night.
What I plan on wearing on summit night
What I have packed
Note that everything has been packed into dry bags in the following groups:
I've put all of this into one bag so that when we arrive in camp, it's simple to set up my bed with everything I need for the night.
Hats & gloves sack
Separate mini medical kit for daypack