Think that hiking is only for white, middle-class countryside dwellers? Think again. Anyone can get into walking, trekking and hiking – as Strong Women’s new walking series proves. Every week, the brilliant founder of Black Girls Hike, Rhiane Fatinikun, will be sharing a walking adventure and a different tip for becoming a confident hiker. This week: clothing and kit.
It’s not like summer doesn’t come around every year, but I always feel unprepared when it comes to summer clothing. At least this year we have an excuse: we’ve been in and out of lockdown for 18 months and there is little to no motivation to follow seasonal trends on Zoom. But as the world reopens, one of the key questions has become “What should we wear?”
The leggings and sweat tops I’ve lived in all lockdown aren’t exactly the aesthetic I had in my mind for the hot girl post-lockdown summer I’ve got planned. After a recent photoshoot in the Lake District, a friend messaged me asking if I wanted to have my sweat patches edited out. Darn that grey hiking top – I love it but it doesn’t love me, and those pictures are never going to make it onto my timeline!
This week’s walking wonder
Instagram aside, when it comes to hiking, choosing the right kit is important. Dressing the part supports your body and motivates you mentally. You’ve heard of power dressing for business, but power dressing for fitness is also definitely a thing.
With the UK sportswear market set to grow by 20% to £6.7 billion by 2023, the choice can be overwhelming. Do you know the difference between Gore-Tex, sweat-wicking and antimicrobial fabric? When I first got into hiking, I had to google half of the kit list I got sent for a training weekend, so I know just how confusing and overwhelming it can be. But there’s no need to fret if you’re only just starting out; I’ve got you covered when it comes to three kit essentials for all seasons.
It goes without saying that breathable, waterproof, lightweight hiking boots with decent ankle support are essential for dealing with our lovely British weather variants and more rugged terrain. As a hiker, looking after your feet is the top priority – it’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re uncomfortable right? You’ll usually catch me in my Berghaus Expeditor Ridge 2.0 Boots. They’re super light and comfy with shock-absorbing EVA (rubber-like) midsoles for that extra cushioning.
Merino wool top
You know how I said grey tops don’t love me in summer? Well, neither do cotton ones. The cotton absorbs moisture, making your clothes damp and heavy. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in the wind in a damp top. Look for tops made from wicking fabrics (usually synthetic but merino wool is a good natural alternative) that draw the moisture to the outer layer and dry quickly. That stops the fabric from becoming saturated, helping you stay cool while active.
And finally, even if it’s forecast to be sunny all day, we all know how unpredictable the weather can be, especially if you’re up on the hills. A decent waterproof jacket should always be in your rucksack. For me, the most important thing is the hood. I change my hair a lot – there’s volume and I need room. I like to look out for jackets with peaked hoods that are ‘helmet compatible’ so I can fit different hairstyles and hats under it. Make sure it’s waterproof and not just water-resistant; if you get caught in a downpour, you’ll learn the difference the hard way! It also needs to be breathable; you don’t want to feel like you’re wearing a plastic bag once you start sweating.
There are a lot more items you could add to your list such as waterproof trousers, walking poles, hat and gloves, but this is enough to get you started. Start off with an easy hike on mostly flat terrain which will help you break in your hiking boots and get you acquainted with your kit. Many new hikers get overwhelmed by clothing options, but my advice is to grab the essentials and get going. Experience is the best teacher, and you will soon learn what other items you want to add. Oh, and don’t forget to take a bottle of water; whatever the weather, hiking can be thirsty work.
Rhiane’s hiking tip: prepare for all weathers
Every week I’ll be sharing something hiking has taught me, and this week my advice is to stop getting hung up on the little things.
It’s great to be prepared, but you don’t have to have it all figured out. Just take a step forward. Ask yourself if the thing that’s worrying you is a genuine issue or just a hypothetical concern.
I love quotes and this one always resonates with me: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” With the right kit, you can prosper in all conditions.
Love hiking? Join us in September for the first Strong Women Trek. All proceeds will be going to Care International.
Images: Rhiane Fatinikun