GEAR | 10 essentials for the older walker
Being of an older persuasion, I realised that for some the kit list for an older person might be a tad different than for those of a more youthful age range. As such, a consideration of what could be suggested for the older walker seemed a thoughtful idea. So consider these...
1. Comfortable walking shoes or walking boots
In my opinion, one of the most essential items for an older walker is getting a well-fitted and well-broken in pair of shoes or boots. Comfort is singularly important for venturing outdoors. The trails, fields and forests of this fine country offer much for those who choose to wander. In the British climate and depending on if you're on the trails or just pottering around the local area, a decent pair of shoes or boots that have been well-broken in and are to some degree water-resistant are essential.
2. Walking Poles or Walking Stick
When I first purchased a pair of walking poles, I thought that I might use them occasionally. But my current walking poles have been quite literally a godsend. As someone who suffers with a back problem, my walking poles have kept me upright and kept me moving. My current poles are carbon fibre, super-strong but any decent quality poles or sticks have a multitude of uses including improving your walking position, improving your walking speed, for testing the depth of puddles and allowing oneself to pole-vault across the muddy obstacles which would otherwise have blocked your path. They are absolutely essential; and in my opinion two poles are better than one.
3. Rucksack or Pack
An older person would never go out without some provision, the same can be said for walking. A comfortable and well-fitted pack or rucksack is essential to carry all the best bits that you need for going out in the wilds. A lightweight pack is preferable, and depending on your particular preference, some prefer soft and others prefer a frame. I would suggest that if you're of a mind to get a decent rucksack, go somewhere where you'll get proper advice and fitting, where you can try it on and they will adjust it and demonstrate to you how to best adjust it for yourself. If you're only out and about, then a light pack will give you all you need to carry those things with you for the delightful moments of your day. Read on for more detail...
4. A Flask and/or Drinking Vessel
One of the best things about walking is that moment when you realise that the 'world' is far away from you, that the only thing that matters in that moment is you placing one foot in front of another. But the second best moment is when you find a place - a gate, a tree, a stone, a wall, whether it be in the middle of gale force wind or as the sun beats down upon your face when as you loose your pack from your shoulders and you pull out your flask, pour a steaming cup of tea and just sip and gaze...
P.S. I leave it up to your conscience whether it is tea or indeed water, or something stronger - but sometimes a cup of tea just does it for me.
With this essential, it is indeed walker's choice - healthy oat bar, fruit, Kendal mint cake, biscuit or sandwich. Make your choices. Pop it into your pack and save a bit for later. Or even a biscuit with your tea. Energy will keep you going when the bones ache a bit, the muscles start to sag and when your eyes scan the horizon for the end.
6. Pain Relief
Sometimes the one thing that you cannot escape from on a walk is the aches, pains, physical difficulties and ailments that life brings you, as a more fully aged Bordeaux. My comment on this is clear - sometimes the only thing that will allow you to continue the free-walking, free movement in the outdoors is pain relief. So be prepared, don't be a martyr and if you need to - use it to keep you moving in the outdoors. Consult your doctor, if you have doubts - although most will be inclined to offer solutions to keep you moving.
7. Base Layer or Vest
My son bought me a merino wool base layer a couple of years ago. It is something I would not have considered myself but layers are generally a good thing when outside. It means that whether you are hot or cold, it moderates body temperature. It can act as a wicking layer, removing sweat from being close to your body. Base layers should sit snuggly and effectively acts like another layer of skin. It means in the winter, you'll stay warm and dry; in summer, you'll be cool. Merino wool is super-soft and feels quite the luxury, and is anti-bacterial and light. For those who have a smaller budget, a decent vest will also help.
After walking shoes/boots, the choice of sock is singularly important. If you're regularly on the trail, a decent pair of walking socks are essential. I have tried all the variations - a good thick cotton sock, two pairs of thin socks, a thin under sock and a thick outer sock. But a good pair of thick woollen/wool mix walking socks are essential for comfort, to wick away moisture to prevent blisters and to ensure that your feet don't move too much in your footwear. You should ensure you choose socks which are not too tight or baggy, have flat seams to avoid rubbing and fit with your chosen shoes or boots. They go as a pair. If you're sock shopping, take your shoes or boots with you.
9. The Unmentionables (or Underwear)
If you are a gentle potterer then this need not apply to you, but for those who are looking to spend increasing amounts of time in the outdoors then the choice of undies is of considerable consideration. Whether it be pants, knickers, bras or boxers - you need a certain undergarment that will be comfortable, supportive, breathable and antibacterial. Cotton clothing is not the best choice for walking or hiking, it soaks up moisture and becomes heavy and sweaty. The key is to choose underwear that is anti-chafing. So that means nothing that could rub, cause irritation or trap sweat. So no cotton knickers or pants, choose a wicking polyester boxes or sports-bra type product to reduce the threat that this could do to damage your fun in the sun.
Make it a habit of always ensuring that you include a small camera in your essential kit list. For some this is easy as you may have a smartphone which does the job well, but if you wish to leave your phone at the bottom of your bag for emergency use only - find a compact camera. It will remind you of the art of photography and allow you to keep a record of your explorations in the outside. It becomes easy therefore to track your exploits as digital images store pieces of data like the date, time and even location of your wanderings. Plus you can then use it to show off to your friends and family, reminding them of the benefits of being outside and encouraging others to join you on foot.
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