How to Plan the Perfect Walking Routes

Planning the perfect walking route can be about exploring somewhere new, setting yourself a challenge or simply finding an alternative to your usual walking route.

There are a number of things to consider when planning your route and each of the considerations we discuss in this article may apply more or less to you depending on the type and length of walk you want to take. A walk which takes in an inner-city area will have very different parameters to one which explores mountainous terrain.

What is not in question is that being well prepared is the best way to ensure that your walking route is the best that it can be. Good preparation ensures that you can enjoy your walk and, perhaps more importantly, that you can stay safe if something does go wrong en route. It also gives you the chance to choose the best paths and trails ahead of time so that you aren’t confused by an unexpected turn in the trail or a tempting path which takes you off route.

Be Pragmatic

The best piece of advice is to start off with the imperfect, then build from there. If you live in the conurbations of a city, then going on a hike in the hills is likely something you will done once in a while and an urban explore a more likely basis for your walking route.

If you are differing from your normal route, this is the time to be more cautious and pay more attention to your preparation. When your surroundings are unfamiliar, the risks naturally increase. Challenging yourself once in a while is no bad thing but make sure that you know what the route will demand of your body ahead of time.

Decide on length and terrain

A key element on deciding which route you should take on a walk is setting key parameters including the length and terrain before you set out.

Especially in the countryside, a longer route may offer you the opportunity to take in more of the beautiful surrounds but is may also mean taking a less desirable path, trail or scramble which you need to prepare for. Likewise, if you are walking around a city doing some urban exploring, considering your personal safety is important and this can mean planning a route that avoids key crime hotspots or isolated areas.

The length and type of route that you choose will impact your choice of walking shoe too. Trainers are fine for less demanding, paved roads or well-marked trails whereas trail shoes or walking boots are required if you are heading out into more treacherous terrain.

How to Plan the Perfect Walking Routes

Map your route

After deciding on what length of route you want to take and the type of ground you want to cover, mapping the route is much easier. It is important to know the paths that you will come across and key landmarks you may pass, especially if you are heading out to a remote location, such as the area around Wasdale Head which precedes one of the popular routes to England’s highest point at the summit of Scafell Pike. On the ascent from Wasdale Head to the summit, walkers are presented with a range of different paths to choose from which each offer very different routes to the top (or to the valley beyond on the other side) and have a huge impact on the effort and skill level required to safely complete the route.

Identify potential issues

The first aspect of dealing with a difficult situation well is considering and identifying the potential dangers and pitfalls of your route.

You may not consider that your route has any issues that you need to consider but the old saying ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail’ couldn’t be truer.

Issues come in all shapes and sizes and whilst some are those that you don’t think about, for example, traffic on an A road that you need to cross between paths, others such as what to do in the event of adverse weather at the top of a mountain or hill require more planning and careful thought.

Some of the issues you may face whilst out on a walk are:

– Traffic on busy A roads (especially in areas with no pavements)

– Changes in terrain where marked paths give way to scree or grass

– Becoming lost or disorientated

– Becoming injured in areas where you will need to stop and wait for help

– Inaccessible paths, especially at high altitude which necessitate a change in route

– Loss of daylight and/or low visibility

– Isolated or known crime hotspots in inner-city, urban routes which may be best avoided.

– Obstacles including streams or unmarked sections of a trail

Consider how you will overcome them

If you are heading out on adventure, up into the hills, or on a longer walk than usual it is important to consider what may go wrong and how you need to deal with it. Whilst the chances of you having an accident whilst out walking are slim, consider taking a foil blanket if you are heading up a mountain or steep hill which you can use in the event that you become injured or ill and need to stop and await help. A warm day can quickly become chilly, and that foil blanket will seem like a blessing.

It is also worth considering what you may need in terms of first aid. A foil blanket is great if you need to keep warm but thinking about the type of injury that may lead you to stop gives you the chance to pack key first aid items such as bandages, plasters and surgical tape. For more information, check out this blog post on first aid.

One of the most important things to identify is how you will deal with unexpected changes to your route. Perhaps rocks on the trail have become dislodged making part of the route impassable – in the event that you are unable to take part of your mapped route it is imperative that you have identified an alternative to avoid panic setting in. This also gives you the chance to prepare a quick escape route should you need to get down quickly from a hill or isolated spot on your route.

Equipment you may need

We have discussed before the key essentials that you need to carry for a walk or hike. As well as these key essentials we would recommend taking the following items if you are heading out for a longer, or more challenging, walk.

The weather, especially at altitude, can change quickly and unpredictably. A good quality head-torch illuminates the trail in front of you and can be invaluable when the weather closes in. From our experience, head-torches with at least 350 lumens are needed in the dark off-road.

To stop you from becoming disorientated, pack a compass and a map. Technology is great but your phone and/or GPS watch may be unreliable in areas with poor signal. A compass, though old fashioned, can be really useful in difficult conditions when you need some reassurance that you are on the right track.

Likewise, if you are going for a walk with long and difficult off-road sections, hiking poles may also be really useful. Using hiking poles gives you added leverage on uphill sections where you can propel yourself forward Nordic-style with your upper body and can give you some all-important stability on steep descents or uneven ground.

We would also strongly advise you to take a rucksack with a waterproof coat and some energy-dense supplies such as a malt loaf, dried fruits and chocolate. And, of course, it’s important to make sure that you have more than enough fluids to keep you going with some spare in case you are out for longer than you expect. You may want to pack a salt tablet or two which you can drop into your water to replace any electrolytes lost through sweat or if you become unwell.

A change of socks is well worth stowing into your rucksack in the event that your feet become wet and you need fresh, dry socks. If you have them, a spare pair of trainers are also worth packing.

Your takeaway message

Planning your walk is imperative if you are aiming for perfection. Perhaps the perfect route doesn’t exist, but the perfect preparation certainly does and can make a walk both safe and thoroughly enjoyable. With good planning and thorough preparation, you will be ready to have the best walk of your life!

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We hope you enjoyed this blog, read more of our walking guides and advice