Self guided walking advice

Self guided walking advice


ADVICE FROM OUR EXPERT SUPPLIERS

Getting started tip


Steve Clifford from our supplier Catalan Adventures gives good self guided walking travel advice:
"The first thing is to do your research, make sure the grade of the walking vacation is suitable for you, if the vacation grade is 6 hours of walking with 2000ft + of accumulative ascent each day and youíre used to 2 or 3 hours walking over relatively flat terrain then you need to question whether this vacation is for you. You also need to take the temperature into consideration, you may be used to walking that distance in Scotland in May; however, for example, in the south of Spain at the beginning of September it could be 30+ degrees. Book with a tour operator that has 24/7 support."

Trekking tips


Christine Kieffer, from our supplier Itinerance Trekking in the Mercantour National Park of France:
"It is very important to use an expert local company to give you guidance. If you are not experienced in the mountains, you need good advice about the paths. Very often, the IGN maps are very good but in reality the path might have collapsed. In the old days, there was public funding for this, but not so much anymore. Going with a private company means that you will have the up to date information about the ways, the best advices to walk on the most beautiful places and the best accommodation."

Packing tips


Melanie McAnaw walking vacation expert from our supplier, Headwater: "The reason I choose self-guided walking is so that I can go at my own pace. When Iím on vacation I enjoy a leisurely breakfast (late!!) and then I like to stop off for as many photo opportunities as I like Ė without feeling like Iím holding anyone up! My top tip is never forget your camera Ė you spot so many great shots when you are out walking."
Steve Clifford from our supplier Catalan Adventures is our man in Catalonia for giving good self guided walking travel advice: "Your most important item is, of course, a pair of comfortable walking boots with ankle support if possible and a sole that provides grip. Always pack a waterproof jacket and waterproof bottoms if possible, Iím still surprised by the amount of people who come here without waterproofs, in Catalonia you will mostly be walking in dry warm weather; however, it does rain from time to time and when it does it can be a very heavy, almost a tropical downpour. You need casual, comfortable walking clothes, lots of layers are good. A hat and sun protection cream is essential and youíll need a small rucksack for carrying lunch and water. Any reputable tour operator should provide you with a kit list based on the time of the year youíre arriving."

Health & safety


TRAVEL SAFELY ON A SELF GUIDED WALKING HOLIDAY

Health


  • Make sure you stay hydrated. It is hard to get kids to drink water sometimes, but they wonít realise how much they need it when walking. Even if the sun isnít shining. Consider hydration backpacks, style Camelbak, so that they have water on them at all times.
  • On a hike in remote, wilderness areas, donít drink from the rivers. Always carry your own water. Even if they are glacial and gorgeous, they can be a source of bacteria. You can boil the water, but do so for five minutes in elevated areas. You can also filter, but it is not always perfect, with iodine treatments considered better.
  • Be wary of touching animals while hiking, especially wild cats and dogs, as rabies is still prevalent in many countries.
  • Consult your doctor or travel clinic before remote walking vacations - they may be able to prescribe antibiotics and antidiarrhoeal medication to take with you, as well as recommending other items such as antihistamines, rehydration salts and medication for altitude sickness which you can take with you. And have a basic first aid kit too.
  • Even if it is cooling off, or indeed cold, in the mountains, the sun can still be very strong, so always wear sunscreen.
  • Inform yourself in advance about any dangers from wildlife. Or insects such as ticks which carry Lyme disease. Make sure you carry tweezers so that you can remove them and be sure to inspect your bodies carefully at the end of the day. Always apply a deterrent (a natural one is best for children such as lemon eucalyptus) and then sun cream. Read this guide for top tick tips.
  • Never eat berries or plants that you spot on your hikes unless you have been thoroughly trained to identify them.

Safety


Walking vacations are a good opportunity to learn how to be scouts again. And great to share this with children too. Be prepared with maps, compass, rain gear, pocketknife, matches and a whistle. You can buy mini emergency kits on eBay for a tenner.

Write down the local emergency numbers before you set out, including mountain rescue, if relevant. And always tell someone where you are going. Make sure your mobile phone is charged too.

Be wary of lightning storms and, if they do occur, get below the treeline and stay away from summits or isolated trees. Stay as low as you can.

One of the most common causes for mountain rescue is hypothermia usually brought about by exhaustion and injury. So make sure you have enough food and water and the right layers. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland is a font of knowledge on all things.

If you are on a self guided walking vacation, always check get a detailed weather forecast before you set out and if you are in the mountains, turn back if the weather turns bad. The World Meteorological Organisation is excellent.

Hiking in extreme heat can be dangerous and deaths do, tragically occur. Some vacation companies in very hot climates donít offer trips in the height of summer anyway. But if the weather does turn very hot, always walk early in the morning and late in the afternoon in cover up and drink lots. Consider adding rehydration powders to your water for extra salts and sugars that help your body cope with the heat.

Vacation reviews from our travelers


RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ON A WALKING HOLIDAY

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful self guided walking advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Bring telescopic walking sticks. The others in the group looked sceptical when I brought them along but they really helped going up and down hill on every walk. Bring easy dry trousers but especially ones were you can unzip the bottom legs. This was ideal for when the bugs got too much. A thermos came in useful as I like a hot drink mid-morning and afternoon - Andrew Reid Wildman on a walking vacation in the French Alps

People may want to take knee supports - one of the walks had a lot of steps! - Janet Fung on a walking vacation along the Amalfi coast, Italy.

Learn a bit of Spanish! As with everywhere in the world, people are really pleased when you have a go - Mike Muir on a Picos de Europa self guided walking vacation.

The key thing is to be adaptable. We were lucky with the weather, which was consistently good for the week we were there (mid-August) but it is not always perfect even in summer. However, the tour operator provides a choice of routes in getting from one rest place to another, and this flexibility is a huge advantage. - Nick Lampert on our family self guided walking vacation in the Mercantour National Park, France.
Photo credits: [Getting started tip: Erik Brockdorff] [Packing tips - Melanie McAnaw & Steve Clifford: Chris Greevebiester] [Review 1 - Isabel Clare: James Case]
Written by Catherine Mack
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