My first walking event
What are the different types of walk event?
OutdoorLads has different types and difficulties of walk event, so there's something to suit everyone regardless of experience or fitness level.
The easiest walks are called Leisure Walks. These are normally in the countryside, though sometimes you'll find Leisure walks in cities and urban areas. As the name suggests, they are designed to be gentle, and generally more sociable, so often there will be more rest stops, or perhaps a pub or picnic built into the route.
Leisure Walks can have up to 20 or 30 people on them, and you are unlikely to need any special walking equipment. They are a good place to start if you don't have walking experience or prefer a walk that's gentler and where it's easier to chat with others on the way around.
Next are Lowland and Hill Walks. These are typically longer and/or involve some height gain. They could include a full day hiking around a coastline or at low level in one of the National Parks or other mountainous area. The groups size is smaller, normally less than 20.
You will need to have some basic walking equipment such as walking shoes or boots and waterproof clothing. If you are generally fit and want to do a walk that is more challenging, then a Lowland and Hill walk could be your ideal first event.
Mountain Walks are more strenuous, and will typically take a full day. There will be several hundreds of meters of ascent and descent, and the terrain and conditions will normally be more challenging, and the weather can have a much greater impact on the event. The group size will be smaller to reflect the more challenging conditions. You will need to have more equipment to take part. If you already like hiking in mountainous terrain, these walks may be ideal for you.
Mountain walks are often, but not always, found as part of OutdoorLads hostel weekends, simply because the more remote locations can take too much time to get to for them to be practical as day walks, especially on shorter winter days.
In Winter, a Mountain Walk can take place in snowy and icy conditions, but will not be of a type, distance, altitude or exposure that you would need specialist equipment such as crampons and ice axes to take part.
Winter Mountain Walks are the most challenging, as you can expect there to be snow and ice and the conditions will be much tougher. As a result, the group size will also be smaller, to enable the event leader to guide the participants safely. You will need to have, or hire, some specialist winter equipment such as crampons and an ice axe.
Whatever type of walk you consider, the leader will also indicate how easy or difficult they think it is on the event page, and give a reason for their selection. That might include the distance of the walk, the height gained, the terrain, weather or season. If you're not sure if an event is right for you, you can send a message to the leader and ask them to advise you.
The event page tells you where and when the walk starts. Walks are usually chosen to be accessible via public transport.
Most walks are circular, finishing where they started, but if the walk is linear and ends somewhere else, the leader will have planned a way for the group to get back to the start, prossibly using public transport (in which case bring enough cash for the fare).
The walk leader may send a message in the days prior to the walk with final information about the walk and asking people to remove themselves from the event if they are no longer able to take part. Please do this if you can no longer attend. This then frees up a place for someone else who would like to attend to join the walk, and it means that the leader is not waiting for you to arrive at the start of the walk.
If you have any questions in advance of the event, you can send the event leader a message via the link on the event page.
You can rarely predict the weather, and it's usually a good idea to be prepared for worse weather during the walk than you have at the beginning, at least then you are ready.
Jeans are a bad choice except in guaranteed sunny weather, as when wet they are cold, heavy and take ages to dry. Walking trousers are a much better option as they are very quick to dry and don’t get heavy when wet.
In the depths of winter it may be worth wearing warmer walking trousers or adding a pair of thermals.
Walking tops or "base layers" are good as they wick moisture away from the skin and so help keep you warm. You will probably also need a fleece. It is amazing how quickly the cold can seep in when you stop exercising, such as when you break for lunch. Try and get a fleece that is compact enough to be easily stored in your rucksack when you don’t need it.
Your outer layer will be a coat of some kind. Ideally it should be waterproof and include a hood. There are lots of modern fabrics that are breathable but still waterproof, and they are better at keeping you dry.
Some people also like to have waterproof over trousers. These are used if it pours down, and are designed to be quick to put on over other trousers. On longer hikes and at altitude they are invaluable, but on a low level walk are useful but not necessary.
Walking boots are definitely the best option. On Leisure walks, trainers with a good tread will probably be OK in dry, summer conditions, or wellingtons if you are expecting wetter and muddier conditions. You can always ask the leader's advice before the event if you are not sure.
For a day walk, a day sack (that's one with a capacity of around 20 to 25 litres) is perfect. Some have a hydration bag system capability, others have mesh backs that try and stop lots of sweat forming where the sack presses against your back. Any rucksack that is comfortable though with will do for a day walk.
Consider putting things in your rucksack into waterproof bags, Ziploc type ones will do, so that they stay dry if it does rain.
Walking poles can be useful for a walk with lots of climbing, especially if you have any issues with your knees, but they are purely optional.
Other Items to Bring
The event page will tell you if there's anything else you need to bring.
When it comes to refreshments, it will tell you whether to bring a packed lunch or money to buy food if there's pub stop planned on the walk.
It's a good idea to bring some cash anyway, as sometimes people decide to head off to a pub or cafe together after the walk. If the walks include a paid-for activity (for example a steam train journey or museum visit) the amount you'll need to bring enough to pay for that, and the amount needed will be shown on the event page.
Bring sufficient water to keep yourself hydrated.
You'll be glad you took sun cream, a cap and sunglasses if the weather is good. We can be out for several hours so watch out! But if the weather is bad, a hat will be worthwhile.
At The Start of the Walk
Plan to get to the start point of the walk 15-20 minutes early. You never know if there will be a delay on your route won't want to be left behind. If you have put a contact mobile into your OutdoorLads profile, the walk leader will have it and be able to contact you to make a fallback plan if you are running late.
When you get to the start point you will probably recognise us, as a group of men all wearing boots, outdoor gear and rucksacks usually can’t be missed! The event leader will sometimes have an OutdoorLads flag, or t-shirt, to help you identify the group, but will anyway make sure that they are obvious.
The event leader will be at the start point well before the walk starts ready to welcome participants as they arrive and check them off against the expected attendance list. If you are going to be late, or find out at the last minute that you cannot attend, it’s extremely helpful if you message the event leader so that the group won’t be waiting for you. Or you can call them if the event leader put their contact number on the event listing.
The leader will give an introduction and welcome everyone, which includes a reminder about lunch arrangements and what sort of route you’ll be taking. He will also check which participants are on their first event. This isn’t to embarrass you but to make sure that the other members can also help to make you feel welcome.
During the Walk
Once the walk starts people naturally break up into smaller groups, often depending on how fast everyone naturally walks. During the walk, these groups continually change and so you will be able to chat with different people during the day. If it’s your first walk you will find that you meet a bunch of people happy to say hello, OutdoorLads events are friendly and welcoming.
At lunchtime, if it is a picnic, the leader finds a good spot to stop for around half an hour. If the ground is wet then waterproof clothing, a seating mat or even a plastic bag or bin liner will be more comfortable to sit on.
If at any time during the walk you need a comfort break and the bushes will do, be sure to let someone know that you’ll be hanging back for a couple of minutes so that you don't get accidentally left behind.If you feel unwell, or need assistance, please let the walk leader know immediately so that they can help you in whatever was is appropriate. Don't be too embarrassed to ask.
At The End of the Walk
The event leader will confirm the end point of the walk, and check that everyone is there and happy. They will help with advice on public transport for those that want it. If there is a pub or cafe nearby, the group may decide to head there before leaving to go home. It’s all part of the social nature of the group.
The walk leader will have gone through an OutdoorLads evaluation and assessment process and have proved that they are capable of leading the event. This includes following the route on a map or in a guide. This doesn’t mean that the group won’t ever get lost, but if that happens, the leader will be able to retrieve the situation and get everyone back on track. For walks in mountainous areas, the leader will also have a first aid qualification and be knowledgable on what to do should assistance from the emergency services be required.
What are other types of OutdoorLads events like?
If there's still something you're not sure about related to attending your first bouldering event or any aspect of OutdoorLads, please do contact us.