A Mile A Day #15: The Ultimate Guide To Walking Gear For Complete Beginners

It’s those trainers with the split leather sides and the ripped shoelace holes, the ones you bought in 1997 for £5 and you’ve never been able to throw away.

It’s that t-shirt with the ragged holes in the shoulders and under the arms that you put aside to use as a pyjama top, but accidentally put back into commission, and then remembered how comfy it is, even if it makes you unfashionable enough to audition for the next season of Stranger Things.

It’s those jeans with the shredded knees and that hole in the crotch which means you can never sit opposite anyone.

It’s those odd socks you couldn’t be bothered to match up, old socks with broken elastic so they creep down your ankles in a way that makes you feel stabby.

It’s that sweatshirt that smells like something died in it a decade ago, and it’s that raincoat that’s about as waterproof as a string vest.

About half an hour into your walk, maybe less, you’ll start discovering the limitations of your crappy, crappy walking gear. Maybe you’ll get cold and sweaty at the same time – a miracle of thermodynamics. Maybe your legs will start to ache because your shoes are lopsided ankle-breakers. Maybe it’ll rain and you’ll get drenched right through to your underwear, leaving you with dramatic-feeling friction burns in intimate places.

Whatever happens as you walk, something will prove insufficient for the task at hand – hell, maybe everything will – and you’ll discover you need an upgrade.

Until that happens, you don’t need one.

All you need is to get out and walk with what you have.

Seriously. You know this, but it’s worth spelling out: if you want to go for a long walk, anything but walking is stalling. This goes for most outdoor activities, but it’s especially true for walking. There’s no uniform of entry, no minimum viable set of walking gear.  You just walk, for as long as you damn well like, suffering as much as you damn well want to, until you turn round and stomp home, cursing the item of clothing that’s made your day unnecessarily horrible.

(This might not happen, by the way. You might be just fine.)

So why are you on Amazon, browsing the outdoor gear section, pointless lusting over expensive things that only weigh this and that, and are guaranteed to work in temperatures as low as WTF? You know why. It’s because you’re fighting Resistance and it’s winning, because you’re here, instead of out there, discovering the actual proven limits of your existing (non-)gear.

That said…

You don’t go climbing England’s second-highest mountain in non-gear. That’s just asking for trouble.

So, there’s a limit. But for most low-intensity, low-misery strolls, your walking heroes have gone for long walks in worse gear than you have available right now. Sometimes for the comedy value, admittedly, but off they went. It didn’t kill them. It won’t kill you either – unless you’re daft enough to pretend your gear isn’t laughable/dangerous when it’s clearly proving to be so, as already stated. That’s when you come back and buy some shiny new things from Regatta or Craghoppers or the like, when you’re agonisingly aware of how much you need them, when it’s written across your body in aches and pains and odd-shaped rashes.

I could go on, but then this post would turn into another way of delaying that walk you could be having today, and I’d hate that almost as much as you would.

However rubbish your gear is, it’s good enough to start. Same goes for your legs, your knees – everything.

Make do. Get out.

Start.



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 Image: Mike Sowden
  • So true!
    That’s why I don’t bother registering with a gym ‘cos it would never happen. I mean, at one point Madonna’s Gym – Hard Candy – opened just 20 seconds from my house! And did I ever go there? Nope! In fact, I don’t think anybody went there, as one year later it closed!

    I’m good with walking free of charge. Mind you, I have the T-shirt which actually, I bought for my son when he was 10 years old! It’s totally inappropriate but it has Garfield on it sooo. I also have hiking socks that were bought for me when I first met my mother-in-law! There are huge holes in them but I’m quite attached. And don’t even get me started on the jeans. I had a pair of Levi’s that I bought whilst an undergraduate! And in those days, i used to buy jeans for men, for myself. Such a better cut. Until recently, I still had them…..!