Looking for an exhilarating and physically challenging hobby that will get you out into the great outdoors? It's time to give hill walking a try...
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Forget red sock-wearing, bearded busybodies with thermos flasks and khaki shorts - hill walking is popular with young and old alike and can be surprisingly affordable when compared to many other pass times.
Where should I go?
Well that's the beauty of it, it's entirely up to you - within the bounds of the law of course.
The UK has 15 National Parks which include the Lake District and the Peak District in England, Snowdonia in Wales and the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond in Scotland - all of which are massively popular with walkers.
Many hill walkers make reaching the summit of a hill or mountain the focus of their day out, but many more are simply interested in getting out and enjoying the scenery and exercise - and some don't really go up proper hills at all (for example on coastal walks).
There are a host of guidebooks and specialist magazines which cover hill walking - and of course the internet can be an invaluable tool for finding routes and learning about the activity.
What will I need?
"There is no such thing as bad weather... only inappropriate clothing."
The above quote is attributed to explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and is highly relevant to anyone thinking of heading off up a mountain.
Clothing-wise, one of the basics is a good waterproof jacket - preferably made from a breathable material such as a Gore-Tex or eVent fabric so that you don't get drowned in your own sweat.
You'll also want a good pair of walking boots which are also waterproof - either with a leather or synthetic upper and possibly a Gore-Tex membrane. Many of the top brands use Vibram soles, so that's something to keep an eye out for.
Leave your jeans at home and choose trousers made from a quick drying material instead, possibly a synthetic fibre. Many walkers also carry a pair of waterproof overtrousers.
It's no use having a breathable jacket if your other layers trap your sweat, so a breathable baselayer - either synthetic or made from merino wool - is a good choice. And perhaps a fleece jacket for colder weather.
You'll also need a rucksack to carry the layers you're not wearing - along with your sandwiches, water, map and perhaps a first-aid kit and space blanket.
What do I need to know?
Being able to make sense of the map you are carrying is vital, so take some time to make sure you can do that - which will also require a compass obviously (and probably a map case to protect it from the rain).
Along with being able to read the map, you'll need to understand a bit about the UK's rights-of-way laws - which are very different in Scotland to the rest of the country.
Although we said earlier that there is no such thing as bad weather, it's still important that you know roughly what to expect from our nation's glorious climate - so be sure to check the weather forecast before you head out and adapt your plans accordingly (ie. don't head out if the weather is going to be terrible, even if you think you're equipped for it).
Knowing that you or one of your party is able to make use of the first-aid kit we mentioned above will also give you a little extra peace of mind.
Also, it's a good idea to tell somebody which route you are taking and when you expect to be back.
Can I join a club?
The Ramblers' Association is a charity that organises walks and lobbies for walkers' interests - and its 50 local groups offer newcomers the opportunity to try a led walk for free.
There are also smaller walking groups across the UK (not just in hilly areas!) which you should be able to find quickly with the aid of an internet search engine.
Have you tried hill walking? Would you recommend it? Comment below...