5 Best Training Exercises for Hiking

written by Sophia Perry

Hiking is not just a not-so-leisurely stroll through the woods. It involves scenic routes, stunning views, and an escape from the hectic buzz of the city. However, to enjoy all these perks, you have to be in shape. You have to agree that you can’t fully appreciate the beauty around you if you struggle to catch your breath and feel worried about the journey back. Many believe that training for hiking only involves, well, going on hikes. However, that’s not all it takes. While you definitely should do that, you should introduce some exercises into your routine that can help tremendously. Therefore, to help you get in shape and relish everything that nature can give you, we have prepared the 5 best training exercises for hiking. Also, we will provide you with a quick overview of what to focus on when training to become a strong hiker.

How to train for hiking

While hikes have a lot to offer, you will hardly enjoy them if you simply wake up, throw on some hiking shoes and find the nearest trail. Unless you are highly active already, you will have to prepare for a hike. 

And the reason for that is pretty evident. Hiking trails are not flat surfaces you regularly walk on. They are uneven, there is often some elevation, and you will likely encounter some obstacles. The good news is that training exercises for hiking won’t require hours at the gym. So, here is what you will have to focus on.

  • Strength. You must strengthen the major muscles hikers use. These are your leg and core muscles. If these are strong, it will be easier to support the load you carry. And you will be able to hike for longer.
  • Endurance. Hiking can take all day. Therefore, you have to build endurance in those muscle groups you use the most: legs, core muscles, shoulders, lower back. 
  • Balance. Since you will have to navigate uneven terrain, you need a more stable base.
  • Cardio. It would be best to complement your exercise plan with a form of cardio workout. Choose an aerobic exercise you enjoy, for instance, running or cycling.
Two people hiking towards a snow-capped mountain
If you want to enjoy your hikes you have to be ready and healthy.

Important tip: Before you begin training, consult your doctor and a certified trainer. It’s imperative you ensure you are in good health. Also, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily get hurt performing different exercises.

Training exercises for hiking

Now that you know what your focus should be when preparing to become a hiker, here are the best exercises that will help you get there. You could soon be exploring different hiking trails around the world. And believe it or not, after seeing some places, many people have decided to move. For example, New York is a popular destination for hikers, and those who live in Brooklyn often enjoy hiking tours. Besides being one of the most beautiful, it is also a very family-friendly neighborhood. So, if you decide to make Brooklyn your home, you won’t lack activities to enjoy with your family, and you will undoubtedly have many trails to tackle.

1. Goblet squats

This exercise is essential for hikers as it helps strengthen all of your major leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and glutes). These are also the muscles you will use the most on your hikes. 

A woman performing goblet squat

Goblet squat strengthens all your leg muscles.

How to: Take a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it between your hands near your chest. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Stand so that you place your weight on your heels. Slowly start descending into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle. Also, make sure your knees don’t bow inwards but try to keep them right above your feet. Sit back into the squat so your knees don’t go over your toes. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, start going up, pushing from your heels. Once standing fully extend your hips and squeeze your glutes. As you progress, gradually increase the weight of your dumbbell or kettlebell.

2. Downhill lunges

Lunges, in general, are an excellent exercise for hikers. It strengthens your leg muscles while improving your balance. But downhill lunges do you one better. Many hikers think that going up is the challenging part. However, the descend will actually lead to pain in your quads. Thus, downhill lunges will prepare you for this, even more strengthening your balance and core.

Two girls doing lunges, one of the best training exercises for hiking

Lunges are an excellent exercise for hikers as they strengthen leg muscles and improve balance.

How to: Find a downhill. Stand keeping your upper body upright. Relax your shoulders, back, and your chin. Step forward with your leg ensuring your core is engaged and lowering your hips until your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Again, your knee must not go over your toes. Keep them right above your ankle. As you start standing up, keep your weight in your heels and step forward with your back leg, placing it next to the other leg. Then do the same with the other leg.

3. Deadlift

The deadlift is another excellent exercise for hikers as it strengthens the hamstrings. You will use these muscles a lot on your hikes. Also, it is a complex exercise that engages many muscles. 

A woman doing a kettlebell deadlift

Another excellent training exercise for hiking is the deadlift.

How to: Start with a lighter kettlebell until you are confident in your form, then begin increasing the weight. Align your feet with your hips and hold the kettlebell with both hands between your thighs. Your spine must be in a neutral position as you hinge at the hips. Stick your bottom out a little as you bend forward, paying attention to keep your back straight. Then, slowly squat until you touch the ground with the kettlebell. On your way back up, hinge at the hips and squeeze your glutes.

4. Hanging knee raises

This exercise will strengthen your core, which will help you support your heavy hiking backpack while you overcome various obstacles. 

How to: Find a bar you can safely hang from. Keep your arms fully extended and your legs straight. Slightly roll your pelvis backward. Raise your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle with your torso, and roll your pelvis up a bit. Hold for a second and slowly lower your legs back to the initial position.

5. Any form of cardio workout

A woman stretching

Stretching is an essential part of every workout plan.

You have to develop some stamina if you don’t want to be huffing and puffing your entire way up. As we have mentioned, you can do whatever you enjoy. Speed walking, jogging, swimming, and even dancing are solid options as long as they increase your heart rate. Getting your heart rate up will build your lung capacity and improve your endurance.

Don’t forget to stretch

No workout plan is complete without stretching. Stretching is a must because it reduces the chances of injury and ensures quick recovery. At the beginning of training, do some dynamic stretching to warm up (a light jog, jumping jacks, high knees, etc.). 5-10 minutes is enough to prepare you for the strength training. Once you have finished training you should do 5-10 minutes of static stretches. Static stretching implies holding one position for some time and are suitable when your body is warmed up and flexible. It will also reduce the risk of injury, speed up recovery, and improve flexibility. So, after the workout, stretch all those big muscles you have used – quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, and core. 

Now that you know what some of the best training exercises for hiking are, you can begin preparing. If you are a beginner, you will be more than ready come spring. But if you feel confident, you can enjoy some winter hiking tours. Just make sure you take some precautions, so you stay safe.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like on the Camino?

Have you ever wondered what happens on the Camino de Santiago in between walking from one town to the next? After all, most pilgrims are finished walking by early afternoon which leaves a lot of time to fill until the following morning.

In this article, I’d like to give you a better idea of what to expect on the Camino and as to whether this long distance walk might be for you or not. But let’s take a look at a quick overview of the adventure before taking a peek at everyday life on the Camino.

Walking the Camino Frances – A Quick Overview

I finished walking the Camino Frances last week. It was my second time to walk this particular route and the logistics of this adventure is one of my reasons for wanting to return. In other words, it’s easy to organize a dander on the Camino and you will meet people of all ages and shapes and sizes and pilgrims from all walks of life.

What exactly is the Camino Frances?

The Camino Frances is one of the many long distance walking paths in Spain that leads to the main Cathedral in Santiago. Just so you know, there are several other paths that lead to this same Cathedral such as the Camino del Norte or the Camino Primitivo. However, the Camino Frances is by far the most popular route with more accommodation and resupply options and a lot more fellow pilgrims too!

It stretches for 790km across the top of Spain. Some pilgrims choose to walk the Camino Frances in stages every year, while others walk the entire path in one go. It takes most people between 30 and 40 days to complete the walk. The starting point is at a town called St Jean Pied du Port on the French border. This walking path is marked with yellow arrows and travels through many villages, towns, and cities that have a long lineup of places to stay including hotels, guesthouses, and albergues (hostels). Now, let’s take a closer look at day-to-day life on the Camino… 

Guiding arrows on the Camino de Santiago

The Morning Routine and Breakfast on the Camino Frances

Pilgrims tend to rise early and start walking as soon as possible. It’s up to you of course but it gets really hot on the Camino and an early start will help you avoid walking for too long in the hottest part of the day. That being said, most pilgrims end up going to bed rather early which means it’s not such a big deal waking up at 6 am. In my own experience, I also found most pilgrims really enjoyed walking during these quiet and peaceful hours and being able to start their day with a walk at sunrise.

While some Albergues or hotels offer breakfast, some do not. I also noticed that many pilgrims prefer to start moving and wait until the next town for breakfast. This is usually within a one-hour walk (5km) from where they slept the night before. Coffee with tortilla (potato omelette), eggs on toast, or pastries are common staples for breakfast on the Camino. I sometimes carried my own which might consist of rice crackers with avocado and cheese or rice crackers with banana and peanut butter.

Summary: Every morning is a simple affair and you simply rise early and start walking until you feel hungry or reach a nice cafe in which to enjoy some coffee.

Assortment of breakfasts available on the Camino.
Assortment of breakfasts available on the Camino.

Mid Morning and the Actual Walking Itself

This part of the day goes by really quickly on the Camino. It might take a week or so to get used to walking long distances but there comes a point when you settle into the experience and process. If you like talking with other pilgrims or listening to podcasts and audiobooks as you walk, you should find this time goes by even faster. Believe it or not – walking 20km every day will eventually seem like a very normal thing to do!

Every five or ten kilometres, you will also encounter small villages and towns and these are usually equipped with albergues, cafes, shops, and a fountain to refill your water bottles. This also means that pilgrims can stop for the night if they don’t wish to walk any further – *unless they have made a booking elsewhere that day/night.

The scenery is spectacular on the Camino Frances and changes a lot as you proceed from east to west across the top of Spain. The beginning is quite lush and cool but the middle section is extremely flat, dry, and open, while the latter stages of the Camino Frances are very mountainous and green. It’s a lovely aspect of walking the Camino because you get to see these landscapes change slowly over time and this also makes it very easy to notice and appreciate the present moment.

I really enjoy talking with other pilgrims on the walk each day but I also like to spend time alone. During this time, I sometimes listen to podcasts or music or plug out entirely and drink in the scenery and spend some time alone with my own thoughts.

Either way, you should find the mornings and the walking itself to be a rather spontaneous affair with stunning scenery and interesting conversations.

*About making bookings: Some pilgrims make all their bookings before arriving on the Camino. While this ensures they will never be stuck for somewhere to stay, it also means they will be tied to a specific and rigid schedule that may not suit later on. I believe a better way to organize accommodation is to book the first few days/week and then make the rest of your bookings as you go along. This means you might make bookings just one day in advance or even that same day which will allow for more flexibility and the option of taking a day off whenever you want.

A long stretch of trail on the Camino de Santiago
A long stretch of trail on the Camino de Santiago

About Meeting Other Pilgrims on the Camino

Meeting other pilgrims is a magical part of this journey and the Camino is “a place” that makes it easy for people to connect – even the socially awkward. This often means pilgrims will strike up a conversation with you at random coffee stops or while waiting for your laundry in an albergue. There’s also a sense of openness and trust with these interactions which seems to allow for quick and easy connections between friendly people who just want to be part of one another’s journey.

If you are more introverted, like me, you might be a little concerned about this side of the experience. However, it’s just as easy to spend time alone and even avoid such interactions. I actually spend at least half of my time walking alone on the Camino and simply do this by either walking ahead or dropping back from other pilgrims. It’s perfectly okay to do this on the Camino and nobody is likely to feel offended.

Moral of the story: You can be alone or you can be with others – it’s up to you!

Pilgrims on the trail
Pilgrims on the trail

Reaching the Next Town at the End of Your Daily Walk

As enjoyable as the walk might be, it’s always a welcome relief to reach your destination each day. I like to celebrate this part of the day by going straight to the room, taking off my hiking boots and socks, and lying down for ten or fifteen minutes.

I’m also very hungry at this point and after a quick shower, I like to get straight out to the nearest restaurant for something to eat. Food is really good on the Camino Frances and there is plenty of meat, fish, and vegetarian options along the way. As a long distance walker, you might also start to notice a lack of expectations and appreciation for any kind of food that can replenish the lost calories from that day.

Dinner options on the Camino
Dinner options on the Camino

But what else is there to do?

It’s then common for pilgrims to take a short nap but I myself like to stay awake and wait for an uninterrupted sleep in the evening. You will also need to do laundry every few days and this can take an hour or two – depending on the facilities available. And then there’s time for reading or writing, chatting with other pilgrims, or enjoying a glass of wine and just putting the feet up in a quiet spot in town.

In the evening, “pilgrim meals” are arranged in many of the Albergues which is another nice aspect of the Camino. These home-cooked meals are usually very healthy and cheap and provide an opportunity for pilgrims to get to know one another. Although I do quite enjoy these occasions, they normally commence at 7/8 pm which is a little late for dinner in my opinion. For this reason, I will often have dinner much earlier and be relaxing with a book or movie on my iPad by that time instead.

After that, it’s lights out and time to prepare for repeating this process the next day!

A signpost in Camino Frances

Final Thoughts

It might seem like there’s a lot of space and time on the Camino Frances and this is true, but time goes by really quickly. After a long walk, it’s even nice to “do nothing” and the routine of shower, food, and laundry is often more than enough activity to fill your afternoon and evening. This is also another lovely thing about life on the Camino; you get to focus on the basic necessities in life. You gradually forget about the many distractions and needless thoughts that tend to occupy one’s mind back in the real world. If you feel intrigued by any of the above, I believe you will enjoy the Camino!

How to Ensure Safety During a Winter Hike

written by Sophia Perry

Hiking in the winter is not for everyone – it can get cold, wet, and very slippery. But between the snow-covered treetops, frozen lakes, and the glittering sun, the views are stunning. So start looking up the best winter trails in the area now because you don’t want to miss out on spending this beautiful season in nature. However, before you put on your hiking boots and jacket, remember that hiking in the winter is most definitely not the same as hiking in the summer. Even for experienced hikers, it can be risky. That’s why you need to learn how to ensure safety during a winter hike, or your pleasant day outside can quickly turn sour.

The importance of ensuring safety during a winter hike

Every time you go on a hike, you take a risk. Typically, this risk isn’t major – you might fall and get scraped up, you’ll probably get a few insect bites, and on rare occasions, you might twist an ankle at worst. But winter weather brings different dangers.


Hiking in the winter is very different from hiking in the summer.

Cold is the obvious one. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures can affect you physically, making it harder to breathe, move, and even think clearly. This is why a wild camping adventure should be relegated to another season – spending a few nights outside in the winter is only for the most dedicated among us. Decreased visibility and difficulties with navigation are other things you need to prepare for. Even on a clear day without snowfall, it can be hard to find tracks when they are covered in snow. This can easily lead to getting lost in the wilderness. So how do you enjoy your favorite hobby and avoid these dangers at the same time?

Tips for increasing safety during a winter hike

It is perfectly possible to minimize risks and enjoy one of Ireland’s best winter hikes safely if you know how to prepare. So follow these tips:

Get an early start

You don’t get a lot of daylight in the winter, so use it wisely. Look up must-see destinations near you, so you don’t have to travel far, pack the night before, and start your hike early in the morning. No matter how weak, the sun will make it warmer while it’s out. The visibility will be better too. So don’t wait until later – when it comes to winter hiking, the early bird gets the worm every time.

Keep it short and sweet

The longer you stay outside, the more exposure you’ll experience and the higher the risk of something going wrong. So during the winter months, plan shorter hikes. How short exactly depends on your skill level. For some experienced hikers, a whole day in the mountain is not a problem, even during the colder months. But if you’re going with a less fit or less experienced group, and particularly if the group involves children, you’ll want to contain yourself to a couple of hours of outdoor activities at most. For example, kids love to do things outside, so you may want to make hiking a family affair. That’s a great idea as long as you keep in mind that children can’t regulate body temperature as well as adults. So you’ll need to stick to shorter trails during the winter as a safety precaution.


Don’t spend too much time outside when it’s cold; short hikes are safer and can be just as satisfying.

Don’t go alone

Hiking alone means not having anyone to rely on in case something does go wrong. During the winter, this can be an especially serious problem. Even a minor issue will turn into a crisis if you end up stranded on the trail without the possibility to contact anyone as the temperatures steadily drop. So it’s best to hike with others, especially if they have more experience than you. Not only will you be safer, but you’ll also have more fun!

If you insist on going alone, alert someone of your plans. Better yet, set up a check-in system where you contact them every so often to confirm everything is okay. If they don’t hear from you in a while, they can call for help in your stead.

Stay hydrated and eat well

Poor hydration and nutrition will only make your hike physically more demanding and more dangerous. So make sure to take sips of water whenever you stop and bring some nutritional snacks to eat when you get hungry. Warm drinks like tea and coffee are not a bad idea either; just remember that they are not a replacement for regular water. A water bottle is still one of the most important things to have during a hike, regardless of the season.

Dress for the occasion

One of the best ways to protect yourself from hypothermia is to wear the right shoes and clothes. You’ll want to dress in layers so you can maintain body heat and adjust your clothing in case the weather changes. Your outer layers (including footwear) should be waterproof, while the inner layers should be something that keeps warmth close to your body, like wool such as a great quality Helly Hansen Jacket or a Trespass Fleece. Depending on the difficulty of the hike, you may need snowshoes or crampons. At the very least, however, wear boots with a good grip and use trekking poles.


Proper clothes and gear will make all the difference and ensure safety during a winter hike.

Always take emergency supplies with you

Winter hikes typically require more equipment than summer ones. With all that you need to pack and strap to your back, you may be tempted to leave behind some emergency supplies. After all, what are the odds you’re going to need them? The truth is – slim. But you should still never leave emergency supplies behind when going on a winter hike. A proper first-aid kit, navigational items, and communication tools could literally save your life if something goes wrong. Thus, find the space for them in your rucksack!

Develop the necessary skills in advance

Simply having the right gear is not enough – you need to know how to use it. So before you go on a hike, test out your abilities with the tools you’re bringing along. Take your winter gear out for a spin, make sure you know how to navigate with a compass if something happens to your technology, and brush up on your first-aid using the supplies in your kit. On the off chance that something happens, being able to use your gear quickly and without thinking can make a huge difference.

Preparing for a winter hike

Preparation is vital when it comes to hiking in the winter. Not only does it ensure safety during a winter hike, but it can also make the whole experience more pleasant by eliminating stress and uncertainties. So the night before or even the morning of your hike, make sure to read up on the trail conditions, look at the weather forecast, and check that you’ve packed everything. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into is crucial; it’ll impact how you pack, how you plan, and even whether you should take the hike at all. So keep yourself safe by being well-prepared.

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The Ireland Way: My Struggle, Experience and Decision to Keep Walking

I’ve been walking the Ireland Way trail for the past few weeks and just recently passed the halfway point. It’s been a very challenging and interesting walk but mostly for reasons which I did not expect. That is to say, I expected this walk to be rather “easy” compared to my previous trips and largely focused on the places, landmarks and culture that I might encounter along the way. Instead, I’ve really struggled with anxiety and loneliness and the motivation to continue!

In this post, I would like to talk about some of these issues and my experience on the Ireland Way.

– My feelings at the beginning of the trip.

– some early thoughts/opinion on the Ireland Way.

– Highlights of the trip so far.

– My experience with hiking and camping gear.

– My struggle with anxiety and decision to continue walking the Ireland Way.

– Making videos, going viral and getting recognised on the walk.

How it Felt to Begin an Adventure After a Year of Uncertainty

The start of every adventure is filled with a mixture of nerves and excitement. But it’s a long time since I took a long distance trip and this left me feeling especially anxious up near the Giants Causeway. We’ve also endured an incredibly weird year of uncertainty and I did very little exercise or preparation for this walk. As a result, this did nothing to alleviate my growing sense of fear and anxiety.

However, even with 25lbs of weight on my back, I noticed a certain weight lift off my shoulders in those first few steps. It sounds rather silly but everything feels different on the move. I felt a great sense of purpose return as the sound of the ocean replaced the noise of a fast-moving world.

It stayed like this for the first week. I was still quite nervous about looking for suitable wild camping spots each night but the absence of stress and noise was notable with every passing day.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Person Backpacking Tent

Some Thoughts from the Halfway Point of The Ireland Way

The Ireland Way connects two long distance trails that run from the top to bottom of Ireland – the Beara Breifne Way and the Ulster Way. Most hikers walk this trail from south to north but I decided to walk in the opposite direction so that I could finish in West Cork. While it’s possible to stay in guesthouses the entire way, I couldn’t afford that option and wanted to wild camp along the way.

Although the very first section (the Causeway Coast trail) was almost entirely off-road, a very large portion of the Ulster Way consists of road. I’m used to quiet country roads since my walk around Ireland two years ago. It felt like many parts of the Ulster Way were more suited to cycling as opposed to walking. Signage on the Ulster Way is also really bad and I was delighted to have the Hiiker app for company throughout this section. That said, there were several highlights including Downhill Forest, the Sperrin Mountains and Little/Big Dog in County Fermanagh. The people were lovely at every turn and the towns were nice but many shops seemed to be closed down (COVID).

After some long road sections, the Cavan Way was an absolute delight when I crossed over from Co. Fermanagh. This was followed by an equally impressive trail, the Leitrim Way, and both of these trails were mostly off-road and extremely well signposted. I also really enjoyed the Suck Valley Way but took an alternate route across Roscommon which saw me miss the hugely popular Miners Way.

And you know what I found most challenging?

Being alone with my own thoughts for so long. But more on that in a moment.

Derek Cullen Outdoors on The Ireland Way trail.

Highlights of Walking the Ireland Way (So Far)

The stretch of coastline near the Giants Causeway is truly spectacular. I genuinely believe County Antrim is one of the most underrated counties in terms of both scenery and places of interest. Dunluce Castle is an awe-inspiring sight and sandy beaches come thick and fast all along the north coast. Downhill Forest near Castlerock feels magical and the Sperrin Mountains have a kind of rugged and lonely beauty that reminds me of parts of Mayo. The lakes near Little/Big Dog in Fermanagh were a lovely surprise and the Cavan Way is one of the most interesting trails in Ireland. In fact, for whatever reasons, the trails have been much more impressive and well-maintained over the past week which leaves me hopeful for a big finish as I near the mountains in County Cork.

About My Experience with Hiking and Camping Gear

Firstly, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is the best backpacking tent that I have ever come across. It’s extremely light and surprisingly durable/strong for such light fabric. It stood up reasonably well to a night of heavy wind and rain and there’s so much space inside – more than enough for two people.

I’ve been using the same socks (1000 Mile Socks) as my previous long distance walk but this was my first time to use a pair of Merrell Moab 2 GTX hiking shoes. I now understand why the Moab 2 GTX are one of the most popular hiking shoes in Ireland. They are very sturdy and watertight and not heavy like a boot which is one of the reasons I most often wear trail runners on my long walks. I got a very bad pinch blister in week two but this is due to my slightly deformed toes and not the shoe.

I’ve also been using an APG stove which is similar to the Jetboil and very impressed by its’ performance. Similarly, it’s my first time to use a Vango Cobra 400 sleeping bag which is extremely comfortable and packs down really small. I recommend carrying a sleep liner and a trespass Fleece for extra warmth.

My favourite accessory? My colourful Buff hat which you can buy here.

Wild Camping spots on the Ireland Way

Making Videos and Getting Recognised During My Walk

Making videos on the trail is one of the most challenging thing about the walk. I’ve been carrying power banks to keep everything charged but it takes a push to edit and upload videos after a long day of walking. Interestingly, these videos mean that I am sometimes recognised by locals. It’s always lovely to meet followers but if I’m honest, it’s also an incredibly bizarre experience and one that often leaves me feeling rather bewildered. I had a waiter buy me coffee in Dungiven and another lovely man give me £20 for lunch roadside in Derry. The thing that really strikes me about such interactions is that people will “give” something without expectation of receiving anything in return – even my time.

Going Viral on Facebook and a Wave of New Followers

I recently posted a video on Facebook that went viral. It was just a short morning update for my trip followers to tell them about a farmer that caught me camping on his land. There was no home/building/farm nearby and nobody around when I pitched the tent so I used this opportunity to ask permission. He was a lovely man and perfectly fine with the situation.

Anyway, this particular video received a lot of attention (1.5 million views) after the Facebook algorithm decided to pick it up. To be honest, there was a number of very abusive messages. However, I’m delighted with how this video brought thousands of really positive, like-minded people into my online community.

Staying positive on the Ireland Way Trail

My Struggle with Anxiety and Decision to Continue Walking the Ireland Way

I had what you might call a successful year for both personal and professional reasons. After all, this time last year, I was working at a supermarket and sweeping floors in a warehouse and now here I am back working as an adventurer. I also spent a lot of this time ignoring the news, reading about spirituality and planning for the future. With this in mind, I was expecting an enjoyable and worry-free walk along the Ireland Way and not the anxiety issues that encompassed week three of the walk.

I was feeling somewhat lonely and anxious at times but this anxiety became more and more apparent in the third week. It got to the point where I felt overwhelmed and decided to take a few days away from the walk. This worked and I felt great (back to normal) for three full days but then as soon as I returned to the road, I felt that same anxiety rising back to the surface. I could have stopped the trip at this point and it did cross my mind, but only for a day or so.

It’s been a crazy year for everyone. In my own instance, I either ignored or miscalculated how much this strange period has impacted on my mental health. In fact, I don’t believe I would have encountered these problems or come to this way of thinking without walking the Ireland Way. This journey has made me feel deeply uncomfortable at times and brought forward a range of suppressed feelings and thoughts from which I am easily distracted in my every day life.

As for why I decided to continue my walk, I believe that some of the hardest questions are best answered in the dark. Turning my back on this uncertain journey would be to ignore the very path that might reveal why I’m feeling this way and how I can make everything right again. I’m also privileged to be healthy and able-enough to take this walk – another reason to do anything in life.

Hiking on a Budget? Check Out this Gear by Rock N River

I’ve been trying out different types of gear lately and it strikes me that most of my hiking and camping gear comes from the same brands. But the best brands really do produce some of the best value gear. I personally like to stick with MSR and Vango for my tent and sleep system. I’ve also favoured Osprey backpacks down through the years and Black Diamond for my hiking poles on long distance trails. However, my recent review of Rock N River budget hiking gear has opened my mind to new affordable brands.

I know that not everyone can afford Osprey backpacks or a set of hiking poles by Black Diamond, Leki, or one of the other big names. With this in mind, I recently acquired some hiking gear from Rock N River with the intention of testing this gear out and then doing a giveaway with my followers on social media.

This post outlines my experience and some thoughts on budget hiking gear:

My Experience with the Budget Hiking Gear by Rock N River

Rock N River AirTrek 35 Backpack

I’m a little obsessed with backpacks and the comfort of Osprey bags in particular. For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised to find such impressive (and effective) padded straps and ventilated back system on the AirTrek 35 by Rock N River. If you have never experienced this type of back system, I can assure you that hiking with a backpack will never be the same.

The straps and hip belt fit snug to the body which is probably the first thing you’d hope to find with a hiking backpack. But the ventilated back system with mesh makes this an absolute joy to carry and noticeably different from carrying a standard backpack. The mesh pockets on each side are useful for water bottles and there are also two fixed loops on the back for hiking poles. With plenty of space inside and a pocket for a hydration bladder, it’s the ideal bag for day hiking at the very least.

It was my favourite item by Rock N River. Mostly because of the ventilation system, which I really didn’t expect for a hiking backpack in this price range!

Rock N River AirTrek 35

Rock N River Carbon Superlight Hiking Poles

Okay, I cannot recommend these hiking poles enough – they are amazing! But can I quickly tell you why I’m such a big fan and advocate for hiking poles in general?

It took me six weeks of recurring injuries on the Pacific Crest Trail to realise the importance and practicality of hiking poles. Until that time, I just didn’t believe they were necessary and that they looked rather silly! But every other hiker was using them (even the kids). These hikers were mostly without the kind of persistent injuries that I was incurring time after time. There were a lot of big climbs on that trail and I was naive in terms of the general strain and heavy load that comes with multi-day hikes. This strain is caused by the inevitable pounding of one’s feet on the ground, while the extra weight brings untold pressure on the body – especially the knees, feet, and ankles. Anyway, once I began using my Black Diamond poles, the injuries went away and every climb/descent was suddenly a lot easier.

But do you really need to invest so much money in hiking poles?

Carbon hiking poles are so much lighter and worth the money and I believe this is especially true with the Rock N River carbon super-light hiking poles.

I ended up losing my Black Diamond poles (don’t ask) and picked up a cheap replacement in Asia. It was to my surprise that my new/cheap hiking poles were just as good in terms of performance – albeit much heavier than my previous set of poles.

With all this in mind, I was amazed to find such an incredibly light and durable set of hiking poles as this set by Rock N River. I’m just as amazed with the cost, for this standard of hiking poles often comes with a hefty price tag. Aside from the cost, the poles are lighter than any of my previous hiking poles and with all the same features.

I was actually sorry to be giving them away on social media…lesson learned!

If you need a set of hiking poles for walking the Camino or any of the trails on our doorstep, I fully recommend picking up this wonderful set of super-light poles!

Rock N River Carbon Superlight Pole

Rock N River 2L Hydration Bladder

I began using hydration bladders on my year-long bicycle ride through Africa. They were the easiest means of carrying water and I never did like the idea of using one disposable bottle after another. But convenience and functionality is the main reason for using a hydration bladder. You can fill, filter and drink from a bladder much faster than a standard water bottle.

Fill – You can dunk a hydration bladder into a river easier than a bottle. I also find it easier to wash/clean the inside of a hydration bladder.

Filter – Some water filtration systems work better with a hydration bladder because you need to squeeze water through the system. It’s also somewhat easier for this process because you don’t need to stand it up or hold it still like you do with a bottle.

Drink – The Rock N River hydration bladder comes with an attachable tube which makes it really easy to drink at any time. I find this not only more convenient but also more practical because you never need to wait, stop or stretch anytime you wish to re-hydrate.

In short, there’s a lot to be said about using a hydration bladder for hiking, and the Rock N River model is just as good as any other model at a lesser cost.

Rock N River 2L Hydration Bladder

Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

I have quite a few head torches at this stage and count this as an essential piece of hiking gear. It’s an emergency item that you should keep in your backpack at all times. They’re obviously useful for rustling through your backpack or hiking in the dark.

The Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch has everything you could really need and features four different modes. There is a flood and spotlight mode and then also two red-light options which you might use for reading maps after dark etc. I think this is best suited to anyone but especially young scouts or those who might be new to hiking.

Also, while I often suggest the Petzl Actik Core or Ledlenser MH5 to other hikers, I always recommend carrying a backup light like this nice little head torch by RnR!

Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

Some Thoughts about Using Budget Gear for Hiking in Ireland

When I first got into hiking, I ran into several safety problems that could have been avoided. I also experienced the same persistent injuries (mostly knees/feet) on my long-distance trips and a general issue in terms of overall comfort while hiking.

For Example, I got heat exhaustion on a trip through Namibia and this was mostly due to not using a water hydration bladder. On my first long walk in Ireland, my gear was soaked through because I didn’t have a waterproof cover for my backpack. During my hike on the East Coast Trail, I used a rather old backpack that didn’t have the same kind of support or comfort that you find with modern backpacks. My lack of hiking poles on the Pacific Crest Trail almost brought an end to my entire hike.

I think it’s most important to buy gear that will keep you safe and warm. However, I am finding more and more affordable gear by brands that produce high-quality items. I found this to be true about both the camping and hiking gear by Rock N River this week and I regret having to give away some of these items which I actually need!

The Moral of the story: There’s a difference between cheap gear and budget hiking gear and Rock N River hasn’t sacrificed quality in their quest to offer such low prices.

Final Thoughts

I’m always happy to use budget hiking gear if it does the job. Now, that’s not to say I’m cheap (even though this might be true). But rather I look for value and try not to buy over-priced items that I might be able to get for less. If you are new to hiking or looking for some low-to-mid priced gear, I think you will notice and appreciate the quality and performance of this hiking gear by Rock N River. This is also an Irish brand that helps support and supply the scouts which can only be a good thing!

Is Budget Camping Gear Good Enough for Wild Camping in Ireland?

I went out wild camping for a couple of nights with some camping gear courtesy of Rock N River – an Irish brand that offers “high-quality products at an affordable price”. It was my first time to use any of this equipment and a long time since I slept in any other tent aside from my Vango Banshee. For the most part, I was interested to know if budget camping gear was good enough or suitable for wild camping in Ireland.

In this post, I talk about my overall experience with this gear and some thoughts on using budget tents, mattresses, and sleeping bags for wild camping in Ireland.

Quick Overview of My Experience with the Rock N River Camping Gear

I spent one night in the forest and one night in an open field with nothing except the budget camping gear on this list. It was a comfortable experience and really no different from any of my other camping trips. I mean this is the most encouraging way because I did not expect camp gear in this price range to perform so well. The tent is a strong and spacious piece of kit and the sleeping bag was warm and extremely comfortable. I used an inflatable camp pillow which packed down to the size of a fist and the head torch was practical and a nice backup headlamp at the very least.

Here’s a glance at the budget camping gear that I tested out:

Tent – Rock N River Inis 200

Sleeping Bag – Rock N River Trek 250

Sleep Mattress – Rock N River Self Inflating Mattress

Rock N River Inflatable Pillow & Headtorch

📷 @ Derek Cullen Outdoors

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty…

The Tent – Rock N River Inis 200

I was especially looking forward to testing out the Inis 200 by Rock N River. This is a dome-style tent that comfortably fits two people. It’s important to mention that many 2-person tents are not actually big enough for two people but with a 140cm x 270cm floor plan, this is certainly not the case with the Inis 200. It also weighs 3.31kg which is neither ultra-light nor heavy. To be honest, the extremely affordable price tag left me thinking that something must be wrong with it!

But that wasn’t the case. On first inspection, I was genuinely impressed by the overall design and strength of the material. It only rained a little on my nights out but the seam-taped outer looks as good as any of my other, more expensive, tents. There were plenty of guy-lines to peg the tent down properly and the green colour makes this a suitable tent for wild camping because it blends in with the environment. With so much space inside and a nice vestibule at the front to store bags/gear, this tent is especially ideal for two people and suitable for weekend or summer camping holidays.

Inis 200 📷 @ Derek Cullen Outdoors

The Sleep Mattress – Rock N River Self Inflating Mattress

The Rock N River mattress was really not much different to my current lineup of self-inflating mattresses. It’s slightly bigger which means it takes up a bit more space in the backpack but it offers the same level of comfort. The Rock+River self-inflating mattress is nice and wide which gives you more room to move around. I found this unusual in the best possible way. I’m used to sleeping on a narrow mattress which can sometimes slide out from underneath my sleeping bag during the night. Finally, I was able to inflate the mattress within two minutes and it was super easy to deflate and pack away. If you don’t want an inflatable mattress – I also recommend the *Vango Thermatrek Sleep Mat.

*This is not an inflatable mattress and does not provide the same level of comfort.

Rock N River Self-Inflating Mattress

The Sleeping Bag – Rock N River Trek 250

I was amazed by the warmth and comfort of this sleeping bag. I was probably more impressed with this item than any other on this list. My night in the forest was especially cold after midnight but I was wrapped up in the Trek 250 and feeling toasty. I should mention at this point that I often used a sleep liner with my sleeping bag. This not only keeps the inside clean but also adds to the warmth of the bag.

There was also plenty of space inside the bag and I never felt restricted or confined in any way. The bag also comes up nicely around the head area which is something I personally appreciate about any sleeping bag. Anyway, I would happily use this sleeping bag for camping during the spring and summer months. It’s not as small (for packing) or lightweight as my other sleeping bags. This should not be a concern for first-timers or those wanting a sleeping bag for the occasional night of camping.

Rock N River Trek 250

The Rock N River Inflatable Pillow

Believe it or not, I have never used a pillow on any of my long-distance trips over the years. Instead, I might use a fleece or just sleep with my head on the sleeping bag flush to the ground. That’s an unusual habit of mine and I have friends who “cannot sleep” without a camp pillow. Anyway, I slept just fine on the Rock N River inflatable pillow and appreciated how such a useful item can pack down so small. There’s really no reason not to carry one and if you want something more like a real pillow, they also have a foldaway compact pillow that is made of polyester fabric.

Rock N River Inflatable Pillow

The Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

This LED headlight by Rock N River features a red LED for night vision and an ultra-bright LED for floodlight/spotlight. It’s powered by 3 x AAA batteries and suitable for any type of camping. I really cannot fault a headlamp that does exactly what you might want or need on a camping trip. And the price tag is considerably less than most headlamps. That being said, if you go hiking and camping quite a bit, I recommend picking up either the Petzl Actik Core or a Ledlenser MH5 and then keep a Rock N River head torch in your bag as a means of backup.

Rock N River 4+2 LED Headtorch

My Honest Final Thoughts on Rock N River Camping Gear

There are a few reasons I might recommend Rock N River to other campers and especially first-time campers. The most obvious reason being the price of Rock N River gear which has got to be some of the most affordable camping gear in Ireland.

More importantly, I’m convinced that Rock N River gear is designed with genuine purpose and practicality in mind. There are no flimsy materials or easy-to-break parts. It’s an Irish brand that doesn’t hide behind the anonymity of the online world. You can also see this quality without testing the gear as the overall design is more elaborate than the cheap tents you sometimes see in the aisle of a supermarket.

But none of this is surprising because this brand was set up by a former scout leader (and parent) who felt that most camping gear was either too expensive or lacking in quality. That is to say, some camping gear is designed with cheap material. No parent wants to send their child into the wild without the right gear and the same can be said for anyone that wants to go wild camping in Ireland.

Is Budget Camping Gear Good Enough for Wild Camping in Ireland?

There’s a reason I use the word budget – it’s a better way to acknowledge that not everyone can afford expensive camping gear. I suppose there are also two ways in which to interpret the word “cheap”. I’ve bought cheap camping gear in the past that fell apart after one or two trips but then I’ve also bought items that were worth more than I paid for them. In other words, some camping gear is cheap because it’s badly designed or made of poor material and then some brands produce quality gear that you will actually use and appreciate. When you consider the importance of safety for camping (especially wild camping), it’s really important to pick quality camping gear that will keep you safe and warm such as Helly Hansen clothing or Trespass Gear. With this in mind, it’s not a good idea to buy any type of gear based on price but it does make sense to look for practical gear that will perform to a high level without burning a hole in your wallet.

Ledlenser MH5 Head Torch Review by Derek Cullen Outdoors

I’ve been testing out the Ledsenser MH5 for the past couple of weeks. It is definitely one of the best head torches that I have ever used. That being said, the standard of headlamps has improved so much over the past few years. It’s unsurprising to feel impressed with a piece of gear from a reliable brand. Just so you know, I also have nothing but great things to say about the Actik Core by Petzl!

But do you even need a headlamp for hiking or camping?

The short answer is “Yes, you really do need one!”.

Why You Need a Head Torch for Hiking and Camping

Headlamps are especially important for camping because you’ll spend the night outdoors. But then a head torch also allows you to keep your hands free. This means you can pitch the tent or cook without having to re-direct a hand-torch every few minutes. It’s also so much easier to use a headlamp rather than a standard torch inside a tent. And you’ll always know exactly where to find it – on your head!

More reasons to have a head torch

A head torch is perfect for hiking in the dark because light is directed in whatever way you look. It’s not likely you will drop or misplace a headlamp unlike what can happen a lot with a hand-torch. Further, you can use a head torch to look for items inside your backpack. You simply must have one in case of an emergency after dark. I know this is one of the first items I place in my backpack on every trip.

As for the Ledlenser MH5, I would like to talk about some of my personal observations about this head torch. And why you might consider investing in this piece of gear…

Ledlenser MH5

Brief Introduction to the Ledlenser MH5

Ledlenser is a German brand and maker of one of the very fist “hybrid” head torches. Their latest model is the MH5 which is a powerful and versatile head torch that features a 400-lumen beam. The low setting beam (20 lumen) is also useful. The large button is easy to locate/use- even when wearing gloves.

There is also a hybrid power source. This means you have a rechargeable battery and the torch can take standard AA batteries as a backup. It also has the ability to switch between a flood beam to a focused beam. You simply do this by pressing the button several times. If you don’t wish to wear the torch on your head there’s a clip that enables you to attach it to your belt/sweater.

By the way, the Ledlenser MH5 is rustproof and weatherproof to IP54. This keeps out the vast majority of gunk that can clog up the inside of a standard head torch. As if that’s not enough, it comes with a 7-year warranty which should be more time than you’ll need!

I’d like to highlight some of the most important things to keep in mind with a head torch and how I believe the Ledlenser MH5 fares in each of these areas:

My Opinion on the Features and Benefits of the Ledlenser MH5

Overall Functionality

Functionality is everything with a head torch and using this type of light should be quick and easy. Many hikers/campers will also use gloves on occasion. So the buttons should be designed in such a way that you can quickly toggle between settings at all times. The Ledlenser MH5 responds to all the above. It also has a locking mechanism that stops the head torch from turning on in your backpack without you knowing.

Light Settings

The Ledlenser MH5 has variable light settings which allow you to change the lighting to suit your activity/environment. For instance, you might use the low light settings for hiking on the path or reading in your tent. You can then switch to the red light for reading a map. In case you might be asking yourself. A map is likely to reflect a white light back into your face which is not ideal in terms of “night vision”.

The Battery

Most headlamps have a decent battery life. Some of the more recent headlamps such as the Ledlenser MH5 can take both rechargeable and standard batteries. This means you can interchange batteries if one runs out and ensure you never lose power on a night out. If you carry a power bank, which you should, this means you always have another way to top-up some power to your head torch.

The Beam

It goes without saying that the actual beam is one of the main reasons to choose a particular head torch. In short, this beam should be able to focus on objects far away and then disperse when it comes to reading maps or hiking a trail. This versatility is great in terms of convenience but also a feature that you will likely appreciate without even noticing. ie. How often do you pay homage to the beam of a head torch?!

The Head Strap

The strap on a head torch should be comfortable and easy to adjust. For most activities, you sometimes need to adjust this strap and not all headlamps have a comfortable head strap. While the head strap on a Ledlenser MH5 is somewhat fidgety to adjust, it’s comfortable in use and not something you need to adjust often. Overall, it passes the test in my book and not something to put you off.

Some More Thoughts about the Design of the Ledlenser MH5

The Ledlenser MH5 has a simplistic design with just two light settings. This means it’s a rather simple headlamp that you should find easy to use. The headlamp comes with a useful belt clip and can be detached from the head-strap which might be useful on occasion. There is also a hybrid battery source. I found the battery lasted for more than 4 hours on my first outing and this was using the high light setting. You can also recharge this battery via USB or replace with a standard AA battery.

I can’t really see what else you might want or need with a head torch. It’s slightly heavy at the front but not enough to make a point about it – in my opinion. In short, I just really like the design and functionality of the Ledlenser MH5. I would happily recommend this item to a friend or family member that wants to go hiking/camping.

My Opinion on the Performance of the Ledlenser MH5

The performance of the Ledlenser MH5 is impressive. Walking through the forest, the floodlight mode created a nice circular light ahead of me. This might not make sense until you see it for yourself. The light enables you to focus much more clearly on what lies ahead. And even though you cannot dim the beam, it’s not an inconvenience and it didn’t even cross my mind until writing this review. You can also focus this beam further by twisting the lens of your head torch.

The Ledlenser MH5 also has a constant current of light and this light blinks when the battery is running low. In fact, this is the only way to know that your battery is running low with the Ledlenser MH5.

Final Thoughts – The Good, Bad and the Ugly

I’ve used many head torches over the years and it’s clear the standard has increased immensely in recent times. The Ledlenser MH5 is a good example of this evolution and I was impressed by every aspect of the light. It’s easy to use and doesn’t have too many functions. I prefer this with a headlamp as simplicity is best with certain pieces of gear. The battery seems to last a long time (I didn’t need to recharge after a couple of nights out) and the beam is both sharp and powerful.

As for the “bad and the ugly”? The headband is just a tad fidgety to adjust. I really must emphasize that all considered, this is an extremely competent piece of gear to take hiking or camping. It is one of the best headlamps I have ever had the pleasure to use.

What to Expect and How to Prepare for Hiking the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way is one of the most popular hiking trails in Ireland that starts and ends in the busy town of Killarney. It traces a loop around the Iveragh Peninsula and features a nice mix of quiet country lanes and rugged trails through the mountains. In fact, the Kerry Way is best known for being home to some of the tallest mountains in Ireland. Its awe-inspiring peaks really do validate its nickname – “The Kingdom”.

For tourists, Kerry itself is a chance to visit idyllic towns in Ireland. But the surrounding countryside is the real jewel in the crown. The Kerry Way is well-marked with a lot of food and water re-supply points along the trail. You will also find great infrastructure for hikers and great campsites and towns to enjoy the occasional rest day.

But that’s just part of the story…

What to Expect in General on the Kerry Way?

Hiking the Kerry Way is by no means easy. This mountainous terrain is a proper physical endurance test for most hikers. It can feel rather remote in places. This is certainly true if the wind and rain shows up as you navigate the higher section of the trail. Some sections of the trail pass through open farmland, while others follow quiet roads. But, there’s little to no traffic in comparison with the main roads around Kerry.

As for water, you can source and filter water quite easily. The towns are fairly reliable for picking up food supplies. Most stages/sections involve 20km+ hiking per day. But the Kerry Way is easy to follow with regular signposts from start to finish.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Hike the Kerry Way

The summer months are always best for hiking the Kerry Way. Expect campsites and accommodation to be busier during the peak months. I don’t like to fear monger but sections of the Kerry Way would be rather dangerous during the winter months and campsites etc will be closed.

At the same time, the weather in Ireland is always unpredictable. You should always pack sufficient warm gear and rain-gear for the Kerry Way such as Helly Hansen Jackets or Trespass Clothing. I personally like to hike these trails in late May or June. There are less people on the Kerry Way and a reasonable chance of some sun!

📷 @climbersinnglencar

Where to Start and Finish the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way starts and finishes in the same town – Killarney. However, it’s recommended to hike this trail anti-clockwise as it’s easier to follow the signs in this direction. I also think it’s best to start with the section between Glencar and Killarney as it’s good for camping. Either way, it’s really easy to reach Killarney from just about anywhere in Ireland. You literally start walking from the town on day one. If driving, I recommend staying at Flesk Caravan and Campsite as it’s located near the beginning of the trail. They have great facilities and staff that give you advice of where to leave the car while you are hiking.

Wild Camping Versus Guesthouses on the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way is lined with a host of guesthouses and the occasional hotel or hostel. There are also campsites and I was really impressed by the standard on my last outing on the Kerry Way. As for wild camping, it’s quite easy to find secluded spots on many sections. The tricky part is finding a spot that’s not overly exposed. It may be necessary to hike a bit further some days in order to get down from a a mountainside and closer to a lake or sheltered area. The Climbers Inn is a handy spot to camp in the middle of nowhere. It has a small shop and lovely rooms if you’d like a shower and bed for the night.

Food and Water on the Kerry Way

I carry between two and three days food at all times on the Kerry Way. This allows for the option to wild camp each night. Otherwise, it might be necessary to hike on to the next town in order to find more supplies. Either way, you should find the towns are well stocked. It’s only really the valleys (eg. the mountainous section between Glenbeigh and Killarney) in which you might not see a proper shop for more than one day. But make sure to have a water filter in your backpack at the very least!

📷 @Climbersinn

Day-to-Day Itinerary for Hiking the Kerry Way

Killarney to Black Valley – 22km

Black Valley to Glencar – 23km

Glencar to Glenbeigh – 18km

Glenbeigh to Caherciveen – 28km

Caherciveen to Waterville – 29km

Waterville to Caherdaniel – 13km (Coastal Route)

Caherdaniel to Sneem – 18km

Sneem to Kenmare – 30km

Kenmare to Killarney – 24km

About Hiking Sections of the Kerry Way

Maybe you don’t have time to hike the Kerry Way in full? In that case, it’s still worth hiking a section or two of this amazing trail. I’ve mentioned the section between Killarney and Glenbeigh a few times already. This is because it’s my favourite part of the Kerry Way. After climbing up over Torc Waterfall, the scenery is some of the most spectacular in the country. The same can be said for Black Valley shortly afterward. Either way, it’s always possible to pick out a section or two of the Kerry Way and then take a local bus back to your starting point in Killarney.

Navigation on the Kerry Way

The Kerry Way is remote in places and climbs up around the mountains next to Carrauntoohil. This means you are hiking in the middle of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks which is the highest mountain range in Ireland. Now, I don’t say that to dissuade anyone from hiking the Kerry Way but rather to highlight the importance of navigation and staying safe on the trail. More specifically, I’m trying to say that it’s crucial to carry the right maps on trail and use a form of GPS as backup. It’s true, the Kerry Way is well-marked but these maps and GPS will not only provide peace-of-mind but also ensure you will not end up in trouble when it comes to navigation. As always, you should do your own due-diligence on the Kerry Way. Make sure to study the maps and day-to-day itinerary before setting off on the hike.

What Gear to Pack for the Kerry Way

It’s important to pack sufficient hiking boots, warm and wet-weather gear and to know the mountains can experience all kinds of weather – even during the summer months. You will need to carry everything on your back, from your tent and sleep system to clothing, food and water. So, make sure to pack your gear with all of this in mind. I highly recommend hiking poles and believe that every hiker should carry and use them on the various climbs. But for more information on what to carry on this trek, check out this packing list for a multi-day hike in Ireland.

📷@zuzka_world_wanderer

Pros and Cons to Hiking the Kerry Way

Pros

Incredible scenery from start to finish.

Well-marked trail at all times.

Great towns and infrastructure for rest days.

Big wide open spaces on the trail and never feels overcrowded.

Some sections are really suitable for wild camping.

Possible Cons

Busy campsites on occasion and may need to book ahead of time.

May not suit beginners due to remote and mountainous nature of terrain.

Very exposed terrain for some sections and weather can change really quickly.

Final Thoughts

I believe the Kerry Way is one of the top three hiking trails in Ireland. It offers a nice stretch for those who might have ten or more days at hand. However, while most hikers will find a comfortable hiking experience on the Kerry Way, it’s much more than a walk in the hills. You will need to prepare for all weather conditions and be ready to hike up the side of some very remote and exposed mountains. If you don’t have any wild camping experience, I suggest making a day-to-day itinerary with set distances and places to stay. That is, it might be best to reserve beds, rooms or campsites instead of having the added pressure of wild camping for the first time. I also recommend carrying more food, snacks and water than you might need.

6 Steps to Help Plan Your First Multi-Day Hike in Ireland

I took my first steps as a backpacker on the Wicklow Way. It was quite the learning curve and rather painful but interesting enough that I wanted to take another hike.

But why was it painful and what did I learn?

I had all the wrong gear and did very little research before my first couple of trips. That’s why my shoulders were ruined and my backpack was the size of a small car!

It’s true, I didn’t really enjoy my first few trips. I spent most of these hikes lamenting the weight of my backpack. Also, I was dealing with far too much uncertainty. This was the result of failing to research and plan my trip properly. As for “what did I learn”? I’d like to share some tips with you in terms of planning a multi-day hike in Ireland.

Here’s a quick overview of the points I will discuss:

– Narrowing Down Your Choice of Trail

– What to Consider About Your Intended Route

– Planning for Your Safety and Emergency

– What to Consider about Food and Water on the Trail

– What Gear to Pack for a Multi-Day Hike

– A Final Word about Wild Camping on the Trail

How to Plan Your First Multi-Day Hike in Ireland

1. Narrowing Down Your Choice of Trail

It’s important to know and think about the key parameters of your trip. The following questions should help give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

How many days can you afford?

Do you want to stay off the beaten path and camp all the way?

Are you wanting to hike between towns and stay at a bed & breakfast each night?

What’s your comfort level when it comes to wilderness or hiking in remote areas?

As you can imagine, no two trails are the same in Ireland. Some are rather remote, while others consist of some rather big climbs. Take the Bangor Trail in Mayo, for example, this trail passes through a large wilderness area.

If you live in Dublin, the Wicklow Way is an obvious choice and a great one too. For those in Cork, I’d take a look at Sheeps Head Way for a camping-only trip. The Kerry Way is another beautiful trail with lots of accommodation in between.

📷 @hiiker_

2. What to Consider About Your Intended Route

The Distance

You should know the precise distance between the starting point and endpoints of your hike. Ideally, you will also know the distance with which you are comfortable hiking every day and the amount of time/days you can afford to spend on the trail.

For instance, the Wicklow Way is 127km and many hikers take between five and seven days to complete this trail. This means you might need to hike 19km on average over seven days or 25km over five days, so good hiking boots are important. The length of each section is slightly different so you should never assume or only use averages as a guideline.

One of my great mistakes was to underestimate how much longer it takes to cover distances with a heavy backpack. Similarly, if you hike in the mountain or through boggy areas, you can expect to cover a lot less distance than a path-like trail. My general advice is to take as much time for your hike as possible. Otherwise, you might end up needing to rush in order to reach certain destinations or finish on time.

The Route

It’s worth taking a look at your maps every evening and knowing how many kilometres until the next camp/stop. But also take note of any water sources along the way and any significant climbs that lie ahead of you. While I try not to plan every last detail of my trips, it’s better to know this kind of information before setting out every morning. It saves you hours of guesswork and wasted time thinking about where you might stop or what time you’ll arrive.

3. Planning for Your Safety and Emergency

Tell Someone About Your Trip

Unfortunately, in the case of many fatal accidents and serious injuries, the hikers have failed to notify a friend or family member about their trip. It only takes a few seconds so make sure to drop someone a message. Ask them to check that you’ve “checked in” or returned safely from your hike.

First Aid Kit & Emergency Blanket

If you don’t want to buy a first aid kit, it’s easy to make one of your own. I also recommend packing an emergency/space blanket. Knowing that I have one of these in my backpack is something that brings me great peace of mind. You can use these blankets for extra insulation in very cold weather but also in times of emergency. I was grateful for my own emergency blanket one day when my sleeping bag slipped into a river. Without that blanket, I’m not sure what I would have done to keep warm that evening.

Paper Maps and Downloads for the Trail

There’s a number of apps that you can download to help with navigation on the trail. I recommend picking one but it’s also crucial to carry a paper map and compass. Just so you know, I recently wrote this post about how to use a map and compass.

Mark Down Exit Points on Your Map

Many of the waymarked trails in Ireland will take you to remote places in which you need to be careful. This means paying close attention to navigation, taking care with your footing, and keeping an eye on the weather. There’s always a possibility that you will need to get off the trail. This can happen due to injury, extreme weather or maybe even running out of food or water. Either way, it’s important to know at all times exactly where and when you can exit the trail.

Charging and Re-Charging Your Gear

I always make sure to charge my camera and phone in each town. However, you might not reach a town every day. Regardless, I believe the powerbank to be a necessity for hikers in case of emergency. My personal favourites are the 20,000amp powerbanks by either TP Link or Anker.

LifeVenture Thermal Blanket

4. What to Consider about Food and Water on the Trail

Planning for Water on the Trail

Dehydration is a common cause of illness and exhaustion on the trail. I always urge others not to use their water “sparingly” – unless necessary. In other words, you should try to carry sufficient water so that you can drink whenever you want. It’s also a risk to assume that you will find a water source on any given day or rely upon rivers, lakes, etc which might not be suitable for drinking. With this in mind, try to fill up your water bottles in towns Then make sure that you carry a water filter for stocking up on the trail. I’ve had giardiasis twice over the years – once on the Pacific Crest Trail and once on my walk around Ireland. It’s a sure way to end your trip but easily avoided if you invest in a decent water filter.

About Food Preparations on the Trail

I used to take far too much food on my backpacking trips. Although, it’s better to have too much as opposed to not enough. Needless to say, you’ll need breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day and snacks for in between. If you are new to multi-day hiking, you’ll discover that snacks are not a luxury but rather a necessity. After all, these snacks account for the fuel your body will need to keep hiking every day!

While many hikers focus on the easiest meals to cook such as instant noodles, my own school of thought is that you should bring whatever food you enjoy the most. Now, that’s not to say you should bring frozen chips and onion rings. I’m just saying there’s no reason to suck the enjoyment out of your trip by sticking to instant noodles only. Instead, I recommend you get creative. Think about things like porridge with fresh fruit, bagels with cheese or tortillas with chili in the evening.

Here are some foods which I find work really good for long-distance hiking:

Bagels

Porridge

Biscuits

M&M’s

Fruit slice/cake or similar

Peanut butter

Denny veggie sausages

Cliff bars

Knorr pasta sides

It’s also worth remembering that you might want to eat in town or grab a takeaway some evenings. I love nothing more than grabbing a takeaway and heading for the hills to set up camp with my bag of chips, battered onion rings and curry sauce!

5. What Gear to Pack for a Multi-Day Hike

You need to think carefully about what gear to carry on a multi-day hike in Ireland. Weather conditions change very quickly and you should always have both warm gear and rain gear at the ready and a good pair of hiking boots. I wrote this article recently in which I outline my own packing list. 

Here’s a quick word on some of the most important items:

Backpack – Only consider a hiking-specific backpack. These backpacks are specially designed to carry heavy loads and offer a lot more comfort in terms of fit.

Tent – Strike a balance between size and weight. For a multi-day trip, I usually take my Vango Banshee Pro 200 because it’s reasonably light but also highly durable.

Jacket – Make sure to have a jacket with sufficient warmth and one that can withstand the harsh environment here in Ireland. A good rain jacket such as a Helly Hansen Jacket is ideal for wet conditions.

For more information on what to pack – click here.

Vango Banshee Pro 200

6. About Wild Camping on the Trail

You won’t have to think about this one if you plan on staying at hotels or B&B’s every night. I wrote a post recently about wild camping in Ireland which should help if you are new to camping. I don’t wish to create any fear here (I love wild camping). However, if you lack camping experience or you’re not yet comfortable with the prospect of wild camping, you might not enjoy your first multi-day hike. For this reason, I just wanted to encourage you to learn more about camping before you get out there. Maybe experiment by taking a quick overnight camping trip somewhere familiar before you start a multi-day trail.

And here’s a few encouraging things to keep in mind about wild camping:

– Wild camping is generally safe if you do research and take the right precautions.

– There are no real dangerous animals in Ireland.

– Axe murderers do not live in the mountains or forested areas.

– The absence of other campers creates solitude and this is a wonderful thing!

– Wild camping is free and will help you save money.

  • There’s nothing like falling asleep in the wild and waking up with nature.

Anyway, that’s all for now – See you on the trail!

10 Pieces of Budget Hiking Gear that You Will Actually Use

I spend a lot of time thinking about the most useful hiking gear that doesn’t weigh a tonne. It helps when this gear is affordable. But more importantly, I try to focus on buying gear that I will actually use. What’s worse than carrying a heavy backpack, knowing that you don’t even use half of the items in it?

I’d like to share some budget hiking gear ideas that I’ve picked up from other hikers and first-hand experience.

10 Pieces of Budget Hiking Gear that You Will Actually Use

1. Affordable Pair of Hiking Poles for Better Balance

I’d never tried using walking poles until my hike on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. In short, I stopped incurring injuries when I began using poles and found them incredibly helpful going up and down. I believe most of my fellow hikers felt this same way. Once you use hiking poles, it’s likely that you’ll take them on future hikes. Now, I’m not referring to a short 5km day hike but rather a longer multi-day hike. It’s true, they provide balance and stability on uneven terrain but hiking poles also take so much weight off your body – especially the knees.

Many sets of hiking poles can fold up and pack away easily and the weight is reasonable. I know that a lot of hikers like to splash out on expensive poles, usually made of carbon. I’ve stuck with the more affordable options and they’ve always served me well.

Which ones? Rock + River has this nice folding walking pole.

Rock N River Folding Walking Pole

2. Lightweight Sit Mat for Comfortable Breaks

If you hike often, you’ll be familiar with this small but persistent dilemma that happens regularly – where to sit. It’s often wet or muddy in Ireland but mostly, outdoor terrain doesn’t really provide the kind of comfort you might hope for your rear end. I’ve tried sitting on my bag, folding my jacket and laying down a tarp – but it was always a hassle. I began using my foam sleeping mattress as a seat and this worked really well – until I stopped carrying one. A lightweight foam sit mat is a nice luxury without taking up space or getting in the way.

Rock N River Sit Mat

3. Soap Leaves for Hygiene on the Trail

Soap leaves are disposable and perfectly safe to use. This packaging is watertight and consists of fifty individual leaves. Each leaf has a fragrance and soap leaves are useful for international travel as they meet airport requirements. The ingredients are also more environmentally friendly than shower gels or shampoo, and the item is much lighter to carry. Either way, this is a nice small item that you can carry on a day hike. You can use it to wash your hands, feet or face in a freshwater river.

LifeVenture Soap Leaves

4. Mosquito Head-Net to Warn Off the Midges

My first wild camping adventure in Wicklow was almost my last due to the obscene number of midges. At that time, the only way to avoid these pests was to out-walk them or hide behind the mesh of my tent in the evening. It’s an awful thing to try cooking around midges or even just sitting down for a break. Some hikers swear by insect repellent but my mosquito head-net is the only item I find useful in this regard. You simply pull this netting down over your head/hat and midges are unable to land on every inch of your face which is the most frustrating thing about it. As for why else you should carry one? They weigh nothing and you won’t even notice this item in your backpack. In other words, there’s no reason not to carry one!

LifeSystems Mosquito Head Net

5. Backpack Cover to Rainproof Your Gear

I’m always amazed when I see people hiking in the rain without a backpack cover. Once again, this item packs down really small and doesn’t weigh very much. I keep mentioning weight in this article but as you know, weight is everything on the trail! More importantly, even if your backpack is water-resistant, a rain cover will provide a lot more protection during periods of heavy rain. An example of great backpacks are Trespass backpacks. You can also place this cover over your bag at camp or when stopped for a break. But make sure to choose the right size cover for your backpack. Sizing is very specific to ensure a decent fit for the bag.

Trespass Rucksack Raincover

6. Bum Bag instead of a Backpack

I carry a lot less gear on my trips nowadays which is why I recently downsized to a smaller backpack (Osprey Farpoint). However, even this backpack is a bit much for a day hike. A nice in-between option is to wear a bum bag. This can offer as much as 5 litres in terms of space which is quite a lot. Believe it or not, bum bags are all the rage in America. In recent years, hikers find these tiny bags a lot more practical than carrying a small backpack. After all, you can quickly access items without having to stop and take off a backpack. These bags are ultralight and Trespass’ Vasp 5 Bum bag is just 0.18kg and comes with a bottle, too!

Trespass Vasp 5 Bum Bag

7. Affordable Hydration Bladder for Hot Days and Convenience

I use my hydration bladder on every hike but it’s always in my backpack. Carrying these bladders also beats using disposable water bottles on every trip. A hydration bladder is made from very durable material and the wide opening makes it easy to fill. They roll up really small when they’re not being used and you can attach a tube for easy access while hiking. This last bit can be so useful when hiking on a hot day. It saves you from having to take out your water bottle every few minutes in order to stay hydrated. Finally, if you intend on filtering your water outdoors, a hydration bladder is a lot more practical to use.

Which one? Check out the Flexible Water Bottle by Platypus or this affordable 2L hydration bladder.

Platypus Flexible Water Bottle

8. Mac in a Sack Overtrousers for Rainy Days

I first bought Mac in a Sac when I lost my usual pair of waterproof trousers. I was sure the originals would show up and didn’t want to spend much on a temporary replacement. However, I’ve actually continued to carry these lightweight rainpants by choice. I like how they strike a balance between size and utility.

These trousers are compact and have an elasticated waistband that makes them easy to put on quickly. The seams are taped which maintains the waterproofing and my favourite thing about them? They feel light and breathable at all times. While the Mac in a Sac Overtrousers is not ideal for extreme weather, they are handy for a rainy day!

Target Dry Mac in a Sac Overtrousers

9. Safety and Emergency Items That are Too Light not to Carry

Thankfully, many emergency-type items are rather small. A first aid kit is a necessity that you should always carry on a multi-day hike. There is a different size for each occasion including this compact first aid kit. While a poncho might not be considered an emergency item, this ultralight piece of gear is a backup for a rain jacket. Also, I sometimes use a poncho to cover my backpack in extreme weather. It’s really just another case of the item being too small, lightweight and useful not to carry.

One more item that always finds a place in my backpack is an emergency blanket. This “space blanket” actually saved me one night when all of my gear got wet in a storm. I used one of these blankets to heat myself up and stay warm.

Rock N River Emergency Blanket

10. 1000 Mile Socks for Socks that Will Actually Last

I used up four pairs of 1000 Mile socks on my 3,000km walk around Ireland a couple of years ago. They would have lasted a bit longer, I’m sure. I was happy to replace them at the halfway point in order to have a “fresh pair of socks”. The point is, 1000 Mile socks are both durable and comfortable. They lived up to their lofty claims on the above-mentioned trip. With this in mind, these hiking socks offer amazing value to anyone that goes for regular hikes/walks – whether that be on a trail or not. You can also get two pairs as part of this Trail Sock Twin Pack by 1000 Mile.

1000 Mile Trail Sock Twin Pack