First Ski Trip? A guide to the essential ski gear you need- and what you don’t need.

So, you are off on your first ski holiday!   The big question is which ski wear should you purchase and so that you don’t look like a complete novice on the slopes?  You need to look good, to feel good but without buying or packing unnecessary items.  At the Outdoor Adventure Store, we have years of experience in kitting out both novice and avid skiers.

So, before you take to the piste and embrace that first exhilarating swoop down the slopes, follow our simple and sensible guide to ski trip essentials.  Be warm, be safe and look awesome too!

Don’t go crazy on expensive gear and clothing.  Unless you are absolutely certain that you will be skiing in the future, it is advise-able to rent what gear you can at your ski resort.  Check the prices before you leave home though, as purchasing may be a more acceptable option.

Helmet: Helmets are not optional. Skip the ski helmet and you might as well hang an L plate on your back, as you rock a dual Loser/ Learner look!  Check with the resort as helmets may be available to rent with the skis. If not available, or if costly, then buy before you go. A helmet keeps your head and ears warm while on the mountain.

Goggles: Good ski goggles are not just for admiring the views without contracting a case of infamous snow blindness!    Ski goggles are for your safety but also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, much like sunglasses do.

Outwear and Layering: To fully enjoy the experience of skiing, you definitely need the right clothing. Shivering in the snow is not fun!  Rummage through the wardrobe and see what you have that might work already but accept the likelihood that you will need to buy some items.  Choose carefully and always remember that the key to comfort is to dress in layers. We recommend, a base layer, a mid-layer and then a thick waterproof outer layer.

Base Layer: This is an insulating layer of clothing worn next to your skin. Sometimes, wrongly referred to as thermals. Call them what you want, the base layer is essential and cannot be scrimped on.   Cleverly designed to regulate your body temperature by moving moisture away from your skin, keeping your dry and allowing you to stay warm and happy in the icy mountain slopes.

Mid Layer:   The mid-layer should be the most versatile piece of clothing you wear.  It should be easy to take off and re-add as temperatures and aerobic output alternate. This is where you can add anything from a polo neck sweater to an insulating shirt, or a gilet.   Warmth without weight is the key, as you trap air between the layers. Yet, no matter how good your mid-layer system is, it is pretty useless if it is layered over a low-quality base layer.

Outer Layer:   A good ski jacket is a great investment, not just for the once in a lifetime ski trip, but for all your winter outdoor activities.  Maximum style, maximum warmth and comfort. The outer jacket should be waterproof and while the variety of ski jacket styles are vast, we recommend buying a proven brand name jacket. It is worth the investment. Be warm or be miserable folks!

Ski pants/Trousers: Ok, Face it folks, as novices, you are probably going to fall at some stage.  If you have to spend time falling on your rear end, it might be a good idea to keep it well covered.  An excellent pair of ski pants offer insulation, waterproofing, thermal protection and freedom of movement and you need all that when rolling gracefully in the snow!  Go for something a bit looser than your normal trousers and make sure that that fit over your ski boots.

Socks: It sounds weird, but thin socks are best as they keep you warmer and bulky socks do just that… they bulk up causing painful creases and making your feet cold.  Merino wool socks are advisable, or try out Langdons snow sport socks as they longer in length and elasticated for a good hold.

Gloves: Buy a good pair of ski gloves. It’s an investment that you will not regret. The difference between having frozen fingers and toasty hands is in direct proportion to your level of enjoyment and safety. Ski gloves should be waterproof, breathable and with a knitted cuff to stop the snow getting inside.

Boots: Rental ski boots are not always comfortable but the cost of purchasing ski boots for your first trip is prohibitive.  Buy good socks and ensure you have well-fitting walking boots for when you are not skiing.

Fashion extras: It is important to look chic on the slopes.  So why not team your new ski jacket with a cute beanie, a matching neck gaiter or some fetching ear warmers. Accessories to feel good. One of the most exciting sports in the world awaits your discovery. There is no doubt that once you have sampled the thrill of a ski holiday, the adrenalin pumping ski slopes and the fun of Après –ski socialising, you will immediately plan your return to the snowy mountain trails. For this first time, though, you need not spend a fortune on kitting you and the family for your life changing adventure. Sensible shopping on investment pieces and careful choosing of what is already available to you, will see you   comfortable, warm and stylish in the snow.

Our staff at Outdoor Adventure Store are more than happy to help you plan for this amazing adventure. Call in and see our range of awesome ski gear or check us out our online.

Hiking for Older people

Breathe easy.

This is not another patronising blog about senior citizens needing to take it easy on the trail.  At Outdoor Adventure Store, we are well aware from customer feedback and our own experiences, that there is no statute of limitations on backpacking. Anyone who has been left gasping for breath, overtaken by sprightly seniors striding up mountain trails can attest to the fitness level of many in the older generation.  It’s all about gaining and maintaining a level of fitness.

However, as our bodies age, we may find that we cannot do all the things we once did.   This is also true when there are temporary fitness issues due to illness and injury. So, it really pays to be aware of our limitations while we enjoy the great outdoors

If you haven’t been hiking before and you plan to take it up as a retirement past-time, it is best to see your GP first, especially if you have any medical conditions.  There are walks and hikes suitable for all levels, so once you get the green light health-wise, you can begin to have adventures.  Just like anyone else, be sure you have the appropriate clothing and footwear.

Walking Poles

Common age-related problems often include the knees and legs.  Many walkers complain of difficulties when descending hills or traversing rough ground. A good sturdy walking pole can steady the path and give support.  They provide extra stability and can lower the amount of stress on your legs and knee joints by taking the weight onto the poles, through your arms. Feel free to have a chat with our helpful staff to ensure you get the best walking pole for your needs. The length of the poles should be adjusted to suit your height and the activity you are planning. Generally speaking, lengthen the poles for descents, and shorten them for ascents and the length for walking along flat or gently slopes should be around waist height.

Hydration

As we get older, our body water content decreases and the risk of dehydration increases. The consequences of not being hydrated enough also become more serious. It is really important to bring enough water with you on every trip.  A bladder hydration system attached to your back pack can be very helpful its handy small drinking hose makes sipping water as you hike, much more convenient.   If the weight of carrying water for the expedition is off-putting, you might consider some water purifying tablets, so that you may avail of the local water.  Check out the many easy ways to bring enough liquids with you on your hike.

Be Prepared

Be sure you have a route planned with a distance that does not over extend you.  This is true for backpackers of all ages.  Take breaks and stop whenever you need to.  Plan your journey with this in mind.  Carry a comfortable backpack, suitable for your needs on the day. Wear good walking/hiking boots and a well fitted pair of socks. Make sure the phone is fully charged and that someone knows which route you are taking and your approximate return time.

Keeping the fitness level every day

Walk regularly, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes a day. This will help keep your fitness level up and prepares you for longer rambles on the weekend. Good rain gear will make this much more possible in our climate.

Be realistic  

As a form of physical exercise, hiking offers several benefits to the older enthusiast. Walking regularly reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Hiking is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise. It burns between 180 and 266 calories every 30 minutes, a rate comparable to working out on a stair step machine or engaging in vigorous weight lifting.

But more importantly than any physical benefits, trekking in this wonderfully scenic county is uplifting, rewarding and good for your mental health. Stay young at heart, keep your heart healthy and get out and about in the wilds.

An inside look at walking the Camino de Santiago

What are your reasons for doing the Camino?

Are you thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago? There are many reasons why people decide to embark on this journey; to find themselves, to get away from their 9-5 jobs or simply to tick it off the bucket list. Whatever your reason make the most of your experience because it is YOUR Camino experience.

Here at Outdoor Adventure Store we spoke to two individuals about their experiences on the trail but most importantly what advice they’d give to someone walking the Camino for the first time.

Adam (30) is what you would call an expert on all things Camino, having walked three different routes; Frances, Del Norte and Primitivo all in just a month at a time. “Pack 7kgs or less including the weight of your backpack”, advised Adam. A light packer at the best of times, Adam only packed two pairs of trousers, three t-shirts, three pairs of underwear and five pairs of socks. “There are washing machines and washing facilities available along the way so don’t be too concerned with bringing a lot of clothes with you”, he said.

To keep the weight of his pack down Adam brought a light sleeping bag with him. He recommends the Vango Planet 50 or the Rock+River Travellite 60. If you’re walking the Camino in July you’ll only need to bring a sleeping bag liner with you to sleep in because it is very hot at this time of the year.

A piece of advice Adam gave us for anyone walking the Camino is to bring ear plugs with them. After 6 hours of walking a day everyone is exhausted and no doubt those who snore will snore that little bit louder.

Majella (28) a Camino novice, like many others, embarked on her first Camino de Santiago this year. Majella couldn’t get over how friendly everyone on the Camino was. “The Camino walk brings you through towns, villages, cities and forests in Portugal and Spain, I felt like I saw the real version and a bit of a touristic one”, explained Majella.

Like most people, Majella completely over-packed for her trip. Beginning her trip with a whopping 12kgs she quickly reduced her pack weight leaving a trail of items behind her at every opportunity.  Majella finished her journey with a pack weight of 8kgs; one pair of shorts, one pair of trousers, two quick drying t-shirts, a rain jacket and a cosy fleece for at night when the weather was a little chilly.

The only downside to Majella’s Camino adventure was trying to fit into her boots every morning after the six hours of walking she did the previous day.

Word of advice from Majella, “Go alone. It’s the best way. To go at your own pace, stop when you want to, talk to who you want. You’ll never be alone.”

A note from Camino de Santiago experts: 

“LEARN TO LET GO”
For whatever reason you decided to walk the Camino; meet new people, experience a new culture or just simply to take some time out, leave your worries at home.

“BE KIND TO YOURSELF”
Use your time on the Camino to look after yourself. Enjoy the company of others and your own, eat well and drink plenty.

“GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO REFLECT”
When you are out walking for hours on end day in day out you’ll have a lot of time and space to think. Think about what you want from life, contemplate your goals, what are your aspirations? Take this time to plan a positive future.

 

Eating well on the trail – Gourmet Campfire food

A tin of baked beans heated over the portable stove at the end of a day’s hiking could be the best meal of your life.  The silence. Surrounded by nature. That well deserved dinner will taste better than anything a fine restaurant has to offer. No ambiance can top it. No piped music and linen napkin can compare with the hot enamel plate and humble offerings in the wild.

But, you don’t have to eat boring campfire food.  With just a little forethought and a bit of preparation, you can have hearty healthy meals on the trail.

Try something fresh and tasty like BBQ chicken in foil packs.  Pack frozen chicken strips with diced veg of your choice and marinate in barbeque sauce in a zip lock bag.  Secure it carefully in your pack to avoid spillages. When the fire or the stove is heated nicely toss the ingredients together in tin foil cupped to make a nice vessel or in your mess tin and place on the heat.  Twenty minutes later and you should be licking your fingers. Add to this rice or noodles but if you feel like being that extra bit healthy add some couscous with the bonus that it cooks faster too.

Fresh Bread…  Yes.  It is very doable… dough able even (sorry!).  Check out these simple instructions from some outback wilderness heads who really seem to like their food. It’s quiet a satisfying process at the end of the trail, as it involves fire, stones and an old pot. There is the wonderful smell of the baking and the indulgence of warm bread around a blazing campfire. Could outdoor life get any better?

It’s not all about savoury foods after a hike. Your energy levels are low and you’re craving something sweet for a little pick me up. Try this healthy banana sweet treat.

Bake your banana:   Slit your banana lengthwise, but do not peel. Stuff in some goodies like dark chocolate and nuts.  Turn the foil from the BBQ chicken over and use the other side to grill these bad boys and simply dig in and eat with a spoon.

To truly transform the way you eat in the wilderness it is wise to invest in a food dehydrator.  If you simply double the amounts when making chilli, stews and bolognaise, you can freeze dry half for your future campfire suppers. Readymade backpacking meals are often light on the veggies and heavy on the starch.  When making your own meals, you can get that balance right. There is also the advantage of eating food without preservatives. For some great advice on food dehydration and really decent backpacking recipes check out: backpackingchef.com or aforkinthetrail.com

Of course, if you fancy a good meal but don’t want to spend half your trip cooking because, let’s be honest, we do enough of that at home, then opt for the Wayfayrer pre-cooked ready to eat meals. These are the perfect camping companion.  Perhaps you would rather concentrate on the experience of the trail itself and not be bothered with too much fussy cooking. You can choose from a vast menu that will sustain you throughout the whole day, from breakfast right through to dessert; All Day Breakfast Meals, Chicken Tikka with Rice or Sticky Toffee Pudding Dessert, among others. The temptation to take the easy way out is perfectly understandable and delicious. These high-quality trail meals give you all the energy you need, are dang tasty and come in sealed individual pouches. Heat and eat or even eat them cold. Wayfayrer meals have been tried and tested at the ends of the earth and are the top choice for the military, adventurers and expedition teams.  In case you are asking, there are no artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives just tasty flavours. Shop on OAS.ie to get your favourites.

Food on the camping and hiking trail is not just about keeping up the energy levels. Its not just about filling yourself up. For even as the great outdoors feeds the soul, so too, a variety of delicious, gourmet camp food feeds the body.  Mix it up and ditch the trail mix for something more delicious. Our experienced staff at Outdoor Adventure Stores will be only too happy to assist you in finding the best food in store for your next adventure.

Bon Appetit and Happy Trails .

A guide to the perfectly packed rucksack

Before you take to the highways and byways for your grand adventure, you may be faced with one last dilemma.  No, it’s not how to say goodbye to the dog nor is it anything to do with missing Mammy’s Sunday dinners.  It concerns the growing pile of clothes, toiletries and equipment on the floor. How do you get all this stuff into one rucksack?  The challenge is packing it all so that you are comfortable as you walk, so that you can find things easily and being efficient with space so that you won’t be leaving essentials behind.  Yes, packing a rucksack is a skill.

Don’t panic! Here is a quick and easy guide to the perfectly packed.

The whole secret to the task is to evenly distribute the load evenly and in order of importance/ access.

The topple test – A properly packed pack can be tested by setting it down on a flat floor. If the bag falls to the left or right, then the weight is not distributed correctly, and the load will need adjusting. If the bag falls onto the front, then you have packed a bit top heavy and need to adjust the gear at the front of your bag or the load will drag you back as you walk.  So weight distribution is very important when packing your bag, but bear in mind that the important and essential items need to be accessible.  More about ‘the topple ‘later…

Before your big expedition, it is useful to practice the packing and to do it the same way every time. That way you know what fits and where everything is. Remember that you should not carry more than 25% of your own body weight, so dump some of the non-essentials now.

Start by packing the tent.  It’s the biggest item so place it in vertically and near your back as this keeps the weight close and easier to manage.  Slide the sleeping bag (snug in its waterproof case) beside the tent. Cooking items and bulkier stuff should be added next.

Place them to the front so you don’t have a pot handle sticking into your kidneys for the day. Clothes should be rolled and placed in the spaces between. Rolling is the best way to save space. Toiletries are next… Food items go to the top of the rucksack, alongside your first aid kit, waterproofs, hat and gloves and any other things which you may need in a hurry (toilet paper and sun cream!). If you are carrying liquid fuel, pop it in one of the side pockets, where it is less likely to spill on your gear and balance the weight with water bottles on the opposite side.

Now try the floor test. Once it passes the topple test, it is a good idea to trek around the room a bit and be sure that all is perfectly packed for your adventures.

A well-packed pack is something you don’t notice when admiring the astounding views and vistas of your adventure. A poorly packed one is very obvious to you and to your travelling companions.

Choosing a new rucksack- An investment in your future adventures!

Buying a new rucksack is a very serious business.  Just kidding! Its great fun, especially if you come instore and enjoy trying them on and choosing from the fantastic range we stock. It is, however, a bit of an investment. For the dedicated adventurer, the backpack you pick is likely to be up close and personal with you for many years to come.  The best haversacks, the water-resistant, lightweight and stylish rucksack of your dreams, should be the one that accompanies you to urban meetings, stylish hipster pub and carries your life-giving essentials to the remotest trekking zones in the world. O.K. we might be overstating the importance of the humble rucksack, but it cannot be denied that many of us have a backpack which has outlived even our longest relationships.  That is a testament to the excellent quality and durability of an Outdoor Adventure Store rucksack and absolutely no reflection on any individual’s couple-skills.

Replacing or purchasing a new a haversack takes time and so, it is always good to consult the experts (That’s us, in case you were wondering!) when picking a new pack. We have some tips and pointers to help, particularly for our online shoppers.

Size Matters 

For a comfortable fit which will see you bounding, effortlessly over hills and dales, you needto get a handle on the required size, even before you even start to shop. The torso, not yourheight is the key to a good fit. Here is how to measure your torso for a well-fitted backpack.

Tilt your head so that the C7 vertebra at the base of your neck protrudes at the bony bumpwhere your head meets your neck. This is the starting point of your measurement. Put yourhands on your hips and use your thumbs to feel for the top of the iliac crest (the top of the hipbone). Draw an imaginary line between your thumbs. This spot on your lumbar is the bottom
of your measurement. Stand straight and ask a friend to tape measure along the contours ofyour spine and between the two points. You now have your torso length. (Most adult’s torsomeasurements are around 40 to 60 cm.)
Torso ranges for pack sizes vary between brands and models, so always check the size chart.

If you fall between sizes, come into the store and try on each size till you find a comfortablefit or drop us an email and we can advise.
Once you have the torso size length, the hip size is generally correct, but as you carry most of the pack weight on your hips, it is crucial to have a well-fitting hip belt. Hip belt size is not the same as your trouser-waist size. Pop the tape measure around the top of your hips,following the iliac crest, which is a wee bit higher than hipline.

Adjust to Fit

Once you have bought that shiny new bag, with its promises of adventures to come, try it out at home.  Apart from the obvious posturing in front of the mirror to ensure that the style is right, you will also need to adjust the straps to fit.   Backpacks have several adjustable straps to ease the load and for greater comfort. The hip belt, shoulder straps, load-lifter straps and sternum straps. Your legs have some of the strongest muscles in your body, so the goal is to adjust your straps so that the majority of the load rests on your hips, and ultimately your legs do the work.

Pack the bag with a load of around 7kilos for starters.  Loosen all of the adjustment straps slightly. Adjust the shoulder and hip belts first.  Follow this with some tweaking on the load-lifter/sternum straps.   Walk around a bit and see how it feels, adjusting straps as you see fit.  The urge to head off for the big adventure will overtake you now, and you just might have to go for a quick trek around the park to get the full effects of your new purchase.

On the Trail    

Once you are out and about with your rucksack, pay attention to how it feels on the trail. Experienced hikers adjust regularly, depending on how the load feels.  Leaning forward slightly may feel a little better. One common trick to combat load fatigue is to tighten the shoulder straps and loosen the hip belt and to reverse the procedure later.  Ease your overworked muscles by taking the pack off at rest breaks.

 Style   

This should be the easiest part of buying a new backpack. However, with a massive variety of styles, colours, brand names, shapes and rucksack accessories to choose from, this can actually be the most difficult part of the process. Purchasing a haversack is, after all, an investment in your future adventures.  Take your time, survey the choice and imagine all the upcoming expeditions to wild and wonderful places with your trusty backpack and let that bag speak to you. Or just pick your favourite colour. Whatever your method, our expert staff are on-hand to assist with making the whole experience a pleasant and fruitful one. We wish you and your new rucksack a long and happy road together.

A brief, but excellent, guide to Ireland’s Walking Festivals

Walking Festivals have become increasingly popular in Ireland for obvious reasons.  The friendly banter amongst walkers, the organisers who can guide you on the tracks less travelled and experienced guides who have access to the best routes only being the beginning. Pair that with refreshments along the way and transport to the start of routes it can all add up to a perfect weekend activity.

Walking festivals cater for both the novice and experienced walker and often offer a graded choice of walks, from leisurely strolls to tough hikes. Let’s take a look at some of Ireland’s best walking festivals

Bravely kicking off the walking year is the February Dingle Walking Festival in Kerry.  Get the weekend off to a jaunty start with a night walk on Friday 16th February. A choice of a moderate or easy walk on both Saturday and Sunday bring the intrepid hikers through the Dingle Way. The promise of the amazing views of Skellig Rock, Ring Forts, stunning beaches and beautiful mountain views should be enough to keep the chill out and spirits high.

Spend St Patrick’s weekend in the hills of Donegal at the Ardara’s Walking Festival. The hills of Donegal can still be a bit nippy in March, but the hardy walkers up there are out in their droves for short, medium and strenuous walks in some of Ireland’s most amazing unspoilt scenery.

The Holey Soles walking club in Leitrim plan to spend the Easter weekend climbing in the beautiful Glenade Valley for The North Leitrim Glens 23rd Hill Walking Festival. Registration is at Glencar Tea Shed and the fee of €10 – €25 includes transport to & from walk location, tea, coffee & scones at registration on both days. There is also the lure of home-made soup after Sunday’s walk. The views from the top of these amazing mountains are incredible.

The tenth anniversary of the Leenane Mountain Walking Festival takes place over the May Bank holiday. With a choice of guided walks led by qualified and experienced guides and aided by good humoured locals, witness some of Ireland’s most jaw-dropping scenery as you walk across the Mweelrea, Benbaun, Sheefry and Maumtrasna mountains. With the beautiful Killary harbour as a backdrop to the festivities it is no wonder that this is a very popular walking festival and enthusiasts are advised to book early.

Outdoor Carlow is a walking weekend organised by Tullow Mountaineering Club and The Blackstairs Ramblers Walking Club. The event offers a variety of guided walks throughout County Carlow in September. The proximity to Dublin makes this festival very inviting for many hikers.

If you fancy some longer guided walking days, walkinghikingireland.com have a number of self–guided and guided walking tours, including the Wicklow Walking Festival in October. ‘The Garden of Ireland’ is renowned worldwide for its scenic beauty and offers a variety of walking challenges – from woodlands and rolling hills to wild craggy mountain climbs making this festival extremely popular. Wicklow is home to the largest area of unbroken high raised ground in Ireland, approximately 50 km long by 40 km, covering almost the same area as that of Mont Blanc.

Walking Festivals are affordable and sociable and offer their support to local communities with a minimal impact to the environment. They are a wonderful way to enjoy the Irish countryside while improving your fitness levels.  This is just a small sample of the many organised walks on offer.

There are more to see here: The Ireland Hill walking guide

Remember, it’s important to kit yourself out properly if you are new to walking and hiking. Check out our blog ‘Hiking Tips for Newbies‘, for advice on your essential hiking kit.

Essential Books for the Armchair Adventurer

Compiling your bucket list of adventures from the comfort of your squishy sofa.

Winter evenings are the perfect time to dream. A cosy fire, a nice glass of vino and a good book. What could be better! But, just in case you feel bad for not battling the gale force winds, with icicles hanging from your nose, your fingers and toes frozen solid, we have a plan. In the likelihood that you are concerned that you might not maintain your reputation as a bit of an adventurer, we have compiled a list of the very best books to inspire your next big adventure (when the weather is better).

Planning for all those adventures in the future, in the warmth of your own home can be just as much fun as doing them.  Well, maybe that is going a bit far, but all inspirational dreams begin as small ideas.  Here are some books full of inspiration to fuel the fire in your adventurer soul.

  1. Biking it : Lonely Planet’s Epic Bike Rides Of the World

From pedalling in Patagonia and Mongolia, to sedate bicycle tracks in France and Spain, this book is full of first-hand cycling stories. Listing 200 accessible and fun bike rides, it is sure to inspire your next free-wheeling adventure. Each ride is illustrated with stunning photography and a map. All the practical details are included, such as where to start and finish, how to get there, where to stay and more. This book helps cyclists to plan their own trips, based on your own skillset and needs. Each piece shows how cycling is a fantastic way to get to know a place, a people and a culture.

  1. Hiking it: Ireland’s Best Walks by Helen Fairbarn.

A brilliant guide to over sixty rambles, hikes and climbs in this wonderful land. Featuring some of the best one-day walking routes in Ireland, this is a perfect guide for all levels of walkers. The hikes vary from short strolls to full-day treks and a full selection of maps, illustrations and information will help you to plan for, and complete, some amazing treks. Every part of the Republic and Northern Ireland is featured. From rugged peaks and chiselled ridge lines to towering sea cliffs and sheltered loughs. The routes take you past the country’s finest scenery. Many of the walks are hill-walks, with clear descriptions of the country’s classic mountain ascents. Even seasoned hill-walkers will find challenging outings in this book.

  1. Surfing it:  Grey Skies, Green Waves, a surfer’s journey around the UK and Ireland. Tom Anderson

This is not strictly a guide book but more of a biographical trip around the chilly coastlines on a surfing odyssey. But it makes perfect reading for the winter couch surfer who doesn’t fancy braving the wild weather outside and prefers to plan for sunnier days. An amusing and easy to read surfer book, which will go a long way to feeding those plans for summer fun and will add new surfing beaches to the bucket list.

  1. Paddling: Oilean- The Irish islands Guide for sea kayakers. Dave Walsh

Over 570 Irish islands are listed here. Plenty for you to fantasise about paddling around.  This is the second edition of the sea kayaking guidebook, which has a wealth of photos and vital tidal information. The essential information for kayakers or anyone in a small boat is here: landings, camping, drinking water and tidal information. Any wildlife to be found is detailed and on the islands that are or have been inhabited and there is fascinating information on their history and archaeology. The stories are engaging and are often told with a wry humour which makes them very readable. After reading this, you just might be tempted to put a toe in the water and head out to sea.

  1. Camping: Cool Camping Europe by Jonathan Knight

Imagine waking up to the dawn chorus in the Black Forest. Or sleeping in a yurt in the French countryside. This travel guide to over 100 of the best camping experiences in Europe will have you dreaming of hot showers and excellent camping facilities in the most awesome natural surroundings. Featuring twelve countries: Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland, there is much to choose from in this stunning guide to camping in Europe.

Books can transport you to other worlds. Books can help you dream. With adventure books, you can make plans to be truly transported and make your dreams a reality as you plan that next big adventure.

The Best Winter Hikes in Ireland

Don’t let the winter keep you grounded, get out and about! Surprisingly, the winter can be the very best time to hike. A crisp, clear day, with firm ground and the slightest chance of snow can be amazingly uplifting. Of course, you need to wear sensible and suitable clothing. Pack some food and a thermos with a welcome hot drink and be aware of the reduced hours of daylight. Choose a well-worn route that can be completed within the hours available to you.

Here are a few suggested routes:

The Glendalough Lake Walk in Wicklow: The walk around this beautiful Co Wicklow lake is perfect for a chilly, sunny day as it is only 5.49 km, looped and sign posted. Beautiful scenery of the lake, hills, forests and mountains combine to make this a popular walking destination. Another charming walk nearby is The Avoca Forest Walk. This trail is twice the length of the Glendalough walk and of a more difficult level. Avoca itself is a beautiful village and an ideal place for a hot tea treat after the busy day of hiking.

For those who prefer to ramble far from the maddening crowd, it is advisable to choose a route far from the bigger cities. The Sliabh an Iarainn Loop in Co. Leitrim is about 5 km from Drumshanbo in the Iron Mountain and brings you through unspoilt, wild and quite demanding terrain, but it is definitely worth the effort. The advice from veteran hiker, Christopher Sommerville, is to “Climb the eastern flank from Aghnacashel Post Office skirting the grey cliffs and the beautifully hidden Mass Rock, to scramble up the crags. An exciting stretch of cliff-top, a slog up across heather and then the domed summit of Sliabh an Iarainn and the breath-taking view — 100 miles from Donegal to Sligo, Leitrim to the midlands” .

Not far North from here is the newly opened, Cuilcagh Mountain Trail which is open to the summit of the mountain from the car park at Legnabrocky, Co Fermanagh, just about 1 km from the road entrance to Marble Arch Caves. This hike is perfect for the winter walkers as the trail across the bog has been newly regenerated with a boardwalk protecting the rare blanket bog from erosion but making it easier to navigate the trail and access the mountain. On a good day, the views from here are stunning. Allow 4-6 hours for this particular walk.

Cork has plenty of choice for the hardy hiker, but one of the most exciting is the Esknamucky Walk in Glengarriff. This can be a bit challenging and is known locally as the High Walk. Steep and with impressive viewing points, it can be combined with the popular Waterfall Walk. (if the short distance of 9.8km is not enough to keep you in the zone)

Check the internet for the many trails and mountains that are still easily accessed in the shorter days of winter. From Errigal Mountain in Donegal to the Kerry Camino, there are a wide variety of outdoor trails to tempt you.

But no matter where you choose to walk this winter, there are a number of important things to bring with you:

  • Waterproof hiking boots
  • Waterproof jacket and pants
  • Comfortable athletic leggings or trekking pants (not denim)
  • Hiking socks
  • Warm clothing plus spares
  • Hat and gloves
  • 1½ litres of water (or a hot drink in the winter)
  • Food for the day
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses (even in the winter sun)
  • Rucksack of around 25-30 litres
  • Walking poles (optional)

Waterproof jacket and pull up trousers: Cotton clothing is best under good rainwear. Your raingear will also act as a wind proof layer against the worst of the winter elements.

Good waterproof boots: It’s important to note that the walking shoe which you could rely on for the dry summer trekking may not be suitable for winter wear. It’s not just about comfort. It is also about safety. Good gripping soles are a must.

Water: Bring enough water to rehydrate, even if the rain is coming at you sideways and you have never felt so drenched, you need to be certain that your intake of fluids is kept up as you walk. A good guide is to bring 1 and an half litres of water for a full day.

Food: Bring good food. Some carbs, some fruit and chocolate.

Hat/Gloves and a spare fleece: To keep the shivers at bay.

Make sure your phone is fully charged, as it can be used to call assistance and to provide torch light if you need it.

Surfing the Irish Coastline

Hang Ten. It’s big wave season!

“Surfing leads you through life, especially when you’re young and with hope in your heart.”
Tom Blake

Ireland is home to some of the biggest and best waves in the world. From November to February is the most exciting time of year. It’s big wave season.

With some of the most famous waves in the world breaking just off the Atlantic shoreline, Ireland attracts the exclusive and brave tribe of extreme surfers, this time of year. Iconic waves like the Peak in Bundoran, County Donegal and the Aileen in the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare entice the world’s surfers to our wild coastline. The surfing is spectacular, the risks high and the adrenalin even higher.  The wave, Aileen has been described as the nearest thing to a ‘perfect wave’ but she is not for the fainthearted! Described by filmmaker Peter Clyne as “The mammoth waves that Aileen produces are dwarfed only by the majestic, unspoilt Cliffs of Moher”. Aileen’s Wave is somewhat of a mystical surf spot and you have to be extremely lucky to catch this perfect wave – it appears only a few times a year when the conditions are just right. It can reach up to 12 metres and attracts the world’s top surfers, hopeful for the thrill of a lifetime. Clare is not the only coastline promising the ride of your life. The waves at Mullaghmore are not for the fainthearted, reaching a staggering 15 metres when the conditions are right and making them one some of the biggest waves to hit the Irish coastline. With consistent good waves all year round, this incredible reef break off the cliffs at Mullaghmore is amongst the best big-wave surf spots in the world. Last February, Conor Maguire (Bundoran, Ireland) towed into an emerald wall of waves in Mullaghmore Sligo, becoming barrelled and escaping the foam ball monster. This feat makes him a contender for the prestigious Billabong Ride of Year Award. You can experience the thrill of it all here:

Surfing the waves in Ireland is now a mainstream sport but also a fast growing pastime and always an amazing tourist attraction. All along the Wild Atlantic Way and even on the east coast around Brittas Bay, surfing schools are providing hire of equipment, advice and instructions to a growing number of surfers. For a minimum outlay of money, this fantastic sport can be accessed by people of all ages and expertise. Surfing is no longer an elitist pursuit, nor the vocation of tanned hippy types.  Surfing is for all. Lahinch in County Clare has been welcoming surfers for decades and is one of the country’s most popular spots for learners and newbies to begin their life of catching waves. A welcoming town, full of summer fun and lots to do for families and surfers alike, Lahinch has built a tourist industry around surfing. Donegal also boasts fantastic waves. In Bundoran and Rossnowlagh, the surfing waves are only rivalled by the amazing views and unspoilt golden beaches. The Irish Tourist board says ‘Bundoran has been nicknamed the ‘surf capital of Ireland’ in recent years and it’s not difficult to see why. With an abundant choice of beaches, varying swells, varying sizes and with waves coming from every direction, Bundoran is a surfers dream. Watersports fans descend on this tiny seaside town all year round to catch some of the best that the west coast has to offer. Once you’ve tired yourself in the surf, enjoy the town’s pubs and live music venues.’ Sligo boasts amazing surfing too, not just at Mullaghmore, but at both at Strandhill and at Easkey. Strandhill is just ten minutes from Sligo City, famed for its food, music and welcome. Strandhill is one of the coolest surfing villages in Ireland. If you need to check out the waves or the weather, log on to Strandhill’s Surf School and check out their funky live surfcam .

The Atlantic Coast provides the most spectacular places for surfers to enjoy their sport but there are waves for surfing on the east coast too! Brittas Bay in County Wicklow is proving an increasingly popular spot for Dublin bound surfers. Hoards of boards on roofs are racing out every Friday evening to catch a wave and blow off the week’s hard work. Meath is also a growing surf spot for the commuter belt folk who need a surfing fix in between their sojourns to the Atlantic waves.

Surfing is wonderful exercise, but it does seem to call to something more in the expert practitioner. Something more spiritual, more zen which is experienced in the patience of paddling out to deep water, of facing each wave and mastering (or not mastering) and riding out the surf. Fun, spiritual or madness. The waves are not going anywhere and the surfers will keep on coming.

“Surfing soothes me, it’s always been a kind of Zen experience for me. The ocean is so magnificent, peaceful, and awesome. The rest of the world disappears for me when I’m on a wave.”
Paul Walker