Recently, I challenged myself and walked 24 miles along the South West Coastal Path, on a particularly tricky stretch from Corfe Castle to Weymouth. I walked the route as part of the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Hike, which took place in June in the middle of a heatwave. The hike was hard, the terrain is unforgiving and the heat was brutal. But I managed it! I finished up with very sore feet and quite dehydrated, but I also learnt a huge amount about walking long distances, and since I wrote about my experience on the hike, lots of people have asked me for tips to walking longer distances, so I wanted to pass on some of my top tips and tricks to others. Here are 5 things I learnt from walking a long distance route along one of the toughest stretches of the coastal path.
1. Walking Poles are amazing.
I had never used poles before and thought they were something older walkers used to make themselves look like they were proper walkers, but a few people suggested they might help prevent my already sore knee from hurting more so when Craghoppers offered to send me some, I took the opportunity. They were amazing! I had these, adventure poles, with a camera attachment too. They are super lightweight so not cumbersome or tricky and fold down really small for when you aren’t using them. Most bags have little hooks to attach them to as well. The ones I used had different feet for soft or hard ground and adjusted for different heights, so when the path was very narrow and hard to walk on I could adjust one pole shorter than the other and use them to balance. But they really really come into their own on downhills. They helped me feel secure and gave me something to balance on. And I had no knee pain at all which I put down to the poles for sure.
2. Keep hydrated, anyway you can.
It sounds obvious but it’s easy to underestimate. I took my own Clean Kanteen and filled it up as often as I could, and on this route there are plenty of stops to refill, like cafes and pubs. I have this 1 litre bottle which is usually enough, but in full summer heat, I would also have hugely benefited from some electrolytes as well as I was sweating so much. Salty snacks also help with replacing lost salts. I didn’t practice with gels or electrolytes so I didn’t use them on the day as you do need to make sure your body can tolerate the ones you choose so add them in to your training plan if you think its something you may need. Since the walk I have been using Tailwind to fuel longer runs in the summer heat and have found it great, replacing vital salts and minerals. I bought this pack here .
3. Let someone know where you are using apps.
As with any activity like this, it’s important to keep safe and tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. I used ‘Find my IPhone ‘ so my family can see where I am by logging into my Apple account. I also share my location on Google Maps and for longer walks have downloaded the free OS Maps app which gives you the exact coordinates of where you are, easily. Now, I’m not going to pretend I can accurately give my coordinates anyway but even if I could, having this free app do it for me if I ever need them seems really sensible. Download the app here.
4. Wear the right socks, but not for too long.
Socks are vital for walking. The wrong ones can leave you hobbling around in pain for weeks and it’s really easy to choose the right socks. Natural fibres are great, and wool or silk socks are really great. But the most important thing is to change your socks regularly, so that they stay dry and comfy. I change mine around every 5 hours and by far my favourite are these Craghoppers socks which have shaping in to make them fit perfectly, and hug your feet in just the right places. They also keep your feet super cool and like all Craghoppers clothes come with a lifetime guarantee. I had blisters on the arches of my feet and the cushioning in these socks really helped protect that area.
5. Pack light.
You will be carrying everything you need, so make sure you pack carefully as that extra weight can really begin to take its toll as the miles add up. I always carry a super light weight rain jacket which is also really warm, and only weighs a few grams ( I have this one, again from Craghoppers because I love them, they fold down into a tiny bag, weigh less than 350g and I love the lifetime guarantee) . Check your route and see if there are shops or cafes where you can fill up on snacks and food so you don’t end up carrying too much. Consider putting suncream/vasaline/toiletries in to a small jar or tin as you will only need enough for one day, and take only a small, essential first aid kit. Whilst you definitely don’t want to comprise on safety, think about what you really need. Checking weather forecasts and talking to other experienced hikers can really help you gauge what is necessary for your route.
You can read more about my experience of hiking the Jurassic Coast here.
** Please note this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click a link and purchase something I receive a small commission for that sale, however the price remains exactly the same for you. I was kindly gifted some Craghoppers poles and socks for my walk but all opinions are my own and I only work with brands I genuinely love and always give my honest opinion.**