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Head to Toe

Throughout the last few years, Cornish Ramblings has gone from strength to strength. And with that, it seems I have built up a rather wonderful following of those, like me, who want to get outside and go for a walk. Because of this, I am often asked the question of what gear would I recommend to someone who is starting out in the world of hiking? Is there a particular type of boot? What trousers are the most waterproof? Is there a certain backpack must-have? How many pairs of merino wool socks should I own? What even is merino wool?

I don't claim to be an expert in this area, I just know what works for me and the brands I tend to be drawn to. That being said, it seems many of my wonderful ramblers do (surprisingly) actively listen to what I ramble on about when we're out hiking together and have even gone out and purchased items based on my recommendations. Who'd have thought it?!


Because of how often I am asked these kinds of questions, I have decided to put together a blog with a basic list of what I wear, from head to toe, when out on a ramble. This is subject to change depending on when I purchase new products so this blog may in fact turn into a series - watch this space. I will add links to items if they are still available, and let you know the brands I prefer. But please remember these are all my own personal preferences, and what works for me. You may find a brand or style which suits you better.


Please note, some products within this blog have been kindly gifted to me, but I only recommend products and brands if I 100% use, wear and love them.


Starting from the top...


Hats

When trying to find a hat, I really struggle. Not because I have an unusually large or small head, but because hats and glasses in my opinion, never suit me. However, one of my staple hiking must-haves which I tend to have in my backpack always is a hat. A bobble hat to be precise.

The weather in Cornwall can change quicker than a blink, and there's nothing worse than hair billowing across your face or an icy breeze setting your teeth on edge. The solution is always a hat.

My favourite is the one I am sporting in the above image. I picked it up from Cotswold Outdoor many moons ago, and the brand is Berghaus. I also have a Rab bobble hat that I love, and am partial to a baseball cap if it is summer and want to keep the sun off my head and eyes.


Base Layers

Quite simply, the best piece of advice I can offer is this: wear layers! Whether it is hot (you can take layers off) or cold (you can put layers on) having layers of clothing is a practical solution in helping you deal with any change in weather conditions, will keep you comfortable throughout the hike, and will regulate your body temperature.

Base layers are used to help wick sweat away from your skin and are a lighter form of insulation. They provide a layer of warmth whilst absorbing and evaporating your sweat and can come in a variety of fabrics and styles to suit weather conditions.


Wicking; "acting to absorb or draw off liquid by capillary action."

I have only recently ventured back into the world of base layers and have been introduced to a brand called Zerofit, who have kindly gifted me a few of their new base layers which I will be trying out on some upcoming rambles. However, a few winters ago I tested out their Heatrub Ultimate and Zerofit Ultimate Move base layers and absolutely loved them. You can read my review here; You Know I'm All About The Base(layer).


Mid-layers

Your mid-layer is the primary insulation layer and, if it works correctly, will direct any lost body heat from the base layer, back into your body. The items of clothing that best describe a mid-layer are micro-fleeces, soft shell jackets and breathable, moisture-wicking t-shirts.

The best fabrics to wear when out hiking are nylon, merino wool, and polyester. Cotton is not recommended due to its inability to wick sweat and can actually make you colder due to it holding onto the sweat.


I tend to opt for a t-shirt more often than not, with the weather and temperature determining whether I go for a short or long sleeve style. I get most of my tops from places like Cotswold Outdoor, Mountain Warehouse and more recently (thanks to all the lockdowns) have ventured online. Websites such as Blacks, Go Outdoors and Rohan have all been my go to. You can also find some decent outdoor tops in your local supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury's, and even the middle aisle of Aldi has been known to deliver on some pretty decent outdoorwear.


Insulated Coat (packable)

I tend to wear an insulated jacket if the climate is cold, and I usually choose a down filled jacket which is windproof, waterproof and easy to pack into my rucksack.

I own three insulated jackets and one insulated bodywarmer and the brands I have gone for are Rab, Berghaus and the one in this image above, which might surprise some of you, is from Primark. Although it isn't a 'brand' and isn't technically a proper walking coat, it was affordable and fits really well whilst keeping me warm out on the coast. However, it is the opposite of waterproof!


Waterproof/Windproof Coat

Hi, my name is Jody, and I am a coat addict.

Those of you who have seen inside the back of my van, will know I have a bit of a coat addiction. I have one for every season, one for every occasion and one for every colour of the rainbow. Over the years, I have collected every kind of waterproof and windproof coat you can think of, each of which I love unconditionally and wear time and time again.

What do I look for in a coat? Most importantly, its ability to keep me as dry and warm as possible. The main purpose of your outer layer is to protect you from the wind and rain. It needs to be breathable to allow any sweat and water vapour to escape the body, whilst also keeping you dry should it rain.

In some cases, you only need a thin shell jacket rather than a heavy, warm coat and making sure you have the right layers underneath will certainly help aid the seemingly tough job your coat has in protecting you from all the elements.


Although this layering malarky sounds extremely specific, there really is no right or wrong way on how many layers you choose to wear, or how you decide to wear them. You can have three mid-layers and two outer layers if that's what works best for you. It's all trial and error until you find a layering system that works in your favour.


Gloves

I swear by my Montane Windjammers gloves which come with the touch screen fingers, which is especially handy (see what I did there) seeing as I use my phone constantly when navigating people around Cornwall. And even if the weather is warm, I tend to keep them nestled at the bottom of my bag, just in case.

These gloves were around £45 but they provide excellent protection from that biting Cornish wind, and their Gore Windstopper fabric will allow you to head out in the harshest of elements without hesitation.


I definitely recommend investing in a good pair of gloves that are waterproof and windproof like these are. There is nothing worse than cold phalanges (always wanted to get that word in a blog!) when out for a ramble.


Trousers

Here is where I shout from the rooftops about my love of a particular brand, I have become obsessed with; ACAI Outdoorwear. Some of you will have heard me rave on about ACAI, some of you may have even read my review on ACAI (if not, come back later and click here to take a look) and some of you have even gone out and purchased some walking trousers from ACAI because of how much I have recommended them as a brand.

Again, I do not recommend a product or a brand unless I use, wear and love them completely. But ACAI Outdoorwear are a brand and company I am so glad to have stumbled across, and have been incredibly lucky to partner with, which also means I can continue to shout about my adoration for them. I am wearing their trousers in pretty much every image throughout this blog, so you'll get a sense of what to expect when looking on their website!

The most recent pair I have been kindly gifted are the ones in the above image; the Outdoor Slim Fit Jeans. That's right folks, jeans! When choosing trousers for walking, I tend to look for a pair which are durable, moisture wicking, breathable, shower resistant and allows freedom of movement as I hoick my way up and down the Cornish coast. What I have only recently started adding to my list of must-haves when it comes to buying outdoor trousers, is whether or not they flatter my shape.


ACAI Outdoorwear really have upped their style stakes by bringing us the iconic shape of a slim fit jean but built with all the technical features of your trusty outdoorwear. The Outdoor Slim Fit Jeans are shower resistant, designed with ISKO Blueskin technology (the bit that makes them pliable) and come with a six-point leg-shaping contour which means they cling in all the right places, whilst also being super comfortable. They also suit any leg shape and length due to sitting just above the ankle.

Most trousers for women are not usually tailored for flattery or versatility. However, ACAI is a brand made by women for women, which means you will be wearing a product designed with a woman's body in mind. All the ACAI trousers I have been fortunate to test out have certainly upped my body confidence and allowed me to step out on the trails and paths feeling stylish, yet confident they will perform as intended. It also means I can go to the pub during a hike and still look good!


Waterproof Trousers

Although I live in ACAI Outdoorwear trousers when out walking, I also keep handy a pair of waterproof over-trousers for that extra layer of protection.

The ones I use are from Mountain Warehouse and are called the Downpour Women's Waterproof Trousers and were approximately £60. What I love most about these over-trousers are the fact they're waterproof, breathable and have taped seams making them fully waterproof. They are easy to pull on over your boots and have a half leg zip making it pretty painless when whipping these on (or off) whilst rushing against the wind and rain.


Shorts

This is where I'll probably get tutted at by the hardcore hikers, because when it comes to walking in shorts, I have been known to occasionally slip into a denim pair for a ramble! However, if you are looking for a proper pair of walking shorts then really, you need to be keeping in mind the similar factors when looking for a pair of walking trousers; durability, breathability and whether they're water resistance, waterproof and windproof.


Socks

One hiking item I always get the best of the best of, are walking socks. My go to brand for many years has been Bridgedale and my particular favourites are their Midweight Merino Comfort Boot. The Merino Comfort Fusion Technology creates a fast-drying, soft and durable sock with a snug fit around your foot. These socks also come with a zonal padding system, providing extra support for your feet if you're planning on a long hike.

I have recently been introduced to ACAI Outdoorwear and their hiking socks, and although I will always be a Bridgedale girl at heart, I have been very impressed with their Merino Wool Hiking Socks. With their ability to offer unique comfort with a chunky rib construction, and natural underfoot cushioning to provide excellent shock absorbance when leaping across boulders and rivers, these socks have become a staple item in my walking wardrobe.


You will see in both pairs of socks the common link: merino wool. And that is because merino wool is quite possibly the best fabric you could choose for breathability, moisture-wicking, durability and being naturally odour-resistant.

One piece of advice I was given regarding socks was to always wear two pairs. One pair should be a thin and comfortable synthetic liner, with the outer layer being your merino wool socks. Again, it is all about the layers. It may sound strange wearing two pairs of socks, but it will give an extra layer of protection (from blisters!) and bring you better comfort.


Footwear

Now we get to the section of the blog I am asked about most frequently; what boots do you recommend? Personally, I cannot recommend a boot because all our feet are different and what works for me, may not necessarily work for you. However, as I mentioned at the start, this blog is all about the brands and products I use and wear so, if I were to admit to you my favourite hiking boot brands, I would absolutely have to say Salomon, Hanwag and Scarpa.

My current boots (pictured above) are the Hanwag Women's Alta Bunion GTX Boot which I was kindly gifted from Cotswold Outdoor at the beginning of the year. This boot is not only beautiful to look at, but comes with many plus points such as; additional shock absorbers, a chrome free leather with GoreTex membrane lining, deep pull lacing, and clamping hooks for quick and secure lacing. These boots are sturdy and supportive and with the outer being made with waxed nubuck leather, they are durable, supportive, waterproof and breathable.


When I first started out, my boot of choice was the Salomon Quest 4 GTX Hiking Boot and I LOVED them with all my heart. Although they are now over five years old and probably due to be binned, I can't seem to let them go. When I first tried them on, I felt like Cinderella...except I was sliding on a hiking boot, rather than a glass slipper (which would be highly impractical and not recommended when hiking anywhere!). I also treated myself to a pair of Scarpa Hiking Boots a few years back which again, were a fantastic pair of boots that I've yet to get rid of because I love them so much.


What is GoreTex?

According to the definition over on the Cotswold Outdoor website, GoreTex has been the benchmark for performance outerwear for decades. Gore-Tex technology refers to the use of a special microporous membrane (ePTFE), bonded to fabrics to make them durably waterproof, but still breathable. A waterproof, breathable membrane full of microscopic holes, big enough to let moisture vapour escape but too small to allow liquid water through. This is then bonded to a layer of fabric, which is in turn treated with a DWR to avoid the fibres themselves getting waterlogged.

When I bought my first pair of walking boots, I was utterly clueless. I didn't know which boot would fit me best, what material I'd need, or even what size I was. I headed to my local Cotswold Outdoor and thankfully, was guided by one of the lovely sales assistants who seemed to be an oracle of knowledge in what boots would work best for me. They first measured my feet, then found a selection of boots they thought would be suitable, and then allowed me to try them all on. They had this tool which enabled me to walk up and down a small but steep incline which gauged how much my foot moved inside the boot AND made sure I tried the boots on with a pair of walking socks too.

To anyone planning on walking at least twice a week, and where you will more than likely cover a decent number of miles, I absolutely recommend investing in a good pair of boots (or walking shoes). The boots I spend money on not only protect my feet and keep them dry and warm, but they also last me several years, so it really does pay to spend that little extra.

I also wholeheartedly recommend you pop in and see the folks at Cotswold Outdoor (shout out to my loves in the Truro branch!) who have only ever been hugely knowledgeable and helpful in my quest for anything related to walking.


Backpack

For the pièce de résistance of this blog, I thought I would end it with the backpack. For me, the main qualities I look for in a backpack are capacity, comfort and how heavy it is. Most of the rambles I go on tend to range anywhere between 3 to 15 miles so, for me personally, I usually aim for a 20-25L backpack. These are called daypacks and my chosen brands have flitted between Deuter and Osprey.

Another feature I look out for on a backpack are how many pockets there are. I like to keep the contents organised, whilst being able to access them conveniently. I also prefer a backpack which comes with a waterproof cover, however if yours doesn't you can usually find one online to fit your backpack.

The final features I look for in a backpack are how it sits on my back. I like backpacks with the air vent mesh along the back, and if they have been designed with a woman's shape in mind. If they have then they usually sit on your hips nicely, whilst hugging your curves without banging awkwardly against your back. Again, it is all about your style and preference.


If you are curious to find out what I carry inside my backpack, check out my blog for a sneak peek!

 

And there we have it; a head to toe look at the clothing and footwear I use when out for a ramble. As previously noted throughout this blog, these products, brands and items are all my preferences and what I wear and love, but you may not feel the same when it comes to finding your style and favoured brands. You ideally need to go in and try things on, feel the material, speak to an experienced salesperson and find the items that work for you. However, I hope this gives you an insight into what to look for when branching out into the minefield of what to wear when rambling!


 

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