What should be in your backpack for a day’s walking? Tips from Purely Pyrenees

18 December 2019

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A rucksack is an essential part of a winter walking holiday but what to put inside it is often a mystery to the first time walker.  Here’s some tips from Sally Simmonds of Purely Pyrenees adapted from an article written by Philippe Passemar.

Your rucksack – Onto the rucksack itself, avoid taking a “city” backpack so small that you can not put anything in it except for your packet of tissues! Even when you have your main luggage transported from your start point to your finish point it is essential to have a backpack. Why ? … because hiking requires a minimum of autonomy: on a day hike for example, it is essential to bring a warm top, rain wear, a picnic and a water bottle. Your choice of rucksack will directly effect your comfort – and therefore your pleasure – of your hike.

Take a bag which is the right size or even a little bigger (too big is not a problem):

  • Day hike: 30 litres minimum
  • Itinerant hike with luggage transport: 40 litres minimum
  • Itinerant hiking without luggage transport: 50 litres minimum

Choose a strong bag with padded shoulder straps, a supple back plate, a belt, made from durable fabric (and you’ll keep your bag for life).


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Most people have an idea of what to wear for walking holidays but if there’s a hiccough on a walk in winter, what are the necessities that you need to have close to hand – even on a guided tour?

Sally and Philippe’s rucksack recommendations may seem like a long list if you are only walking for the day but imagine a simple scenario.  In the late afternoon, a fellow walker sprains an ankle – nothing serious. It need not trigger an emergency rescue and the injured person may be able to continue with a little help but the pace of the group walk will be considerably slowed. This may mean walking in the dark as it tends to darken around 17.30 in the middle of winter so contingencies will be helpful.

  • Sunglasses with a minimum protection index of three. The reflection of the sun on the snow is very strong therefore harmful to the eyes which is amplified in the case of fog.
  • A hat with a brim or a cap is also useful to protect the face from the sun and sunburn
  • Sunscreen
  • A rain jacket with over-trousers
  • Hat and gloves
  • A small survival blanket: it can have many uses
  • Water, at least a litre for the day
  • A hot drink thermos if you wish
  • A snack (see below)
  • Your personal First Aid kit (see below)
  • A protective cover for the backpack
  • A head torch or a small flashlight

You might say – well our guide will have a lamp with him – but with a group size of 10 or twelve people, one light between that many people is not ideal for safe walking. A personal head torch, which weighs nothing and takes up very little space, is going to be extremely useful and possibly prevent other incidents.

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A handy First Aid kit – There is a difference between your personal first aid kit and the kit that a guide will have with him. You need to have your own kit to be able to deal with everyday problems. Each walker should be equipped with what he/she may need: painkillers, bandages and items for specific medical treatments.

If you are following a specific medical treatment that requires you to have a special medication with you, let your guide know and tell them what to do in case of problems, especially where you keep your medication. Be careful if you are going on a trip abroad during which access to care is limited or impossible. Talk to your doctor before you leave. He/she will advise you on specific medicines.


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Budget snacking – There’s no need to buy energy bars at inflated prices where there are more budget friendly – and effective – alternatives. Dried fruits are excellent and less expensive: apricots, prunes, grapes, mixtures, figs – each to their own!

Bring along a specialty from back home to share with your group. This also helps break the ice on the first day much more quickly. Don’t forget too that in many cases, your guide may prepare a picnic lunch, part of which you may be asked to carry as the load is shared. Your guide will also try and help you discover as much local food as possible. A walking trip is a great way to meet new and interesting people as well as new and interesting landscapes.


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A clothing tip – don’t break the bank! – In terms of clothing, it is not always absolutely necessary to buy the best-branded products. It all depends on the trip you choose and the amount of experience you have.

For those who travel on foot occasionally or those who are on a budget, you can now buy some very good equipment in sporting goods superstores. Clothing made of lightweight and modern fabrics is now much more affordable than it used to be. Generally speaking it is still the case that if you pay less your product will be less effective in terms of performance or longevity, but you can still find items that have a good price / quality ratio. Chose your equipment based on the amount of time and in what conditions you will be walking, and of course, according to your budget.



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Note to Editors:  Purely Pyrenees launched in 2018 and is backed with over 30 years of experience from French parent company, La Balaguère. Purely Pyrenees tours pride themselves on offering the very best accommodation to be found on their routes, the finest local food and experiences that their guests will never forget – whether stunning views or amazing vistas. They are renowned for their local knowledge, personal touch and expertise. They go that extra mile to provide unique experiences and memorable holidays.