This is a basic list of what you should have/wear when hiking. The list will evolve!
A plan. Check how much daylight you will have, your route, your fitness, are the MOD firing ranges closed to the public, check the weather forecast but the weather can be VERY wet and VERY VERY windy on Dartmoor. Equivalent of being out to sea.
Have a plan b for when you need to get off of the moor and onto safer terrain quickly. Plan food stops, never walk tired and hungry. Shelter behind tors / strong walls if the weather becomes severe. It does.
Well fitting waterproof hiking boots or sturdy footwear. Such as trail shoes. Ordinary trainers are NOT suitable at all. They don’t offer the grip and foot/ankle support you require.
Well fitting, walking / hiking socks. To stop your boots rubbing and keep your feet warm yet not too hot.
I use SealSkinz waterproof socks and merino wool socks. Make sure you buy socks to suit the type of activity. Thin socks WILL not offer you shock absorption and blister protection.
Walking trousers, they don’t have to be waterproof as you can carry lightweight over trousers with you. Something with zip pockets for a map, compass, bar of chocolate!
Denim jeans, cotton combats are not suitable as if they do get wet they take hours to dry out. Leaving you cold and wet – dangerous.
Also they can rub after hours of walking, uncomfortable. Comfy pants / knickers – no one likes chaffing!
Lightweight clothing layers. I wear clothing by RAB but the choice is huge. Thin layers can be added / removed as the weather and route changes. Long sleeved in the winter. You can ALWAYS remove layers as you warm up but you cannot add layers if you don’t have them with you.
Again t-shirts made of cotton take hours to dry if they do get wet, merino wool mixes are better as they dry quickly in the breeze. So you can hang them on a tree whilst you stop for lunch or camp overnight and they will dry in a few hours in a gentle breeze.
A hat! Waterproof if you don’t have a built-in hood in your jacket. You lose a huge amount of heat through your head. The wind can be bitter on the moor! A hat that covers your ears and keeps you warm. Consider a neck tube / Buff as well, you can wear them so many ways to keep the cold wind from your face/neck.
- Gloves, preferably waterproof but certainly wind proof. Wet hands blown by a bitter wind can quickly result in pain and numbness. Not nice.
- Waterproof jacket with built in hood. It doesn’t have to be heavy weight because you can add/remove your clothing mid-layers to control your heat loss.
So a lightweight wind proof / waterproof shell/jacket can be fine. BUT you NEED a water proof coat and not something just shower resistant!
- Fully water proof over-trousers or if you prefer walking trousers but they must be rated water proof and NOT shower resistant or water repellent.
- Gaiters (optional but recommended) to stop water from running down your legs into your boots. Such as when crossing shallow fords or walking through wet grass.
There is plenty of that on the moor.
Sun lotion/ sunglasses / skin protection for the spring and summer. There is NO shade on the open moor. You can burn quickly and suffer heatstroke miles from help.
A comfortable rucksack with sealable dry-bags for your clothing layers, food, maps, car keys etc.
Most rucksacks are NOT water proof, you need to put items in water proof bags or buy a water proof cover for your rucksack. Wet clothing and soaked maps are dangerous!
Food and water. Do some research online on good energy release foods, also plain water is not enough when the weather is hot. You need to replace the lost salts/minerals as you sweat. So the food and drink you take are very important.
Nuts, bananas, flap-jacks, glucose chocolate (Mars bars etc), isotonic drinks (or water additives) in the summer and PLAIN water are good. Also hot tea and soup in a flask can warm a cold core safely.
A basic first aid kit, plasters for cuts and blisters, Bandages to strap up a sprained ankle. Consider an emergency bivvy bag / survival blanket, they weigh next to nothing. When you stop moving it’s VERY cold on the moor.
You are a long way from help, also if you need regular medication make sure you have it with you.
A fully charged working torch, LED preferred as the bulbs are less likely to fail and whistle if you get into difficulties. It’s VERY dark and you do not want to walk without a torch.
Recognised distress signals: blow whistle /flash torch SIX times a minute. The rescue team response is THREE blasts/flashes back.
TELL someone your start point and intended route and arrival times. You will not get reliable mobile phone coverage on open moorland. DO NOT believe people that say yeah I get 4G blah blah on the moor. You will be in vast areas with ZERO signal.
You are on your own so tell someone BEFORE you set off where you should be at a certain time.
A detailed OS Explorer Map – Dartmoor Map OL28 Active waterproof is about £11.99. A compass. You can find excellent tutorials online in map reading and basic compass use and of course you can always ask BEFORE you venture on the moor.
My tip. I take two mobile phones with me and put them into aeroplane mode / WiFi off. This saves the batteries for when I MIGHT need them. They are water proof phones and in water proof pockets.
I do have an offline OS Explorer Map of Dartmoor downloaded to each mobile phone in case I need an emergency GPS fix, used in combination with my paper map and compass BUT you should always know where you are on a map without using any technology. Phones don’t always get a GPS fix and they go flat.
Wet wipes and/or alcohol gel to clean your hands. Loo roll as you are a LONG way from a bog 😉
Loose change for the public toilets and car parks, some are free, many are not.
This is just the basic list for a day walking any open land away from easily summoned help. Feel free to make suggestions.