Considering the fact that the single most important bit of kit for walking is a pair of good shoes, it seems to be easily overlooked. You need to replace your shoes regularly. As sometimes they cease to do the job long before they start looking tatty. And problems will follow. You also need to ensure you have the right shoes for the right workout, and a pair designed for fitness walking differs from those for running or any other sport. Walk-specific shoes are designed to support and protect the vulnerable parts of your feet, and power walking or fitness shoes are now stocked in many sports shops.
Once you’ve got your walking shoe sorted, good socks are also essential, as well as comfortable, weatherproof clothing. These are the basics of walking gear, but what other kit will help you when out fitness walking? If you read up every bit of advice out there, before you know it you’ll be weighed down on the road by lots of specialist clothing, technology and gadgets. But there are a few items that are worth considering.
Smart water bottle
Drinking plenty of water when out walking is key and as a guide, you should drink every 20 minutes. There are many convenient water carriers on the market - from waist packs to shoulder carriers. Increasingly, high-tech water bottles are becoming available. While they aren’t a fitness walking essential, they can often genuinely enhance a walk. From bottles with built- in cooling systems to bottles with in-built holders to your smartphone, here’s a few good examples:
- The Permafrost Hydra Bottle eliminates the need for ice cubes as it’s built-in gel pack keeps your water chilled for hours. Just pop the impact-resistant bottle in the freezer for an hour or so before you head out walking. This is particularly useful if you’re heading out walking in warm weather or planning on going for a longer walk.
- The Aqua Zinger adds fresh flavors to your water. It’s a stainless steel water bottle that includes a built-in, grinder cup at the bottom. It’s purpose is to release the flavours from fruits, herbs, or veggies into your water as you sip. This can be a great way to get a bit of extra energy without having to drink anything too complex like juice or an energy drink.
- The Hydracoach is a high-tech bottle that calculates and tracks your daily personal hydration needs and motivates you to reach your targets. It could be really useful if you're new to walking and unsure how much to drink each day.
Moving on to other walking gadgets. Serious walkers may consider a heart-rate monitor to measure exertion. Wireless versions give accurate information and are comfortable to wear, comprising a belt worn around the chest and a wristwatch display.
Pedometers can also be useful to count your steps and mileage - they can be adjusted to your stride length, and come with various features. Many calculate calorie expenditure and can coordinate with fitness apps on your smartphone. The most sophisticated pedometers involve GPS systems that are able to calculate speed and distance based on satellite readings. This is particularly useful to help you work out calories etc. if you're not sure the exact distance of your walk.
Smartphone, iPod or MP3 player
There are also plenty of apps available now for tracking walking speed, steps and distance covered on your smartphone. Obviously, other useful piece of kit when out walking is an iPod or MP3 player. Preparing a playlist will help motivate you or give you that extra kick - especially on a longer walk. You can either create your own playlist by choosing your favourite upbeat songs, or there are lots of pre-prepared playlists and workout albums that can be easily downloaded. But remember to keep the volume at a level where you can still hear what’s going on around you, for safety reasons.
Also, if you’re using your smartphone to track your steps or listen to music, it might be a good idea to take a portable charger to ensure your battery doesn’t run out while you're on a long walk. Having a flat battery could be dangerous if someone suffers an injury and you need to call for help. Most portable chargers are no larger than a smartphone and can often charge a phone a couple of times before they have to be recharged themselves. Often you just plug your charger into the portable charger with your normal charging cable. Some chargers are even waterproof - which is ideal for walking - and others can be recharged via solar power, meaning they are great if you're planning to be out for a couple of days.
Waist carrier or backpack
With all that kit in mind, you may need something to carry these optional extras, be it via a waist carrier or backpack, something just the right size to comfortably carry everything.