Hiking can be anexcellent activity for Scouts, not only from a physical fitness aspect but alsoto encourage them to develop the skills of planning, teamwork and leadershipwhen preparing for and undertaking a hike or expedition. Hiking can also be ameans to an end, for example, hiking to a campsite, to aNational Trust property, or to a place of interest.
Planning a Hike
Listed opposite andoverleaf are the steps required to plan a hike. If you are new to hiking,
then it may be a goodidea to discuss your plans with an experienced hiker, so that he or she can
give you some helpand advice. The first thing you will need to do is to decide where and how faryou want to go, and if there is a purpose to the hike. Are you going just towalk, or are you visiting something en route? When this has been decided, youwill need to plan the specific route and produce a route plan (route planningsheets can be purchased from the Information Centre at Gilwell Park). For moreinformation see Route Planning in this series. Once the route and purpose havebeen decided, you will need to inform and ask for permission from the parentsor guardians of the Scouts taking part (ifapplicable). This must be done in writing. Nearer to the day of the hike, youwill need to gather your equipment, check that it is in working order and packit. You will also need to check that all of the Scouts taking part have all ofthe required equipment.
The equipment youwill require is dependent on where you are going, the time of year, the terrainand the weather. Below is a list of items that you will need:
Map and compass - These are essential,and it is best to have a 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey map. A 1:25,000map is required if you are going up into the hills or into remote areas. Themap should be contained in some type of waterproof carrier (such as a stoutplastic bag or transparent plastic folder). Please also see Scout Skillsfactsheets on Map and Compass.
Route plan - You will need to take acopy of your route plan with you and also leave a copy with someone. This is aform completed with details of where you intend to go, type of terrain, escaperoutes, names of those taking part, weather forecast and so on. A route planfactsheet is available.
Whistle - This is anothernecessity and should be available for use in case of an emergency when you needto attract other people's attention. Torch - If you are planning to beout after dark, then this should be carried as well. Fluorescent clothing willalso be necessary if walking in the dark.
First aid kit - This is anessential item for any sort of hike. Apart from the usual requirements, itshould include a needle and plaster or dressings to deal with blisters. Furtherinformation is available within the factsheet First Aid and Medical Chests.
Survival bag - This is aheavyweight plastic bag which is large enough for someone to get into in
an emergency such ashypothermia.
Walking boots - If you are intendingto go hill walking, then you will require a good pair of walking boots - do notattempt to go hill walking in ordinary shoes, as they do not give adequatesupport to your ankles. If you only intend to go for an easy stroll in thelocal forest, then you can wear shoes, but make sure that they are stout enoughfor the job. Always 'break in' new boots before undertaking long hikes.
Waterproof outerclothing - Itis necessary to have with you waterproof clothing that is both wind andwaterproof whatever the weather is like when you start out. It is important tokeep yourself warm and dry, as a lot of accidents occur when people are cold,wet and miserable. Layers of clothing - It is better to wear severallayers of thin clothing, rather than one thick garment, as several tops, forexample, will trap layers of warm air around you. If you get very hot, then oneor more layers can be removed and you can still keep warm. Do not wear tightfitting clothes or jeans, as they will not keep you sufficiently warm and theymay possibly rub and become uncomfortable. Thick socks also help with not onlykeeping feet warm, but also with reducing the possibility of blisters.Depending on the terrain, weather forecast, and time of year, you may alsorequire a hat, scarf and gloves.
Food - When walking, you expenda lot of energy, so you will need to take food with you. Have a heartybreakfast before you set out and take something rich in carbohydrates forlunch, for example, sandwiches, biscuits, nuts, raisins, cakes, chocolate. Itis also a good idea to have something that you can eat whilst walking, such asglucose sweets, to keep your blood sugar level high.
If the weather iscold, a thermos flask with a hot drink, such as hot chocolate, tea or soup willbe appreciated!
Rucsac - Finally, you willneed a day pack or small rucsac to carry all the equipment. A pack with paddedshoulder straps and a waist belt is best. Any spare clothing should be packedin plastic bags to ensure that it is kept dry.
If you, are going foran overnight hike, you will need to bring extra equipment, such as spareclothing, sleeping bag, carry mat, tent, cooking equipment, and so on.
It is important toremember that whatever you take, you will have to either wear or carry it. Trythe weight of your pack before you leave home to check that you feelcomfortable carrying it around for a day.
As with anyadventurous activity, it is very important to consider the safety factors whenhiking. You must never walk alone, always go in small groups. If the group istoo big, you might find it difficult to keep an eye on everyone, to see howthey are doing, and so on. A group of between four and eight people is ideal.(See POR Rule 41(1)f
Make sure that youhave got a Home Contact (see factsheet). This is somebody, not related to anyonein the party, who has a list of members taking part, with their home contacttelephone numbers, a copy of your Route plan and who knows what your estimatedtime of return is. This is appropriate even for a day hike. This person mustknow who to call if you don't turn up at the time you have planned to.
Everyone in the partyshould be able to recognise and treat hypothermia and wind chill, especially ifyou are going up into the hills or on the moors. At least one member of theparty should have a basic knowledge of first aid. You should have severalMembers in your party that know the emergency procedure if someone becomesinjured. (One person stays with the casualty, whilst others go for help.) Youalso need to know the international distress signal, which is six whistleblasts, one minute silence and a repeating of this signal. The reply is threeblasts, one minute silence and repeat.
If you intend to gointo hazardous country, that is, areas that are remote from habitation wherebad weather is normal and good weather the exception (see P.O.R. Rule 41.2 whichcontains examples of those areas which The Scout Association deems to behazardous), you will need to have with the party, someone who is authorised bythe home District Commissioner. This is more commonly known as having a Form M.Details can be obtained from your Assistant County/Area Commissioner orAssistant District Commissioner (Activities).
Tricks of the Trade
If you are going witha larger group, pair them off in twos, so that the Scouts can check on eachother all of the time. Always plan a route that is right for the weakest ofyour participants. If the route is too hard or too long, then you will stophaving fun and may put those involved off hiking in the future. If you are hikingwith Scouts, try to have a purpose or objective for the expedition and discusswhat you see on the way, as this might keep their minds off tired feet oraching backs! When you go hiking, have a set number of planned breaks (forexample, ten minutes an hour), but do not keep stopping, as this will not onlyuse up a lot of time, but also in the long run, make people feel more tired asit will ruin their walking rhythm.
If planning toundertake an expedition or weekend hike without much previous experience, youwill probably need to go on some training or practice hikes. These arerelatively short hikes which give you an opportunity to find out about your owncapabilities for walking (pace, distance and so on), to 'break in' new boots,and to practise carrying a loaded rucsac
Finally, always remember to tell your HomeContact when you have arrived back, so that they do not call out the emergencyservices for no reason.