The Lake District is my favourite place in the UK to hike.
Situated in the North West of England, and around a 2 hour drive from Manchester, the Lake District is Englands’s largest National Park, and second largest in the UK.
Filled with amazing scenery, glistening lakes, majestic mountains and sweeping valleys, it is well worth a trip for those of you that have never been.
So what do you pack for a walking holiday in the Lake District?
Well the first thing to note is the weather is extremely changeable, depending on the time of year you are going to visit. In fact the Lake District is one of the wettest places in England, so waterproofs are a must, at any time of year.
Regardless of what time of year you visit, you are guaranteed unforgettable views of some of the best countryside the UK has to offer.
LAKE DISTRICT PACKING LIST
If you’re heading to the Lake District specifically for hiking or walking, it is imperative you have the correct walking gear.
All to often the mountain rescue teams are sent out to rescue people that aren’t prepared for the weather, and don’t have the correct gear with them.
The good news is that if you don’t already own walking gear then you can buy everything you need at one of the numerous shops in Ambleside (South Lakes) or Keswick (North Lakes).
Whilst you’ll pick up some good walking clothing, it is advisable that you have a pair of walking boots that are already broken in. If you wear a new pair of boots, your feet might rub against them and you’ll get blisters, which will ruin any further walking you had planned.
So what better place to start with this packing list, than with a good pair of walking boots.
I hike in a pair of Salomon Quest hiking boots, but there are plenty of good, sturdy boots in the shops and online.
In terms of socks, I always try to go for merino wool socks, in different thicknesses, depending on the season. You can get some great, cheap merino wool socks from Costco, as well as from Amazon.
Next, let’s move onto base layers.
The first layer next to the skin is incredibly important, as you want gear that wicks sweat and moisture away from your body, whilst at the same time keeping you comfortable and warm. I’ve split this base layer kit list into two parts; one for winter and one for summer. The reason being is the temperature is very different, so you’ll need different tops and pants that do different things.
If you’re planning on undertaking some Lake District walks in the Autumn/Winter, then you’re going to need thermal base layers, especially if you’re planning on bagging a few Wainwright summits, as it will be VERY cold on the tops.
I recommend wearing merino wool base layers if possible. Helly Hansen make some good merino wool base layers, as they are effective and relatively affordable. Icebreaker are also good, but expensive. Katmandu are a good option too (see mens and womens). You can also find cheaper base layers in Mountain Warehouse too.
For late Spring and Summer, thermal base layers shouldn’t be necessary. Instead an athletic, wicking top should be fine.
On top of the base layer should come a mid layer, such as a fleece or comfortable long sleeve top. Again, as with the base layers, these should be breathable to allow moisture to escape, regardless of which season you’re visiting the Lake District in.
The same mid layers can be used in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, so let me give you a couple of options.
I usually wear Paramo or Montane mid-layers, but there are so many on the market it shouldn’t matter too much which one you go for.
WATERPROOF TROUSERS / WALKING TROUSERS / SHORTS
The all important trouser / short layer! There are different combinations you could go for here, but I recommend either waterproof walking trousers (ideal for Autumn / Winter / Spring) or a combination of shorts / walking trousers / waterproof over-trousers for all year round.
Paramo do some incredible waterproof walking trousers for men and women, called the Cascada. I’ve been wearing these on hikes around the world for the last 10 years and they’ve not let me down once, so they are well worth the investment.
Hiking shorts you can pick up in most outdoor clothing stores. For walking trousers, Gaynors Of Ambleside have the best selection I’ve ever seen, and often have deals on. For waterproof over trousers, I have a pair of Marmot over-trousers, and they are excellent, but you’ll also find excellent ones from Berghaus, the North Face and more.
Arguably the most important packing list item you need to bring to the Lake District!
Again, I would have a couple of options here, depending on the season you plan on visiting. For the warmer months, I have a Patagonia Lightweight waterproof jacket, ideal for showers when it’s warm. I also have a Paramo Alta jacket for Autumn / Winter.
The reason I often pack both is that my layering system often keeps me warm as I hike, but wearing the Paramo makes me overheat, so often the Patagonia jacket will suffice.
Another item to add to the packing list is a down jacket. Generally down jackets are NOT WATERPROOF, so don’t wear one if rain is forecast…you’ll get soaked through to the bone, and it will weigh you down. But a down jacket is very handy is cold, winter conditions, especially when worn on top of thermal layers, and underneath your waterproof jacket on the summits. I have the lightweight Patagonia Down Sweater, but you can pick up other lightweight down jackets from other brands.
You can’t carry everything, and you’ll also need space to carry snacks, water and several of the items mentioned above.
I’m a big fan of Osprey backpacks, as they are comfortable, have a wide range of sizes and have separate fits for men and women.
For day hikes, I normally use a 20-litre – 30 litre backpack. This is usually light enough to carry around on long hikes, but big enough to carry everything I need.
Many of the packs come with a waterproof cover, but if not you can always buy this separately.
In addition to all the packing list items above, you’re going to need a few extra things too.
- Local Map – grab one of these online before you go, or buy one in a local shop. You’ll find them all over the Lake District. I often use a BMC map. These are zoomed out a little more so you miss a bit of detail, but they are waterproof, which is handy.
- Dry Bags – when it rains, it really rains, and often even the best waterproofs can’t keep out the water. As such, keep anything you want to keep dry (such as a spare t-shirt, spare socks and underwear, phone, wallet etc.) inside a dry bag inside your backpack.
- Head Torch – just in case. Especially needed in the winter months, and very useful if you get caught on the hill in the dark. I have a Petzl one.
- Water Bladder – save on plastic. Don’t take a water bottle on the hill. Buy a water bladder that you can fit into your backpack, so you don’t have to take your bag off everything you need a drink. I have a Camelbak (3 litres), but Osprey also do excellent 2 and 3 litre ones.
- Multi-Tool – A Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman can come in incredibly handy! On the hill it can be used to fix things, and back where you are staying, it might also be useful as a bottle opener 🙂
- Food & Snacks – Don’t forget to pack some food! Lunch, snacks, crisps, fruit, chocolate, protein bars…whatever you like to keep you from going hungry.
- Windproof hat – very useful to keep the wind at bay, and for extra warmth on the summits. I have a Dexshell one, which is also waterproof.
- Windproof gloves – just like the hat, a pair of windproof gloves can come in incredibly handy if the weather turns nasty at the top of the hill.
- Other clothes – You’re going to need evening clothes, different footwear and maybe a different coat if your others are soaking.
There you have it! My top tips for what to wear when walking in the Lake District.
If you have any additional items to add to the list, let me know in the comments below!
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