There’s nothing like a good days walking in the Welsh countryside to give you that ‘on topof the world’ feeling. Taking the day one step at a time with lungfuls of fresh air; walkingoffers a winning combination of physical exercise and mental recharge all for free!Whether you are heading off to the hills or strolling a stretch of Wales’ coastal path a littlebit of forethought will make sure that you set off confident you have prepared for a greatday and ensure that, at the end of the day, you travel home safely, looking forward to yournext adventure!Here are 8 ways to make a good days hiking better!

1) Be Adventure Smart: Ask yourself three simple questions before you set off: Do I have the right gear? Do I know what the weather will be like? Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day? From the weather forecast and sunset times to tidetimes and lots more practical advice, AdventureSmartWales.com will give you the answers you need to be kitted up and in the know to be safe!

2) Know where you are going – carry a map and compass and know how to use them.Every year thousands of people end up calling for help because they are lost and/or tired. Nowadays paper maps may seem unnecessary but they are light to carry and their batteries don’t run out of charge! For simple guides to map reading and using a compass check out the Beginner’s Guides on getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk.

3) Check the latest weather and ground conditions before you set off – take advice,only attempt a route if the conditions are within you and your companions’ capabilities.Be flexible; there’s no shame in changing your plans, choosing a different route or  turning back if the forecast doesn’t look too clever or if the weather closes in unexpectedly. If you are heading for the coast don’t get cut off by the tides – check the tide times.

4) Be honest with yourself about you and your companions’ knowledge, fitness and ability. So we all like to kid ourselves that we are fitter, or indeed more capable than we are but in this instance it pays to be honest. Plan for the least able member of your group; if reaching the summit is going to be a challenge then switch to a lower level walk that you can all enjoy and achieve comfortably. Check out National Park and AONB websites for walking routes for all abilities.

5) Stay warm and dry; Wear walking boots, carry insulating layers and waterproofs. The right gear’s a good idea – we’ve all seen people confidently setting off into the hills with inappropriate footwear and bags too small to carry even the lightest of waterproofs, oblivious to the gathering storm clouds. Or you could be caught out by the sun so don’t forget sun cream and a drink. Kit doesn’t need to be expensive but does need to be waterproof and, in the case of boots, needs to fit well. There is nothing like a blister to ruin a good day’s walking!

6) Make sure your mobile is charged – but don’t rely on it for navigation and communication. Mobile phones fail if they get a soaking and signal coverage is notoriously poor in some areas. Have a waterproof case or proper waterproof GPS and pack a map and compass as a backup. If you get into trouble call 999 for help. Carry a whistle – six short blasts in short succession, repeated at 1 minute intervals is the international distress signal (you can also flash your torch in a similar manner).

7) Float to Live: cold water shock passes in less than 2 minutes, so relax and float on your back until you can control your breathing. You may not have intended to take a dip but you could suffer cold water shock if you slip, trip or fall into the sea, lake or river. Follow this simple advice to allow the effects of cold water shock to pass, your breathing to come under control and give you the best chance to shout for help and find something to help you float or swim to safety. You will be glad you packed some spare warm, dry clothing!

8) If you’re doing something new or going somewhere new why not go with a qualified guide/instructor or sign up for some training. There are lots of enthusiastic and knowledgable guides and instructors listed on www.visitwales.com/activity-search/ or check out www.mountain-training.org for training opportunities. They can take your adventure to a whole new level, but in a good way!These 8 steps have been put together for AdventureSmartWales, a campaign developed in partnership by the many organisations who want people to enjoy the great Welsh outdoors safely and is part-funded by Welsh Government. In 2019 Adventure Smart goes pan-UK with the launch of www.AdventureSmart.UK and the roll out of AdventureSmart Cumbria &Lakes.