You’re all set. Your walking holiday is booked and all you need to do is to pack your bags. So what should you bring?
The most important is footwear. There are no mountains to climb on this long-distance walk so a pair of lightweight boots will do you fine. Make sure you’ve done a few miles in them first!
Trainers are fine once you are downstream of Hampton Court; but elsewhere the ground can be muddy in places so waterproof boots are necessary.
Bless those cotton socks!
Almost as important as boots, are socks. And, no, cotton socks are not recommended as they hold mositure (sweat) next to the skin which, when combined with the inevitable friction caused by 25,000 steps, will cause blisters. Recommended are a thin pair of merino wool socks with a second thicker pair of woollen socks on top. These socks have “wicking” capabilities, which draws moisture away from the skin.
To Compeed or not to Compeed. That is the question.
And what to carry if the dreaded blisters appear? Certainly a small first aid kit is required with the usual sticking plasters and pain relievers. But for blisters, you might try Compeed. It’s a special plaster that absorbs body fluids to create a cushion for the blister. It seals the blister and prevents the blister from developing. Opinion, however, appears to be divided. Some swear by them. Others argue that they’re hard to keep in position and end up ruining your socks. They would advocate applying tape zinc oxide tape (Leukoplast) over the wound instead. Whatever your preference you will need some small scissors to cut tape with as well as nail scissors, and vaseline to rub on your toes.
If you are walking between April and October, the weather will be warm and there is no need for many layers of clothing. See our temperature chart. However, you can expect rain so be prepared for that with a good waterproof jacket and some lightweight overtrousers which most people will avoid putting on unless absolutely necessary. An alternative to overtrousers is a rain kilt: easy to put on and take off. Or you could try sheltering through the worst of the rain. It never rains hard for long down here. By the way, we did once see a lady walk the Dales Way with an umbrella.
Walking in winter is a different proposition. It may be cold; it may be wet; it may be both! So dress for the cold and certainly wear boots. You might even need to bring wellies as many parts of the Thames Path are prone to flooding.
Maps and Gadgets
First off, you won’t need a compass on the Thames Path. You are never far from the river and it can be your guide.
You will, however, need a map. Although well sign-posted the Path does move away from the river at times, as well as crossing to the other side on multiple occasions. It’s therefore very useful to have a map. A 1:25,000 OS is recommended. If you purchased a paper version you would need around 8 maps. For £24 (about the price of 3 maps) you can get online access for a year. This includes the OS app which will show your position even if you are in airplane mode (which you might want to do to be completely relaxed). If you’re worried about running out of battery, you can print the maps before hand.
Of course, if you’ve booked a package with Walk The Thames, you’ll get the free Cicerone guide written by Leigh Hatts which comes with a 1:25,000 OS strip map.
Finally, a set of headphones for those moments (there will be some!) when you feel you need some inspiration. Make sure you have a motivational playlist ready! And a battery pack just in case you find yourself running out.
A hat and sun cream are highly recommended as a few hours, even under our English sun, can do you some damage.
Consider bringing swimwear. The Thames is remarkably clean especially upstream (check out our blog) and, on a hot day, you might be envious of bathers. However, be careful. There can be very strong currents.
Try to set off with 1.5-2 litres per person of water. There are pubs and cafes which will fill up your water bottle along the way. Also, some of the locks offer a drinking water tap. These are all marked on our route planner. You will never do a full day’s walk without passing one.
If you are using Walk The Thames, your luggage will have arrived before you. So you can afford to have a nice set of clothes to change into when you reach your accommodation. And they don’t need to be lightweight!
You might, of course, want a book to read as you sit out in the garden as the sun starts to set. Check out our blog on the Literary Thames.
Well don’t worry. So long as you’re using our baggage service just let us know what you need and we’ll drop it off with your next bag drop.