Enjoy Your Outdoors Adventures, Safely, be AdventureSmart

More than ever people around the UK are getting into the outdoors and enjoying activities such as hill walking, mountain biking, open water swimming and kayaking. These activities are enjoyable, memorable, they are character building and can help improve our mental health. One of the things that makes these activities so good is the fact that there is a certain amount of risk involved in doing them. Knowing how to minimise that risk by being prepared can be the difference between having a great day out or ending up lost, injured or worse.

Whether you are new to exploring the outdoors or even if you have a lot of experience under your belt, there are many organisations that offer useful advice. One that we think is particularly good is called AdventureSmart.UK. The AdventureSmart message is one that will help you to help you make the most of your adventures whilst staying safe.

AdventureSmart.UK Logo, includes drawing of mountains and water.

Are You Adventure Smart?

AdventureSmart invite you to ask yourself these 3 questions before you set off:

  1. Do I have the right GEAR?
  2. Do I know what the WEATHER will be like?
  3. Am I confident I have the KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS for the day?

These are particularly important questions, especially if you are new to outdoor activities. If you do not understand the questions or do not know the answers, some research will set you off in the right direction. Fortunately the AdventureSmartUK website contains useful pointers about the gear and skills you need to enjoy the outdoors safely and have a great time.

Even if you get outdoors regularly it is worth having a think about these questions. There may be things that you have overlooked in the past or simply forgotten about if you have not been out for a while. If you normally go day walking and are intending to take on a more challenging route or go camping overnight, there could be items of gear that you normally do not take, or you may need to practice your skills. Or maybe you are thinking of trying an outdoor activity that is completely new to you.

The promotional video below is shows walkers in the fells, with the AdventureSmart questions appearing in text. This visual image may help you to remember the questions for the next time you are planning an outdoors adventure.

To find out more, we spoke to Paul Donovan who heads up the Adventure Smart programme.

Criterion: Who is behind this AdventureSmart Campaign?

Paul Donovan: The AdventureSmart campaign began in Wales in 2017, as AdventureSmartWales. It was set up with funding from the Welsh Government. With additional funding from organisations that are involved in the outdoors, including Mountain Training, Lake District Search & Mountain Rescue Association, Outdoor Partnership, Snowdonia National Park and The British Mountaineering Council, the campaign has now been rolled out UK wide.

Criterion: How was the Adventure Smart message developed?

Paul Donovan: The messages have developed by safety experts and people involved in organisations with interests in specific outdoor activities. The aim of the messages is to encourage people to enjoy outdoor activities in a way that is safe and reduces the need for the emergency services to be called to out deal with preventable incidents.

Criterion: Why is the AdventureSmart message important?

Paul Donovan: People get their inspiration to visit the outdoors from many places. For example, people see photos of stunning landscapes online and decide that they want to visit these places. In some cases they have no previous outdoors experience and they turn up with no expectation of the conditions they may face when they get there. The photo they saw on the internet may have been taken on a lovely sunny day, but they do not realise how treacherous conditions can be in bad weather and how quickly the weather can take a turn for the worse, especially in the mountains or along the coast.

By promoting the AdventureSmart message through the outdoors and tourism industry we hope to ensure that people are better prepared for the conditions they may encounter so that they can have a great time, safely.

Please share the AdventureSmart message, particularly to people who are new to enjoying the outdoors.

Be AdventureSmart when Hill Walking

One of the main uses of Criterion sleeping bags is by people who go camping when they are hill walking, although our sleeping bags can be used when taking part in most other multi-day outdoor adventures. Therefore we have put together some useful hill walking advice based on the Adventure Smart questions and extended it with advice for wild camping, backpacking and using sleeping bags.

Basic Hill Walking Gear

Below is a list for the essentials to take when going single day hill walking. Items that you are not wearing should be carried in a rucksack.

  • well fitting walking boots and spare laces
  • waterproofs
  • layers of warm clothing (avoid denim and cotton)
  • walking socks
  • hat
  • gloves
  • whistle
  • head torch and spare batteries
  • detailed printed map of the area where you are going
  • waterproof map case
  • compass
  • first aid kit and prescription medicine including asthma reliever (if required)
  • sun screen
  • insect repellent
  • survival bag
  • watch
  • mobile phone and battery pack (both kept in a dry bag)
  • food and drink
  • emergency rations

Top Tip

Always take one more layer of clothing than you think you will need.

Walking gear including rucksack, boots, waterproofs and more

These items may be obvious if you are a seasoned hill walker, but many items will not be obvious if you have little or no experience of what gear to take, especially navigation and emergency items.

Checking the Weather

In mountainous areas the weather is notoriously changeable and unpredictable. Therefore it is wise to check the weather forecast, which if you are going up into the mountains means the Mountain Weather Forecast as opposed to the weather forecast in the nearest town.


It is not just bad weather that can cause problems, on a nice day you can get sunburnt or heatstroke. If the clouds come in and visibility is poor it is easy to get lost. Which brings us nicely onto the third question of knowledge and skills.

Top Tip

As you increase in height up hills and mountains, the temperature will usually decrease.

Knowledge and Skills

Arguably the most important skill is navigation. Whilst the GPS on your phone can make navigation easy, there is plenty that can go wrong with it. This is usually in the form of a lack of coverage and/or flat batteries. Taking a printed map and compass and knowing how to use them is essential.

Man camping in the woods, laying in a sleeping bag reading a map.

Top Tip

Whilst you are walking stop and look at the map regularly. Try to identify features shown on the map in real life and vice versa. If you are in the fells look out for streams, walls, tarns, woods and cliffs. Look at the way in which the contours follow the mountainside and check this against which direction any the streams are flowing (they should be flowing downhill!) Doing this will help improve your skills for when you need to locate your position, because everyone gets lost from time to time!

It is important to plan your route in advance. When creating your route be sure that you can cover the distance and terrain in the time available to you. Allow for rests and for the possibility that you may take an occasional wrong turn which may mean having to double back on yourself. Many walking routes that are on the internet will tell you distance, terrain, skill level and time required, but it is important to take into account the fitness levels and skills of your own group. Before you set out, let someone know the details of the route that you will be taking.

Other skills related to hill walking and backpacking include first aid, leadership, skills in judging the weather and skills in using winter tools (i.e. crampons and ice axes).

There are many organisations and companies that can teach you these skills, as well as offering guided walks, hikes and expeditions.

Having the correct knowledge and skills will help keep you safe.

Do you know what do if you have an accident? Mountain Rescue England and Wales have a handy downloadable leaflet containing safety advice that you can print out and take with you.

AdventureSmart also have advice for specific walking destinations, which is useful when planning your adventure.

Top Tip

Before leaving home make sure that you have downloaded a map of the area you are going to onto your phone or GPS. This could be a purchased Ordnance Survey map, but if you are relying on free mapping that is downloaded on an ad hoc basis, e.g. Google Maps, zoom in to get as much detail as possible on and around the area you will be visiting. It will then be stored on your phone’s cache so it should be there when you need it if there is no coverage. This is in addition to your printed map.

Adventure Smart logo