Although English weather is a little more reliable than that of her neighbouring countries – it can still throw you for a loop. Good layers, waterproofs, quality socks and sensible shoes do a lot to mediate unpleasant weather and enable you to get out despite a bit of rain.
Our office and guiding team have been operating trips across the UK for nearly 20 years now so trust us when we say that we’re well versed in the weather and how best to prepare for it. The key is to come prepared with plenty of layers – so that you can shed and add as needed.
As our two main activities include hiking and road cycling we’ll include specific suggestions on what to wear for each activity to be the most comfortable below. If you’re undertaking a different activity with us and are unsure about what you need don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, we’d more than happy to advise.
Starting from the bottom up we have detailed recommendations below for clothing and equipment. Outdoor brands are a highly personal choice subjective to budget, quality, fit, branding, availability etc. As a disclaimer, we have a partnership with Haglöfs which you’ll see our guides wearing and we may give a nod in their direction at times, but we genuinely believe that they produce high-performance, durable and comfortable outdoor gear. Other great outdoor brands include, but are by no means limited to: Rab, Osprey, Montane, Mountain Equipment, Salomon, Patagonia, Arc’Teryx, Icebreaker, Scarpa and Merrell.
The Haglöfs L.I.M series contains everything you may need and is very lightweight – perfect for a destination that requires layering.
Quality socks – The best socks for hiking are wool-based or synthetic. These keep your feet warm, cushion impact, wick away moisture (sweat) and help stop you getting blisters. Make sure your socks are high enough and go past your footwear to prevent rubbing, and make sure the fit is right to prevent blistering. Please avoid cotton socks as they don’t wick away moisture and will rub.
Sturdy boots – Whether you’re tackling a mountain, undulating fields, or a rough trail you’ll be happiest in waterproof hill-walking boots. Although hiking in the English countryside usually involves a path; at times you may be walking off-track and over rocky and boggy terrain. Make sure your boots fit properly and offer sufficient ankle support. To avoid sore feet we recommend breaking in new boots before using them on your holiday. Head out for several medium-length hikes ahead of your trip.
It gets quite tricky here as you can’t layer up or down on your lower body as easily as you can for your upper so it’s important to get the base layer right. We recommend lightweight, quick-drying trousers. We advise against jeans and heavier trousers as they will take a long time to dry and get uncomfortable and cold when wet against your skin. There are many variations of ‘softshell’ trousers on the market to suit your personal tastes, you can get cargo-style trousers which are always a safe bet, alternatively, zip-offs and legging versions are available too. To ensure you have the best time and can outsmart the weather, we recommend fully waterproof and breathable shell over-trousers. We favour trousers with adjustable ankle cuffs so you can get them over your boots easier.
We also recommend leg gaiters. They are a bit like marmite, you either love them or hate them. On the plus side, gaiters are fantastic for keeping your legs and feet dry on wetter days and prevent things like itty bitty insects and mud from going into the top of your boots. On the downside, gaiters can get pretty warm and sweaty, and you’re not going to be doing much stealth walking in them.
Moisture-wicking base layer – Ideally long-sleeved and in synthetic or merino wool. Wearing lighter colours can help you spot ticks on the fabric – but is not a must.
Light insulation layer – You’ve got several options here but we recommend a microfleece or light-weight softshell.
Heavier insulation layer – This is a great layer to add on in colder weather or if you’re stopping for a longer period of time. We recommend heavy fleece or lofting insulation such as down or synthetic down.
Fully waterproof and breathable shell jacket – Something that’s not too heavy in which you can easily move. This layer is to throw on in case of rain and to keep the wind out. We recommend Gore-tex jackets over other waterproof products. Having a high hood and collar will ensure you stay completely dry and can still easily see and communicate when you’re fully zipped up.
Wool hat or headband – We lose half our body heat through our head, so it makes sense to carry something to keep your head and ears cosy.
Cap – On those sunnier days this is an effective way to keep the sun off your face and head.
Gloves – Nobody likes cold hands and it can really impact your enjoyment so we always recommend carrying gloves, especially if you’re heading higher up.
Neckwear – This is entirely optional but some people enjoy having extra warmth through the use of neckwear like scarves and buffs.
Essential Hiking Equipment
Praise be to lycra. Who’d have thought we’d grow to love it so much? When asking yourself what to wear road cycling in England you’ve found the best place for suggestions. Our team are passionate and experienced roadies, who’ve seen it all.
At the end of the day, the act of road cycling alone will keep you pretty warm – but the right clothing can make all the difference to the enjoyment of the day. To manage your sweat, any rubbing, and to keep the rain or wind off of your body we recommend a combination of lightweight packable layers that you can take on or off as necessary.
What brand you go with is a personal choice. Disclaimer – we do have a partnership with Endura (a Scottish bike gear manufacturer) so there are quite a few nods in their direction and you’ll see our guides wearing Endura. However, we truly believe they make fantastically comfortable, high-performance and durable cycling gear.
Short-sleeved base layer t-shirt or cycling jersey – We recommend breathable and moisture-wicking fabric and a comfortable fit.
Long-sleeved base layer t-shirt or cycling jersey – For the chillier days, a merino wool long-sleeved top or jersey will not go amiss!
Lightweight fleece jacket or gilet – Something you’re able to whip on during a stop. Lookout for elasticated armholes to ensure they’re not restricting you while riding.
Lightweight, waterproof and windproof jacket – Again you want to be able to put this on or pack this away just as easily depending on the weather.
Padded lycra cycling shorts/chamois – Perhaps the most important item in terms of riding comfort, bibbed or not bibbed. If you’ve never tried lycra bib shorts then it may feel a little strange, to begin with. But give them a go as there really is no better option for keeping comfortable on the saddle as it keeps everything where it should. If you’re not too keen on the sleek look you can get padded baggy shorts or wear baggier shorts on top of your lycra ones, but nothing underneath them as that would negate all the benefits that padded shorts offer.
Leggings or longs for riding – You can get specialised road cycling leggings for the colder rides. Look for leggings with ankle zips so that you can get them on or off as needed during a stop. You can also get long-legged ‘bib shorts’ – but you’ll have to be committed to wearing them for the ride.
Lightweight waterproof trousers – Optional but useful! You can also get water repellant leggings or leg warmers to wear between your padded shorts and your socks.
Cycling shoes – It can be a little intimidating at first, and will take a few goes to get right if you’re new to cycling shoes but we do recommend them over just wearing trainers. Because cycling shoes are solid and ‘lock’ into the paddle, it requires less energy and is less stress on your feet. Studies have shown that cycling shoes reduce fatigue, cramping and also knee injuries. However, if you’re new and uncomfortable with the idea of clipping in you can wear trainers with flat pedals.
Riding socks – To be honest, you don’t need to get specific cycling socks but then again, it does make a difference. Thin merino or synthetic wool socks will ensure that your feet don’t rub and wick away excess moisture. There is considerable debate about how long your sock should be, so we’ll leave that up to you to figure out based on personal taste.
Neoprene overshoes – We admit that these do look a little silly but if you get cold feet these are a game-changer. They are meant to be worn over your shoes and will keep your feet protected and insulated.
Helmet – Even though there are no legal incentives to wear a helmet in the UK whilst doing any form of cycling, we believe it is essential and non-negotiable if you’re travelling with us. As riders can travel at significant speeds and are often on public roads you should adequately protect yourself in case of a fall. We recommend a snugly fitted helmet. It’s worth looking into the safety certifications of a helmet before buying, and other features like ventilation and aerodynamics.
Gloves – Full-fingered or fingerless, you will appreciate the option of gloves when riding in English weather.
Riding Lenses – Clear lens glasses or interchangeable sunglasses (100% UVA and UVB protection). These are essential and will keep the wind and other things from going into your eyes.