The happy wanderers

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We went hiking in a local beauty spot yesterday – cue comfort clothing as a priority.

I had one of those great non-fashion days yesterday.

Not that I give much thought to getting dressed on a daily basis, you understand – it’s pretty much a uniform of jeans and t-shirts. But the great thing about going walking is that it is absolutely positively nothing to do with fashion. 

When there was a push recently to make fleece trendier, journalist Emily Matliss said: "Isn’t the point of fleece precisely that it’s not fashion?"

It’s true – fleece is what you wear when you just want to be practical. And so are climbing boots, walking shoes, all kinds of outdoor gear. Sure, a bit of colour or pattern is all very nice, but practicality and comfort come first and foremost. 

Since we were hiking down a local gorge we hadn’t visited before, we didn’t know whether we’d be wet or dry, so I wore walking boots and a pair of denim leggings that serve as jeans but are far more comfortable. A cotton vest, cotton t-shirt and two-layer cotton jacket from Orvis gave me lots of layers and accessible pockets, while my little backpack, really designed for schoolkid’s books, is just about enough for my kagoul, sarnies and water bottle.

One other important thing is that these are all things I can afford to write off, given that there might be mud to walk through or streams to ford. The t-shirt was a gift, the leggings are literally falling apart and the vest and jacket must have clocked up 25 years on the planet between them. The walking boots are Trex, available at Lidl – lightweight, sturdy and cost about a tenner.

I could not have been more comfortable and as it happened I didn’t look bad either, not that I gave a stuff. We encountered maybe half a dozen other people all day, most of them cyclists, and the others were French walkers. How good do you need to look for the birds and the bees? It is the equivalent of slobbing out at home. 

It is an interesting point, btw, that cyclists here have ALL the kit – every French cyclist looks like they’re heading for the Tour de France – but no French walker seems to have anything except boots. I reckon they just keep them in the car, because you see people out and about in pretty frocks and work suits, but with proper walking shoes on, going for a wander down the country lanes. Walking is just part of life here rather than something you ‘do’ – possibly one reason the French stay so thin.

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