Everything you need to do the Three Peaks Challenge

Man versus mountain. It’s a classic challenge that humanity has fought across the generations and one that still offers a purity of reward. The difference now is that we have enough advanced tech so that those mountain-top views and that sense of achievement is achievable for more people than ever before.

The UK offers the ultimate version of mountain challenges in its Three Peaks challenges. The most famous is the National Three Peaks which has would-be climbers ascend the three largest mountain in Britain over just 24 hours. That’s a 1,085m climb up Snowden in Wales, a 978m ascent up Scafell Pike in England and a 1,345m schlep up Ben Nevis in Scotland.

Put off yet? No? Good. But if that does sound a bit intense there are other options like the Yorkshire Three Peaks and Welsh Three Peaks with smaller climbs over shorter periods.

So you’re interested. Now it’s time to make that challenge a little more achievable by knowing what you need to do the climbs right.

How much does the Three Peak Challenge cost?

While the actual Three Peaks Challenge is free to do, you will have to factor in costs like travel fuel, food and kit, and probably accommodation at the end, unless you're extremely hardcore, or happen to live near Ben Nevis. 

If you opt for a self-planned group then all you need to do is work out the route and get going. Okay, in reality there’s a whole checklist of safety planning found here on the official site, but it’s all free… Once you have the right gear.

And speaking of which…

All the gear you need to conquer the Three Peaks Challenge

Image by Nilfanion on Wikimedia, reproduced under Creative Commons 3

Best walking boots

Whether it's summer or winter, you'll want a serious pair of walking boots for the Three Peaks. French doyen of the walking milieu Salomon would always be our top recommendation for putting in the big miles.

Realistically, you want boots and not shoes for this jaunt, although we have both in our buyers' guide. More athletic and experienced walkers may find that walking shoes or even trail running shoes are more suited to certain stretches of the challenge, in mild weather especially. Most will be best advised sticking to boots, however. 

Best clothing

In autumn and winter, clothing choices for the Three Peaks Challenge become a lot more important. In extreme cases, they could mean the difference between life and death, not that I'm trying to put you off or anything.

The current weather throws up its own challenges, mind. You want clothing that isn't too hot, with moisture wicking, but with further layers to hand that you can add as the sun goes down, or you are nearing the peak(s).

You can get away without base layers in summer but they are a great idea all round, and highly recommended by us. 

You'll also want a lightweight, waterproof jacket with plenty of pockets and a decent backpack. It's perfectly possible to get by without buying loads of technical clothing – I once went up Ireland's tallest mountain dressed in Paul Smith and a pair of Oliver Spencer boots – but most experienced walkers prefer the security and comfort that technical clothing adds, and, to coin a phrase, if you have no idea, you really should get all the gear…

Oh, and you'll be wanting a pair of shades. You know, so you look cool.

Best backpack

Given that you're only supposed to be yomping for 24 hours, you are theoretically better off with a more compact pack – 30 litres, say – rather than a full on military mountaineering kind of affair.

We have a wide selection of backpack options, with Mammut and Finisterre being particularly hike-friendly. Much as we love the classic Fjallraven Kanken, we wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a full 24 hours of hard hiking, though.

Essential hiking tech

If you're just looking to count your steps for posterity, any fitness tracker or running watch will be adequate. For more accuracy, opt for a GPS running watch. 

However, our running watch list doesn't include two more esoteric devices that may be very handy in this context: the Fenix 5X (or the older Fenix 3 if you can still find it) and TomTom Adventurer. The former is a full-on, wrist-mounted GPS with maps, while the latter is much cheaper, but has a handy feature that allows you to easily retrace your steps, should the going get tough (several of Garmin's higher-end GPS running watches boast this feature too but again tend to be pricier).

To be honest, you shouldn't really need GPS as the paths are pretty well marked, but it's good peace of mind, and also means you can more accurately measure (and then show off about) quite how far you've trekked.

The real must-have is a torch or head torch – Petzl and LED Lenser are two great options here.

You might also want to consider bringing along binoculars and, of course, a camera. You may find you're not in much of a mood to be taking photos by the end of the trip, and might not look too photogenic yourself by that point, so go for something light and easy to use rather than a DSLR.

The other essentials, of course, are a phone case and phone battery. Just in case…