What to Wear for a Walking Tour

Staying Comfortable on a Sightseeing Walking Tour

Whether you are going out for half-day or full-day walking tour, or taking a walking vacation packed with sightseeing tours, here is how to dress and what to carry along. Your tour operator should have suggestions for the local climate and conditions, but it is good to be prepared for the unexpected. I choose lightweight gear that work equally well in changing weather conditions and in indoor/outdoor sightseeing situations.

1
Cushioned Shoes

Cobblestone Street and Cushioned Shoe
Cobblestone Street and Cushioned Shoe. Wendy Bumgardner ©

A sightseeing walking tour will usually involve a lot of standing. You walk for a few minutes, then stop and listen to the guide tell about the history, sights and culture for several more minutes. Usually you will be walking less than a quarter of the time on the tour. The rest is standing with no place to sit. You will find this is even more tiring than if you walked steadily for a couple of hours. Choose shoes that are well-cushioned and comfortable for standing for long periods of time. Avoid minimalist shoes, and sandals or sneakers that have stylish heels or are not properly cushioned. Many types of comfort shoes are acceptable, as well as cushioned athletic shoes.

If your walking tour is on natural trails you may need trail shoes to get up and down inclines without slipping. They must provide good stability and rock protection. For that reason, flip flops are a bad idea on trails.

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2
Hat and/or Scarf

Hytail Hat
Hytail Hat. AD Activewear

For outdoor walking tours, you will want a hat to keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes. A cap with a brim is very practical for these purposes, although you might want to use a hat with a full brim to shield your neck. In colder weather, a cap that comes down over the ears or a separate ear warmer is a good choice.

In addition to a hat, I like to bring along a buff, such as you may have seen on the television show Survivor. This handy item can be worn as a headscarf (useful in churches or mosques), a neck gaiter to keep the sun or cold off your neck, a headband or ear warmer, or even a face mask/balaclava if the weather turns very dusty or bitterly cold.

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3
Jacket or Windbreaker

Patagonia Houdini Jacket
Patagonia Houdini Jacket. © Pricegrabber

Check the weather before you head out for the tour, but be prepared for changes. I always have a windbreaker jacket with me. I love the ultra lightweight Patagonia Houdini jacket, which folds up to the size of an energy bar. With it I can stay comfortable in cool or windy conditions outside or overly aggressive air conditioning inside.

If you know you will be outside in the rain, an umbrella and waterproof jacket or rain cape is essential. If rain is only a slight possibility, I still take along a cheap plastic rain poncho in my pack.

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4
Day Pack with Water Bottle

Water Bottle and Pack for Walking Tours
Water Bottle and Pack for Walking Tours. Scott Hortop/E+/Getty Images
A day pack is the easiest way to organize the stuff you might need when you are out for a full day of sightseeing and touring. A day pack will produce less stress on your neck and shoulders than carrying a purse or duffel bag. You will want to carry a bottle of water, as your stops might not include water fountains. Dehydration is real risk on walking tours. I like to have a pack that has space for my jacket, a water bottle, energy snack, wallet and ID, camera, cell phone, maps and even a tour book. Check with your guide about any restrictions on bringing a pack into any of the attractions you are visiting.

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5
Quick-Dry, Sweat-Wicking Clothing

Walkers with Convertible Pants and Umbrella
Walkers with Convertible Pants and Umbrella. Wendy Bumgardner © 2013

To stay comfortable through a long day of walking and a variety of weather conditions, shirts and pants made of sweat-wicking technical fabric will serve you well. You may prefer wearing cotton shirts and jeans, but once they get wet from sweat or rain, they will stay wet and you can end up with chafing. If you are on a multi-day walking tour, quick-dry clothing can be rinsed out and air-dried overnight.

Zip-off convertible cargo pants are very popular for multi-day walking tours or those in changeable conditions. Tank tops and shorts might be fine for Disney World, but if you are going to be touring churches or mosques, you need long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders.

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6
Sunglasses - Sunscreen - Lip Balm

Spy Optic Quanta Performance Sunglasses
Spy Optic Quanta Performance Sunglasses. Spy Optic

Maybe it wasn't sunny when you started, but a long day outdoors can take its toll on your skin. No matter the weather, apply sunscreen liberally if your walking tour includes lots of outdoor walking. Also research the area to know whether you will need insect repellent. But if you are doing a group walking tour, be courteous and limit any perfumes or other scents that someone in the group might be sensitive to.

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7
Camera/Mobile Phone Camera

Taking Selfie - Valencia, Spain
Taking Selfie - Valencia, Spain. Andy Smith/Cultura/Getty Images

You'll want to keep memories of the sights you see. As cell phone cameras get better and better, you may be able to use your phone rather than a dedicated camera. Be sure you have enough battery charge and memory capacity for photos and/or video. Check with the photo policies of any museums, churches, etc. Practice low-light shots without flash.

8
Guidebook and Maps

Touring with a Map and Guidebook
Touring with a Map and Guidebook. Frank and Helena/Vetta/Getty Images
If you have a live guide, it is still nice to have back-up materials along. You might get separated from the group or the guide might end up getting you all lost. In addition to printed materials, many guidebooks and maps are available as eBooks, audio books or apps for your smart phone or MP3 player.

9
Money Belt or Pouch

RooSport Carries Your Stuff
RooSport Carries Your Stuff. Wendy Bumgardner © 2013

If your walking tour is in a metro area known for pickpockets, secure your valuables in a money belt or a neck pouch underneath your clothing. Walking tour groups are prime targets. It's fine to keep a small amount of money in a pocket, but your credit cards, passport and larger money stash should be secured out of easy reach. Don't carry such items in a backpack, purse or unsecured pocket.

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10
Walking Stick or Hiking Poles

PaceMaker Stix Aerostride Poles
PaceMaker Stix Aerostride Poles. Wendy Bumgardner ©
You won't need a stick for an urban walking tour. But if your walking tour is going to include natural trails, a single hiking stick or a pair of trekking poles can help you maintain stability.

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11
Binoculars

A small pair of travel binoculars can help you spot wildlife and architectural details pointed out by your walking guide. If your walking tour is specifically geared toward birding or wildlife, binoculars are essential.

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