This depends upon the type of walk you are going on and the likely weather.
For easy access and easy walks on good paths and in good weather, you can generally get away with normal clothing, as long as it's comfortable (especially the shoes). In fact doing an easy walk around town in full walking gear will probably lead to you getting some funny looks!
However, as you progress up through leisurely, moderate and strenuous walks, and as the weather conditions worsen, it is increasingly important that you wear appropriate clothing.
In mountainous areas, the weather is very changable, so you should bring clothing with you suitable for a range of weather conditions - even if it seems like a nice sunny day when you leave the house, it could be raining and windy at the top of the mountain.
Whilst we do not like turning people away from walks, walk leaders may refuse to allow you to join them on a walk if they feel you are not appropriately dressed (this is for your own safety), so:
- Bring a sturdy, supportive pair of walking boots. For harder walks, these should be properly worn in, and waterproof boots will defintely lead to a more enjoyable experience in bad weather.
- Bring a good windproof coat. If the weather is bad, you will almost certainly get wet and you will need a coat that keeps the wind off, as the combination of the wind and being wet is what leads to you getting cold.
- Bring a series of comfortable, thin layers that can be worn or removed as appropriate.
- Bring a good pair of gloves and a hat to keep your extremities warm.
- Try to use technical clothing that dries quickly and helps remove sweat from your body.
- Whilst hot sunny days are less common in the UK than many people would like, if it does look like the sun might make an appearance, remember to bring a sun hat and wear lighter clothing (but with the caveat that you have something warmer to wear if necessary).
- Do not wear cotton or denim. Cotton will draw heat from your body when it is wet, causing you to get cold even if you have layers on top of the cotton. Denim will stay wet for a long time and cause your legs to get cold and be uncomfortable.
- Whilst less important, waterproof trousers and waterproof socks can be useful when the weather is bad.
- Whilst walking socks have improved, wearing two pairs or a double layered pair can help reduce the chance of blisters.
Remember that a poor choice of clothing is one of the best ways of ruining a day's walking and can be potentially fatal! Also remember to ensure that any clothing you are not wearing is stored somewhere waterproof - there's not much point bringing spare clothes if they are sodden before you put them on!
You don't need to spend a lot to start with - layers and comfort are the most important along with a good windproof coat and comfortable boots.
Keep an eye on the weather and contact the walk leader if you're unsure.
More information is available on the Ramblers website.