Your coastal checklist: Top tips for spring adventures

After a long winter, we’re all itching to get out and about. If the coast is calling you this spring, get more from your adventuring with our handy tips and safety advice.

Walkers hiking along the Jurassic coast in Dorset

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

Put your best foot forward.

Coastal paths can get really slippery with wet grass, mud and rocks. Get a grip with some good four-season hiking boots that fit your feet and are fit for purpose.

Outdoor shops can help you get the perfect fit, but some useful features to look out for in a coastal hiking boot are:

  • deep and wide lugs on the sole to help minimise any build-up of mud
  • a pronounced braking heel for downhill sections on scree or loose rocks
  • full-height ankle support for ankle stability on those uneven paths
  • a stiffer midsole for more support and less toe fatigue on steep paths
  • a thick rubber strip (the person working in your local outdoors shop will probably call it a 'rand') around the boot to help protect the upper from scuffs by rocks
  • Gore-Tex lining to keep moisture out.
A four season hiking boots

Photo: RNLI/Anna Burn

A four season hiking boots

Plan ahead

Before you set out, make sure you have all the information you need. Check sunset and tide times, as well as weather forecasts, so that you don’t get caught out in the dark or cut off by a rising tide after heading around a rocky outcrop or over a sand bar. Each year, our crews rescue around 499 people cut off by tidal changes.

When you’re going somewhere for the first time, check for local advice online or with local points of contact such as tourist information centres or harbour masters.

For more general coastal safety advice, take a look at our Know the risks pages.

Newquay inshore lifeboat crew rescue people cut off by the tide at Whipsiderry, Cornwall

Photo: Cornish Guardian/Terry Barnecutt

Newquay inshore lifeboat crew rescue people cut off by the tide at Whipsiderry, Cornwall

Take layers

Spring in our temperate climate is famously unpredictable. Be prepared for changeable weather by layering your clothing. Useful items for the wardrobe include: a lightweight long-sleeved base layer, a wind-stopping mid layer and a waterproof jacket. 

Choosing a lightweight Gore-Tex shell jacket will mean you’re more likely to carry it with you than a bulky, heavy coat. Having a cosy jumper or fleece mid-layer means you can pack the shell away and recover a bit of breathability when it’s not drizzling. Bright colours will make it more likely that you’re seen, should you need help.

Spring sometimes surprises us with hot bursts of weather, so be ready for sun too. Pack sunglasses and a hat. And take a small refillable bottle with a little suncream in it, to make sure you’re still able to protect your skin, without having to carry a bulky bottle. Even on an overcast day, exposure to the elements can cause skin damage.

And pack smart

Besides clothing, what other things does every coastal explorer need from time to time?

A fully charged phone 

Even with no signal, your phone will attempt to connect to other networks for an emergency call.

Snacks and a hot drink 

If you’re out for more than a couple of hours, your core temperature can drop, draining your energy with your warmth. Trail mix or flapjacks can help restore energy – and a cup of tea never goes amiss!

A head torch

The days are getting longer now, but you never know what will happen while you’re out. A head torch will save your phone’s battery life if you get delayed and will keep your hands free for any stumbles. 

A whistle

A simple and inexpensive way to attract attention and cut through the rumble of wind and waves, if people are searching for you.

An Ordnance Survey (OS) map

Some coastal hiking routes will take you inland. If your journey leads you away from the sea, an OS Map can help you find your way. If you learn to read the contour lines, you’ll have prior warning about that lovely steep hill up ahead too!

Keep your four-legged buddy close

Each year we get called to around 110 shouts involving animals. You’ll often notice signs at gates along the coastal path requesting that dogs are kept on leads – this is because dogs sometimes attack sheep, injuring them or causing them to bolt of off cliffs in fear. And even dogs used to coastal walks have been known to suddenly veer off the edge of a cliff.

St Davids D class inshore lifeboat Myrtle and Trevor Gurr

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

St Davids D class inshore lifeboat Myrtle and Trevor Gurr, which rescued a dog head-butted off a cliff by a sheep last year!

The safest thing to do is keep your pal on a lead when near drops or fast-flowing water.

But what if the worst happens and your buddy ends up in trouble in the water, or stuck in mud? Don’t go after them. Instead look around for a spot they may be able to get to safely, then call them. They will probably get out by themselves.

If you’re worried about them, don’t hesitate to call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. Our crews are only too happy to step in and prevent you coming into harm’s way – not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling of reuniting a dog with its human. 

You can see more rescues of dogs and get our safety advice on our dog walking page.

Support local

Coastal communities often hold hidden treasures when it comes to food and drink. From regional dishes to secret gardens and unique outlooks, if you’re stopping for a drink or bite to eat choose a local business and help build resilience in local economies.

Friends enjoying a hot drink together

Photo: Niki Holt

Friends enjoying a hot drink in Marwood Studio’s secret garden, Brighton

Or go al fresco

Heading out along the coast, away from the towns and villages, you may not have the option of popping into a local café. But that’s not such a bad thing – there’s nothing quite like food eaten outdoors!

And while sandwiches are the usual favourite to pop into a backpack, if it’s a colder day you might want some warmth as well as nourishment. In some areas you’re allowed to use a small stove (and those packable food pouches from outdoor stores are better than they used to be, if you need a lightweight option!), but there are also companies producing excellent insulated food tubs. I like to take last night’s leftovers out in mine, to enjoy when I need a pit-stop.

However you enjoy your wild dining, be responsible: check you’re permitted to use a stove and put your rubbish away as you make it, to prevent it from flying away in a gust of wind.