We analyse the impact of rising inflation on a walker’s biggest expenses – and give some tips to keep your costs down.
UK inflation hit a 40-year high in April, as millions of people faced a £700-per-year increase in energy costs and food prices rose 3.5% month-on-month.
But it’s not just everyday essentials that are affected by the rising cost of living. If you make regular trips to the mountains to feed your hillwalking habit (and even if you live relatively close to a range of hills), you will inevitably see your expenses rise, as the cost of car and train travel, food, accommodation and gear is set to increase too.
To help with your budgeting, we’ve looked at some of these key areas and worked out the cost increases you are likely to expect in each one – and we give a few tips for keeping costs down.
Rising oil prices are one of the biggest drivers of global inflation, and the last few months have seen meteoric price rises at the pump. These calculations are based on the fuel consumption rates of the average UK car (36mpg for petrol vehicles and 43mpg for diesels).
Return car journey London – Keswick (630 miles):
April 2021: £100.64 – April 2022: £129.18
April 2021: £86.08 – April 2022: £117.66
Return car journey Glasgow – Fort William
April 2021: £42.08 – April 2022: £54.02
April 2021: £36 – April 2022: £49.20
Return car journey Birmingham – Llanberis
April 2021: £39.88 – April 2022: £51.20
April 2021: £34.12 – April 2022: £46.62
We’ve calculated the prices below based on an average rail fare inflation of 3.8% from April 2021 to April 2022, but that isn’t the full picture – fares are predicted to soar by up to 12% early next year in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI). These prices only apply to tickets purchased on the day. You can save significantly by buying in advance.
Manchester – Penrith return
April 2021: £52.50 – April 2022: £54.50
London – Aviemore return
April 2021: £184 – April 2022: £191
Bristol – Bangor return
April 2021: £89.90 – April 2022: £93.40
Edinburgh – Corrour:
April 2021: £63.50 – April 2022: £65.90
Grocery price inflation hit an 11-year high in April – so how will your pre-hill supermarket sweep be impacted?
April 2021: £1.62 – April 2022: £1.74 (7.4%)
April 2021: £1.84 – April 2022: £1.96 (6.5%)
Pre-packed cheese sandwich (Waitrose Essentials)
April 2021: £1.40 – April 2022: £1.55 (10.7%)
April 2021: £0.72 – April 2022: £0.83 (15.3%)
April 2021: £1.98 – April 2022: £2.25 (13.6%)
Spring / summer 2021: £12.50-£24.00 – Spring / summer 2022: £13.40-£26
The accommodation sector has seen some of the biggest price rises over the past year, driven in part by a staycation boom. Price variations make it tricky to calculate real values – but, on average, these are the percentage increases seen between April 2021 and April 2022, according to government figures:
Holiday centres, campsites and youth hostels: 22.9%
Hotels, motels and inns: 10.7%
However, it is worth nothing that the above figures group different types of accommodation together and may not be representative of price rises within individual sectors. Representatives of the hostel sector, for example, have provided The Great Outdoors with information that suggests price rises in hostels may have been less than the 22% ONS suggests.
Independent Hostels UK says: “Over the last three years the average increase in prices charged by hostels and bunkhouses has been between 2.1% and 2.4% per year, and approximately 50% of places have made no price increase at all.”
We have also seen data which suggests that the price of dormitory accommodation in the Hostelling Scotland network has actually dropped by 1% since 2019, while the average private room rate has only risen by 4%.
Dominique Drewe-Martin, Chair of the Board of Directors for Scottish Hostels, has also pointed to what she claims is a flaw in the way the ONS figure of a price rise of 22.9% between April 2021 and April 22 has been calculated.
She said: “In April 2021, no hostels were open in either England or Wales. The only hostels open in April 2021 were independent hostels in Scotland, and only for 5 days.
“You cannot compare 2021 to 2022 prices. The product on sale during the five days of April 2021 when hostels were allowed to be open was a very different product from that on sale in April 2022. No shared dormitory accommodation was available in April 2021. Therefore no valid price comparison is possible.
“If anything prices have dropped – in April 2021 you could only offer private rooms, now you can offer cheaper dorm beds as well, so the average price of a bed at a hostel has dramatically dropped since April 2021.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the cost of ‘equipment for sport and open-air recreation’ has risen 9.9% in the past year. Here are the stats for clothing more generally:
Footwear for women: 7.9%
Footwear for men: 5.9%
Cleaning, repair and reproofing: 9.3%
5 ways to beat the cost of living crisis
1) Plan in advance
Not much of a help if you fancy an impromptu trip to the hills, but advance fares are a surefire way of keeping travel costs down. As an example, a return ticket from London to Aviemore cost £191 on the day but only £139.40 booked two months in advance – a saving of over £50. Accommodation is often cheaper, too, if you take advantage of advance offers.
2) Embrace wild camping
With accommodation prices typically on the rise, it might be time to brush up on your wild camping skills. Here are a few tips for beginners.
3) Hire, borrow and repair
If you’re in the market for new camping or outdoor gear, think about repairing or hiring instead of buying new. Plenty of brands offer repair services – Alpkit, KEEN and Patagonia among them – but check first to see if there’s a free local repair café operating in your area. The UK is also home to an increasingly widespread ‘library of things’ network. The idea is that you sign up to hire kit, including tents and other camping gear, for free or at a discounted price.
4) What’s on the menu?
Service station snacks can really push up the price of a hillwalking trip. Greggs, McDonald’s and Domino’s have all warned of price hikes over the last few months, and the cost of prepared food such as packaged sandwiches is rising quickly as well. Preparing your own camping meals is almost always cheaper than buying ready-made. A dehydrator is the easiest way to pre-make camping meals, but an oven set to the lowest setting will do the job too.
5) Make the most of discounts
If you’re already a member of a walking group or an organisation such as the Ramblers, BMC, or Mountaineering Scotland, check what benefits you can take advantage of. The BMC, for example, offers 10% off in a range of big-name outdoor stores, plus discounts on car hire and walking holiday providers. And, on the subject of offers, here at The Great Outdoors we’re currently offering six issues for a discounted price of £15. That’s just £2.50 per issue.