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Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team (DWMRT) is a voluntary rescue service that is available 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies in the upland areas of Dublin and Wicklow. The iconic outdoor brand Helly Hansen is the exclusive supplier of all apparel to DWMRT. We recently went for a hike with Fiona Kelly, who is a member of the rescue team, to discuss all things DWMRT.
DWMRT’s mission is “to provide a professional-standard, voluntary emergency rescue service. The team comprises 60 highly-trained, motivated, volunteer mountain rescuers, coming from all walks of life, and united by a common love of the outdoors. The team has been based in Roundwood, Co Wicklow since our foundation in 1984.”
As outdoor enthusiasts, we often forget that the DWMRT is there for us, day and night, no matter the weather. That being said, many callouts that the team receives are avoidable. We recently caught up with DWMRT member Fiona Kelly for a hike and ended up learning so much about how we can help to alleviate the pressure on the team by taking some really simple safety measures before we head out into the hills.
1. Know where you are going – As well as knowing where you are going make sure that others know where you are going as well! A map and compass is great but it is essential that you know how to use them. If you are new to hiking, it is well worth taking a mountain skills course which will ensure you have mastered the basics when it comes to navigation. There are a number of great apps available on phones and GPS devices for planning your route but remember a phone is not always 100% reliable. Joining a group with an experienced leader is a great idea if you are starting out.
2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – We would recommend pacing yourself on your introduction to hiking. Although they can both be classified as hiking, a route that is primarily on fire road is very very different from one that is on open mountains that requires navigation. Do not tackle something outside your comfort zone too early on, and if you are upping the difficulty of your hikes perhaps seek a hiking group out.
3. Have DWMRT’s number on your phone – The best and easiest way to get onto the team is to dial 999. This will set the ball in motion and result in the team getting notified!
4. Wear good kit – Fiona told us that approximately 50% of the callouts they receive are probably avoidable and are a result of poor kit choices. Regular runners are not adequate footwear in the hills and having boots with proper ankle support would sort out 30-40% of DWMRT’s callouts.
Your kit list will greatly vary depending on a few key factors; group size (or if you are solo), time of year, weather conditions, and length of expected walk time. There are however a few items that you should always have with you regardless of these variables. Here Fiona shares what is in her kit bag for a moderate two-hour hike:
According to Fiona these things alone would prevent a huge number of callouts to the team and having the necessary safety gear when you head for the hills is not only about your safety, you may encounter someone who needs assistance!
Kit can seem like a daunting prospect when you are just starting out. However, investing in good quality kit is well worth the investment. Not only will it help to keep you comfortable in the hills, it will also last. Opting to buy good kit means it will last for years. We are still wearing some of our favourite Helly Hansen pieces 10+ years after we bought them. DWMRT are also fans of the brand. As the exclusive provider for all apparel to DWMRT, Helly Hansen kit is worn by all members of the team during callouts in some of the most challenging weather conditions that Ireland has to offer.
Here is a snapshot of what we wore for our recent jaunt in the Dublin hills.
On our feet – Cascade Low HT Shoe: The Cascade Low is a waterproof, stylish, and very durable walking shoe. We were very impressed with the comfort of these shoes and have worn them on many hikes since our walk with Fiona. They would be most at home on trails as the midsole is quite accommodating for hard surfaces but the tread on the outsole will deal with some light mountain track walking. We LOVE the red colourway!
On our top – HH LIFA Active Solen: Helly Hansen released the Solen range in 2020, so we were delighted to be able to test it out. The LIFA fabric moved sweat away from my body keeping me dry and comfortable and the S.Cafe technology (which is recycled coffee grounds) gave me +50 UPF sun protection when needed. What is more, Lifa Solen tops are all made from 60% recycled polyester which is another win for the environment.
On our legs – The Brono Shorts are an excellent summer hiking (and multi-purpose) short. On our walk, we wore these shorts and loved them. They fit snug but not at all tight and the softshell fabric is very stretchy which makes them comfortable for longer hikes or days of travel. The hand pockets have a soft lining and are well sized. There was a single zip pocket on the right leg which is nicely positioned and well-sized to store all your valuables.
Jacket – Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket – La pièce de résistance, the jacket. I have been fortunate enough to wear and use many different types and models of rain jackets over the past few years, including three other jackets from Helly Hansen. The Verglas Infinity Shell Jacket is by far my favourite. It is lightweight yet super durable. The jacket uses Helly Hansen’s LIFA Infinity technology which means that it has been made responsibly without the use of chemicals and its outer face fabric material is recycled. This makes it a more environmentally friendly option for those looking for a rain jacket
Insulation Jacket – Odin Insulator Jacket – A jacket that is part of Helly Hansen’s backcountry range, the insulator is a super stretchy lightweight insulation layer that is perfect for high output activities in very cold weather or lower output activities in mild to cool weather. Also due to the stretch fabric on the exterior this jacket can be worn casually, making it a great year-round jacket for the outdoor inclined.
Product We Love: The Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity
It is of paramount importance that when you are heading outdoors that you make sure you know where you are going, and that you also let other people know where you are going. The Irish hills need to be respected, much like all mountains and outdoor spaces.
Those looking for some inspiration on where to hike should check out the Helly Hansen Trail Finder. You will be able to find great trails and insider tips from experts in the industry.
If you’re just getting started with hiking we would highly recommend joining a hiking group. There are loads of them around these days. This way you will be introduced to new routes without having to worry too much about navigation. If you are unable to find a nearby hiking group or want to try some solo hiking for the first time we would highly recommend looking up a route on the internet. Hiiker is a great app that has thousands of hiking routes preloaded on it for you to follow. You can simply follow the routes on your phone or download them onto a GPS unit like a Garmin if you have one. One of our favourite features of Hiiker is that the routes are graded. This means you will not end up tackling a trail that is outside your capabilities.
We went for a walk around Cruagh. A Coillte forest that is in the Dublin Mountains. It is a post-work-wander favorite of ours. The trail is very good quality being mostly on fire road with a small section on boardwalk and mountain trail. The walk was about 5km in length and took us just over an hour at a leisurely pace. There is a good-sized car park in the forest, but be sure to check the closing times if you are planning an evening walk, allow plenty of time! On weekends there is even a coffee truck there that serves a mean cuppa Joe!
Prior to our walk with Fiona, we put out a call for questions over on our Instagram. Be sure to follow us over there for future opportunities to have your question answered, and also to be the first to know about giveaways! Here are some of your questions along with Fiona’s answers!
Who are the DWMRT?
Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team are a group of about 70 volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds. But the common theme is that we all love the outdoors and we all want to give back to the community.
How many callouts do you get?
We probably average between 100 and 120 callouts per year. That’s gone up significantly in the past five or six years. Covid has changed it actually. Before the pandemic, most callouts would have been a Saturday or a Sunday whereas now we regularly receive midweek calls which makes it a lot more challenging logistically.
What to do if you encounter an incident?
If you encounter an incident or one of your party gets injured the first thing to do is called 999. Secondly, if it is safe to do so move the casualty up off the ground. Someone is not going to die from a broken leg but hypothermia is a real danger. Try and conserve your phone battery as much as possible. Shut down all your apps and turn off anything that you know drains the battery so our callout officer or the emergency services can remain in contact with you.
How important is good gear?
Invest in really good gear if you can and think about cost per wear. I have jackets that are eight years old that I have looked after that are regularly at the bottom of my bag. I know they’re going to keep me dry. They’re going to wick away moisture no matter what so I can just rely on them.
What gear do you use?
Helly Hansen is the exclusive supplier of all apparel to the DWMRT, for which we are really thankful. Everything we are issued from Helly is all of the highest standard so we know we can rely on them.
Top gear picks from HH?
I really love all the kit we have been given for a number of different reasons. Keeping your core warm and dry is really really important. So for me the Insulator that we wear is standard issue kit now and it’s absolutely brilliant. The Infinity Shell as well is really really good, I can’t recommend enough.
How can people support DWMRT?
By Matthew McConnell
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