Trail Magazine Subscription Review: The Best Hiking Magazine Out There!

Dec 16, 2018 | Hiking, Reviews

I’ve been reading Trail Magazine for the last 2 years now so I thought it was time for a proper and thorough review. I’m sure that if you’re reading this you’re most likely an avid hiker/outdoors person, or someone who is keen to get into the addictive lifestyle involving fresh air and the mountains.

Trail is an amazing place to start and, quite frankly, is a must-read for anyone who enjoys hiking or even walking in the British Isles. I’ll break this review down into sections and talk about what exactly Trail offers, why it is great, and what value you can get from purchasing this magazine. I’ll also briefly touch on where I think it could do slightly better – just want to make it clear though that I love the magazine and won’t be cancelling my subscription anytime soon!

While Trail Magazine updates and tailors its content to readers’ taste and (I’m assuming) preference, it more or less sticks to the same cohesive layout every issue. I love this because when I get each issue I have a decent idea of how it’s going to be organised and can flick to my favourite part first. I always end up reading the entire issue but never from start to finish! It is a magazine after all, not a book.

I’m going to break this review down and make it the most comprehensive Trail Magazine review on the web!

The Cover


Naturally, if you’re browsing around the “magazines & newspapers” section of your local newsagents, the first thing you’ll be looking at are the covers!

The Trail Magazine cover is always colourful and full of information about the issue. What I love is that it gives you loads of nice snippets and excerpts but without making the cover feel too cluttered.

cover of trail magazine
The cover usually has an epic picture! June 2018 issue

You know that impression you get when a magazine cover looks overwhelming and has far too much writing? It’s really annoying and rarely entices me to read further! I think this about several of the fitness and travel mags I see in stores.

Trail has got this balance perfect and it’s always beautifully combined with a spectacular piece of photography from some remote, mountainous corners of the UK. You also get a feel for exactly what you’re about to read before even opening the magazine.

The next section you’ll get to is the contents. This is clearly structured giving a clear and broken down overview of what’s to come. There’s also normally a small note from the editor in each issue.

 

Writing Style


Personable, friendly and casual. Again, Trail has hit the nail on the head and has an excellent balance between informative writing but in a ridiculously friendly and “easy to read” tone.

While reading this magazine, you’ll always feel included in the content and made part of the Trail community. They have a knack of writing to cater to the reader and make everything about you and how you can benefit from the content.

There are several writers for Trail and while each one naturally has their own style, there’s not one I would say I dislike or will ever actively skip. Each writer brings something slightly different to the table whether it be from background, experience, or their approach to hiking.

Use of Photos


Being an avid lover of photography and landscape photos, Trail is a delight in this department. From the front cover right up until the last page, there are hundreds of spectacular landscape photos of the British hills.

Again, Trail have got the perfect writing/images balance throughout the magazine. While there are some “text heavy” sections, most of these are confined to guest posts or competition winning posts. Some of the photos on display really help you appreciate the time and patience that goes into capturing that perfect landscape shot.

For all keen or aspiring photographers out there, you can actually use the magazine as an inspiration. It has given me heaps of ideas for mountain photos such as the different angles and compositions.

They also have some really cool photography competitions where they give away plenty of epic prizes!

Content Layout


As already mentioned, the magazine is split into various sections and, while the content does vary from month to month, there are certain things that show up in every issue. The contents page is clear and makes it really easy to navigate your way around the magazine.

contents page of trail
The contents page is always clear and enticing!

Generally speaking, the content structure follows something like this:

Basecamp

This starts off the issue with certain things like “walk of the month” and other recommended walks for whatever time of year it is.

Know How

They have a really cool “know how” sections which is rammed full of various hiking tips and tricks.

They’ve really got it all covered from things as simple as “how to keep your footing” to things more trivial (but important!) as “how to save a sheep” and “how to get out of a bog“.

There are several new things in each issue and it just goes to show how much thought goes into the magazine. There are always new things to learn.

Adventures

This is probably the most text-heavy section with mountain anecdotes and walk reports. Most of them are well worth the read and each one tends to tell a different story of a mountain experience.

They often throw in an overseas hike which I particularly like. My favourite so far has been a documentation of climbing the highest mountain in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gear

This one is quite self-explanatory, it’s all about the different types of gear out there! They dig into the latest things on the market and also have a “tried and tested” section where Trail members try out gear and write about it.

It’s not just your bog-standard hiking gear (although this is part of it), one issue they even reviewed electrically heated jackets!

Another awesome bonus is that they quite often include an extensive gear guide with at least one of the issues in winter and summer!

trail gear guide extra magazine
This is one of the excellent winter gear guides

Walks for this Month

The end of every issue offers some route cards which document and act as a sort of guide to some selected hikes each month. While I’d never recommend you base your hike around a piece of paper and small map, I do find these cards great for up and coming hike ideas!

They describe the hikes concisely and give plenty of relevant information such as starting point, map required and difficulty.

 

Engagement With Readers


I already kind of alluded to how the magazine is very personable and makes it a really useful experience for the readers. While there are some personal stories, you can still benefit from them purely from an inspirational point of view.

If reading an issue of Trail Magazine doesn’t have you itching to get out into the hills then nothing will.

Use of Ads

Like every magazine out there, Trail does make use of different ads but certainly not in an intrusive sort of way. They are often located on the inside of the cover and on one or two more pages throughout the issue. I don’t find them irritating at all, if anything they are useful because they tend to be advertising some sort of outdoors brand (for example Craghoppers).

Competitions and Extras

Trail always has some kind of cool competition for readers to get involved in.

The latest one (which I think is great) is the Everest Anywhere challenge. This is a challenge that gets you climbing the height of Everest over the space of one year. A great goal to aim for if you’re getting into hiking!

If you want to see some pics from this then simply type #EverestAnywhere into Instagram. At the time of writing there are over 2100 tags!

There’s a summit selfie competition where you send in a selfie of you (and friends) on the summit of any hill/mountain in the world. Trail will pick the best of the month and post them in the issue!

The day a mountain changed my life offers you the chance to get your article featured in Trail! Just write a 400-word excerpt about any experience you have in the mountains (and how it changed your life). Trail pick the best one and publish it every month as well as giving you £100 worth of Mountain Equipment kit!

Photo of the year is….well a competition for the year’s best photo! (check if there is photo of the  month as well). Some of these pics are seriously impressive pieces of work so you’ve been warned – competition is high! (are there prizes?)

 



Room For Improvement


I wouldn’t consider writing a review for any product without throwing in a bit of constructive criticism. Trail wouldn’t be as amazing as it is without striving for improvement with every issue over the years!

However, after much thought and perusing through several of the last year’s issues it’s actually really tough to come up with anything at all.

The one thing I’ll say is that I would love to see more about Scotland and the Munros in there. While they are still covered in some depth, there are so many incredible hikes and walks that haven’t been covered yet.

Another thing I’d like to see is maybe a bit more about actual climbing (as opposed to just hiking).

I know, I know. Trail is a hiking, not climbing, magazine but it’s something I’m starting to get into so some tips would be useful!

It wouldn’t surprise me if Trail has it all covered in future issues!

 

Competitors


Surprisingly there aren’t actually that many popular magazines that have the UK hiking niche covered. Trail pretty much dominates the market, the only one that comes close is Country Walking but this doesn’t count because it’s from the same publishers as Trail!

The main competitor is The Great Outdoors. This is more of a “literary” take on hiking and the outdoors in general. While it does make for some interesting reading, I don’t think it comes close to Trail in terms of reader involvement and ease of reading.

Lakeland Walker is another great outdoors magazine but it is, as you may have guessed, solely dedicated to the Lake District! While the Lake District is stunning, this magazine isn’t much use if you do most of your walking in the Highlands of Scotland for example.

 

Cost And Where I Can Get It


At the time of writing, each individual issue of Trail costs £4.60 in the shops. If you’re a keen hiker and want a subscription then I HIGHLY recommend Great Magazines. They have great deals on Trail Magazine and dozens more. I’m also subscribed to Nat Geo Traveller through Great Magazines.

Currently, you save £12.80 per year if you get an annual subscription. That’s almost 3 free issues!

Another amazing perk of subscribing to Trail is that you get a year unlimited access to online OS Maps! The OS Map subscription normally costs £25.99 so again it’s a huge saving.

These deals vary. I got my latest annual subscription for £35 in an exclusive summer deal, there are also great rates going around Black Friday time!
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2 Comments

  1. Cool magazine.

    The design does look good, and I know what you mean by all the writing on the cover, really does not appeal to me either.

    Trail seems to cover everything you could need in a hiking magazine, probably why you mention their is not much competition for them. Not sure anyone game to compete with them.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot for the comment!

      Yes, it’s definitely dominating the market as far as UK hiking goes! I’d highly recommend Trail magazine to anyone who is into hiking in Scotland or the UK in general 🙂

      Reply

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