If you’ve been asleep for the past few weeks you may be forgiven for not realising that winter is upon us. With winter generally comes danger for many people, including walkers. Winter is also the time of year when lots of people take up walking as a hobby, thanks to Christmas presents or because they have made a new years resolution to get fit!
Either way, the more walkers, ramblers, hikers and backpackers we have the better. Not only do these groups get fit and stay fit but they also get to enjoy more of our amazing countryside.
However, as I’ve said above winter can be dangerous. For walkers there are many things to take into account from the cold to slippery surfaces. Below are my Top Ten Tips for Winter Walking.
- Wrap Up Warm – this as with many of my points may sound obvious, but it is normally the obvious that are over looked. Ensure that you layer your clothing, the thicker the layers the better. Your layers of clothing should include Thermals, a Warm Fleece, a Soft Shell Jacket and a Waterproof Jacket.
- Don’t Loose Your Footing – footwear is one of the most vital aspects of any walker’s kit. Incorrect footwear cannot only lead to injuries but can also mean you may get much colder much sooner as your feet can loose heat very quickly. You need to address three questions when thinking about footwear for winter walking; 1) Are my boots waterproof? 2) Are the boots suited for walking the distance and terrain you are likely to be on? 3) Is the grip good enough and if not do you have crampons?
- Fingers, Toes and Nose! – ok maybe not nose, but it sounded good. Taking care of your extremities is vital, you can loose a lot of heat through them and in doing so you will get very cold very quickly. To combat the cold always have some nice thick walking socks, a pair of gloves (wind-proof preferably) and a nice warm hat. Also it’s a really good idea to carry spares of these as you never know when you may need them.
- Plan Plan Plan – it is vital that you take your time and plan your walk. It is even more important that you leave a copy of your planned route with someone who isn’t making the trip, this means in emergencies you will be easier to find. You should leave a copy of your route even if you are only taking a short route and / or walk the route on a regular basis.
- Take a Torch … and Batteries! – during winter it gets dark quickly and early, it is easy to get caught out and about in the dark. It is therefore vital that you carry a torch (and / or headtorch) with you at all times when winter walking. It is also very important that you don’t forget to take spare batteries for your torch, it isn’t worth the risk of getting stuck on a mountain in the dark! This also reminds me ensure your mobile is fully charged and again if you have a spare battery take one.
- An Ice Axe? – yes really. An ice axe can be a very important piece of gear for walking during winter, providing that you know how to use it properly. Ice Axes will help you both up and down a hill/mountain and will really aid your progress … it also means should you need to dig a shelter you have a piece of gear to do so. However, it should be said in most areas this isn’t really necessary.
- Walking Poles – now these can be a help or hindrance depending on various factors. If you are hill walking then they can really help you get about, if you are walking on flats then you will probably not need them. Remember to check the pole tips and even take spares if you can.
- Survival Bags – these are a cheap and cheerful way to get out of stormy weather fast. If there is more than one of you on a walk why not invest in an Emergency Storm Shelter, a little bit dearer but they are much more comfortable.
- Don’t Get Caught Out – winter means 2 things, it is cold and the weather is changeable. It is important therefore that you check the weather before you go out for a walk, and I don’t mean look out of the window. Checking the weather isn’t a chore, simply check on the metoffice for the latest weather and weather warnings where you are walking. If it is forecast for heavy snow or rain you may want to reconsider your plans, remembering if you change route to tell someone!
- Enjoy the Walk – the UK has some of the most amazing scenery, both in and out of urban areas. Why not take a camera along with you and take some lovely snap!
If you can’t find a route you want to walk near you this winter, why not take a look at the walks being planned by the Rambling Association. Each year they organise lots of events for walkers of all levels and ages, click here to take a look at walks near you.