I love going out walking at any time of year, whatever the weather! But when you go out walking in winter there are things you need to consider that you wouldn’t necessarily think about when heading out in summer, so here are my top winter walking tips:
- Always check the weather forecast BEFORE you head out (check the day before and again in the morning before you leave in case anything has changed), particularly if you are going out into the countryside or up into the mountains. And be aware that weather conditions in the mountains can change very, very rapidly.
- Don’t head out in conditions that are outside your ability/experience. If you are mainly used to hiking marked trails in summer, don’t try and head up into the mountains in extreme weather conditions. If you aren’t used to navigating in good weather, you are going to really struggle in the snow when paths and significant features you would normally use for navigation are hidden.
- Do you have the correct kit for the conditions? If you are heading high up in the mountains in the middle of January, do you need crampons and an ice axe (and, more importantly, are you confident in using them)?
- Make sure you have a map and a compass – and that you can use them. GPS or phone maps are all well and good but they are not always reliable in the countryside where mobile signal is often not that good. Being able to read a map is even more important in winter than it is in summer as whiteouts can happen without warning, meaning you cannot see where you need to go. The best way to get home safely in these conditions is with a map and compass…
- Take even more food/drink than you would in summer as you tend to burn more calories in winter just trying to stay warm. Plus, walks tend to take longer in bad weather so you may be out longer than you had originally planned if you’re not careful.
- Wear bright clothing – in an emergency it makes you much easier to spot (particularly against a snowy backdrop).
- Layer your clothing so you can remove layers if you get too hot or add extra layers if you get chilly. Lots of thin layers are much better for keeping you warm than just one or two thick ones.
- Always pack a full set of waterproofs, as you never know when the rain/snow might come down heavily.
- Take a pair of goggles (as well as sunglasses) – they will protect your eyes better than sunglasses in driving rain or snow.
- Pack spare gloves and a hat so you can change them if they get too wet. You lose a lot of heat through these parts of your body so keeping them warm is important.
- Always tell someone exactly where you are going and approximately what time you expect to be back so that they can raise the alarm if you don’t return when expected.
For more information on what to take in your backpack when you go out walking in winter, check out my previous post: Winter Activities: Winter Walking
If you are not used to winter walking, why not take a course to prepare you – there are lots available and they will give you the confidence to go out in any conditions?
Do you like getting outside in winter? Do you have any useful tips to add to my list? Let me know in the comments below…
Happy winter walking!