With the nights already drawing in and temperatures about to dip as we head into autumn and winter, it’s the time to re-assess your walking kit. While some fairweather walkers might choose to hang up their boots for the chillier season, we reckon that there are many great reasons for walking through the winter.
Benefits of winter walking
- New views and scenery: A walk that you have enjoyed in summer can take on a completely different feel and look when re-walked in the winter with frost or snow on the ground.
- New challenges: It’s important that you know how to navigate and cope in winter conditions but mostly it is about common sense and wearing the right clothing. (If in doubt, sign up to a winter walking skills course.) A walk in winter can offer new challenges, when compared to summer, such as testing your map reading skills and utilising crampons and ice axes.
- Stay fit all year round: If you only walk in the spring and summer you’ll find that your walking fitness decreases over the winter months. Walking all year round means you’ll be fit, whatever the season.
- Post-walk warm-up: There is little to beat the warmth of an open fire and a good pub meal after a walk in winter.
- Buy new walking gear: Few people can resist the chance to buy new kit. You’ll need winter walking boots, extra base layers and high quality wind and waterproof outer layers, as well as a range of accessories.
The Macs Team about to begin a second day's climb. Photo by Matt at Lakeland Mountain Guides.
What to wear for winter walking
- Much of your summer walking kit can be utilised in winter. You simply need to wear/take more layers with you. Layering lots of thinner clothes is more effective for staying warm than wearing just a couple of thicker layers.
- Wear several baselayers, such as Merino baselayers or Yak wool long-sleeved tops, from the skin out. Also see our blog about Benefits of baselayers. Carry a couple of extra baselayers with you in your walking rucksack. (You will probably need a bigger rucksack for winter walking.)
- A mid-layer windproof softshell jacket is also a good idea. In summer you might wear a softshell jacket as an outer layer but in the winter you will most likely wear the softshell underneath a waterproof jacket.
- A winter waterproof jacket should be durable, highly waterproof, windproof yet also breathable. Look for products made from tougher quality fabrics such as Gore-Tex Pro or eVent 3L. See our blog for suggestions of 5 great Gore-Tex Pro jackets.
- Waterproof overtrousers are a vital piece of kit. Wear these over your summer walking trousers or winter walking tights when the weather turns wet or windy.
- Winter walking boots will depend on where you plan to hike. Lower level trails demand good grip and waterproof fabric or leather. Higher-level boots should be crampon compatible because if you plan to hike where there will be snow or ice you may well need the assistance of grippy crampons. As a rule you are looking for three or four season winter walking boots.
- Take an insulated jacket, made of down or synthetic fill, for the times when you want to stop for a breather or something to eat. A jacket will be essential if you need to stay warm in an emergency.
- Essential clothing accessories include winter gloves (take spares in case one pair gets wet), winter warm socks (and spares), hat and a buff.
Winter walking equipment
- For navigation, wherever you plan to walk, it’s important to take a map and compass. A GPS gadget is a useful extra. It’s just as important that you know how to use a map and compass.
- For higher level walks, where you might meet snow and ice, add crampons and ice axes to your winter walking rucksack. Again, it’s vital that you know how to use these effectively.
- Many people now invest in avalanche safety equipment, including a probe and transceiver.
- A head torch is a good asset if you end up walking into the evening/night. Remember that winter walks can end up taking longer than summer walks and the daylight hours are shorter.
- A bivvy bag or survival bag could save your life if you end up in an emergency situation. (You should also know how to contact emergency services.)
- Pack extra food, water and a flask of tea or coffee for winter walks.
- And don't forget your camera or smartphone. You will be amazed by how beautiful the winter countryside looks – and it would be a shame not to capture this on camera.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you need more information about walking in winter.
- This is an updated version of a post originally published in September 2014