Walking in the winter

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Posted on: 12 December 2013 by Tom Nelson

Walking for fun is often an activity that people associate with the summer months of the year. However we don't want to have to stop all of our past times due to the winter conditions. Hence this article is all about what you will need for going out walking in the winter.

Winter Walking Equipment: What Do You Need?

Whether you’re planning on a gentle walk or a full on mountain climb up Scafell Pike, you’ll need to be fully prepared for every eventuality, especially in the winter months. The key to winter walking is to be prepared, but also to be able to make the right decision when confronted with the conditions on the day.

What to Wear

The clothing you wear is very important in any conditions, but is particularly important in winter. It’s easy to forget that weather conditions can change rapidly when you’re in the mountains, so you need to have provisions for every situation. The best way to prepare is with layers. This way you can take them off or put them on as the weather changes.

-          Your base layer should draw the sweat away from the skin, so you feel warm and comfortable. If sweat is absorbed by your base layer and it doesn’t have a wicking action, then it will simply sit in the material and go cold. Therefore, synthetic materials like polyester and microfiber fabrics don’t absorb moisture but will transfer it well. Wool also works well as a base layer, but it may not feel comfortable next to the skin, as some wools can be scratchy. Your base layer should be flush against your skin

-          Your mid layer is for warmth, and should therefore be made from an insulating material. To make temperature adjustment easy, wear lots of thin layers. Wool is a good insulating material as it traps air easily, even when wet, and transfers moisture. Synthetic fleece has many of the qualities of wool, but it’s lighter. Your mid layer doesn’t have to be completely flush, as air circulation can help evaporate moisture and keep you warm.

-          Your outer layer should be waterproof and windproof, to protect you from the elements. You should find the right breathability for the environment. If, for instance, you’re only expecting short bursts of rain or wind, your outer shell can be less breathable, but if you need long term protection your outer shell can be more breathable.

You can find clothing suitable for mountain walking in a variety of stores, though if you’re looking for quality, brand names like Regatta are a great investment. It goes without saying that sturdy walking boots are a must, as well as hats, gloves and scarves.

Equipment

Regardless of whether you’re in a group of ten or there’s just a few of you, you all need your own equipment and food. It’s all very well relying on someone else while they’re next to you, but when it’s snowing so hard that you lose them, you’ll be risking your life by not having suitable equipment.

You’ll need:

-          A map and compass. Don’t rely on GPS (though this does come in useful) or the paths being marked. If you’re not comfortable using a map and compass, practice is essential.

-          A torch and whistle. Useful for attracting attention. The distress signal is 6 long blasts or flashes repeated at one minute intervals.

-          First aid kit. A waterproof pouch with suitable contents is absolutely necessary.

-          Adequate food and drink.

-          Spare socks and clothes.

-          Emergency food. High energy food for use only in emergency situations.

Walking poles, crampons and ice picks.

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