Winter is a great time for walking. If you are sensibly prepared there is a fine feeling of well-being (and more than a little smugness) to be out enjoying crisp winter days. What’s more, it’s good for you!
Here are ten tips to get the best of the great outdoors in the winter months.
- Start early – days are short, so make the most of them. It’s also good not to put yourself under unnecessary pressure to finish your walk before the light fades.
- Remember layering – we’re all told about the importance of layering to keep warm. However, it’s not just about putting on multiple layers to keep warm. It’s also about being able to remove layers as we get hot. On a chilly day we always wrap up with our warmest layers to start, but usually after a vigorous half-hour we are beginning to perspire and need to shed a layer or more to remain comfortable.
- Avoid cotton – cotton tends to absorb moisture rather than wicking it away. A cotton tee-shirt may soak up perspiration as you walk then if you stop for a break you will quickly feel chilled. Stick to man-made fabrics as a base layer – modern hi-tech fabrics are a sound investment.
- Take a reasonable size rucksack – see (2) above. It’s good to be able to carry extra layers, scarves, hats and gloves – but equally important to have room to pack away layers we have removed.
- Water is important – don’t forget it’s as important to take in plenty of fluids in winter as in summer. We lose as much through transpiration when wrapped in fleeces and waterproofs without noticing. Also it’s tempting to take nice hot flasks of coffee or tea, but remember these are diuretics and can just increase dehydration. Remember the H20.
- Take a torch – even if you have no plans to walk after the sun has gone down. In gloomy weather a small torch is always useful for checking a route on the map or digging about in a dark rucksack or finding a small object dropped in the mud. If you do find yourself out after dark – by design or following some unplanned incident, a head-torch is an invaluable aid. It always points where you are looking and leaves you both hands free.
- Wear the right footwear – winter can be slippy under foot. Not only when ice and snow are around but rain and slippery mud can be equally hazardous. Good, waterproof boots with well-cleated soles are a must – as are nice warm socks.
- Walking poles help – in poor conditions on slippy, wet or muddy ground, a walking pole (or two) provide additional support and help keep your balance avoid spills.
- Wear a hat – up to 60% of body heat can be lost through the head, so make sure you always take some suitable head-gear to stay warm and comfortable. I usually take two – a wool beanie hat I can pull down to keep my ears warm, and a peaked waterproof cap if the rain threatens a soaking.
- Prepare in advance – winter walking is good for you, but getting motivated to start out can be tough, especially if you have to scrap around finding all your cold weather stuff. Get your gear ready the night before – it will help you prepare psychologically and remove the barriers to heading out in the morining.