Winter Walking Safety Tips

Be safe and be seen this winter 

Don’t hibernate through winter, there is plenty to discover in the outdoors, and a crisp, clear winters day is often a fantastic time to see it! There are some things you should take into consideration if you’re hitting the hills for the winter season. Here we’ve compiled a few tips specifically for winter:

1. Layer Up

Correct use of the clothing layering system will help to keep you in a comfortable heat throughout your walk. Add layers when you’re cold, remove them when you’re too hot. If you’re already familiar with the layering system, be sure to add gloves and a hat to your kit for winter, if you aren’t familiar with the layering system, Layering System Guide and Video to help:

2. Dress for a Variety of Weather Types

One key mistake that is often made through winter is not taking into consideration the weather at the top of the mountain will be very different from the bottom. The higher you go, the colder it’s likely to be. It’s also likely to be windier and the further we get into winter, there is far more chance of snow. If you’re dressed for a mild start, you will regret it when you start ascending. Dressing for different weather could save your life on the hills and help prevent needless callouts to Mountain Rescue teams.

3. Know the Limitations of your Gear

If you want to do some serious walking through winter, it’s worth doing some research on the gear you purchase. We’ve all seen and read stories of people taking on Snowdon in trainers, Ben Nevis in a basic waterproof suit etc. All outdoor gear is not made for every task, most gear is great for certain things, but you really don’t want to take a gamble through winter. The experts in your local GO Outdoors will be able to advise you on kit that is right for your chosen activity.

4. Wear Bright Colours

We all naturally lean towards darker colours when buying clothing, it’s sleeker, it’s cooler etc – but if the worst does happen and you need to be rescued, earthy colours are incredibly difficult to see from a distance. A brightly coloured jacket, rucksack cover, or any other clothing item to ensure you’re seen, could save your life! Plus, why not purchase a survival bag? A piece of kit that takes up hardly any space in your pack, that could save your life in a variety of ways? Under £5? You’d be crazy not to.

5. Start in the Dark, Get Home in the Light

This means setting off early in the morning and making sure you are down and off the hill before it drops dark. It can be very easy to lose your bearings when you’re tired and it’s starting to get dark. The start of most walks is often well marked or well worn, so it’s safer to start your walk in the dark than it is to end it trying to find your way back.

6. Brush up on Your Navigation

Navigation skills are important for any keen walker. With more and more people choosing to opt for handheld GPS devices, it’s important to carry a paper-based back up just in case your battery dies. It’s worth brushing up on your map reading basics on our blog, which features videos created by Ordnance Survey.

7. Tell Somebody Where you are Going

Getting a good idea of where you are is the key to a rescue team being able to get to you within a good time. Make sure somebody at home knows your planned route and timings, if they’re able to contact Mountain Rescue, it can narrow down the search area.

8. Pack a Pick-me-up to Keep you Going

A flask of tea/coffee can really perk you up when you’re tired and cold, high carb foods like fudge, mint cake and flapjack can give you a much-needed energy boost so you can keep up the pace. Check out our blog for some ideas on what to take in your pack!

9. Light Up The Way

As well as bright clothing, it’s also useful to carry a torch or head torch in your pack with working batteries. Not only is a light useful for drawing attention, but it can also help you with finding your landmarks to help you navigate.

10. Take somebody with you

Often the best way to keep safe is to not go alone, it’s always more motivation to walk with somebody else, if there are any accidents, there’s another person to call for rescue, if you both carry different bits of kit, one GPS running out of battery isn’t as bad. Walking is very much a social activity and is always best enjoyed in pairs or groups, well we think so anyway.

These are just a few quick hints. If you’re considering heading out hill walking over winter, then do check out the safety information on the mountain safety website.