If you’re planning a trip away this winter and are a keen hiker, there are a number of winter hiking tips you should consider before stepping out onto the more slippery beaten track.
If snow is forecast and the streams and rivers have frozen, here are seven top winter hiking tips to keep you and your friends safe on the trails when staying at our holiday cottages.
Plan your route
The natural rambler would usually prefer to set off, explore the great outdoors and see where he ends up. But in the winter months it pays to plan a route or at least certain points you want to reach along your journey such as pubs, towns or landmarks.
If the weather closes in whilst you’re out, its a good idea to know where these certain ‘safe zones’ are where you can ride out any heavy rain or snowfall.
Also check maps for difficult sections of a planned route. If you had planned to tackle a mountainous pathway, it may be a good idea to choose an alternative ‘safer’ route if the weather or ground conditions are more hazardous.
Throwing a large coat over your normal walking gear wont cut it when the temperatures plummet. It’s best practice to layer up to insulate yourself against icy winds, especially if you are walking at altitude such as up mountains or high peaks.
Invest in some thermals, or wear a t shirt, jumper and then a coat. Remember your waterproofs as well as wet clothing will only accentuate the cold.
Walking in winter is not a job for the old pair of trainers at the back of the wardrobe. Hiking during the winter months more than any other time really requires proper sturdy hiking boots with a strong grip to avoid slipping on narrow paths and to support the ankles if you stumble or fall.
Wear two layers of socks or invest in proper thermal hiking socks to keep your feet warm. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than walking over uneven ground when you can’t feed your feet!
Bring extra supplies
On a normal hike throughout the year you may bring a bottle of water and a chocolate bar for energy, and possibly plan to take in some lunch at a pub. During the winter hiking season, bring more supplies with you just in case the weather turns.
Invest in a good thermos and bring a good supply of hot coffee, tea or chocolate. Make sure you bring some extra high-energy food as well such as chocolate, cereal bars or crisps.
Be able to make contact
Its good practice to make sure you can make contact with civilisation when you’re walking at any time of year, but in winter it’s especially important to set off with a fully charged smartphone in case of emergencies such as getting stranded or an injury.
Smartphones in particular are handy as you can use GPS to track your current location and see where the nearest landmarks and towns are if required, but as their battery life can sometimes be poor, bring an extra charger case or remote power supply.
Check the weather
Really make sure the check the weather forecasts before heading out for the entire day. If weather stations are predicting heavy rain, snowstorms or possible flooding, you should re-route to safer trails or consider a cosy day at home or in your holiday cottage instead!
Don’t be afraid to turn back
If weather conditions are harsh, the temperature has plummeted or conditions under foot are proving difficult, don’t be afraid to turn around and head back home. It’d be better to spend one day indoors with a roaring fire and a glass of wine and then enjoy the rest of the holiday than sprain an ankle and spending the rest of your week finding out how good the local medical services are.