Gathering the walking gear and heading outdoors for a hike in winter or in early spring is not for everybody. It’s cold, the weather is unpredictable and the risk of injury is on a different level with the chill and slippery ice. However, the winter scenery is pretty incredible as the frost dances along with the bare trees and glistens in the sharp winter sun, meaning it’s pretty enticing to grab the boots and head on up the hills.
However, getting out and about in winter and early spring is certainly not the same as it is in the summer. Even an experienced hiker or walker needs to be well prepared. The cold can be more aggressive than you think, decreased visibility, sudden weather changes, and difficulties with navigating are just a few of those risks.
If you intend to get out in the winter months, as well as the early spring before the days grow longer and drier, it’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with some basic precautionary and preventative measures to stay safe.
Wear the Right Gear
Wearing the right shoes and clothing is the first rule of safety in a walking club! Dressing in layers means you can cool down or warm up depending on the weather and the activity. Ensure you bring waterproof clothing and wear shoes that are comfortable and have good grips.
Bring the Right Gear
Added to what you are wearing, bring the right gear with you for a comfortable and safe climb. Walking poles, navigational items such as a map and compass, along with a well-stocked first aid kit will all come in useful and possibly be a lifesaver. Bring the essentials and any emergency supplies in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
If you are a novice hiker or hillwalker, then tackling the hills for the first time during the winter and early spring months is not the best idea. The difficult weather can create tricky terrain to cross which, if you are not already accustomed to, can make for a very dangerous day out. Be prepared and have the necessary skills needed when taking to the hills. Know how to read a map and use a compass, test out the equipment you are bringing, and know your own limits.
Don’t Go Alone
While this may seem like a logical step in safety, it still needs to be reiterated. Without knowing it, you could walk yourself directly into danger without any backup to help you. Avoid heading out alone as the risks are unpredictable. If a solo trip is on the cards, ensure you let someone know where you are going and provide them with an itinerary of your day.
Start Early and Keep it Short
Starting early gives you more of a chance of daylight. Prep your gear the night before, have your rucksack ready and know your route. Be mindful however of cutting your walk a little shorter than you may ordinarily do in the summer months. The weather can change for the worse quicker than expected in the winter and early spring. The less exposure you have to the vastness of the hills, the less likely you are to run into trouble. Plan your route so that you are home before bad weather or dusk sets in. Think about choosing easy walks or hikes on well-worn trails that are not too difficult to manage.
Keep The Fuel Topped Up
Eat and drink regularly when walking or hiking. Believe it or not, hiking in the cold can burn more calories so bring high-calorie foods such as nuts and chocolate to snack on. Dehydration is also a concern. Ensure you drink plenty of water during your winter hike.
There will always be risks involved when hiking or walking. The dar and cold weather of winter and early spring simply has a habit of aggravating those risks a little more. Take precautions and weigh up the situation when preparing for a walk.
- Do I have the right equipment?
- Am I going at the right time?
- What do I need to stay safe?
- What are the risks?
- Who am I going with?
- Where am I going?
- And most importantly, is it safe?
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