Staying safe in the great outdoors in winter

Staying safe in the great outdoors in winter

Whether you’re taking on a route you’ve done many times before or heading to a new trail for the first time, getting outside in winter is good for the mind, body, and soul. Exploring the great outdoors in winter is a great way to get a fresh new take on your surroundings. Not only does it allow you to stay active all year long, but it can be a very therapeutic experience.

But before you get too excited about exploring the winter wonderland outside your door, it’s important to take the right precautions and plan ahead to ensure you stay safe.

Check the weather

It sounds obvious but one of the most important things you can do when preparing for a wintry walk is to check the weather forecast. We are all aware that the weather in the UK can change at a moment’s notice so having an idea of what’s in store is vital. For those taking to the mountains, check the Met Office Mountain Forecast for updates. If you do find that the trail conditions are more dangerous due to the weather, it is always better to postpone the trip rather than to put yourself, and others who in a worst-case scenario would be rescuing you, at risk.

Dress appropriately for winter

As mentioned, the weather is unpredictable so it’s best to dress appropriately for the wintry weather. Invest in good quality winter clothing and learn the importance of properly layering your winter clothes (i.e. the purpose of the base layer, mid layer and outer layers when hiking).

Wear bright colours that aren’t typically found in nature to help you stand out from your surroundings so that if you were to get into difficulty, rescuers could locate you and get you to safety easier.

Bring appropriate gear

As well as dressing appropriately from the offset, you should always carry extra layers that you can put on at any time. Remember that the temperature at the bottom of a mountain can be very different to that at the top, especially if you factor in wind chill. As well as this, it’s also handy to have a change of clothes should you unexpectedly get wet.

If you are going hiking in the snow, consider bringing the following items:

  • Snow shoes
  • Crampons
  • Poles
  • A head torch
  • A hand torch
  • Batteries
  • Fire starter kit
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency whistle

Even if you are familiar with the trail, remember to take a map and compass. Poor weather can result in reduced visibility, so having a map and compass to keep you going off the trail and getting lost is a must.

Take regular breaks to refuel

Being hydrated and alimented during your hike helps your body regulate temperature, which in winter is very important. In colder temperatures, our bodies burn more calories just to keep warm in addition to those exerted during exercise, so make sure to take regular breaks to keep your body fuelled. Even if you’re dressed appropriately for the winter, you can still break a sweat during a hike, so it’s important to replenish salt lost via sweating on your hike. Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and salty snacks are a firm favourite for those frequenting hiking trails.[1]

Tell people where you are going and when they can expect you to return

Be sure to tell people who are not accompanying you on the hike key details, e.g., where you are going, who you are going with, the route you intend to take, what time they should expect you to be back, etc.

Bear in mind, if you are going for a hike in snow, the trail will likely take more time and effort than if you do it at other times of year, so make sure you factor that in to when you are due to return so you don’t cause unnecessary panic.