10 Tips for your First Winter Walk- by GearShed

This is a guest post by GearShed a community led peer-to-peer marketplace where you can rent outdoor sports equipment from individuals or rental businesses.

Winter walking can be a great chance to explore the outdoors and is one of the things that we look forward to the most now the weather has turned cold. Whether you plan to try a big mountain route or an easy ramble, it can be great fun for the whole family. We’ve put together our ten top tips on winter walking to share our passion and help get you into the outdoors.

1.     Check the weather

Perhaps the most important step for any day out on the hills and one that will influence your decision for all the other tips below. Before heading out, make sure you check both the local weather forecast for the area you are travelling and the Mountain Weather Information Service. The MWIS gives excellent detail on cloud levels, temperature and conditions at different elevations, which can come in handy if you’re trying adventurous winter walking.

2.     Bring the right clothing

This is dependant on step one, but as this is a winter walk in the UK we are preparing for it is likely we will encounter either crisp clear and cold days or a maelstrom of icy rain and fog. The best bet is to layer up with a baselayer (inc trousers), warm mid layer such as a microfleece jumper and a wind/waterproof shell to go over the top.

If the forecast looks particularly cold or you’re going up into the mountains, consider bringing a belay jacket that you can slip on over the top of everything else. A down duvet jacket provides the best warmth to weight ratio, however we find synthetic slip on tops the best all rounder for the UK as it stays warm even when wet.

Top Tip: Don’t forget your sunglasses.

3.     Bring the right gear

Even if you’re heading out on relatively flat terrain, it’s worth having either crampons or snowshoes appropriate for the grade of walking you are trying.

Unless you are trying something really difficult we recommend a good pair of B2 or B1 boots that will keep you toes warm and let you slip on crampons for steeper terrain. 

A comfortable rucksack and enough water to last the day are essential, and so is a head torch and emergency bivvy bag just in case.

If you are heading out for an adventurous day consider taking a walking rope. It can be perfect for guiding less experienced members of the party over tricky terrain and comes into it’s own when navigating around dangerous cornices on top of mountains.

4.     Plan your route

Now you’re kitted out, make sure you know where you are going. There is a load of free resources here to give you ideas on what to tackle first. If you are new to winter walking start small and work you way up to more difficult pursuits.

Make sure to take an OS map of the area and know your route before you set off. In a band of hill fog you’ll be glad you made a mental note of where to turn off that ridge or where to keep going.

5.     Navigation

And on that note, bring a compass (and more importantly, know how to use it).  If you do get stuck in a whiteout knowing some basic navigational skills such as aiming off can be a lifesaver.

If you are serious about learning more outdoor skills, Andy Cunningham’s book Winter Skills: Essential Walking and Climbing Techniques is the best place to start.

6.     Start Early

Winter days are shorter than you think and if you are in the north of Scotland they will be even shorter than that. Make sure you start out early and have a good estimate on how long the route will take you and what time the sun sets.

It’s always better to start early and finish early. That way you can spend the night in the pub rather than in your bivvy bag.

7.     Prepare your car

Don’t forget about the car! It’s all too easy to focus on the maps, flask of tea and extra layers that we often forget to properly prepare the car. Make sure you’ve topped up your windscreen wash and pumped up the tires. Having a towrope, shovel and blanket in the car will come in handy if you end up getting stuck.

Top tip: make sure there is a phone charger in the car, it could be a lifesaver!

8.     Winter Warmers

Chances are you’ll be boiling hot the whole day while hiking up the hills. But as soon as you stop for lunch you’ll get cold. The added weight of a hot flask of cocoa is almost always worth it and can give you that added mental boost when you’re feeling tired. If you make it with milk and sugar you’ll even get a little energy boost when you need it most. 

9.     Be aware of winter mountain hazards

Winter brings with it hazards that many of us are less experienced at spotting. Avalanches are a common occurrence in places like the Cairngorms and knowing how to spot a potential slide is essential if you are travelling to remote areas.

Cornices also present unique problems that have caught many experienced mountaineers out as they’ve walked towards an edge only to find them selves tumbling through the cornice. With that in mind, make sure you rope up, especially if it’s a white out.

10. Be prepared to turn around

No matter how much preparation you put into your trip things can change very fast on the hills and you might find your self in an uncomfortable situation. There’s no shame in turning around and heading for safer ground. You can always come back another time and try again.

If you’d like more information about what we do follow us on twitter or sign up to our mailing list and we’ll let you know when we launch.  Or take a look at our previous blog post here.


  1. You know, I've really never done serious hiking in the wintertime--it definitely requires a lot more gear and preparation than the average summer or spring hike!

  2. Ohh that's a lot of gear, a great list for anyone who wants to get moving this winter.

  3. Going for a hike / walk in the winter just sounds way too intimidating. There is so much more gear and considerations you need to think about before going. Plus it's cold. I think I'll stick to my summer hikes and leave winter for the ski hills :)

    1. I'm such a winter loser, I really hate skiing, much prefer a hike ;)


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