In the final part of our winter walking series, we look at how little accessories can make a big difference on the hill.
There are a few essential accessories you should NEVER go out in the hills without.
A head torch can be a life saver. The winter days are short, and taking longer on your walk than you initially planned happens very often. A head torch will help you get down the mountain to that pint waiting at the bottom, as the day draws in. A head torch is so important, I carry two, always. Look for the brightest model you can afford, and pack spare batteries. Torches like the Petzl Tikka Plus are brilliant bits of gear, and great for all year camping and hiking.
Snow grips simply keep your feet stuck to the snow, examples being the Yaktrax and Eurohike Snow Grips. The grips fit to the bottom of any footwear so are handy for both the home and the hillside, providing extra traction on snow and ice. These are great for simple winter walking.
Ice Axes / Walking Poles:
A simple walking ice axe is very important if you’re going into the higher mountains, along with the skills to use it.
For not so steep walking, however it probably won’t be necessary. Instead, a set of walking poles can provide added stability. Summer poles will work fine, or there are winter specific models available that tend to be a bit tougher with snow baskets at the ends. An excellent example of these is the Black Diamond Trail trekking poles.
Map and Compass:
Maps should always be in a map case, as winter tends to get everything wet. Make sure you have the right skills to use both a map and a compass and keep both items to hand. Many jackets feature an inside map pocket, ensuring they’re not stuffed at the bottom of your rucksack.
While you may feel a bit silly, at least you’ll know where you are. It can be a bit trickier to navigate in winter, as everything is white and smaller visual markers can be covered or obscured. If you can, navigate using distant, larger landmarks and contour lines, and learn how to take a bearing. These can be a real life saver in winter to get you down when poor weather sets in.
Compasses like the Silva Ranger come with glowing dials, making navigating in the dark that bit easier.
Check the Blacks blog for articles on compass navigation.
Make Some Memories:
Finally, the most important thing is morale. Go out with good friends, laugh at each other’s expense, learn from each other’s mistakes and have somebody to savour the views with; the people you’re out with often make the day.
Now you have the basics for your first winter day out. Remember that the mountains aren’t going anywhere, so if the weather isn’t looking too good don’t be afraid to turn round and come back another day.
Gear Up For Winter Walking is written by David Curtis of our Gateshead store. Keep checking the blog for more walking tips and advice from our in store experts.