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Gear Up For Winter Walking: Layer Up

Continuing on from our previous Winter Walking post, here we outline how to layer up, looking at the clothing needed to stay comfortable and prepared in all weather conditions.

The Gear

The right gear can be the difference between a miserable day out and a brilliant one, and this is where a lot of summer equipment won’t cut it. In the winter, it’s cold. It might not be freezing at the foot of the hill, but it will be much chillier at the top, so layering is key to a successful and comfortable day. 

Here’s a basic clothing kit list:

Boots:

Stiff, high ankle summer boots are a minimum requirement. They keep the snow at bay and give you good grip on most terrain. I did a lot of beginner winter walking in a pair of Salomon Quest 4D Hiking Boots and my colleague wore the Meindl Softline Light. Both are great walking boots and are worth considering.

Boots like the Peter Storm Scafell and Nevis ranges make good value options to keep your feet dry, but can also be used all year round. If you are buying new boots, make sure they fit, it goes without saying that a bad fit means a bad time. Any Blacks store will be happy to help ensure your boots are fitted to you, so you can worry more about getting the most out your day, rather than your feet.

Socks:

Socks provide the warmth as most of the day your feet will be stood in the snow. Generally wearing 2 pairs is best; thin liner socks to wick sweat, such as Brigedale Thermal Liners, paired with a thicker 3 or 4 season sock for the warmth and cushioning. The Bridgedale Summit, Brasher Hillmaster and heavy weight Peter Storm socks are good options.

Baselayers:

Baselayers work to keep you warm by keeping you dry, transporting perspiration away from the skin so it can evaporate. There are many good options out there, and summer layers will often be suitable.

Stay way away from cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and takes an age to dry, look for merino wool or synthetic baselayers instead.

Midlayers:

The most common midlayer option is a fleece. They are warm when wet and lightweight. If it is forecast to be cold, perhaps pack 2 just in case.

Outer Layer:

This is the most important layer; it keeps snow, rain, wind and everything else out, and keeps your body heat in.

You have 2 main options:

Softshell layers are warm, windproof and stretchy. On drier days they are perfect, however, this is the UK and dry days tend to be few and far between.

A good waterproof layer is a safer option. Look for things like pit zips, which provide extra breathability and ventilation, and a good wired hood. Durability is key as you’ll often be wearing it all day. The Mountain Equipment Saltoro Jacket and the Berghaus Mera Peak are both great options for winter mountain walking

Much like boots, the right fit is imperative, it is best to pop in store and try a few on, see what you prefer the fit of.

The Belay Jacket

This is a system taken from climbing. It simply involves putting a thicker, insulated jacket on over everything when you stop. It’s quite common to size the jacket up to allow for the layers underneath and can make a huge difference to your overall comfort in the hills.

Whenever you stop for a break, throw it on over the top to trap in heat, so you can eat your lunch without shivering. The thicker the jacket the warmer it is, but you have to compromise on weight and how easy it is to pack.

It is a matter of personal preference, but in my opinion they are worth their weight in gold. In a damp climate, synthetic fibres and treated downs really excel. Jackets like The North Face Thermoball, and the Berghaus Asgard are great pieces of gear, that provide exceptional, lightweight warmth.

Other Bits:

Gloves, in my opinion, can be the hardest part to get right. The SealSkinz range are great for lower down the mountain, but as you get higher, its gets colder. It is wise to pack a thicker pair for when the temperature drops. Ski style gloves like the Peter Storm Ski Glove and Trekmates Skiddaw are very warm for the cost.

If you have a tendency to get really cold hands, you can’t beat a mitt. The Mountain Equipment Mountain Mitt, is about as warm as you can get. I pack a spare pair in case it turns really cold, but I tend to really feel it.

It is highly important to keep your head warm; luckily this is super easy to do. Look for a simple beanie hat, they all do the same job, but with so many varieties available, choosing a colour and design can be tricky. Avoid bobbles, they don’t agree with hoods.

Another essential in my pack is a buff or neck gaiter, worn round the neck to keep the heat in the jacket or round the face to keep that biting wind off your cheeks. Such a simple and versatile item can make such a difference to your overall warmth and comfort.

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.

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