How I Stay Warm When Walking In Winter Conditions
Since starting my YouTube channel where I post landscape photography vlogs going to locations around the Lake District. I have started to feel more and more responsible for the advice that I put out to the viewers of the channel so here is what I take as well as some tips for staying safe.
This is a rough guide – You will have to use common sense and your brain on the day to work out what the best thing to do is. We’re fortunate to have the mountain rescue in the UK but you should do everything you can to not need them. Accidents happen, but lots of things are avoidable.
In my experience of fell walking there seems to be 2 approaches. Large items of clothing vs lots of layers.
I would recommend layering as it’s a lot more versatile as you can easily adapt to the weather conditions. A big coat takes up a lot of room and is only suitable for some situations.
My main aims when choosing what to wear are about staying warm and staying dry. There are 2 main ways of getting wet and that is from the rain/snow and the other is from sweat. When layering clothes you can add/take away to match the conditions and add a waterproof layer if it rains.
Another thing to consider is the stage of walking you are at:
The climb – You’re using the most energy and your body is producing the most heat. Wear fewer layers to prevent sweating
Taking in the views – You’re stood around producing less heat, the wind/cold conditions will lower your body’s temperature. Add more layers when you stop.
Climbing down – You’re moving so you will be producing more heat, you may need to take a layer off
The reason why you want to keep your core dry is that once you’re in the colder conditions, that liquid is going to freeze bringing down your core temperature. Keeping that liquid away and then trapping the heat in, will make your day a lot more enjoyable.
Layering – Stay warm enough to not be cold and stay cold enough to not sweat
Waterproof Boots – Keeping your feet dry will help with keeping you warm and your morale high, walking with wet feet isn’t a good feeling.
They trap the heat close to your body. Depending on the material, they can also be a breathable fabric allowing sweat or water to evaporates.
Hiking socks – These are generally longer, like football socks. They add warmth and comfort as they help prevent blisters.
Longjohns – A bit old fashioned, but these are great. Tuck them into your socks and it’s like the bottom half of a onesie and the wind won’t blow up your leg.
T-shirts – I like the ones that are made out of a breathable fabric. They dry quickly and trap the heat in. I tend to take 2 if I know the walk is strenuous. If it gets too wet with sweat I will swap it for a fresh dry one.
Long sleeves – The same material as the t-shirts. But these keep your arms warm and help trap more heat below.
Hoody – I like wearing a hoody on top of the base layers. It’s easy to add the hood like a hat quickly if you’re going between windy areas, plus they don’t take up much room.
Coat – Thicker than the hoody, I usually wear this once at the top when stopping for a while to take the photographs. I like to fold the jacket up into the hood for storage, you can see how in the video.
Waterproof Layer – Keeps the water out and keeps you dry. Ideally, this layer will also double up as an extra warmer layer which will help when packing your bag.
Windproof layer – Keeps the wind out. I will often wear a windproof on top of a t-shirt on the climb up. It keeps the harsh wind up keeping you warm.
Waterproof Trousers – Like above, waterproof trousers keep the rain out. Stopping your core from getting wet.
Buffs – They’re a tube of fabric which can be used for a variety of things; A necker – put it around your neck and it will block the wind out Balaclava – Pull it up over your face, combine it with a hat and only your eyes are exposed to the wind A makeshift hat – wrap it around your head and it will keep your head warm They take up almost no room and have a lot of uses.
A hat – A lot of heat escapes from your head. A good quality that will help trap it in
Cold fingers will make it more difficult to do basic tasks. Opening your bag, zipping up your coat, and tieing shoelaces. It’s important to keep your hands warm.
Inner gloves – I wear these 90% of the time. They’re thick enough to keep the wind off yet I can still use my camera
Thick gloves – Having cold fingers can be pretty soul-destroying. Everything becomes more difficult as you can’t grip things properly and it can generally be quite painful. A good pair of Goretex gloves can help out hugely. I think I may also have bad circulation and my fingertips get really cold sometimes, shaking your arms from above your head to below your waist helps to drive the blood back into your fingertips. It will sting, but it stings less than when they were cold. I have added links to high rated similar products to what I use. I haven’t bought any new clothing in years, so what I use is no longer available.
Know when to quit
Whenever I have to think about something, it generally means no. Come back another day once the conditions are better or when you’re better equipped.
Tell someone where you are going
Hopefully, everything will go well. But, in the event that you don’t return on time, it’s good to have a starting point for people to look for you. Tell someone where you are parking and where you are climbing.
Find natural shelters
Big rocks are great at blocking the wind, use them to your advantage and hide out from the worst of the weather when possible
Take a map and compass
Learn how to use a map. Maps don’t run out of battery and neither do compasses. Your phone battery will. Don’t rely on your phone’s GPS.
Get out early and take a torch
It gets dark a LOT earlier in winter, get out early and plan enough time for your walk. Have a torch as a backup plan for if you run out of time.
Take plenty of food and drink
Being dehydrated and hungry can lead to making bad decisions, keep on top of it.
I hope you found this helpful, these are the things that I keep in mind when packing the bag, not everything goes on each trip but you have to check the forecast and decide what you need. The forecast is also wrong, you may be upon the fells and you will see the weather changing, turning back is always an option, the hill will be there another day.