For some, the first flurries of snow make for a fun filled winter season ahead. However for others, initial excitement may give way to a feeling of trepidation. Here in the UK, the majority of us don’t get a lot of experience playing out in the white stuff - so it’s easy to get caught out if you aren’t prepared.
Here are 5 top tips to make sure you can make the most of any more snow days this season:
1. Be sensible
Know your limitations, and maybe take your plans down a notch or two if you aren’t experienced in winter conditions. Everything changes when snow is on the ground - terrain gets tougher and more unpredictable and even simple routes you’ve done before can take longer and be a lot more arduous depending on the weather. Those routes you've done before in lovely summer weather, will look a lot different with snow. It may sound obvious, but know the route, know how long the route will take you and plan to be back at the car at least an hour before sunset. This gives you enough time to be down before it goes dark if something unforeseen does come up.
2. Be prepared
Take layers (as well as an emergency layer you're not planning on using), extra food, a first aid kit and survival bag, head torch, battery pack, and consider more specialist equipment like walking poles, micro/full crampons and a walking ice axe. It’s better to take kit with you and not use it, than remember you left it at home in the spare room when you really need it. Preparation in winter is key to not only a safe day out, but a fun one too.
3. Consider your options
Plot your route in advance, and if you’re going alone, let someone know your plans. We know that a lot of people in the hills use their phones as a form of navigation. This is fine, but always have a map and compass as either a back up or preferably, as your go to choice. If you are unsure on how to map read, learn how to. It will happen at least once where you're out and you either lose your phone, break it or it dies because of the freezing temperatures.
If you’re keen to do more than you feel comfortable with, book yourself onto a Winter Skills Course or Beginners Navigation Course, or find a friend who’s more experienced to come out with you (and treat them to a pub dinner afterwards).
4. Dress according to the weather
Check the forecast before you head out the door - and remember even in the winter you can get too hot! When you slow down or stop, sweat will cool you faster than your body can handle which can lead to difficulties. Multiple thinner layers are easier to manage and take up less space when they are packed down in your rucksack. Also, don't rely on what the temperature feels like as you start your walk: on average, the temperature decreases by 1 degrees for every 100m you go up. If you start in Wasdale and it's 3 degrees, at the top of Scafell Pike (978metres), it might be nearly -7, and that's without wind chill!
5. Lastly, stay safe
Ensure that if you do get into difficulties you know how to contact Mountain Rescue (call 999 or 112 from a mobile) and give them an accurate position of where you are.
Although we previously mentioned not relying on your phone, downloading the app what3words is highly recommended. Wherever you are in the world, the app will give you 3 totally random words, you can give these words to the police or mountain rescue and it will give them an accurate location of where you are.
Check out our Winter Buying Guides below to help equip yourself: