Home > Navigation > Hiking in Winter

Hiking in Winter

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Hiking Winter Weather Snow Cold

There are those who stop hiking as soon as the weather turns cold, and there are others who relish getting out on the trails in winter. They love the cold, and the fact that the open spaces in winter offer a great deal of freedom, and an exquisite challenge.

But for anyone contemplating winter hiking, it’s worth remembering that the safe paths of summer can be a lot more dangerous in the winter. If the weather is harsh in the cities, it’s much more so out in the country, where temperatures can fall very low, and conditions can turn without warning.

Preparing For Winter Hiking

You need to be very well prepared before heading out to do some winter hiking. Good gear is essential, because there’s no way of predicting what the weather and the ground will be like when you’re out.

Dress sensibly, in layers, several of them depending on conditions, with a warm coat that’s also waterproof. Trousers should be sturdy, but made of a material that will also dry easily. Use gaiters, and boots definitely need to be waterproof, with a good, sturdy pair of hiking socks. Don’t go out without gloves, but not woollen ones, which just absorb water; it’s much better to have a lighter, thermal material.


That’s only part of the preparation, however. In your backpack you need to carry plenty of food, particularly energy-giving snacks like trail mix, raisins, and chocolate, along with ample water. Additionally, have something like a reflective blanket that folds up well, to keep you warm in case you become lost or injured.

It should go without saying that you’ll have a first aid kit, a torch (with strong, working batteries), and a mobile phone, fully charged. Additionally, you should never venture out without the appropriate OS map, a working compass, and preferably a GPS receiver, which can literally save your life if things turn bad.

Things To Remember

Being out in the cold saps your energy much faster than being in typical British summer heat. It’s vital to remember that, and it becomes doubly true if there’s a thick covering of snow on the ground. That means planning your route appropriately, especially if you’re taking the kids (and children often think a winter hike is great fun).

Be aware of the conditions. Pay attention to weather forecasts, and don’t go if heavy snow is likely. Remember, out in the country, roads and paths can become impassable with snow quite quickly, and the gritters and ploughs might not get to them for days or weeks.

Tell people where you’re going, and what time you expect to be back. That way, if you encounter a problem, they can inform the authorities, who can look for you. Unless you’re extremely experienced and well-trained, stick to the main trails, and if you can’t see them, that means it’s time to turn back, for safety’s sake.

Don’t allow yourself to become too cold. Out in the wilds the wind chill can lower the temperature by several degrees, so make sure all parts are well covered. In the event of a problem, or accident, first do all you can to make yourself warm, then try your mobile to alert the appropriate people. The same applies if you become lost.

Winter hiking can be great fun – as long as you do it right and take all the proper precautions.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Jules
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    My husband and I are looking for a hiking group in our local area. We are aged 55 and 58, live in Royal Wootton Bassett and are both…
    2 October 2019
  • Adam
    Re: Hiking for Older People
    Hi guys! I am doing a GCSE in Product Design, and I am designing a medical kit for the elderly that they could carry when theywalk in the…
    19 September 2019
  • Mojo
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    Hello. I am looking to join a walking club in hull. I have COPD and angina.
    16 August 2019
  • Annie
    Re: The Ramblers' Association
    I would like to join a walking club in my area East Midlands. Could someone point me in the right direction.?
    18 July 2019
  • Annie
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    I am looking to join a walking club / group, in my area (East Midlands) I work full time ; Can anyone point me in the right direction ?
    18 July 2019
  • Annie
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    I am looking to start walking but I work full time. I live in the East Midlands area does any one know of any walking clubs/Groups In that area.
    18 July 2019
  • Annie
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    I am looking for a walking club in my area.East Midlands. Can anyone help?Lo
    18 July 2019
  • Aman d S
    Re: Hiking for Older People
    Hello. I am a Design Technology GCSE student and am currently curating a product designed to aid elderly people when they are walking in…
    1 July 2019
  • Anna2007
    Re: A Solo Walking Guide
    I often go walking on my own and I have various health conditions like Type 2 diabetes and Asthma. My advice to people with health conditions…
    24 June 2019
  • Flossy
    Re: Join A Walking Club
    Hi, my husband and I love walking, we would love to join a weekend hiking club as we both work Mon - Friday. We live in Wimborne area and I'm…
    6 June 2019