Put down the remote, force yourself out of that comfy chair and resist the urge to finish off that Christmas biscuits selection box, this is the perfect time of year to stretch those legs and head out on a winter walk. Yes, walking this time of year may seem a little counter intuitive and the thought of a hot chocolate and that Game of Thrones box-set may seem a lot more appealing than stepping out into the artic-like climate, but walking this time of year can be most rewarding. With clean fresh air to breathe, a chance to burn off those Christmas calories and see the countryside in a very different light with the sun lower in the sky, this maybe the best time of year to go walking. It’s less busy too.
Here’s just a couple of things to think about first…
Get this right and you’re in for a rewarding day, get it wrong and you’ll be a sweaty damp mess by the end of the first mile. First thoughts as you step out of the front door on a freezing cold day would usually be to reach for that old cotton hoody, but layers (and breathable layers) are much more important than a heavy old jumper, just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that you won’t sweat. In fact you may be walking faster and harder to warm up so very soon your body temperature will rise and you’ll be producing sweat. All that moisture will need to go somewhere and if you’re wearing an ordinary cotton t-shirt this will soon soak up all the dampness like a sponge. The air temperature around you is still cold and the moisture won’t burn off meaning the soggy clothing will cling to your body like a damp blanket and in extreme conditions could lead to hyperthermia. To combat this all you need is a decent ‘wicking’ baselayer which removes the moisture away from the body. Pop a decent (breathable) fleece over this and don’t forget a good windcheating waterproof jacket (again, breathable) and this should be enough to keep you warm and comfortable all day.
If it’s really cold outside you may want to add a synthetic or down coat, but just keep in mind that if it’s chucking it down you need to avoid getting your expensive down coat wet. The goose feathers tend to lose all their heat retaining credentials when they get damp. Add a hat and some gloves and you’re ready to go but just avoid Denim, those old 501’s will soak up so much water that it’ll be like wading through, well, mud!
Like many things the better prepared you are (and probably the more you’ve spent on outdoors clothing) the more you will enjoy the experience. Be realistic though, you don’t need an Alpine style down jacket just to go to the shops (unless they’re a really, really long way away).
Getting the family out on a chilly winters day can be especially rewarding providing you can live with the endless questions about how far away the car’s parked and remembered to pack the required amount of snack food needed to keep alive a family of 4 on a 2 hour walk around Hampstead Heath. If you’ve got little ones in buggy’s or backpack carriers just be aware that they won’t warm up as you do. 10 minutes into your winter walk and your body temperature will be bordering on toastie whilst the poor little ones have been inactive and probably starting to feel the effects of the cold.
Be careful, a winter walk won’t always begin in cold conditions and may even feel quite spring-like to start with but if it’s getting close to sun-down or your planning on gaining some altitude and heading for the hills you won’t have to climb too high before you’re in some seriously cold conditions. You probably won’t notice it at first as the blood will be pumping nicely around your body but stop briefly to take a selfie or grab a quick snack and you will very quickly start to feel the ‘real’ temperature. Again, the best way to combat this is go prepared….. or just don’t stop!
Pretty obvious really, the more grip your shoes have the more you’ll enjoy your walk and be safe too. Chances are that the ground is going to be slippy somewhere so good grip is crucial. Trainers are comfortable but are unlikely to be waterproof and it’s likely to be wet. Wellies are bang on-trend at the moment but after a couple of miles you’ll be ready to stop. A decent pair of walking boots or approach shoes should be fine, just make sure that they’ve had some kind of waterproofing done recently.
Walking in groups:
Not everyone walks at the same speed and if you’re walking in a large group sooner or later someone’s going to be waiting around for others to catch up (there’s nothing more soul destroying than heaving yourself up that hillside just as the group that were waiting for you start off again). If you’re hanging around though waiting for others you’ll quickly start to feel the cold. Ideally the quicker members of the group should alter their pace to match the slower team members but this isn’t easy, especially when you’re heading to the pub!
Take a camera:
You’re bound to get some great snaps on a winter walk unless of course it’s a wet day and then you’re just going to get a blur. On a clear, crisp day you won’t have to fiddle too much with the camera’s settings to get an impressive pic. You can also use it as proof to your mates!
If you are heading out on a winter walk, don’t forget your weatherproof map case!