Winter walking: what youíll need

During the colder months, itís all too easy to find excuses to avoid the great outdoors, wrapping up warm and staying in with yet another hearty (and fattening) meal. However, as tempting as it is, staying indoors during winter can be a mistake as nature gears up for a spectacular display of her powers and begins to bless us with some of the most fabulous views youíll see all year.

Winter walking is a wonderful way of getting out and enjoying these views, as well as learning to appreciate nature and the frozen ground under your feet. Itís also a great way of keeping fit and active during the cold season, as good food and excess layers of clothing make it easier to pile on the pounds.

But winter walking is a little different from the walks that youíre used to completing in the summer and you need to prepare for them accordingly. Staying warm is your first priority, as lower temperatures can cause problems: look out for clothing designed to deal with cold weather. Companies such as The North Face are especially good for this, with many of their items specially designed to trap body heat and repel water during bad-weather walks.

Invest in a waterproof jacket and a warmer coat as standard, as well as lighter Ďbase layersí to go underneath your clothing. Depending on where youíre planning to go, overtrousers and fleeces may also be a good idea, but these may not be necessary for infrequent walkers or those who plan to take advantage of warmer routes. Whatever you wear, a hat is the most important item of clothing; since you lose up to 70 per cent of your body heat from the top of your head.

Once youíve got your headgear sorted, itís time to consider your feet. The right footwear can make all the difference during a winter walk and itís important to think long and hard before investing. Itís likely that youíll encounter icy ground or snow, so look out for something with added grip to help you keep your footing.

Snow boots are a good idea, as many are designed specifically for icy conditions and most are suitable for crampon attachments; companies such as Hi-Tec also offer snow boots with added lining and waterproof material, in order to keep feet as warm as possible.

You also need to put together a decent survivor pack in case of emergency, such as being stranded or suffering a fall; while the chances of these are minimal the worst can always happen and if it does youíll be grateful you took precautions. Take plenty of high-energy snack bars and a flask of tea/coffee on any walk, and make sure to stop for snack breaks regularly to keep your energy levels high.

Other safety equipment such as a first aid kit, a small torch and a Swiss Army knife should also be included, as well as a fully-charged mobile phone to keep in contact with the outside world. You should also plan your route carefully before you set off, and consider leaving a map/route plan with someone in order to help track you down should you get lost.

Winter walking is undoubtedly a little more complicated than during the summer months, especially with regards to the equipment and safety procedures that need to be observed. However, with a bit of perseverance, winter walks can also be just as rewarding, especially with the sun shimmering off the frosty fields and plenty of firm crunchy ground underfoot to enjoy. It requires a little motivation, but wrap up warm and get out there; aside from the benefits of the extra exercise, youíll soon discover a whole new world.