9 Essential Items for Winter Walks – Stay Safe & Warm On Winter Hikes

stay safe and warm during winter walks

Winter in the UK is a beautiful time of year to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors with your family and friends.   Whether its taking a stroll or attempting a day long hike walking with family can be a good way to spend quality time together, get some exercise, and also be a great opportunity to catch up with one another, bond, and have meaningful conversations.

Walking also offers numerous health benefits (especially in the cold), including improving your heart fitness, building stronger your legs and core, and you can reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Personally I took up walking (with my poles for stability) as its a low-impact form of exercise that I could do despite very limited mobility.  I was trying to recover from having SPD during pregnancy which left me in a wheelchair and crutches for over 12 months.  I found walking helped me get fitter AND HELPED MY MENTAL HEALTH TOO!

So whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, it’s important to be prepared and have the right gear to stay safe and comfortable on your winter adventures as they can be challenging due to the cold and sometimes treacherous weather conditions.  

In this article, we’ll go over nine essential items that every winter walker or hiker should have in their arsenal to ensure a successful and enjoyable outdoor experience. From warm clothing to first-aid supplies, these items will help you tackle any winter walk or hike with confidence.

As we are a review site I will recommend a great selection on walking products we have tried and tested between ourselves and friends and family too. And finally if you need any suggestions on places to get out to in England for a walk this winter check out my article on 10 great National Trust places to visit (and picnic at!).

1: Warm & Weather-Appropriate Clothing

You’d think it went without saying that before you set foot on the trails, or even out of the door, that you should be wearing the right clothing for a hike.  However when rescue teams pick up stranded, injured hikers and walkers one of the main issues they find is the victim wasn’t dressed for the weather.  

My best advice from years of walking in the cold is dress in layers and wear clothing that is warm and insulated, as well as waterproof if you are hiking in the UK!  Layers allow for temperature regulation – you don’t want to catch exposure from cold BUT you also don’t want to become ill from over heating

When dressing to go walking you want to wear three main layers, these are:

  1. A Base layer: A moisture-wicking base layer will help keep your skin dry and comfortable. You should buy a base layer made from materials like merino wool, polypropylene, or synthetic blends.  So for me its a Patagonia T Shirt or North Face T shirt as the walking base layer.

  2. A Mid Layer (the insulation layer!): This mid layer will provide insulation that keeps you warm. Fleece or synthetic materials work well for this layer.  I love my North Face Fleece or my favourite, my Berghaus Fleece Thats my insulating middle layer when walking.

  3. An All Weather Outer layer: This should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from the elements. I would always look for a jacket with a hood and a high collar to keep your head and neck warm! So for me I love my Berghaus Glissade III, my hubby has the same mens waterproof walking jacket. And Theia wears the kids unisex Vial Padded Ski Jacket from Mountain Warehouse.

You are also going to want a warm hat, beanie or my favourite A BUFF(also called aTubular!) to keep your ears warm and stop your body heat escaping.  Warm gloves that are both waterproof and windproof (we are a fan of the sealskins gloves!).

And for the bottom half you need warm, moisture-wicking hiking socks to help keep your feet dry and warm. Wool or synthetic materials work well and agin we go to SealSkinz for our waterproof socks.  I would add that spending the money to buy Anti Blister Socks is well worth it.

Now you are dressed right but don’t skimp on the walking boots – so on to number two in out list of the nine essential items for winter walks.

Berghaus Women's Kaylum Full Zip Fleece Jacket, Navagio Bay, 18
Sale Berghaus Women's Glissade III InterActive GORE-TEX Jacket, Blue, 10

2: Quality Walking Boots

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It’s important to wear footwear that will keep your feet warm and dry while walking in winter. Some options for winter walking shoes or hiking boots include:

  1. Insulated Walking Boots: These boots are specifically designed to keep your feet warm in cold weather. They may have a layer of insulation, such as Thinsulate, or be made from materials that naturally insulate, like sheepskin or down.

  2. Waterproof Hiking Boots: Wet feet can quickly lead to cold feet, so it’s important to choose a pair of boots that will keep your feet dry. Look for boots that are made with waterproof materials, such as Gore-Tex, or that have a waterproof finish applied to them.

  3. Walking Shoes with good traction: Snow and ice can make walking treacherous, so it’s important to choose a pair of shoes that will provide good traction. Shoes with thick rubber soles and a tread pattern designed for winter conditions can help keep you steady on your feet.

Which ever type of walking boot/shoe you go for you want them to be durable and supportive, with features such as a stiff shank, reinforced toe and heel, and padded collars and tongues to help protect your feet and ankles.

I would always look for a pair that offer combine the features of insulated and waterproof as well.  My favourite walking boots right now are my Salomon Women’s X Ultra Pioneer Mid Gore-tex Hiking Shoe.  They are more a half boot and super comfy, breathable and give great grip – and look AWESOME!

How do I find the right size walking boots?

Thats a question we get asked LOADS and my advice is simple. When trying on hiking boots, make sure to wear the walking socks that you will be wearing on your hike to get a more accurate fit. It’s also a good idea to try on boots at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest, to ensure a comfortable fit.

Best Walking Boots Reviewed

Best Walking Socks Reviewed

PRO WALKERS TIP: Always carry an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet, as this can help prevent blisters and other foot problems.

3: A Mobile Phone Or Walkie Talkie

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Next on our list of 9 Essential Items for Winter Walks is something to keep you in touch with the outside world!

It’s always a good idea to have a mobile phone with you in case of emergencies so you can call for help. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out on your walk or carry a solar charger for on the go.  I got this solar powered power bank for Christmas last yer and its a god send for us.

If you plan to walk in an area with poor mobile signal then you should consider buying a Long Range Walkie Talkie (also known as a two-way radio) instead.  These are powerful walkie talkies capable of communicating over long distances, nothing like the kids walkie talkies we probably all had once!

When buying a walkie talkie you will want to check out:

  • Battery Life – Look for long life esp. when in standby mode. You also want to consider the power source – I prefer ones which offer wall charging AND battery option.
  • Range/Antenna – Range will be shown in Watts and the longer the antenna the better as a rough guide.
  • Durability – these things can take a battering especially if you fall with them!  Also consider are they weather and waterproof.

Other things to consider is what frequency they operate on  (FRS, GMRSBand, UHF or VHF) and does it offer weather alerts or emergency beacon as extras.  Keep your eyes peeled for our in-depth guide to buying a walkie talkie coming in 2023.  For now I recommend the Motorola Talkabout T800 Two Way Radio

Sale Power Bank 26800mAh Solar Charger Fast Charging Portable Charger with 32 LEDs Flashlight 4 Output Ports & 2 Input Ports Battery Pack for Camping Hiking

A4: A Torch or Headlamp

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Whether you plan to walk in the early morning or late evening, it’s a good idea to bring a torch or headlamp with you as we continue our run down of the 9 Essential Items for Winter Walks.

Not only can a torch or headlight help you navigate in the dark or dusk (or when the fog drops on a mountain!) but it can also be used to attract help if you get hurt!  And better yet by being seen in low light you are less likely to be hit by cars etc if walling in limited light.

So what’s the difference between a torch and a headlamp?

A torch is typically handheld, while a headlamp is a type of light that is worn on the head and directed towards the front.

One key difference between a torch and a headlamp is the way they are held or worn. Headlamps are mounted on the head and fixed to a forward beam so it can provide hands-free lighting, which can be useful in certain situations where you need to use your hands for other tasks.  Trying to wrestle a dog and hold a torch for those early morning walks is why I got a head torch!

Whats better to buy – a torch or a headlamp?

Overall, the choice between a torch and a headlamp will depend on your personal preferences and what you need it for. If you need a light source that you can hold in your hand and direct at specific areas, a torch may be a better choice. If you need a light source that provides hands-free lighting and can be worn on your head, a headlamp will be a better choice.

Below are my top recommendations for a torch and a headlamp – both of which my family use on our walks with the dogs and hikes out.  Plus we have a spare torch and headlamp in the car as well for emergecies!

Sale Shadowhawk Torches LED Super Bright, Rechargeable LED Torch P70 20000 Lumens Powerful Military Tactical Flashlight Rechargeable Battery Torch for Dog Walking Hiking Emergency Gift
Ledlenser H15R Work - Rechargeable Outdoor LED Head Torch, Super Bright 2500 Lumens Headlamp, Professional Powerful LED Headlight, 250 Meter Focus, Water Resistant (IP67), Up to 70 Hours Running Time

5: Water Bottle & Camel Packs

Even in the cold weather, it’s important to stay hydrated. Make sure to bring a water bottle or camelback with you on your walk.

Water bottles and camelbaks (AKA hydration packs) have their own benefits and drawbacks, which one you choose depends on what you will use it forWater bottles are a simple and easy way to carry water with you. They are generally cheap to buy and easy to find, and they can filled as needed.

You wear a Camelbak your back like a rucksack, to drink you bite a value on a tube and suck. This allows you to drink from the pack while you are on the go so its great for running, cycling and hikes.

Camelbaks allow you to carry alot of water so they are great for activities that need a lot of hydration. I love how you can drink from the pack without having to stop and take a water bottle out of your bag.

The final reason I love Camelbaks is the good ones double as a daypack – with pockets for suncream, snacks and even my walking jacket.

Hydro Flask 32 oz Wide Mouth Straw Lid Rain
CAMELBAK Octane 10 70 oz Corsair Teal/Sulphur Spring Backpack - 100 White/Natural, N

PRO WALKERS TIP: Get a cool wall water bottle if possible to make sure the water won't freeze or get an insulation cover!

6: Snacks

When you are hiking in the winter and it is cold, it’s important to choose foods that will provide you with the energy and nutrients you need to keep your body fuelled and warm.  You are going to want to pack foods that are high in fat, protein and carbs!  Plus include drinks and food that keep your electrolytes balanced (like bananas!).

Here are some good snack options for a winter walk or hike:

  1. Nuts and seeds for a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbs to fuel your body.  To be eco friendly pack small reusable bento boxes with almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

  2. Dried fruit is an easy snack to carry on a hike and provides natural sweetness and energy. Again use a bento box make a mix of raisins, apricots, and cranberries.

  3. Energy bars are the best way to get a quick boost of energy and nutrients on the go. Look for bars that are made with whole, natural ingredients and don’t contain too much added sugar.  We love Grenade bars (esp the choice chip cookie ones!) when we are walking

  4. Jerky, yes that’s right its made its way over from the USA and is gaining popularity with walkers because its a good source of protein that can help sustain energy levels during long hikes.  Pick healthy jerky that’s made with lean meat and doesn’t contain too much sodium or preservatives.  My hubby loves Jack Links Beef Jerky.

  5. Energy gels or chews provide a quick hit of carbs and electrolytes, feeling your body as you  hike. Look for the low sugar brands like SIS (Science in Sport) Go Isotonic Energy Gels (these are vegan too!).

No if you want to pack a picnic I am the first to say GO FOR IT! Grab a picnic backpack (I will share my favourite ones below) and fill it with foods like Hard Boiled Eggs, Sandwiches and Wraps – use wholegrain bread and fillings high in protein like chicken, turkey or tofu. 

The Picnic Backpacks will make eating on the hike easier as they contain all your cutlery, plates, cups etc and often have places to carry water bottles or a Thermos Flask too.

7: A Map Or GPS System

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Whenever I am going on a hike I take a map with me because I don’t want to risk getting lost or straying from a trail into trouble!  Maps now come in paper and digital form  (mobile apps and GPS systems) and which one you choose is really a matter of personal preference.

Paper maps are lightweight, durable and can be used again and again and best of all don’t need batteries to work! Old fashioned paper maps are also cheap to buy for the novice or budget conscious walker.

Paper maps can however be difficult to read in a gale up Gable Head (hahah ever tried that walk in a force 7 wind?) or when the lights poor.  The two main map brands are the OS (ordinance Survey Maps) or the Collins Maps.

When it comes to digital maps  you have two options:

  • Mobile apps like WikiLOC, Alltrails, Mapmyhike etc
  • Or a dedicated GPS System like a Garmin, Suunto or a Magellan.

Again which one you choose is totally down to personal preferences.  I love the walking apps because you get the reviews on walks from people who have walked them, so I can see if they are really easy for my dodgy pelvis or not! 

The issue I found with map apps like WikiLOC etc is because its using the phones signal and GPS it can loose your location if their isn’t a signal and BOOM you are lost.  Thats happened a few times and made us consider getting a GPS System.

A GPS uses satellites to plot your course so it doesn’t lose your location if you move out of cell service.  A good GPS system can give you turn by turn location information and will be your most up to date route map too. Global Positioning Systems can also give you time and weather information in real time helping to keep you safe on long hikes.

GPS systems come in watch and mobile type systems and you should decide a budget and shop about before buying to find the perfect one.

8: A First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen at any time, so it’s a good idea to carry a small first-aid kit with you on your walk. Include items like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain medication.

We bought one to take on our recent european road trip (12 countries in 12 weeks guys!).  We are super happy with this compact first aid kit as we could carry it in our rucksack when on hikes and in the car too.  We have since used it for minor cuts, burns and also to patch Scott up when he broke his bicep!

Hope this review of the kits of our xxxxx First Aid Kit is helpful.  It was only €24.99 and includes helpful things for walkers like plasters for blisters and a foil blanket.

9: A Whistle

If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, a whistle can be a useful tool to attract attention. Carry a whistle with you on your walk in case of emergencies.

Taking a whistle with you on a hike can be a helpful safety precaution, as it can be used to signal for help in the event of an emergency. A whistle can be heard from a greater distance than the human voice, which can be especially useful if you are lost or injured and need to attract the attention of rescuers or other hikers.

There are a variety of whistles available for purchase, including those made of plastic, metal, or other materials. Some whistles have a lanyard or a keychain attachment, making them easy to carry with you. Some whistles are designed to be particularly loud, while others are designed to be compact and lightweight.

When choosing a whistle for a hike, it’s a good idea to look for one that is durable, easy to use, and loud enough to be heard from a distance. You may also want to consider the type of terrain you will be hiking in, as some whistles may be more effective in certain environments than others.

In addition to a whistle, it’s a good idea to bring other safety items with you on a hike, such as a map and a compass, a first aid kit, and a means of communication, such as a phone or a two-way radio. By being prepared and having these items with you, you can be better equipped to handle any unexpected situations that may arise while you are on your hike.

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Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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About the author
Alexandra is a longtime party planner & event specialist who loves to host fun picnics, parties and events for friends & family.  She now uses her expertise to recommend the best products on the market for you to get out and enjoy life.

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