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Winter Walking Tips

As the clocks go back, temperatures drop, the days get shorter and walkers need to take more care. You don't need to be traversing mountain tops and ridges to be thinking hard about what you wear and carry in your rucksack as winter creeps up. It's tempting to wrap up warm and head off smartly but it won't be long before you're hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. The key to comfort is layers of clothing - a baselayer to shift moisture away from your skin where it would chill as it cools; a mid layer such as a fleece top for insulating warmth and an outer layer that can protect you from wind, rain and snow. As a cold wind can whisk away body heat carrying an extra warm layer makes sense as does a cosy hat and gloves. Avoid overheating by sticking to a comfortable pace and letting heat escape by quick simple ventilation options such as opening zips and cuffs and whipping off your hat - not recommended in a howling storm, of course! In your rucksack, a hot drink, food, snacks, basic first aid kit and a head torch (check the batteries) are the bare essentials. A map and compass or GPS should be handy and in use whilst a safety whistle should be easy to reach not buried in a pocket. It's worth giving your footwear and clothing a walker's MOT - clean, reproof and treat as needed. Plan a walk based on your fitness, realistic speed over the ground, daylight available and, of course, the weather. Let somebody know where you are going and head off for the fun. If you're planning on hillwalking, then 'Hope for the best; plan for the worst' is a sound attitude. Just carrying an ice axe and crampons when you're venturing over the tops in winter conditions is not enough. You really do need to know how to use them and to be able to 'read' the ground and weather safely. A course at one of Britain's top outdoor centres will give you an excellent start in building experience: Plas y Brenin - the National Mountain Centre Glenmore Lodge - the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre Useful info, advice and occasional courses and talks can be found at the British Mountaineering Council (BMC); not just for climbers but a useful resource for walkers as well