What to Wear for Winter Walking

This blog posts builds on our last one when we talked about Winter Walking tips.

There is nothing worse than being cold and uncomfortable when you are out walking. Whether for a short enjoyable walk to clear your head; a full day’s walk with friends or walking for fitness, having the right gear makes all the difference.

It’s not only about putting on what you think will be warm, it’s about clothing that can cope with you moving and sweating and ensures warmth when you stop and start to cool down too.

I talk about dressing in layers. This is useful because you can put on and take off as you need to as heat builds and again, as you cool down. If you are already thinking that more lighter layers are better than a thick sweater, you’d be right.

Firstly wool doesn’t allow you to cool down and when you stop, you start to feel the chill very quickly as that damp wool is against your body. This is also why wool socks don’t work. If your feet get continually damp or wet they can become cracked and very sore.

Instead, thermal layers are useful and can be bought in many places such as Uniqlo and M&S as well as the outdoor shops who will normally stock a wide range of brands at varying prices such as North Face, Lowe Alpine, Blacks, Cotswold Outdoor, Mountain Warehouse etc. In the USA I love REI and there is TJ Maxx and wherever you are just ask for recommendations and ‘google’ and you will find so much choice. 

In my experience these wear very well and mine have all been washed on numerous occasions and taken travelling all over the world and are still going strong. They dry quickly, so washing them out if you are walking for a number of days in a row and drying them overnight, makes packing easier too, as you need less.

You will find long and short-sleeved tops, vests and even camisole type tops so you can choose what suits you and these different styles are useful in the transitional months from winter to spring and autumn to winter.

In the middle of winter you might be wearing a number of long sleeved versions but then as the weather gets a little warmer what about a short sleeved followed by a long sleeved one, you get the drift. Wearing light thermal leggings under your walking trousers, gym leggings or sweatpants works in the same way as on your top half.

Be aware of your body temperature because in that way you will tend to take off or put on before more extremes set in and this keeps you stable. As well as warmth much of this is also about protection from the wind.

Buffs, scarves, ski headbands, hats and even balaclava type headwear all have a role to play. I have a hat bought in Peru, with ear flaps which isn’t the most attractive but when I’m cold, how I look goes out the window, it’s how I feel that’s key.

You can get glove liners to go inside your gloves as well as hand warmers – available in outdoor shops and online. They are like mini hot waterbottles. You may be able to get them for your feet too.

So now to our feet. There is varying advice on socks and I feel that this is something that you have to try out for yourself. Some schools of thought advise two pairs of socks any time you walk, this hasn’t worked for me but it may for you. The advice with two pairs, a lighter and then heavier winter pair is to leave a little room so your feet don’t get cramp. Do try socks on with shoes as you don’t want your feet to feel tight and you may need to buy a bigger pair of boots or walking shoes. When looking for socks, you will now find that there are socks for different seasons so if in doubt, do ask.

When buying gear in the first place I would advise going to a physical outdoor shop as the people working there have such great experience and are so helpful. Then when you know what works for you, you can order online. This advice is especially important when buying walking boots or shoes.

Try on a range of different brands, walk around in them, get them fitted properly and again talk about where you are going to wear these and in what season. I have a few pairs of boots now including leather ones often only worn in Scotland.

So let’s summarise

  1. Next to your skin, base layers of sweat wicking material, no cotton

  2. Wear an insulating layer such as a light fleece.

  3. Your outer layer should be water and wind proof

I always carry an extra dry layer in my backpack just incase of any emergencies. Having something warm to put on if you have got wet is a joy.

I also carry a poncho in a pouch that can be put over everything else including my backpack as another waterproof layer.

So now you can go out there knowing you will be warm and knowing that the layers will allow you to move between seasons easily.

My Women on Foot group walks all year round in and around London and once the days get longer we go further afield. If you’re interested or if you’d like to have these in your own town or city click here to check us out.

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