Tips for a winter walk

By Jane Seymour

Walking in colder weather has a charm all of its own, but it pays to plan ahead. Don’t be caught out on your winter wanderings: use our top tips to prepare for your winter walks.

If you enjoyed long walks over the summer, when a sudden shower was the main weather concern, it’s easy to assume you can just grab a cagoule and bottle of water and set off out of the front door.

Whether it’s a winter walk through gorgeous chilly woodland or a striking stroll in the wintry city, getting out and about this time of year is just as fun and has pleasures all of its own – but check out our tips below for making sure things don’t go awry.

Check transport

If you’re not lucky enough to be able to walk straight out of your front door and into the countryside, take another look at that timetable. Some services have winter timings as soggy leaves and icy mornings slow things down. You’ll want to be able to wrap up warmly if you’re waiting longer for a bus – there’s only so much jogging on the spot you can do!

What to wear on your winter walk

Talking of jogging on the spot, make sure you’ve got the layers you need to keep warm and dry. That scarf or hat you were gifted unexpectedly? Now’s the time to embrace them. Even if you don’t wear them when you’re striding along, you can get cold quickly if you pause for a snack or to take photos. Stick another layer in your pack. Your future self will thank you.

Man leaning over to do up young boy's duffel coat
Remember to wrap up for colder weather. | Abigail Oliver

Hot drink

Mud underfoot or a diversion to avoid some flooding, say, can really slow you down and mean you’re not keeping as warm as you would if you were striding out at your normal pace. Take a flask with a hot drink to give yourself a boost if you’re taking longer than usual. Or to just give yourself the excuse to stop and admire the view while you have a cuppa.

Two middle aged woman, one with prosthetic leg, stopping by stile for a drink from a flask
Packing a flask with a hot drink is always a good idea in the colder months. | CPRE

Consider the route

If it’s a walk you usually do in drier months, do think about whether it’s going to be a good winter one. A lot of a route that’s at risk of flooding, heavy mud or endlessly slippery underfoot can be much less fun. Some walking books and websites will have suggestions for winter walks to make sure you avoid these hazards and get home before dark …

A small boy holds up a map with the countryside visible behind

It gets dark earlier …

Yes, we know you know that. But if you get delayed, it’s a new route or you’ve timed it in summer, it’s easy to get caught out. And for the townies among us, away from streetlights and under tree branches, especially if there’s no moon or starlight, it gets very very dark. Take a torch or make sure there’s a torch app on your phone – and check the battery for both.

Bright moon at night shining through gap in the tree canopy
You can’t always rely on the moon to light your way after dark. | John Silliman / Unsplash

Animal antics

Dogs will be as excited as ever to explore the outdoors but older dogs and those without a natural winter coat might need some help to keep them warm. Picking a winter jacket that is high vis will help you keep an eye on them easily if you’re out after dark – the Dogs Trust has lots of ideas for keeping your dogs healthy in winter.

Make sure any stop points are open

Both winter opening hours, changes because of coronavirus, or delays like those above can lead to that horrible moment when that hot soup you were looking forward to is replaced by a ‘closed’ sign. Make sure you’ve double checked – and then have back-up, too. An emergency sandwich, chocolate or snack bar can be a great boost if your timing goes wrong.

Stop and stare

But after all that, don’t forget why you came out for a walk. Enjoy the winter landscape and watch out for signs of wildlife you can only see in nature.

Frozen leaf
Frost can add a winter beauty to nature | Anne Benson/Unsplash

Get some inspiration from some of CPRE’s friends on their favourite winter walks and Susie White’s inspirational advice on what to look out for in December. Now wrap up and get out there ….

A group of older adults walking with sticks in coats
A little bit of planning will set you up nicely for a winter walk. iStock

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