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Bonita's top tips for walking in winter

5 top tips for walking in in winter with OS #GetOutside champion, and avid mountain explorer, Bonita Norris.

Over winter the world is full of new resolutions and people trying to work off some of their Christmas guilt. Promises of getting active, getting outside more and trying new things with undoubtedly be talked about by many of us, with lots of us promising to walk more.

The only problem is January falls in Winter, when for most of us in Britain, a good time is a warm drink, some cheesy telly and desperate attempt to stay warm. However we don’t think that winter weather should put you off getting outside and taking a walk.

Luckily for us our #GetOutside champion Bonita Norris has put together some top tips for walking in winter. Having become the youngest woman from the UK ever to climb Mount Everest when she was 22, Bonita is pretty well accomplished in winter activities and knows a thing or two about getting out in cold conditions.

Follow Bonita’s five safety tips for winter walking

Winter is beautiful and the best time of year to exercise. Some popular places are crazy busy in summer, but if you make the effort you can be rewarded with peace and quiet and a very different-looking place. And it feels like it’s all yours. As my Himalayan trips have been in March time, my training for these has been during the coldest months of the year. I taught myself to think of the cold as a positive thing and would purposely get outside and run on the coldest nights of the year. I can remember once thinking “I actually can run in minus five!” It was a revelation. But it doesn’t have to be about training for the Himalayas, these top tips should steer you through some winter walking in Britain too.

  1. If you’re going out hill walking this winter I’d always recommend getting up really early and getting back early – this is what I was taught – start in the dark, finish in daylight, not the other way around. You’re less energised at the end of the day, and if you get caught out in the dark when you’re tired, you could have an epic on your hands. In winter, it’s good to start before dawn – you get to appreciate the amazing sunrises from whatever hill you’re climbing.
  2. Having the right kit is key. If you’re going to buy a new winter kit this year, try to buy something bright and colourful. Black or dark navy/dark purple jackets are harder to spot against a winter landscape and this could make a huge difference in an emergency. I love taking a hot flask when climbing or hill walking. Never underestimate the impact a cup of hot tea can have on you mentally and physically when you’re cold and a bit tired! It’s one of the best feelings in the world and can be a lifesaver, too. Find out more about planning and kit in this blog.
  3. Get a buddy: Always try to partner up in winter for morale and safety. I run with my aunty, which I love and it means we can still go trail running or walking later in the evenings if we need to.
  4. Join a club: There are so many different clubs you can join where you can meet people to get outside with. Or sign up for an organised activity, the British Mountaineering Council and Ordnance Survey have lots of ideas on their website for winter activity courses across the UK.
  5. Get your bearings: Winter navigation skills are a must for anyone venturing into the hills during winter. One New Year’s Eve my group got lost in the Cairngorms in a near white-out. It was nearly midnight by the time we found ourselves back at the car. We were tired after a long day and took a wrong bearing, it’s easily done if you’re not used to navigating in winter conditions.

My advice would be to use more than one navigation method – have a back-up. Always take a spare GPS and keep the batteries warm by having them close to your skin (ladies, I put mine in my sports bra!). Always take a paper map if you’re going to be using a phone to navigate in case it loses charge. And make sure you can take a bearing with a compass and follow it successfully. Refresh your map-reading skills for every eventuality, not least because the British weather can change so quickly.

"Never underestimate the impact a cup of hot tea can have on you mentally and physically when you’re cold and a bit tired!"

Bonita Norris