The Essential Winter Hillwalking Kit Checklist
With winter upon us, if you’re lucky, you may have to set out in the snow. Here’s a run-down of the kit you’ll need in addition to the basic summer kit. This is typical kit for a typical winter in Snowdonia, and you will need to be more prepared for avalanche risk if you venture into the Highlands which is beyond the scope of this list.
It goes without saying that the most essential thing is that you venture on the hills with the knowledge of how to use all the kit you carry. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your navigation needs to be top notch in winter as normally obvious features such as paths and even large knolls can be totally obscured. Add into the mix the possibility of a white out – where you can’t even discern where the ground ends and the sky starts, and you realise that things get tricky. You neither have the time to ponder your navigation either as you’ll probably end up taking a glove off to do the detailed compass work, and it’s got to be right first time or you start suffering cold hands or worse.
Ice axes are quite easy to choose compared to other items of gear. The Grivel Munro seems to be a popular and inexpensive choice. Just make sure you get one suited to a walker not a climber, and that it’s the right length. Traditionally you should hold the axe by the’head’ and the point should touch the floor – but much of the advice is now towards shorter axes. If it’s sold as a par then it’s for climbers. Your best bet? Find a decent shop and they’ll set you right.
Crampons – The most important thing is getting a pair that fit your boots (you’ll need stiff boots!) and the activity you’ll be doing. So a decent pair of flexible walker’s crampons such as the Grivel Classic 10 Point Walking Crampon will be ideal for hill walkers. Of course, your boots might well dictate your crampon choice and again this can be a complicated choice. Each crampon has a coding – graded C1, C2 and C3 relative to their flexibility and general compatibility with different styles of boots. If you’ve got B0 boots then none of the traditional crampons officially fit, but I’ve used a C1 crampon with Meindl Burma boots when I know that the snow is only on part of the route. Anti-balling plates are a good investment as well, as it prevents snow build up under the crampon.
|Use||B1 boot (semi stiff)||B2 boot (fully stiff)||B3 boot (technical climbing boot)|
|C1 crampon||relatively flexible walking crampon||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|C2 crampon||versatile crampon for both walking and mountaineering||No||Yes||Yes|
|C3 crampon||technical mountaineering crampon||No||No||Yes|
Crampon Compatible Boots – You’ve got the crampon, now you’ll need a matching boot that’ll take it. This is really one you have to sort out with a decent supplier, as well as trying your boots with the crampons, and vice versa, depending which one you get first.
Rucksack – Will need to be at least 30 litres.It’s essential that it has ice axe attachment loops and possibly some way of stowing crampons without them damaging the pack.
Torch – Absolute essential in winter!
Lithium Batteries – If you’ve got a torch, or anything that depends on regular batteries, you’ll need Lithiums. Regular batteries lose their juice in sub-zero temperatures, while lithiums do not. Be prepared for this to hurt your pocket however, as they’re much more expensive than regular batteries and even more so if you tend to use rechargeable batteries.
Food, Water and Flask – You’ll burn more calories in the cold, so take plenty with you! Even if it’s cold, you’ll need to drink plenty. A flask of something hot is not a luxury, it’s essential.
Waterproof Map – Or a decent map case.
Sunglasses or Goggles – These minimise the glare from the snow, especially in sunny conditions. Ski goggles also provide a further layer of protection if the conditions are particularly fierce.
Sunblock – If it’s sunny, you’ll need sunblock as you can burn quite easily in snowy conditions.
Walking socks. They need to be warm this time of year. I use thick walking socks along with a thin liner sock, and it works.
Waterproof Jacket and leggings – Yes, these are on the summer list already, but make sure they’re up to the job of winter walking?
Fleece and an Insulated down or synthetic jacket. When you stop, you’ll get cold. Even if you keep moving, you might get cold so you’ll need spare layers. A thick insulation layer is essential for those summit stops.
Gloves and hat – Gloves need to be serious in winter. They’re often too thick to make fiddly tasks practical, so couple them with a thin liner glove.
Winter Walking Trousers – A Decent walking trouser with over-trousers might suffice, or invest in proper insulated and/or waterproof trews. We swear by Paramo Aspira trews, which have padded knees and arse and suitable for all sorts of winter activities. Thermal leggings, or long johns are a further option.
Group and Optional items
Shovel – This can be handy for clearing snow to make a shelter for lunch, but mainly as an emergency item. May be occasionally useful to dig through a drift. I take a Grivel Steel Blade that attaches to an ice axe, but there’s plenty to choose from. Much more useful if you’re mountaineering as you can use them for digging snow belays and as a deadman.
Emergency Kit – You’ll need to ensure that this is up to scratch. A decent survival bag and/or a group shelter is a must along with a whistle and emergency rations.
Have we missed any of your favourite bit of winter kit out? Hope not, but post below if we have.
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siDave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.