Q: “I’m keen to get into the outdoors over the winter and run, bike and hike. What tips have you got in terms of kit/other needs/ requirements?” Terry Jones, by email
A: Admittedly UK weather in winter can be a challenge but remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor kit choices! With recent huge steps forward in technology and clothing, there really is no excuse not to get outside all year round and at any time of day. Firstly get yourself a good set of lights. Modern head torches are fantastic and good value, especially if you shop online. Most of them will double up for bike lights and whilst I wouldn’t bother road biking in the dark (mainly for safety reasons), I love nothing more than mountain biking on a cold crisp winter’s night. I’m proud to say I’ve never been on a turbo and hopefully never will. Just get out!
There seems to be the strange misconception in this country that when it’s dark in the winter that means it’s poor weather. That’s not true. Clothing is of course crucial. Base layers are always a good idea and Buffs are great. Take time to choose the right jacket knowing that if it says it’s breathable, waterproof, windproof and lightweight it’s probably not exactly telling the truth. It’s likely you’ll have to sacrifice one of those four, especially if you don’t want to break the bank.
GPS is invaluable and most modern phones have apps that will help you here. I also love my spikes – lightweight crampons that you put over your running or hiking shoes. They’ve got me out of trouble on the mountains on several occasions. I would argue that hydration in winter is more important that in summer, primarily as it’s easy to think that in winter you don’t need to drink and that you’re not sweating. So adopt the usual rules and as long as you’re not making the snow yellow (if you had to wee outside) that’s fine!
Invest in a decent running and hiking rucksack that you can also use whilst mountain biking – but do check that it’s comfortable whatever the activity.
Finally, why not celebrate the winter instead of just trying to grin and bear it? Ski touring makes for a superb day’s adventure and modern wetsuits mean you can surf the winter waves in warmth. With thought, planning and with the right gear the change of seasons can usher in a “can do” attitude and not a “can’t do that” one.