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7 Winter Mistakes Walkers Make and How to Avoid Them


Winter hiking may be different to summer hiking, but with these handy tips you can avoid the winter mistakes walkers often make.

After the warm summer months it’s time to look toward the colder months of winter for walking, which can be just as enjoyable, particularly when the snow falls. But snow increases the chances of error and risks that might be minor in the summer can have potentially serious consequences in the winter.

Here are some winter mistakes walkers make and how to avoid them.

Shorter Days

The short days during winter mean that there is less room when it comes to timing. Unfortunately, plenty of people head out without proper planning or navigation and often find themselves caught out when they find they are stuck on a hill as darkness descends.

How to Avoid: Make sure you get an early start and have a proper plan already in place the day before as to where you’re going. Remember to bring headlamps even if you’re only doing a short walk as you never know how a situation may take a turn for the worse.

Snooze Button

Sleeping in during the winter is a bad idea as it means you have less of the day to work with. There is then a greater chance you’ll finish the walk in the dark.

How to Avoid: Rise and shine, sunshine! Resist the snooze button, get up and make the most of the daylight hours as you can. You’ll be thankful you made the most of your day instead of wasting it.

Getting Lost

During the summer if you get lost you simply have to walk a bit further than originally planned, but during the winter getting lost means being exposed to cold conditions and short light conditions. Physically, the harsh winter weather can make you more tired, creating the risk of errors, while the prospect of a whiteout can be a daunting challenge for anyone.

How to Avoid: Take a winter navigation course, which most outdoor centers will provide.

flickr/Paul Gardin
Flickr/Paul Gardin


Avalanche Awareness

It’s important to be aware of your immediate surroundings when on the hill, but it’s easy to get distracted and fall into traps of blindly following others or being deceived by gradual slopes, which can contribute to accidents.

How to Avoid: Being prepared, knowledgeable and constantly assessing your environment are important factors when it comes to avalanche awareness.

flickr/Elysium 2010
Flickr/Elysium 2010

More from Wide Open Spaces:

How to Master the Tough Task of Hiking with Kids

Signaling Techniques for Help Outdoors

How to Avoid Leg Cramps When Hiking

How to Orient Yourself With a Map and Compass

Poor Planning

In most cases, accidents in winter are the result of poor planning, which can either mean people have decided on a route that is too long or not having proper escape routes along the way.

How to Avoid: Be mindful that in winter things take a lot longer, so it is important to properly plan and prepare in order to avoid any mishaps along the way.

flickr/Jussi Vuorisalmi
Flickr/Jussi Vuorisalmi


Damaged Kit

You might be able to get away with flawed kit during the summer months when the sun is beaming down on you, but in the winter the weather will expose any defects in your kit. Simply forgetting items of clothing can turn a winter walk into a nightmare, such as forgetting goggles only to have the wind whip up the snow rendering you blind…and let’s not even talk about how your hands will feel if you forget to pack a pair of gloves.

How to Avoid: Make sure your kit is up to par for what you want to do and pack any spares, such as gloves and hats.

Forgetting to have Fun

This list may seem a tad bit onerous, but just remember that the dangers of winter go with the rewards as well. In the colder months, hiking can produce some spectacular sights compared to the summer months. While it’s important to stay safe and remain within your limits, it’s also important to have fun.

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7 Winter Mistakes Walkers Make and How to Avoid Them