Top tips to remain safe this winter in the great outdoors!
The nights are now drawing in and the shorter days are with us for the next few months, and not forgetting the clocks going back on Sunday 29th October. But that doesn’t mean that the countryside is out of bounds, it just means you need to be properly prepared. Here are a few key safety considerations before venturing out onto the hills and moors.
Firstly, be aware of the time. Make sure you start your journey early enough to complete the route in daylight, and be aware what time it gets dark, allowing plenty time to get home safely, even if the weather changes for the worst. Plan your day and route carefully and let someone know where you are going and how long you expect to be out.
Have a map and compass with you…and have the ability to use them! Navigation is much harder at night and darkness changes everything. Route finding becomes more difficult, not forgetting to mention being able to see where you are placing your feet or the direction you are travelling.
Of course everyone has an emergency torch in your rucksack… you do, don’t you?! Carry a good quality torch and or a head torch with spare batteries should you get delayed and night falls. Some people prefer to carry an additional torch to avoid having to change batteries in the cold or darkness. Adequate lighting is critical when the nights draw in. Trying to map read or making your way over rough ground from a little light on a mobile phone is a nightmare that you really don’t want to experience. This will also use up what could be vital mobile phone battery life.
Remember most accidents happen towards the end of the day when you are feeling tired and your energy levels are low, quite like your mobile phone battery that you’ve been using all day to find your location on a GPS app or uploading pictures to social media! Before you venture out, register your mobile phone with the Emergency SMS service. It’s really easy to do and could save your life. Visit the website and follow the instructions: www.emergencysms.org.uk
Ensure you wear suitable clothing for the time of year and sturdy footwear with good tread. Carry a rucksack or backpack that contains food, drink, waterproofs, hat and gloves, extra layers to keep you warm and dry if the worst happens, and an emergency foil blanket or bivvy bag to protect you from the elements in case of emergency. Ask yourself, if you or someone with you has to stop for an extended period of time, will the kit you have with you be enough to protect you from the elements?
For those who like to move fast in the hills, like fell runners and mountain bikers, there’s always a temptation to travel light and leave spare kit at home. Please consider though what to do if you twist an ankle, break a chain or simply can’t walk off the moors easily to a road to ring for help. Having to sit on top of a windblown moor for a few hours in a t-shirt and shorts will be an adventure you’ll only want to experience once.
Winter is not a time to avoid the hills. If anything it’s a time to revel in them. Fewer people means quieter days out. Those perfect crisp morning runs, or late evening rides. Catching sunset and sunrise on the same day, it can be one of the best times of the year if you’re prepared and willing to get out there to enjoy it.
Remember in the event of an emergency, dial 999 or 112 and ask for Police, then Mountain Rescue.