Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
How to Win Winter
31, Oct, 2019
It may be dark out, but the hills are still there; dig out your head torch and don't let those dark winter evenings get the better of you.
So what’s winning winter all about? Well, it’s taking what you normally do in the summer and doing it when the clocks go back too.
Winning winter is finishing work as dusk falls and heading out for a run anyway; rising early and cycling up to your favourite spot to watch the sun come up over the hill; staying at the crag a little later than you probably should on a school night.
Let’s stop being afraid of the short and cold days, embrace the darkness and unfamiliarity of the nocturnal world, and win winter.
Fear of the dark isn’t irrational.
Our caveman brains are wired to be apprehensive of things that go “growl” in the night. Wanting to curl up under a blanket and sit in front of the fire all winter is understandable.
What a missed opportunity this is! The hills are still there all winter, waiting, but somehow different. Paths that you’ve trodden countless times take on a mystical quality, familiar landscapes are rediscovered, newly remarkable, and you get that unrivaled feeling of freedom and space that can only be found out in nature after nightfall. The sights and sounds, the familiar locations and journeys all take on a completely new perspective.
Also, we don’t live in caves anymore. Ok, maybe the odd person lives in a cave, but that’s their business...
If it’s cold we have warm, protective clothes. If it’s wet we have waterproofs. If it’s dark we have lights. Lots of lights. Lightweight lights, powerful lights, camping lights, bike lights and lights you can go running in. The only thing you actually need to be afraid of is running out of batteries (cough, we sell those too).
The right light for you will be one that offers you the best balance of brightness, weight and battery life for your needs. Obviously this depends on what you’re up to, so why not take our advice on how to choose a head torch.
On a recent trip to Snowdonia, we found out first hand what you can squeeze into a weekend of Winning Winter.
Running Through Winter
Everything is a little different in winter - the same trails you're used to trotting along before the sun sets are now pitch black, the quiet forest track for after work training suddenly looks nothing like you remember. Well that's all part of the charm, you feel like you're on that little bit more of an advenutre and if you want to take it up into the fells or mountains it will give a new test for your navigation skills! Pacing over pastoral terrain that we know like the backs of our hands by day, but by night it reveals a new and mysterious character, perfect for exploring.
There are countless reasons why we love running through winter, but when it's cold and miserable out there it's often difficult to find the motivation. We've put together a handy guide to suviving the winter running season to help you Win Winter.
Climbing, Bouldering and Mountaineering
Drop a grade and head to all the spots close to work for an evening session with friends. Grab a powerful torch and light the way for your buddies. Alternatively get out on the hill a few hours before anyone else and bag the first ascent that day. Climb or walk all day and only come down when you're done, if the days not long, enough just ensure you have your head torch handy. Getting up a little earlier in camp to cook breakfast under lamp light before trekking across the still frozen snow and ice up in the highlands this Winter will guarantee some amazing sites. Sunrise from the summit of your favourite munro has got to be worth that extra cup of coffee.
Longer nights don’t mean less trails. If anything, you get more trails: trail by night, and trail by day. Trails by night are quieter and quicker, the twists and turns that you’re accustomed to suddenly take you by surprise. Alert, responsive, senses heightened; exhilarating. Think that red trail you whizzed through the other day was easy? Try it after sunset and let us know how you get on! Biking with limited vision adds a whole host of new challenges on technical trails. Good lighting and warm layers are a must.
Who said that camping is just for fair weather? Wrap up warm, cook up an extra big hearty soup, savour that extra bit of time for gazing at the stars and squeeze in that extra night away. In winter we often hear about taking half a day off to get somewhere in the light to pitch the tent, or finishing a day on the hill a bit early to get back and cook in the light. Or possibly even forgoeing the camping and booking somehwere inside.
Winter camping can be magical if you're well prepared. To help you winterise your summer camping setup and get ready for the cold to come, we've put together a great list of top tips for winter camping.
Nocturnal Nature Spotting
There is a vast array of creatures that keep hidden until sundown, and the early evenings are a perfect opportunity to grab a Filo down jacket (and perhaps a MytiMug for coffee) and go seek them out.
Bats are most active during warmer months so get in there quick before they snuggle down for winter. There are many bat hunts/ walks that you can just tag along with across the UK. The walks are regularly run at many National Trust sites. However, if you fancy something a bit more informal, take a stroll around your local area, they can be found in towns and cities as well as the countryside. Barns, bridges and trees are popular roosting spots for bats!
For something a little more feathered, try an owl walk. Many of the walks include some up-close and even hands-on experience with the owls.
Headtorch Scavenger Hunt
Create a list of items for the kids to find in the garden (or other specified outdoor space) after sunset such as leaves, rocks, bugs and flowers. Don’t forget to hide some glow sticks for added magic! Variations such as finding specific colours or species can be used for older children.
Water Sports in Winter
For those who already know their way around a kayak during daylight hours, why not step things up a notch and take a trip in the dark! Of course, safety precautions will need to be adhered to but once satisfied then paddling at night will provide a journey with a whole new perspective. Paddling through moon-reflecting waters under a starlit sky - what could be a more idyllic way to spend an evening!
Night-time Surfing or Paddle Boarding
This activity is described as ‘utterly incredible and completely terrifying’. Surfing at night can be likened to floating in space, albeit with the sound of crashing waves. If you prefer something a little gentler, Stand Up Paddle Boarding would be a calmer introduction to low light wave riding! Gets more extreme the closer you get to midwinter! Okay, so you might not need the head torch while you're in the water, but it will help while heating a nice warm brew for afterwards.
Don't let Winter or the darkness get in the way, a little forthought, charging batteries, a few more layers and you could be out enjoying empty trails. But keep it a secret, we wouldn't want everyone out doing it!
Filoment Hoody [Mens]Incredibly light micro-rib 650 fill power hydrophobic down jacket, a warm mid-layer or top layer for Alpine starts and chilly eveningsSale: £109.99Was: £139.99
Filoment Hoody [Womens]Incredibly light micro-rib 650 fill power hydrophobic down jacket, a cosy mid-layer or top layer fo Alpine starts and chilly eveningsSale: £109.99Was: £139.99
Firn [Mens]Lightweight 550 fill power duck down micro-rib jacket; uncluttered and packable, excellent for cool weather walking and for layering when the weather closes inSale: £79.99Was: £119.99
Firn [Womens]Lightweight 550 fill power duck down micro-rib jacket; uncluttered and packable, it makes an excellent standalone jacket for cool weather walking and fits well under a shell when the weather closes inSale: £79.99Was: £119.99
Fantom [Mens]The quintessential down duvet for conquering the cold: chunky baffles chock-full of 650 FP down warmth, encased in lightweight nylon ripstop, and packed with mountain-ready featuresSale: £129.99Was: £169.99
Fantom [Womens]The quintessential down duvet for conquering the cold: chunky baffles chock-full of 650 FP down warmth, encased in lightweight nylon ripstop, and packed with mountain-ready featuresSale: £129.99Was: £169.99
Qark580 lumen rechargeable head torch. Compatible with AAA batteries for when you’re recharging your battery pack, it’s perfect for climbing, trekking, mountaineering, and multi-day adventuresSale: £28.99Was: £32.99
BobBob - the 200 lumen waterproof camping lantern that floats and will happily be submerged. Mountains, seas, rivers or lakes - no matter where your adventure, Bob will light the waySale: £11.99Was: £14.99
Pipedream 400 HydrophobicUltralight 3-season 750 FP hydrophobic goose down sleeping bag with box wall construction, a -6ºC sleep limit and weighing just 865: ideal for fast and light adventuresSale: £199.99Was: £219.99
Skyehigh 700Ideal for big trips further afield as well as microadventures close to home. -8˚C limit 3 – 4 season sleeping bag weighing 1140g£179.99
HunkaA simple bivvy bag weighing less than 400 g, Hunka is breathable, packs down small and a favourite of many weight conscious bikepackers and alpinistsSale: £44.99Was: £49.99
SoloistOne person 3 season backpacking tent weighing 1.2 kg, freestanding, stable and light with oodles of room for your kitSale: £109.99Was: £119.99
Rhythm Thicky Jersey [Womens]Wind resistant and insulating long-sleeved cycling jersey with a soft brushed inner for keeping you protected and comfortable on cold weather ridesSale: £39.99Was: £49.99
Squalline II [Mens]No-nonsense showerproof protection for wind-scoured cols, bone-chilling descents or slow and steady drizzly SundaysSale: £34.99Was: £49.99
Squalline II [Womens]No-nonsense showerproof protection for wind-scoured cols, bone-chilling descents or slow and steady drizzly SundaysSale: £34.99Was: £49.99
Balance [Mens]Perfectly balanced waterproof jacket for the wet weather warrior: a deceptively tough jacket, delivering bone dry days without the weight penaltySale: £149.99Was: £189.99
Balance [Womens]Perfectly balanced waterproof for the wet weather warrior: a deceptively tough jacket, delivering bone dry days without the weight penaltySale: £149.99Was: £189.99