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Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team

Winter Hillwalking Kit List

By Hati Whiteley
24, Dec, 2019

Here's our handy checklist of all the gear you need to stay safe, warm and dry in the hills this winter

You never know quite what you’re going to get with winter walking in the UK – sometimes it feels like we get several different seasons, just in one day.

Before you know it, just getting dressed for a day out in the hills becomes a long-drawn out deliberation over various different layering combinations - we sometimes spend more time getting ourselves ready to head out than most people do getting dressed up for a night out! 

We hate losing valuable daylight to that interminable faff-on, so we thought we’d save you the hassle and do the dressing for you – much like mum and dad did when you were a kid. We reckon this is all the kit you’d need to deal with everything from mild, drizzly-mizzly valleys to frozen eyelashes on howling hoolie mountaintops. 

The Kit:

  1. Clothes for Winter Walking (don't be lazy with your layering!)
    • Waterproof Jacket
    • Warm Fleece
    • Wicking Base Layer
    • Insulated Jacket
    • Walking Trousers
    • Waterproof Trousers
    • Gaiters
    • Hat & Gloves
  2. Comfy Footwear
    • Hiking Socks
    • Boots (not the brand spanking new ones)
  3. Food & Drink
    • High Energy Snacks
    • Plenty of Water
  4. Map & Compass
  5. Head Torch
  6. Just in Case
    • Survival Bag
    • Emergency Whistle
    • Watch
    • First Aid Kit
    • Spare Batteries
  7. Backpack!



1. Clothes for Winter Walking

  • Waterproof jackets are probably the most essential bit of walking kit and absolutely vital in winter, where getting cold and wet can get you into trouble. The Balance (Men’s / Women’s) is our most versatile waterproof jacket: it’s waterproof enough to hold off all-day mountain downpours and is highly breathable for dumping all the sweat you generate when you’re clambering up hillsides. We’ve also made it light enough for carrying in your rucksack easily without compromising its durability – it ain’t called Balance for nuthin’. 
  • A warm mid layer traps lots of still, insulating air and holds onto the heat your body generates when you’re moving about. You’ll probably end up wearing your shell for good chunks of the day so the more breathable it is, the better. A fleece like the Yakutian (Men’s / Women’s) has a dense-knit outer face which also gives you some extra wind resistance if you need to de-layer and take your outer shell off. 
  • A moisture wicking base layer like the Vayper (Men’s Women’s) will stop you getting cold and clammy and traps a thin layer of insulating air next to the skin to back up your mid layer. By contrast, cotton absorbs lots of moisture and take an age to dry, meaning you can get very cold very quickly. A good wicking base layer is the foundation of the whole layering system – wicking undercrackers will change your life too! 
  • Packable insulated jackets are always worth carrying in winter to keep you warm at rest stops or on cold summits. The Talini (Men’s / Women’s) is incredibly light, packs down into a 3 litre Airlok and still insulates even it gets a bit damp from rain or sweat. It’s also low-profile enough to wear under your waterproof if it’s really cold and wet. 


  • Walking trousers, well you’d look a bit funny without them! A good pair of wind resistant and water-resistant trousers like the Ardent (Men's / Women's) will keep out those blasts of bitingly cold wind. An active cut and stretchy fabric allow you to stride without restriction. 
  • Waterproof trousers, like your waterproof jacket, are essential kit throughout the year. You’ll be seriously glad of them if you get caught in a downpour. Our Nautlius (Men’s / Women’s) trousers are super waterproof and breathable and have been designed specifically to be comfy for wearing all day. 
  • Gaiters are invaluable allies against the mud and the bog, these will keep your feet dry and save you from getting muddy trousers. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that gaiters like our Colca are mighty useful. 
  • Hat and gloves, you’ll be happy you have them when you need them! You lose a surprising amount of heat through that noggin of yours.


2. Comfy Footwear

  • Socks: the importance of a good pair of hiking socks should never be underestimated. Everyone has a different sock system, but most of us like to layer a thin sock under a thicker sock (like the Heavy Weight Trekkers) to avoid blisters.

  • Boots: wearing a good pair of walking boots is essential, and although testing out your brand-new boots on Helvellyn might seem like a good idea at first, you’ll regret it when you’re stuck at the summit with a load of painful blisters!

3. Food and Drink

We tend to eat like hobbits when we’re out walking. After all, when else do you get to eat breakfast, second breakfast, and elevenses?

Make sure you pack yourself a good meal and take a few extra high energy snacks too. You may not think you’ll eat it all, but you never know what delays you may face when out and about and there’s nothing worse than being hungry on the hill! (If you don’t eat it, at least you’ve got tomorrow’s lunch sorted!) If you have the space, then taking something like the BruKit will make it easy to whip up a fresh brew or wam food!

Water: We all know the importance of staying hydrated, but it’s amazing how often we forget to take a bottle of water with us when we head out for the day! Make sure that you’ve got enough water for your day out and take hot drinks in an insulated flask like our Daytripper and Clip to warm yourself up form the inside out.

4. Map and Compass

We’re not saying that you can’t navigate by divination (we’re not saying you can either), but you should take a map and compass anyway and make sure that you know how to use them. Even on familiar trails, it’s amazing how the clearest of paths can suddenly befuddle us when the weather closes in.

5. Head Torch

Those dark evenings and short days always seem to take us by surprise when the clocks go back. Throwing a head torch in your bag could make the difference between getting home safely and getting caught out in the dark. We often take the long-lasting Viper with its reactive lighting that switches between spot and flood for route-finding and map-reading or the recharchable (and AAA compatible) Qark for its powerful long beam. It’s also worth taking a watch, it’s amazing how time can get away from you when you’re out on an adventure!

6. Just in Case

It seems odd to take things that you hope you’ll never use when you go out hillwalking, and especially so close to home, but carrying these items about all the time will be worth it if you ever need to use them:

  • Survival bag, for protection from the elements in emergency situations
  • Emergency whistle
  • A watch, or something else that you can use to tell the time
  • First aid kit, fully stocked with a few blister plasters thrown in
  • Spare batteries because you'll feel a bit daft if your headtorch runs out

7. Backpack

How else would you get everything up the hill? You want your rucksack to be comfortable, well-fitted, and built for purpose. Mountain and trekking packs like the Presta and the Ledge give you ample room for all your bits and bobs and back supports to help you carry stuff comfortably. It's always a good idea to pack your spare clothing and electicals into a waterproof Airlok dry bag, just in case you get a real soaking.


You've got your kit, now all you need is a destination! Take a look at our UK Hot Hill Haunts for inspiration

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