Winter Walking Gear List
Weather conditions in the mountains of Ireland can and do change extremely rapidly and conditions on the tops and the higher you climb will be very different to that in the valleys. The following items are regarded as essential for high-level Winter hill walking in Ireland and it is vital that clients be fully prepared for and have the necessary gear to deal with the varied and at times severe conditions experienced in the wild Irish mountain Winter environment.
A 30–40 litre backpack is recommended and should have a waist and a chest strap. Backpacks are generally not waterproof and the rain covers that come with them are not that dependable (they blow off, are not that waterproof either and in strong winds act like a kite) so it is best to just use a dry bag inside your pack. Special purpose dry bags are available in various sizes but a cheaper and simpler option is a black refuse sack to line the inside of the entire rucksack and individual luncheon/zip lock bags for keeping car keys, wallet and phone giving extra protection to these vulnerable items.
Waterproof / windproof jacket and over trousers
Wet is the enemy of warmth, so decent waterproofs are essential to keep you dry. While it is highly recommended that both tops and trousers are of a breathable fabric such as GoreTex or EVent, don’t worry if they’re not as even some sort of breathability such as chest or hip pockets will act as venting and allow your sweat vapour to escape, otherwise you’ll have the potential of being wet from the “inside out” as condensation builds up on the inside.
Make sure you choose trousers that are stretchy, comfortable and allow enough space to move your legs freely. Denims are not suitable for hill walking and dry very slowly once they get wet and in turn extract vital heat from the body.
Warm inner base layer
A sports type base layer of moisture wicking material works best such as a sports jersey, jogging or gym top. This will help evaporate off any sweat and stop you feeling the chill when you stop. Cotton is best avoided as it traps moisture and hence doesn’t allow this to happen and when damp, stays damp!
Mid Layer/Warmth layers
It is better to wear several relatively thin layers than a single thick one so you can more easily adjust your temperature. The Mid Layer absorbs the moisture from your base layer and generally this layer can be wool or fleece which both stay warm when wet, fleece being lighter and quicker to dry. Like the base layer, various fleeces are available to suit different seasons or activities. Micro fleeces are very popular as are windproof fleeces which have the advantage of keeping a chill wind off the body. All are available in crew or zip top neck, this is a personal choice, and fleeces with zips allow more temperature control than crew neck types.
The choice of footwear depends on the seriousness and steepness of the route, but good quality, good fitting comfortable boots (without a heel or steel toe!) are probably the most important part of your kit. Trail shoes/trainers though definitely NOT recommended, will suffice depending on the weather conditions but be aware they do not support and protect the feet and ankles adequately and do not afford the same high level of grip on rock, grass and boggy conditions that modern light-weight mountain walking boots do. Flat soled shoes are NOT acceptable. Advisable: If you buy new boots for you hike, make sure to try them out on one or two longer walks before the final big day to avoid finding out half way up a mountain that they are ill fitting, uncomfortable or cause blisters!
A good pair of hiking socks can make all the difference between an enjoyable hike and an uncomfortable one. The best walking socks are non-cotton and high wicking, meaning they move moisture away from your feet to help regulate temperature and keep them dry, prevent blisters and avoid ‘hot-spots’.
Warm hat or wide rimmed sun hat / peaked cap depending on the season, sun protection, lip balm.
Adequate amount of drink
You will require at least a litre. A sweet sugary drink is always a welcome treat and perhaps a flask of hot drink in colder weather.
Lunch and snacks
Enough but no need to over do it as remember, you have to carry it all! When packing your lunch it doesn’t have to be a slapdash effort, you deserve to feast well on slow releasing carbohydrates that replace the energy you use. It’s important to bring something you will really enjoy and can eat easily. A lightweight lunch box is recommended as it will help avoid your food getting squashed! Consider the temperatures and avoid chewy sweets which can be a dental nightmare in cold conditions. A trail mix combination of nuts and dried fruit, is a great source of energy.
The following are also recommended but not essential
- Trekking Pole/Poles: Assist forward movement, reduce impact on your knees, and help with balance in difficult, uneven and boggy terrain. A pair is best but many hikers also just use one.
- Re-sealable plastic bags to keep equipment/phones dry
- Sit Mat
- Sun Glasses/Ski Goggles
- Spare Gloves