This is generally the advice we give before any hike, but in cold, wet and changing weather it’s even more important. Check the route, check the weather, research danger spots on the route and let people know where you are going. Make sure you have carefully packed and have enough extra layers, food and water for the trip. Some hot drinks in thermos flasks are going to be a great addition here.
Make sure your outfit is in check, this means a good base layer, mid layer and outer layer, and this applies to the top and bottom (see our How to Stay Warm Hiking for clothing specific advice). Bring extra layers in your pack and please make sure you have a good waterproof pair of gloves, a hat and good hiking socks, we recommend a pair made from merino wool. Merino wool keeps heat in, is antimicrobial, and allows the wicking of moisture that gathers from your body heat through sweat.
Speaking of sweat, it's also important not to get too hot. If you overheat you are going to get damp. While this can be combated through breathable materials on your base, mid and outer layers, if you sweat too much nothing is going to stop you getting damp. If you are overheating take a small break, or if it's not raining or snowing remove your mid layer. If it is raining or snowing try and find some shelter while you adjust your layers. Some models such as the Quechua Trek 900 come equipped with ventilation zips so you can increase the air flow as you hike – though this is windproof only, you’ll need a waterproof overlayer if you are expecting the heavens to open.
There is one thing that is going to be far worse than getting damp from sweat, and that’s getting drenched. Make sure you are waterproofed and make sure your waterproof gear is in top condition (see our articles on How to Clean and Re-Waterproof Your Rain Jacket and Everything to Know About Hiking Gear Waterproofing for more information). If you get wet you are going to be uncomfortable, cold and miserable, particularly when the wind is strong.
The wind is going to make you feel even colder than it is, this is because if the wind is able to reach your body, it brings with it the colder air which collides with your skin and lowers the body temperature at a faster rate. Luckily, most waterproof outer layer jackets are going to be windproof too, but make sure you check first. If this isn’t the case you can always stick a windbreaker on over the top, or over your mid layer. Better to be safe than sorry.
If the weather is particularly bad, and the hike particularly challenging, you might want to give it a pass that day. But, as long as the route isn’t dangerous, heading out amongst the harsher weather conditions can be rewarding and give a real sense of adventure. Just be sensible, plan and follow our guide to keep warm, dry and windproof when you step out the door.