The British countryside is magical in autumn. On a crisp, dry day when the sky is blue and the tress are alive with red, orange and yellow foliage, while the hills are clad in purple and pink heathers, it is difficult to imagine a more stunning place to be.
At this time of year walkers, from families through to mountaineers, can experience some of their most rewarding outings as they stroll through colourful autumn scenery or kick through fallen woodland leaves.
Being outdoors during the darker, chillier season is also good for your health and well-being. While we all know how beneficial walking is to our physical health – it zaps calories and keeps us toned and shapely – at any time of the year, in autumn – and winter – it is particularly important to walk in daylight to boost our feel-good hormones.
Walking is a superb way to increase serotonin levels, which can help to prevent depression and the traditional autumn and winter. Just 20 minutes spent walking outside each day can be all it takes to keep your mind in good working order. So imagine the benefits if you take advantage of weekends to stretch your hikes to a few hours at a time.
The very fact that there are fewer people out in the countryside during the chillier months should actually motivate people to walk more. Have you ever enjoyed an atmospheric walk meeting no-one expect your hiking buddy over a whole day out? It’s an enchanting experience.
But many people are put off walking in autumn and winter, preferring instead to hang up their boots and wait for the spring to arrive. There are, of course, a range of dangers that come with walking in chillier and unpredictable weather but so many of these can be overcome through preparation and common sense.
How to ‘Autumnise’ your walking kit
Walking boots not walking shoes. Waterproof – and breathable – boots are the only way to keep feet warm and dry in the colder seasons. Wellington boots are fine for a short stroll, while well-fitting, lace-up and robust walking boots are ideal for longer hikes and trekking off-trail. If you can afford to, buy Gore-tex lined boots for maximum waterproof and breathability ratings.
Jacket. Waterproof, windproof and breathable are the minimum requirements for a good quality autumn and winter jacket. Again, Gore-tex is a winner. Also look for taped seams, a waterproof/water repellent zip, waterproof zipped pockets, a good-sized hood, adjustable arm cuffs and hem. A bright colour adds to your safety on the hills.
Waterproof trousers. A pair of waterproof and breathable overtrousers are essential. Buy trousers with zips on the outside of the legs to allow you to pull them on over boots.
Baselayers: A baselayer is worn in layers, starting with one against your skin. They are made from a thin, “magical” material that keeps you warm but also allows sweat to wick away to the outside. Add or peel off layers, including short and long-sleeved tops and leggings, according to conditions. – see a full range here
Accessories. Hats, gloves and thick socks are a must – see a full range of clothing accessories here
Add to your rucksack: Spare socks, gloves, hat, emergency down layer or blanket, compass – make sure you know how to use it – map, hot drinks, more food than you think you’ll need, energy snacks, crampons (if you’re heading high and into deeper snow or ice), mobile phone, a GPS gadget and a first aid kit.
Common sense approach: Check the weather, learn to navigate, take a basic first aid course, understand how to contact Mountain Rescue, walk with a friend and always tell another person where you are planning to go.