WINTER ACTIVITIES TO BRING YOU JOY IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
When the temperature drops and the colder months stretch out seemingly endlessly, it can feel tempting to hole up and hibernate, but there’s a particular kind of joy to be had in getting outdoors during winter. Whether it be taking up a new hobby or adapting favourite activities for the harsher conditions, there’s ample opportunity to mix it up and explore new experiences. So, grab a hot drink and read on for some ideas and inspiration on how to stay active during the winter months.
HIKING & SNOWSHOEING
Simply walking outdoors, feeling the chill air on your cheeks and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature can be a tonic for the soul - and a break away from indoor heating and hibernating under layers of blankets. If you’re a fan of hiking, there’s no reason why you have to hang up your boots over the colder months: just make a few tweaks and get out there.
Snowshoeing is also a fun, safe, and an easy way to enjoy the snowy outdoors at your own pace. It’s perfect for beginners, all ages and fitness levels. In short, if you can walk you can definitely snowshoe and this activity also allows you to access some elevated snowy spots which would not be reachable otherwise.
Even on warm sunny days, mountains and woods can be hostile environments, and anyone with even a few mountain hikes under their belt will know how drastically conditions can change out in the wilderness. Wintry hikes can be joyous, but as ever, the forces of nature need to be respected.
It’s essential then to scrutinise the weather forecast before heading out, plan routes, book a mountaineering guide if necessary, wear sensible kit and bring your most reliable gear. Make sure to pack a flask of something warm, stuff your bag with energy fuelling snacks and enjoy the vistas as you hike.
Camping is not just for lazy summer days; it can be a delight in the chillier months too. Nailing the right kit is key though. Stepping out with durable gear is crucial for all activities listed here, but none more so than if you’re looking to camp overnight when temperatures will inevitably drop to sub-zero. With that in mind, it’s key to pack a sturdy tent, well insulated sleeping bag and a whole host of warm layers. While some campsites will close for the winter, there are some that are open all year, so it’s worth taking the time to do your research to find somewhere suitable to pitch up.
Sitting around a cosy fire is one of the best parts about camping, so with the colder weather, this feeling is only intensified. Pack some treats, such as marshmallows and hot chocolate along with hearty meals that can be cooked over an open fire for a fully snug vibe. If actually sleeping outside in a tent is a step too far in the winter, try recreating that campfire atmosphere by cooking outdoors, either in a garden or park with an outdoor stove. Grab some friends, bring a guitar and heat up some mulled wine to recreate that cosy sat‑around‑a‑fire glow.
One of the delights about running outdoors is witnessing nature and the changing seasons. Trail running in winter can be a sensory pleasure: the crunch of crisp leaves and the frosty paths underfoot, the cool air on your face as you run and the bright light of a wintry sun.
So, wrap up warm, pop on your trail shoes and hit the paths, woods and any other off-road route that takes your fancy. With shorter days and long dark evenings, it’s worth considering a head torch for visibility and a running partner (if possible). Toasty gloves, a headband and buff are simple additions that will take the chill off and turn a wintry run into a more comfortable experience.
There’s certainly something magical about snow. A great, and light-hearted way, to enjoy it and embrace your inner child (or involve young ones) is to set up a friendly snowman competition with friends. Running around scooping up snow and rolling it into shapes will get your heart rate up and is an enjoyable way to get active too. Let your imagination go and see who can come up with the quirkiest and most unusual snowman.
The thrill of the cold water is one of the main draws for many wild swimmers. Much has been written about it - and studies have shown - that cold water has a positive benefit on mental health. Submerging your body into icy cool water might not sound appealing, but fans rave of the mind clearing and invigorating feeling they’re left with afterwards.
As with all activities where you’re bound to feel a chill, the most important thing is to pack the right clothing: merino base layers, woolly jumpers, gloves, a hat and scarf are much needed post dip to warm yourself up. Neoprene gloves, boots and a swimming cap can help with tackling the unpleasant freezing sensations in the water, while for some a wetsuit is a must. Either way, a flask of something hot, snacks and a filled hot water bottle are treats to look forward to when you’re warming up and enjoying that post cold water dip endorphin rush.
Cycling in the colder months might well be uncomfortable at times, but on crisp, bright days it can feel truly special. What’s not fun though are the roads when temperatures drop, ice abounds and muck from cars sprays into your face. Rapidly gaining popularity, gravel riding - cycling on unpaved roads and trails - can be a great alternative to road riding (if you have a suitable bike and tyres, that is).
It’s simple to search online for gravel riding routes, where you’ll find tons of recommendations, maps and downloadable gpx files. Gravel riding can also be a fun way to explore your surroundings as it often takes you off the beaten track and closer to nature. Taking some food in a bar bag or backpack means that when you do pause for a break, you can have the joy of tucking into a hard-earned meal al fresco.