Winter isn’t coming, winter is here. Deep winter is one of our favourite times of year for getting out here in Scotland – a ride on a sunny day in the middle of summer is great, but does it beat a day under a bluebird sky on frosty trails, getting back just as the light disappears, with the feeling that you’ve squeezed everything you could from an all-too-short day? Agreed?
Proper winter does bring its challenges though. What might just be a walk or hobble out after a mechanical or a crash in summer can turn into a bit of an issue in the colder months. Are you carrying the kit and packing the skills you need if things go a bit wonky out in the hills during winter?
Like many in the outdoors world, I was impressed by the tale given in the blog, which applies equally well to mountain biking in the UK. So get togged up in your riding kit, grab your riding pack and heading outside now. Not in a bit. Now! And then wait for a wee while. How are you feeling now? Cold? How about in an hour or two? Even colder? Dangerously cold?
You’ve had an accident when out and about and have to call for rescue. Even in a best case scenario you’re going to be waiting for a while for help to arrive. In that best case scenario, you have a mobile signal to call for help through 999 and 112 and ask for Police and Mountain Rescue. Mountain Rescue teams are all volunteers and it’s going to take a while for them to get to base, pick up kit and get to where you are. They’re moving, but your not, for a couple of hours maybe more. Wish you’d packed some extra kit now?
As a mountain bike leader, I carry just about everything except a kitchen sink in my 30L pack. It’s a bit of a load to lug about, but it means I can cope with most of the things that go wrong out in the wilds. Stripped a pedal out of your crank? I have a big bolt you can use. Dropper post knackered? I have a jubilee clip as a bodge. Torn the arse out of you shorts on a fence? I have some lovely unicorn gaffer tape that’ll do the trick…
Here’s my top bits of kit and a couple of other things to keep you safe this winter:
Group shelter / bothy bag – an absolute godsend in bad weather when you’re stopped for any length of time. A tent without poles basically. Easy to deploy and quick to pack away they’re pretty good if you want to take a lunch break in an exposed spot too. I carry Summit Supalite bags everytime I’m out now.
Emergency warm gear – I picked up the biggest, cheapest, lightweight pufferpuffer jacket from a major chain, popped a pair of fleece gloves and an old drawstring fleece multitube / hat into the pockets and chucked it into a dry bag. This lives in the bottom of my bag, next to my “something shit has happened” bag of bike bits (tyre boots, big zip ties, spare hanger, etc), only to deployed if things have gone a bit wrong.
Survival Blanket – keeping a casualty warm – whether that’s you or someone else – can make all the difference. I always carry a homemade survival blanket – one of those big plastic survival bags with a foil blanket taped inside. Once you’ve applied the emergency warm gear, wrap them up like a burrito to await help.
That’s just three things, all pretty cheap and all pretty packable and to be honest I hope I never have to deploy them in real life…
Other stuff? Install OS Locate on your phone. It will give you an accurate grid reference, even if you don’t have signal, and saves Mountain Rescue having to convert A Few Words back into something meaningful. Make sure someone knows where you are, when you’re due back and what to do if you don’t get in touch to say your safe. Remember we mentioned that Mountain Rescue is voluntary? They need to raise funds to carry out their incredibly important work, so every time you see mountain rescue tin pop a few quid in it – you never know when you might need them…