What navigation aids and winter survival kit do you actually take with you?

What navigation aids and winter survival kit do you actually take with you?

Mark @M0NOM sent me this link to a BBC News story today about yet another bloke who almost died on or near England’s highest mountain (G/LD-001)

Once again it made me reflect on what navigation aids and winter survival kit, I actually take with me. This is in addition to winter clothes, food, hot drinks, etc.

Here’s my basic kit:

Not shown in the photo, I also take a head torch and spare batteries.

I don’t take the bothy bag in summer (or when taking the tarp or tent). I don’t take the USB power pack on short activations. I don’t take the ‘backup’ map, compass and whistle on the smaller summits that I’ve walked by the same route many times.

I’ld be interested in what other activators do and how you vary it – if at all – by the seasons and difficulty of the ascent / height of the summit / weather conditions, etc.

73 Andy


For all non-trivial summits I’d add:

Very basic 1st aid kit (but containing survival bag, firelighters & shepherd’s whistle)
EPIRB / InReach

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What @G8CPZ and @ZL4NVW said plus spare hat, gloves and lightweight down jacket.

I’m with Andy in that a rarely carry a map on familiar summits with decent paths or vehicle tracks. In fact I very rarely carry a map at all these days.


In winter I add the bothy and chemical hand warmer packets. I pick/choose the extra layers, gloves, hats, etc for the trip based on wx forecast and length of trip / remoteness of the summit. On a few trips with avalanche danger I have carried a beacon and snow shovel (and had friends along with me with beacons/shovels). Most winter trips around here are on snowshoes. I always carry my headlamp and use it on most of my winter trips (it gets dark very early). I always carry a down puffy jacket in waterproof stuffsack and my rain gear. I also don’t carry paper maps as often these days, but I do carry a compass and Garmin GPS.


In winter:-

Caveat:- I’d be unlikely to carry this kit in my own local North York Moors, or perhaps the Pennine Hills. Some judgement has to be made in deciding what likely weather conditions you might be faced with).

Survival bag ( big bright & light orange plastic bag) weights next to nothing. Not carried if I am expecting to carry& use my Bothy bag.

Paper map - sometimes small section & laminated. In winter Scotland or Norway I have carried a spare - I’ve had one blown out of my hand in a white out in the Cairngorms.
Magnetic Compass. Both these items I carry - its surprising how easy it is to become disorientated even if you know a particular area like well. Maps don’t run out of power.


lightweight Goretex overmitts &/or spare pare of gloves - (depending on activity)

Spare lightweight waterproof jacket and/or thin down jacket/gillet depending on WX.

Two head torches (Carrying spare batteries, is in my view not always practical as bad weather makes changing small batteries somewhat of a problem.).

Ice Axe & Crampons only if the conditions under foot are likely to need them. IE icy snow. ( Rarely needed on English/Welsh hills unless you were intent on a proper winter climb). Or skis along with skins, waxes and screw driver +glue.

Unless I lead a group I never carry a 1st aid kit. Offhand I can’t think of an incapacitating injury that I would likely sustain which would benefit from a 1st aid kit.

Likewise I rarely take extra/spare food. A sandwich will last me all day.

Note: It is no coincidence that the major part of British Mountaineering Council, Mountain Leader training & assessment is navigation as this is probably the most important aspect of keeping safe on the hills. . The assessment is pretty tough - at least two nights out, navigating in or around featureless terrain in the dark and having to locate the most minor of features such as minor re-entrants, small knolls, rises or depressions, cairns, small water features, etc., If you can’t count your paces to estimate distance, or don’t know how long will take you to walk a given distance, then you are unlikely to pass.
You are NOT allowed to use a phone/satnav/altimeter etc., etc.,


I am usually packed for camping overnight so have all that I would need but if out for a day walk in winter I usually carry enough to stay out overnight (although uncomfortably). This means a Rab survival zone bivvy bag, something to use as a tarp (eg bothy bag, groundsheet) and sufficient clothing to get through the night in the bivvy bag.

The bivvy bag weights a couple of hundred grams, and is far superior to a bin liner type survival bag.

I should add i carry a spare compass, several spare torches, around 5 or 6 sets of torch batteries, gps, ocean signal plb (satellite personal locator beacon) too (oh, and spare shoe laces!)

Several times when near the start of various routes up scafell pike (in winter conditions) i have been asked “which way is it” to which my reply is always “hello, I will show you where you are on your map if you like, and point out the route”, the response is often “i am using google maps” to which i then usually say not to bother and suggest a walk along the valley.

The writeup on the rescue linked above suggested the walker was at fault, but I do have some sympathy as most people dont see the hazard until its too late.


I tend to use the phone (osmaps app area downloaded beforehand) as the main navigation tool, but I often have spent several hours planning the route so it is usually used as a double check. I also carry a booster pack good for 2 charges as well as the right leads…). I always have a map and compass as a plan B. My watch also has a GPS and I also have a Garmin Inreach on the grounds that if something does go wrong it is bound to happen somewhere with no signal….and 30 plus years ago I completed my summer ML assessment so I passed the wandering around in the dark test….( on the side of the Glyders….) which probably means I’m running out of excuses for any Wednesday 160 madness evenings…

As well as that a Blizzard Bag (Tried one years ago on a rescue team exercise and was very impressed…) head torch ( 2 if I expect to need one) possibly a tarp, enough insulated mat to sit on, lead to charge the Inreach ( yes it should be charged but things happen…) small first aid kit including Asprin (Handy if anyone has heart issues) water filter, small leatherman and at least an extra layer of clothes. In all probably enough to spend an uncomfortable night on a hill….
I have never needed the Blizzard Bag, Phone Charger, Inreach for anything other than spotting or family messages, the first aid kit has been limited to using a blister plaster, and the Leatherman has been useful to repair antennas…. Not taken the compass out in anger for a couple of years and the head torch has the battery protected by a small piece of insulation tape so I know it can’t get turned on accidentally…. Walking solo I still like having this lot as insurance - and actually relative to rigs, antennas and batteries it doesn’t add much…. I always like to have at least one extra layer for warmth so if I broke my ankle just after activating a summit I would have enough warmth to wait for someone to get me off the hill…It is probably excessive but if something did go wrong I don’t want a rescue team to write “inappropriately equipped” they could just stick with something about the age of the walker…
73. Paul


I did my assessment there —didn’t see much in the dark. An unforgettable experience for me.

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He finds his way home again and he has everything I need with him… :smile:

73 Armin


I owned a tracking dog for many years. Very handy for after-dark exits via same route. And for finding that tool / pda / etc you dropped/ left somewhere along the trap / bait line. Point her back the way you came & say ‘track’. ‘Yeah boss i can do that boss’

I recommend a dog with a white rump or tail for nighttime use.

(‘But I don’t like hook-grass boss - will you pluck me’?)