Nick Baker’s Essential Autumn Tips

With the Summer months more or less behind us, we are heading into the season of transition. Autumn is a time of challenges; the weather can be warm, sticky and humid, and it can seem to reel forward a couple of months and hit us with a preview of the winter to come. Living as I now do in the spectacularly mountainous Cairngorm National Park, the weather can be truculent at the best of times, but about now more than ever it reserves the right to ambush the unweary. To enjoy the outdoors it is always about being prepared.

For me, kit – and that means clothing and footwear – needs to be simple and functional, it mustn’t add to the complications of life, if it does you’re doing it wrong and/or using the wrong kit.  So, when I was asked to share my tips on preparations for the changeable autumn season, I had to think quite hard. Most of what I’m doing now I do as a matter of course throughout the year, as you never know in the mountains when things might change.

Autumn for me is about migrating birds, fungi, the salmon run and the deer rut. Just saying those words and I can feel the cool dampness permeating my thoughts. So my preparations are simple, I need to make sure it’s just my thoughts that are being permeated!

First up, it’s making sure I’m water- and windproof. This is the outer layer – your jacket, trousers, boots, and gaiters, if you use them. Watch a red deer on the rutting stand, or a goosander on the river, their first line of protection is their waterproof layer, the rain or snow just bounces off them – they work by exactly the same principles, it’s just they have feathers and fur.  The top layer, whether a wild animal or a human wanting to watch the wild animals, has to keep the water away from the easily wettable and warm air trapping layers below.

My Páramo jacket and gaiters should be cleaned and reproofed regularly throughout the year, I know that. But of course, I always seem to let that fact slip me by until, that is, I get caught out in heavy rain and I feel that unfamiliar seepage.

I know, I know I should know better, but this is the whole point of me writing this. It’s a reminder.  Every year about now, this happens and I quickly load the washing machine, and the appropriate amount of Nikwax Tech Wash® and set the machine cycle in progress before then repeating the re-proofing stage with TX. Direct®.

For the directional waterproofing and breathability to work, your garment needs to be kept clean – it is not about aesthetics, it’s about functionality. It’s our analogy to that duck preening or the mammal scratching. We’re keeping our protective outer layer functioning.

The same goes for boots and shoes. Out comes the cleaning products first, then the conditioner and then I reproof them. It’s a rather therapeutic and pleasurable job to do of an evening, there is nothing quite as nostalgic and hands on as dipping your fingers into a tin of Nikwax and using the warmth of your hands to massage it into the leathers of my boots – it’s a ritual I’ve been doing for the best part of 38 years since I got my first pair of hiking boots along with a tin of Nikwax! (I believe it now comes in tubes!).

As part of my preparation, it is also traditional that I start to round up other items that I’ve used less during the summer months but become essential additions to the autumn and winter kit list. They all need close cleaning and refreshing with the appropriate products if they are to function to the best of their ability. Gloves, hats and buffs – I’ve a lot, but they tend to find their way into different drawers, bags and pockets over the year and it’s been a while since I’ve needed or even seen them.  It’s also time to locate my fleeces, down jackets and merino base layers and give them the appropriate spruce up. These are the insulating air trapping fluff and fibres that we can layer up with beneath our outer shell layer. They are lightweight and I can squirrel away all I need in a small backpack, and therefore I can adjust the thickness and insulating qualities as I go, according to whether I’m moving hard up a hill or sitting, hunkered down waiting for a ptarmigan.

Oh, and with the shorter days come the chances of me getting caught out after darkness has fallen, so I find my compass and put fresh batteries in my head torch.

That is pretty much it. I’m set. Told you it was simple and now I can get out there and enjoy being part of the great outdoors rather than worrying about it making me cold and wet.

To see more about Nick Baker you can visit his website HERE