Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Winter Running Gear:
Kathy's 13 Essentials for The Trail and Ultrarunner's Winter Adventure Kit

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.comBy Kathy Vaughan

      Winter running is magical. The air is cold and fresh. When the sun is out, the blue sky in contrast to the pristine white of the snow is beautiful. Running in falling snow is refreshing and invigorating. Stars glisten in the dark, night sky while sparkles are glistening in the snow from the beam of the headlamp's glow. It feels so good to come inside and get into warm clothes, eat a good meal, while sipping on a hot drink by the woodstove after being out in the winter weather. It is well worth taking what you put in your Winter Running Kit seriously so that these aspects of cold season runs can be enjoyable, no matter how long you go out or how many miles you cover.

photo by Ras/

  1. Altra Running Lone Peak 2.0:  These running shoes have a wide toe box, which allows ample room for a thicker wool sock or two pairs of socks. Its a good idea to order a half size larger than your normal shoe anyway, and this provides the room you need for winter socks and summer swelling. The lug sole on the LP 2.0s is really aggressive and provides great traction in the snow for both downhill running/lunging and uphill climbing/kicking steps. On plowed roads, the lugs give awesome traction on the smoother/slicker surface. The velcro Gaiter Trap allows for using gaiters which helps keep out some of the snow. I love how they perform in the snow and highly recommend them for winter running.
  2. Hats:  It is good to have a mix of wool, fleece or balaclava style  hats with you on runs, layering them as needed. A shell or merino wool sweater with a hood also works well as a hat layer. I like that with a hood up, my neck stays warm as well.
  3. Chemical Hand Warmer Packets:  I like to have 3 packages with me on a long run. I can then open one package, using one inside each glove. This allows me an unopened emergency packet for myself and an additional one for my running partner.
  4. Firestarter:  It is good to have some form of firestarter in your pack in winter weather and cold temperatures. Stopping even briefly when wet with sweat from exertion, can cause you to cool down surprisingly quickly. If you find yourself in an emergency due to injury or illness involving yourself or your running partner, it might be necessary to build a fire to stay warmth. I like to be prepared for this with a lighter and some firestarter sticks. Cotton balls saturated in petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is another lightweight and effective idea.
  5. Extra Base Layer:  It is good to have a dry layer to change into on a long run if necessary. If you stop for any reason and your under layer is wet, it is easy to get chilled fast. Quickly putting on a dry layer, sets you up to stay warm after the stop or in an emergency.
  6. Extra Dry Wool Socks:  Wet feet from snow or sweat get cold very fast. A dry pair of socks is important to have to change into in case of an emergency prolonged stop. Wet feet in wool socks stay warm while moving, but once stopped, they cool down quickly.
  7. Merino Wool Base Layer:  I like Smartwool Mid Weight sweaters. My favorite is the style with a hood and thumb holes on the sleeve cuff. The hood is really useful as a head layer over hat(s) that can be removed easily while moving, once warmed up.
  8. Merino wool buff, neck warmer, or balaclava (as mentioned in “Hats”):  I like to have a head layer that I can pull around my entire face, as needed, and easily pull away as I get warm. The Buff Wear brand of head buff comes in a merino wool style and I have found it to be one of my most useful pieces of running gear, year round. It is long enough to adjust exactly as you need to around your head and face to protect yourself from the wind and cold. The wool is soft, warm and allows for breathing through the fibers while it is covering your mouth and nose. I have also used a Smartwool merino wool neck warmer that is good for pulling around your mouth and nose, but is too short to pull around  your head. A balaclava is like having an extra hood along and it can also be pulled up over your mouth and nose as needed.
  9. Two Pairs of Running Tights (Insulated and/or merino wool): In the coldest parts of the winter, I layer with merino wool as a base tight and an insulated North Face or Sugoi pair over those. This allows perfect warmth for moving and brief stops in 20 degree temps and lower.
  10. Headlamp with Fresh Batteries (And a set of extras):  In the winter, dark comes early. It's good to be prepared with a headlamp with fresh batteries and a set of extra batteries on any trail run. You never know what will happen, and running/hiking out in the dark when getting caught in it unexpectedly,  is rough.  It's worth the weight, as is everything mentioned in the above list.
  11. Down Puffy Jacket and Down Puffy Pants:  I like to have these stuffed into my pack if I am going out on a trail run in the cold temperatures where I will venture for more than two hours away from home or my car.
  12. A Warm Car Blanket:  I get chilled quickly as soon as I stop running in the winter time. I like to have an older wool blanket that I keep in the car to throw over the top of me for the car ride home. It keeps me warm while I change into dry layers.
  13. Swix Cross Country Ski Gloves: These gloves keep my hands warm even when wet from perspiration. They are designed for high aerobic winter activity which makes them perfect for running. They have out performed all the running-specific gloves I have tried. 
photo & meme by Ras/

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