Winter running gear is not just your summer gear with a jumper and trousers thrown on top. In this age of performance fabrics, hollow fibre technology and moisture wicking fabric, I have often struggled to get winter running gear right. It’s relatively easy to get it right around town but for this blog, I went to the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales to test my biggest winter wear problems.
I love to run in the mountains. The epic views, clean air and ever changing scenery make every run an absolute pleasure. However, even in Great Britain, the weather in the mountains can change in minutes. Just 500m-1000m of ascent can be the difference between shorts and tee shirt, or hats, gloves and wind proofs. If you wear too much to start with you are going to overheat and sweat buckets. When you get too hot your body sends lots of extra blood to your skin to cool you. This means there is less blood delivering oxygen to your muscles and why running in the heat saps your energy. The same thing happens when you are over dressed in winter. What’s more, excessive sweating, especially on the hard climbs is bad news because that sweat is going to make you freeze when you’re exposed on the peak. A real problem when you want to pause to enjoy the hard earned view, check your navigation or have blog photography to shoot.
I wanted to know what combination of winter running gear would keep me warm on tough wintry mountains without making me sweat. So I spoke to some of my favourite brands of the moment for everything from shoes to hats, tights to wind proofs and my surprise favourite, arm sleeves. I went to work field testing combinations for comfort and performance. You should always check the weather before heading out, especially off road and most definitely when you are running somewhere new. The weather report will also help you to choose your kit and clothing. You want to know about temperature, wind, rain, snow and ice. In temperatures below 8-10°C I can no longer wear just shorts and vest. If the wind is strong or there is rain, sleet or snow, you are going to want your arms covered, a hat or headband maybe, gloves and a wind proof. But, in what combination and what do you leave behind? I believe I have the answer.
My go-to kit for most winter runs is trail shoes (currently the excellent Merrell Trail Glove 4), socks, shorts, vest, arm sleeves, gloves and cap. I carry a small hydration pack (without the bladder) with a packable windproof. There is also just enough room for keys, phone and sometimes a compact camera. I keep it small to be light weight and so that the bag does not bounce. After a few strides, I forget I’m wearing it.
If I am heating up, the cap comes off first, tucked into my waistband or a pocket. If necessary the amazing arm sleeves can be rolled down around the wrist, or elbow level if you are really fine tuning it. If you have yet to try arm sleeves, I highly recommend you do so. I used to think they were silly, but I am now an absolute convert. Rolling them down and back up lets you effectively pull on a long sleeve top or whip it off without losing sight of the trail or even breaking stride. Assuming there has been no drastic change in weather, I am likely to put on the wind proof when climbing above the tree line and in time for any exposed ridge, plateau or peak. Thanks to the arm sleeves, I know I am obsessed, I can take a super light weight, windproof gilet which is not only a great deal easier to throw on and off, but it keeps your body out of the wind and allows just enough ventilation. In actual fact, my gilet and jacket of choice pack down so small that I can carry both just in case the conditions are worse than forecast.
We each have different tolerance levels to heat and cold and you need to experiment to find what works for you. I hope, however that this guide gives you a big head start in your search to your best winter running gear combos.
My Top Winter Running Wear
Trail Shoes – Merrell Trail Glove 4
Tights – Howies
Arm Sleeves- Howies
Windproof – Howies Dagon Gilet
Windproof – Howies Clearim Jacket
Cap – Howies Muzzy Cap
Let me know in the comments below about your favourite winter gear. We are each an experiment of one and I will be thrilled to learn from your experiences too. If you’re off for some winter sun, you might like to check out my summer running blog here.
‘Til next time.