Winter Running Gear Guide
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For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the daylight hours are growing shorter and the weather is getting colder. We figured it would be a great time to put together a winter running gear guide, that will help point you in the direction of some choice cold weather running gear, to help keep you comfortable and protected from the elements. We have thoroughly tested a number of products and here are the ones that made the cut.
Smartwool PhD Wind Tight
What’s Hot : The Smartwool PhD Wind Tights are a combination of Merino Wool and Nylon that takes the bite out of any cold weather environment. The wool in the tights keeps you warm when the temps dip below freezing, should the temperature rise above freezing they will keep you cool by wicking away any moisture. The front of the tights have a windproof panel made of nylon, that keeps you draft free. Smartwool has added 360 degree reflectivity, to help keep you visible in low light conditions. And just to show that they know runners, Smartwool added a small zipper pocket in the mid back that is big enough to hold your house key, a couple of dollars, an ID and a credit card.
What’s Not : Usually I can find some little thing that I would make better or do differently, but Smartwool absolutely perfected the design of PhD Wind Tights.
Who’s It For : The Smartwool PhD Wind Tights are a must have for any cold weather runner, trail or road, these tights will take the cold, out of winter running.
Asics Storm Shelter Pants
What’s Hot : The name, “Storm Shelter” really explains it all. These pants are for the harsh environment, that throws sleet, wind and snow at you. The pants keep a protective water and windproof barrier between you and the elements. They have back overlapping leg vents that allows for good breath-ability. The pants have low light visibility with the 360 degree 3M reflectivity.
What’s Not : There is no closure at the ankle, which allows for cold air to enter. The pants are lined with a mesh, to help dissipate some body heat, however the lining only comes down to just below the knee. If you are not wearing long socks or compression pants, bare skin will come into contact with a very cold outer pant leg.
Who’s It For : The Asics Storm Shelter Pants will work best for the runner that intends to run in rain, sleet, wind and / or snow. Think of these as an outer layer protective running pant, working best with a compression pant worn underneath.
Smartwool Men’s PhD Wind Zip T
What’s Hot : The Smartwool PhD Wind Zip T is an excellent base layer made from Merino Wool with a polyester front wind blocking panel. The tee is form fitting and exceptionally soft, it keeps you warm, while wicking away moisture. The zip closure comes to the perfect height on the neck creating a nice snug fit to keep wind and cold out and warmth in.
What’s Not : The material on the tee, especially under the arms and running down the sides of the body is super thin. Don’t get me wrong, this shirt more than does the job! I just wonder how many washes it will hold up to. With a Smartwool two year guarantee, it’s hard to even worry about.
Who’s It For : Anyone that is looking for a soft, lightweight, form fitting base layer, will fall in love with the Smartwool PhD Wind Zip T.
North Face Men’s Isolite ½ Zip
What’s Hot : North Face got it right with this Isolite 1/2 zip, a light weight, athletic fitting pullover that has Flashdry, which wicks moisture away and drys quickly on those vigorous runs. The Isolite has an elastic gripper tape at the hem that keeps the bottom of the pullover right where you put it, no more riding up or adjusting. The pullover does a great job of taking the wind out of the cold equation, with it’s wind resistant nylon core. And for when you are out on the road the pullover has 360 degree reflective tape so you will be seen in low light conditions.
What’s Not : Try as I might, I could find nothing to dislike on this pullover.
Who’s It For : The North Face Isolite 1/2 Zip will fit well in the runner’s wardrobe that needs a fall to early winter running pullover.
Helly Hansen Pace Norviz LS
What’s Hot : The Helly Hansen Pace Norviz Jacket is taking reflectivity to the next level, pictured above, the jacket appears to be your high performance running pullover. Take it for a run in the dark and hit this baby with some car lights and the entire jacket lights up like a Christmas tree. The Pace Norviz features X-Cool, which is a quick dry fabric with DWR treatment that sheds wind, rain and snow. The pullover is soft, stretchy and lightweight, and just feels all around great.
What’s Not : Helly Hansen got this one right, nothing to change here.
Who’s It For: The Pace Norviz LS is a must have for the early rising and late evening road runners that need to be seen.
Brooks Drift Shell
What’s Hot : The Brooks Drift Shell is a unique jacket that is made from DriLayer® SuperSeal moisture-wicking fabric, that is lightweight, breathable and cozy. The jacket easily sheds rain and snow while deflecting the blustery wind. It also offers front and back Retroreflectivity for low light running. The Brooks Drift Shell works great by itself, but even better when you use it as an outer layering shell.
What’s Not : What’s with the sleeve cuffs? They are a piece of compression material at the end of the sleeve. Are they comfortable – sure. Do they keep the wind out – Yes. Unique – Oh Yes. But they just feel unfinished.
Who’s It For : If you’re the kind of runner who gets out in harsh conditions and needs the protection, the Brooks Drift Shell is for you.
lululemon Surge 1/2 Zip
The lululemon Surge 1/2 Zip provides an amazing blend of function and fashion. This top works great by itself in cold temps down to single digits but also works great as a mid-layer under a shell on those extremely cold running days. The Rulu fabric material on the Surge 1/2 zip is the most comfortable material on the market in my humble opinion. If I could get away with wearing this top 24/7, I’d be happy as a dog with two tales! To prevent stink and bacteria buildup, the Surge 1/2 zip incorporates Silverscent technology by X-Static. Yes, you still have to wash it from time to time…
Bigger guys may find this top a little too form fitting.
Who it’s For
This top is great for the runner likes to stay current with fashion while not wanting to sacrifice on performance.
The North Face Isolite Jacket
What’s Hot : The North Face Isolite Jacket fits into the fall to early winter run category. The Isolite is super lightweight and has great movability. The dark blue parts of the jacket(pictured above) do a good job of shedding rain and snow, as well as blocking the wind. The gray parts of the jacket are the breathable parts that help regulate the body temperature, or as North Face calls it, body-mapped ventilation. It also has FlashDry technology, which does a great job of wicking away moisture.
What’s Not : A little snugger around the neck would have been nice to block more of the cold.
Who’s It For : The runner that needs an excellent lightweight fall to early winter outer layer, to help combat those brisk seasonal temperatures.
Pearl Izumi Fly Softshell Run Jacket
For serious cold weather protection, the Pearl Izumi Fly Softshell Run Jacket is where it’s at. This jacket keeps you protected in almost any cold weather temperature or climate. With windproof panels on the front of the jacket and along the arms, you’re able to keep the important parts of the core warm while letting for sweat prone areas to breath. Forget your running gloves? This jacket has what PI calls fists mits which cover your hands completely, they also work when you have gloves or mittens on those super cold days.
When the jacket is zipped all the way, it can make you feel somewhat claustrophobic. It would be nice to have a chest pocket in this run jacket as that location on a jacket tends to bounce around less. There is hardly any reflectivity on this jacket, so not a great jacket for running in the dark if you will be on busy streets.
Who it’s For
For runners that find themselves running in frigid temperatures, the Pearl Izumi Fly Softshell Run Jacket is an excellent choice. Between the thick softshell fabric and the windproof panels, this jacket is a great cold weather performer.
Farm to Feet Blue Ridge
What’s Hot : The Farm to Feet Blue Ridge is an over the calf running compression sock made from 100% “American” merino wool fiber. These socks are extremely comfortable, lightweight, and warm. Merino wool has a bunch of great properties, it keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it’s naturally moisture wicking and antimicrobial, all of which apply to the Blue Ridge. The socks have a seamless toe closure which reduces bulk and eliminates the friction that can cause blisters.
What’s Not : I would have liked to have had just a touch more compression around the arch area of the foot.
Who’s It For : The Farm to Feet Blue Ridge would be Great for any runner that wears socks. If you have never spent the money on a good pair of Merino wool compression socks, you must, they are worth every penny.
Outdoor Research Endurance Gaiters
What’s Hot : The Outdoor Research Endurance Gaiters are lightweight but protective. Once you have them adjusted to your shoe, they are super easy to get on and off, with the step in, zip up design. They move very well when running, without feeling like they are a burden. The Endurance Gaiters are stretchy, breathable and water-resistant.
What’s Not : If your running environment is at the temperature where the snow becomes WET and heavy, after about three hours of trampling through the snow the gaiters will start to absorb a bit of the moisture and become heavy.
Who’s It For : A must have for the trail runner that wants to keep snow, slush, mud and rocks out of your shoes.
Native Eyewear Cable
What’s Hot : The Native Eyewear Cable is a wonderful pair of eyewear, that is extremely comfortable to wear. The Cable comes with the Sportflex Lens kit, which are low light interchangeable lenses, that are some of the best lenses I have ever used for early morning running. The Sportflex lenses almost enhance the surrounding environment, perfect for keeping the cold wintry air off your eyes. Going for a run when it is sunny, swap them out for the Polarized Blue Reflex’s and you are in business. The glasses also have hybrid venting that keeps fogging up, to a minimum. Between the Cushinol temple boots and the Mastoid temple grips (gray parts of the arms in the picture), once you put these glasses on your head they are going to stay right there.
What’s Not : Lenses are hard to swap out, but I suppose that is how you want it or they would just fall out.
Who’s It For : Anyone that is looking for a superb pair of active high performance glasses.
What’s Hot : The Petzl Nao is a top of the line programmable reactive lighting, rechargeable head lamp. The Nao is comfortable and very stable to wear on your head. Reactive lighting allows the headlamp brightness to adjust to the surrounding environment. Petzl offers software that you can download and program your own desired settings, from brightness to burn time (definitely a must do, to accommodate your liking and environment). Setting up the Nao to personal settings allows for the maximum battery life as well as the desired lighting effect. The headlamp comes with a 2600 mah rechargeable battery and is also capable of taking 2 AAA standard alkaline batteries. The brightness of this lamp on full power is absolutely blinding, coming in at a brilliant 575 lumens. With constant full brightness on, I was able to get just over an hour of reasonable lighting on the trail with the rechargeable battery, carry spare batteries if you plan to use it on full blast. Step in reactive lighting, with my programmed reactive light setting, the brightness of the lamp becomes more realistic and clocked in at well over six hours of burn time. Battery life basically comes down to brightness, Petzl’s stat sheet shows that with the right settings you can get squeeze 52 hours out of the lamp.
What’s Not : Running in freezing temperatures while using the reactive lighting, the light tries to adjust to the condensation from your breath as it reflects off of it, almost as if you are sending Morse code to someone.
Who’s It For : The Petzl NAO would be ideal for the trail runner that has a night adventure planned, where they would constantly be consulting a map. Or of course the runner that wants the coolest gadgets out there.
What’s Hot : The Nathan IceSleeve will keep your liquids flowing in the sub zero temps. The IceSleeve swaps easily with any standard Nathan 2 liter bladder. The bladder is fully enclosed in an insulated sleeve to keep the liquid in, well, a liquid form. The IceSleeve comes with an insulated hose and bite valve cover, the two primary areas that would freeze up on the standard bladder bags. With the temperatures dropping the IceSleeve finally solved my frozen dilemma and allowed everything to flow freely.
What’s Not : In my particular case I have a Nathan Wrap and the swapping the bladder bags was a piece of cake. However, the drinking hose is held to the vest with a magnetic clip and the clip is sized for the standard drinking hose, not the Ice Sleeve drinking hose, which is much thicker. It would have been nice for Nathan to include one with the bladder or possibly designed part of the IceSleeve hose to adapt to it.
Who’s It For : Long distance arctic go getters. Or anyone that doesn’t want to deal with a frozen water bottle or bladder bag.