Must-have winter running and hiking kit

Braving the elements in Vermont a few years back

Like it or not, winter is coming. As a hardy Canadian, I can’t help but feel that winters are pretty wimpy here in London, but nonetheless, it does get colder, darker and altogether less pleasant for outdoor running and adventures. The single biggest thing that can make winter running and outdoor activity more enjoyable is having the right kit. Without it, you’ll be a cold, wet, miserable blob… like I was back in 2011. Let me paint a picture for you…

It was early March in Toronto and there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. I was about to go on a 9K run as part of a half marathon training programme. Since it was damp and cold, I decided to layer up! I put on long, yoga style trousers, a cotton tshirt, a long sleeve cotton shirt and this bulky fleece zip-up over top of it all. I also wore a warm winter hat and those stretchy gloves you get for about £1.

At first, I was OK but after I got going I was way too hot. I felt like a seven-layer burrito and that fuzzy fleece was bulky and flopped around with every step. When I tried to unzip it to cool down, it flapped open like a cape. Not only did it look ridiculous, but it caught the wind like a sail and totally slowed my pace. The worst part was that the zipper rubbed against my neck and left a big, unsightly scratch. The bottoms of my trousers dragged a little in the snow and eventually were wet up to my knees. It was basically a total disaster.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: having the right kit can truly make all the difference.

With the right winter gear, you’ll be snug as a bug in a rug… as they say.

So, for my third and final post in my series with Nevisport, I thought I would pick out a couple must-have winter essentials for running and outdoor winter activity, especially since they just released their new Autumn/Winter collection!

Base layer: First, you need a base layer or wicking layer. This is the layer that is closest to your body. Ensure it is made from something like DryFit to help keep sweat away from your body. This helps you keep dry and warm. Cotton is NOT ideal. It stays wet and makes you cold. Avoid!

Training for a 30K winter race in Canada called Around the Bay

Insulation later: If it’s really cold, you may need an insulation layer. A fleece top like this Salomon half zip pullover could work well for a long outdoor hike. For running, this probably isn’t necessary.

Wind or waterproof outer layer: If it’s not too cold, you can skip the insulation layer and go with just a wind or waterproof outer layer. This layer should protect you against the rain or snow, but it also allows heat and moisture to escape to prevent both overheating and chilling. For London, I find an insulated vest, or gilet, is the perfect outer layer for winter running.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, 2015. I think I was wearing 8 layers here.

Acrylic or light wool socks: Get a pair of socks made of acrylic or light wool. Stay away from cotton! They won’t wick away moisture and your feet will be cold and possibly covered in blisters. A pair of socks made especially for running are perfect, but for colder hikes or longer periods outdoors, look for light wool hiking socks.

High visibility gear: If you’re running in the dark, make sure you have some sort of light or reflective clothing to ensure you can be seen. I recently discovered these awesome light spurs from Nathan that are perfect for runs in the dark. I also wore them during the recent Shine Walk, a full marathon night walk!

Winter running gear from Nike

You’ll see me coming in this ultra reflective gear!

Buff or headband: Hats are cool, but I often find they are too hot for running or hiking. I’m a big fan of an insulated headband or Buff, which covers your ears, but allows some heat to escape through the top of your head.

Hello from Canada-land!

If you’re planning some winter adventures this season, check out the Nevisport website for more options. The things I listed above are just a few key items, but there are many more accessories like gloves, hooded tops, backpacks or hydration packs that can make braving the elements as comfortable as lounging on the beach.

For more winter running tips, check out this beginners guide from inews, where I was quoted!

2 Comments

  1. Peter G (@peterggg06) October 12, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    Good sensible article, stressing the avoid cotton in particular!

    Some of the Canadians in London I’ve met didn’t like the damper climate here in winter, finding it worse than the much lower temperatures in Ontario/Quebec. They’ve also told me that Vancouver has a similar climate.

    • thoughtsandpavement October 12, 2017 / 3:22 pm

      Yes, that’s true! Vancouver’s climate is actually very similar to London. I don’t mind the dampness. I much prefer it to running in ankle-deep snow!

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