Friday, January 5, 2018


It's cold.

Really cold.

Like "extreme cold warning" and authorities telling people flat out to stay the hell inside kind of cold.

I'm not good at doing what I'm told, though.

How am I supposed to stay away from this?

If you're like me and continue to train outside in this uncharacteristically frozen winter, or would like to try it, I'll show you some of my favourite things to keep you warm and safe from top to bottom while you're out there.

Outdoor Research Peruvian Windstopper Hat

Unisex - MSRP $34

Made of microfleece with Gore's Windstopper technology to be windproof and breathable, this is one of the silliest looking pieces of headgear I've ever encountered...and I don't give a rat's patootie about that, because it's also bombproof reliable for keeping my ears warm on the coldest, windiest days.

Long earflaps with a drawstring under the chin to keep them snug. 

Having a ton of metal in my ears and having frozen them solid once back in '00, I'm pretty picky about keeping them safe these days. I still want a brimmed hat to keep snow and wind out of my eyes, so I throw the Peruvian hat on overtop when it's truly miserable out.

..and looks even dumber worn that way, but I still don't care.

Buff Merino Tubular Headwear

Unisex - MSRP $42-$48

Ok, I'm willing to bet you know about tubular head/neckwear already - they're a runner (and particularly trailrunner)'s best friend for all kinds of things, and when it's less than Coldmageddon out I'm perfectly happy trusting my ears' safety to one of them. When the temperature dips below -10c/14f, though, I use them as a hood to protect my face and seal up my neck. Windburn sucks, people!

I prefer the merino wool ones for this purpose - I find they let me breathe through them more easily (as I'm a bit claustrophobic with anything covering my nose and mouth), they don't stink even with multiple uses, they breathe really well (as seen by the frosted up bit toward the back of my head, where sweat vapor escaped from the collar of my jacket and froze up), and they always feel warm against my skin. As far as I know I only have the lightest weight ones (150gsm - also the cheapest), and they've always been enough. There are less expensive versions made by Chaos and MEC as well - I have one of each and like/use them quite a bit, too.

I just fold one in not-quite half with the shorter portion turned to the inside of the tube, then pull it over my head and hat so the doubled portion is over my face, ears and neck. The single layer covers the collar of my jacket to my shoulders to prevent cold drafts.

Or snow blown off the trees by a gusty wind..

Sugoi SubZero Zap Tights

Men's - Women's - MSRP $115

I have skipped over torso stuff because it's pretty simple - I've always had a harder time keeping my legs warm than my upper body, which I can just pile up with merino wool shirts and a windproof jacket, or even an insulated hybrid jacket when it gets really awful out.

I also like to be seen, and the SubZero Zap tights are good for that!

These tights - which also come in a non-Zap version with much less reflective (Men's - Women's - MSRP $95) - aren't actually windproof, but the pile of the fleece interior is enough that you don't really feel the wind. I got a pair for Christmas (thanks Mum!) and ran in them at -16c/3f with wind gusting over 40kph for a windchill of -27c/-17f.

Then did some unconventional testing on them..

While they run true to size and have a generous inseam length - approximately 32" in W's size Large, which is a fabulous find for my long-legged brethren. I got one size up from my usual Sugoi size so I could have room to layer another set of tights or knickers underneath. Being a bit big on me worn alone, they do shift a bit but I had no chafing during a 2.5hr trail run with some high-stepping climbs. Once you start to sweat in them, they basically stay put. While I was initially concerned about the somewhat stiff reflective tape that runs down the outsides of both legs and crosses just under the knee, I've had no irritation from the seams at all.

Warm legs on a windy day at Huron Natural Area

Running Room Extreme Wind Run Pants

Men's - Women's - MSRP $110

Sometimes you just need the assurance of having something completely windproof on your legs, and for those times these pants are freakin' awesome. Tanker bought me a pair of these for Christmas (I'm a spoiled girl - I know it!), and they've seen a lot of action since.

They also help with being seen.

These again run true to size and have a fabulously long inseam (approx 32" in W's size Large), but I got one size up from my usual so I'd have room to layer underneath them. Because they have a brushed back to them and a bit looser fit (they're pants, not tights - they do taper nicely at the ankle, though), I'm not sure that wooly longjohns would do well under them for mobility purposes. I did, however, layer a pair of Sugoi MidZero tights (lighter/less warm than the SubZeros - MSRP $80 in Women's and Men's) under them last night for a run at -18c/0f with a windchill of -29c/-20f with good results. I've also worn them alone on a windless -15c/5f night without issue; the legs are even tailored enough that I didn't run into problems with moisture transport, while being slightly shaped at the knee to accommodate the bent leg of a running stride. The lower seam of the knee panel hits me at the kneecap and I wondered if it might cause chafing, but I haven't experienced any yet - they are multi-needle flatlocked throughout, and the brushed inner fabric is lovely and soft.

For when the weather is anything but.

The back fabric is not windproof, but it is quite warm and has great stretch to assist with mobility. I had no irritation from the ankle zips when tucking them into a pair of gaiters for a snowy trail run, either.

They're also snow angel approved.

If you're not using gaiters to seal things up, I do recommend having an extra layer around your ankles - I used the tops of a pair of Tanker's old wool socks last night, as I've written about before. Lots of blood flow near the surface of your skin there, which can contribute to frostbite in your toes in extreme conditions if you don't take steps to keep them warm!

Gator Tip Toes Neoprene Toe Covers

Unisex - MSRP $15

Speaking of frostbitten toes, these are a little lifesaver in that department. When the cold wind howls it can be tough to keep your little piggies warm, and I have particular trouble with a couple of mine since freezing them rather badly a couple of years ago.

So simple yet quite effective.
They're just thin neoprene toe covers - very similar to those used over cycling shoes, only without a hole in the bottom for cleats. Some people wear them over their socks, but I put them underneath so they stay in position better. They do get clammy since they don't breathe well at all, but they do an excellent job of trapping heat and excluding wind completely. While desperately cold runs - like last night's "extreme cold warning" outing - call for their windproofing abilities in conditions when duct tape is unlikely to stick very well to the outside of your shoes, I actually find them most useful for milder winter and shoulder season run. I have the most trouble with cold toes on slushy roads or trails, or during freezing rain; these are the only things I've ever found that help when my feet are being constantly drenched in near-freezing water. I've run in them for multiple hours and never had an issue with chafing, as the stitching 'round the edges is very high quality and lays totally flat. I chuck them in the wash (cold water, delicate cycle, hang to dry - just like all my other athletic gear) every time or two they get used, and after more than a year they still look brand new.

Running Room Extreme Shell Mitts

Unisex - MSRP $45

Contrary to their name, these mitts aren't just a shell - they have a lovely, soft "micro moss" fleece lining inside the windproof outer shell. They have a short gauntlet cuff that's just enough to seal off a sleeve, with a highly stretchy elastic on the inside of the wrist to keep out drafts.

With lots of reflective on the back.

..and silicone grippers on the palms.

They feel very thin and the fleece nose wipe on the back of the thumb is not windproof, but these are my handwear of choice even on last night's -18c/0f trot with the wind bringing the effective temperature down to -29c/-20f. I simply tuck my thumbs inside the main body when I don't need to do anything dexterous, having purchased a size sufficiently roomy for a loose fist without forcing my skin to be in direct contact with the sides of the mitt. I still have enough dexterity in them to tear open gel packets and rummage in a hydration vest's pockets without having to remove them, which is a good thing as they can be a bit tricky to get back on when wet.

I've had them freeze solid on me a few times when running for multiple hours - they do breathe fairly well, so sweat vapor will ice up on the outside - but they're enough to keep even my badly frostbitten and cold-sensitive right thumb happy in the deep freeze we're currently experiencing.

Cold warning-schmold warning!

Skhoop Original Skirt

Women's - MSRP $159

Bonus item that isn't actually for running, but definitely falls into the category of "life-saving cold weather apparel". You wouldn't necessarily think that an insulated skirt would be very warm, and I know it's ridiculously expensive...but mine has been in almost constant use over the last couple of weeks, and I absolutely love it.

I actually wore it to work today...and yesterday..

The genius of this almost ankle-length skirt is the two-way zip down the right side that lets you zip it on and off in a heartbeat. Unlike snowpants, this is incredibly easy to throw on for just a minute or two, while providing nearly as much warmth and windproofing. The synthetic insulation makes it easily washable if it gets dirty, but I think mine has only needed laundering once in the year and a half or so I've owned it, and it still looks brand new.

Easy on and off.
Either zip it open completely from the bottom up, or zip down from the top to step in and out.

When standing still you can zip it down to mid-calf for maximum warmth and windproofing, but if you need more mobility it can be unzipped to upper thigh height on both sides - there's a handy one-way zipper on the left side of the skirt as well.

Freedom is just a zip away!

The zippers - including the two secure zip diagonal hand pockets at the front waist - all have easy-to-grab pulls that are operable with mittens on, while the soft, smooth nylon fabric and thin-but-effective synthetic insulation make this an incredibly light and cozy piece to wear. Sizing is generous with elastic around the rear 2/3 of the waistband so you can wear it over other layers; it may ride up a bit, but I have yet to find a clothing combination that makes it feel uncomfortable or restrictive. It also has belt loops if you prefer extra security, and a convenient loop inside to hang it up.

Seen here keeping me warm at -26c/-15f for a New Year's Eve fire in our backyard with Tanker.

So there you have it - my favourite gear of winter 2017/2018. I can't promise you the weather will get any better, but I guarantee you can find ways to get out there and enjoy the outdoors anyway if you have the right gear. Stay warm everyone!

And a Happy New Year from Tank and I!

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