Winter Running and Adventure Essentials – What Goes In The Pack?

All running, particularly in the mountains, remote areas and particularly if going ‘solo’ brings an element of danger that must be managed. Winter and extreme conditions do increase risks and I discussed this in an in-depth article on Winter Running HERE

Following on from the article, I have had many questions to elaborate on the pack and the equipment I would use for day-to-day adventures and then how I would expand that equipment list for more adventurous and specific trips.

Firstly, understand yourself and your level of experience. I write about this in the article above, but it is worth emphasizing that no two people are the same. The ethos of ‘fast and light’ is great if you can go fast… BUT and this is a big BUT, what happens if you can’t go fast? What happens if you fall, are immobilized, waiting for help or a rescue?

Imagine a scene, stuck on a mountain side, you have broken your leg. You were moving fast and so were warm. But now you are still, the temperature is dropping well below zero and you are unable to move or generate heat. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and THIS is the scenario you MUST think off when packing for an adventure.

I have a simple attitude of it’s better to carry it and not needed it.

Weather can change in minutes at any time of the year, especially in a mountain environment. However, in winter the changes are often far more extreme, Hypothermia can hit in minutes and it is deadly.

Preparation is key and assessing what ‘may’ happen on any adventure or run is crucially important to make sure that a day or multiple day’s activity remains safe.

The equipment list below are my personal choices, and I must stress here that I have tested many variables and brands to come up with the list below. Importantly, there is most definitely multiple ways and solutions to any problem, so, while my list below could be seen a perfect shopping list, it’s also fun to find out what works for you.

YOU AND WHAT YOU WEAR

What you wear for a run/ adventure should come as second nature, but it can often be a real dilemma understanding how to balance the layers so that you don’t overheat or equally, get too cold.

Read about GETTING LAYERED HERE

Personally, I find the most difficult temperatures around 0 to +5 degrees C (32-49 Fahrenheit.) It’s cold enough to make you feel chilled (often will feel damp too) but within 15-minutes of running you feel warm.

inov-8 ambassador, Abelone Lyng

The starting point for me is a merino wool base layer, it naturally helps regulate body temperature, remains warm when wet, transports sweat away from the body, and is very good in regard to odors. Icebreaker is my product of choice and they have a simple system of 150/175/200 and 260 products, the higher the number, the thicker and warmer the product. I personally find 150 ideal, especially for running and active sports.

My jacket will balance warmth, breathability and protection from the wind, Haglöfs L.I.M Hybrid Hood manages to balance all these elements in a really lightweight package. It can even be worn directly against the skin. The inov-8 Technical Mid Hoodie is also a good choice.

Leg wear will depend on the weather and arguably I would potentially look at 3 scenarios. On milder winter days hovering around 0C I would use my standard inov-8 run tights. 0 to -10C I would use a thicker winter tight, potentially with wind block panels on the front by Swix. Below -10 and I would use Icebreaker 150 merino underneath the thicker Swix tights.

Keeping feet warm is essential in winter and again, based on weather, temperature and conditions. I will go with one of three scenarios: Merino woolneoprene socks or Sealskinz. My default is neoprene as it works well in most conditions. It’s not unusual to wear two pairs of socks in winter, say a merino liner and thicker over sock or a merino liner inside Sealskinz, keep this in mind when getting winter run shoes, you may need a half-size larger shoe?

Hands, like feet, need to be warm. I use Icebreaker liners, with either inov-8 Extreme Thermo Mitt which is incredibly warm.

I wear a Buff or similar product around my neck, and I use a Haglöfs Fanatic hat which manages to be always warm, but not too warm!

Vj Sport Xero 5 here

Shoes will depend on conditions but for me, once winter arrives, I usually require a winter shoe with studs to provide grip, particularly in ice. The VJ Xero 5 works exceptionally well. Of course, in most scenarios you could use your favourite trail shoes and carry micro crampons which you can add and remove as required. However, if you know you will be in snow/ ice all day, a specific winter shoe provides a much more enjoyable experience.

Finally glasses with a specific winter lens are often essential to protect from cold air, snow and reflected brightness from snow. I use Oakley Radar.

THE PACK

Black Diamond Distance 15 is a somewhat unique pack that manages to appeal to trail runners and alpinist/ climbers who have discovered that all important link-up of sports coming together for unique adventures and/or fastpacking. These adventures tend to entail a bit of easy climbing, some scrambling, some fell running and some walking – or just about whatever you can string together.

Black Diamond Distance 15 balances running and alpinism perfectly.

A hybrid between running and climbing pack, the Distance 15 fits snug to your body and is stable with minimal bounce. The main compartment of the pack includes a quick draw-string main opening which Black Diamond say is waterproof – it is not! Please use a waterproof bag inside like those provided by Sea to Summit. A zippered security pocket inside is ideal for a wallet and there is a stretch mesh divider that will hold a bladder, or it can be used for storing nylon or dyneema.

Elasticated compression straps either side of the main bag are ideal for reducing the volume of the pack and keeping everything tight together and they can be used to secure a pair of ice axes that also have specific storage at the bottom of the back and security buckles that pass through the ice axe head. Integrated into the main compartment (on each side) are ‘Quiver Sleeves’ for Black Diamond Z-folding walking poles. The front of the pack has a vest fit with two adjustable straps and two 4-way stretch zippered pockets and four front stretch pockets that will hold soft flasks, snacks or any other essential ‘on-the-go’ items.

IN THE PACK

Icebreaker 150 top and bottom

Spare base layer, top and bottom – These would be duplicates of the Icebreaker 150 as worn.

Spare socks – Merino run sock.

Jacket

Mid layer/ insulation – In winter, I will already be wearing a mid-layer, either the Haglöfs or inov-8 as mentioned above. My additional insulation would be down and the Haglöfs Essens is an incredible all season product. It has warmth, very low weight and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling that it is DWR treated – the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions.

Barrier shorts

*Barrier Shorts – Haglöfs make an excellent, light and packable barrier short for the extreme cold.

Haglöfs Gore-Tex Paclite

Waterproof jacket – The inov-8 Ultrashell Pro is an excellent very lightweight waterproof jacket but in winter I will usually take a heavier duty Gore-Tex Paclite L.I.M jacket by Haglöfs.

inov-8 Trailpant

Waterproof pants – inov-8 Trailpant waterproof and breathable designed for really cold, wet conditions.

Icebreaker liner gloves

Liner gloves – I would carry an additional pair of Icebreaker merino as mention above.

Sentinel by Mountain Equipment
Black Diamond waterproof over mitt

Outer gloves – I would typically carry two outer gloves as I suffer with cold hands, a warm Sentinel mitt by Mountain Equipment and a waterproof over mitt by Black Diamond.

Hat – Spare hat as above.

Buff – Spare as above.

Food and hydration – In winter, a main issue can be frozen bottles, so I carry one or two small Thermos flasks with coffee, sweet tea or hot chocolate. It can make a big difference to have this option. For snacks I will use energy bars, Kvikk Lunsj or similar. Always a good idea to plan a cafe stop on longer runs too!

Phone – I use an iPhone and I make sure I have mapping software such as Footpath and what3words for emergency use.

Petzl e-lite
Silva Trail Runner Free

Headtorch – A simple Petzl e-lite as a ‘just-in-case’ for all runs but if running at night I use a Silva.

Small knife

Knife – Victorinox.

Mountain wipes

Wipes – Wipes.

Waterproof liner bag

Waterproof liner bag – (maybe 2 depending on needs) – Sea to Summit make excellent lightweight bags to make sure all spare clothes etc remain dry.

Survival bivi

Bivvi – Terra Nova Survival bivi that is fully waterproof, breathable and has a simple drawcord closure. It packs away into a small stuff sack.

Hand and feet heat pads

Heat pads – An essential back-up for hands and feet by Nevercold or similar.

First aid – Lifesystems small emergency kit in waterproof protection.

Additional power.

Batteries/ Battery pack – Modern tech doesn’t last long in extreme cold so carrying a back-up battery can be a good idea, Goal Zero make good products.

Map and Compass – As applicable.

Garmin inReach

*InReach tracker – Garmin.

Folding Z Poles

*Poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole Carbon.

Micro crampons

*Crampons – You need to be very specific with crampons and the shoes you use them with, however, a pair of Snowline are a good back-up.

Camp Corsa

*Ice Axe – Camp Corsa – lightest ice axe out there for low angle glacier travel, ski mountaineering and adventure racing.

Atlas Race 22

*Snowshoes – Atlas Race 22.

*Hand Ice Studs – Isvidda Isdubb If you are running on the ice, it is important that you use ice hand studs both for your own and others’ safety. (These are often sold for those ice fishing.)

All items with * are only applicable based on the adventure, the type of terrain, weather conditions and personal experience. The inReach is a wonderful security blanket that is arguably ideal for any run/ adventure but if you have a phone (with power) at least you have one emergency back-up. However, phones don’t always have reception.

Running across a frozen lake, Norway.

LIGHTERPACK is a great online tool that helps you manage equipment and keep track of pack weight and contents, HERE is an example of what is listed above.

SUMMARY

Winter adventures are incredible and exhilarating. On a personal level, I find them more challenging and exciting than many Spring/ Summer trips due to the added complexity. However, that complexity can prove to be fatal.

Don’t compromise in winter. Be prepared.

The above list of equipment is designed to show you what is possible and how to make weight as minimal as possible without losing efficacy of the items. You could go away and purchase this list of items and you’d have all you need for winter running.

However, if you are like me, looking around, testing items and comparing is part of the fun… It’s actually what I have been doing for years, that is how this list came about.

So, do the research, make sure you not only have what you need for an adventure but make sure you have all the extras needed should a situation arise leaving you vulnerable.

Further Reading:

Ice Running HERE

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE

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Fastpacking LIGHT – A Guide

My recent article on Fastpacking (here) gained a great deal of attention. In many respects, I am not surprised, I think mini or extended semi or selfi-sufficient journeys are extremely popular and only on the increase.

The above post was in-depth and provided an overview of options that are available to make a fastpack trip effective. In some cases, coffee being a prime example, I did not go with the lightest possibilities available. The main reason for that? Comfort usually comes with a little more weight.

After a recent fastpack trip (just one-night wild camping,) I posted a photo of my pack contents and it created some interest as the weight was 5.4kg including pack, food, water, tent and all my essential items.

I received countless messages for more information, so, here goes. A detailed breakdown and description of the items and why I use them or more importantly, why I take them! Gladly, some of the items I do not need to use but need to have, just in case.

Below is a video, in-depth, where I discuss all the items listed below.

Tent:

©Earl Harper – MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent

My go to tent is a MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent (here) which is 1600g which is 2-person tent. It has loads of space both in width and height, it has two access doors with room to store pack, shoes and an area to cook in if required. It is free-standing, can be pitched inner or outer only. Split between 2-people, it is 800g each.

Current favourite solo tent is the Nemo Hornet 1P (review HERE) which has loads of space and comfort and all coming in at 731g.

NEMO Hornet 1P

If I was solo fastpacking and wanted the lightest and smallest possible, I would change the tent to a Nordisk Lofoten 1 LW (here) which is arguably the lightest and smallest packing tent in the world (still with comfort and stability) weighing just 490g and is the size of a bottle of water, 11cm x 22cm. It’s a two-layer tent which still provides an area for gear storage, with a height of just 70cm, sitting space is compromised. However, if fast, light are priorities, this takes some beating. Also, you can use the 2-man inner inside the same fly-sheet, with obviously less storage option.

Do you need a 12-week and/ or 24-week Multi-Day Training Plan perfect for a multi-day adventure or a race like Marathon des Sables? They are designed to provide you with a structured weekly plan culminating in a target event.

View a sample week HERE from the 12-week planPurchase HERE. (£14.50 pw)

View a sample week HERE from the 24-week planPurchase HERE. (£12 pw)

Wearing:

I don’t add the clothes I am wearing to my overall fastpack weight, but it is worth looking at options and variables. I was surprised when comparing run shorts how weights varied. For example, I had shorts with an inner (like cycling shorts,) they weighed 157g, considerably heavier than my RAB Skyline.

RAB Skyline shorts – 96g 

RAB Skyline Tee – 84g

Smartwool socks – 45g

Hat – 45g

Glasses – 30g 

Buff – 36g 

Scott Supertrac RC2 shoes – 290g

Pack:

inov-8 25ltr fastpack 619g – This is actually a prototype pack, specifically made for athletes on the inov-8 team. It’s a really great pack, one of the best I have used. It has a vest like fit, waist belt, comfortable strapping and loads of extra mesh pockets that make it a joy to use. I have recently encouraged inov-8 to bring this to production. 

Pack Contents:

Rab Phantom Pull-on 90g – One of the lightest and smallest waterproof shells I have used.

RAB Phantom

Patagonia Micro Puff Vest (synthetic with ripstop Pertex Quantum) 162g – Synthetic filling but weight and small packing just like down. The perfect compromise. This warms the body and core and saves weight over a jacket. Obviously, you need to asses conditions, a jacket may be better. If so, I use a RAB Kaon which weighs 260g.

Patagonia Micro Puff Vest

RAB Hat 34g 

RAB Gloves 60g

Icebreaker 175 leggings 140g – Merino providing warmth on the trail (if required) and warmth when stopping for the day and sleeping.

Icebreaker 175 top 150g

RAB Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bag 606g – State of the art sleeping bag with groundbreaking technology. Two versions are available, and this is the warmer one. The Mythic Ultra 180 provides a saving of 200g (weight 400g) and is perfect for warmer weather fastpack and/ or warm sleepers.

RAB Mythic Ultra 360 sleeping bag

 MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit 280g – Small, compact, lightweight and the gas canister can be stored inside. Perfect minimalist solution.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit

 MSR Trailshot 140g – A small and lightweight water filter system that guarantees water that one can drink and cook with.

MSR Trailshot

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter bottle (0.6L) 59g – This is a 600ml soft-flask with water filter inside. It allows for minimal weight and the ability to get water anywhere on the trail and drink on the go.

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter bottle

MSR Mugmate Coffee/ Tea Filter 30g – An ingenious small coffee/ tea filter that provides a lightweight solution for the coffee addict. Just pop it into a cup!

MSR Mugmate

Gas canister 113g 

Bivvy bag 151g – Great back up for added warmth should something unplanned happen.

Bivvy bag

Headtorch 46g – The Petzl e+LITE is one of the smallest and lightest around. Perfect when camping to provide light for reading and cooking. However, if you need light to run/ walk this is not the best option.

Petzl e+LITE

Garmin InReach mini 114g – I take this on all adventures. Ideal back-up and safety with an emergency button.

Garmin InReach mini

Mattress 300g* – Klymit V Ultralite SL (here) is full length, small pack size and very comfortable. *Photo is not the Klymit.

 Pillow 50g – You can always use a dry bag with clothes inside as an alternative?

First Aid 101g – Simple system by Lifesystems in a waterproof bag.

Dry Bag 68g – I use a 30ltr and use it is a liner for the pack. I find it easier to push everything in one place.

Sea to Summit spoon 12g – Sea to Summit with a long handle designed so that you can eat out of dehydrated food packs.

GoalZero Flip10 charger 75g – Good enough for one, maybe two phone charges.

Food: 

Firepot dehydrated meal 158g (per meal) – Dehydrated medals are a go-to solution for a meal when on the trail. Firepot have good calories, great taste and a good selection available.

Coffee 130g – Essential.

Snacks 300g – Bars/ nuts/ wine gums etc and importantly, *Kvikk Lunsj.

Water 600g – This is the weight of water in the 600ml soft-flask.

Camera: (obviously optional)

Sony A9 with 35mm f2.8 pancake lens 800g – I am a photographer, so, this is my serious luxury item and it comes with a weight penalty.

GoPro Max 231g

SUMMARY

Travelling light is great fun. It allows you to move faster with less strain. However, it is essential you travel light for the conditions. Too light and you may well get in trouble. So be careful and attentive. Light does not mean you will be uncomfortable, but you must accept a compromise comes from being minimal.

DOWNLOAD KIT LIST HERE

Of interest:

In Scandinavia, Kvikk Lunsj is an ‘essential’ for the trail. The chocolate consists of four rectangular wafers covered in milk chocolate, with thinner layers of chocolate between the wafers in order to break the chocolate into pieces easier. The chocolate has been advertised as a “hiking chocolate”, and it is often associated with skiing trips in Norwegian culture. Freia began printing the well-known Fjellvettreglene (Norwegian: the mountain code) on the inside of the packaging.

 There is much relevance to the points below and a great reminder for all.

1. Plan your trip and inform others about the route you have selected. Plan your trip based on the groups abilities, and always include alternative options. Obtain current information about the area and the weather conditions. Listen to the advice of seasoned mountaineers where possible. Ensure you have sufficient knowledge and practical skills to complete this trip. Respect the natural environment. Plan ahead and do not leave any litter behind you. Arrange meeting points during the trip that dont require mobile coverage or accurate timing. Is your planning sufficient to guarantee an enjoyable trip no matter what?

2. Adapt the planned routes according to ability and conditions. Assess the conditions continuously and adjust your plans accordingly. Respect the weather! Travelling with others is safer and means you will have someone to share your experiences with. If youre travelling alone, exercise caution. Do not embark on a long trip without sufficient experience. You must be able to take care of yourself as well as the others in your group. Be considerate of other hikers. Make sure you have read The Right of Access and its requirements. Make sure your group maintains an open and direct line of communication at all times. Can you complete the trip under these conditions and with this group?

3. Pay attention to the weather and the avalanche warnings. Always check the weather forecast and avalanche warnings to see what impact they have on the area. Follow the advice and choose a gentler terrain when conditions are too demanding. Check the conditions on yr.no, storm.no and varsom.no. Monitor the development of the weather and avalanche conditions along the way. Bear in mind that plans may need to be adjusted.

4. Be prepared for bad weather and frost, even on short trips. Dress appropriately for the weather, and the terrain. Remember that the weather changes quickly in the mountains. Bring extra clothing, and the equipment your route and terrain requires. Extra food and drink can help save lives, if the trip takes longer than planned or you have to wait for help. Is your group equipped to deal with a sudden change in weather?

5. Bring the necessary equipment so you can help yourself and others. In the winter, you need a windsack/bivvy sack, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and a shovel so that you can spend the night outdoors if you have to. A windsack can save lives. Bring a high-visibility vest or a headlight, that will make it easier to find you if necessary. Bring a first aid kit so you can help yourself and others. Always use a transmitter/receiver and have an avalanche probe and a shovel if you are traveling in avalanche prone terrain. Pack smart! Packing lists for different tours can be found at ut.no. Mobile phones can be a useful tool but remember that they do not work in all situations and areas. If an accident occurs, alert the police at 112, go for help or try to notify someone with other means. Are you able to take care of yourself and help others?

6. Choose safe routes. Recognize avalanche terrain and unsafe ice. Take an active decision to avoid terrain that is prone to avalanches and plan your route well. Be aware that avalanches can start in drops higher than five meters and steeper than 30 degrees. Even if you walk in flat terrain, you can trigger an avalanche on the mountainside above you. An avalanche dropout zone can be three times the height of the drop. Avoid terrain traps, such as narrow gorges. Consider what will happen if there is an avalanche. Be aware that a cornice can break off when you walk on a mountain ridge. Be aware of ice conditions when you walk on regulated lakes and rivers. Can an avalanche happen where I plan to go? What will the consequence be?

7. Use a map and a compass. Always know where you are. A map and compass are an essential basic equipment that always work. Pay attention to the map even when hiking on a marked trail. Knowing where you are on the map, makes for a better hiking experience. GPS and other electronic aids are helpful, but make sure you have extra batteries. Do you know where you are?

8. Dont be ashamed to turn around. Evaluate your route continuously and if conditions are becoming difficult, choose your best alternative long before you or group members become exhausted. Have the circumstances changed? Should you turn around? Is anyone in your group have problems completing the route? Should the group turn around? Enjoy the hike for its own sake and remember that there will be other opportunities if it is too challenging today.

9. Conserve your energy and seek shelter if necessary. Adjust your hiking speed to the weakest member of the group, and make sure that everyone can keep up. Remember to eat and drink frequently. When you exert yourself, your body needs more fluids than you may feel you need. Dont wait until you are exhausted before you seek shelter. Strong winds will tire you out quickly. Use your windsack or dig a snow cave before its too late. Are you able to get back to your base? Do you know where the nearest shelter is?

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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