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

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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Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket Review

Haglöfs have been a premium brand for more than a century developing outstanding outdoor products that combine a strong sense of Swedish heritage with a commitment to sustainability and innovation. The launch of L.I.M (Less Is More) personified the essence of lightness. In Spring 2020, Haglöfs updated the L.I.M Series – lightweight, high-performance products that deliver uncompromised performance when taken up mountains and into the wilderness, anywhere in the world.

The L.I.M Essens Jacket Men is currently my go-to jacket for any running or mountain adventure, quite simply, it’s the best product I have tried. It combines three key elements perfectly: low weight, small pack size and warmth.

Quite simply, ‘Essens’ is the essence of lightness. The warmth and very low weight is attributed to extremely light and durable material and first-class goose down with 800 CUIN filling. Importantly, the down is treated with fluorocarbon-free DWR which works so well that the filling stays dry for up to 10,000 minutes with exposure to wet conditions. 

This is a game changer… Down has always been known to have the lowest weight and smallest pack size, however, previous incarnations would mean that any wet or damp weather would leave the filling useless.

Now, with fluorocarbon-free DWR, down has all the benefits ans wet weather performance of a synthertic filling such as Primaloft, but with the huge advantages of low weight and packing size of down. The Nikwax Hydrophobic Down can be washed with an appropriate Nikwax (Nikwax Down Wash Direct) product.

Fit is superb both in female and male versions with excess fabric reduced to a minimum. Features are minimal and notably there is no hood, no chest pocket and two hand pockets with no zips, to save weight.

The jacket will fold and compress in to one of these pockets if required.

It has a mini-box quilted construction which ensures the down is spread evenly over the jacket leaving no cold spots. The fill is 800 CUIN. The DWR repels water and dirt making the Essens a perfect all-year round insulating layer.

A full-length zipper allows flexibility in regulatimg temperature and for cold conditions it has a high nick with chin guard. The bottom of the jacket and cuffs have a simple elastic construction to reduce drafts and maintain low weight.

IN USE

The Essens jacket has been with me on all my runs since receiving the product. I pretty much always run with a pack and due to the Essens low weight, small pack size and flexibility in all weathers, there has never been a reason not to take it. My male medium weighs 160g which is up there as one of the lightest down jackets available. The ability to maintain loft and insulation irrespective of conditions has been a game changer, be that on a run from home or more notably on a multi-day fastpack when weight v warmth is key. This is a product that works for any adventure, be that in the snowy mountains or for example on stage race like Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert. Fit is neither slim or spacious, it seems to fit just right with enough flexibility in the arms, the back and sleeve length are optimised for outdoor use. Added to a merino base layer, it provide incredible warmth on cold days. Should you stop for a break, it provides ideal insulation to retain warmth before heading off again. On tough, challenging and wild days, the Essens is a superb insulating layer underneath a waterproof such as Haglöfs L.I.M Jacket which has minimalist design, is easy to pack, light and made from GORE-TEX Paclite® PLUS.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing to dislike in the L.I.M Essens Jacket, in all honesty it is the best I have tried. The warmth and comfort is incredible for such a lightweight jacket. The packing size and weight is difficult to beat. As I said, there is no reason not to take this on any run as it is the perfect insulating layer, irrespective of the weather.

RRP £200 available in 4-colours, sizes XS to XL male and female versions.

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.

Follow on:

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Lakes in a Day 2015 – Race Summary and Images

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LAKES IN A DAY 2015

What an epic day in the English Lakes. We all know what an amazing part of the world it is, however, far too often, the jewel of the UK is often shrouded in a layer of mist, clag and yes; rain!

Not for the 2015 ‘Lakes in a Day.’

The big fella up in the sky played ball and gave everyone a truly spectacular day travelling from the north to the south by some of the Lakelands toughest trails.

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Departing Caldbeck at 0800 it became no surprise that with less than a mile covered, Kim Collison (pre race favourite) had taken the front of the race and though his gap may have only been seconds, the writing was on the wall. The £500 ‘bonus’ prize for any male or female breaking the old course records surely providing a wonderful carrot.

In the ladies, the three main contenders for the podium, Helen Leigh, Sabrina Verjee and Lucy Spain all ran together in the early stages. Slowly but surely the elastic started to stretch and Helen took a stronghold of the front of the race.

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50-miles and 4000m+ of tough terrain is a challenge especially when one needs to be on top of navigation. Maps for the race are provided with a very clearly defined route which must be adhered to, the only exception being in the early stages when the runners leave Nether Row and head to the summit of Blencathara.

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This is tough open terrain! From the summit, the drop down the challenging rocky, scrambling terrain to Threlkeld found many reaching and needing 3-points of contact.

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Here, Kim Collison and Helen Leigh looked in their element moving fast over the terrain, the dry conditions making the traverse so much more simple.

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Threlkeld providing the first aid station and although Kim and Helen made this checkpoint well under 2-hours 30-minutes, for many it took considerably longer and for some, it was far enough!

Climbing out of Threlkeld, the tough climb to White Pike started the run along the high fells to Helvellyn via Great Dodd, Watsons Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Helvellyn and then Nethermost Pike provided the route to the drop down to Grizedale Tarn before then climbing back up to Fairfield and the long run into Ambleside.

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Behind Kim, the male positions were up for grabs with Michael Barron, Jacob Snochowski, Stuart Dickson and Mārcis Gubāts fighting for the podium places. For the ladies it was no change, Helen continued to extend her lead over Sabrina and Lucy trailed looking to have a solid 3rd place but unlikely to make an impact on 2nd.

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From Ambleside it was all change. The tough and challenging terrain of the high fells transitioned into the lowland fells and just when you can run more, the body is crying out for a walk and some easier running. Kim was now well inside course record pace as were the 2 lead ladies. It was looking like a costly day for James Thurlow, race director.

Hugging the western shores of lake Windermere, the runners weaved in and out of forested terrain to the final checkpoint of Finsthwaite. From here on in the finish at Cartmel awaited very tired bodies.

Kim Collison arrived obliterating the old course record in a time of 9:12:07. Post race he said, ‘It was one of those days. I felt really good and the conditions were perfect. I just made the most of it!’

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Mārcis Gubāts came 2nd almost 75-minutes later in a time of 10:27:48 and Stuart Dickson completed the podium in 10:49:05.

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Helen Leigh and Sabrina Verjee both broke the old ladies record and thankfully for James, he only had to provide the £500 bonus for the 1st lady. Helen’s time of 11:00:10 in comparison to 11:29:59 of Sabrina was a great time on such a tough course. Lucy Spain came 3rd in 11:58:48.

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With darkness the temperatures dropped and a clear night guided the runners back to Cartmel. A 24-hour cut off allowed many to complete an incredible journey from the north to south of the lakes and at the end they could say, I completed the ‘Lakes in a Day.’ The final finishers arrived just shy of 23-hours.

James Thurlow and the team at Open Adventure really have created quite a beautiful event. It’s not easy! But then again, would you want it any other way?

Race website HERE

Full results HERE

Race images to purchase HERE

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LAKES in a DAY Preview 2015

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The ‘Lakes in a Day’ is a point-to-point race that starts in the northern town of Caldbeck and heads directly south way on down to Cartmel passing through three major points; the first feed station is Threlkeld, 2nd Ambleside 3rd Finisthwaite (a small hamlet).  It then does pass through Newby Bridge which is at the bottom of Lake Windermere.

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The journey is a tough challenge even for the hardiest competitor and the 50-mile journey includes 4000m of ascent that includes the stunning Helvellyn Ridge and the western shoreline of Lake Windermere.

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Race director James Thurlow warns competitors:

“This is a long run in wild terrain. If you are at the start line wearing a t-shirt and shorts carrying nothing but a bum bag, expect us to be asking a few questions. If the weather is bad, then pack extra kit. This event is not like many other ultras in the UK calendar – it goes up on to the high fells and STAYS up there so don’t take any chances.”

 

Mountain, map skills and navigation skills are a prerequisite for the race as the route is not way-marked. Unlike many ‘true’ navigation events, the use of a GPS is allowed and GPX route is provided for runners in advance so that they can download it. Importantly, Thurlow warns, “GPS must not be your sole means of navigation for this event.” They are wise words, batteries fail!

The 2014 edition of the race had 180 runners start the race and at the time of writing, 357 are registered for 2015. Kim Collison and Holly Rush are two stand out names amongst what looks like a high quality field.

Current course records are 10:37 and 13:31 for Tim Higginbottom and Cat Sutherland. If conditions are good on race day, both records stand a good chance of being broken. To entice a fast pace, £500 is on offer for the first person to break either record.

The race starts at 0800 on Saturday October 10th and race updates will be available here: http://www.lakesinaday.co.uk/eventupdates/

Race website HERE

Mandatory kit HERE

A GPX file for the route is now available here.

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A selection of images from 2014 HERE