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.
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 wool, neoprene 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!
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.
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.
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
Spare base layer, top and bottom – These would be duplicates of the Icebreaker 150 as worn.
Spare socks – Merino run sock.
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 – Haglöfs make an excellent, light and packable barrier short for the extreme cold.
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.
Waterproof pants – inov-8 Trailpant waterproof and breathable designed for really cold, wet conditions.
Liner gloves – I would carry an additional pair of Icebreaker merino as mention above.
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.
Headtorch – A simple Petzl e-lite as a ‘just-in-case’ for all runs but if running at night I use a Silva.
Knife – Victorinox.
Wipes – Wipes.
Waterproof liner bag – (maybe 2 depending on needs) – Sea to Summit make excellent lightweight bags to make sure all spare clothes etc remain dry.
Bivvi – Terra Nova Survival bivi that is fully waterproof, breathable and has a simple drawcord closure. It packs away into a small stuff sack.
Heat pads – An essential back-up for hands and feet by Nevercold or similar.
First aid – Lifesystems small emergency kit in waterproof protection.
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.
*InReach tracker – Garmin.
*Poles – Black Diamond Z-Pole Carbon.
*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.
*Ice Axe – Camp Corsa – lightest ice axe out there for low angle glacier travel, ski mountaineering and adventure racing.
*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.
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.
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.
Ice Running HERE
Winter Running HERE
Embrace Winter HERE
Winter Camping & Fastpacking HERE
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