With the recent weather I’ve been thinking a lot about what kit to wear to stay warm and safe in the snow, ice and rain.
If you are ever wondering whether to take that jacket with you, just imagine what it would be like if you sprained an ankle, or were otherwise incapacitated. Just stand still on surprise view for 2 minutes and your heat will soon start to leave you. Hyperthermia can come within minutes, not hours, so best be prepared.
First on the list is a good base-layer. I think its worth spending a few bob as they will last years. My favourite Helly Hanson must be pushing 20 years old now, and doesn’t look much different, and a medium weight merino top is sooo comfy (but a little too hot for all but the coldest runs). They might cost £30-£60, but over the years they are worth it. I find the usual ‘race t-shirt’ material can get wet and uncomfortable quickly, so I try and steer clear of these if raining/snowing.
One thing to be aware of is wind-chill; this can mean an already cold day can feel so much colder, and your body will lose heat and a greater rate. Could say 5 degrees on your weather app, but feels well below zero in reality. My best purchase for years has been a montane windproof gillet, which I love. Again, not cheap but I use it loads, and it keeps your body warm without overheating. If colder a windproof jacket would be an option, again Montane are well known for their lightweight tops that can fit into a pocket and are incredibly light.
I rarely find it so cold I need to actually wear a waterproof jacket, but I carry it in my bumbag or rucksack on every run in winter. Inov8, Montane, Alpkit all do affordable waterproof jackets with a hood and taped seams (which are needed for Fell Runners Association kit checks to be passed).
Again, think what you’ll be using it for; a really lightweight jacket such as the Montane Minimus (I’m not sponsored by them, honestly!) is fine for runs close to home, but I’m not sure I’d trust it if I was in the high mountains, miles from home in a storm. Something like the Inov8 Protec-shell jacket or a Alpkit Argonaut for a more affordable option.
Remembering if you have to stop, a waterproof/windproof won’t keep you warm. You need something that will trap the heat next to your body, so a light fleece or technical insulated top (like the Mountain Equipment Trembler top shown in photo.
Tights are pretty useful, and I have nothing special in the wardrobe, but again make sure they’re decent quality so they don’t get damp and heavy. You can buy thicker winter tights, but I find I always get too hot.
For emergency situations I will put in some packable, cheap waterproof trousers, the sort you get at Mountain Warehouse for £15. I wouldn’t want to run in them, but great if you are stuck and need to keep warm.
Obviously a hat can be a life-saver, but I don’t like wearing one as often get too hot. I’ll always have one in my bag in winter though. More useful is a buff as you can take off if too hot, put it on your wrist, wear it as a hat or even as a bandage as I had to do once when gashing my shin when jumping the culvert on Ilkley moor once with Tom Lynch.
Gloves-wise I’ve found a brilliant pair recently, the Alpkit Spectra Pullover Glove. The gloves themselves are pretty warm compared to my cheapy karrimor ones, but the great feature is a waterproof ‘mit’ that comes out of a little pocket and over your fingers to keep them proper toasty. For those of you who suffer from Reynauds (poor circulation to fingers/toes) I believe from our resident experts Sara and Tanya that the Prism mitts from Montane are amazing.
I once got so cold wading through melt-water streams on the back of Burley moor that I literally couldn’t feel my feet. Felt like I was running on two wooden blocks rather than feet. It was pretty scary tbh, and I had the start of frostbite/chilblains for days afterwards. I therefore went to Yorkshire Runner and splashed out on some sealskinz waterproof socks. These are excellent at keeping feet warm, and are great for cycling too where cold feet are more common. However, they are stiff and thick, so can be a tight fit in your normal shoes, and that can be bad for circulation, so make sure they aren’t counter-productive. I know you can get gore-tex lined trainers, but in anything other than a small puddle they aren’t going to stay waterproof, so I don’t normally bother.
I always have a few things in my bag:
One of those silver blankets in case I’m stuck still and need to keep warm. These are a few quid from most outdoor shops.
Whistle in case I need help (six blasts, wait a minute, six more, continued)
Food! – pop some sweets or a snickers bar in, could be a life-saver!
Water if out for a while, but make sure it doesn’t freeze up! Put somewhere near your body if really cold.
A phone! If out on my own I’ll always carry my phone, just make sure your emergency contact has their’s switched on (cross reference story above about frostbitten feet 😊 ), I just put mine in a sandwich bag to keep dry.
Map – where am I? Its cold and I want to go home for a coffee.
Compass – I know not everyone is comfortable navidating, but make sure you can use a compass, at least enough to orientate yourself in bad visibility, and learn how to run to a bearing. Even if that is ‘north’ to find a road and not run round in circles.
I’ve used the Pete Bland bumbags for years, no frills, affordable and can fit a jacket, trousers, map, food in quite comfortably. For longer runs I’ve started using a Montane Jaws race-vest type bag, really comfy and can fit everything in, especially useful for pockets that you can grab stuff from. Inov8, Salomon, OMM, Ultimate Direction all do expensive ones, but if you want to support a local-ish business and save a few quid, these look good: Harrier
There’s something I’ve missed, erm, shoes! These are without doubt the most personal choice, as everyone has makes/models that suite them, so I won’t go on much. All I’d say is if muddy/snowy wear something with good front/back AND side-to side grip. A lot of trail shoes have grips that are v-shaped or lines rather than blocks/studs like you’d get on a fell-shoe, and I find you slide around sideways so much more in these.
If icy then I’ll put in some Petzl spiky rubber over-spikes, these work even on sheet ice, and can make the difference between an abandoned run and the best run of the year. I know Tom has Yak Trax which are really popular option too, and some full on running crampons for when really icy or deep icy snow.
Hope that’s been useful! Let me know what your essential kit is in Winter.