I’ve run in the winter previously, but never trail running.
As an aside, my trail running was one where I never thought that I had a place to run that I didn’t have to drive a long distance to get there. Well, the late part of my summer and this fall, I discovered that I have about 4 miles of trails at my local city park that I can traverse and run through. Most of the time, I have the entire park to myself because most people are not idiots and they are smarter than to be running in 30-degree weather or the rain or the mud.
With my discovery this year, I’ve run outside on Saturday mornings pretty much every Saturday and it’s been fun.
And being a novice runner in the winter, I have found a few things that I think have been beneficial for me.
It is important to remember that you dress for mile one, not mile none (this was made up by someone that’s not me, but it is catchy). Meaning that when you start, you are probably going to be cold and uncomfortable, but by the time you get going, your body is going to heat up pretty nicely and you won’t want those extra clothes. Uncomfortable is good and normal.
If the weather is really cold, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 degrees, I’d run in a Smartwool stocking cap that I believe is made with some sort of merino wool. It’s 4 or 5 years old, it is reversible, black and gray, and it works great. Not too hot, not too cool. Merinio wool is supposed to be one of those magical materials that breathes, doesn’t stink too terribly, and keeps you warm all at the same time. I do have a few merino wool things that have always performed well.
The problem with just a stocking cap is that if it is sunny, the sun is incredibly bright and this is my fault because I typically get up and go right when the sun is rising. So I do need a set of sunglasses and have found that a relatively cheap pair of Goodr sunglasses work great. They are light, they stay on my head (your mileage may vary), can be polarized, and are relatively cheap.
On warmer days, like 35-degrees and expected to warm up, I think I prefer to wear a gaiter that is also a merino wool thing that I got as a Christmas present about 5 years ago that I can pull up over my ears when I start and then pull it down when I warm up. I’ll wear a standard trucker hat without sunglasses and this is actually what I would prefer to wear. It’s better to just be cold for a bit and just tough it out.
This is actually pretty easy. Most mornings I’ll wear some sort of technical shirt, I have 3 or so REI technical shirts that I bought a few years ago that work just fine as an undershirt and then I’ll add a long sleeve shirt, whether it be a Patagonia Capilene Cool shirt, or just another technical long sleeve shirt like this Baleaf shirt. This works in most circumstances in Texas.
If it is particularly windy, I have a very thin North Face windbreaker that I bought 2 years ago. Not a hoody, just a jacket, and it does work great as well. It’s not necessarily breathable, but it does the job in that it blocks the wind. I know that I could spend a lot more money on something more fancy, something that blocks the wind and is also breathable, but I sort of am fine with just using what I have. Those sort of technical jackets can be upwards of $200 and that seems excessive.
I did buy this Baleaf quarter-zip running shirt and I absolutely hate it. There’s this huge pocket in the back, like where you would have a tramp-stamp, and so this quarter-zip isn’t at all form fitting, it fits me like a sack and I can’t stand it. Would not buy.
For the first part of the fall, I would just try to run in shorts and hope for the best, but as the weather turned and wind became a bigger issue, I tried to look for pants. You’re going to notice a theme here.
I bought these Baleaf windpants and I actually really like them. They are very thin, like a windbreaker for your legs with some vents along your thighs. They are very comfortable and I enjoy running in them.
Then one Saturday the temperature was colder I got brave and wore these Bayleaf running tights. I’m in love with tights from this point forward. These are terrific, they are warm without being too hot, they do a decent job of blocking the wind, they have pockets for my cellphone along my thigh. They’re great. I never thought I’d see the day where I’m putting on tights, but it’s a glorious day.
I usually leave before my wife is awake and when I got home, she asked me if I was really wearing what I was wearing, and realizing that this was a rhetorical question, I just let her bask in my glory. I am a tights-guy and darn proud of it.
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to wear something underneath my tights but I do and picked up these Runderwear boxer brief and they are terrific. They are more cotton-like in terms of their fabric rather than a real smooth or slick polyester. There are these little plastic things that are along the legs and they are supposed to keep the briefs from riding up, but I don’t notice them riding up any way. Very much recommend and even wear them running with just shorts.
Hands and Feet
I have two pairs of the Darn Tough merino wool element crew lightweight socks and I wear them in the summer and winter. Socks is one of those weird things in that if you have something that works for you then that’s what you should wear.
I also wear some Smartwool gloves that I bought about 4 or so years ago, just one of those things that I bought and just continue to use. I should probably upgrade to something that is also a bit more rain resistant, but have not done that
You’ll note that most of the stuff that I wear is a few years old and/or purchased recently and cheaply. That’s always the best thing about running, which is that it doesn’t have to be expensive and you can typically just wear what you have on hand. If/when this becomes something that you enjoy doing on a regular basis, then you can spend that extra money. For me, I’m perfectly fine trying to find cheap options, although I also fully acknowledge that you get what you pay for when it comes to running gear. When you find the Baleaf pants and tights, you sort of consider those really significant wins because most of the time, cheap items (i.e. the Baleaf quarter-zip) are terrible.