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Winter Trail Running, the essentials

Here we highlight a few key items that we think you should definitely have ready for your winter running. Selecting the appropriate equipment for the type of running, terrain and duration is the best way to go and sets you up for an enjoyable session whatever the weather.

1: Waterproof jacket with taped seams and a hydrostatic head of at least 10,000mm. Look for one that has a good adjustable hood and longer sleeves. There are plenty out there that vary from lightweight race ready through to the more durable everyday use. These don’t tend to be the cheapest bit of kit but certainly look after you out on the trails.


OMM kamleika 2

Inov-8 Stormshell

Raidlight hyperlight

Montane minimus

Aussie grit focus

2: Shoes - Expecting mud and pooling water you need a shoe up to the task. As is commonly touted around it's an each to their own kind of scenario. What might work for some people may not for others, this is true of sizing and comfort, however, there remains some key indicators for a good winter shoe. The main thing is grip, and by that, it often comes down to lug depth. This is the depth of the tread, simply put the larger the depth of tread the greater the grip. On the upper range of this, with a lug depth of 8mm is something like the Inov-8 Mudclaw or X-Talon. Both specifically designed for mud and trails that need that extra bit of grip. With a 6mm reconfigured tread the Salomon Speedcross 5 have long been a stand out performer in the traction category. A few other things to note that with the increased lug depth sometimes there is an increased opportunity for mud to stick to the underside of the shoe. Hard to avoid in reality but good to be mindful when selecting your footwear. The other thing that is quite contentious is waterproof trainers. This is a preference thing again and although it sounds great, if water does breach your eyelets or go in over the tops of the shoe then it is trapped in. A lightweight shoe by contrast will let water in typically through the mesh upper in a relatively low level of water but will evaporate off as your feet get hot during your run.


Inov-8 mudclaw/X-talon

Saucony Peregrine 10

La Sportiva Mutant

Altra Lone Peak 4.5

VJ Sports XTRM

3: Head torch - With nights closing in and it getting dark before most people have had the chance to get out on trail a head torch is a must. Place in you pack, just in case a route unexpectedly takes longer or you decide to extend your run. Look for a directional beam and a good fit to your head, it can be incredibly distracting if bouncing all the time. Lumens are a good starting point and we’d say you need around 180 of them on the trails, but don't think that more is always better here. Battery life is another thing to be considerate of. Are you heading out on a 24hour race or simply clocking a couple of hours in the dark? Alpkit Viper II and BioLite Headlamp 330 are good all rounders. Petzl have a good range to suit most and are always leading the way. The nao would be the pick of the bunch for serious night-time runners willing to spend over £100.


Alpkit Viper II

BioLite Headlamp 330

Petzl Nao

4: Base layer - Keeping your core warm is crucial in winter days, if you start to get cold here it can be hard to shift. A good base layer goes a long way to providing you with the necessary warmth and comfort. Steer clear of cotton based products and instead pick synthetics or a wool based composite. There is an abundance of base layers that cover all sports these days and often little to tell between them. A good comfy fit is the main thing. We always recommend carrying additional layers in case the weather takes a turn for the worse or you start to run low on energy and get cold. This enables you to cycle between layers as and when you need, keeping you at the right temperature for the duration of your run. Be sure to put additional layers in a waterproof bag.


Montane dart

Salomon Explore

Helly Hansen Lifa

5. Gloves - With blood leaving your extremities and heading towards your core, hands are the first to feel the cold. For mild days a thin pair of fleece liner gloves can do the trick but for the more extreme it's worth getting something a bit more substantial, something you know will keep your hands warm ready for tying up the inevitable shoelace or trying to look at your phone.


Ronhill windblock

Northface Etip

Brooks Carbonite

6. Headwear - We find a ‘buff’ style headband in conjunction with a good hooded jacket coves most bases. Next step up would be a thermal version of this. After this we're into beanie territory, these are not for everyone as often people find them a bit on the warm side. It’s worth having both and you can assess the weather on the day.


Salomon Elevate

Patagonia Overlook

Icebreaker Chase & Apex Chute

Smartwool 250 Neck Gaiter

7. Food - Often overlooked as kit but for us it is as essential as anything else on this list. Granted this mainly applies to longer multi-hour remote trail runs but there is never any harm in carrying a few extra calories. The reason being if you're starting to get cold and running it maybe your body running low on fuel. We know that your body requires energy to keep warm, throw into the mix the fact you're running, it's close to zero degrees and your body is going to need a whole load more calories. These can come in the way of your favourite flapjack, sandwich or even gels, but be sure to carry a bit more than you think, you never know who else might need a percy pig on top of the mountain!

We also would recommend having further food supplies and a hot thermos ready at the finish point, be it your car or home it’s really quite satisfying having something hot to look forward to and enjoy when you’re a bit soggy.


homemade chai - recipe here

homemade energy bars - recipe here

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