February 13th, 2015

Stay Warm! Essential Gear for Winter Trail Runs

Stay Warm! Essential Gear for Winter Trail Runs


Serious runners know the season doesn’t end when the weather gets cold—but the conditions do change. Stocking up on gear that will keep you comfortable as the temperatures drop will go a long way in maintaining your motivation on the trail.

It’s a good rule of thumb to start your run feeling cold—don’t bundle up for how you feel just standing outside. After a few minutes on the trail, your body temp will elevate and you’ll begin to feel more comfortable, so dress for temperatures slightly higher than they actually are (And allow yourself some flexibility by layering up!). Before you start running, make sure you have these essential items:

Base Layers

Just as the name suggests, a base layer is what you put on before anything else, and typically consists of pants and a shirt. These pieces should be form fitting and stretchy to maximize effectiveness, but not so tight that they restrict movement. Opt for moisture-wicking, breathable fabrics to help you stay comfortable as you warm up. Brands such as Smart Wool and The North Face offer popular base layer options.  

Wool Running Socks

Whether your feet get cold easily or tend to sweat, wool socks are a great solution. The natural fabric is known to be cozy, but it’s also breathable and flexible, and keeps your body warm even when wet. Go with Merino Wool to avoid wool’s stereotypical itchiness. I have had great success with Smart Wool’s socks.

Waterproof Running Shoes

There are many trail running shoes on the market, but if keeping your feet warm and dry is important, get a pair of trail runners with a breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex. The technology keeps external water from getting in, while still allowing the vapor from your sweat to get out. Many major running brands incorporate Gore-tex into their trail-running shoes.  


Keep snow and trail debris out of your shoes with a pair of gaiters, attachments that cover the open tops of your shoes. Whether you’re running in snow, wet grass, or on a rocky trail, having a pair of gaiters designed to work with your shoes will help you avoid a build-up of moisture or debris by blocking the entry point.


A warm hat is necessary for all winter activities to protect your head and ears, but if your hat is too warm, you’ll find yourself sweating, which can then make you colder. To prevent this, wear a light wool or synthetic cap—it’ll help you stay warm, as well as wick away moisture.


Just like a hat, gloves are a must for all cold-weather activities. For most winter trail runs, you should be able to get away with a stretchy base layer style glove. Minimizing bulk is key, so you don’t want to over do it. In addition keeping your hands warm, look for gloves that offer reflective accents for safety in the dark, and touchscreen-compatible fingertips.

Fleece Outer Layer

A hooded fleece outer layer will help catch any heat lost by your base layer, and will be your first line of defense against wind if you don’t wear a wind-breaker layer. A pullover style fleece will work fine, but if you use a full-zip, you have more options for managing body temperature without removing the layer all together. There’s no lack of great fleece options out there.

With proper gear and the right mindset, you will be ready for anything Mother Nature has to throw at you. After all, the trail beats a crowded gym in the winter, any day. What winter gear can you not live without? Tell us in the comments!

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on Adventuretravelbuzz.comInstagram and Twitter.

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by Patrick Gensel

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming, visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on Adventuretravelbuzz.com, Instagram, and Twitter