Here are a few items and systems I’m trying this winter.
BioLite HeadLamp 800 Pro – $99.95
Now that daylight hours have diminished to a dismal level, I find myself using a headlamp for many of my runs and hikes. Weight is less of a concern for these activities than my summer and fall backpacking trips, so it pays to have a more robust lamp with better battery life, which the 800 Pro brings.
This headlamp packs a punch with a max output of 800 lumens and a variety of light modes like dimmable red, white, strobe, and burst mode. It has a 3,000 mAH lithium rechargeable battery that allows the lamp to run for up to 150 hours on low and 7 hours on high (which is what I use it on for after-dark runs). I really like the red light in the rear that can be either solid or strobe, which is a huge help if running with a group or around traffic for visibility. My favorite feature, however, is the new “run forever” mode, which enables the connection of an external battery bank for pass-through operation and charging. This is a huge benefit that very few other headlamps on the market have (especially for under $100).
My only dislike of this headlamp is the fact that the charging cable is a micro-USB. With most devices these days opting for USB-C, including BioLite’s own Headlamp 425, it’s disappointing to have to carry around another cable type when the technology is there.
Check out the Headlamp 800 Pro here.
PATHprojects Pyrenees TM7 hooded shirt ($78) & Killam PX Pant ($82)
PATHprojects continually hits the mark when it comes to comfortable, functional, and durable mountain-tested runwear. This year they introduced the Pyrenees TM7 hooded shirt, a heavier version of their incredible T19 hooded shirt, which I wear year-round for runs in cool weather and also for sun protection when backpacking out West. The TM7 is made from a thicker Tencel fabric that barely feels any heavier but is comfortable at much lower temperatures – I have worn it down to the teens without issue. It also layers well under a vest or windbreaker for additional heat retention. Like their other hooded shirts, it has built-in half-gloves with thumbholes and a watch window.
The Killam PX pant was introduced last year with great success. I picked up a pair and ran in them often, but an unfortunate consequence of having thicker legs is that the lower cuff of the pant was tapered to the point that it would get stuck on my calf as I ran. This year, PATH came out with a newer version and added 1/2″ of fabric at the knee and 1″ at the bottom, which has completely fixed the issue. Pictured above, I wore both the Pyrenees TM7 and Killam PX pant during a half marathon in Maine in December where I ran through freezing rain for nearly two hours. Despite the look on my face, I managed a PR and stayed warm!
Jack Wolfskin Hydrogrid Fleece – $149.95 (currently on sale for $104.97)
When the temperature or activity requires more layers, a grid fleece is about as good as it gets for an active option. As opposed to a standard fleece pullover that is thick, heavy, and bulky, grid fleeces optimize for breathability while maintaining excellent insulation and cutting excess weight. They are best paired with a windbreaker or shell, which has been my go-to configuration for snowshoeing and skiing.
Most outdoor companies offer a grid fleece of some kind, with the Patagonia R1 being a top contender. However, this option from Jack Wolfskin, a well-regarded European outfitter, has proved to be stiff competition. In addition to zippered hand pockets and a hood (essential for this type of insulation, I believe), it features a DWR finish that will help repel snow and light rain should you choose to wear this without a shell. Though many pullovers omit the full zipper in favor of a lighter weight, I like the fact that this one has the zipper so that it’s easier to dump heat while skiing or walking uphill in the snow.
I plan to use this jacket as my go-to mid-layer for cold days on the trail this winter and hope it holds up to its reputation.
Check out the Hydrogrid fleece here.
GORE Wear Shield Socks – $55
This is a new one for me: waterproof socks. Though I am not a big fan of waterproof/breathable materials for rainwear (because they’re not as breathable or waterproof as advertised), I think it might actually work well in this application. When running in the winter, cold and wet feet can be extremely uncomfortable and eventually dangerous. Instead of buying waterproof shoes lined with Gore-Tex (which I wouldn’t wear for any other season), I opted to try these socks after they were recommended by a friend who swears by them.
They claim to offer “totally windproof, extremely breathable and durably water resistant, lightweight protection”. They are made of 92% Polyester 8% Elastane which makes them stretchy and supple instead of crinkly as the normal Gore-Tex fabric is. They fit over a regular pair of socks so you can double up without losing comfort.
We’re still waiting for a good dump of snow here in the Northeast, but I will be putting these to the test as soon as it arrives. I’m optimistic that they will work well, but wonder about long-term durability and hotspots.
Check out the Shield socks here.
Having good handwear for winter activities is essential, and though these gloves are designed for cyclists they have been working great for running too. They fit snugly and the partial mitten design helps retain heat better than the siloed fingers of a glove. One of the major reasons I chose this set is because the thumb and pointer fingers are touchscreen sensitive, meaning I can use my phone to send a message or change my podcast without having to take the entire mitt off and lose warmth. These gloves combine the heat retention of a mitten with the dexterity of a glove in a lightweight, windproof package.
I’ve used these on several runs so far and they work great. I actually find them to be a bit too warm for high-intensity activity like speed workouts, but for longer and slower runs in extreme temps they are ideal. I plan to use them for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well, which they seem perfectly suited for.
Check out the Thermo gloves here.
BONUS: Tincup Fourteener Bourbon Whiskey – $69.99
I’m a sucker for a good bourbon, especially in the evening after a long day getting after it outside. Aged 14 years in white American oak barrels and cut to proof with pure Eldorado Spring water, this whiskey is named after the Colorado mountains taller than 14,000 feet. While we don’t have anything quite that tall in Maine, I can certainly appreciate the care and consideration with which it was distilled and love its butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel notes.
I’ve found that Fourteener is great served on the rocks, warm in a mug with a splash of cinnamon and cider, or out on the trail in the provided tin cup topper (responsibly, of course!).
Staying active in the winter is an exercise in layering for heat and moisture management. My goals this season are to see if I can keep my hands and feet warm and dry while having good enough light to keep me on the trails for longer. I’m excited to try out some of this year’s new technology like BioLite’s pass-through charging and GORE’s waterproof socks while doubling down on tried-and-true offerings from PATHprojects.
What are you trying out this season?
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances. He is a Lead Guide for Andrew Skurka Adventures and the New England Outdoor Center.