From snacks to socks, this is the winter running gear Courtney Dauwalter depends on.
Trail running can be fun, healthy, and beautifully serene in winter. But it can quickly turn into a Type II adventure if you forget to pack an imperative piece of apparel or gear. Knowing what gear to layer on and bring along can help keep you protected from the elements and have fun outdoors longer.
For prime advice, GearJunkie spoke with ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter. She is the recent champion of the world-famous 106-mile Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc and the 200-mile Tahoe 200 Endurance Run, among other awe-inspiring endurance footraces.
Dauwalter is endeared by fans for her fun, laidback personality and respected for her consistent, dialed drive as an athlete. Her cold-weather gear selection reflects both.
Let it be known: Dauwalter’s sponsors include Salomon, Injinji, Tailwind, Honey Stinger, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Sufferfest Beer, and Superfeet.
That said, this endurance athlete uses her choice products to support thousands of miles a year in all conditions — and sometimes in a single push of hundreds of miles. So this gear clearly has merit, durability, and dependability.
Winter Running Gear
From head to toe, here’s the gear Dauwalter packs with her on a long or short winter run.
“I am a huge fan of Injinji toe socks! Once I started wearing toe socks, I have rarely dealt with blisters or foot problems. First, I coat my feet in Squirrel’s Nut Butter, then I pick out my favorite design of the Trail Midweight Crew sock. This combination is perfect on cold, wet days — and hot, dry ones too!”
“The Salomon S-Lab Ultra 2 works great for me on all types of surfaces and every distance. I love the fit, cushioning, and the grip that helps keep you upright! If the snow is very slushy, a shoe like the Salomon Sense Ride 2 GTX Invis Fit can keep your foot drier.”
“I don’t usually wear traction devices — but when I do, I choose the Kahtoola NANOspikes because they provide a whole lot of traction in slippery conditions. They are easy to throw in my running pack if I’m not sure what the conditions will be.”
“I love the Salomon Bonatti WP Mitten. This mitt is warm, waterproof, and lightweight. You can fold the front portion back if it’s too chilly to go gloveless but too warm once you start working hard on an uphill. These also add a nice extra layer over thinner gloves when a little more warmth is needed.”
“I use the Suunto Spartan Ultra if I want to track my mileage or my trusty Timex for more casual jaunts.”
“The Salomon S-Lab Motionfit 360 Jacket is waterproof and windproof, so I absolutely pull this one out for the cold, wet runs.”
“I don’t have a preferred type — anything that is handy! I definitely make sure to also always use a lip balm with sunscreen in it.”
“It is so important to protect our eyes. I’m still testing out glasses to find my favorite fit, as there are tons of great options out there. If the light conditions are variable or I start before sunrise, the Oakley EVZero glasses with photochromic lenses have worked great for full eye protection.”
“The Salomon Neck & Head Light Gaitor is a perfect option, especially because there are various ways to wear it and it offers plenty of warmth on most days.”
“Growing up in Minnesota, we had a lot of really, really cold conditions. Exposing as little skin as possible is the name of the game then! A balaclava is a fantastic all-in-one piece of gear to keep your head and face warm. But a combination of neck gaiter and a warm hat can provide the same coverage.
“Duct tape or Vaseline on your face can work in a pinch if you don’t have anything else available! Throwing a few handwarmers in your pockets during these runs can provide a little boost of warmth as well.”
“If I’m out on the trails, I prefer to tune into the environment. I love winter trails because it feels so silent and peaceful when everything is covered in a blanket of snow.”
“It’s easy to not drink enough in the winter because you don’t notice your sweat as much. Staying hydrated is still important! I’ll bring a bottle filled with Tailwind Nutrition (‘Naked Unflavored’) mixed with water, or just plain water, out on my adventures to keep me moving.”
“Our bodies are working hard to keep us warm during winter conditions, and slogging through snowy trails often requires a little more effort. My go-to trail food for cold weather is Honey Stinger chews. They are delicious and easy to digest. I like tucking a few in my cheek and enjoying the flavor for miles.”
“Gaia GPS has worked really well for me as a navigation tool. You can load a route on your phone and follow it with ease, even if you’re out of service.”
Random, Always-Packed Items
“There is much less daylight in the winter months, so having a headlamp along for any just-in-case scenarios is useful. If I’m driving to a trailhead, I always make sure to have a full set of clothes ready to change into after the run, including dry shoes or boots. And most important of all is a post-run hot chocolate (with marshmallows).”