Running is a fairly minimalist sport. All things considered, your shoes are the most expensive (and arguably most important) component of the kit. But when it comes to gear for trail runners… well, those needs intensify.
You’re not just worried about smart layering. You need aggressive trail shoes that bite into mucky trails and encourage brazen descents, a GPS watch that won’t lose juice mid-way up the mountain, and technical essentials that don’t slow you down. That means a bounce-free hydration vest, an adjustable head lamp, and budge-proof earbuds.
Senior Editor Brittany Smith tested the latest crop of cold-weather trail running gear outside of Hotel Rangá in Southern Iceland to find the fundamentals that’ll keep you dry, comfortable, and uninhibited. After all, if you want to run wild, it’s a damn shame for your gear to hold you back.
1. Adidas Outdoor Myshelter Rain Jacket
Adidas Outdoor got everything right with the MyShelter Rain Jacket. Seriously, everything. The material has some nice heft to it, providing additional warmth. The sealed seams are truly waterproof. (I tested it by going under a waterfall in Iceland and can attest you’ll stay bone-dry.) The fit is spot on, with an exaggerated funnel collar, drop-tail hem, long sleeves that reach further along the fronts of your hands, and an adjustable hood (that’s not a pain in the ass to stow away). The carry straps are a great feature, if you’re hiking or traveling, as you can slip off the sleeves and cool off whilst keeping your hands free.
[$230; adidas.com]Get it
2. Smith Optics Pinpoint
The rise in performance sunglasses that double as everyday shades hasn’t lost its momentum. The Pinpoint’s angular frames are packing color-enhancing polarized lenses to shield your eyes from the sun, boosting clarity in the process. The stainless steel and thermoplastic frames (eco-friendly!) and auto-lock hinges provide sturdiness, while a saddle-bridge nose pad lends a slip- and sweat-proof grip.
[$169; smithoptics.com]Get it
3. Osprey Duro Solo With Bottle
The Duro/Dyna series comprises anatomical male-female lumbar packs that hug the natural curve of your body without digging into your hips. Intended for shorter runs, the curved, angled water bottle has a designated sleeve with a retaining strap for added security. The smartphone window is touchscreen-compatible, but better suited for small- to medium-sized phones (your brick of an iPhone Plus might not fit). You’ll appreciate the zipper pocket for fuel, compartment for pole storage, and room to stash any extra layers. But mostly you’ll appreciate the bounce-free comfort. It truly disappears.
[$40; osprey.com]Get it
4. Smartwool Intraknit 200 Crew Base Layer Top
High-octane efforts in supremely cold temps call for merino wool. Smartwool’s engineered long sleeve has gender-specific ventilation zones to dump heat and moisture where you sweat most, plus 3D mapping to create a truly next-to-skin fit.
[$120; rei.com]Get it
5. Biolite HeadLamp 330
Charging through trails at dawn or dusk? The HeadLamp 330 is exceptionally light and comfortable, with a moisture-wicking band that sits flush on your forehead. While the light is slim, BioLite also optimized the distribution of weight so it doesn’t feel top heavy in the slightest. Opt from four spot and flood settings (including red night vision). The front panel tilts down to better illuminate the trail, keeping you safer in low-light conditions.
[$49.95; bioliteenergy.com]Get it
6. Jaybird Vista
Wireless earbuds just keep getting better and better. The Jaybird Vista has a sport fit, so the buds stay comfortably lodged—no aching ears 20 minutes into your run or putzing around to keep them in place. They’re impervious to the elements and your sweat, so don’t stress if the rain starts coming down. Even if there are gale-force winds, the buds won’t budge.
[$179.99; jaybirdsport.com]Get it
7. Patagonia Men’s Houdini Air Jacket
If you tend to overheat mid-run, no matter the weather, this is your jacket. Toss it on over a baselayer. The 4-ounce DWR-treated shell offers protection in light wind and rain, but really delivers on breathability. The interior has raised ribbing to enhance airflow, and you’ll appreciate that the zippered chest pocket converts to a stuffsack.
[$169; patagonia.com]Get it
8. Dynafit Feline Up Pro
The Dynafit Feline Up Pro makes light work of trucking up a steep face. The low heel drop ensures a more sure-footed feel, while the lugs and climbing-specific Vibram outer tear into the ground. It’s an aggressive, responsive shoe that encourages break-neck speeds on the sloppiest terrain. Bonus: The quick-lace system tucks into the shoe, so mud and water don’t get caked into the laces—or hooked on a branch.
[$170; dynafit.com]Get it
9. Mammut Astro Glove
These quick-to-dry gloves are windproof but breathable, lightweight but warm. They’re also touchscreen-compatible and have added grip on the palms so you won’t drop your phone if you stop to check GPS coordinates, change music, or snap a pic.
[$55; mammut.com]Get it
10. Salomon ADV Skin 5 Set
For long days on the mountain or intense sessions in the woods, a hydration pack is essential. Salomon’s nailed the design of their ADV Skin 5 Set. Breathable, stretchy fabric conform to your body, while sternum straps work like a suspension system, keeping the pack from bouncing. Even when the soft flasks are full of water, this feels more like an extension of your body. Your back doesn’t get clammy. Your breathing doesn’t feel restricted. And the storage puts your essentials at the front of the pack for easy access on the fly.
[$135; salomon.com]Get it
11. The North Face Men’s Flight Futurelight Jacket
If the constant swishing of your jacket in the solitude of nature drives you bonkers, rock The North Face’s Flight Futurelight Jacket. It’s made from a recycled nylon with the brand’s most innovative waterproof technology. While light and nimble, it shields you in the harshest conditions and really breathes when your inner furnace kicks on. A drawstring-adjustable hood and hem help tighten the fit during blustery runs—and should you get really hot, you can pack it in its stash pocket then loop the drawstring around your hand.
[$280; thenorthface.com]Get it
12. Houdini M’s Power Air Houdi
If you’re embarking on a sub-zero trek, layer on a fleece jacket like Houdini’s Power Air Houdi. It’s nice and stretchy, so your arms won’t feel locked down or immobile; light and breathable despite its warmth; and the high, cozy collar keeps wind from creeping down your neck.
[$250; houdinisportswear.com]Get it
13. Darn Tough Vertex Micro Crew Ultra-Light Cushion
Knitting techniques make a huge difference when it comes to socks. Snug toe boxes mitigate excess material and chafing. Articulated heels fight blisters. Integrated arches lend additional support. Crafted from merino wool and boosted with an extra layer of cushioning underfoot, you’ll forget you’re even wearing the Vertex Micro Crew Ultra-Light Cushion. And that’s the key to keeping your dogs from barking after a long day on the trails.
[$20; darntough.com]Get it
14. Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar Edition
The fēnix 6 Pro Solar Edition takes advantage of your outdoor pursuits: The sun juices up the battery (up to 24 days), reducing how often you need to charge the watch. Garmin’s latest technologies push your limits: PacePro helps keep you on pace when you’re climbing steep gradients; hydration tracking encourages you to log fluid intake to reach goals, and the watch will notify of sweat loss post-workout to ensure you’re topping off levels; and you’ll reap the benefits of old and new performance metrics, like recovery advisories so you know when to ease off the gas and heat- and altitude-adjusted VO2 max so you know how you’re progressing under stress.
[$999.99; buy.garmin.com]Get it
15. Janji Transit Tech Pant
You’ll be thankful for the thoughtful details on Janji’s Transit Tech Pant when you’re striding through single-track trails. Inside, there’s a double-weave fabric that won’t stick to sweat; outside, a durable-water-repellent treatment lets rain bead right off. A loop on the seat of the pants lets you feed a base- or mid-layer through, and a zip back pocket let’s you stash credit cards, an ID, and a key.
[$98; runjanji.com]Get it
16. Adidas Outdoor Terrex Free Hiker GTX Men’s Hiking Boot
They’re hedged as a hiker, but these deliver on trail runs, too, so long as the terrain isn’t too rocky. You get the cushy, bouncy ride you’d except from the brand’s Boost midsole, only the feel underfoot is more structured and stable thanks to a Continental Rubber outsole. A waterproof Primeknit upper and GORE-TEX lining seal out water, plus the knitted ankle gaiter adds another layer of protection against debris.
[$250; adidasoutdoor.com]Get it
17. Ciele GOCap – Polartec – Wallace Lake
Glaring sun, snow showers, and brain-freezing temps meet their match with Ciele’s winterized cap. The brand’s Polartec Power Wool, a blend of polyester jersey, wool, and velour, is coupled with a Polartec Power Grid, which comprises polyester jersey with added stretch and spandex. It’s cozy against your noggin, but technical enough to pull away sweat so it doesn’t dry (and freeze) when you stop.
[$50; cieleathletics.com]Get it
18. District Vision Junya Distrct Sky G15
Sport-specific sunglasses tend to have a certain look to them. You’ve gotta swap out your technical shades for a pair of lifestyle specs to keep from looking like a cyborg—but District Vision fixes that. Inspired by the style demands of New York City runners and engineered in Japan, these slick sunglasses have a tough-as-nails titanium core and a hypoallergenic nose pad and temple tips for zero slip on jarring descents.
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