Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Favourite Winter Gear

I just got home from a long, chilly, hard, sweaty, steep, snowy ultra training run and dropped my kit on the floor in the foyer.  Thump.  'I wonder how much my pack weighs?', I think.  I can't wait until I am running free of the load and the layers and all of the gadgets in my upcoming race in the desert.  But, I sure am grateful for all of the gear I have that keeps me happy and comfortable during winter training!

I take all sorts of gadgets and layers and devices with me on my long solo adventures to keep me safe, happy and performing as best as possible.  What's in my winter pack?  And how much does it weigh?  Read on to find out what gear gets me there during the cold days of winter.  PS: Yes, we DO get winter on Vancouver Island.  In fact, we just woke up to another 15cm of fresh snow-eeeek!

My Favourite Winter Training Gear

Pack- Salomon Skin 5 Vest- still my fave.  

I will never go back to a regular pack.  Once you feel the fit of these vests you will be converted (and convinced to invest in the $$$).  I carry my water in the soft flask bottles in the chest pockets all the time now (even though I hated them at first- odd to get used to!).  Distributing the weight front to back keeps my neck and shoulders happy and relaxed during ultra long runs.  I can't carry all of the weight on my back, otherwise I suffer (post whiplash).

Shoes- Salomon Speedcross - my winter fave because of: 

The tread (monster tread!), the surface area (wide), the material (warm/durable), extra support (slippery conditions).  I don't like a couple of things about them, however: narrow toe box (buy a half or full size larger), high heel (I don't like a big heel toe drop- compromise for the other features).

Waterproof Gortex Socks - Rocky (MEC about $70) - my winter life savers!  

Seriously- best $$ spent ever.  My feet tend to get crazy cold and these socks keep my feet warm and cozy regardless of the temperature of how many puddles/river crossings I encounter.  I bought them originally for mountain biking (my feet turn into iceblocks winter riding - extra heat loss of heat through the clip less pedals) but they work really well for snowshoeing and running on the coldest, wettest, snowiest days.  They fit very oddd, however, with zero stretch.  Get the smallest size you can squeeze over your feet to get on, so that you aren't having to cram too much extra material into your shoes.  And pull them tight (from the heel) to prevent any wrinkles / creases under your feet.  A must have if you get cold feet or hate wet feet!  Warning: if you tuck your tights in the water will run down your legs and IN to the socks!  And if you go through water deeper than the socks- they will fill up like water balloons!

Heated Gloves: Motion Heat ($239) - my winter sanity!  

I have Reynauds syndrome which makes winter training a painful experience- and in the past, made my winter adventures quite limited.  It's not 'cold hands''s a level of pain that is hard to describe... And you can't just 'warm them back up'...that is another, higher level of pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  The best treatment is prevention but no matter how many types of gloves I tried or numbers of layers I added (or number of 'hot packs), I could not keep my hands warm enough to bike on cold winter days.  I would lose the use of my hands and then the situation would go from bad to worse as I was unable to safely control my bike (no hands + mountain biking = bad).  The last straw was on a multi-day bike trip in the Chilcotins (Tyax) on September long weekend a couple of years ago, when winter came early.  At the bottom of a long snowy mountain descent, that should have had me grinning ear to ear, I was in tears and my friends decided to pitch in to buy me these dream gloves!  Thanks guys!

These gloves use a rechargeable lithium battery to heat the hands and every individual finger, instantly.  Within 2 seconds of pressing the power button, my hands are warm and I can relax and enjoy my adventure.  They have 3 settings so you can adjust the temperature and battery use on the go as your temperature changes.  The low setting lasts for 8 hours!  Add a light windproof layer glove over top for wet or sub zero days (protects the gloves as well) and you will never have cold hands again!  The battery pack sits in the wrist or you can attached a wire extension and carry it in your pack/pocket etc.  Brilliant.  This Calgary based, Canadian company has stellar customer service to boot!  If your adventures are limited by Reynauds (or if you know someone that is) please do not hesitate to invest in these gloves. I didn't realize how much stress cold hands were causing me in the past, until I no longer had to worry!  Get them- you won't regret this purchase!

Yak Tracks ($33 MEC)- my winter freedom!

(Not pictured).  I finally picked up a pair of these, this month and now I wonder how I ever ran through winter without them??  If you live somewhere where you get snow in winter, then you MUST invest in a pair of these!  No more cancelled runs, dangerous runs, terrible choppy strides, tentative steps or risky will be like spiderman/spiderwoman!  Unbelievable - so simple, yet so effective.  Pull them over the sole of any shoe and the metal coils will give you the traction you need to run strong, safe and happy all winter long.  Love them!

inReach Satellite Device ($539+)- my peace of mind!

If you know me, you know that I am a huge supporter of the inReach communication devices.  I love them so much that I became a brand ambassador for this company!  I pack this device with me on a year round basis, so that I always have a away to communicate regardless of cell service.  Even on local trail networks, there are big holes in the grid and I have heard too many stories of emergencies turning from bad to worse because of limited or non existent cell coverage, even in the 'front country'.  But in winter, my inReach is even more important because the cold often kills my cell phone battery making communication impossible, even on the grid.  Investing in an inReach device is a no brainer if you like to explore - communication, peace of mind for family, GPS model option and can double as a texting plan while you are travelling anywhere in the world!  See my review here... then, go get one, and then be sure to sign up for my 15% Friends and Family subscription fee discount while it is available!

Rechargeable Battery Pack (various types)  

The cold is a battery killer, so I always carry an extra battery pack to keep my phone charged and my music playing:).  They are so tiny and can add a tonne of life to your devices on the go.  Charge it up the night before (along with heated gloves, go pro, Garmin and iPhone OMG!) and connect it to any of your USB devices to keep charged over the long haul.

Other items you will find in my pack:  

Lole women toque (best toque ever!), Salomon fast wing hoodie (the best outer layer invented), ELM Buff, bear spray/big knife/space blanket/firestarter/whistle, Hornby Island Energy Bars (I never get tired of these whole food bars), GoPro Hero Black 4 (best miniature photographer ever), Garmin 920XT Forerunner (the mother of all GPS watches), Black Diamond 'Storm' headlamp and my iPhone for the tunes of course!

And so how much did my pack weigh yesterday??  8 pounds.  Not too bad a price to pay for comfort and peace of mind;)

Happy Trails!

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