I have been searching for the best winter running gear since my college days on the University of New Hampshire Crew team. The winters there were frosty, several weeks went by without the temps rising above 10 degrees and it was awfully dark most of the time. Once the river froze we moved indoors for most of our rowing (erg) workouts, but we still did some road running and stair running outside if it wasn't too icy. I was in the early stages of becoming a gear collector and acquired several warm layers that I still wear to this day. You see, rowing is all about spandex and technical fibers. You can't be wearing a baggy hoody in the boat, the chances are too high that you'll catch your oar on a sleeve and get launched from the boat into the icy waters. It happens, but usually because someone catches a "crab" by getting their oar stuck under water. Around 39 secs, you'll see what I mean.
I digress. So since college I've been slowly building a collection of what I'd consider the best gear for running outside. The hardest thing for me to find was the perfect pair of running gloves for really cold weather. I tried gloves with a windproof mitten feature that you can tuck away when not needed and that is great for cool or windy weather, but not warm enough. I tried layering thin gloves with large mittens over them, but that was too bulky. FINALLY, on our trip to Calgary over Christmas, I was able to visit the outdoor junkie Mecca, aptly named "MEC" short for Mountain Equipment Co-Op, where I found the perfect mittens for cold weather! I was beyond excited when I spotted these on the large wall 'o gloves and even more excited when I saw that they were only $24.00! They are advertised as waterproof (yet to be tested), windproof and fleece-lined. They are the perfect combination of weatherproof material over a thin fleece with a nice stretchy wrist covering and a terry cloth nose wiping thumb. I wore them on a very chilly run (sub 30) this weekend and was so happy with them that I couldn't wait to get home and write about them. I will admit that my hands got sweaty during the run and I took them off once to let them air, but I would rather have them be a little sweaty than a little frostbitten. My hands never got the slightest bit cold on that 6 mi run, I was thrilled.
You can see all of the specs here: MEC Glide XC Mitts They come in a ton of sizes and are technically made for XC skiing. Mine are XS because I have wee hands and they are unisex.
Next is the Bula Microfleece Gaiter. I have to cover my mouth and nose in the cold weather to keep from irritating my Asthma and this gaiter is the best thing I've tried in years. I tried various scarf, bandana and mask type contraptions to cover my mouth, but none work nearly as well as this simple little bugger. I think mine is even a child's size, but it is very similar to this Turtle Fur brand neck gaiter at REI. They're super cheap too, mine was maybe $10 and this one at REI is even less. I highly recommend this hands-free fleecy lifesaver. As with most gaiters this one gets damp after a while of breathing through it, but you just rotate it around or flip it inside out and you're good to go.
My last favorite thing for this post is by my favorite sock people, Smartwool, but it is not a sock! I discovered this headband/earwarmer when I was browsing at the brand new REI in SoHo and I HAD TO HAVE IT. I have an Under Armour headband that I like, but it is red and doesn't match most of my running gear and sometimes the fleece gets too warm. Yes, I said it- it doesn't match! At least I'm honest. Anyway, this headband has really come in handy lately on breezy days for keeping my ears warm. I hate having cold wind on my ears, but this doesn't get too warm because it is made from a double layer of thin Merino Wool which is wicking so you also don't get too sweaty. It is also tiny and light so it's easy to stash in a pocket if you want to take it off. I lurve it. No one is paying me to say this, by the way. It's $18 at REI here: SmartWool Headband
There are plenty of other pieces of gear on my "favorites list" that I'll try to get up throughout the winter, but these are my favorites this week as the temps plummet.