Winter kit to keep you safe (and dry!)

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November, that horrible black hole between the clocks going back and the festive fun kicking off. November in Wales – ditto, with rain. At this time of year, many of us, particularly women, stop exercising outdoors, stop exercising alone or, sadly, simply stop exercising – at precisely the time we most need to top up our winter wellness.

There’s been a lot in the headlines lately about women’s safety, with Olympian Chris Boardman amongst the men starting to realise that they have a significant role to play too in helping us feel safe outdoors. So here’s my winter kit list, designed to keep me safe, dry and seen – with a polite plea to the fellas to think about what you can also do to ensure we see you coming, as much as the other way around.

1. Reflective run vest

womens-safety

If you buy one piece of kit this winter, make it a reflective run vest. I’ve been testing the Stile vest with phone carrier and LED lights from Ultimate Performance (£25) and it’s super comfy. The front phone compartment is roomy and has a flip-down, touch-screen window, while the LED lights are visible from hundreds of metres away. It has reflective detailing, is fully adjustable and is available in either black or fluorescent yellow.

If you don’t need the phone pocket, UP has a range of reflective race vests (£14 – £20), available with or without high-visibility LED lights. Extremely lightweight, the vests are in a cutaway style to allow full freedom of movement, with Velcro tabs for comfort and a soft mesh fabric to reduce irritation. If you haven’t bought your stocking fillers yet, these are a great addition to help keep the runner in your life lit up like a Christmas tree on those dark streets.

2. Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather LED Beanie 

I first put this roll-cuff beanie through its paces on the aptly-named Bwlch y Duwynt – Windy Pass – below Pen y Fan. In June. My goodness it was welcome, as icy blasts whipped around my ears under a deceptively photogenic sunset. As I descended into the late-evening gloom, I switched on the LED light and was doubly glad of this amazing invention – a super-snug hat and a head torch in one! 

sealskinz-waterproof

On tricky terrain and in particularly spooky, muddy woods at night (yes, Hengoed Harriers, I’m talking to you), I’d recommend a head torch that angles towards the ground. For gentler dawn or dusk walks on easier ground, however, the Sealskinz Waterproof LED Beanie is a superbly hassle-free option. It’s by far the warmest hat I own (I own many hats) and its waterproofness is second to none, thanks to the Dri-vent middle layer. Usually £38, it’s currently on sale, so hurry! 

3. Páramo Directional Waterproof Jacket

welsh-rain

I’ve blogged about Páramo’s directional waterproofs previously, and after long-term testing my Páramo Mirada jacket for almost two years now, I rate the brand even more highly. Outstandingly lightweight and flexible for runners, yet toasty warm thanks to its two layers, it features Páramo’s trademark Nikwax Analogy Waterproof directional fabric, designed to move water away from the body. It has brilliant ventilation and – for me, the best bit – there’s absolutely no greenwashing with this brand, whose sustainability claims stand up. A Páramo jacket certainly isn’t cheap, but if you want to invest in yourself and the workers who make them, it’s hard to find better value. Check out the full range here.

4. Emergency thermal blanket 

emergency-blanket

Responsible trail race organisers won’t let you set off without one of these in your pack, and if you’ve ever sprained an ankle on a damp, misty mountainside, you’ll know why. Available for less than a fiver – like this Lifesystems blanket from Ordnance Survey – they offer emergency insulation in extreme weather, keeping you warm and helping anyone with hypothermia until back-up arrives. Deceptively lightweight, they are water and windproof, and bright orange to help locate casualties. 

5. Dry bag, from 2L – 40L

All the emergency kit in the world won’t do you much good if it’s soaked through. Luckily there are dry bags, compact and fully waterproof sacks to fit inside your trail pack or rucksack. I love OEX’s Drysac from Go Outdoors and have the 5L for trail running and a 25L version for long hikes, but smaller and larger versions (and other brands) are available. A word to the wise – carry flasks and water bottles between the layers of your dry pack and outer bag. At least if you get a leakage, the contents of your dry bag will stay, well, dry!

6. Strava Beacon 

Other apps are available, but Strava’s my running app of choice and even the free version has the Beacon setting, with which trusted buddies can track your route in real time. Just go to Settings / Beacon and add your safety contacts, then before each activity simply hit ‘Send Beacon text’ so they can follow your path. Trail runners’ safety contacts might want to be mindful that we stop a lot in the woods for a wee, but on the flip side, it’s a very handy tool when your partner can see you’re on the home strait and pop the kettle on!

7. Winter socks 

running-socks

Socks sound simple – they’re just socks, right? Well, no… and anyone who’s dragged their sorry boots through a Pumlumon bog know the hiking misery of cold, wet feet. For blister-free warmth, I love 1,000 Mile Socks’ double-layer socks, designed to rub against each other, rather than your skin, and also to retain heat. Wonderfully for trail runners, 1,000 Mile also does a range of calf-length and anklet socks with padded heels and toes for extra cushioning. The anklets sit a little higher than some other brands, protecting that blister-prone zone above the heel and resolutely not slipping below the top of your trainers.

For water-tight tootsies, Sealskinz socks are unbeatable. They are very breathable and, whilst not as chunky as woolly socks, dry feet tend to be warm feet, in my experience.

Some of these items were kindly gifted and others are my own. I’m always keen to know which winter kit-bits you can’t do without, and happy to signpost to further reading for anyone wishing to get outside safely and responsibly. 

1000 Mile Socks

Ultimate Performance

Sealskinz

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