GEAR TIPS FOR COLD WEATHER RUNNING
Posted on February 24 2022
They often say, there is never bad weather, just bad clothing. Well, Hong Kong has had some pretty miserable weather in the last few weeks and we may well not be out of the cold spell.
To be fair, we never really get truly cold weather here but with the majority of the year being desperately hot and humid, we can be taken aback and be unprepared when it does get cold.
We also do occasionally get genuinely cold weather, like the time we were hit with a Polar Vortex back in 2016 which coincided with weekend of the HK100. The race was abruptly ended but not before a few people had to be rescued from Tai Mo Shan with hypothermia.
So we have put together a basic guideline to get you out in the colder weather. It can be the absolute best time to be out on the trails. The crowds will be less and the views a lot different (and more dramatic) to the height of summer.
Its worth therefore thinking about the sort of gear you might need when you head out for that long hike or run on a day when the temperature could drop below 10 degrees.
Heat is lost from your body more quickly the more exposed areas of skin you have. So it goes without saying, to preserve body heat, its best to have clothing that can cover more of your body, the colder the weather gets.
We also lose more body heat if exposed to wind and rain.
There are quite a number of interesting studies that have also investigated how the body reacts to wind and rain and related also to the duration of exposure*. Perhaps not surprisingly the longer you stay out in the wind and the rain the more likely you are to develop hypothermia, even in temperatures of 5 degrees C even if you are engaged in exercise.
Having just completed the Violet Hill Twins Challenge this last weekend in around 8 degrees, wind and rain for about 4 hours, this all sound very familiar.
The most important thing is to think of your clothing in layers. If we are running, we want thin light clothing that we can adapt as the day progresses but that can also offer the right sort of protection.
From experience, the basic set up for say a 4 hour expedition in bad weather with wind and rain would be the following.
1. A long sleeve base layer. For 5 to 10 degrees of cold this can be a long sleeve T shirt, but any lower than that requires something with more thermal properties. Perhaps with Merino wool or some other thermally protective characteristics.
2. A waterproof and wind proof outer layer. Technology now means breathable and highly waterproof jackets are available that can are extremely light and thin. Having a jacket that cuts the wind and avoids the rain penetrating to the inner layer is essential to prevent core cooling. Even better if the jacket has a hood that can be pulled up as the weather deteriorates.
3. Long pants or tights. Cooling is proportional to exposed surface area and legs have a lot of surface area if left uncovered. There are waterproof pants but also just a pair of long tights can provide significant protection against the cold. Obviously pants that will retain water, (like jeans for instance) are not suitable. (but we see many people doing this). Alternatively, you can pick a pair of compression sleeves for your lower legs which reduces the amount of exposed skin and provides some support to tiring muscles
4. Gloves. There is a huge psychological benefits from having warm hands especially at the start of your run when you are not yet full warmed up. They can also be taken off easily if you need to radiate a bit of heat!
5. A hat with a peak. Its a common myth that you loose more heat through your head than anywhere else. That is not true but still a hat does prevent heat being lost through you head like everywhere else and a peak will keep driving rain off your face.
6. A Buff. The great thing about a buff is the flexibility, it can be left around the neck or pulled up the cover the face depending on the conditions.
With this basic set up, its possible to then manage your body temperature as you run. The weather might improve or get worse and you can add or remove parts of the basic set up depending on the conditions. None of the items take up a huge amount of room and if you are carrying a small backpack can be easily stowed if not needed.
You can check out our Cold Weather Gear Collection HERE
If you are running in the rain, especially on the trails you will also need suitable footwear, both socks and shoes.
Top priority is to have shoes that has an outsole that can provide the grip you need. The gold standard in grip for Hong Kong conditions is Vibram Megagrip. Many brands have shoes with Vibram Megagrip and it has totally solved the grip issues for everything that Hong Kong trails will throw at you. There are some other good ones too however, Salomon Contagrip is very good.
You are not guaranteed not to fall, foot placement is just as important as grip technology, but that you should be able to control.
We have pulled together our Grip Collection which you can find HERE
In many other parts of the world, Goretex shoes (waterproof) are popular and they can also be found in Hong Kong. If you are hiking for a long day in cold conditions then Goretex may make sense. For the majority of the time what is really important in Hong Kong is drainage. Water that gets into the shoe, get out as fast as possible.
Shoes are definitely not made equal in this regard. In fact, Goretex shoes do not drain particularly well so if your feet do get wet, expect them to stay that way.
Contributing to drainage performance are also the socks you choose. All the socks we have in the shop expel water in one way or another.
Shoe (and sock) drainage is very important in the cold weather (to keep your feet warm) and also in the hot summer weather too. Feet that sit in pools of water in shoes get blisters so getting that moisture out is always important.
In the gear collection we have also added in ACTIVE ROOT. The ginger based electrolyte. Apart from being a good source of salts and energy, making a hot soft flask of the ginger flavoured sports drink can be a big motivator on cold days or as a great way to warm up after the run.
Finally remember to pack a dry shirt for after the run. If you cant immediately hit the shower, getting out of the wet base layer into something dry can preserve a lot of warmth when the excerption stops.
We hope this helps you build your motivation to get out in what can be fantastic running conditions and have a really enjoyable run.
Wet-cold exposure and hypothermia: thermal and metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in rain. R.L.Thompson and J.S Hayward