Miscellaneous Winter Gear You Never Thought of

The ubiquitous snowy path photo leading off a post about winter stuff. Flickr Commons photo by Bert Kaufmann.
The ubiquitous snowy path photo leading off a post about winter stuff. Flickr Commons photo by Bert Kaufmann.

A few weeks ago, I met Salty and her friends to go running in the park in the snow. I can’t believe I got talked into running in the snow, but I’m glad I did. Anyway, it made me think about some of the more unusual gear I use during the winter. I’m not talking about jackets, hats, yaktrax or even treadmills. I don’t even know what to call this list. I guess it is just a list of miscellaneous stuff you should own for winter that you haven’t thought of. Actually, some of this stuff you should own year-round.

Thick wool mittens. At $10 on amazon, how could I go wrong? I know you all usually would go for thin polyester gloves, but those don’t keep my fingers warm. Thick wool mittens made all the difference in the world when I went out with Salty and her friends. These get my seal of approval. I realize that almost everyone else gets hot fingers when they run, but for those of us whose hands turn cold and white, get yourself some wool mittens instead of thin polyester gloves.

Finis' waterproof MP3 player saves your sanity in the pool!
Finis’ waterproof MP3 player saves your sanity in the pool!

Finis swimming MP3 player. I think of swimming as a winter sport. If you are stuck staring at the same black line for an hour, you might as well save this cross-training sport for the winter. A few years ago, I put in some miles swimming when  I was looking for some variety in my exercise. It was so mind-numbingly boring that I tried every waterproof music player I could get my hands on.  Every one sucked for one reason or another, except one bizarre outlier: the Finis SwiMP3.

It is like no headphones you’ve seen before. The MP3 player has speaker pods that sit on the side of your head and conduct sound into your inner-ear through your skull. They are waterproof. They work underwater, and actually sound better when submerged. In fact, it sounds fantastic compared to everything else I tried. They even work with earplugs in. I owned the bulky first version of the Finis MP3 player, and the smaller second version. Now the newest version adds a display, lots more memory, and at about $100, is the most entertainment your probably going to be able to find for swimming or pool running. Just don’t sing along and drown.

Boot dryer to the rescue of my soggy shoes.
Boot dryer to the rescue of my soggy shoes.

Shoe dryer. Mine actually is a ski boot dryer I took from my parents house, but there are all sorts of dryers available on Amazon. When I come back with wet and sweaty shoes and gloves, they go right on one of these dryers. An hour or two later, Shoes and gloves are dry, mold-free, and ready for the next day. In fact, I got in the habit of always putting my running and biking shoes right on the dryer when I get home just to dry them out quickly so they don’t start to smell. It is also nice to be able to dry out wet shoes after running in the rain in the summer.

Bundle up folks. Winter is coming. Check out Jasmine show off her duty wool mittens and neon!
Remember me showing off my wool mittens and reflective vest?

Reflective vest. Daylight hours are shorter, and for some bizarre reason cold weather running clothing tends to only come in black and asphalt colors. No matter how well you plan it, you’ll be stuck running in the dark at some point. Heck, I actually like running in the dark. It is one of the things about running that is very special to me. For less than $10, you can have a lightweight, battery free, fuss free, versatile high viability reflective vest you can wear over anything on any day, in any weather. I’m always shocked at the number of runners who go out and hit the streets disguised as asphalt. Don’t be one of them.

Disposable knit gloves. At least I think of them as disposable at this price. This is the season to get acrylic knit gloves  at Walmart for 75¢ a pair. At that price, you can take them to races and ditch them during the race without thinking a thing of it. I find it really handy to have like twenty pairs of these around ready for whatever. If I loose them it is not a big deal. When it is cold, I put a pair in a plastic bag and shove it down my pants as a spare.

Jasmine's In-season weight.
Jasmine’s In-season weight.

Physician’s Scale. You know, those tall scales with the sliding weights. Owning a good scale will help you track your weight off-season. It gives you one more tool to make sure your nutrition matches your training.  You can also use it for tracking fluid loss during runs (before and after weight change) and catching nutrition issues before female triad even shows up. Digital bathroom scales are not accurate. It does’t matter how much you spent on it or if it connects to your computer, your digital scale is junk. They just aren’t accurate. These old fashioned scales are accurate to a quarter pound every time, and when you are watching for 1 pound fluctuations in your weight, you need that kind of accuracy. I picked up mine on Craigslist for $35. When shopping for used physicians scales, make sure you’re buying a twin weight sliding scale, like a HealthOMeter.

Digital video camera. As long as you’re inside on a treadmill, you might as well shoot some video and address some of your mechanics problems. Brian Martin talks about running mechanics in Running Technique. Martin doesn’t provide actionable plans for fixing it, but his book will at least help you figure out what you are doing right and wrong.  Any video camera will work, but if you have one with high frame rates, modes like a GoPro or even some of the inexpensive Canon pocket cameras, you’ll get even a better look at what you are doing right and wrong. If you happen to be shopping for a new camera this Christmas, take this into consideration.  Shooting running video really isn’t overkill. The point is to run faster and not get injured in the process.

Any random things on your must-have list for winter running? 

I'm a subelite marathon runner, but I didn't come from a collegiate running background. Instead I'm trying to break into competitive running in my thirties. I write about chasing the dream of running with the elite girls and tell stories of adventures along the way. Watch me chase the next big thing.

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8 comments

  1. Those mittens are only $10? I couldn’t run in them (until the polar vortex descends again), but they look awesome for general winter outside stuff. I need one of those nerd vests. I use newspapers for my shoe drying needs. I can’t micromanage my weight lest I lose my sanity. I have a billion pairs of those cheesy gloves, but I get strangely attached to them and can’t part with them! I hope I never have to spend enough time in a pool to consider a waterproof MP3 player.

  2. I was just thinking about trying water jogging, and wondering how I could listen to my music while bobbing around. Who knew there was a MP3 player for swimming?! Thanks for this article!

  3. I was thinking about this on my last long run and I have some additions to make to that list: 1) neoprene sleeves to prevent my water bottles from freezing (I found mine at the dollar store – the ones some people use to keep their beer cold in the summer – they’re thin and my bottles still fit perfectly on my Nathan belt); 2) a lightweight down vest – it keeps me warm and, when not needed, I just take the armholes off and fold the vest over my belt – it’s, so light it doesn’t bother me at all and as a bonus it keeps my butt warm; 3) the thickest, warmest, unsexiest oversized one-piece pajamas ever – to lounge in after that cold long run… and to fantasize about during that same run!; and 4) my espresso machine, ’cause a nice latte goes so well with my gigantic pajamas!

    1. That first one is a good idea. When I use to run in crazy sub-freezing temperatures, I had water freeze on me during runs. I also read that you should carry trash bags with you because they are lightweight and make good emergency vapor barriers to help keep you warm if you have a break down.

    2. I fantasize about sitting on my electric heat pad on winter long runs! But if I had footie jammies I could zip those up and THEN sit on the heating pad! Toasty!

  4. I have a great clothing item that I can never imagine running in winter without. It goes by a few different names: trail scarves, tube, neck warmer, buff. It’s a cotton or cotton/polyester neck warmer that keeps the chills out of your chest. I now have a whole bunch of these in crazy colours. They brighten up my sedate and boring winter wardrobe and keep the chills out.

  5. Love the shoe drier, never heard of that. Sometimes I’ll put my shoes over the vent to dry them out. A friend said she actually puts hers in the clothes drier!
    Quite often we get free knit gloves at races around here. i’m so cheap I tuck them in my belt or pocket instead of tossing them during a race.
    Happy Holidays – Andy