Experts share their simple tool and apparel picks that improve the comfort and quality of subzero-degree workouts
We asked four winter experts about the cold-weather tools they can’t live without.
HotHands Hand Warmers ($20)
Steve Fagin, Outdoors Columnist
Steve Fagin learned the hard way never to underestimate cold hands. “I was hiking in the White Mountains and didn’t stop to add layers. My hands became so cold, they were almost numb,” says the longtime outdoors writer for The Day newspaper in New London, Connecticut. Fagin, who runs, hikes, and even kayaks on the Long Island Sound in freezing temperatures, now keeps a few hand-warmer packets in his pocket during winter workouts. “Smart layering and good mittens are your best bet, but hand warmers serve as great backup, particularly on subzero days,” he says. Fagin also likes how long HotHands last: “I can use them on a morning run and again for chopping wood in the afternoon.”
Columbia Midweight Long-Sleeve Top ($32)
Jacob Stenberg, Gearhead at Backcountry.com
When Backcountry.com’s gearhead Jacob Stenberg gets a request for a base layer that’s warm but not itchy or too expensive, he steers the customer toward this quality midweight top. “The fabric has a little stretch for fit, but it’s mostly soft polyester that’s comfortable against the skin,” he says. During highly aerobic activities like skinning or running, you produce a lot of body heat, so heavyweight material may leave you dripping in sweat. “This midweight fabric wicks moisture and provides warmth without the heft or cost of higher-end brands,” Stenberg says. This layer also boasts Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology—little silver dots on the inside layer that help retain body heat.
Salomon Hydro 45 Belt ($29)
Erin Green, Professional Triathlete
Food is the forgotten winter companion, says Erin Green, a professional triathlete who is also a registered dietitian. Food revs your metabolism into a higher gear, causing your body to burn through more energy. That means when you eat something mid-workout, you feel a little more heat afterward, she says. The Hydro 45 Belt keeps gels and other energy products handy during long cross-country ski sessions—Green’s go-to winter cross-training workout when training for a half Ironman. “The pocket is easy to zip open and closed, and with the bottle at an angle on the lower back, my hips don’t feel weighed down,” she says. Another plus of the angled carriage: “I can put the bottle back without a wrestling match.” Plus, storing fluids on one side of the belt and food on the other gives you a balanced load.
Petzl Tikka Headlamp ($29)
Joey Michaud, Accessory Buyer at Fleet Feet Maine Running
People frequently walk into the Fleet Feet running store in Portland, Maine, to ask about cold-weather apparel and gear. When faced with this question, Joe Michaud, who’s been the shop’s accessory expert for eight years, always points out the headlamps, too. He runs most Tuesday and Thursday nights with about 40 other hardy Portland souls in all weather, no matter how wintry. A headlamp ranks at the top of his get-out gear. “It’s the difference between an early morning or after-work run and skipping it altogether,” he says. “You could go on a treadmill, but then you lose the stability aspect of running outside, particularly when it’s a little snowy, when you instinctively use more of those small, stabilizing muscles.” The Tikka, Michaud says, is a basic headlamp that gets the job done at good price. “It has 150 lumens, so it’s bright enough for road or trail. The strap adjusts easily, and there’s only one button, so it’s super user-friendly.”