Friday, 17 September, 2021

Clothing tips for WINTER obstacle course races

Home Forums General Discussion Clothing tips for WINTER obstacle course races

This topic contains 100 replies, has 40 voices, and was last updated by  Dan Ayres 4 years, 4 months ago.

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    I’m shortly going to be writing an article about clothing tips for winter obstacle course races, focusing heavily on the events where you get particularly wet and where hypothermia is a real danger, so I guess we’re talking the longer events like Tough Guy and Nuts Challenge.

    I’ve experimented a fair amount and have a pretty good formula down but I’m open to other ideas. I don’t think there’s a be-all-and-end-all solution just yet.

    What experiences have you had with clothing at winter events (good or bad). As well as having lots clothing suggestions, it would be good to form a list of no-goes.


    Simon Fowler

    I’ve avoided winter clothing, sticking with shorts and t-shirt (wicking material). However, I’ve been experimenting with some base-layer type clothing for road runs in the early hours of the morning.

    The good news is that I’ve found that compression clothing works really well, offering support for cold muscles. But on the downside, I’ve found that it also too easy to overheat, so it’s definitely worth experimenting a bit to make sure you don’t suffer in a race.

    The real issue, and I’d like to hear other peoples opinions on this, is whether it’s worth wearing when they get wet or muddy? When they are wet, it stands to reason that they will get heavier and no doubt this will make them harder to run or leap over obstacles..



    I’ve had some pretty good experiences with base layer type materials in the winter. Helly Hansen Lifer type stuff. That’s really great when it gets wet and doesn’t seem to hold on to the water much.

    Although the extra weight that your clothes pick up in the wet isn’t ideal, it more the affect it has on your body heat that can be the problem. When you’re out there for 2 hours plus soaking wet with an icy wind, that’s when shiz gets real.

    I think in some cases you can get away with minimal clothing – at the shorter dryer races… or if you’ve got an extremely high tolerance to cold (amazingly you do see people finish winter Tough Guy in a mankini!).

    But, I’ve had chats with two of the leading racers lately: Jonathan Albon and Thomas Blanc. Both of which are incredible athletes but both of which have fallen foul to winter events. Thomas went into Tough Guy wearing shorts and not much else and ended up dropping out. Jonathan went into the 4 lap Nuts with shorts, a base layer and a T and dropped out. Because those guys are so fit, they probably have zero body fat to keep them warm. I’ll be really interested to see what they end up wearing this winter.

    For me, as you say, technical base layers. Merino wool is a magical material that reacts really well to the cold and wet (even if it does pick up a bit of weight). Neoprene could then be the best weapon. But how much to neoprene use? Definitely gloves (as you can get some super-grippy surf gloves), maybe socks (over Merino socks), maybe hat. I think a full-on wetsuit would be over the top, but I’m interested to hear how it would be running in a shorty or a very flexible swimming wetsuit.



    I wore a neoprene vest and gloves, plus thermal compression shorts, along with my standard tech t-shirt and swimming shorts for this year’s winter Tough Guy. I found that the vest and gloves kept the cold at bay for a good few hours, however towards the end I was really starting to feel hypothermia set in, though I blame myself for taking 4 hours to complete the course!

    I also highly recommend a swimming cap for any times when you have to dunk your head into freezing cold water.



    I’d be interested to see what it’s like running in neoprene, what’s the chances of extreme chafing? can’t imagine that would be too much fun! haha



    I have a pretty standard set of kit.. Skins leggings and top, short sleeve in the summer long sleeve in winter. (shorts and tech t over the top.. no one needs to see me in just compression gear). The only additions I make when it’s really cold, as in ice on the water cold, is a pair of neoprene socks and gloves, and if really bad a neoprene hat. In regards to chafing I still have my Injinji socks underneath and never had any blisters.

    The only caveat to this is that grip isn’t great so I am currently trialling a load of new gloves to see what works best, found some great ones for protection but they have let me down on the slippy metal like monkey bars. Have what I hope will be the winner in a pair of CAT Nitrile gloves but don’t get to try them out till Lactic Fallout which seems like ages away, butI will report back.



    I met a couple at the weekend who were wearing something similar to this:

    It was soft, flexible and water just bounced off it. I’m going to give that a go, combined with merino wool underneath, for the core at least… makes a lot of sense to me. I’ll let you know how it goes!



    By the way, I have found the grip on these gloves to be excellent so will definitely be rolling them out for another winter.



    Pete would you wear those gloves for the upcoming Spartan beast? Ive got some surf gloves but they can be a bit bulky, also I remember you mentioning about knee and elbow pads a while back, where did you pick yours up? Dont normally run with them but the Super Spartan had some gnarly crawls which wasn`t pleasant on the knees.



    And how do you think those rash vests compare to say an underarmour compression top?



    I use these on knees and elbows, but anything like it should do (although avoid velcro if you can):



    I’m not sure whether I’m going to bust out the neoprene gloves for the beast. It depends how cold it feels on the day, as they can get pretty sticky if it’s warm.

    I haven’t tried the rash vest yet, so it’s all just in the theory stage at the moment. I can imagine it would be very different to compression gear, which fully lets the water through. In my mind, I’m thinking of layering compression, merino then surf top when it’s super cold… I might lose one of those layers if the weather’s not too harsh. Like I said, all theory at the moment, I’m going to buy it all in and hit the lakes when the temperature drops.



    Thanks Pete, might get those, also looking at some compression socks for the calves.

    Isn’t neoprene supposed to just warm the trapped water up like a wetsuit? I don’t think it would keep any undergarments dry?

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 10 months ago by  Rob.


    I doubt if it would keep the undergarments dry but I’m guessing it would stay warmer than if their was a steady flow of fresh cold water… we’ll see 🙂

    I’m big into compression calf tights (like the skins ones you can get). I put my toes through socks to quickly so I’m guessing calf tights have better lastability.



    Pete – got a link to that article? (I DNF’d with hypothermia on Saturday, which I’m livid about and keen to avoid again)



    Ah no, sorry to hear that.

    I ran late in the day and saw a lot of people in a really bad way with the cold, you definitely weren’t alone… if that’s any consolation.

    Hope it wasn’t too serious and you recovered okay?

    There’s no article yet but it’s coming as soon as I’ve tested a few things. Keeping the core warm is pretty key to it all it seems and there are three things I think will work, either all together or picking / choosing elements depending on the conditions:

    1) merino wool – as a base layer or mid layer
    2) waterproof rash vest (really flexible and comfortable and the water bounces off it). Something like this:
    3) Neoprene vest (to protect the core but allow full movement). Something like this:

    Don’t take that as gospel until I’ve fully tested and formed my opinion… but it seems to make a lot of sense at this stage.

    (also neoprene gloves, merino wool socks, etc.)

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