Reviews of Winter Running Clothes


My motive for doing this is that there is a lack of decent clothing reviews on this newsgroup and outside. This should at least give newbie googlers a starting point.

General points

  1. Never pay retail. Or at least almost never. Either get a discount from your local shop, or get these items cheaply online. These items and items that are similar are usually available for about 50% off or close to that.
  2. Quality trumps quantity. , provided you don't mind hand-washing your clothes. Most of these clothes line-dry overnight, so it's not necessary to have 101 duplicates of each item.
  3. My (*) ratings are completely subjective, and I may dock points off for things you don't care about (e.g. if I think it should be reflective and it isn't) or price (which may be irrelevant if you can get the item in question at 60% off)
  4. There are lots of brands that make good clothing. My choices of items are somewhat arbitrary, other brands make similar items. I've tried to offer examples where possible. My favourite brands are SportHill, Sugoi and Insport -- all of these seem to offer some very good clothing. For example, Sugoi have the best reflective tights on the market, and a top notch soft-shell jacket. SportHill's semi-fitted 3SP clothes like the famous XC pant makes their "shed the layers, keep the warmth" slogan ring true. But all the major brands are good. Insport offer almost every type of Polartec available, and I happen to like Polartec. YMMV, of course.

Useful Manufacturers websites

These websites are for manufacturers of the clothing reviewed here. Many of these websites are very informatives and have good summaries and explanations of the product lines. I have given (subjective) star ratings, primarily based on how informative the website is. To get a 5 star rating, a website must include a good description of the available products, explain what the products are for, and also explain what fabrics are used, and what the properties of each fabric are.
Insport ***** Includes online store, including a discount section. Plenty of information on products, and fabrics used.
SportHill ***** This website does a great job at explaining what temperature ranges the different clothing items are designed/suited for. Products are available for online purchase, though the discounts section is relatively unimpressive.
Hind *****
Sugoi *****
BOA ** A little low key-- photos of products would be nice instead of sketches
Asics *This website is a waste of time
UnderArmour ****Decent website, includes online store. Too bad most of it isn't worth buying.

Online Store Links

First, some remarks: for cold weather gear, it pays to look beyond running stores. There is considerable overlap between cross country ski clothing and cold weather running clothes, so some of the stores that cater to the snow sports crowd are excellent choices for buying winter running clothers. These stores are likely to have items that running stores may omit -- clothes that are heavier and more suited to very cold weather (e.g. you rarely find SmartWool socks at online running stores)

Indeed, there are many who adopt the philosophy of (more or less) just picking up whatever Campmor happens to have on sale. This is not a bad approach, since there are usually many good brands to choose from, and the chances of some of the good stuff being available are quite high.

Note that all of these places frequently have good items at 50% off or better

And now the reviews: Summary:
Rating Price Pockets Reflective Fabric
SportHill Explorer Top **** 85 n n 3sp front/sleeves, swift back
Insport Fleece Trainer **** 68 n n Heavy duty Polartec
Arctic Drylete Top **** 80 n n Arctic Drylete Polyester
Technifine Travel Pants*****652nLightweight Polyester
FinoPlus Drive Tee*****65nyLightweight Polyester
Pearl Izumi Escape Jacket*****903YPolyester shell
Hind Highlight Shell Jacket*****90severalYPolyester shell
Asics Arashi Jacket***1303YPoly in/Nylon out
Sugoi Windhibitor Focus Jacket****1353y3 ply polyester
UnderArmour Cold Gear Top**50nnnylon
Brooks Vapor Dry Zip top***65n nnylon
BOA Dritek Sensor Tight****60nnMidweight Polyester
Sporthill Infuzion hat*****20Polyester
Sporthill Infuzion glove*****20Polyester

Picking up a Running Wardrobe

Quality vs Quantity

There is the question about buying a lot of cheap clothes versus fewer better quality clothes. Donovan, the author of this page makes the case for quality:

I prefer quality over quantity, even if it's more expensive. They prefer to avoid duplicates. Most running clothes are made of fast-drying fabric, so they can be hand-washed and line-dry overnight, or within a day. Doing laundry is fairly inconvenient, I only do it about once every two weeks and don't have a washing machine/dryer in my apartment.

The case for quantity is stated by rec.running poster Globaldisc:

One reason I go simply cheap thermals and buy a ton is that I might wear one or two (2 layers) up a sweat despite how cold it is....and dump the shirts in the hamper. Simple enough. I spend no time caring for a garmet after returning home and showering. At the end of the week or so....I might have a hamper full of a dozen or thermal tops..absorbed into my usual laundry washing for that week.

As you can see from reading these two points of view, different approaches work for different people, depending on a number of factors. However, note that if you do dress in layers, the upper layers don't need to be washed very often. So you only need to own several ``base layer'' items. You'd think/hope that base layer items were always cheap. However, this is not the case.

Individual Differences

There is a lot of variation in what people need. Some people run faster than others. Faster runners may be able to get by with less. Women are more tolerant of heat and less tolerant of cold than men. Some runners like to feel warm when they run, others like to feel ``fast'' and don't want to be unduly burdened. Some training runs (especially group sessions) may require stops, which means that it is necessary to dress warmer than one would otherwise. Running on treacherous surfaces or on trails may require slower running, which means more clothing.

Clothing Brands and Styles

There are a number of different brands that make very good products. It's a competitive market. Generally, there seems to be a preference in rec.running for brands that do not manufacture shoes. These brands cater to broader markets (skiing, cycling) and hence often have better, tougher cold weather lines. Cold weather runners like rec.running's Dot of Alaska, may even prefer clothing that is primarily marketed at cross country skiiers.

A quick sampling of the rec.running crowd and what they wear, with links to more detailed descriptions (my comments in italics)