Find Flexible Warmth with Transition Running Apparel

Non Gear Girl Allison PattilloDressing for a cold weather run can be a hassle. If you don’t wear enough, your feet and hands end up feeling like bricks before you generate enough body heat to ward off the shivers. Or you over dress and sweat like a wrestler in a rubber suit or shed clothes faster than a Chippendale dancer before reaching your first mile marker. Neither option makes for an ideal run.

I set out to find pieces that would provide warmth without bulk, be appropriate for various high-intensity winter workouts and maybe even function as a shoulder season piece—I’m all about good investments. The following five are absolute winners that use your body heat to keep you warm, are slim fitting and can be worn 3 to 4 seasons out of the year, depending where you run. They are the GoLite Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket, the Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket, the Patagonia Traverse Jacket, the Outdoor Research Vert Pants and The North Face’s Windstopper® Hybrid Tight.

GoLite Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket ($150 – 13 oz.)
GoLite Black Mountain Wind JacketThe GoLite Black Mountain Thermal Wind Jacket is the jacket to grab for seriously cold days when you want to stay warm and look good, too. Windproof chest and shoulders keep out biting breezes while a wicking fabric back panel lets out the sweat so you stay warm and dry. I wore this on a sub-zero run, with just a zip-T underneath and was completely comfortable. Bonus features like an auto-locking zipper with full length draft flap, side zip pockets, some reflective and a media pocket with internal cord routing mean you have nothing to worry about but the miles of trail before you.

Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket ($160 – 13 oz.)
Mountain Hardwear Transition JacketIt’s crazy that something as thin as the Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket can keep you so warm, but it does! While you may be a touch chilly waiting for a tardy buddy at your favorite trail head, as soon as you start generating any BTU’s at all (even with a few jumping jacks), the Transition Jacket keeps you toasty. This windproof yet breathable piece is downright sleek, especially when compared to its distant MH zip shirt cousin from 2003 or so, thanks to thinner fabric, inset stretch panels and a fabric finish that repels light moisture. I’ve worn this running, skiing and winter hiking with great results. Smart details abound with a hood, internal media pocket, rear zip pocket, full length draft flap, wrist cuff with thumb holds, taped flat-lock seams and reflective accents.

Patagonia Traverse Jacket ($99 – 9.9 oz.)
Patagonia Traverse JacketIf you are looking for a four-season jacket at a great price, the Patagonia Traverse Jacket is it. The Traverse was my summer wind breaker, fall running jacket over a base layer and winter high-intensity coat in conjunction with a base layer and a vest. The durable water repellent finish keeps you dry when the clouds are spitting drizzle, while a full zip with wind flap and elastic banded cuffs keep the wind out and warmth in. A drawcord at the waist and hem ensure a comfortable fit and the slight drop tail keeps your tush dry in inclement weather. Zippered pockets, a bicep pocket with interior cord pass through and reflective graphics mean all the necessities fit in an indispensable lightweight package.

Outdoor Research Vert Pants ($99 – 12.9 oz.)
Outdoor Research Vert PantsRunning, skiing with long johns underneath, camping, thrown over shorts on the way to an early morning yoga class, the Outdoor Research Vert Pants do it all. They are lightweight, durable, provide gentle stretch, wick sweat away and scoff at seasonal frizzle. An elastic waist with drawcord makes for a slim fit and zippered pockets safely stash your keys and a couple bucks for a post workout chai.

The North Face Windstopper® Hybrid Tight ($125 – 13.2 oz.)
The North Face Hybrid Windstopper TightsWhen you wake up in the dark for your daily run, but the 5-degree reading on the thermometer makes you want to crawl under the covers, pull on these The North Face’s Winstopper Hybrid Tights and get your ass out the door. Windproof, moisture shedding, front panels protect you from whatever Mother Nature throws in your face, and breathable back fabric leaves your sweat behind. These beefy tights are finished off with a drawstring elastic waist, two hand pockets, calf zips with elastic grip cuffs, the requisite reflective bits and flat-lock seams.

Call for Comments
What are your favorite pieces of running apparel as you make the transition from autumn to winter, through winter, and then the transition back to spring? Do you take the “I can just put another shirt on” approach as iRunFar’s Runner-in-Chief, Bryon Powell, did for many winters? Is there a jacket you’d drive 100 miles back to a trailhead to retrieve? How about a pair of running pants that you’ve had since President Bush – the first one – was in office?

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[Disclosure: The items reviewed above were provided by their respective companies for testing. Also, links above to and are part of an affiliate program that helps support]

There are 5 comments

  1. Mariko

    I think I just have two pieces of equipment that have impressed me enough that I go on and on about them. They are both by Patagonia. One is the Spraymaster rain jacket. The thing is lightweight but really breathable and comfortable and yes, rainproof, which is very important when you live and run in Oregon. The one drawback is the hood. I think it's crappy. It doesn't have a good bill on it, so it doesn't really keep your face dry. I wear glasses, so this is important. I usually just wear a cap instead of using the hood.

    The other great piece of Patagonia equipment I have is a wind jacket. Unfortunately, I don't know what the model was called, but it's fleece on the back and has a wind barrier sort of fabric on the front. I could stand in 90-mile-an-hour winds (not that I would, but I could) and that wind would just feel like a little breeze. I feel like Wonder Woman bouncing that wind off my chest! The one drawback with it is it's not so practical for the rain. Another thing is it is quite toasty, but I have solved this problem by just wearing a jogbra underneath it when it's warmer out.

    I guess I went on and on, didn't I. Sorry.

  2. rsg99

    At the risk of this becoming a Patagonia love-fest, I have to second the praise for the Traverse. The cut is perfect, and with a decent base layer, I am fine running at temperatures in the teens. But wait, there's more! It folds up into a tight package, making it perfect for travel.

  3. Natalia

    I have a pair of running tights from the Dark Ages, that I would cross continents to get back if I misplaced them!
    When I was running in Italy, it seemed so absurd the first time I bought a pair of Adidas running tights. They were black, with light blue stripes at the bottom, and silver florescent lines running down. The novelty of the item when I first wore them! This was about 12 years ago, and the winters in Tuscany were so mild, that it seemed almost ludicrous to wear them. In fact, I can almost count on my fingers and toes the number of outings these tights had in total. It was far better to run in shorts and a singlet – even in winter.
    In Geneva the tights were relegated to a downstairs wardrobe. The sous-sol or basement is where we kept all our clothes, and I had a wardrobe dedicated to unused compression shorts, old university college wear, rugby jerseys, feather boas and evening bags. Yes, a weird collection of stuff, including a t-shirt that I have worn since I was 10 (it still fits me) and which explains what a "NewYorkasauras" is on the front. Mixed in with all this were the tights. Then too I had no reason to wear them, as I had stopped running by then.
    When we moved to the US, I held out for as long as I could, and ran in shorts up until the end of December, when finally I was forced to hunt out these tights. It was so cold here, it was painful just breathing! I felt a bit strange wearing them, as I had never had the "right" weather for them, but half way through my run, I realised that finally the tights were coming into their own – they are finally being used in the "right" weather!

  4. Brian

    I recently acquired a piece from The North Face that I have found to span the various cold/wet seasons of Michigan. I love this Swift Hybrid jacket by TNF. It has a wind resistant material for the front of the of the torso and shoulders, but has a breathable and stretchy poly/lycra material for the back and underside of the arms. In light rain, snow, and the strong north winds that always greet me at the start of my winter runs, the jacket keeps me warm, without sweating-out. I can wear it in the fall with a short sleeve underneath and not deal with the clammy feel of shell material on the skin, yet a half-zip and a beanie is all I need to add to make it all winter long. Other details about the jacket which may it my "go to" piece is the thumb holes on the sleeves for those late fall runs and the jersey pocket in the back for when I realize that gloves and hats are no longer needed in the late winter/ early spring.

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