Living on an island off the west coast of beautiful British Columbia definitely has its perks. The ocean surrounds us, the wilderness here is beautiful, there are plenty of places to explore for hours on end without seeing another human being, and the weather here is never too extreme. That means year-round outdoor adventures and not having to spend the winter cooped up in a gym to stay fit and healthy.
Even though we hardly get any snow here at sea level and the temperature rarely drops below -1°C, outdoor enthusiasts still have to consider the elements when exercising outside during the fall and winter months. Here are a few key pieces of apparel us northern west-coasters should add to our workout wardrobe for fall and winter:
A waterproof jacket and a water-resistant jacket
When you think of Vancouver Island fashion, what do you think of? Probably Lululemon pants, Tilly hats and Gortex, right? Well, there’s a reason for that, besides the fact we’re all a bunch of hippies with no fashion sense (I’m kidding. Sort of.) Instead of snow during the winter months, we get rain—a lot of rain—and a good quality, lightweight waterproof/water-resistant jacket is essential if you plan to do any hiking or outdoor running.
For hiking and running jackets, you can’t go wrong with Arc’Teryx. While pricey, these jackets are functional, stylish and well-made, and will keep you nice and dry during your outdoor adventures. For hiking, I like the Beta SL Jacket as it’s extremely lightweight, waterproof and packable. For running, I like the Cita Jacket, as it’s water-resistant and breathable, with panels to vent perspiration.
Water-resistant trail runners
If you enjoy trail running year-round like I do, you’ll know the importance of having a good pair of trail runners that prevent water from seeping in and soaking your socks while you’re out for a run. I like Columbia Sports Ventrailia Razor for short trail runs and hikes when I know there might be some mud to run through (yippee!) and slippery rocks to climb. They keep my feet nice and toasty, too.
Lots and lots of layers
Speaking of keeping toasty, even though the temperature rarely gets below freezing here, it still gets cold. Because we’re so close to the ocean, the kind of cold we experience here is a damp cold; no matter how many layers you wear sometimes, you just can’t seem to feel warm and dry. That’s why good base layers are essential when exercising outdoors here in the winter.
I love Merino wool fabric for base layers. Not only does it keep you warm, but it also wicks sweat and keeps you dry. For a top, I love my Icebreaker zip-up hoodie. I will usually wear it over another warm but sweat-wicking fabric base layer, so if I get too hot I can just remove my hoodie and tie it around my waist.
I also like to wear Merino wool on my feet. SmartWool makes amazing running and hiking socks of varying lengths and fabric weights to keep your feet warm and dry while running and hiking.
Another key layer is a pair of warm and comfortable leggings you could wear on their own or under a pair of rain or ski pants. I love these fleece-lined Moto Lesley Tights from Oiselle, which would be great as a base layer for winter sports, worn with a light jacket for fall running, or paired with some cute boots and an oversized sweater for aprés ski. For outdoor winter running this past year, I wore my Oiselle Wazzie Wool leggings (pictured below), which were the perfect amount of warmth for west coast winter running.
If you do most of your running before or after work during the week, you know that being seen on the road during twilight hours is important. Besides reflective clothing, a good headlamp or clip-on light is important not only so you can see where you’re going, but also so drivers and cyclists and see you. I prefer the headlamp, as I find it provides the most light and visibility. The Petzl Tikka headlamp from MEC has seven different modes (flashing, red and white lights, etc.) and can pivot up and down. I usually wear mine with a running toque or hat so it’s more comfortable.
A running toque and gloves
Keeping your head, ears and hands covered is the best way to stay warm when out for a chilly early morning hike or run. Because you’ve moving, you don’t need to bundle up in grandma’s knitted mittens and hats; just a pair of gloves, a headband or a beanie made out of a lightweight, sweat-wicking fabric will do. I love my Oiselle running gloves and beanie (no link as they’re not in season just yet, but you can usually find them here), as they keep my extremities warm and keep moisture off my skin.
A water-resistant waist belt for your stuff
Protect your smartphone while out taking selfies on your trail run with a water-resistant waist belt. Yes, it’s kind of like a fanny pack, but you don’t want to carry your electronics and other essentials next to your sweaty skin in your pocket, do you? I like this Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential Belt, which has a water-resistant pocket big enough to fit your phone, as well as places to store gels, keys, and other essentials.
Did I miss anything? What are your favourite pieces of west coast winter workout gear essentials? What do you normally wear when exercising outside in the fall and winter where you live?