Pumpkin Lattes won’t have a lot of space in this article, but they are a part of the season whether you like it or not. So are crunchy leaves, shorter days, cool breeze, chili, and if you’re a mountain dweller like me– some of the most temperamental weather on the planet. Recently, we’ve had a record high literally followed up with a record low the next day. You’re already thinking about it, so I’ll answer your question.
Wool. It’s the answer to all of your problems. There’s a reason that it is finding its way into outdoor gear everywhere. For starters, it’s a natural fiber that regulates temperature. That would be enough for me, but it’s so much more. It’s quick-drying, durable, comfortable, and thoroughly odor-resistant. In short, it is the runner’s cure to the common cold.
You’re probably kicking yourself for not getting into wool sooner. Instead of that sweet sheep life, you’re stuck with a bunch of garbage polyester. You can change, you’ve got this. And there’s no better place to start than with Smartwool. To be honest, Smartwool has been my wool brand of choice for years now. It is a purpose-driven, ethical, and forward-looking outdoor company. Their goal is simple: “Go Far. Feel Good.”
Most Smartwool products use a blend of quality Merino wool (softer lighter wool produced by Merino sheep), polyester, and/or nylon, in different combinations, to approach specific season’s challenges to athletes. I wore these garments for days on end without washing. They performed to an A standard and smelled just fine.
Here are a few pieces of gear to look into as the weather starts to chill out a bit.
TAYLOR: Even in the dead of winter, I try to keep it simple with layers. Often, I only want a long sleeve but the traditional tech-gear usually lacks this or that to keep me comfortable. Smartwool’s Merino Sport 250 Long Sleeve Crew brings versatility and comfort to a single layer.
Merino Sport 250 is a masterful blend of wool and polyester to capture all the goodness of both products. It sounds too good to be true, but this long-sleeve wicks sweat, regulates temp on the go, is slightly thicker for when you’re needing warmth, and is breathable ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It’s a straight-up super fabric!
I can hear some of your eyes rolling at me. Take this example on for size. Start with the fact that I am a radiator. My wife doesn’t even sleep next to me sometimes because I’m too warm. I feel that heat on runs too.
Anyways, I started at about 9,500 feet looking for a strong effort up a local peak. It was in the low 40’s. The temps were cool out of the car, but felt perfect as I was warming up. Starting up the mountain with the sun, conditions were diverse. 3,500ft higher proved to have colder and windier conditions (mid to low 30’s). Thank goodness for those thumb holes in the sleeves.
Throughout this whole run my body temperature was comfortable. I worked up a sweat. Sure. Even at the end of this run, the trailhead was in the 60’s. The main point: I was never too hot nor too cold on these runs. That is a deal maker.
PRICE: $95Shop Men’s Sport 250
TAYLOR: Being light, weather-resistant, and breathable is a tall order for a garment. Most jackets end up doing one of those very well and neglect the others. Smartwool’s Merino Sport Ultralight Hoodie is one of the few that ticks all of those boxes.
It’s not a perfect jacket in either department… but that’s kind of the point. I like to think of these types of jackets as filling a gap between needs. The Ultralight Hoodie keeps your gear choices simple by being a solid enough mix of all of those aspects.
This jacket fits well in all of the right places. The shoulders are mapped nicely, it’s slim but not tight in the chest/torso, and it has some flex thanks to a couple of vents.
Most of the body is made of nylon for being lightweight and durable. A moderate-sized underarm/torso vent brings the magic though. We’ve discussed at length the benefits of wool, but adding polyester to the mix offers lightness, flexibility, and great breathability. I had some sweat build up on the inside, but it was minimal compared to other similar jackets. Throw on a merino base-layer under this and it’s a match made in heaven for those cool fall weather patterns.
Usually, I wear these light jackets with timidity. They’re so expensive and feel fragile to the touch. Thankfully, the Merino Sport Ultralight Hoodie has some grit. As you’re flying down the trail, it’ll be okay if you brush a branch or rock on your way by. It’s not going to blow open like an over-inflated balloon.
Finish it off with a water repellent coating, and all of the boxes have been checked. Keep in mind this is not a waterproof rain jacket. It resists moisture to an extent.
In case you haven’t heard, the West is on fire. There has been little to no moisture lately. So, I didn’t get to test the water-resistant properties while running. The kitchen sink still provided some H2O. The nylon definitely shed water quickly. After full submersion of the exterior, my skin could feel the moisture ever-so-slightly. Continuing on in that manner (i.e. a downpour) would find one looking like a wet cat; however, light rain or mist would seemingly be handled with confidence.
PRICE: $130Shop Men’s Ultra Light Hoodie
TAYLOR: As mentioned above, I run warm. A full coverage stocking cap is often blazing hot for my noggin no matter the weather. Even headbands can be too warm at times.
If you can relate, let me just say JACKPOT! The Merino 250 headband uses the same weight of merino wool as found in the Merino Sport 250 Long Sleeve Crew. It’s soft, light, and, because it’s made of adaptable merino wool, it’s optimally warm.
A headband is gear that I would normally reserve for wearing in the winter. So, I expected the headband to be more saturated than a starfish in a tide pool during my early fall runs. Nope. It was light and breathable enough to keep my head at a nice temperature, and warm enough to save my ears from the nip of pre-dawn runs.
As far as fit goes, I love that the Merino 250 headband is a light option. It’s form-fitting around the crown of your head but doesn’t feel tight in any way.
Being reversible adds a little flair too. I had black or dark grey to choose from. Both fit in just fine with my running attire. If you need something with a little more pop, other colors and patterns are available.
COURTNEY: Made from 100% merino wool this headband is extremely soft, offers warmth that will protect your ears and keep you cozy on those crispy cold days. It is naturally breathable and incredibly lightweight at just 1.06 oz, meaning that you will not sweat to death or feel too hot during the questionable, “WHAT AM I EVEN SUPPOSED TO WEAR RIGHT NOW?!” seasons. Looking at you fall and spring. I am particularly fond of the woodsmoke heather/canyon rose heather this reversible headband comes in, as well as the flattering bulk-free fit.
PRICE: $22Shop 250 Headband
COURTNEY: After miles of hot rugged adventure in Montana with boulder fields, scrambling and water crossings to some surprisingly smooth single track in the middle of the night in chilly northern Idaho, my initial thought was that these socks are going to be worn and loved to death. Although, that may be seemingly impossible between the Indestructawool™ technology features a patent-pending construction method for exceptional durability and comfort and the Shred Shield™ that helps reduce wear from the toes. Wear in the toes is always my reason for tossing out a pair of socks and was 100% why I stopped purchasing and moved on from Injinjis.
Made in the USA with 49% Merino Wool, the PhD Pro Endurance Print Sock is incredibly soft. The minimal and targeted sole and Achilles cushion to add protection is quite luxurious and notable from your first step on the trail to your last. You know that “fresh pair of contacts” or “clean sheets” feeling? Okay. So… like that, but with socks on every adventure and each step! The higher crew cut offers excellent protection should you need to punch through snow or need to navigate boulder fields during your adventures.
However far you plan to go, these socks will take you there without any drama. No matter your trail conditions… hot, cold, dusty, wet, smooth, rocky, overgrown, or rocky – consider these your ride or dies!
PRICE: $23.95Shop Women’s Print Socks
TAYLOR: Bread and butter. Smartwool’s PhD socks have been my go-to for about as long as I have transitioned to being a trail runner. I’ve tried other socks, but the PhD has been the most consistent performer on many levels. In fact, it’s the one thing I wear everyday.
The Cold Weather Mid crew socks are no different. Smartwool uses an ever-so-slightly-different blend of fabric to give a little more resistance to cold conditions. To be honest, they feel almost identical to a normal PhD sock.
I have worn the cold weather socks in the middle of summer. That was a mistake. These are great for any other season though. The wool and nylon blend helps regulate temperature to keep the footsies comfortable. Even better, it dries quickly. The regulating and drying duo is crucial in cold-weather situations where moisture can make an otherwise great run into a miserable suckfest.
Another important note: it’s very hard to leave these socks with any stank. I typically wear them for three to four runs (plus casual wear) in a row. Even then I don’t need to wash them because of smell – just general dirt and debris.
COURTNEY: Admittedly here I am again with another Smartwool sock that you will want to wear again before it even has a chance to hit the laundry. Due to the Merino wool content (yay odor resistance!) this sock is an excellent option to pack if you have a long weekend of travel ahead and are unable to wash your clothes. The PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew is made from 55% Merino wool and comes at the perfect 5” length to ensure that there is not a gap between where your socks end and your running tights begin and adds a little extra warmth!
Like their PhD Pro Endurance Crew sock, the PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew sock has a women’s specific fit, Indestructawool™ technology features with a patent-pending construction method for exceptional durability and comfort, and the Shred Shield™ that helps reduce wear from the toes. Speaking of toes… the Virtually Seamless™ toe is quite a delight, and offers a flat knit toe seam which increasing durability. The cushion is noticeable in the most organic way possible for a sock with an emphasis on the ball and heel of the foot.
PRICE: $18.95Shop Men’s Cold Weather Socks Shop Women’s Cold Weather Socks