Sunday, November 24, 2019

2019 Runners' Apparel Gift Guide: Icebreaker, Gore, Salomon, Buff, Title Nine, Runderwear, Mammut, UA, Outdoor Research, Brooks, OROS, La Sportiva, Rockay

Article by Sam Winebaum, Dominique Winebaum & Jeff Valliere

After much exploring and testing, we bring you a wide array of innovative and practical running apparel gift ideas focused on the winter months. 

Also please read Part 1 of our Gift Guide covering Electronics, Hydration, Recovery, Sunglasses and Packs HERE

See our Holidays Savings Guide HERE

Stay Warm, Dry, and Safe

Men’s Icebreaker Merino Tech Trainer Hybrid Pants ($180)  
Hard to Photograph, Classy. All Black, High Performance Merino Powered Run Outfit
The look goes from the roads and trails to just about anywhere, anything without missing a beat of shouting. Truly luxurious in feel, this outfit blends superb performance with subtle classy styling.

The Tech Trainer Hybrid Pants are soft and stretchy and so comfortable and easy fitting I have worn them pretty much around the clock since receiving them. Made of Icebreaker’s Merino wool blend with a touch of Lycra they are smooth on face and slightly more 3D on the inside for wicking and warmth. The front upper legs are faced with air permeable Pertex Quantum Air to provide breathability and wind protection. They have gusseted lower leg zips with reflective accents and 2 deep zip pockets, a wide waistband and drawstring. On the run they have been comfortable over a wide range of temperatures, non constricting loose and easy and unlike tights essentially just aren’t noticed and even in warmer temps never stick. Once done you can go on to your next activity without thinking about changing. They also make a great choice for travel and as a base layer under heavier winter hiking and ski clothing. They have a roomy true to size fit. 

The Cool-Lite Incline Windbreaker ($200) is a sleek fitted run, cycling and training jacket. As with the pants. it can easily transition from workout to any other activity making it exceptionally versatile. It is very light and stuffs into its own pocket.  With the exception of under the arms down the sides, under the soft wind resistant mini ripstop outer shell it is fully lined with Icebreaker Cool-Lite,  a blend of premium merino wool for heat regulation and Tencel for absorbency. To help yet further improve temperature regulation, the armpits and lower back outer shell have laser cut small ventilation holes with the Cool Lite lining have a pattern of very small raised dots for some standoff and ventilation . The Incline has a hem drawstring, reflective accents on the zipper, and 2 large zip pockets. I found it exceptionally warm for its weight. The sizing is snug so if you have a big chest or prefer more room for layers you might consider sizing up. 
Tech Trainer Pants  Men and Women  HERE
Incline Windbreaker Men and Women HERE

Brooks Nightlife Jacket ($160) and Tight ($96)
Being visible on the road is increasingly important in all light conditions, even daylight, given the scourge of distracted driving. The Brooks Nightlife jacket and tights let you run and be visible even if you forget your reflector vest.
Heck with the amount of  high visibility colors, reflective and retro reflectivity here you could actually consider ditching the vest.
Safety taken care of, the Jacket is based on Brooks’s Canopy Jacket, the famous jacket worn by Desi to 2018 Boston victory in those horrendous conditions. Very breathable and decently water resistant, runs in more moderate conditions will also not have you overheated. The tights are soft and stretchy and in no way straight jackets or overly warm and thick. 
The women’s jacket stuff into a hanging inside pocket which becomes a mini backpack, the men’s into a side pocket. The great fitting hood can be rolled up and both jacket and tights have pockets for a phone. About as functional, well thought out and comfortable a dedicated run outfit as we have tested, in its entirety or individual pieces Nightlife is a thoughtful gift idea for any runner. The Brooks Nightlife Collection also includes other high visibility apparel and accessories 
Our full review of the women’s Nightlife jacket and tights is HERE.


GORE WEAR GORE R7 Partial Gore-Tex Infinium Hooded Jacket ($200)
With high output activities the focus, the  R7 is totally windproof yet highly breathable as vapor can escape while wind can’t penetrate. It is water resistant but not waterproof. Made using Gore-Tex Infinium with Windstopper technology, the fabric membrane combination is much softer, lighter, and more pliable than what we are used to from Gore-Tex Windstopper. It is actually translucent in bright light. 
I have extensively tested R7 and the breathability is amazing, you can literally feel heat pumping out in a pleasant cooling fashion when temps are on the warmer side of freezing yet with no chill winds penetrating. Shoulders, sleeves, and drop tail are all Infinium Windstopper with the high heat center back a very thin stretch tricot type fabric for maximum breathability. 

The R7 is a run focused jacket and as such as front and rear reflectivity, a hood with not only a neck drawcord but also a small stretch headband to keep it put if somewhat unzipped. A chest pocket holds a phone.

The fit, as with most Gore-Wear, is snug and quite short in front but with ample coverage from the drop tail. You will get one mid layer underneath but that is about it if you have a larger chest. For more room sizing up may be advisable. 
AMAZON men’s and women’s HERE

Two Space Travel Worthy Layers...Literally.. Now for Runners!

Under Armour Intelliknit Phantom  men’s and women’s ($100)
A product of UA’s collaboration with the Virgin Galactic space program, Intelliknit will be used as the astronauts’ base layers. Think of a cable type knit, crew neck golf type sweater. It is stylish and sleek and can be used for not only for workouts, across a wide range of temperatures, but for every day, all day wear as we found out in our testing. 
Sam: I  wore it comfortably for four days for runs in the 50’s and then the rest of each day and it stayed “fresh”.  It is made out of a special Japanese yarn that regulates temperature and manages moisture extremely well. My tests in relatively warm temperatures and even for a half marathon had me remarkably never overheated or chilled in wind. Moisture was drawn through the “cable” type knit, and while damp when were done running, dried as quickly as any layer I have ever tried so I continued my day without even thinking of changing! 

Jeff: It is also an excellent mid layer on runs as cold as 0 degrees F with a thin wool baselayer, covered by Gore Tex H5 shell in heavy snow. The Intelliknit was remarkably warm even when damp and stayed warm post run after cooling off. The silver sleeve accents are reflective.  UA’s headline for Intelliknit is “ “They’ll never know you broke a sweat” and we found this to be true! A great gift idea for runners always on the go, for travel, and as a base layer for running and skiing. 
IntelliKnit Phantom Sweater men’s and women’s  HERE

Men’s and Women’s OROS ¼ Zip Explorer ($120)
An outerwear brand powered by deep space Aerogel insulation technology, OROS apparel is engineered to provide the warmest insulation possible yet in a single, 2mm thin layer. It is designed to keep you warm without the need to layer or bulk up.  
Dominique: In colder weather running - mid 20's - wearing the OROS ¼ Zip Explorer as my only layer, I was comfortable and dry throughout my runs.  Sam: On the run in temperatures around 50 degrees I was equally comfortable as in colder temperatures and never overheated. The Explorer’s insulation accumulated no appreciable insulation and the non insulated sleeves balanced thermo regulation overall very effectively. .
How does the Explorer do it? 2mm thick panels in the front and back of the Explorer are Solarcore, which is an aerogel-infused insulation of nanoscale “air glass" that is a very poor conductor of heat and is thus very insulating. Lightweight for insulation provided as it is almost all air and as its tiny pores are 10’s of nanometers across air can’t get through including wind, non compressible, and performs well in both wet or dry conditions.  It is also very breathable with a 40 CFM air permeability rating. 

The sleeves and material covering the chest and back insulation area have a more casual look technical fabric, making the Explorer versatile on the run and otherwise. Both functional and attractive, the top features a zippered side pocket (women),  chest (men’s) and thumbholes. Dominique: Providing maximum warmth and a cozy feel with a one layer approach in a pleasing low key lifestyle as well as sport design, the OROS ¼ Zip Explorer is sure to become my GO-TO top when heading outdoors, no matter the activity.  Available in three different attractive colors: black, coral, and spruce. Fits true to size. $120. 


Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket ($229)

Action Puffy
The Refuge Air is a very light, thin insulated jacket. It is about as thin as a thick flannel shirt but far lighter and warmer.
It has VerticalX Air insulation which I found extremely breathable and manages moisture very well. Facing the elements is Pertex Quantum Air fabric which balances wind resistance and permeability very well. The bottom line here is breathability vs stout wind resistance and as such I have found the jacket an excellent piece for running in even moderate temperatures with minimal sweat build up even in temps in the lower 40’s except strangely my lower arm where I did not have a watch and was wearing short sleeves, the only place that got wet. Wear a long sleeve base layer underneath   
Done a run in chilly temperatures, I went off to lunch and didn’t feel chilled in the least. It should prove superb for those zero degree runs in still sunny weather with just a base layer underneath where the key to warmth is staying dry. The Refuge Air is fully lined with a mesh layer with mesh also providing 2 deep drop in pockets, has 2 zip side and 1 chest pockets, a hip drawcord, and a hood without drawcord. The fit is relatively snug at my usual medium but a bit baggy at the sleeves so thin to mid weight layers underneath will fit and if really cold or windy layer a shell over.

Outdoor Research Men’s Echo Hoody ($65) 

Jeff: The Echo Hoody is an ultra lightweight long sleeve hooded shirt with Polygiene odor protection  and UPF sun protection built in. Living in Colorado, with intense sun and high altitudes, I find this to be a versatile layer that works well any time of year, either as a breathable underlayer to wear multiple days without having to wash, with the hood making for a nice add on to keep out drafts and additional hand pockets integrated into the cuff.  On warmer summer days, particularly Spring and Summer in snowy high mountain basins, the Echo Hoody does a wonderful job keeping you protected from being beat down by the sun. I am always aware of how much sun I am getting and slather on the SPF 50, but ideally, I favor sun avoidance whenever possible/practical and the Echo Hoody is a great addition to the arsenal for that purpose as well.

Outdoor Research Vigor Midweight Sensor Gloves ($30)

The Vigor Midweight Sensor gloves are made of ActiveTemp fleece for thermal regulation during high output activities.  

They have nice touches such as silicone dots for added grip and are touch screen compatible via Sensor tech on the thumb and index finger.  Not the thinnest liners out there, the Vigor provides surprising dexterity and touch screen responsiveness and precision. The Vigor breathes well and have kept me warm on hard runs in the mid 20’s F and easier runs in the 30’s and even up  into the 50’s were comfortable with no sweating or overheating.


Outdoor Research Gripper Sensor Gloves ($55)
The Gripper is made of heavier fleece than the Vigor backed by Gore’s new softer, more pliable Infinium Windstopper. They have burly super gripping textured palms and high wear area reinforcements. The thumb and index fingers have Sensor tech to operate touch screens. I found the operation of phones excellent, working surprisingly well and even better than thinner gloves as the burly finger construction provided a solid slip free platform for touch. The Gripper is a great all around option for running, shoveling snow and Nordic skiing in colder temperatures..


La Sportiva Zone Down Jacket ($269)
Max Warmth Insurance Policy
The La Sportiva Zone Down Jacket, while perhaps not a typical running piece is amazing when the temperature really, really drops.  The Zone Down Jacket arrived just in time for a particularly wintery Late October cold snap here in Colorado with 4 straight days of snow and temperatures down to ~0 degrees F.  While at zero, this jacket is a bit warm for high intensity uphill, it balls up reasonably small, small enough to easily fit in the back of a 12L running vest. I appreciated having it for the chilling 2,500 foot, 3 mile descent of Green Mountain on several mornings in ~0 degree temps, in the dark predawn hour with falling snow as the Zone Down Jacket kept me very warm over my damp layers.  

La Sportiva’s mountain heritage shines through here with very well thought out features such as:

Midweight Insulation with full zip
Articulated hood with regulation, neoprene visor and internal fleece lining
Sleeve cuff gaiters • 2 zippered hand pockets & 1 chest pocket
1 zippered internal chest pocket • 2 internal stow pockets
PFC-Free DWR coating
And one of my favorite specs and a very pleasant surprise, it is made from recycled fabrics.

This will certainly become a mainstay piece of gear to carry along for the very coldest days when I think it will be helpful, if not an essential or perhaps even survival piece of gear.  Not to mention, it doubles perfectly for day to day casual use throughout the winter and looks sharp.

Title Nine SnowSlayer Pants ($129)
Dominique: They have the appeal of being tough against the elements, yet they are so soft and comfy that it is tempting to wear them all day long. The pants are made with a soft shell fabric that has the properties of being “element proof,” wicking, and breathable.  When turning the pants inside out, only the waistband and the back of the legs, areas not usually exposed to wind most of the time and high heat areas are not covered with the full protective soft shell fabric. 
I have run in them in mildly cold weather and I am enjoying the feel of running in pants as opposed to tights.  I predict that they will be my favorite pants to wear during cross-country skiing season as the soft shell fabric will protect me from the cold and wet snow and keep me dry.  Two zippered pockets in the front and one zippered pocket in the back are well positioned and functional. My iPhone is well secured in the back pocket when I run and is easy to retrieve.  The bottom leg of the pants can be adjusted to go over boots via the gusseted locking ankle zips. With Title Nine, I can always count on well-made clothing that is functional, attractive and fun to wear.    

Runderwear Merino Brief $35
Jeff: Pricey, but these Runderwear Merino Wool blend briefs are a favorite when the temperature drops, as they are warm and comfortable with a seamless, no chafe design that breathes well to regulate temperature, dry quickly and even when damp, never feel cold or clammy.  Sizing/fit is a bit on the snug side, but keeps everything contained well with no bounce.
Runderwear HERE
The wait is over! Black Friday is here. Start saving now at RUNDERWEAR. You can get 25% off with coupon code "25BF" at check out. Offer valid 11/25 - 12/1.


Lightweight Merino Buff ($29) Buff Run Cap ($24)
Multi Functional Comfort and Ultility
Buff has branched out from their iconic multi functional tube to merino versions and this year run hats. 

The Lightweight Merino Buff was one of our most used pieces of gear in 2019. Dominique has practically not taken hers off. 
She wore hers just about every day when we hiked across Switzerland in damp cold conditions in many different ways, on hikes in the White Mountains and it came back out this fall as the temperature dropped for her daily runs. 
Very soft and lightweight at 125g/m2 , this long stretchy tube, as with all Buff, can be used in a multitude of ways. I personally like to use it as wide headband in cooler conditions.
Buff Run Cap ($24) 
Sam: I am very fussy about run hats and have tried many many dozens over the years. I sweat a lot, want a cap that will shade my glasses, and prefer a soft fit. I never have enjoyed stiffer trucker type run hats or more minimal caps such as fine Buff Run Pro Cap shown above.  
Buff Run Cap is exactly what I look for. It was my go to since I received in June for just about every run in summer’s heat, if I wasn’t wearing a Buff UV headband that is!  Soft with all over sweat absorbing very rapidly evaporating fabric , it has an excellent sweat band. The bill is also soft and sweat absorbing but has some structure to it. I have never gotten sweat in my eyes. 
While my sample’s black is not the ideal summer color, other colors and patterns are available as shown above.
Come fall and early winter, the Run Cap has substituted for a light beenie just fine as well on chillier days. The reflective elements are also appreciated.
AMAZON Merino Buff HERE Run Caps HERE
Running Warehouse HERE

Mammut Zinal Pants ($159) 
Dominique: From May to September I hiked in the Mammut Runbold pants favoring them over shorts, as they are lightweight, comfortable, protective, and fast drying.  More than 30 days of hiking in the same pants and they still don’t show any sign of wear and tear. I was happy to transition into another pair of Mammut hiking pants - the Zinal pants - for colder weather and the winter season. Like the Runbold, the Zinal pants are technical pants designed for hikers and climbers, yet they lend themselves to many activities, even less outdoorsy outings.  In addition to being technical, they are comfortable, sharp looking, and stylish.  
Sam: The name Zinal pants bring back many memories as it is a small village high in the Swiss Alps that is also the finish of the iconic Sierre-Zinal trail race Dominique and I have run many times. The Zinal pants can do hiking, climbing, nordic and alpine skiing, and running just like all the activities available in its namesake village and thus are aptly named. Comfortable with some easy stretch, durable, and many pocketed they can easily go from trail to town with great functionality and style.
Mammut:  Zinal Pants, Plaid Shirts, and Masao Light Jackets
Dominique: Made with durable polyamide material with a high spandex content, they are both protective against the elements and comfortable. They also come in my favorite color: peacoat (blue), as well as black. Among the many features, the pants have mesh-lined side ventilation with zipper, a total of 5 roomy zippered pockets, including 2 angled for easy striding cargo pockets with additional snap buttons, and have gusseted leg cuffs that can stretch over boots.  The outer material of the pants is treated with DWR making them water-repellent.  


Race Day
It is winter and all but we had to mention Editor Sam’s 2019 go to race gear: Salomon apparel and Rockay socks and calf sleeves. Do they make him run faster? Who knows but they sure are a comfortable and functional kit. Oh yes he does add the Vaporfly Next% to the mix and needs to work on getting his race bibs centered!
Sense Pro Shorts ($100)
Sam: I am  a big fan of Salomon shorts. They last nearly forever and have super functional mesh waist band pockets. While his 6 or so year old S/Lab shorts are going strong, their dual mesh pockets and fabric like new if a bit faded, he “invested” in a pair of Sense Pro shorts for 2019 and ran every race and most days in them. Very breathable, stretchy with a “reverse” ripstop grid pattern of more open mesh seen at the bottom hems below, their mesh front and back pockets can carry 250ml soft flasks, any phone, and many gels. You’ll never notice you are carrying anything at all and in my black version no one else will notice either!  Well worth the investment.
Shop for Salomon Sense Pro Shorts
Running Warehouse HERE  Amazon HERE  CampSaver HERE

S/Lab Tank ($85) & Tee ($95, see current sale pricing at Running Warehouse below)
The S/Lab Tank provides shoulder coverage making it great with race vests and of course for some sun protection. The 37.5 fabric provides superb temperature regulation in heat and dries very quickly making it the most comfortable fabric I have ever run in heat and for that matter cool weather at the top of climbs. There is a trick though, at least for me. I am usually medium and tried medium but found the sizing a bit to fitted and sticky in both the tank and tee. Sizing up to large made all the difference for me. 

Running Warehouse  S/Lab Sense Tank HERE   S/Lab Tee on Clearance ($68.88) HERE
Amazon S/Lab Sense Tank HERE  

Rockay Accelerate Socks ($15) 
European made Rockay’s Accelerate socks feature as elaborate a  zonal knitting pattern in a sock as I have ever seen with an arch support zone, stretch zone over the top of the instep, heel and toe underfoot padding, and snugger top and tab to keep them from slipping down. Always dialed in and comfortable they are superb run socks.

Rockay Blaze Calf Compression Sleeves ($33)
I always race in compression sleeves and look for light and breathable with moderate compression to reduce tibial vibrations which can lead to cramps. The Blaze has 16-23mg graduated compression, is very breathable, and has a Polygiene anti odor treatment. They are the lightest most comfortable sleeves I have yet found.

Maurten Gels
Maurten has figured out a way to make gels palatable and more effective in getting nutrition and hydration into your intestines to work fueling you quickly via its hydrogel technology with less possibility of GI distress. No sticky sickly sweet taste here and all natural flavors and ingredients and no artificial colorants. The flavor is neutral and the consistency is more like tapioca so you can squeeze a whole gel in your mouth and gradually “eat” if you wish. The new GEL 100, CAF 100 has 100 calories and 100 milligrams of caffeine and no bitter caffeine taste. I had no energy bonk in any of my fall half marathons and far less of a need to drink sport drinks. For marathons alternate GEL CAF 100 with GEL 100.

Running Warehouse HERE

Read Part 1 of our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide 
Electronics, Lighting, Hydration, Sunglasses, Packs, and Recovery

See our Holidays Savings Guide HERE

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Jen said...

Totally agree on the Buff Run Cap. Mine is the Buff Pack Trek Cap but essentially the same thing. Wicks super well. In changing light conditions I can flip up the brim. Don't need it? Folds down small to fit in a pocket. The fit of this cap is so much better than the Buff run pro cap with the elastic bungie in the back.

Jeff Valliere said...


Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Jen,
That bungie...I can do without. Prefer strap
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Jeff Valliere said...

Anon, I totally hear you and thanks for reading. I meant $35 is pricey for a pair of underwear, but they are nice. I guess a case could be made for just about anything with a cost/benefit analysis, running or not. If on a budget (as most of us are), it pays to keep an eye out for sales and considering the previous year model for more significant savings. The beauty of running however is it's simplicity and in the end, is a relatively affordable sport when compared to cycling, yacht racing and Motorsports! :)

Jeff Valliere said...

Additionally, please check our guide to savings for many of the best deals this Black Friday, as Sam works hard to keep find savings for our readers.

Jeff Valliere said...