Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Tracksmith Running 2024 Winter Apparel Round Up Review: No Days Off!

Article by Sally Reiley and Sam Winebaum

Sally and Sam test and review winter Tracksmith apparel in the high variable weather along the New England coast. Producst tested included the NDO Jacket and Tights, Bislett Pants, Fells Rugby, Downeaster Hoodie.

NDO Jacket ($308) men’s and women’s

The NDO Jacket is about as good as it gets. NDO stands for No Days Off and this high performance jacket is not only a performer over a wide range of temperatures and conditions on the New Hampshire coast, incidentally where Tracksmith has done many catalog shoots, but its styling and comfort literally had me not take it off for a month no matter what I was up to. 

Up to.. I busted my knee cap in a fall trail running in early November and the jacket showed up in early December as I resumed walking  after “repairs” in New England’s varied early winter conditions: cold, quite warm, windy, and wet it was a fantastic companion as I walked and walked in my full brace and NDO Jacket, almost 100 miles in December. I did take a few days off off but not many!

The NDO is what is called a “soft shell”. This means it has a woven outer and is not a slick material. Not to worry, it is admirably windproof and its durable water repellent treatment really works. In the photo below a very light mist is still beading after over 2 hours on the Salisbury Great Eastern Marsh Trail. The inside and my Brighton Long Sleeve were completely dry as well. 

The Dry Skin material is from Schoeller of Swtizerland, an always superb supplier of technical sport fabrics and innovative finishes with a focus on soft shell type fabrics, water and stain repellency, wind resistance and breathability. 

Not just a woven windproof yet breathable soft shell, the inner is a thin bonded merino layer which provides warmth, moisture transmission and has admirable odor resistant. I literally washed once in December. OK I was not sweating heavily but I wore it practically all the time. 

The fit is true to size in my usual medium and more stretchy and less boxy feeling than the Nor’Easter Jacket. It is generously sized and stretchy without being baggy. 

Clearly more comfortable and worth the extra $10. I am able to easily put a Brighton Long Sleeve midlayer and insulated vest under with no over tightness or loss of arm mobility. Just a perfect fit and an oh so comfortable one. Quite unlike the paired very snug not stretchy NDO tight. See below 

As far as the details. We have two open hand pockets within one an inner back facing zip pocket. I would prefer 2 zip pockets. 

Inside we have two light stretch mesh pockets. One is just below the collar with the opening facing the zipper. It is fairly deep but will not fit my iPhone 15 Pro with a moderately thick Otter Box case. The other is near the bottom hem between the hip and back and easily and securely holds my phone.

Speaking of zippers, the main two way zipper is substantial and oh so smooth moving. 

Who says a zipper should be part of the “experience” but here it clearly is! No tiny, fragile or hard to engage and slide zipper or overdone grabby metal one here. Perfect.

The collar is lined with a grid material so no rubbing.  The cuffs have a soft stretch extension. so also no rubbing or binding here and a soft seal from wind and wet.. 

It is easy to keep a GPS watch exposed without the jacket creeping down, unlike the Nor’Easter and most other jackets.

Reflectivity as after all we are dealing with a jacket for short and often dark days is, let’s say the only thing here where form follows function. 

The rear has a giant reflective Tracksmith sash, the front only a small reflective Tracksmith logo. 

The front look is clean and would fit in at any occasion social or otherwise but we wish for some additional reflectivity, and why not some “black out” type additional reflective elements.

I have run in many dozens of run jackets for rain, wind and cold and this deluxe jacket is as good as they get for all but full on rain storms, 

It’s classic conservative styling has it cross over to any other occasion with ease and its supreme comfort joins its style and its sports performance to make it a constant companion for me and I expect it will for many years. Pricey yes but worth it for its versatility.

Sally: I totally agree with everything Sam says about the NDO jacket: this is a very functional and very versatile softshell that excels at cold-weather and cool weather running, as well as at many other active pursuits. It even serves as a very attractive casual jacket! The four way stretch Schoeller Dryskin is water repelling, windproof, and breathable, and the stretch panels under the arms and on the side gussets allow for plenty of mobility no matter what your sport (I also wore it playing paddle tennis and had impressive full range of motion). 

One of my friends commented that it would be a great jacket for golf. That and many other activities! 

I love all the well thought out details of this jacket: the two-way zipper that allows for ventilation if overheating. 

The sleeves finished with an inside gaiter with an elastic cuff to keep out the elements; the two side hand warming pockets, one with an inner secure zipper pocket; the inner mesh pocket down low near the hip that holds a large size iphone 15 in its case; and the soft merino lined stand up collar that is comfortable on the skin. 

The reflective 3M sash across the back is classic Tracksmith. 

I would also like to see a zip closure on the handwarmer pockets (I actually found the pockets would gape open on the run and catch on my watch or mitten as I swung my arms). 

The size XS fit me true to size and left me with enough room to add a midlayer on the very cold days, and the length was perfect on my 5’2” frame, not too long as so many are. As Sam points out, the attractive classic styling of the NDO jacket combined with its top of the class performance make it an incredibly valuable and versatile addition to a runner’s wardrobe .  

Now imagine this jacket not in the available black but in classic Tracksmith navy blue with a whiter reflective sash - that would be my suggestion to make a homerun a grand slam!

NDO Tights ($198) men’s women’s

Sam: I had a previous version of the NDO Tight and the new version doesn’t stray far from the original. A very snug non-stretch windproof (inner membrane) front is joined to a similar (to the NDO Jacket) but more dense, smoother, less stretchy softshell fabric with merino bonded to the inside. 

The fit and feel is utterly different from the jacket although visually they pair very well.. and to make up for the jacket’s minimal front reflectivity the tight has front and back prominent sashes.  My usual medium (32” waist) I guess is true to size but very snug and overly clingy given the front membrane and less stretchy outer the reasons  I think why. I think a large would have been better for a number of reasons as outlined below.

We have 2 drop in pockets below the rear waistband. Neither is large enough for a phone but with the stout waist band I just tuck my phone in. 

Tracksmith does way better in long “pants” with their Bislett (see review below). 

As a New England company, Tracksmith should take inspiration from Nordic ski pants where the front is windproof and the back is usually a Jersey type fabric for maximum breathability, and also as stretchy for mobility. 

Jackets are the same in Nordic windproof front breathable stretchy back  but the NDO Jacket works fine as is. Sweat on the uphills with the need for wind protection on the downhills is the idea. I also have a nordic ski pant made of what feels like the exact same Schoeller outer shell and inner merino (or close) without a membrane out front, only membrane on the front of the pants and a looser fit and it works brilliantly in super miserable and cold conditions. Ok it isn’t as sleek stylish  but it does the job far better than the NDO Tight. 

I found them not particularly warm in windy cold conditions as the front membrane has a cold/clammy feel against skin. The Tracksmith  Reggie Short Tight or similar underneath solves the problem but..then for sure I would have to size up.  As more of a run pant kind of guy it is not my jam (not that warm and over snug) but  it is a beautiful looking piece of gear.

Sally: The NDO Tight fits tightly by design. I actually found the high rise waist quite comfortable because of its soft, wide waistband that wasn’t overly constrictive (ladies, I don’t know about you but do Lululemon tights now have an exceeding tight waist? No thanks!). 

There is an interesting envelope pocket on the rear of the waistband that is large enough on either side to hold my pair of Fens mittens, or several gels or whatever. 

The zippered pocket within the waistband is not large enough for my iphone 15 Pro, but will hold a smaller phone. Not to worry, my iphone can ride in the drop in mesh pocket of the NDO jacket. 

There is also a drawstring at the waistband, though I had no issues with the waist slipping down. 

They fit fairly true to size (size XS for me). There are nice details like back ankle zippers and the trademark reflective sash across the front thigh and the lower calf. 

But I experienced the same challenges with these tights that Sam did: I found the double layer windblock lining on the front thighs restricted my mobility and impeded my stride, making these tights overly constricting. 

And on top of that, I did not find them warm enough on those days when the winds were brisk or the  temperature really dropped here along the  New England coast in January (low teens or below). Call me a wimp, but I run cold and was hoping these NDO tights would be the answer. I would wear them with another layer underneath but there is not enough room, and I can't even imagine how restrictive that would feel. Others might find them plenty warm, but I will not wear them on those really blustery runs. 

Every other Tracksmith piece in their fall and winter collection has been a homerun for me, so this NDO tight is the lone disappointment, not living up to my hopes. But it looks good!

Bislett Pants  men’s and women’s ($198)

Sam: The Bislett pants are a keeper! Named after the famous stadium in Norway where so many distance records have been set, they have a classic 60’s styling and fit, And actually in the 80’s a Boston area company Bislett Sports International came up with the design and made 500 pants Tracksmith says on the catalog page. I think the retro logo is a nod to that heritage. 

Relaxed, functional and sleek, and much lighter in materials than the NDO Tights with a pants fit they are made tight like in appearance, but not fit, by the underfoot trademark Trackmith colors red and white stirrups.  

They are made, as the NDO Jacket is ,of a 4 way Schoeller of Switzerland DrySkin fabric (Eliot Stretch: 63% Nylon / 31% Polyester / 6% Elastane, 180 gsm) but with no Merino a lighter less constrictive fit than NDO Tights.  It is the kind of pantl I want to keep on all day after the run (or walk these days for me). It can double as a great travel pant as well, although pockets are limited to one small one.

The no show ankle zippers are decently long and longer than the NDO Tights, so pulling them on/off for a workout is no problem. The front stitching (ride side of left leg above)  is reflective, a nice safety add. The left side has a narrow opening decent size pocket for keys and a wallet (no phone), similar with its to the rear entry and size as the NDO Jacket’s.

Unlike the tights, the fit is generous and easy to move in. With my 32” waist and the medium size I do think the waistband could be a touch more substantial as it is almost a “jogger pant” type fit there. 

They have proven fantastic over a very wide range of temperatures from 20’s F up into the 50’s in wind and even light rain.  Given the room, you could easily wear long underwear under them which for me would extend their range down to at least 0F, The wind and water resistant woven outer polyester with Schoeller’s DrySkin tech is backed by a light fuzzy inner for warmth, moisture transmission and all important stand off from the skin. No membrane barrier here as in the NDO, and none needed. Priced the same as the NDO Tights I would pick them any day.over the tights for their wider range of uses and comfort. 

Fells Rugby  ($148)

So I actually played rugby in college. I played on the team the very first year of women’s rugby at Dartmouth College, a perennial men’s rugby powerhouse school. We were known as the Originals, pioneers who started a club sports program that later earned hard-fought varsity status and now reigns as national champions. So I know and love rugby shirts. 

I immediately fell in love with the Fells Rugby shirt. I have always been a merino fan - it is warm, soft, wicking, and stink-free, rarely requiring washing. 

This new running top has the traditional retro rugby styling with a hidden two-button placket and a stand collar, but the fabric is a modern waffle-texture merino wool blend. 

It is a practical workhorse layer to keep toasty warm on those cold morning runs that also looks great for casual wear. I appreciate the shorter but not cropped length - I find tops these days are often super long (and I am only  5”2”) or they are ridiculously cropped.

I love the classic Blueberry color of this one, and the fit is comfortably true to size. My XS fits generously (I admit that I size up to size S in Tracksmith singlets because I do not like tops skin tight). If I could improve this shirt, I would add thumb holes to the sleeves (I love thumb holes and wish Tracksmith did more of them!) and add one more button to the button placket to make the neck opening that much bigger. All in all, this Fells rugby shirt is a winner!  

I know I will wear it often as a cool weather running top, as a midlayer under a jacket, and as a casual shirt with jeans for a night on the town. 

Fens Mittens $38

I have always been a mitten girl. My hands tend to get cold easily, and I prefer mittens over gloves. Your fingers generate more warmth when they are nestled together, and mittens trap their warm air inside. 

These new mittens from Tracksmith are fantastic - they are made of a warm, insulating fleece that wicks moisture and breathes to allow any sweat to evaporate. They are lightweight and easy fitting.  

I have large hands (for a small woman) but the size small fits perfectly. There are internal hidden magnets on the cuffs to keep your pair together when you take them off (remember the strings your mother attached to your mittens when you were a child? Same purpose). My previous favorite mittens have been the Oiselle Power Move Mittens - now I have two favorites! 

Downeaster Hoody women’s  ($188)

I have long been a fan of the Tracksmith Downeaster Collection - I admit to owning the Downeaster Quarter Zip in three colors, and I am literally wearing the Downeaster Sweats as I sit at my desk writing this (we keep our house on the cool side). Naturally I was excited to try the newest member of the family, the Downeaster Hoody. 

It is made of the same wonderful double knit merino blend (60% merino, 40% polypropylene) that maximizes both warmth and comfort. The natural properties of merino offer warmth, breathability, and odor-resistance (you can get many wearings without needing to wash it) and the polypropylene improves the wicking and insulation and durability. This will be a favorite mid layer for cold weather running, and dare I say for skiing?! I find it a very versatile piece that can stand alone or be layered. 

The attached three piece snorkel hood provides extra protection from the elements. The cuffs and the hood have a soft elastic binding. 

Once again, I would love to see a little extra length in the sleeves with thumb holes, but that is a personal bias and preference.

I love the earthy beetle green color on this one, and the fit is again comfortably true to size without a need to size up for a relaxed fit. 

My XS fit me perfectly. This will be a staple in our winter running wardrobes!

Tracksmith SHOP HERE

Tester Profiles

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who agreed against her better judgment to run her first marathon at age 54; she has since run the past ten Boston Marathons, two NYC Marathons, one Chicago, and one London with the WMM Six Star Medal now in her sights. With a Boston PR of 3:25:55 in 2022 (9th place in AG) and two consecutive 2nd place in Age Group W60 awards in NYC, she competed in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships at the 2022 London Marathon and ran an all-time PR of 3:24:02, placing 6th in the world in her women’s 60-64 age group.  She also competes in USATF races with the Greater Lowell Road Runners team. To add meaning to her Boston Marathon races she runs with Team Eye and Ear and has raised over $275,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Sally is 5’2’’ and 105 pounds and lives in Marblehead, MA, training outdoors year round. She blames her love of skiing out West for any and all Boston Marathon training challenges.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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