Late winter and early spring running around Chattanooga poses interesting challenges in terms of how to dress. Mornings are often cold—mid-20s to low 30s and sometimes in the teens or even single digits if you take a trip to the Smokies or up onto the Cumberland Plateau. After a few hours on the trail, the day can warm up nicely, or you might encounter icy rain and wind. Often creeks are high or puddles unavoidable because of rain, so keeping your feet warm and dry can be a challenge as well. To help you make the best choices on how you dress for the weather, we talked to local retailers and sales reps for their suggestions on the best gear to meet your running needs this time of the year.
The experts at both Rock/Creek and Fast Break recommend you start with a good base layer. Rock/Creek’s Eric Loffland prefers a synthetic shirt, the Patagonia Airflow, which will dry quickly and feel nice against your skin. Several manufacturers are moving to the cotton look and feel with their technical T-shirts. Check the labels in both stores, and you’ll be surprised when the stylish looking cotton-feel shirt is actually 100 percent polyester. Another classic choice is the Marmot Windridge Shirt.
The road experts at Fast Break agree on the effectiveness of synthetics. Their Nike Dri-FIT knit has a broad temperature range and a great feel. Wool is also a popular standby. Try the SmartWool NTS Light 195 crew, a perfect all-season shirt or quarter zip; or Innov8's wool base Elite 115 merino crew with lycra, a comfy and super-durable shirt.
Pair your base layer with a Nanowick Jacket—a super-lightweight, wind-breaking jacket that will pack extra small if you decide you don’t need to wear it. This style jacket is perfect for those unpredictable days, as it provides a combination that is perfect for cold and wet weather running, as well as slightly warmer spring adventures.
Deciding upon shorts or tights at this time of year can be a tough choice, but for late winter/early spring, you’ll probably be fine with shorts.
For your feet, consider mesh-bodied shoes. They drain quickly after running through creeks or puddles and come in a variety of support and control options. "(Montrail Fluid Flex) doesn’t get sloppy, no matter how wet it gets,” Loffland says. “Pair them with Swiftwick socks and you’ll be set.” Fast Break's Michael Green uses the Altra Lonepeak or the Superior 2 with a rock plate you can remove or leave in. He also likes the Nike Wildhorse with its wide toe box or the Inov8 Race Ultra. “It’s about fit and feel,” Green says.
And don’t forget your head and hands. Keeping your head covered can significantly reduce heat loss and help you enjoy your outing more. Try a lightweight SmartWool Training Beanieor a more traditional cap with a bill if you’re expecting rain or sun. Options abound. Try a synthetic glove, a lightweight wool, or something with a little more protection. Inov8’s Wind Glove or Mountain Hardware’s Winter Momentum Running Glove both have a nylon layer to cut the wind chill on the back of your hands.
Nutrition is key, especially if you are venturing out on a new trail or for an unspecified amount of time. You can choose from numerous handheld and pack options, but the best thing this spring seems to be Nathan's handheld SpeedDraw Plus, an oval bottle with a great little pack that holds a few gels (try the Huma Chia gels, which aren’t exactly new, but they are delicious and a natural source of energy). You can put some Skratch labs or UCAN in your bottle for during or after your run.
Or can always try a hydration pack. There are many options with handheld, waist, or backpacks to choose from so try them on and see what feels best to you.
When you’re done with your adventure, remember that dressing for changing weather still applies. If you’re driving out to a trailhead, take warm clothes to change into afterward. When you stop running and your wet clothes cool off, you can get cold fast. Put on dry clothes, get in your car, snack on some food, and had back into town feeling cozy and content.