As the winter months approach, mud run maniacs keep on mudding. Running through frigid temperatures is tough enough as it is, but doing so drenched in icy cold mud is an entirely different animal that you need to prepare for.
Before you head out to your local sporting goods store and exit with a cart full of shiny new cold weather gear, read this…
“I will say that the gator mask was a great call – sucking down cold air can get a bit irritating after while, so having the ability to use it as a full mask, simple head covering and neck warmer respectively was more than welcome.”
A note of transparency…some of the content below may include an affiliate link by which I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. Be assured, there’s absolutely no risk on your part. Thanks
Mud Run Gear That You Don’t Need
Waterproof or water-resistant describes objects relatively unaffected by water or resisting the ingress of water under specified conditions. Unfortunately, submerging yourself in four feet of mud generally exceeds these requirements!
Another reason to leave those waterproof garments on the rack – hypothermia. You see, the same clothing that stops moisture from getting in also prevents it from getting out. As your body heat rises and you begin to sweat, your waterproof clothes will actually trap the moisture against your skin. Toss in a steady headwind and you have yourself the perfect storm for chills, frostbite and a potentially hazardous situation.
Cool and comfortable in the summer and spring, cotton is a mud runner’s worst nightmare in the winter. Cotton will absorb your body heat, soak up moisture and cling to you like a wet towel. Again if this doesn’t give you the shivers, a few December gusts will definitely remind you why cotton and winter do not mix.
ColdGear is lightweight and features a double-sided fabric that wicks moisture away from the skin and circulates body heat.
Mud Run Gear You Need
When choosing your gear for mud running in cold weather, there’s two main material types to consider:
- Moisture-wicking material: DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, polypropolene, silk, or Merino wool will transport sweat and moisture away from your body to keep you warm and dry.
- Moisture-trapping material (insulation): Neoprene, commonly found in wet suits and dry suits, will trap a thin layer of water against your skin allowing it to be heated by your body.
Swimming cap and/or hood
A cold-weather swim cap like the TYR Warmwear Silicone Cap is ideal for winter mud runs that include a swimming challenge. Instead, you may opt for a hood/facemask combo such as the popular Under Armour ColdGear Tactical Hood that provides quality protection from the damaging effects of the elements.
When it comes to socks, aim for the water-wicking kind. These injinji Performance Micro Toesocks are constructed with 70% moisture-wicking CoolMax fabric, which will pull moisture away from your foot, prevent chafing, and allow your feet to stay as dry as possible. Another great option are the Swiftwick Pursuit Zero Socks made with Merino wool that repels moisture and insulates your foot.
Again, moisture-wicking is your best bet here. Under Armour ColdGear Leggings are an awesome choice if you plan to wear beneath a pair of shorts (or without!). HeatGear Briefs are another option that will wick water away from your undercarriage, but you might want to double them up in extremely cold conditions.
Under Armour’s ColdGear line is definitely the most agreed-upon brand for cold weather mud running. ColdGear is lightweight and features a double-sided fabric that wicks moisture from the skin and circulates body heat.The shirts are a bit on the expensive side compared to other brands, but the quality is typically superior, meaning they will wash well and last for several races. One note on the fit, ColdGear comes in three different styles: Compression – skin-tight; Fitted – some wiggle room; Loose – most room. Most mudders like the feel of compression for cold weather and wet environments because it eliminates drag, dries quickly, and hugs the body like a second skin. I actually prefer a little bit of leeway, so I opt for the fitted shirts, which are fairly snug in the shoulders and chest, but leave some room for ventilation in the midsection. I’d advise staying away from loose gear for cold mud running.
A pair of cold-weather running tights will keep you warm and protect your legs from scrapes and cuts as you crawl through obstacles. Check out these ASICS Thermopolis Lt Running Tights or go with a pair of Under Armour ColdGear Tights.
If you plan to wear shorts over your tights or briefs, consider opting for boardshorts like these Billabong Rum Point Boardshorts
because they are lightweight, quick-drying and stylish. Most running shorts nowadays have a much higher cut and come with a mesh liner sewed in that will trap mud where you want it the least. Boardshorts, on the other hand, provide a bit more length without the mesh liner.
A must have if your mud run involves diving under water in the extreme cold. Pick up these Mack’s AquaBlock Earplugs.
Swimming goggles – mandatory for contact-lens wearers
If you wear contact lenses and you don’t want to be blind for your mud run, invest in a decent pair of swimming goggles. Quick tip, cheap goggles will fog-up. A pair like the TYR Nest Pro Performance Goggle are a bit more costly, but will be a lot less annoying.
Gloves are tricky IMO. Ultimately, your hands will get soaked in a mud run, and water will undoubtedly find its way between your fingers. I’ve used Mechanix Gloves for all my mud runs. They get wet and a little heavy, but I’m able to protect my hands from sharp edges, get decent grip on walls and monkey bars, and toss them in the washer at the end of the day. Another option is a cold-water diving glove such as U.S. Divers Comfo Grip, but most come in the 3mm variety, which is a bit too restrictive for the demands of mud run obstacles. These Glacier Glove Premium Neoprene Slit Finger Fishing Glove seem like a good option because they are a bit thinner and more flexible than swim gloves and allow you to access your thumb and index finger without taking the glove off.
Another Option for Running in Cold Weather
As I get ready for the World’s Toughest Mudder 24-hour mud run event to be held on December 17, I’ve started to consider wearing a triathlon suit like Pearl Izumi Men’s Select Tri Suit. The neoprene suit will minimize evaporative-cooling, so I should remain warm and somewhat comfortable once I’m out of the water. I’ve also looked into something like the 2XU Men’s T:2 Team Wetsuit, but I don’t think running in a full-suit for a day would be too much fun.
A Few Final Words of Advice
If your mud run will be in the winter months, be sure to preview the obstacles and prepare with the right cold weather gear, especially if your event involves a swim featured at most Tough Mudders. Another piece of advice is to try your gear and practice in it several times before race day. Your run may last anywhere from 40 minutes to 5 hours or more, so make sure you are comfortable with your clothing and shoes. Test your gear in the elements if at all possible and check for the following: Is it too loose or too tight? Does it cause chaffing? Will it hold up while crawling through rocks and sludge?
And if all else fails, you can always be extra-maniacal and go gear-less!
Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think!
What type of gear do you suggest for mud running in frigid temps? How do you stop the freeze from setting in? Have you or would you ever don a wetsuit for a mud run? Please no spam-mongers. Cheers!