Review: Howies Merino Base Layers
We spend our days running in the mountains, walking in the fells and playing with…
Christmas is a tough time of year for runners. There are roaring fires to sit by; massive portions of pudding to get through; Champagne hangovers to fend off and rarely-seen relatives to catch up with. Hitting those cold, wet, dark trails can seem like a tough prospect, but we’re here to help. We all know that the latest kit is high on the wish list of many runners, so why not brighten up their festive season with one of our carefully-chosen Christmas gifts:
1. Hydro Flask
Hydro Flask is a US-based company that makes insulated bottles designed for different contents including water, coffee, beer and even a food option if you fancy taking your porridge into the office with you. Their hydration bottles come in a huge range of sizes and are suitable for hot and cold drinks, BPA-free and made from top-grade stainless steel. They’re available in lots of colours and come with a standard loop cap or a sports cap for hydrating on the move. Hydro Flask donate 5% of net profits to good causes and champion national parks both in the US and further afield.
Socks are a tradition at Christmas, so it’s nice to go a bit different with Injinji’s toe socks. We particularly like the Outdoor Original Weight Crew with NüWool™, a blend of 64% Merino wool, 33% Nylon for durability and 3% Lycra for stretch. They’re soft and just cushioned enough, with a fun, festive pattern to boot. Toe socks feel quite different to ‘normal’ socks but they do seem to be good at blister prevention and stay put brilliantly. There’s a vast range of styles, colours, patterns and materials to choose from – something to suit everyone.
Every runner welcomes a change of route once in a while. These brilliant, custom-made maps allow you to choose your location, scale and format and even select an image and title for the front cover. They’re useful, beautiful enough to be hung on a wall and really show you’ve put some thought in.
One of the great things about our job is that we get to test out lots of running kit. Most of it’s a little on the pricey side to really come under the category of a stocking filler, but not so these awesome running gloves – the best we’ve tried by a long way. They’re a perfect balance between protective and breathable and they’re super-lightweight and stashable, ideal for those first few chilly miles. The back of the hand is made from water-repellent, windproof fabric; the wrist cuff and spaces between the fingers are a soft, stretchy jersey fleece; the palms are Capilene® Thermal Weight fabric and the palm and pads of the thumb and first two fingers are reinforced with a synthetic chamois, making them grippy (they’re great for cycling too) and smartphone-compatible. Even better, the fabric is bluesign-approved and therefore gentler on the planet.
5. A good book
There’s nothing like a good book to offer up both inspiration and motivation. Here are some of our favourites:
We’re unashamedly kicking off with our own book, Wild Running: 150 great adventures on the trails and fells of Britain. We wrote it when we struggled to find suggestions for great running routes – although there were plenty for walkers and mountain bikers. So we set off on a trip around the country in search of the very best places and trails to run – and here they are! There’s also plenty of useful info about the local running scene in each area, including long distance trails, running clubs, races and running legends. Each route has its own web page where you’ll find mapping, .gpx downloads and full directions. Currently only £10 for a signed copy in our shop.
Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith is a runner’s tale of the legendary fell running challenge, the Bob Graham Round. It tackles its history, ethics, records and legends with insight and understanding, woven through with the author’s own attempt at the Round.
From Last to First is Charlie Spedding’s account of his rise from mediocre runner at school to Olympic bronze medallist. It’s testament to the power of hard work and a thoroughly motivating read, perfect for those aiming for a big race in 2017.
A New York Times bestseller for 14 weeks in 1978 Running and Being, by Dr George Sheehan, feels even more relevant today. It’s a philosophical consideration of running, exploring the mind and body through the medium of movement. Written in a pre-gadget world it’s a welcome escape from Big Running to a peaceful, mindful place that embraces the pure, simple joy of running.
Heartbroken after the death of her husband, 57-year-old Rosie Swale Pope left her home in Wales and set off on an epic run. Just a Little Run Around the World tells the story of her incredible adventures; her courage, determination and resourcefulness making for an inspiring read.
6. A Runner’s Journal
It’s great to have somewhere special to note down training sessions, race times, thoughts and the odd inspirational quote and a proper bound and covered journal somehow feels so much nicer than just keeping everything on Strava. These Personalised Running Notebooks from notonthehighstreet.com can be thoughtfully customised too.
British-based company, Aquapac, make waterproof cases for almost every gadget we can think of. We love to have a camera (or at least an iPhone) to hand for snapping that glorious sunset or misty morning while we’re out running, and these 100%-waterproof yet non-bulky cases have proved their worth on many occasions. The brand new TrailProof phone case is particularly excellent for runners, and a bargain at £14.
8. Merino Neckwear
Inov-8’s Wrag, Alpkit’s Draught Excluder and Buff’s, well, Buff all come in a soft and cosy Merino wool version that’s perfect for keeping the winter chills out. They’re incredibly versatile too – use as a hat, scarf, bandana, sweatband and anything else you can think of.
9. Waist Pack
Cheaper and more useful for daily training than a race vest or rucksack, we reckon waist packs are most definitely an underrated running accessory. With enough room for your keys, card, snacks and even a lightweight windproof and water bottle in the larger models, all within easy reach, they make a great present for any runner. We’ve been particularly impressed by the Montane VIA Bite 1 (RRP £35) with its roomy but super-stable main compartment and stretchy mesh side panels for easy access on the run and the Ultimate Direction Groove Mono (RRP £25) which has a good-sized main pocket that’s large enough for a soft flask or windproof, plus other small items. The innovative waist belt is easy to adjust on the move and can be swapped between the different-sized packs.
10. A Film
Whether you go for a DVD you can wrap up, a gift card or a hand-written voucher for a movie night in complete with wine and popcorn, a good running film is a great present, and there are lots about at the moment. Our top recommendations are:
Or take your pick from the vast range on offer at the internet’s on-demand adventure film festival SteepEdge steepedge.com