There's no reason that a change in seasons should stop you from doing outdoor events, even GORUCK or other events where you are outdoors for a long time and probably soaking wet for some of that time. With the right gear, you can stay comfortable in the cold, wind, snow and sleet and even after you've been dunked in the nearest body of water.
Through experimentation and suffering through a cold/wet wardrobe fail at a GORUCK Light in January 2015, I was able to come up with a gear combination that kept me warm during the rest of my winter events. The items that are listed below were purchased in 2015 and are those that I still wore on November 10th, 2017 during the Veteran's Day GORUCK Tough Challenge in Washington, DC, where the wind brought with it a "feels like" temperature of 15 degrees. This stuff will keep you warm and is a durable and long-lasting investment. Besides this most recent event, I've worn the same gear for at least the following events:
I'm sure there are lots of other great gear options that people have found but I am going to share what works for me. Many of the items on this list have been purchased and tried by other GRTs and I get comments at almost every event I do that someone bought something from the list below and it worked great for them.
There are two main themes to my winter gear selection: Wool and Columbia Omni-Heat. I use these in combination to achieve my main goal of staying warm. Staying dry is not always an option during GORUCK events but this combination can help you to stay warm even after you've been for a cadre-led dip in the water.
Wool: I love this stuff! It's not horribly hot when you are rucking fast or getting punished with burpees and it keeps you warm even when it's wet. Even if you don't go in the water during your cold weather event, you will still likely sweat during PT and being wet with sweat can make you just as cold if you don't have the proper gear.
When it's really cold, I make sure that I have a wool baselayer for my upper body, legs and feet. I have tried Under Armor Cold Gear and found that it takes a very long time to dry and doesn't keep me warm at all when wet. It's pretty much the most miserable thing you could wear when you are wet and it's cold. It gets worse when you put a wind resistant outer layer on and it never dries and just keeps the cold against you. If you want to stay warm when you are wet, go with wool. Specific wool items that I wear are below with the equivalent men's item at the end of each bullet.
Columbia Omni-Heat: This is the best invention in the world! Basically, Omni-Heat products have these tiny silver dots on the inside of them that reflect the body heat that you generate back onto you to keep you warm, just like a hypothermia sheet. It's awesome! In addition, the jackets are really thin because they aren't relying on bulk to keep you warm. That means you can probably fit your jacket in your ruck when not in use. You may find that during vigorous activity, you will warm up more than you want when wearing Omni-Heat products. While the sun is still up or in more mild weather, you may want to quickly remove your jacket and tie it around your waist before you start doing PT or at least zip it down a bit. The specific items that I own and use are below but if you find a different item with Omni-Heat that you like better, I'm confident that it will do the job for you.
Putting It All Together
I've talked about my two main staples of wool and Omni-Heat. I'm going to break down how I put everything together for an event, including a couple of items not listed above:
How to Save Money on All This Expensive Stuff
It does cost some money to really outfit yourself for winter but I have found it worth it. Not only does it allow me keep doing events in the winter, my gear also serves me on cold days, when shoveling snow, sledding with my son, on ski trips and when training. It has opened up a whole new world of being able to go for a ruck on a cold, snowy day, enjoying the beauty of winter while keeping warm. If you do some shopping around you will find websites, such as Sierra Trading Post, where you can get some of these items at a significant discount. Black Friday and holiday sales as well as end-of-season sales in February and March are also great times to pick up winter gear for less. The gear that I have listed above is in it's fourth season of getting beat to hell during GORUCK events. It has all held up beautifully. Good gear is worth it! Proper laundering will help your gear last longer and protect your investment so don't forget to read labels.
No matter what you decide to wear to your cold weather events, I can't recommend field testing your gear beforehand enough. Put on your gear, get outside, get wet and make sure it works for you in the conditions that you expect you will be in. Having the right gear and being confident in your gear ahead of the event will make you more confident about successfully completing it and is one of the few things you can control when it comes to GORUCK events.
About the Author
I have completed 38 GORUCK events including 3-GORUCK HCL's, and have done a variety of other endurance events including Ironman Maryland 140.6 two times. I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and health coach, scientist, minimalist, nature lover and single mom but on a more basic level, I'm just a woman in her 40's that likes to push her limits and write stuff sometimes. This blog is a way of sharing some of my experiences and insights.