Well dear reader, it’s time to celebrate! We survived another “hotter than hell” summer! I’m allowed to call it survival because I live in Dallas and made it through 30+ days with temps over 100 degrees. I am really excited about the fall weather we are experiencing in the Lone Star State. For the rest of the week, we can expect the highs to only get to a blustery 90 degrees (sarcasm implied). All joking aside, it is time to start thinking about what you are going to run in this fall/winter. For the next few weeks, I’m going to review some apparel that you should consider using during the colder, darker months of winter. Before I go any further, I have to say that while I live in Dallas, I grew up in Colorado so I understand what it means to be properly cold when I’m outside, and hopefully, I can help you make some good wardrobe choices no matter where you are running.
First off, let’s start with the most important part of your fall winter running wardrobe other than your shoes, a waterproof shell. I remember my first winter as a runner. I absolutely loved to be outside running in the cold temperatures, but I didn’t buy any cold weather gear. I froze my butt off, not because the temperature was cold, but because of the gusting wind hitting a sweaty shirt and shorts. I continued to suffer through the winters gritting my teeth the whole way until last year. Last year is when I opened my eyes and realized that the same companies that make such fantastic running gear for the summer months can and do make excellent clothing for winter running that will not feel as though I’m running in a ski parka.
I did my homework and decided on the very reasonably priced Nightlife Essential Run Vest II by Brooks. I decided on this vest for two main reasons. First, I don’t know of a better material for running in low or no light conditions than the Brooks Nightlife line. They are blindingly bright jackets, hats, and shirts, but they are very reflective and visible. This trait cannot be emphasized enough during this time of the year, you have to be as visible as possible. I look like a bit of a fool when I run during the day because all of my running gear is so bright, but come the evening, when I do most of my running, I can be seen from about a half mile away, no joke. There are some other notable options on the market now here and here, that offer excellent reflectivity, but I decided on the Brooks Nightlife because they were the first to incorporate an almost laughable amount of reflectivity into their gear. Second, my Brooks running shirts and shorts have been my favorites so far, so I had a good idea of the quality that I could expect.
One important point to consider when thinking about a jacket/vest is whether or not you want incorporated sleeves. I decided to go with a vest because I am a bigger guy. It doesn’t take very long for me to heat up once I start running and I want the heat to be able to escape a bit while still giving my core some relief from the rain and wind (I’ll talk about the sleeves I run in next week). I was concerned that if I had a jacket with sleeves that I would not have enough ventilation and I would want to tear my jacket off after the first mile, and thus freeze my butt off for the rest of the run because my shirt would be sweaty from the heat.
The Essential Run Vest II doesn’t have any updates from the model last year, there was nothing they needed to improve upon. It is a fitted vest, but quite stretchy where it needs to be so you have complete freedom of movement. It features two front pockets with an inner pocket large enough to hold your phone. It has a zipper that can easily be manipulated while wearing gloves and there is a zipper garage at the neck so you won’t pinch yourself, or in my case pull the hair from your beard if you have it zipped all the way up. The collar is fleece lined so it is nice and cozy against the skin. It can literally be balled up and stored in your hydration belt or hydration pack shock cord if you decide to just carry it for your run. The most important features to me on this vest though are:
1. 3M Scotchlight reflectivity strips on both the front and the back on top of the Brooks Nightlife fabric for visibility
2. The Essential Run Vest II is windproof. This is of vital importance to me. In Dallas the temperature doesn’t get too low, but the wind in the winter will rip right through you to the bone and I can’t stand to be cold because of the wind. This vest stops the wind completely.
3. The Essential Run Vest II has a durable water repellent coating so I can also run in a cold rain or even a bit of a snowfall and I will stay nice and dry in my vest.
For those of you who want an actual jacket or coat to run in, Brooks also makes a light and a heavy jacket using the same Nightlife material with the same features. For me though, the vest is the way to go because I was more interested in the wind and water resistance than I was in retaining heat.
On the Runner’s High scale of 1-5, I give the Brooks Nightlife Essential Run Vest II a 4.5. I deducted a half point because I would like a better solution to hold my phone in the jacket rather than the pocket on the inside. I would prefer to have a pocket just above my heart on the outside of the vest to give easy access to my phone. Other than that very tiny item, this is an excellent option for fall/winter running.
As I said before, next week I will write about the great windproof sleeves and gloves I’ve been using.
Do you have any experience with the vest I reviewed here? Do you use one that you like better? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
Respect the Run!
Jonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of odyssey100.com where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again. Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100