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10 key essentials to a successful winter challenge

For anyone who’s focused on performance, a little rough weather won’t interrupt your training or stop you from chasing a place on the podium. Here’s list of essentials to help you have fun, shave seconds off your time or keep the pace for a few more kilometres on challenge day.

Let’s do this!

1. Base layers and mid-layers

MEC recommends a multi-layer system for your clothing. For your base, choose a synthetic fibre or merino wool. Both the top and bottom pieces should fit snugly against your body to help the material move moisture outward and prevent you from feeling damp and cold.

For your mid-layer, light insulating fabrics like fleece are a good choice because they hold warmth without adding bulk. Warm, humid air can also pass them so sweat doesn’t get trapped. If it’s cold out, MEC Uplink jackets, hoodies and vests offer very light synthetic insulation and are designed to layer over or under your other layers.


2. Outer layer

For your shell or outer layer, a breathable piece that blocks wind, sheds water and allows you to move is an ideal choice. If it’s not too wet out, soft shell layers are a good option.

To wear before or after a competition, a warm insulated piece like The North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket offers protection from cold while you’re not active or generating your own warmth.


3. Don’t forget your feet

Cold feet are no fun and can impact your performance. These compression socks from Dissent Labs will add some welcome warmth. It’s a good idea to bring along a second pair to make sure you have a dry option to wear once you finish the competition. As you know, wetness is the enemy of staying warm.

If you’re prone to having hold digits, you can slip toe warmers into your boots before you put them on, so you start out warm. Battery-heated socks are another option if you’re spending lots of time outside in extreme cold.

 

4. Sunglasses

To combat reflections from snow and ice, sunglasses or goggles protect your eyes from UV and prevent headaches caused by glare.

5. Warm hat

An insulating, wicking toque is a must for outdoor winter sports. If you participate in lots of different activities, look for a hat that will fit under a bike helmet and stay in place when you’re skiing and running.

 

6. Water bottle

Staying hydrated is crucial, and small details can make a difference as you push to the finish line. A wide-mouth bottle is less prone to freezing than a narrow pot-up style of cap. Stashing an insulated bottle in your post-race kit is a nice way to celebrate the finish and keep warm at the same time.

 

7. Keep your energy up

For a quick dose of carbs during a race or at transitions, stash some energy gels and chews in a pocket or in your race pack. Keep your gel packed close to your body to prevent it from hardening in the cold, and note that energy bars are particularly difficult to keep soft when the temps are below zero

8. Electrolytes

Not only do they make your water taste nice, energy tablets and drink mixes replace electrolytes, promote hydration and give you a little boost if you’re lacking energy.

9. Water-resistant duffle

Keep your post-race change of clothes dry and protected from rain and melting snow.

10. Camera

Okay, this may not be considered essential, but given all your efforts to train and prepare, you’re race is worth capturing for posterity. A GoPro gives you a way to relive it all later (or share it on Instagram).

Now, have a great challenge!

Jean-Sébastien Leroux

Urban cyclist, hiker and canoe camping enthusiast, Jean-Sébastien needs to move like he needs to breathe. His next adventure? Mountain biking, both in summer and winter.