Best Rain Gear for PNW Runners (from an Actual PNW Runner)

Running Wednesday, January 20, 2021 Written by

Although I’m a Seattle transplant, I’ve endured enough Pacific Northwest winters (25 of them to be exact) to hold my own in the midst of constant sideways drizzle, prickly ice/rain mixes and the kind of unforgiving dampness that can only be corrected by a ridiculously hot shower or several hours in front of the fireplace.

Whether you’re new to the running scene, your favorite treadmill is off limits due to gym closures or you’re open to the idea that running in cold rain can actually be enjoyable, this gear will help you stay warm and dry all winter, which is expected to be even wetter than normal thanks to a projected La Niña weather pattern.

Head-to-Toe Rain Gear Recommendations

We’ve all heard the “layering up” advice when it comes to staying warm. However, piling on the layers during a run – especially cotton ones – will quickly lead to overheating (and over-sweating), which will leave you feeling chilled and ready for a hot drink before your Garmin clicks over to a mile. Instead, choose gear like this:

Head

Seems obvious, but wearing something with a brim will help keep the rain out of your eyes. Look for one with waterproof fabric and moisture-wicking properties like the Brooks Sherpa or this Salomon cap. Freezing rain is another story. When the temperature really drops, I opt for a wool beanie and cinch up my hood. And since we’re down to a mere 8 and a half hours of daylight, I suggest shopping for a headlamp that’s lightweight, durable and has strong light output. A good all-arounder is the Black Diamond Sprint 225.

Neck & Face

This year, multifunctional gaiters are pulling double duty keeping your neck warm and acting as a face covering on busy streets and trails. Stock up on quick-drying, breathable, odor-repelling ones like these from Buff.

Body

Start with lighter, tighter-fitting base layers made with technical fabrics such as merino wool or synthetic poly blends that wick moisture away. Also, choose layers with minimal seams to avoid irritation. My top picks are from Tracksmith, Smartwool and the Lux collection from Seattle-based Oiselle.

Next, add a jacket or shell that’s weather-resistant, wind-resistant and breathable. Bonus points if it’s got reflective detailing too. Ultimate Direction’s Ultra Jacket V2, Salomon Bonatti and Patagonia Houdini check all the boxes for keeping you dry and comfortable. And while most jackets can run $100 and up, not everything has to break the bank. Local RRCA running coach, Adam Krett suggests shopping at discount sites REI Outlet, Backcountry and The Clymb to get gear at up to 70% off. Another good way to save? Check out the clearance sections for last year’s colors and out-of-season styles.

Hands

Lightweight gloves are a lifesaver on colder, windier days. Merino wool and poly blend fabrics are your best bets here as well since they provide insulation, breathability and protection from the elements. These touchscreen gloves from HEAD have been my personal go-tos, but Smartwool Merino 150s will likely end up on my wish list this year.

Feet

Cold, wet feet are awesome (said no one, ever). Technical running socks from Balega, Injini and surprise, surprise, Smartwool are must-haves on soggy PNW days. Not only do they wick away moisture and prevent blisters, they keep your feet warm even when you happen to inadvertently intersect with a puddle. And before heading out the door, take a peek at the bottom of your shoes. If they’re smooth, you’re more apt to slip on slick surfaces. Be rain-ready by making sure your soles have grooves deeper than one millimeter.

Last, but not least, you can’t talk about rain without mentioning chafing. A product like Body Glide (which I almost always forget to put on) acts as an invisible barrier between you and the elements and it’s crucial for not feeling the excruciating burn when stepping into the shower post-run. If you’ve done this, you know what I’m talking about. Use it on your feet to prevent blisters, as well as underarms, sports bra lines and any other part of the body that’s prone to chafing.

All done with your run? Strip off that wet stuff, cool down and warm up. And consider getting a boot dryer like the DryGuy for shoes and gloves. It’s a game-changer for these cold, rainy PNW days.