Such a highly-aerobic sport requires an acute attention to gear choices. Intimate knowledge of your gear, how it functions, what it is meant for, and what else is out there will improve your chances of a good fun run. My primary concern is the temperature at the time of the run so I have taken the liberty of breaking down my gear choices by temperature. A running backpack can be invaluable to store extra gear as you inevitably heat up and strip down; it also doubles as an extra layer. Overall I try to take the approach of starting off cold rather than warm since I will certainly warm us as I get moving.
Gear for 40-50 F
Maybe not truly cold, but some adjustments need to be made. I’m usually comfortable in a long sleeve base layer shirt and shorts. Depending on rain or wind maybe some light gloves and an unlined headband but they will probably come off pretty quick and tucked into my waistband or a pocket if I have one. On a sunny day if the temperature is rising I’ll probably wear a short sleeve.
Gear for 33-40 F
I’m definitely in an Alpine Fit long sleeve. I’ll sometimes throw a short sleeve over that for extra warmth, especially if I don’t have a backpack. Shorts trending towards lightweight running pants. Gloves and headband are again optional but usually brought and packed half way into the run. Depending on conditions, footwear can be tricky. Shoes with large lugs can be handy for soft snow or slick mud.
Gear for 25-32 F
This can be a finicky temperature range. Depending on your comfort level, a long sleeve plus a vest or additional t-shirt, or long sleeve plus windbreaker. I’ll probably end up sweating either way. Lightweight running pants are important here, I’ve found the best are cross-country ski pants or bushwhacking leggings. Alpine Fit headband or merino wool hat, light gloves, no neck gaiter. At this temperature I’ll wear my studded shoes. I have found that screw-in studs are not as durable or comfortable as Ice Bugs. Plus the ice-bugs come with a sealed-in toe box and less mesh on the forefoot so they are definitely warmer. Alternatively, Microspikes can be worn with any running shoe and provide great traction.
Gear for 15-25 F
We can start layering up here. Hat, gloves, wool socks. Neck gaiter for some but only if it’s windy. Alpine fit long sleeve base layer top with soft shell. Running pants are still lightweight like bushwhacking leggings. Icebug shoes.
Gear for 0-15 F
Layers only get thicker from here. Gloves are medium thickness, often light mitts. Wool hat plus Alpine Fit neck gaiter. I have a heavier weight running/xc skiing pant that I wear in these conditions. On top I’m probably still just in a base layer plus a softshell, making sure to zip up all vents and cinch in the waistband.
Gear for Less than 0 F
These temperatures are only for the intrepid runner, willing to brave the cold. I’ve been scared back inside on a couple of -20F days when I was under-dressed. Usually I’m the only one on the trails in these conditions but it’s nice to see some others once in a while. On top I wear an Alpine Fit base layer, softshell and a thin down puffy over that. On bottom, Alpine Fit base layer and Schoeller pants. Larger shoes that will accommodate thick socks and toe warmers. Warm hat, warm gloves, warm neck gaiter.