Every winter solstice, Chad Wamack and a dozen or so of his running buddies meet at the Art Loeb Trail near Brevard, North Carolina. About an hour before sunrise, they begin their annual fun run, crossing 30.1 miles of high-elevation backcountry through Pisgah National Forest.
With two decades of running experience, Wamack, 50, says he's completed about 75 ultra marathons, including 11 100-milers. In 2008, he co-founded Soddy-Daisy's Upchuck 50k, a grueling trail race along the Cumberland Plateau, which he still directs alongside runner Matt Sims.
But what Wamack loves most about that solstice run - which his crew refers to as ALTAR, short for Art Loeb Trail Adventure Run - is its informality. There is no strict start time or checkpoints along the way.
"Just camaraderie," he says. "Everybody out there doing this event just enjoys the physical challenge."
And the terrain isn't the only challenge. That time of year, the weather can be, too.
"It can be clear and sunny or it can be knee-deep snow," he says. "I'm an Eagle Scout, and one of the best things I learned is to be prepared. That applies to all facets of your life."
To help you prepare for your cold-weather runs, here, Wamack shows us what he wears when going the distance.
To keep his head warm, Wamack prefers a two-layer system: a Merino wool beanie with a billed hat over it. If the beanie becomes too hot, he can lose it and let the hat provide lighter protection from the cold.
Windproof gloves are a big deal, says Wamack.
Wamack wears a Merino wool long-sleeve, a fabric famous for its ability to wick moisture away from the body. "You're going to sweat, and if you stop running, you will get really cold really quick. Wet and cold - that's dangerous," he says. "Yes, Merino wool is expensive, but it lasts a long time, and it really works."
Over the long-sleeve, Wamack wears a midweight short-sleeve made from Capeline, which is a breathable polyester fabric exclusive to Patagonia.
Wamack's final upper body layer is a Patagonia Storm Racer jacket. "It goes on over my pack, so if I get hot, I can take it off without having to stop and remove [my pack]," he says.
No matter the season, Wamack always sports Patagonia's Capeline lightweight boxer briefs when he runs, helping wick moisture away from his core. If temperatures are above freezing, he layers with a pair of just-above-the-knee shorts, made of lightweight polyester. Below freezing, he prefers running tights.
Whether it's 20 or 100 degrees F, "Swiftwick socks are on my feet," says Wamack, touting the local brand's moisture-wicking capabilities. "Especially with trail running, you're going to step in creeks. Swiftwick socks are amazing at getting the moisture out."