Fighting me back for material tests – Updated

Some thoughts over lunchtime … I’m still not running longer than 45 minutes in one go. And only on flat terrain. Every other route or length is still too much for my left knee. But there is some time till April 9th and a lot more till Iceland. And we are sure, that things will work when they have to. The missing running kilometers I am actually compensating with endurance on the bike, running power and hardness with water running and finally core training for the trails and my stability for a several hours run. Beside all negative aspects I feel very good and really fit.

For my first big goal this year (North Pole Marathon) there are several success factors. Beside endurance, will and core strength, the material will be key too. After all I’ve found now two locations where I can run in slightly different temperatures. One at -28°C and one slightly above -20°C.

I’d like to share my experiences and conclusions from talking to experts. As key parameters for my race at the Pole the following points are relevant:

  • Climate is extreme cold (approx. -30°C and very dry) and it can be stormy (strong wind – from all sides)
  • Protection from frost bite is essential – skin protection is key, all the time
  • Light material needed with a good shape to run – no rubbing and slipping of the layers
  • Full marathon distance in rounds of 4.2km with possibility to make a rest to adapt or change clothing – but it’s my intention to run through


northpole marathon_06


After all I have decided to try it with Merino as we are not running at high-pulse. The pulse range will be at or slightly below the threshold. This means, that I will sweat but not really strong. Why Merino? The positive side of Merino is, that it gives you really warm. And it still does even when it’s wet. The negative side is, that it will not transport your sweat away from your skin as high tech material does. This is an important characteristic for the layer 1, which is directly on your skin. But instead of a mix (Merino and synthetic) I had already great experiences with a Merino Woolnet from Aclima which looks like a net to catch fishes. For me the Woolnet is the best  base layer available for extreme conditions:

  • Moisture wicking is excellent
  • insulation is good (air in the wholes directly on warm skin)
  • paired with fantastic ventilation when second (less wet)

Studies are showing that merino wool allows moisture to stay in vapor shape for a longer time. This will make the modern breathable shell jackets (or membranes in shoes) more effective than with synthetic baselayers. i didn’t know that. Got this information from Ultra Runner Knut Korczak in Danmark. If it really works better, I could run with a much better 3rd layer protection than expected (see below in the chapter jacket).

(Update 25.01.2013) Here are some more facts from Knut: The main difference is that wool manages to keep the moisture in vapor state for longer which is important to keep the membrane in the outer layer working as it should. You cannot move moisture in liquid state through a membrane, it needs to be vapor. Second, as merino wool absorbs up to 30% of it weight in moisture it will feel dry for longer. This is only true at a moderate intensity. At high intensity there will be some advantages to synthetics as long as you keep moving at high speed. When your intensity drops the wet synthetics layer will cool off much faster than the wool leaving the athlete exposed to low temps. This obviously also means that merino wool garments will dry slower than synthetics. 


As a second layer – this one is the buffer between first and third layer  – I have chosen a hoodie also from Aclima in two different executions. One is thicker than the other. The good thing with this hoodie is, that you can wear it fully covering your head, with a turtle neck or just without. This will allow me to adapt very fast and simple.

The products I have chosen for the first layer are:

  • Aclima Woolnet 200g (with and without collar) as first layer for top and legs
  • Aclima Hotwool Hoodie (200g and 230g) with multifunctional collar/hoodie as second layer
  • Warm Merino Socks with a second thin pair of socks as first layer

2-l11-l1 4-l1 5-l1


With the outer shell I am not sure yet at all. I will try two different jackets from Haglöfs Intense. The products of the Intense series are slim-fitted and optimized for high-pulse performance (mainly running) in cold areas. The  functionality and quality of these items is really impressing.
There are two key points with the jackets I am going to try. First of all the breathability of a wind-stopper resp. soft-shell is much better than one that is protecting from both, wind and water. Although the industry’s latest products should have an “excellent” breathability it’s still not the same. And I have to test this out to find out what works better. Wearing Merino as layer one should help to push out the vapor through the membranes.

As temperatures are very low there won’t be any rain or water in the air. It will be very dry up there.  The reason to compare them instead of choosing just a simple a wind-stopper is the following: The backside and parts of the sleeves of soft-shells and wind-stoppers are made with fabrics without a membrane for best possible breathability (except the wide cut trekking and hiking ones). This works with our cold temperatures here but can be critical with the climate up at 90°N. And there is a potential risk that we have to run in a snow storm or in strong winds. These will for shure “blow” through the uncovered areas and cool down the body.

And it’s the same with the pants and tights. I will try a highly flexible and slim-fitted pant from Marmot with a full wind and a light water protection (water repealing).



As we all know, a lot of energy and warmth is leaving the body by our hands and heads. But at the same time our head is regulating the oven in our body. I will try different materials to see which one is the best for protection of the face (frost bite) and at the same time not being too warm. As we are running rounds I am planning to take several masks with me to replace them when they are wet or frozen.

Protecting the fingers is again balancing between wet and cold. As recommended by the experts a two layer concept might be the best one. One merino glove directly on the skin (with one oder two more to replace) and a mitten (without insulation) to protect from the wind and snow when I have to touch the ground – for what reason ever ;-).



This is the easiest one to choose. The Salomon Snowcross most probably is the best selection – as there are only a few. Equipped with a membrane, a very tight cut and excellt grip on ice, snow and sold ground this shoe really works. I will buy now a second pair one size bigger to run with two pairs of socks. Depending on the height of snow we are running in I will bring along some gaiters.



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