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Iditarod Essentials

Peter Ripmaster almost died in Alaska. That’s not hyperbole.

Ripmaster was running the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 1,000-mile ultra through the Alaska Range in the dead of winter, when a section of ice collapsed beneath his feet and he was submerged in open water. When he tried to crawl out of the water, the ice broke again. And again. When he finally climbed to solid ground, he was soaking wet, freezing, and alone in the middle of Alaska’s arctic wilderness, miles from the nearest check point.

“I knew I had to keep moving to stay alive, so I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could,” says Ripmaster, an ultra runner who lives in Asheville, N.C. He made it to the next checkpoint—and then continued to race for another 300 miles after the accident.

Ripmaster has competed in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which can be tackled by foot, ski or fatbike, for five years in a row. He finished dead last on his first attempt, but moved up to third place of the 350-mile race his second year. For the past three years, he’s focused on completing the full 1,000-mile version of the race, which runs from Knik to Nome. As a runner, he tows all of his gear behind him on a sled as he moves across ice, snow and mountains. He’ll head back to Alaska this February determined to finish the 1,000-mile race, which if all goes well, will take him 24 days to complete. And he’ll do the majority of his training for this arctic race right here in the Southern Appalachians.

“I don’t need to train in frigid temperatures; I just need to be in shape and ready to move,” Ripmaster says. “Movement is your friend in that environment.”

Here are Ripmaster’s five picks for running in winter conditions, whether you’re in Alaska or the Appalachians.

Fenix HL60R Headlamps $75

I’ve found these headlamps to be really reliable. Fenix Headlamps might be a touch heavier than some other brands, but they last and can survive a fall. These Headlamps are built to light the way for those pushing through the night. Oh, and bring a backup!

Buff, $32

A lightweight buff can be a very handy piece of gear. If the temperature drops, you can use it to cover your face. You can also use it as a neck warmer or a headband. This is a very versatile piece that weighs in at a whopping 1.3 ounces. What use will you find for your buff?

Wiggy’s Lamalite Insulated Socks, $35

These bad boys put any traditional sock to shame. All the other sock companies (and I’ve tried them all) use materials that won’t dry fast enough after they get wet, which leads to some very cold feet. I will never trust “normal” socks ever again. I wore the same pair of Wiggy’s for 350 miles in Alaska and didn’t have a single foot issue.

Leki Makalu Trekking Poles, $85

Although these days it’s sexy to have super light, three section foldable trekking poles, those tend to break very easily. I used the Leki Makalu trekking poles and they were beyond bomber. I got tired of having foldable poles break on me (for no good reason). Once again, I’ll take a touch more weight knowing they will work, period.

Icespikes, $20

These tough screws offer great traction for icy trails. You just screw them into the bottom of your running shoes or hiking shoes. I’ve found they perform much better than a lot of other more popular brands of ice traction devices. Maybe best of all, you can take these out when you’re done and your shoes can turn back into road shoes.

Sierra Designs Whitney Hoodie, $169

The Whitney Hoodie offers style and warmth with 800 Fill DriDown insulation and 40D Shadow Rip polyester shell, along with an insulated yoke and zippered chest pocket. Like the Tuolumne, the Whitney Hoodie features two zippered hand pockets and an inside kangaroo pocket, and the hoodie stows into the zippered pocket.

Crescent Moon Eva Foam Snowshoes, $149

The Evas are like running shoes for the snow. Forget the clunkiness of traditional snowshoes; the Evas are super lightweight, cushioned, and comfortable, making snowshoeing easy and efficient. They’re durable, too. The bottom layer is firm and rugged, with lugs like a hiking boot, providing excellent grip even on ice.

Perfetto Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey, $199

The best winter cycling jersey just got better. Its new water-repellent finish and laser-cut drain holes in the pockets will keep you dry without affecting breathability, and Perfetto improved the fit and added reflective logos to keeps you visible on the road.

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