You’re about to run a race. You’ve been training hard, but you’ve also been waiting for this day for months. You’ve got your outfit picked out, your playlist ready to go, and your fuel packed in your bag. All that’s left is finishing the final preparations and then getting out there and doing it! But what should you wear on race day? It’s race day! As you prepare to lace up your running shoes and head out for a run, we know that you’re probably feeling like there are just so many things to think about. But don’t worry: we’ve got your back. We’ve got some tips on what to wear when you’re running, as well as a few other things to keep in mind before you hit the pavement.

What to Wear on Race Day

As you’re getting ready for race day, we’ve got one thing on our minds: what you’re going to wear.

You want to look good in your favorite running gear, but you also don’t want to overdo it. You want to be comfortable and cool, but not too hot (or cold).

It’s important that your clothing keeps up with you as your body temperature changes throughout the race—and it can be tricky to know how to do that. So we’ve got some tips for making sure that happens.

It’s race day, and you’re ready to go.

You’ve trained for months, maybe even years. You’ve got the gear that will keep you comfortable and protected during your run. But what about how you look?

Running a marathon is a big deal—and it’s also something that other people are going to see. So if you want to look your best when crossing the finish line, make sure you’re wearing clothing that makes you feel confident, but not overheated or uncomfortable.

Dress in layers so that you feel comfortable at the starting line. Go for running tights or pants if it’s cool, or fleece-lined pants if it’s downright cold. Depending on the temps and weather conditions, you may want to add a lightweight quarter-zip and/or a jacket that can withstand rain and wind.

How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
The last thing you need to worry about the morning of your race is what you’re going to wear. But the clothes and gear you choose can make or break your race experience. The best solution is to take time and effort before the big day to find quality shoes and apparel that can go the distance. It’s essential to do this prep well ahead of toeing the starting line. That way, all you have to worry about come race day is busting that PR.

Follow these guidelines when deciding what to wear on race day.

3 Tips for Selecting the Best Gear for Your Race
Follow these tips to plan your best race day outfit, from running shoes to running shorts, regardless of race length or weather conditions.

Check the forecast. Keep an eye on the weather forecast during the weeks leading up to the race. Keep in mind that weather predictions change, so be sure to check regularly.
Go light. “A rule of thumb is to dress for running like it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is,” says Amie Dworecki, MA, CEO and head coach of Running with Life. You may feel cooler at the outset, but your body will heat up once you start running.
Practice, practice, practice. “Make sure to practice wearing what you plan to run in to avoid any race day surprises,” says Nicole Gainacopulos, CSCS, running coach, and founder of Momentum of Milwaukee. Try to wear your race day outfit in different weather scenarios and note how successful the outfit was in your workout log or activity tracker. “That is a great way to catalog, so you’re not guessing each time the weather changes,” Gainacopulos says. Take your race day shoes for a few practice runs, too.
How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
What to Wear for Cold-Weather Races
There are a lot of factors to consider when dressing to race in the cold. If you skimp on layers, you could spend the bulk of the race just trying to warm up. But if you overdo it, you could get bogged down by extra weight. Find a happy medium with these cold-weather clothing tips.

Layer up. Dress in layers so that you feel comfortable at the starting line. Go for running tights or pants if it’s cool, or fleece-lined pants if it’s downright cold. Depending on the temps and weather conditions, you may want to add a lightweight quarter-zip and/or a jacket that can withstand rain and wind. Peel away clothing as you tick off the miles, Dworecki says.

Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you won’t sweat under your layers. And if you sweat through your clothes, they’ll not only get heavy, but you’ll also lose body heat. To stay warm and dry mile after mile, steer clear of cotton and opt for a moisture-wicking sports bra (if needed) and long-sleeve base layer top. “This will keep you dry and your temperature more regulated,” Gainacopulos says. Look for clothes made of moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or polyester.

Consider the pre-race journey. Getting to the starting line may involve a long walk or bus ride, waiting in a corral, or standing around for an extended period of time. If it’s cold and/or rainy, you may want to add an extra layer such as a large garbage bag or long-sleeved shirt that you can toss to the side just before you start running, Dworecki says. (Note: Many race organizers donate discarded clothes found on the sidelines.) Practice wearing the garbage bag or temporary shirt in your training runs so that you know you can remove it easily on race day, she says.

Note your race distance. How you dress for a marathon is different from how you dress for a 5K. After all, you’re likely to experience more temperature changes throughout 26.2 miles than 3.1 miles, Gainacopulos says. You’ll want to pay close attention to layering and pack gear that will cover a wide range of temps and weather conditions if you’re running a marathon or a half-marathon. If you’re running a 5K or 10K, you can likely get away with fewer layers. Leave your warm gear in your car or entrust it to a friend.

Invest in a great jacket. Running jackets can be pricey, but they’re worth their weight in gold. A solid men’s running jacket or women’s running jacket can help you cut back on layers while offering helpful features — ample pockets for your energy gels and lip balm, for example — that make your race a smoother experience. Gainacopulos suggests finding a jacket that meets the following criteria:

Large enough to fit layers underneath without being bulky
Don’t forget cold-weather accessories. Moisture-wicking gloves or mittens and a beanie or headband are essential for any cold-weather race. Be sure you have a safe place to tuck these items if you start to overheat. “I always start any race or run that is 50 degrees or lower with gloves on, and then usually within a few miles, I stash them away in a zipper pocket,” Gainacopulos says.

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How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
What to Wear for Warm-Weather Races
The benefit of racing in warmer weather is that you don’t need many layers or gear. However, that doesn’t mean your clothing choices are any less critical. Here are some tips for dressing cool when the racecourse heats up.

Prioritize moisture-wicking. Look for running tops, bottoms and undergarments advertised as “moisture-wicking,” such as Nike Dri-FIT clothing. This way, you can be sure your clothes won’t weigh you down once you start to sweat. The fabric will draw the sweat away from your skin to the outer layer, where it will dry fast. Top moisture-wicking fabrics include polyester, nylon, bamboo, merino wool, and polypropylene.

Less is more. If it’s scorching outside, pair a technical tank or tee with running shorts or capris. Shorts with form-fitting tight or brief are a good choice for their added support and chafe protection.

Extras make a big difference. When you’re racing in the heat, add-ons such as sunglasses, a moisture-wicking hat or visor, moisture-wicking socks, and non-chafing underwear can be life-savers. You may also want to consider anti-chafing nipple coverings and/or lubricant. Just make sure you practice wearing these items during your training sessions, so you know they’ll work for you.

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How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
What to Wear for Trail Races
Trail races are a different beast. While your clothing choices share many similarities with road race gear, you’ll have to make a few key tweaks for the trail. Use these suggestions when planning your trail race outfit.

Safeguard your skin. Trails can be chock-full of brush and vines. Wear tights or pair your shorts with taller socks to protect your legs from scratches.

Layer up. Remember that a trail run can take longer than a road run of the same distance, simply due to differences in elevation and terrain. Weather conditions can also be tougher to predict for these same reasons. “Sometimes, the top of a mountain can have dramatically different conditions than the base,” Dworecki says.

Be sure to dress in layers if you’re doing a longer trail race with multiple aid stations set up along your route. “Layers will be key for cooling off on long, difficult climbs and warming back up on summits or downhill descents,” Dworecki says. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer top and sports bra (if needed). Then, add a lightweight quarter-zip or long-sleeve shirt and top with a running jacket that can resist both wind and water.

Bring a pack. Consider bringing a backpack-style hydration pack if you’re running a long trail race with elevation changes. This way, you can store food, extra layers and any gear you need on the trail.

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How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
What Shoes to Wear on Race Day
Many runners prefer to invest in a pair of race-specific running shoes. Racing shoes are lighter for maximum performance and speed, while training shoes are heavier with more cushion to absorb impact.

The right racing shoes for you will partly depend on the race length and terrain. Here are a few categories to consider:

Trail races. Uneven terrain calls for running shoes with plenty of traction and stability. Check out trail running shoes to find a pair that can carry you up and over any mountain.
Long-distance road races. Marathons and half-marathons require you to spend a great deal of time on your feet. Lighter shoes can help with speed, but you’ll probably still want a little cushioning to help with shock absorption.
Shorter road races. Tackling a 5K or 10K? You may be able to get away with minimal support and cushioning.
It’s essential to take your personal preferences into account when shopping for racing shoes. Some runners prefer a snug fit, whereas others like extra room to accommodate foot swelling during longer runs. Take note of what you need from your racing shoes so you can find a pair that really suits you.

Once you’ve settled on a pair of Nike racing shoes, take them for a few test runs to see how they hold up. Don’t like ‘em? Return your running shoes within 60 days for a full refund.

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How to Pick the Right Clothes and Shoes for Race Day
What to Wear Post-Race
Don’t get so wrapped up in your race outfit that you forget to pack anything for after the race. “After your race is done, you’ll want to change out of your sweaty clothing quickly and put on some dry clothing,” Gainacopulos says.

Many races even have drop bags so you can pick up fresh clothes after you cross the finish line, Dworecki says.

Stow these items in your post-race drop bag:

Dry socks and shoes. These can be especially handy if it’s expected to be rainy or muddy. This way, you’re not squishing around in wet socks and shoes all the way home, Dworecki notes. If it’s cold outside, you may also want to bring a dry pair of gloves and a hat or headband.
Small towel. Use this to wipe away sweat, mud, and tears. Or, bring cleansing face and body wipes if you prefer a deeper clean.
Sweatshirt and pants. If you don’t plan on changing near the race site, be sure to pack something you can quickly pull on over your race outfit. Otherwise, bring a full change of clothes.
Toiletries. You may want to refresh your deodorant and sunscreen once you’ve toweled off.
Snacks. You’re bound to find plenty of post-race goodies such as bananas and energy bars at the finish line. But if you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to pack foods you know you can handle.

What to Wear on Rafting Trip

There are many reasons to go rafting. It can be a fun way to get some exercise, or it can be a great way to get away from it all. But what should you wear on a rafting trip?

Here are some tips:

-Wear clothing that will be comfortable and functional in the water, such as swimwear or board shorts.

-Wear clothing that you don’t mind getting wet, like T-shirts and shorts.

-Wear clothing that is not too heavy; cotton shirts or sweatshirts might seem like a good idea, but they will weigh you down while you’re in the water!

Rafting is the best way to enjoy the Colorado River. It’s a great way to see the sights and get some exercise, too. But if you’re going on a rafting trip, you’ll want to make sure that your clothes are comfortable, dry quickly if they get wet, and don’t weigh you down when you’re trying to stay afloat.

Sport sandals that strap on, tennis shoes, and water shoes all work very well. Flip flops are NOT recommended. SWIMSUIT to wear under wetsuit -or- to wear with personal nylon SHORTS OR PANTS. Quick-dry fabrics work best; avoid cotton, as it retains water and will make you cold on the river.

dinosaur whitewater rafting trip
The above group is dressed for success on a Class II, Upper Colorado River, rafting trip.

• RIVER FOOTWEAR: Wear shoes that stay securely on your feet and that you don’t mind getting wet. Sport sandals that strap on, tennis shoes, and water shoes all work very well. Flip flops are NOT recommended.
• SWIMSUIT to wear under wetsuit -or- to wear with personal nylon SHORTS OR PANTS. Quick-dry fabrics work best; avoid cotton, as it retains water and will make you cold on the river. If a wetsuit is necessary, Timberline Tours will provide it. Generally, it is more comfortable to wear a swimsuit underneath a wetsuit, so bring one along to wear underneath your wetsuit or other quick-dry clothing.
• SHIRT made of quick-dry fabric to wear over swimsuit, if desired. Tight-fitting shirts work best underneath wetsuits if they are required for your trip (in which case, the wetsuit will be provided by Timberline Tours). Choose the type of shirt you wear based on your level of comfort with sun exposure. Tank tops are great for tans, but if you sunburn easily, choose a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt instead.
• SUNGLASSES with securable strap (straps sold at our Granite & Eagle locations).
• EXTRA CLOTHING LAYERS such as lightweight fleece or polypropylene (synthetic layer) or quick-dry clothing.

Rafting gear that Timberline Tours provides free of charge:

• Wetsuits (when necessary)
• Splash jackets (when necessary)
• Helmets (when necessary, not required on Class I or II whitewater rafting trips)
• Paddles
• Life jackets (PFD), required and provided for all rafting trips

Whitewater Rafting Colorado on the Eagle River
Wearing helmets, wetsuits, and splash jackets, the above group is outfitted for an early-season Class III trip or an all-season Class IV or V trip.

The water temperature and difficulty of a river section basically dictates what is required and what is not, making some clothing and gear required on some sections of river and not required on other sections. Timberline’s Class I and II (least intense) trips include the Upper Colorado River, the Rafting and Dinosaur Discovery trip, and the Rafting and Wine Tasting Trip. The rapids on these rafting trips are often splashy and mild, so helmets are not required. Generally, wetsuits and splash jackets are not necessary on Class I and Class II trips in the warm summer months, but if wetsuits are necessary, Timberline Tours will provide them. If your guide will be rowing an oar boat, which is common on easier stretches of river, paddles may not be absolutely necessary but can be provided so that you can help paddle.

Timberline’s Class III, IV, and V (more intense and most intense) trips include the Lower Eagle (III), Gore Creek (III), Shoshone (III), Browns Canyon (III), Dowd Chute/Upper Eagle (IV), The Numbers (IV), Pine Creek & The Numbers (IV-V), and Gore Canyon (V). Helmets are always required on Class III – V river sections, and Timberline will provide them. Early in the summer season, wetsuits may be required on Class III sections because of colder temperatures; if so, Timberline Tours will provide them, but for much of the summer season, wetsuits are not necessary (and are way too hot) on Class III rafting trips. However, wetsuits are required all summer long on our Class IV and Class V trips, and Timberline Tours will provide them.

Paddles will be provided for all Class III – V trips, where your paddling effort directly influences the success of your group. Timberline also provides splash jackets as necessary, and guides will advise if neoprene river booties will be necessary for your trip; if so, they will be provided, and guides will help you find the best fit available.

Finally, for your safety, life jackets (also called personal floatation devices, or PFDs) are required on all stretches of the river, no matter how easy your trip may seem. Timberline Tours will provide you with a PFD, and guides will teach you how to secure it properly for a safe and fantastic day out on the river.


Timberline Tours is the Vail-area’s premier whitewater rafting and backcountry jeep tours outfitter, also offering stand up paddle board (SUP) and duckie river trips on Colorado’s Eagle, Colorado, and Arkansas Rivers. All of our guided trips are open to Vail, Colorado visitors, locals, families, and corporate groups.

To book your Vail, Colorado adventure, call Timberline Tours at (970) 476-1414, or email us at

What to Wear Whitewater Rafting
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A group of whitewater rafters splashes downriver in a rubber boat.
The sun is shining, the snow has (mostly) melted and you’re headed out on the river for the day. But what to wear and pack? It’s important to prioritize comfort and safety when you choose what to wear whitewater rafting. Whether it’s a commercial trip or an easy float down the river with friends, opt for layers that keep you warm, dry and protected from the sun. You’ll also want sturdy water shoes that offer support for navigating rocky riverbeds, and to have good head protection and a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD).

Whitewater Rafting Clothing Basics
Keep these tips in mind for both commercial and personal rafting trips.

Dress for the water: When it comes to watersports, experts recommend dressing for the water temperature rather than the air temperature. Being immersed in cold water can lead to serious conditions including lung or heart shock, drowning or hypothermia. If water temps are below 70° Fahrenheit, plan to wear a wetsuit or dry suit and booties. (Don’t sweat about feeling too warm because river water is close at hand to cool you off.) Commercial trips often provide wetsuits and booties: Call ahead and ask the outfitter if you aren’t sure.

Prioritize layers: It never hurts to have something to help you stay warm when you’re wet, even on hot summer days, so bring an extra mid or base layer. A warm hat is a good idea, too.

Avoid cotton: Opt for clothing made from quick-drying synthetic or wool fabric. Look for materials like polyester, nylon or merino wool, which can help you maintain a comfortable core body temperature and stay warm even when you’re wet.

Don’t forget sun protection: You’re at the mercy of the sun on the water, which can feel counterintuitive if you’re chilly. Protect your skin with a sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD): Have your life jacket on anytime you’re on the water. Even a little bit of slow-moving water can be dangerous, and the most treacherous places in a river are often the shallows. Put your PFD on and keep it on.

Opt for zippered pockets: Secure essential accessories like your keys, a whistle or credit card in a zippered pocket before pushing off. Trust us, it’s nearly impossible to find your stuff at the bottom of the river. Make sure you also place any important electronic items, like a phone or car fob, inside a waterproof case.

What to Wear for a Commercial Rafting Trip
For commercial trips where essential items like a life jacket, helmet and wetsuit are likely to be included, focus on layers.

Layers: On the bottom, wear a bathing suit, board shorts or other quick-drying layer that won’t ride up or pinch under a wetsuit. Quick-drying water shorts are a great option for days when the water is warm enough that wetsuits aren’t necessary—that way, you’re not just wearing your bathing suit against the rubber of the raft. Lightweight, quick-drying pants or synthetic leggings are a good choice, too.
Protect your upper body from the sun, even when there’s cloud-cover. Consider a rashguard, which is stretchy and quick-drying, and may offer UPF sun protection. A water shirt has a lot of the same features without being as formfitting. That said, your favorite synthetic or wool base layer will work just fine, too.
On cold days, prioritize warm and wicking layers all the way down. Avoid cotton (not even underwear!).
Footwear: The best shoes for rafting are ones that stay on your feet and can get wet. Choose water shoes, water sandals with a heel strap or an old pair of sneakers you don’t mind getting soaked. If it’s chilly, you can wear wool socks under your shoes or sandals.
Headwear: Bring a paddling hat or a baseball cap. Make sure your ball cap can be cinched tight to keep it from getting washed overboard if a big wave crashes over the raft. Though you may be given a helmet, a cap visor offers added sun protection.
Eyewear: Polarized sunglasses are a smart pick for a long day on the water since they help reduce reflection and glare coming off the river. Don’t forget a retention strap—one that floats and secures tightly to your shades is best.
A change of clothes: You’re likely going to be soggy after you get off the river, so remember to bring a stash of dry clothes to change into. It’s fine to wear cotton once you’re warm and dry.
Additional Items to Bring on Your Own Paddling Trip
You’ll be responsible for more of your own gear when planning a trip with family or friends. In addition to the items listed for commercial rafting (see above), bring safety equipment and layers to match the weather conditions.

Remember: Safety is your responsibility. No internet article or video can replace proper instruction and experience—this article is intended solely as supplemental information. Be sure you’re practiced in proper techniques and safety requirements before you engage in any outdoor activity.

PFD: Your personal flotation device is your most crucial piece of gear. Make sure yours is Coast Guard-approved, fits snugly and stays on. Read How to Choose PFDs for how to get a perfect fit.
Helmet: A paddling helmet is essential for all whitewater adventures.
Warm weather layers: For outings in water that’s 70° F or warmer, follow the commercial paddling advice: Wear a bathing suit or quick dry bottoms and a top layer that protects you from the sun. Also pack along an insulating mid layer and waterproof shell to help keep the water off—that way you’re prepared if the weather changes.
Cold weather layers: For outings in water that’s cooler than 70° F, or when you inclement or variable weather is in the forecast, consider these additional items to help you stay warm and dry:
Paddle jacket: A paddle jacket can help keep you warm on top. A waterproof, breathable rain jacket will work, too, but paddling-specific tops have gaskets to more effectively keep water out.
Paddle gloves: Paddle gloves can help keep your extremities warm in cold water and cold, rainy conditions. And they offer the added benefit of helping to prevent blisters.
Splash pants: The same is true for pants. You can wear any kind of rain pants, but splash pants made for being on the water are sealed at the ankles to help keep you dry. They’re a good choice for layering over shorts or leggings when the weather turns stormy.
Wetsuit or dry suit: If you plan on adventuring in water that’s colder than 70° F, you’ll want a wetsuit or dry suit. A wetsuit traps a thin layer of water inside the suit. Your body then warms up that water, so you stay insulated but a bit soggy. Wetsuit booties do the same for your feet. Dry suits are waterproof suits sealed with gaskets at the neck, wrists and ankles. They’re made to keep water out; you typically wear insulating layers underneath. Dry suits generally cost more than wetsuits.
Additional accessories
Make sure your trip has at least one first aid kit. To communicate in an emergency, especially in loud rapids, it’s helpful to have a whistle (some PFDs have them built-in). A dry bag lets you pack extra layers, hats (both winter and sun hat) and snacks. Also consider bringing along a waterproof case for your phone or camera. Finally, sunblock is a must on the river, where reflection off the water can scorch you in surprising places.

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