Make sure you have these items before you head out on the trails.
Sure, you can hit the dirt in your road gear, but the experience is all the better with dialed-in equipment. Beyond the obvious differences in shoes, trail running has some unique gear requirements. Many have to do with being self-sufficient with carrying food and hydration, some have a safely element, and others are all about comfort. We’ve rounded up 10 key things to add to your trail kit. The good news is that much of the gear can do double or triple duty for road running, hiking and other sports. And don’t forget a hat and sunglasses — your favorite road models will serve you well!
Weather conditions can change in a flash and being prepared with a lightweight jacket is essential. The North Face Feather Lite Storm Blocker ($200) incorporates bomber rain shell features in a lightweight piece that works for everyday wear and as an emergency layer to keep in your pack. It’s waterproof, breathable, blocks the wind and even has a hood!
Between carrying a pack, wearing a jacket and brushing up against branches, shirts can take a beating on the trail. Choose a comfortable but durable one with flatlock or seamless construction for a chafe-free fit. Smartwool’s PhD Run Short Sleeve Top ($85), above, has a seamless construction with the performance and durability qualities of wool and the benefit of a lighter knit in high sweat zones.
Running with a pack can be an adjustment, and proper fit is critical. A vest-like fit, stretchy fabric and moveable straps on the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab Hydro 5L ($160) let you customize the fit for comfortable running, and chest strap pockets, zip pockets and stuff pockets carry all you need for a long day in the woods.
For shorter runs and more minimalist runners, a handheld like the Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Plus ($23), holds the hydration you need with a handy pocket for a gel, phone and keys.
Getting gravel, mud and snow in your shoes ruins a run in a hurry. Gaiters help keep crud out of your shoes and on the trail where it belongs. Choose a model that’s best for your conditions. Smaller ones are good at keeping grit out without feet getting hot. The Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiter ($35) attaches easily to most shoes and sheds both dirt and snow.
When it comes to trail running, socks are still a matter of personal preference (yes or no, tall or short, compression or not), but they definitely increase the comfort factor when it comes to preventing blisters and protecting feet when dirt and sand sneaks into shoes. Swiftwick’s SUSTAIN FOUR socks ($16) have compression to help keep feet feeling energized, are made of post-industrial recycled nylon and come in black so it isn’t quite as obvious when they are dirty!
Running with poles depends upon your terrain. For rolling cruisers, they are just extra weight. But if you are headed out for some serious vertical gain and loss, poles can help provide balance, stability and little propulsion boost. Easton’s Compact AL 5 ($110) open up and pack up quickly and easily so they are handy when you need them and gone when you don’t.
8. Neck Gaiter
Ditch the old-school cotton bandana and choose a neck gaiter made of technical fabric instead. It can be used as a headband, face cover, sun protection, sweat sponge, hat, bandage and more. One like the new Expo Reflective Buff ($25), pictured above, increases your road to trail visibility.
9. Medical Kit
Depending how far you plan to venture, packing some bandage strips, wipes, anti-biotic ointment, sunscreen and lip balm is always handy. The Ultralight/Watertight .3 ($9) from Adventure Medical Kits slips easily into your pack and has the basic supplies you need for an outing into the woods.
Trail running is the perfect mix of eating to run and running to eat! In addition to gels and chews, bars, sandwiches, nuts or jerky all make good options. Krave Basil Citrus turkey jerky is delicious wherever your journey takes you. If you are carrying a pack, why not fill it up with tasty treats?