What kit to take when trail running
When you’re heading out on a trail run, whether it’s on one of your local trails, in the hills and mountains or through a forest, there are a number of essentials you’d be wise to take. All of your trail-running kit must be comfortable and lightweight so as not to inhibit your performance, but it should also be fit for purpose and up to the job. Trail running can expose you to a diverse range of conditions over long distances, so it’s important you’re prepared. But just what do you need for your next off-road run? These are our trail-running essentials.
1. A trail-running backpack
The weight of your running load will depend on the length of your route and the weather, but whatever you’re going to take on your run, you will need a trail-running backpack that can accommodate some hydration, extra layers if the weather is uncertain, some nutrition for longer routes and, of course, your car keys and mobile phone.
While you might be tempted to dig an old backpack out of your closet, we highly recommend that you invest in a trail-running backpack which has been designed specifically for high-exertion activities. They are small, lightweight backpacks that feature excellent ventilation, a figure-hugging fit and often include a convenient water reservoir for hands-free hydration.
2. A trail running waistbelt
If you’re going on a trail run in a location you know well that covers a relatively short distance, you may not need a full trail-running backpack. Instead, a trail-running waistbelt might do. It’s a great way to keep your essentials safe, close at hand and easy to access. A trail-running waistbelt will have plenty of space to stash your phone, money, energy supplements and your keys. A waistbelt can be worn over or under your running top and fastened securely around your hips to reduce any bounce.
You don’t need us to tell you that staying hydrated on long-distance trail runs is essential. Dehydration can impede your performance and lead to muscle fatigue and even cramp. Whether you include a bottle or a hydration bladder in your trail-running kit, an electrolyte mix that will replenish vital salts lost when you sweat will keep you going for longer. For shorter runs, you should carry at least a bottle of water with you. For longer journeys, a hydration bladder that can carry up to three litres of water is a must.
4. High-performance trail-running shorts
Trail-running shorts tend to be a little longer than road-running shorts to provide extra protection against plants and other debris you might encounter along the way. Trail-running shorts are also loose-fitting to prevent discomfort and overheating. However, compression shorts and tights are also popular among many trail runners, as they provide a range of benefits, including improved blood flow, reduced shock and quicker muscle recovery. Whatever type of trail-running shorts you go for, look for a pair that are made from moisture-wicking fabric, which is designed to actively draw sweat away from your skin to the outer surface of the shorts, where it dries more quickly to keep you comfortable during your run.
5. A lightweight jacket or gilet
We strongly advise you to include a lightweight overlayer as part of your trail-running kit. A lightweight jacket or gilet can help to maintain your body temperature and provide vital protection against the wind and the rain. Even in the worst weather conditions, you generate lots of heat when you train, so it’s important you invest in something breathable so you don’t become too hot and clammy. A jacket or gilet should also be easy to roll up so it can be stored away easily in your trail-running backpack, waistbelt or pocket.
6. Trail-running shoes
Trail-running shoes provide extra stability on uneven ground, additional grip and a rugged sole that can handle the extra abuse they’re likely to take. Trail-running shoes include additional features such as:
- Special midsoles that are harder in the midfoot
- Tougher outsoles to keep your foot protected
- Full contact outsoles to provide extra contact with the ground so you can run safely up- and downhill
- Waterproof protection to keep your feet dry
The right trail-running shoe for you depends on where you’ll be running and how fast you want to go. Some runners prefer a trail-running and road-running hybrid, while others look for a specialist shoe that’s tough enough to handle everything from stony paths to the most technical trails.