Everything from your shoes to your pack should cater to trail terrain. Before you head out on your next run, review this checklist of gear that you should have for trail training.
What Is Trail Running?
As the name suggests, trail running is the act of running trails as opposed to pavement or concrete. Trail terrain can be anything from level dirt to rocky mountain peaks.
Trail running is a popular summer activity, but regardless of the season, the sport is all about running outdoors in nature.
Trail runners who enjoy going long distances are called ultrarunners. These runners usually run more than a marathon distance (26.2 miles or more) in rugged terrain.
Trail Runners Checklist
No matter how far you plan to run, you’ll need the right gear to run comfortably and safely on the trails. Before you go, make sure you have the following:
Trail Pack or Vest
When you hit the trails, you need a way to carry water, snacks, car keys, and your phone. You can opt for a vest that has multiple pockets or a lightweight backpack.
Packs hold varying sizes of soft water bottles. The capacity of your vest is determined by how long you need to be self-sufficient. If you’re running alone for one to two hours, opt for a vest with a 2- to 5-liter capacity. For three-hour runs, go to a 6- to 10-liter capacity.
The packs have easy-to-access stash pockets too, so you can get snacks or a light jacket without taking off the pack.
Running vests, for example, are light, comfortable, and have enough space to carry all of your essentials.
A T-shirt and shorts aren’t ideal for trail running. You need to dress for the elements, which means you should wear a shirt and shorts made of moisture-wicking merino or synthetics. This kind of material wicks sweat and moisture, which helps you maintain a steady body temperature. It’s ideal in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 95 degrees.
As mentioned, you’ll carry water in soft containers that fit in your pack. Most packs hold the water bottle right at your shoulders so you can take a drink without getting the bottle out. Some packs have water bladders as opposed to bottles.
Put a few protein bars or gels in your pockets to make sure you can fuel up as needed. Keep snacks simple and in small portions for easy access.
Waterproof Phone Bag
Your pack will likely have a spot specifically for your phone, but it’s a good idea to put it in a waterproof bag to help protect it from the elements.
Add an ultralight jacket that’s water- and wind-resistant to your pack, like the M PACKABLE JACKET. You might opt for different jackets depending on the weather, time of day, and terrain, but it’s always a good item to have.
Pack a water-wicking hat to keep the light from your eyes with added reflective touches for safety. A visor or a bandana are options too.
It’s a good idea to have a laminated map, compass, or a GPS with you at all times — or all three. Even if you’re on a well-marked trail, the unexpected can happen. A rainstorm could make the trail unrecognizable, for example, and you’ll need help navigating the area.
Part of the allure of trail running is being alone in nature, but that comes with potential dangers. In case you get hurt or lose the trail, every runner should pack a small emergency kit. The kit should include adhesive bandages (ideal for blisters), medical tape (for injuries or a blown-out shoe), headlamp, safety blanket, whistle, cash, and toilet paper.
Best Trail Running Shoes
One of the most important items on your checklist should be a good pair of trail running shoes. Wearing your usual running shoes on a trail isn’t suggested. Trail running shoes are meant to handle rougher terrain and provide more support and stability that’s needed to run on uneven ground.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Best for Light Trail Running
The GEL-VENTURE™ 8 shoe offers cushioned support for light trail runs or hikes through the woods. It helps absorb uneven impacts from the ground and is available for both men and women.
The TRAIL SCOUT™ 2 running shoe is also an option for men and women who are looking for trail shoes for short trail runs.
- Best for Avid Trail Running
Designed by mountain ultramarathoner Xavier Thevenard, the GEL-FUJITRABUCO™ shoe is lightweight, flexible, manages drainage, and provides stability in unstable terrain. It’s ideal for both men and women who are avid trail runners.
The GEL-SONOMA™ 5 G-TX trail running shoe is another option for men and women who need a strong running shoe that’s optimal in uncertain terrain and weather conditions.
Trail shoes, along with the rest of the gear listed, are important for comfortable trail running. Whether you’re running on a local trail or training for an iconic race like the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc in France, every trail runner needs the right gear to succeed.