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Hiking & Trail Running

Top 5 Fell Running Kit Essentials

So you’ve seen fell runners skipping nimbly over boulders and running up and down hillsides and thought to yourself “I fancy doing that”.  But what equipment do you need to get into the sport? 

A runner in the Commondale Crossing fell race.
Photo: Mick Garrat via Wikimedia Commons

One of the great things about fell running is its simplicity.  In good weather on a short run you only need shorts, T shirt and a pair of off road shoes.

Footwear

More running = more shoes.
Notice the different tread patterns.

This is the most essential part of your running kit.  Fell shoes look similar to normal trainers except they have a much more pronounced grip or tread pattern on the sole.  The patterns range from very chunky studs for wet and muddy terrain to a less aggressive tread for drier trails.
Your choice of shoe will depend on the type of ground you plan to run on and also the time of year.  Unfortunately there isn’t a “one shoe fits all” solution and regular fell runners will have a number of pairs for different conditions.  However something like the Inov-8 Roclite is a good all-rounder.

Popular manufacturers are Inov-8, New Balance and Salomon and you can expect to pay around £90 for a decent pair.  The harsh running conditions mean that they won’t last forever so expect to replace them at least once a year.

Clothing

You don’t need to wear anything fancy, a pair of shorts or leggings and a T shirt or long sleeved top will suffice.  As with any outdoor activity it’s best to use a “wicking” material to move sweat away from the body so man-made is better than cotton.  It needn’t be expensive, Decathlon do a range of cheap running clothing.

Wind / Waterproofs

The Montane Minimus Smock, comes with a map pocket. Smiles are extra.

Unfortunately the British weather dictates that shorts and T shirt isn’t always enough!  On dry breezy days a lightweight windproof jacket is an invaluable piece of kit. Jackets such as the Montane Featherlite and OMM Sonic are good examples of extremely lightweight tops that take up very little space.  These cost around £50.

If it’s raining heavily then a set of waterproofs is needed.  A normal walking waterproof will probably be too heavy and bulky and thus uncomfortable to run in so a specialist running waterproof is best.  Again light weight and compactible is what you’re looking for and choosing one with a pocket for map, compass, snack etc. is a good idea. The Inov-8 Raceshell, OMM Kamleika and the incredibly light Montane Minimus are all excellent.  Tops and bottoms cost just over £100 each. (check out review of the Montane Minimus Mountain Jacket)

If you are planning to take part in a fell race it is often a requirement to carry wind or waterproof body cover.

Bumbag or Rucksack

The weather changes so you might need to take your waterproof off or put another layer on.  You also might want to take car keys, a drink, food, map and compass if planning a longer run and so need to carry these.  The majority of fell runners favour bum bags.  These range in size and simplicity from tiny 1 zippered bags to 4 litre bags with hip pockets and containing a drinks bladder.  The choice depends on the kit you need to carry.  For winter runs or longer runs where more kit needs to be carried it might be better to use a small, lightweight running rucksack.  This will probably feel more comfortable and stable than having a bulky bum bag bouncing up and down.
Pete Bland Sport produce a simple, no frills bum bag whilst Inov-8 have a wide range of bum bags and running rucksacks with prices ranging from £10 to £50.

Simplicity. Running high up on the moors with just a tiny bum bag and little kit.

Map & Compass

If you’re familiar with your local area you might not need to navigate but if you’re exploring somewhere new or heading off with the chance of bad weather then it’s wise to take a map and compass.  You don’t need the whole map, just photocopy the area you are going to and seal it in a clear plastic bag to keep it dry.

A simple Silva compass costs around £10 and it’s similar in price for a map. It is also possible to print off a chosen section of map from the Ordnance Survey website.

So, with a little bit of kit you can go a long way – get out and enjoy the fells!

Useful Links:

Fell Runners Association: For info on races, runners’ forum discussing equipment etc.

Fell Running Guide: Guided running and advice on all aspects of fell running.  

Pete Bland Sport: The specialist fell running equipment shop

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