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Hiking & Trail Running

Trail Running Gear | Essential Kit You Need to Hit the Trails

What kit to you need to start trail running? The basics of trail running shoes, backpacks, and which bits of safety gear are essential.

One of the benefits of trail running as a sport is the fact that is really does not require a lot of kit. However, there are a few essential items that will make your time on the trails a lot more comfortable and therefore a lot more enjoyable.

In general, you will tend to be out for a longer period of time and running at a slower pace than you would if you were out running on the roads so it is always worth taking this into account when you set off trail running. 10km on the trail could take you double what it would on the streets of your local neighbourhood due to technical terrain and obstacles that you might have to negotiate.

Always think about the route you are taking, how long you will be out for and what the weather forecast has predicted when drawing up your essential trail running kit list.

Here are a few pointers for selecting the best trail running gear:

1) Trail Running Shoes

Trail running shoes differ from regular running shoes in several key ways. The Merrell Out Peak shoe shown here is a high-end model. Photo: Merrell

A good pair of trail running shoes is the most important piece of kit you can invest in. Trail running shoes look like road running shoes but have much deeper lugs on the soles giving you the essential grip you will need. If you are a little unsure of which shoes to buy, you should check out our guide to the top five trail running shoes on the market.

2) Trail Running Backpack

Carrying water is essential when you’re out on the trails – so choose a trail running backpack that let’s you take plenty. Photo: iStock

On all but super short trail runs you will need to carry a rucksack on your back. (If you’re a beginner trail runner, and you’re in any doubt, it’s worth carrying one every time, just in case). Due to the increased length of your runs, more isolated route choices and the fact that you might opt to do point to point runs requiring a train journey home, it is absolutely vital that you carry a few essential items with you. These essentials include water, food, spare layers and often navigation tools such as a GPS or Ordnance survey map and compass.

A good trail running backpack – like the Salomon Trail 10 shown here – will have a water bladder as well as waist and chest straps to stop it jolting around too much. Photo: Salomon

When choosing a backpack, you want to ensure you opt for something that is light, comfortable and just big enough to fit your essentials. You do not want a bag packed with features as these often result in additional weight, but features such a waist pockets (handy for storing food and other essentials that you might need while you are running) and space for your water bladder will prove very handy. There are a host of trail running backpacks on the market to choose from – Salomon and OMM are definitely two of the best brands.

3) Trail Running Tops

A merino wool trail running top like the Invo-8 tee shown here is ideal fro trail running in the UK. Photo: Invo-8

If you plan on doing a lot of trail running in the UK, then you need to get on board with the art of layering. With weather that can be warm one minute and hail-stoning the next, wearing multiple, light layers that can be easily thrown on or removed, is the best way to ensure you keep your temperature just right throughout your run.

We recommend that you wear a merino baselayer next to skin – merino wool is brilliant for temperature regulation as it is really breathable and unlike cotton, it does not get cold when it is wet, instead it will continue to keep you warm. The time of year and weather conditions that you are running in will determine the amount of layers you need to wear, but even in mid-summer you should ensure you keep a spare baselayer in your rucksack just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.

4) A good waterproof jacket

A good breathable jacket like this running-specific Gore Tex model, is an essential piece of trail running kit. Photo: Gore-Tex

You do not want to opt for the cheapest waterproof jacket on the market – buy cheap, and we guarantee you’ll buy twice. The main things you want to look for when choosing which jacket to go for are weight, breathability, fit and of course it’s ability to keep you dry. Gore-Tex has long been the market leader when it comes to waterproof fabrics, but a few noteworthy competitors are beginning to emerge, the most impressive of which is arguably OutDry technology, which is owned by Columbia Sportswear.

5) GPS or Map and Compass

Whether you go old school with a map and compass or opt for a GPS system, knowing where you are and where you’re going is essential. Photo: iStock

It is really important to plan your route when you are setting off on a trail run – it is easy to get lost out there! Whether you opt for a GPS or an old-fashioned map and compass is up to you. Read up on your chosen route online before you set off – check for elevation gain, terrain and distance so you can judge how long you will be out for and plan your essential kit accordingly.

The Long Distance Walkers Association website (ldwa.org.uk) has some really great routes across the country, while View Ranger (viewranger.com/en-gb) is another great resource for planning trail running routes.

In addition to the main pieces of trail running kit above, it is also a good idea to keep some emergency cash tucked away in your backpack (just in case you get hopelessly lost and end up need to hitch a ride home), some food, water and your phone in a waterproof case.

You may also like:

A Beginner’s Guide to Trail Running | Everything You Need to Know

Why Trail Running Beats Road Running | The Benefits of Getting Out on the Trails

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