10 Things You Need to Trail Run

A list of “must have” and “nice to have” items for every Trail Runner…

Running is one of the world’s simplest sports that has been around for centuries. Lace up your favorite pair of sneakers and you’re all set. While that may be true (to an extent), once you start to venture off sidewalks and roads, there are some essentials that will make your experience more enjoyable and safer. In the list below, we have placed an asterisk beside the “must have” items. All other items are considered luxuries that might make good gifts to yourself when you need a “pick me up”.

1. Trail-Oriented Shoes*

Ask any coach or expert and they will tell you the same thing: wear trail running shoes on trails and road running shoes on roads. The reason they recommend this is because trails and roads offer two different running surfaces. But not all trail running shoes are the same! For instances where you are running on soft, dry and flat singletracks your best option will be a burly mountain running shoe with aggressive tread. If you are just starting out on your off-road journey, consider buying a middle of the road Trail Running shoe that can be used in most situations. As you begin to take on more difficult trails, you can acquire footwear that fits those specific situations.

2. Hydration System (and fuel for those longer runs)*

Many people who transition from Road Running to Trail Running are surprised by how much slower it is. That’s because of changes in elevation and obstacles that are not present in most road running courses. If your 20 mile run takes two or even three times longer, you should be sure you are well hydrated. This means carrying a handheld water bottle or hydration pack to make sure the hours you are out on the trails are enjoyable and safe. If you’re going to be out there for longer than a few hours, make sure to carry some electrolytes or small snacks to eat en route. Cliff bars are always a good choice!

3. ID/Phone*

Taking on Trail Running comes with a new set of risks. Running alone through a forest has many unpredictable situations you could encounter (although the chances are very low). Make sure you always tell your husband, boyfriend, family or friends where you are going and when you expect to be finished your run. You should also bring along an ID such as a Driver’s License. If you are afraid of losing your Driver’s License in the forest, you can also buy safety bracelets that hold your personal information. Like most things, being cautious is always the best step forward.

4. Sunscreen, Hat and Sunglasses*

This might look like a list you put together for your trip to the beach, but sun safety is just as important while Trail Running. Some trails have very poor tree coverage, leaving you exposed to the sun’s rays. Sun stroke and serious burns are not uncommon is you are not prepared. So lather on the sunscreen and throw on your favorite sunglasses and trucker hat.

5. Orange Mud Towel or Car Seat Cover*

This one is borderline “nice to have”. Living in the South can get extremely muggy during the peak summer months. If you’re even slightly concerned about the hygiene of your car seats, an Orange Mud Towel or seat cover is a must. The nice thing about the Orange Mud Towel is that you can use it to change out of your sweaty running clothes into something dry and clean with added privacy. No need to worry about someone seeing your unmentionables! After changing, you can use it to cover your precious cloth car seats so that your blood, sweat and tears don’t ruin your car interior. An alternative to this is buying a seat cover that repels moisture.

6. All Weather Jacket

A “nice to have” item for those alpine and backcountry runs that has you weaving through exposed ridgelines. Having another layer is useful when conditions change in the mountains. Being prepared can mean the difference between hypothermia and a safe adventure through the trails. A jacket can also keep you dry in case of an unexpected downpour. Just be weary that everything you bring adds to your overall weight and may become more of a burden than an aid.

7. Headlamp or Lighting System

Some of us are night owls, preferring to schedule our runs closer to nightfall. It may also be the only time we have to get away from obligations like family and work. In this scenario, pack a small and light headlamp just in case you find yourself on a pitch black trail. An extra couple ounces weighing you down is better than struggling your way out of the forest. If you plan on starting your run at night, equip yourself with enough batteries to last your whole run. It can also be nice to add a secondary handheld light source so you have another depth dimension.

8. Lubricants

For non-runners, this item might seem out of place among the sea of other products. The fact is, when you are running on a trail for hours, your skin takes a beating. Products like Bodyglide will help combat chaffing from the hours and hours of friction between your clothes and skin. Add a good helping to your toes and between your legs for longer runs. There’s nothing worse than chaffing on the limbs that are keeping you moving.

9. Space Blanket

Sometimes your inner compass breaks and you get lost. Or maybe you sprain your ankle and have to rest before someone can come to the rescue. A space blanket is compact, usually fitting in your pocket, and can mean the difference between waiting for help in comfort or suffering from hypothermia. It really can be a lifesaver if you’re headed off the main drag, into the mountain.

10. Trail Running Socks

If shoes are the most important asset to a Trail Runner, socks are a close second. Socks can either make or break the comfort of your run. During an average run, you take thousands of steps. The friction between your socks and your feet can lead to blisters and chaffing. Finding a high quality pair of running socks is a must. You want to look for a sock that wicks moisture away and prevent blisters. A lot of Trail Running socks are made from materials like Mohair, to ensure they live up to the harsh conditions of running through mud, dirt and water.