It is easy to see why trail running is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports. Not only is it a great way to get into shape, it gives runners a chance to connect with nature on a regular basis too. There is nothing quite like jogging along a scenic trail to get you motivated and inspired.
But trail running also requires a bit of extra gear in order to remain safe and comfortable while out on a run. In addition to wearing trail-specific shoes and running clothes, most trail runners will carry a pack with additional items tucked inside just in case they need them while in the backcountry. What they carry with them varies somewhat from person to person, but here are five essentials that no trail runner should ever leave home without.
One of the biggest challenges that trail runners face is staying hydrated while working out. Trail running is more difficult and demanding than running on a treadmill or the road, which is why it is important to have water with you at all times. Whether you’re wearing a hydration pack or carrying water bottles, be sure you have plenty of fluids to help get you through the entire run, and start rehydrating your body immediately afterwards. This is important during any season, but especially so during warmer months.
Because trail running is more demanding than most other forms of exercise, you’ll be burning more calories during your workouts. That’s why it is a good idea to carry energy bars, trail mix, or other natural snacks in your pack, just in case you find yourself getting hungry while out on the trail. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a run and realizing you don’t have enough fuel in the tank to finish the route. Having a bite to eat can alleviate that problem, and keep you running strong.
Trail runners should always carry an extra layer of clothing with them just in case the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse. In the summer months, that extra layer could be a long-sleeve shirt or a rain shell. In other times of the year, a warm fleece or down jacket may be in order. Either way, you never know when temperatures might drop unexpectedly, rain or snow could move in, or the wind could start to howl. When those situations arise, having an extra layer will see you through the remainder of your run, and get you back to the car safely.
One of the handiest items you can have in your pack these days is a smartphone. Not only does it allow you to let friends and family know exactly where you are, it can be used for a variety of other purposes too. For instance, a smartphone can help you navigate the trail, keep an eye on weather forecasts, or provide music, audio books, and podcasts to listen to on longer outings. Smartphones have been a wonderful addition to our daily lives, and they can benefit our workouts in a number of different ways too.
Another important piece of gear to have with you on a trail run is a headlamp, particularly if you tend to run early in the morning or later in the day. Headlamps are designed to be worn during vigorous activities, and can provide an ample source of light to help you navigate down the trail in the dark. This is an item that you hope you won’t have to use, but you’ll be glad you have with you should your workout go a little long, and you find yourself racing the sunset to get back to the car. Running in darkness on a trail isn’t the same as running on the road, and having a bright light with you can help avoid obstacles that could cause severe injuries.
While trail running isn’t an especially dangerous form of exercise, the fact that it takes place in more remote areas does give runners a reason to naturally be more cautious. Carrying these items in your pack will allow you to stay safe without compromising your ability to move quickly and efficiently during your workout. Other items you may want to consider carrying include a small first aid kid, a compass, and a pocketknife or multitool. While not as essential as the items listed above, these pieces of gear can come in handy in a pinch too.
The important thing is to stay safe, have fun, and enjoy the run.