Trail Running Essentials ► Tips from An Ultra-Runner
Trail running allows you to head out into the wild, experience new terrain, and really get lost in nature. Trail runners must have a few essentials to be able to travel off-the-beaten track safely. Even if you’re running in an area you know relatively well, having some just-in-case items at the ready will help ensure a minor issue—like a rolled ankle or an accidental detour—doesn’t turn into a serious problem. Here’s everything you need in your trail running kit, plus Timothy Olson’s pack essentials.
“What I love about trail running is the places it takes you—both within and without. Trail running allows you see the wildest places, but it also allows you to go within and see the beauty in yourself as well.” – Timothy Olson
Everything You Need in Your Trail Running Kit
1. Adequate Hydration
Bring enough water to sustain you during your run. Dehydration leads to dizziness, muscle cramps, and a host of other symptoms that may not seem a big deal if you’re within range of your car or public transit but can become hazardous when you’re out in the mountains. If you’re unsure of how much water you need to bring along, use this calculator to figure out your optimal water intake. If you can’t bring enough water for the distance of your run, you’ll need to make sure you have a few refill points with fresh, clean water along your route. A water bottle equipped with an integrated filter can be purchased to remove potentially harmful stream water.
Everybody’s nutritional needs are different, but depending on how long you want to run, you’ll probably need to refuel at some point. Whether it’s gels, granola bars, gummies, or fruit, pack a few snacks so that you have enough energy to get through your session.
You can also use this link to learn more about rain gear. Rain Gear
Especially when running in mountain climates, rain gear is a must. You can experience extreme weather changes in just a few seconds. Your body heat will be quickly stripped by the elements. Rain gear these days is small, packable, and light, so there’s really no excuse for not bringing some along.
4. Online & Offline Navigation
If you’re heading out to an unknown trail, be sure to prepare by bringing a fully charged phone with an offline map and GPS viewer. You can also use a GPS watch to aid you. You shouldn't completely rely on your electronics, as outdoor enthusiasts who are passionate about the outdoors will attest. If your battery dies, or the temperature drops, a printed map of the area can be stored in a bag.
5. Good Running Shoes
Your gym shoes probably aren’t the best trail running solution in the long term. Trail running shoes should have adequate tread to give you more control and grip uphill, as well as better grip for downhill. Street running shoes probably lack the tread you’ll need to safely and comfortably tackle the trails.
6. Emergency Equipment
When you’re headed out into the wilderness, it’s always best to anticipate a bit of the unexpected. A few small items in an emergency kit will make you feel more secure, even if you don’t end up using them. If you do end up needing them, you’ll be incredibly grateful they’re available. There are some items to include:
- A whistle
- First aid essentials like band-aids (handy for blisters!), disinfectant, and gauze
- An emergency blanket
- A headlamp
- Water purification tablets
- An I.D. or emergency contact number in your bag
If you’re headed out into some serious terrain, consider buying a PLB or personal locator beacon. This will help you be found by emergency crews in the event of an accident. You should also have your friends as safety gear. Tell someone where you’re headed and when you plan to be back—or at least back in range of cell service. If you’ve created a GPS map with your route, share it with them. While it might seem excessive, sometimes things just happen. If you need help, you’ll be grateful to know that someone will know where to come looking.
Ultra Runner Timothy Olson’s Pack Essentials
Timothy Olson, who recently nabbed the fastest known time on the Pacific Crest Trail, shared some of the essentials he brings on a long run.