Trail running can open up a whole new world of running for you! The fresh air, the trails, the challenge – just be sure to properly prepare for trail running with all your essential trail running gear! Trail running essentials include clothing, footwear, navigation, a hydration system, snacks, personal items, and miscellaneous items. If you are participating in a trail running race, then there are a few additional trail running accessories to consider as well. This list will cover ALL your trail running basics! And as a BONUS, you can even download your own handy, printable TRAIL RUNNING GEAR CHECKLIST – just keep reading!
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any trail running basics recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!
Table of Contents
Trail Running Gear Basics
Trail running gear essentials covers everything from the right clothing, down to the tiny details like Chapstick!
Let’s start things off with clothing! This category of trail running accessories is divided into warm and cold weather clothing recommendations.
Warm Weather Clothing
In warm weather, the first rule of thumb is to wear breathable, moisture wicking, and quick drying materials. This will help to keep you feeling cooler and dryer. Here are a few of my favorite tried, true, proven, and tested warm weather favorites!
- Breathable, wicking tshirt or tank – like this awesome Patagonia Capilene Cool Shirt
- Running shorts – like these high waisted, no rise, pocketed running shorts
Don’t forget about your head covering when you are getting together your trail running gear checklist! A headband can be great for keeping sweat and hair out of your face, and a visor or hat is one of the best things you can do to combat the summer sun!
- Headband – like this GORE Windstopper Headband that also is able to block the wind
- Running Hat or Visor
Cold Weather Clothing
The same rule applies in cold weather as it does in warm weather – opt for breathable, moisture wicking, and quick drying materials. The rule is the same, but the reason is different. In cold weather, as you warm up running, your sweat becomes like precipitation, and if it sits too long on your skin and clothes, it can bring on chills in cold weather. So you are going to want to take extra care to invest in the right cold weather running materials, to make sure that those materials are wicking away moisture away from your skin, and keeping you dry!
- Breathable, wicking long sleeve shirt – like this Merino wool base layer long sleeve
- Running pants – like these fleece lined and pocketed leggings
Again, don’t forget about your outer extremities in the colder weather. A weatherproof outer shell running jacket will protect you from hazardous winter weather, and a Buff or balaclava will do the same for your face, head, and neck. Finally, if the temperatures call for it, don’t forget about gloves!
No matter the season, footwear is key! I’m talking about shoes and socks!
While it is possible to run trails in regular road shoes, your performance and safety will be greatly enhanced with a trail running shoe, one that has the cushioning, traction, grip, and support to handle the type of terrain you should expect on a trail run. Check out this post if you are curious about the differences in terrain between road and trail running.
- Trail running shoes – like these HOKA One One Speedgoats
Your trail running shoes are only as good as the performance sock you pair them with. And nothing can derail a good trail run faster than a subpar running sock. I used to be extremely blister prone on long trail runs and hikes, until I discovered these Hilly Twin Skin socks. The “twin skin” is what helps to combat the friction that can lead to blisters.
- Performance socks – like these Hilly Twin Skin socks
Optional Trail Running Accessories
There is such a wide variety of trails to run in this world, so it should be no surprise that your list of trail running essentials should include a few optional but beneficial items for different terrains. Gaiters are great in sandy or gravelly trails, as they help to keep those little particles out of your shoes while you are running. Microspikes are a must if your trail has any ice, as these little gadgets will keep you from wiping out. I ran in the exact pair of microspikes below when I completed the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland – so talk about an icy trail! You can find out all about this epic Arctic trail run, as well as my other recommendations for Greenland!
Finally, a supportive bra is a trail running accessories must. If you are lacking in this area, there’s a good chance you will end up chafed, which is no fun. This can derail a trail run much the same way that blisters on the feet can, unfortunately.
Trail running occurs largely out away from the cities, where it is more important to have a navigation source. Whether that is GPS on a phone app or watch, a handheld map for true backcountry wilderness trail running, or a traditional compass, make sure that you know HOW to use your chosen navigation system.
Snacks and Hydration
Make sure that you have plenty of water (in a water hydration system – more on that next), and plenty of the right kinds of snacks.
(And find out just why peanut butter is a runner’s best friend for fueling!)
Water is key – make sure you choose a hydration system that is right for you, whether that is a hydration running vest, a running waistbelt, hard sided bottles that can fit into legging pockets, or soft sided bottles.
- Camelbak running hydration vest
- Running waistbelt
- Hard sided bottle for leggings or running belt
- Soft sided bottle – like this Katadyn BeFree, which also has a filter for emergency backup hydration (perfect for more isolated and secluded wilderness trail running)
***If you are participating in an organized trail running race with stocked aid stations, you can also consider this environmentally friendly, reusable, collapsible running cup.
Trail running can be remote, so be prepared with necessary health/first aid items in your trail running gear checklist.
Miscellaneous Trail Running Gear
Here are a few personal items that should be a part of any trail running gear essentials checklist.
- Phone – whether it is for containing downloaded maps, GPS tracking, or emergency purposes, you should always bring your phone with you on trail runs.
- Headphones – whether to include headphones as part of your trail running basics is a bit of a conundrum for me, but I decided to include it, with this caveat. You need to pay attention when trail running, especially the more remote your location. Headphones can cause distractions or interference with the ability to pay attention, so it is a personal choice as to whether you trail run with headphones in. As I have mentioned in other places, you can’t hear a rattlesnake as well with headphones. Or you may not hear another running call for help. Or you may not hear the warning sound of thunder and know it is time to head back.
- Headlamp – like my favorite no bounce headlamp – a headlamp is also a personal choice to include on your trail running essentials list. You may never have the need to use it, but then there may be those times a run goes long and you appreciate having it.
- Extra batteries – for said headlamp above. If your headlamp is USB charged, then make sure it is fully charged.
- Safety whistle – like this one that does double duty as a signaling mirror too – if you ever get injured or otherwise stranded out trail running, a safety whistle can mean the difference in getting you help!
- Chapstick – to protect against environmental hazards when trail running, including sun, heat, wind, and cold!
- Sunscreen that is sweat resistant – another environmental protectant item to have on your trail running essentials checklist.
- Insect repellant – especially in areas known for high insect activity. Nothing would be worse than spending several hours trying to trail run while swatting away swarming insects!
- Sunglasses – especially in the summer, sunglasses can be a lifesaver for your eyes.
- Trekking Poles – like these awesome Black Diamond trekking poles – trekking poles are an optional item of trail running accessories, but they are very beneficial for many. This can be especially true if you are trail running somewhere with steep ascents and descents. Trekking poles can help save your legs from both uphill or downhill pain.
*Besides trekking poles, find out what ELSE you can do to prevent pain when trail running or hiking downhill!
- Foam Roller – a foam roller is a great item of trail running gear for recovery purposes! And bonus, you can use it for your other active travel activities, from hiking, to cycling, to trail running!
***You’re almost there – don’t forget to download ALL this trail running gear onto your OWN handy CHECKLIST!!!
Trail Race Items
This final category of trail running basics applies to running an organized trail race specifically. You can find a helpful checklist of what to do the week before a big race, and what to do the morning of a big race. In short though, a few trail running accessories to be sure to bring with you on race day are listed below.
- Collapsible Water Cup
How else can you prepare for a trail run race day? By training the right way for your trail race before!
Training for a Half Marathon or Full Marathon? Then don’t forget to grab my 16 week training calendars!
***And there you have it, a complete list of all your trail running gear essentials! Are you ready for the best part? You can download this entire list of trail running basics onto a handy, printable checklist, which you can DOWNLOAD HERE!
So you’ve got your gear, now what’s next???? Put your gear into practice! Ready to go, but not sure how to find the best trail runs or trail races around you? Follow these simple tips for finding a trail run near you!
***Don’t miss out on other helpful running resources from my shop – check out all my training calendars, checklists, and trackers HERE!
- Intro to Trail Running
- Complete Trail Running Training Plan
- 16 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners
- 16 Week Marathon Training Plan for Beginners
- How to Find a Trail Run Near Me
- The 20 Best Half Marathons in Texas
- What to Eat the Night Before a Long Run
PIN for LATER!