Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to check them out when you're done reading here!
Always carry your cell phone with you when you run, but especially on trails. You never know when you may get lost or fall and hurt yourself and need to call for help. If you plan on being alone, be sure to tell somewhere where you are going and let them know when you are done so they don't worry. Another thing is to give people your location through Google Maps (you can share locations through texting) or use an app such as RoadID, Life360, Find Fiends or Strava, which now allows you to share locations. If you use Garmin Connect with your Garmin GPS, you can share your location through their app as well.
If you're running a soft, well-groomed fire road or single track trail, you could probably get away with running in road or hybrid shoes. But as you get into more technical trails with lots of rocks, blue stone (which is comparable to loose gravel) or climbing, it's best to have trail shoes that have more stability and traction. These conditions are very unstable and depending on your form, your pace and your shoes, can be very difficult. Remember, when conditions get difficult, shorten your stride, slow your pace and walk if necessary. But something that can help you are good trail running shoes. They differ from road-running shoes in that they're lower profile (lower to the ground), which reduces the chance of ankle rolls with a high heel. The rugged tread offers better traction on muddy, wet trails as well as on rocks. They should fit snug in the heel but have room in the toe box. There are tons to choose from, all with varying bells and whistles. Shoe brand aside, you should go with: what feels the most comfortable, has the best tread/lugs on the bottom to grip rocks, and toe protection so you don't stub your toes should you hit the rocks oddly while running.
|I'm partial to Altras and wear gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters when needed|
If you're running out on the trails for a short run of 30 minutes or less, you can probably do without a hydration system. But no trail-running-gear list would be complete without the mention of a hydration system. You will need to replenish fluids and electrolytes on runs that are over an hour and sometimes sooner depending on the conditions (hot, dusty trails are no fun without some form of hydration). I recommend a belt or vest over holding something. Believe it or not, holding something while running can alter your form, especially on super long runs. It affects your arm swing, which can throw off your balance and stride. It also creates tension in the arms and hands, wasting valuable energy. Look for a belt or vest that is adjustable, holds the amount of fluid you need, has a pouch (for phones, gels, keys, etc) and any other features you may want.
Personally speaking, I prefer a hydration vest to wearing a fuel belt. I have never been able to find a fuel belt that fits me just right. And when on the trails, I typically drink more fluids and need more fluids than what can be carried in a fuel belt (usually only 16-20oz in a water bottle). Usually there are no water sources out on the trails so you need to bring all of your fluids with you. That leaves a hydration vest as your best option. You can get one with a 1 liter bladder or a 2 liter bladder, depending on your needs. You can also get a vest that not only has a bladder but also has room for extra stuff. I've been running with the Orange Mud Endurance Pack lately, and I've shared my thoughts here on the blog!
Whether you're running 3 miles or 30 miles out on the trail, there is always a chance of a fall or other brush with nature. Throwing some bandaids, wipes, anti-biotic ointment, sunscreen and lip balm in your pack is a good idea. I also have a whistle in there just in case I need to call for help. You can put everything into a plastic bag and keep it in the section of your pack that you don't need to access during your run. I also recommend adding some tissues or toilet paper. You never know when the need to go will arise and it's better to be prepared than not.
Chances are you already wear a hat or visor and sunglasses while running on the road. But, they are essential when running trails. In our area, the trail systems are typically very exposed, meaning there is little-to-no tree cover. It gets hot and the sun is unrelenting. Protecting your eyes with sunglasses or a low hat or visor is very important. Not only do you need to protect your eyes from the UV rays, but it can also be very disorienting on the trails when the sun is in your eyes. And some trails, such as clay trails, tend to be blinding in the sun and quite dusty at times. Sunglasses make it easier to see and keep some of that dust out of your eyes. I always wear a hat and lately, they are of the trucker variety. These hats have larger bills and keep the sun out of my eyes better than the smaller running hats. And I get to wear cute ones like this one:
Do you run trails? What items are essential for you?