People run for a huge number of reasons, but mostly because it is beneficial for their health, both mental and physical. There are also those who take it a step further, going running in nature. Trail running brings one closer to nature and the added benefit is that depending on where you go running, you get to enjoy the gorgeous vistas. Since you’ll be out in the wild, nature won’t be too interested in your needs. You need to pack for survival so let’s check out the essentials.
Drinking enough water is important even if you are sedentary, let alone if you are putting your body through serious physical effort. Unless you know that there are natural sources of spring water on the trails you will be going down (or up), you need to take care of having enough water. There are several options you can go for, whether just carrying your water bottle in your hands or using a hydration pack or a running vest with additional pockets for your water needs during a trail running. For those really long runs where you can expect to find naturally occurring water, make sure you pack a portable water purification option if possible.
Clothing is tough – you need to keep it light enough so that it doesn’t obstruct your running habits, but at the same time sturdy enough to keep you protected from the elements. You have to keep warm in the cold and cool in the heat and that is why layers are the way to go. If you leave somewhere relatively cool and wet, like the UK, for example, most of the time you will need to bring a waterproof jacket. Luckily, these days there are enough people who like to go running that the choice is huge. For example, popular puffer jackets have been making a comeback recently. Remember that waterproof is not enough, jackets need to be breathable at the same time – you don’t want to build up additional sweat below it while the wind is blowing as it could chill you down to the bone.
Shoes for trail running
Some will say the most important part of your equipment. What tires are to a car, good running shoes are for a runner – the contact with the surface. And running on wild terrain might require you to think twice about your choice of shoes. If you expect to run in mud and snow, make sure to go for the largest lugs, so that you enjoy some extra grip. If your choice of the road is dry and smooth, still go for slightly larger lugs than you would if running in the city.
Let’s not forget all the little gadgets that can stop you from losing your way in the hills and valleys during a trail running. These days, pretty much everything fits on a smartphone, which you could pretty much have just strapped onto your arm or inside your running vest or jacket. An even lighter option is a smartwatch, which can give you a large amount of information, including your heart rate. If you dislike having to connect your watch and your phone, you can always just go for a running watch. If you are old school, a map and a compass might work better for you. Grab a headlamp for when the night catches you on the run and a pair of sunglasses for the sunny days and you’re good to go.
Real running = real food. Although gels are also useful for shorter distances, if you’ve already set your mind to a long-distance trail running in nature, you might as well think natural. Always consider the food that is easy to pack, does not take a lot of room (whether in your vest/jacket or in your belly once eaten) but packs quite a punch to your feeling of hunger. Start from all kinds of nuts (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews) which are vital due to their high caloric value. Combine them with bananas, a great source of sugar and potassium. Various chocolate/protein crunchie bars are a solid way to bring tightly packed nuts to your run in a package that requires very little space.
Trail running is an awesome activity, but always go prepared so that you can keep coming back to it.