There’s nothing quite like going on a run with nothing but the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. When I go on a quick run after work, this is how I prefer to run, completely free. One of the many reasons that I love running because you don’t need a ton of expensive gear to go on a run. With that being said though, there are a few items that I regularly take out on a run with me when I am going out on a trail run.
- Hydration – If you are planning to run longer than 4-5 miles at a slower pace or even longer distance of 10+ miles at any pace you should always carry water with you. If I’m planning on a short, quick run sometimes I will just bring a handheld and I’ll drink plenty of water before and after. If I am running a mid range distance, but slower, I will bring my two 8L bottles in the front of my vest. For runs 15 miles or longer I use a 2L bladder. Another option would be if you know you’ll be crossing water throughout your run, you could bring a filter. I have a LifeStraw that works great if I am running near water sources.
- Food – For short, fast runs I might just bring a couple gels or a pack of energy chews. For long runs I bring my favorite energy bars, (personally I like ProBar Bite Bars and Kates Real Food Bars.) I also will bring something salty like nuts or potato chips. Sometimes even a PB+J if I know I’ll be out for a long time. It’s very important to have food on long runs so that you don’t crash and burn, especially if you are planning to run out in the backcountry many miles from the trailhead.
- Shoes – I know this one is a DUH right? But the type of shoes makes a difference. If you’re road running you would probably wear basic running shoes and not worry about it too much. But the trails are different. The weather, terrain and time of year all affect what shoes will be best. In the winter and spring I wear Salomon Fellraisers because the lugs are a little more aggressive and keep me from sliding around. In the summer and fall I wear Salomon Speedcross because the soft rubbery tread holds on rocks very well in the high alpine. Whatever shoes you choose to wear, make sure they fit well, so that you don’t get blisters and replace them at least every 4-5 months.
- Running Vest – This one is more for longer runs, short runs I may bring a handheld or nothing at all, but on long runs it is essential to have a running vest or some kind of pack to hold your food, water, cell phone, layers, gloves, etc. Whatever you need for the day. I currently run in an Ultimate Direction Jenny vest, it has great pockets and the XS fits fairly well on my small frame.
- Polyester Clothing – Most of my running shirts are poly tees that I have received at races. Polyester is an amazing fabric that will keep you warm when it’s cold and breathe when it’s hot. It also dries very quickly if you happen to get caught in rain storm. I make sure all of my clothes that I wear running are poly. Never wear anything cotton into the backcountry, if you get wet the cotton will take a long time to dry and you will be very cold if you are caught in a survival situation.
There are probably some other items you could argue as essential, like a rain jacket, sunglasses, sunscreen etc. However, these items can depend on where you run to determine just how essential they are. This list above covers any kind of trail running, anywhere. Now that you have the list, you should get out there and run!