Buying Guide: All The Gear You Need For Trail Running

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Bored with road running? Hit the trails. Nothing reignites a runner’s soul like hopping rocks, dodging trees, and darting down mountainsides in calculated free-fall. Just don’t venture out unprepared. You’ll want tougher, shoes, sure—but you knew that already. Here’s everything else you’ll need to rouse yourself from that pavement-pounding stupor.

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Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Weather on the trail can be capricious, so it’s always wise to pack protection. The Houdini Jacket ensures you pack light, as well. Patagonia’s minimalist ripstop shell weighs less than four ounces and stuffs down to the size of a bar of soap, yet deploys in an instant to shed rain and block wind when conditions turn wet and blustery. $99

Credit: Patagonia

Weather on the trail can be capricious, so it’s always wise to pack protection. The Houdini Jacket ensures you pack light, as well. Patagonia’s minimalist ripstop shell weighs less than four ounces and stuffs down to the size of a bar of soap, yet deploys in an instant to shed rain and block wind when conditions turn wet and blustery. $99

Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp

Your backpacking headlamp might be great for night hikes, but it’s probably too front-heavy for trail running, which involves more bobbing than your typical footslog. Black Diamond put the bulk of the Sprinter ‘s (already featherweight) 3.75 ounces into its rear-mounted lithium-ion battery pack, which helps keep the front light from bouncing when you’re on the move. It’s also waterproof, rechargeable, and comes equipped with a red taillight strobe that’ll make you easy to spot on your late-night group runs. $75

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Your backpacking headlamp might be great for night hikes, but it’s probably too front-heavy for trail running, which involves more bobbing than your typical footslog. Black Diamond put the bulk of the Sprinter ‘s (already featherweight) 3.75 ounces into its rear-mounted lithium-ion battery pack, which helps keep the front light from bouncing when you’re on the move. It’s also waterproof, rechargeable, and comes equipped with a red taillight strobe that’ll make you easy to spot on your late-night group runs. $75

Jaybird Freedom Bluetooth Headphones

Corded headphones will inevitably catch on bushes and brush, but even wireless buds aren’t immune from snags; slack in the line connecting your earpieces is basically a magnet for low-hanging branches. The cable management system on Jaybird’s svelte Freedom Wireless earbuds keeps the connecting wire wrapped closely and comfortably around your head’s occipital bone, completely eliminating cord dangle. The buds, too, are pleasantly low-profile (the fiveish-hour battery lives in the in-line remote), so you won’t have to worry about your beanie or jacket hood jostling them loose. $130

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Corded headphones will inevitably catch on bushes and brush, but even wireless buds aren’t immune from snags; slack in the line connecting your earpieces is basically a magnet for low-hanging branches. The cable management system on Jaybird’s svelte Freedom Wireless earbuds keeps the connecting wire wrapped closely and comfortably around your head’s occipital bone, completely eliminating cord dangle. The buds, too, are pleasantly low-profile (the fiveish-hour battery lives in the in-line remote), so you won’t have to worry about your beanie or jacket hood jostling them loose. $130

Outdoor Research Ultra Trail Gaiters

Even waterproof footwear takes on rocks, sand, and snow. To keep detritus out, protect your shoes’ ankle openings with a good pair of gaiters. Outdoor Researcher designed its Ultra Trail Gaiters to be lighter than traditional, knee-high varieties, and more breathable, too—but they’ll still keep debris and moisture from collecting in your kicks. $35-$40

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Even waterproof footwear takes on rocks, sand, and snow. To keep detritus out, protect your shoes’ ankle openings with a good pair of gaiters. Outdoor Researcher designed its Ultra Trail Gaiters to be lighter than traditional, knee-high varieties, and more breathable, too—but they’ll still keep debris and moisture from collecting in your kicks. $35-$40

Adventure Medical Ultralight/Watertight .3 First-Aid Kit

Sometimes you eat the trail, and sometimes the trail eats you (or your running buddy). When it does, be prepared to take care of yourself. Adventure Medical’s lightest first aid kit is perfect for single-day excursions, packing painkillers, bandages, antibiotic ointments, and moleskins into a waterproof pouch the size of a sandwich bag. The whole shebang weighs just 2.4 ounces, so there’s no excuse for leaving it at home. $9

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Sometimes you eat the trail, and sometimes the trail eats you (or your running buddy). When it does, be prepared to take care of yourself. Adventure Medical’s lightest first aid kit is perfect for single-day excursions, packing painkillers, bandages, antibiotic ointments, and moleskins into a waterproof pouch the size of a sandwich bag. The whole shebang weighs just 2.4 ounces, so there’s no excuse for leaving it at home. $9

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles

Trekking poles provide extra points of contact on steep, uneven terrain (something your back and ankles will thank you for on grueling mountain runs), and the Distance Carbon Zs do it at a best-in-class weight of just 10 ounces per pair. The shafts even separate into thirds with a push of a button, and fold like tent poles for efficient stowage. $160

Credit: Black Diamond Equipment

Trekking poles provide extra points of contact on steep, uneven terrain (something your back and ankles will thank you for on grueling mountain runs), and the Distance Carbon Zs do it at a best-in-class weight of just 10 ounces per pair. The shafts even separate into thirds with a push of a button, and fold like tent poles for efficient stowage. $160

Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Blanket

Emergency blankets can shield you from chill winds while helping contain your body’s radiated heat, reducing your risk of hypothermia if you find yourself injured, lost, or stranded in the cold. They’re ridiculously light and inexpensive, to boot; a fancy one costs less than your lunch. $4

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Emergency blankets can shield you from chill winds while helping contain your body’s radiated heat, reducing your risk of hypothermia if you find yourself injured, lost, or stranded in the cold. They’re ridiculously light and inexpensive, to boot; a fancy one costs less than your lunch. $4

Salomon Advanced Skin 12Set Hydration Vest

By now you’ve realized that a safe day on the trails requires some extra kit. So where do you stow it all? In Salomon’s awkwardly named but impeccably designed hydration vest . It’s got room for everything on this list plus three liters of water, delivering the carrying capacity of a daypack in a deceptively low-profile package. Soft, stretchy materials allow the vest and its contents to move with you with minimal bounce, while an array of well-placed pockets grant you easy access to your stuff while you huff and puff up the mountain. $175

Credit: Salomon

By now you’ve realized that a safe day on the trails requires some extra kit. So where do you stow it all? In Salomon’s awkwardly named but impeccably designed hydration vest . It’s got room for everything on this list plus three liters of water, delivering the carrying capacity of a daypack in a deceptively low-profile package. Soft, stretchy materials allow the vest and its contents to move with you with minimal bounce, while an array of well-placed pockets grant you easy access to your stuff while you huff and puff up the mountain. $175

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