If you’re thinking about trying out a trail race, you may need a bit of different gear from your usual road warrior setup. You’ll be slower, out on the course longer and the terrain will be tougher to navigate.
We’ve picked out a few pieces we like to help you get an idea on what you may need to hit the trails.
The starting point is a decent pair of trail shoes. taking your normal road shoes into the mud, beyond just scuffing them up, means you may have a rough day slipping around. There’s a range of trail shoe options these days for many different terrains, from those that serve a nice medium between road shoes and the swamp boots needed for serious trekking.
We tried a few in our recent trail shoe guide, but one that stands out for those just getting started on the trails is The North Face’s Ultra Trail shoe. It’s still light, fits like most of the road shoes you’ll be used to and sports enough traction to get you through most trail events, while not giving you more than you need for a few off-road kilometres.
For longer, more gnarly races, runners may want to look towards a bit more traction and stability.
On ultramarathons and long trail races, there won’t be many water stations to stop off at for a bit of Gatorade. You will need to take water with you and that often means wearing it on your back. A hydration pack also gives you a few small pockets to carry a light shell and some energy bars.
Camelbak is the most well-known name in this department and that’s because they make a great range of products. The Camelback Marathon hydration pack fits close to the body and doesn’t offer many extra features. It’s great when you don’t need to take much else with you, but if you need more storage you can look to other brands as well. More traditional outdoor gear companies like Arc’teryx and The North Face also make great options. Osprey, one of the go-to backpack brands in any many activities, also offer some great products.
Even during warmer months, a light rain can make the trails a bit less enjoyable, but a light shell jacket will keep you dry and won’t get too hot. A lot of them pack away into themselves and fit easily into any small pocket, making them easy to put on and stow away as needed.
The Brooks LSD Lite Jacket III is a well-priced ($100) option that offers everything you need in a shell. It’s slim fitting, offers one small pocket that the jacket packs itself into and is ventilated to keep you from getting too hot. Like other clothing pieces, there are heavier and lighter options from many different brands.
Other useful gadgets
Some other gadgets and gear can come in handy on longer trail races. Some pieces are even mandatory at a few ultramarathons.
Consider investing in a good, lightweight headlamp. Often these races start before the sun comes up and run until after sunset. Good lighting on the path in front of you can mean the difference between a good time and a sprained ankle. Look for somethings bright that won’t die.
Also, a survivor blanket, a small emergency kit and anti-chafing cream are worth keeping close for long stints on the trail.