WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRAIL RUN

Want to go trail running but don't know where to start? Our friends at Run the Wild have kindly put together the essential packing list for your next trail running adventure. Whether you are just starting out, or know the trails like the back of your hand this is your one stop shop so you don't forget the important things. 


Today we are going to be unpacking what members of the Run the Wild Team carry with them on a trail run.  It is a common question from runners who sign up to a Run the Wild running adventure to know what they should carry each day, and despite having a kit list, it's a good question to ask as it will vary on the weather and adventure and will always lead to some personal variation. It's annoying to carry too much and possibly dangerous not to carry enough. So, in this short feature we will take a look at the bits of kit which are a must if you want to be prepared for the trail adventures on the hills and pack like a pro!

 

Before we start though let’s say just a few words about the bag. Don't get us wrong this is not a review of back packs but we would always recommend a pack that is light, comfortable, carries everything securely and is snug. 12 Litres would be the maximum sized pack and unless you are on a very short run, try to avoid bumbags. We tend to find if someone doesn't like running with a bag, then they've probably had the wrong one sold to them in the past, so there really is only one way to choose a bag and that's to try them on! Head to your local Runners Need store, ask your friends what they run with and give them a go, come on a Run the Wild trip and we will pass around the packs! So, get involved and get comfy! Remember that everyone is different when it comes to back packs, there are some which some members of the Team love, whilst the others hate them and vice-versa, it's as personal as a trail shoe! And after a while you will probably have a whole cupboard of them! Don't be afraid to personalise them either (I've added a bungee to mine as well as sown in some extra velcro tabs).

 

But this article is about what to put in that bag, once you have found yourself the perfect one! This really can make all the difference for how enjoyable a run can be. Here at Run the Wild we are often out in potentially treacherous environments and on technical trails, where a minimum kit list is based not just on comfort, but also safety. However, even a run in relative suburbia can benefit from a few essentials.

 

What's in the pack?

 

We're going to break this down into 5 sections: Hydration, Nutrition, Navigation, Clothing and Emergencies.

 



1. Hydration

Whether a bottle suits you, a bladder, or the soft flasks, it's worth taking some hydration with you. Most often we would recommend taking water if the run is going to be anything longer than an hour, but an empty soft flask is always a useful bit of kit to pack, as it's light and if plans change it's easy to fill up if needed. If we intend to be out for more than 3 hours, we plan the route around water refill points - fountains or streams, rather than trying to carry more than 1.5 litres! Being light is key and there is little point in carrying an obsolete kilo with you at all times. Clearly if the temperature is going up, and if altitude is involved you'll need to hydrate more. At this point you should also definitely consider bringing some hydration salts, absolutely necessary on hot days.

 

What our guides carry: soft flasks / 1 litre bladder and salt tablets

 

2. Nutrition

Not going to say a huge amount about this as it varies from person to person but depending on how long you are out for you will need some snacks to keep you going, this is something you can experiment with, but always have something in the bag in case you are out for longer than planned. It's useful to have a few different types of snacks individually wrapped and easily accessible. My bag has a small mesh bin so I can take all my rubbish home. Leave no trace! I'm also not a big fan of eating while running, but everyone in the team is different. Many people swear by gels, others with high calorie fruit/nut bars, but honestly its whatever works for you. On a long run, salty flavours and the crunchy texture of a bag of crisps can't be beaten. Top tip - prick the packet with a pin, let all the air out, and then just tape up the hole (well nobody likes soggy crisps!). This is personal preference, but take into consideration how easy it is to take on board, how many calories you will be getting (calorie per gram), and also the impact on your stomach. You don’t want a tummy ache 30 minutes after eating. Food that is easily packaged so you can have a small amount, and save the rest, is always helpful. Ziplock bags are also good for decanting food into. Again, most of us often don’t break into food stores unless we're out for 2 hours plus. Lightweight, and unlikely to melt are also important consideration

 

What our guides carry: chocolate pancakes, gels, peanuts, sandwiches and crisps, a few euros/pounds for cofee at a mountain hut on route, oh and pepperami. 

 

3. Navigation

This depends largely on the weather conditions and what you are doing, but as a trail running guide we will always carry a map (in a case or a laminate section), compass (attached onto my bag) and for me personally my trusty Suunto Ambit 3 GPS watch on me. You should know where you are on the trail, and if not hire one of us who will make sure you do! Most of us use GPS equipment and electronic mapping as a backup, but you still can't beat a map and a compass. It helps you develop the route and also spot those distant peaks, and in an emergency, it will give you a good idea of trail exit points.

 

What our guides carry: knowledge of the route, map, compass,  GPS and smart phone. 

 

4. Clothing

This will depend on where you are running, how long you are running for, what pace you intend to run at and also what the weather forecast is! But, as we already said there are some things that you should always have, such as a warm layer for when you stop. If you are running in the mountains then the extra weight of carrying gloves, a hat, a buff, a windproof top etc is negligible versus the benefit of having those items when you really need them. Sometimes the weather changes quickly or maybe you end up having to stop to sort out a blister, or even walk out off the trail due to injury, and given us runners lose body heat pretty quickly based on our skimpy outfits, having an extra layer in the bag is really going to help. Similarly if it rains, having an outer waterproof layer stops the body temperature dropping too much even if you are sweating underneath it. Pop all the warm kit in a dry bag or ziplock to keep it dry.

 

What our guides carry:  sun visor/cap, buff (can be used as a hat), thin running gloves, additional outer later for upper body - sometimes thermal - lightweight synthetic down jacket/gilet, lightweight waterproof, windproof top, warm hat and drybag.

5. Emergency Kit

A small, but really useful emergency kit bag is essential for every trail runner. Pop the first aid kit and anything else you might need into a waterproof bag and make sure you take it with you! Blisters are the common problem and a roll of zinc oxide is great for this as it doubles up as strapping for a twisted ankle or mending a broken shoe (yes it does happen!). As guides we take extensive first aid kits as well as mending kits, bivvy bags, safety equipment for exposed routes, and well lots of stuff that's beyond the scope of this summary! A head torch is always good to have if you risk being out in the dark, a whistle (attached to most packs nowadays) and also some cash and a bit of loo roll (you never know!). If you are running abroad, a laminated card of your insurance details, emergency contact numbers is great. Don't forget it could be you end up helping someone else, or someone else helping you!

 

What our guides carry: Extensive medical kit, safety equipment, zinc oxide tape, whistle, head torch, fully charged waterproofed phone, spare cash, bandages and painkillers

 

Bonus Items

 

These can be an array of things and depend on the adventure, we highly recommend sun glasses, ideally photochromic and also running poles and although they don't go in the bag, they always get packed out.


Most of us would have different pack set ups depending on the distance we intend to be out for and the level of running adventure. a multi day self-sufficient route would be a whole list of kit. The important thing is to keep it safe, useful and light. Happy packing and happy trails.