Want to get into trail running? Not sure what you need other than a trail and some shoes? While that’s a good place to start, here’s some gear to help make your run more comfortable and therefore, more fun!

 

Trail running’s a great way to cover heaps of ground and explore natural areas without carrying too much gear, or spending too long out there.

That being said, some gear is important, and the further you go, the more gear you might need. Changes in weather, possible emergencies and the sheer remoteness of some trails make some gear pretty damn important.

We’ve broken this trail running packing list into the distances you might expect to run out there. The distances listed are also the same as those raced in Ultra Trail Australia in the Blue Mountains of NSW.

Most races have mandatory gear lists, for safety, but it’s a good idea to carry this stuff on every long run.

The distances run at UTA are also pretty standard racing distances, so the mandatory gear will be similar across other events.

Short Distance Trails – Up to 11km

Shorter trail runs up to 11km require much less gear than a marathon or ultramarathon distance. Duh! 

However, there are still some must haves — and when you’re at an event the mandatory gear list can still be pretty solid.

Trail Running Shoes

It’s important to get a pair of shoes designed for trail running as opposed to road running. They’ll be more durable, have better grip for mixed terrain, and be more supportive. Check out the new range of Scarpa trail shoes that just touched down in Australia. 

Trail Running Socks

Invest in a pair of good quality socks. There’s no point having the best shoes on the market and a pair of cotton socks that give you blisters 2km in.

Lucy Bartholomew ran the Larapinta Trail in Lé Bent trail socks, so you know they work.

 

Arcteryx Norvan LD3 Trail Runner - Review

Lé Bent’s Light 3/4 Crew Trail Sock pictured here are a good height to keep debris out.

 

Shorts/leggings

A pair of lightweight trail shorts or leggings depending on preference.

Shirt/Singlet

Pretty simple, but something light and designed for physical activity.

Cap

A lightweight running cap can help cut out the sun and keep you feeling comfortable. They’re also great at stopping sweat getting in your eyes.

Sunglasses

We’ve been running in the Oakley Sutro Lite sunglasses and swear by them. Not only do they cut out glare and bright midday sun on exposed trails, but they help improve the definition of the trail in varied light.

Read: Oakley Sutro Sunglasses Comparison Review

 

Oakley Sutro Sunglasses - Lite, Vented or Non-Vented

 

Hydration

I started trail running with no portable water source, and the decision to buy a hydration vest was a game changer. If a vest seems like overkill to you and you’re just carrying water and the odd snack, then a ‘sport belt’ is another option.

Around 1 litre is appropriate for a recreational or race run at this distance.

Snacks/Gels/Lollies

Nutrition is up to you and lollies are a big yes! It’s definitely worth taking some food, a little energy boost later in a run can make all the difference and help you to finish strong.

Sunscreen

We live in Australia. Need we say more? Ok we will, wear some!

Anti-chafe Body Glide/body lubricant

This one’s optional and you’ll discover pretty quickly whether you need this. Under the arms and between the legs can be pain points depending on your body, clothing and conditions.

Sports Watch

Again, this is optional, but a sports watch like a Garmin or Coros will help you track your run, fitness and depending on the model, even provide a GPS map interface should you get lost! If you’re just starting out, you can use Strava for free on your phone to track your trail runs.

 

Mandatory UTA Race Gear:

While you wouldn’t likely take the following on a cruisy 11km weekend jaunt, the folks at UTA require the following to be carried for this distance in the race. 

 

Long Sleeve Thermal Top

Ideally made of merino wool, a blend of merino or polypropylene. Cotton and other materials are not accepted. UTA will only enforce this on the day if conditions are very cold or wet.

Waterproof and Breathable Jacket with Fully Taped Waterproof Seams and Hood

Top of the line jackets have a waterproof rating of over 15,000mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 20,000g/m²/25hrs however much lower ratings are completely acceptable. UTA will also only require this to be carried if conditions are very cold or wet. 

Beanie, Balaclava or Head Sock / Neck Gaiter

Mobile Phone

Whistle

Emergency Space Blanket

Compression Bandage

Ziplock Bag for Personal Rubbish

 

See the detailed UTA mandatory gear list for 11km here.

 

Salomon Ultra-Glide Trail Shoe - Review

Medium Distance Trails – Up to 22km

Thankfully double the distance doesn’t mean double the gear! 

You’ll use all of the same gear as above when running this further distance, but you’re a little more likely to need to use it.

UTA race organisers also don’t require anything extra when going from 11km to 22km. 

However, you’ll need to carry 2L of water and we recommend way more snacks and fuel as your body will run out of stored energy and need to be replenished.

See the detailed UTA mandatory gear list for 22km here.

 

Oakley Sutro Sunglasses - Lite, Vented or Non-Vented

Long Distance Trails – Up to 50km

If you’re running 50km of trail, it’s most likely in a race setting. If it’s not, you’ve probably done it before and you don’t need us to tell you what gear to take!

It’s a challenging distance, you’ll be out for many hours, go through highs and lows and the chance of conditions changing and accidents starts to go up.

 

How I Learnt to Respect My Body’s Limits Through Trail Running, maggie garnett, photography @mattwisemanmedia, runners, boardwalk, marsh

Read: How I Learnt To Respect My Body’s Limits Through Trail Running.

 

UTA understandably requires a few extra bits and pieces for the 50km distance. At nearly 8km further than a marathon, it’s officially an ‘ultramarathon’, and going off road only adds to the difficulty.

In addition to the mandatory gear above, you’ll need:

 

Compass

Lightweight Dry Sack – to keep your compulsory clothing dry.

Course Map & Course Descriptions – provided to racers.

Waterproof Map Case – to protect the above.

 

Optional extras include spare socks, spare batteries, full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves, long sleeve synthetic fleece top, long-leg thermal pants or tights, a collapsible cup for soup, tea or coffee at checkpoints, a more substantial first aid kit, and a powerbank phone charger. 

See the detailed UTA mandatory gear list for 50km here.

Ultra Distance Trails – Up to 100km

The prized pony of trail running, the 100km distance, is on more than a few bucket lists. 

What’s on the gear list though?

Well, all of the above, and

Thermal Top

Thermal Bottoms

Thermal Gloves

High Visibility Vest

Long Leg Waterproof Pants

100-weight Fleece Top

 

See the detailed UTA mandatory gear list for 100km here

 

The Bouddi Coastal Run Is An Epic Trail Running Race on the Central Coast, photo by Outer Image Collective, bouddi national park, central coast, nsw, trail running, coast

This could be you! Runners unable to contain themselves during the Bouddi Coastal Run on the Central Coast. @outerimage.au

 

Cover image is @tombatrouney from Project: Run Forever by @murrayfraser.