There are plenty of items of trail running gear that you could buy – some more necessary than others. Over time, you will buy things that you may not get on with or that may find themselves languishing at the bottom of your kit drawer while other things will become your ‘go to’ items of kit. We take a look at what we consider to be trail running essentials and those items that you shouldn’t be without.

Trail Running Shoes 

The shoes you wear will depend on a number of factors including terrain, distance, time of year, personal preference etc.

By contrast to road shoes which are designed to provide comfort and support and perhaps bounce on flat, smooth surfaces, trail running shoes are designed to cope with uneven, rocky, wet, muddy and gravelly terrain. They are designed to give grip on uneven surfaces.

There are many brands of trail running shoes including Hoka – the Speedgoat, Challenger and the new Hoka Zinal being the more popular, Salomon including the Speedcross 5, Inov-8 Roclite, Mudclaw, Parkclaw and Terraultra and many more. The choice can be overwhelming so it always pays to read the technical information and reviews.

Basic Clothing 

When we say basic we are talking about the fundamental kit such as your technical race tee or vest and shorts. 

Vests and Tees 

The running top should be made of a wicking fabric which soaks up the moisture and keeps it away from your skin, drying quickly. 

Running Shorts 

Shorts should be comfortable and long/short enough for your own personal comfort. Some find that many shorts chafe and prefer a hybrid of race shorts with cycling shorts attached. 


These are very important. Your feet can take quite a battering when pounding out the miles. 

Hydration Vest 

From the entry level Aonijie Hydration Running Vest, to the more roomy hydration vest from brands such as Salomon, there are many hydration vests to choose from. 

When choosing a vest, consider the distance you are training for, the amount of kit you will be required to carry, how much water you will need and the overall capacity. If you plan on entering self sufficient, self Nav ultras, you will need a vest with room to carry everything you need including mandatory race kit such as taped seam trousers and waterproof running jacket. 

GPS Running Watch

We often discuss with more ‘senior’ runners how they used to run miles without watches, how they didn’t have these new fangled trainers and they didn’t have gels. There are runners amongst us that still don’t have watches however, they are very much in the minority these days as the GPS running watch becomes an important piece of kit. How many times have you left the house without your watch only to go straight back to it. Like your trail running shoes, you won’t run without it.

When it comes to GPS running watches, for many years the Garmin 235 was a favourite of ours until we discovered the Fenix. When you’re running self Nav ultras, the Fenix or other GPS Nav watch makes it much easier to stay on course and not take a wrong turn! Not impossible mind, especially in our case however the constant “off course” bleeping certainly puts you back on course quickly! 

It depends on your budget but we’ve always massively favoured Garmin. One of us has the Fenix and the other the 235 which just won’t die. I swear it’s doing it on purpose so that I cannot justify getting myself the Fenix. My very first watch, the Garmin 35 was similar – it was a really reliable watch that could be dropped, smacked and generally mistreated and still go on and on.

It really does depend on how much you run, what distance you do – battery life will be an important factor here and what functionality you require in addition to how much you can afford to spend. In our experience though, you get a lot for your money with Garmin watches. 

Head Torch

I actually sighed as I started to write this paragraph as it’s almost that time of year again. At half eight last night, the sun was setting and it occurred to me that head torch running will soon be commonplace again. While I am a little aggrieved at the fading summers nights, I do love running trail in the dark with nothing but torch light and moonlight for guidance. 

We actually did an experiment last year with a low budget head torch vs a Ledlensr. You can read that here but there are many different running head torches online on sites like Amazon or of course, this is not on the list of trail running essentials for day time running but for night runs or those that take place through the night, it certainly is.

Have we missed anything? Do you have a list of trail running essentials which includes something not mentioned above? We’d love to hear from you.

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