Trail running is an exhilarating way to enjoy the outdoors, but how often do we hit the trail with nothing but a water bottle and a t-shirt? You are responsible, and you alone, for safety on the trail. Here are seven gear essentials that every trail runner should keep on hand.


Unless you know a given trail like the back of your hand, you’ll need a way to navigate. Options here include a wrist top compass, altimeter (instrument used to determine your altitude), hand held GPS like the Garmin eTrex 30, or even a topographic map—all of which can be indispensable if you are lost in unfamiliar territory. Check out this short video on the basics of using the eTrex 30 for navigation.


Even if it’s cloudy, the sun can still cause damage. For this reason, you’ll need to use sunscreen on areas that receive direct sunlight, like the tops of your ears, your nose, or your shoulders, or wear a hat.


Even if it’s 70 degrees and sunny, you never know what might happen. A storm could roll in or you could get lost and be forced to stay in the woods overnight. Smart trail runners know that packing a heavier layer, such as a lightweight, waterproof synthetic pullover, can go a long way towards keeping you warm in an emergency. Brooks’ LSD Lite Jacket is a solid option here.

Emergency Items

These can be simple and lightweight, and include items such as a small Ace bandage, an emergency whistle, mini headlamp for when you cut if close to dusk hours, a small lighter and dry tinder for if you need to stay warm and dry, and a mini repair kit that contains a pocket knife and a needle and thread.


When it comes to nutrition, the extra calories will ensure that you’ll be able to think clearly and maintain your energy levels, which will especially come in handy if you get lost. It’s also smart to bring a little more food than what you think you’ll need. Most trail runners prefer a mix of snacks like gels and bars from brands like Clif or Larabar.


It helps to know where the reliable water sources are on your route. Aside from bringing your own water, keep iodine tablets or a LifeStraw to help purify the water you may have to use in an emergency.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Gore-Tex