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Gear Recommendations for Beginner Trail Runners

Last updated: May 25, 2022

As a beginning trail runner, you need specific gear to ensure you not only get the most from your runs but also go about it safely and comfortably.

Start with lightweight gear that won’t impede or restrict movement, allowing you to focus on your footing and the trail itself. You don’t need a ton of gear to start with, but the most important will be a trail running backpack or vest, breathable shorts and shirt, a hat, and a headlamp.

The first step to trail running, after finding the right gear, is to chart out a course that is not overly long or challenging. This practice helps you acclimate to different types of surfaces without dealing with sudden elevation changes too soon.

Best Trail Running Backpack

Whether you are trail running in cold weather, up mountainous terrain, or going long distances, a backpack is essential for storing your water source, nutrition supplies, and any extra gear you might need.

As a beginner, going lighter is recommended. For this reason, we chose the Dynafit Enduro 12 Backpack as the best choice. The fit is snug against the body, with the weight evenly distributed, which is a plus for balancing on those rocky trails.

Holding up to 12 liters of water, this backpack will help you stay hydrated. It also contains several convenient compartments, including a smartphone pocket, a waterproof pocket, and several other multi-use ones for essentials.

Best Trail Running Hats

A trail running hat shields you from the sun and can keep rain away from your eyes to help you stay focused on the trail ahead. We have two recommendations of hats for beginning trail runners. The first is the Buff Pack Run Cap. This versatile hat is lightweight, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying.

The bill of the cap can flip up, allowing you a better view as you run uphill. As a bonus, it comes with an interior sweatband that can capture sweat and keep it from rolling down into your eyes as you run. To ensure a good fit, the Buff Pack Run Cap is designed with an elastic cord in the back, which is fully adjustable.

Another reliable choice is the Janji AFO Hyperlight Cap. This extremely lightweight hat is made of breathable, stretch-woven fabric, which is moisture-wicking and fast-drying to keep you cool as you run. It also has a flip brim for convenience and, when down, provides a shield from the sun.

Best Trail Running Headlamp

A trail running headlamp is an essential, whether you prefer to run in the pre-dawn hours or late at night. It will also come in handy when you are caught in an approaching storm or when running through densely forested areas.

We find the rechargeable BioLite Headlamp 750  to be the best choice for beginners, as well as for anyone who finds themselves outdoors in the dark.

This light has a unique feature in that the light is flush with the headband and fully integrated to prevent slipping and bouncing as you run. The comfortable design also allows for longer wear.

The BioLite comes with eight lighting modes and a maximum output of 750 lumens. Two of our favorite ways to use this headlamp are leaving it in Constant Mode for up to two hours and initiating the burst feature to gain a better look at the terrain ahead.

Best Trail Running Stroller

For those of you trail running with a baby in tow, you’ll need a designated stroller to provide higher levels of comfort and safety for your little one. The Bumbleride Speed Stroller is durable, versatile, and easy to navigate along different terrains and surfaces. Partially made of recycled water bottles, this stroller is also chemical-free, strong, and sturdy.

Impressive features include a front-wheel lock which can increase the stroller stability when moving fast, and also a swivel feature allowing for ease of movement and extra comfort for both baby and runner. Ample storage is available, and the stroller comes with a rain canopy.

Best Trail Running Shirt

Whether you’re running in warm or cool weather, you need a high-performing trail running shirt to serve as your base layer. The outdoor enthusiasts at Patagonia know all about this, and that’s why their Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirts are our chosen winners in every way.

The  Patagonia Women’s Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt is a good choice for any type of weather, as is the Men’s Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt. Both of these shirts are made of ultralight, moisture-wicking, and breathable materials that are also quick-drying.

Without fitting too tight or too loose, these shirts allow you to move naturally without feeling bound up or restricted. They even contain odor-controlling properties. In addition to these being Fair Trade Certified™ sewn, Patagonia also has a lifetime free repairs policy, making owning these shirts the perfect option for long-term use.

Best Trail Running Shorts

The key to choosing trail running shorts is durability. With trail running, you experience a higher likelihood of tripping, falling, and moving through vegetation, which may include stickers that can rip at your clothing.

The best trail running shorts out there today are the Patagonia Endless Run Shorts for both men and women. Both are made with 80% recycled polyester and are Fair Trade certified. The fit is unrestrictive, so you can run without being impeded or bothered with discomfort.

The Women’s Endless Run Shorts look much like regular tight shorts but come with two large thigh pockets and a gel pocket in the back. The Men’s Endless Run Shorts differ only in look and come in a slightly looser cut.

Best Running Vest for Phone

Staying hydrated during your run is essential. You also want to be able to carry a few things with you, such as your phone. You can accomplish both of these with a trail running vest.

While they usually provide less storage capacity than a trail running backpack, vests are still a valuable addition to your gear collection.

Our pick for the best running vest for phone, then, is the Unisex Solomon Adv Skin 5 Set. This comfortable vest adjusts to different body shapes easily and provides enough pockets to store essentials. You will need to use bottles of water instead of a bladder in this one, but we think it’s worth it overall.

FAQs

How do beginners start trail running?

The first step to trail running, after finding the right gear, is to chart out a course that is not overly long or challenging. This practice helps you acclimate to different types of surfaces without dealing with sudden elevation changes too soon.

Is trail running hard on the knees?

In most instances, trail running is easier on the body’s joints than road running. The reason for this is that paths usually offer softer surfaces, causing less strain and pounding as you run.

Is it safe to run with a baby?

Running with a baby in a stroller is safe as long as the baby is at least six to eight months old. The stroller needs to offer sturdy support and comfort and be durable to handle different surfaces.

 


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