Running, whether on the trail or off, is ultimately just the same sport on different terrain. But there are a lot of things from road running that don’t translate to the trail — including the gear. Just as trail shoes are usually heavier and burlier than road shoes, trail running clothing is a marked departure from the split shorts and singlets of serious road runners. Longer shorts, usually around six inches, short-sleeve or long-sleeve shirts, and wool or synthetic socks are all musts for protection against the added hazards of trail running — like rocks, roots, branches and tall grass.
On top of that, a few additional accessories can help you make the most of your trail run, like a running-specific hat to protect from sun and debris or a GPS smartwatch to track your statistics. We put together three ideal trail-running kits for everyone from the beginner to the obsessive.
If you’re just getting into trail running, or making the transition from road to trail, your split shorts and singlet won’t be able to come with you. Trail running requires more coverage to protect you from the elements, and Stio makes some quality trail-running gear that does just that. The Divide Tech Tee is mostly polyester for sweat-wicking and breathability, but also features a 15 percent cotton blend to help with the fabric feel. Both materials make for a durable blend in case you get caught on any errant branches. Paired with the Second Light shorts and Darn Tough Vertex socks, it all adds up to a beginner kit, with high performance, minus the intimidation factor.
For the enthusiast, Ibex makes a kit worthy of long days on the trail. The Pulse Shorts feature a stench-resistant merino-wool liner paired with a technical face fabric for all the benefits of both wool and synthetics. The W2 Sport shirt uses Ibex’s Weightless Wool and is the lightest wool tee they make. It breathes well and won’t weigh you down out on the trail. Smartwool‘s PhD Run Ultra Light socks offer just enough padding while still being highly breathable. And to top it all off, Patagonia’s Duckbill cap keeps the sun and sweat out of your eyes.
When most people think of Tracksmith, they immediately think of heritage road running, but some of their pieces are perfectly suited to high-performance trail running as well. They Grayboy puts your standard t-shirt to shame. It’s made from cotton blended with rayon to stand up to tree branches, rock and any other abuse that the trail can throw at you. The Magnolia shorts are an updated version of the lauded Falmouth shorts, with a 6-inch inseam that is short but not too short. Stance’s Fusion Run crew socks are comfortable enough to wear for 10+ mile runs and they resist getting soaked through with sweat. The perfect trail running accessory comes in the form of Suunto’s new Spartan Ultra GPS smart watch. It does literally everything you could want a GPS smartwatch to do and tracks all of your metrics so you can watch your improvement over time.