Continuing on the “favorites” series, this post will cover a few of my favorite pieces of trail running kit. Other, more popular blogs might call a post like this “Trail Running Essentials”, but how would they know what’s essential to your running? We’re up to our necks in click bait these days, right? These are my personal favorites, maybe some of them are your favorites too, if not, no worries, it’s all good!
Favorite Running Shoes
- Salomon S-Lab X-Series: Shoes come and go, but I am really liking my X-Series still. I own 2 pairs with 500+ miles on each, and have a brand new third pair stashed away still. In either case these shoes handle the trails well except for the steepest sections with loose trail surfaces, and mud which is really their nemesis. I have been cycling through other shoes in search of that “just right one” for times when more traction is needed, but I haven’t settled on a favorite just yet. Also worth noting – I have not run in the Sonic Pro yet (which replaced the X-Series), but a quick try-on tells me they’re a stiffer shoe, otherwise similar. I will still probably seek out some X-Series on overstock where I can find them 😀
- Dirty Girl: You can always tell who the ultralight backpackers and hardcore trail running trash are… they’re the ones with the gaiters with donuts, skulls, and cartoon fish one them! Mine have lasted through thousands of miles of abuse… best $25 I ever spent. Dirty Girls for the win!
Favorite Running Socks
- Injinji Medium Weight Runners: Without a doubt my top pick when it comes to running. I like all my little piggies to have their own cozy spot in my socks. Less friction and more freedom to sprawl!
Favorite Running Shorts
- Patagonia Strider Pro: I rock the 5-inch shorts, because you gotta have confidence! If they were offered in a 3-inch split short, I’d probably do it. They do come in 7-inch though, for the more conservative look. What makes these shorts great is all of the pockets they have situated around the waist belt. There are 2 pockets on each side that can hold gels and other small items and there’s one zippered pocket on the back for a key, etc… The only downside is the price, but you get what you pay for in this case. I have had excellent service from Patagonia and I like that they promote their brand through backing causes.
- Asics Distance Shorts: A budget priced option that I also own. These have a couple pockets and a rear zippered pocket as well. Overall a pretty decent pair of shorts.
Favorite Running Shirt
- Lucky Shirt: You gotta just grab your favorite race shirt don’t you?! For me it’s a toss up between my Salomon-styled Miwok 100k shirt, and the shirt that rep’s the super-local crew that I run with!
Favorite Running Hat
- Salomon XA+ Cap: This is a pretty good hat. I once owned an OR Sunrunner and it’s also a good cap, I just prefer the fit and the look of the Salomon hat. The attachment system for the Salomon cap is a little less fiddly too if you tend to take the sun shield on and off.
Favorite Running Watch
- Garmin ForeRunner 920 XT: Ok, it’s my only watch, but also my fave. This is simply a great watch. It’s designed for the triathlete, which I am not, however I do like to track the occasional swim, or indoor run – and it can do that and a lot more. There are a ton of customizable screens and the battery life is much longer than the lower series ForeRunners. It’s not the latest and greatest any more, and it doesn’t have the fancy round face on it, but none the less I wouldn’t give it up!
Favorite Running Apps
- Strava: If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen. That’s the saying, right? Strava is great and I really, really hope they don’t significantly change their approach. A streamlined interface with no ads (that’s right, no ads in the free version!) and all the key features are included. I don’t need training plans (although they’re rumored to be coming), diet planning, or other gimmicky features – just let me track, share, and follow with my social circles – and that’s what Strava does. The Premium service adds some live capabilities and deeper analytical tools.
- Garmin Connect: Connect is a nice software package that comes with all Garmin watches. If you love data, you’ll really like all the analytics that Connect can give you. Between Connect and Strava, everything you could want in terms of tracking and analytics is at your finger tips.
- Backcountry Navigator: For staying on the right path in new territory, Backcountry Navigator is a pretty nice option. In conjunction with a mapping tool such as Caltopo (see below), it’s pretty easy to map out routes before hitting the trails, then take them with by uploading to the smartphone. At an unfamiliar trail junction and need to know where you’re at? Simple, just touch “My Location” and presto, you’re position is displayed on the map. Requires GPS signal, but no cell service necessary. I have to admit though, friends have been pressuring me to give Gaia GPS (a competitive app) a serious look.
Favorite Maps and Mapping Tools
- Caltopo: A web service with some great map sources. Caltopo provides the ability to trace existing trails, or add your own off-trail routes over the terrain. After creating a route it’s possible to see the total distance, as well as a close approximation of the elevation gain. Even scaled maps can be printed off (some features fall under a paid subscription plan). This is a very powerful tool, however the user interface is non-intuitive with some features buried several menus deep, or features that one would expect to have simply missing (“save as” for example). None the less, a tool worth learning to use.
- Tom Harrison Maps: When existing paper maps are called for, my favorite by far at Tom Harrison maps. They’re available at REI (among other places) which is convenient, and the level of detail and accuracy is second to none. Simply great maps to use.
Favorite Trails to Run?
That’s a trick question, they’re all great! Hike It. Like It.