Beginner’s Equipment for the Best Trail Running Experience

A person who is trail running

Trail running is a fantastic way to kick your running and fitness up a notch. It combines a great healthy activity and the ability to experience the outdoors. Understandably, it can be a bit daunting when you’re just starting, especially when surrounded by experienced trail runners with expensive high-grade gear. However, there is no need to stall. Much beginner-level equipment is available to ensure you’ll have the best trail running experience possible. The minimum gear requirement is shallow, and it’s possible to have a great start with only a tiny investment. Let’s go through a list of some of the most crucial equipment that every beginner needs to have a confident start to their trail running career.

Running Clothing

The first thing any beginner needs to understand is the importance of proper trail running apparel. It doesn’t stop at what kind of clothes you will wear. You should also have a deeper understanding of which fabrics and materials are best for this experience.

One of the first items on your list when shopping for your first trail run should be a set of clothing made from moisture-wicking fabrics. This type of fabric achieves two goals. Firstly, it pushes any moisture or sweat to the outer layers of the fabric. And secondly, it dries quickly. Generally, it would be best if each part of your outfit was made from this material. That would include socks, running shorts, underwear, T-shirts, etc.

Next, you should consider what weather you should expect on your track. If you’re expecting wind and possibly light rain, the best option would be to bring a windbreaker or lightweight jacket. However, if you’re going on a winter outdoor adventure, packing on a few extra layers and a more heavyweight jacket will help you ensure your safety and avoid getting frostbite during the run. In addition to all of this, you should also consider investing in some grippier shoes.

Pro Tips

  1. Remember to wear layers- This way, if your day starts chilly, you can protect yourself from the cold. But, once the sun starts shining and your heart rate rises, you can take off any clothing items you don’t need.
  2. Check your closet – See if you already have any of these things in your home to stay on budget.

The right food and supplements

As fun as it is, trail running can be pretty intense and taxing on the body. That is why proper nutrition is imperative for everyone, beginner and expert alike. Your best bet is to create a healthy mix of specialized supplements (prep and post-running recovery) and nutritional snacks/lunches.

Generally, it’s best to stick to things that are easy to carry, like energy bars, drinks, and gels. You can also make yourself a protein shake if you’re running longer. When it comes to food, you should bring calorically dense foods, a.k.a. “trail running superfoods.” Some examples include nut butter sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars, dried fruits, etc.

A bowl of trail mix
Trail mix is the perfect snack to ensure the best trail running experience.

Eating schedule

An eating schedule is a homemade piece of “equipment” that every beginner can benefit from. That is especially important for long runs that may take a full day or weekend (ex., organized trail running camping trips). Since it’s common for beginners to struggle with timing food intake, writing down your snack break timetable in a small notebook is a great idea. Eventually, you’ll learn the ins and outs of eating during a trail run, and this item will become obsolete. But it’s great to have the first few times.

Your general plan should be to avoid food breaks for the run’s first part (unless necessary). In the best-case scenario, your first break should be in the middle of the trail, and you can snack intermittently toward the end. You can calculate how much you should eat and how often relative to the length of the second half of the trail. Additionally, if part of your trail is uphill, you should avoid eating before you’re done with that part to avoid any gastric problems.

Hydration equipment

No matter what physical activity you’re doing, staying hydrated is essential. But this becomes even more important when it comes to trail running (or any sort of long-distance running, for that matter). To best explain what kind of hydration gear you need to achieve the best trail running experience possible, we’ll separate it into three levels:

  1. Short runs – A large water bottle or waist pack should be enough for short runs;
  2. Long trails – If a longer trail is in your plans, you’ll need something more substantial than a water bottle. Consider a trail running hydration pack or vest;
  3. Long excursions – If you plan on running a full day, your best bet is to bring a hydration backpack. It’ll offer double service since it’ll also give you additional clothing, food, and other storage equipment.

Account for every part of the run

Trail running starts even before you step on the trail of your choice. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, it’s also essential to prepare your body by doing dynamic warm-ups for running. You’ll only be able to withstand the whole run if you get properly warmed up before it. All of this is to say that you should consider this pre-run workout session when deciding how much water you’ll need to bring.

Sun protection

That is something that beginners commonly overlook. Since a trail run guarantees prolonged sun exposure, equipment that offers protection from harsh rays is necessary. Even a short amount of sun exposure can cause skin damage. That’s why taking a few preventative measures is always a good idea. Here is a short list of some of the best sun protection gear you can use:

  1. Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher),
  2. Bucket hat/Baseball cap/Vizor, Chapstick,
  3. Sunglasses,
  4. Lightweight clothing to cover as much of your skin as possible without overheating.
A few of the best sun protection products for trail running lined up
SPF and other sun protection are essential during a trail run.


These are great for added safety during your run. If night falls before plan, or you end up in a darker area, these nifty gadgets can save your life. While this is a niche-use item, it’s very cheap, so even a beginner can get one without thinking of it as a colossal waste. Plus, chances are you already have one in your garage or shed. Remember to browse a few options to get the most bang for your buck. Ensuring safety is the first part of ensuring the best trail running experience.

A man using a headlamp
Headlamps are an essential part of trail running safety.

To conclude

Trail running is a gratifying and delightful experience. But if you want the best trail running experience possible, it will take some preparation. And if you’re a beginner, you must invest in some new equipment. It’s good to be frugal, but don’t be cheap! As fun as it is, this activity can sometimes be pretty dangerous, and improper gear can put you at risk. But, as long as you gear yourself up with affordable entry-level equipment, you will have a great time on your first trail run.