While they are ostensibly the same sport, trail running requires subtly different gear to road running. Trail jackets, shorts and clothing are better suited for long runs away from civilisation, with more pockets and better protection against the elements.
Prepare for the trails: The best trail running shoes
There are undoubtedly certain advantages to getting trail-specific tops and bottoms for off-road running. Trail-running t-shirts and shorts, for example, will have more pockets than gear designed for the road, since you usually have to carry more stuff.
What should you look for in trail gear?
A good trail-running jacket is also a key bit of kit because you can expect the weather to be more changeable when you head to higher climbs. Your jacket should also be fully waterproof and packable, so you can stash it in a pocket or trail-running rucksack when required. Taped seams are also worth looking out for because they are a requirement of many trail races where you have to carry a waterproof jacket with you.
Here youâll find a selection of gear that will ensure all your trail runs are completed in the utmost comfort, aside from the challenge of actually having to run them, obviously.
Best trail-running tops
Columbia FKT II T-shirt
Boasting a host of features that will help keep your cool on the run, this tee excels when it comes to long trail runs in hot weather. FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, which is simply the quickest recorded time over a particular route â something trail runners often focus on instead of the 10K or marathon personal bests that are the primary target of many road runners.
We canât guarantee youâll set any FKTs while wearing the shirt, but we can guarantee you'll get the best possible protection from the sun. The t-shirtâs material is rated UPF 50 and covered in silver dots that reflect the sunâs rays away from your body. On top of that, the Omni-Freeze Zero fabric wicks sweat away at a rapid rate to keep you dry and comfortable on the run.
Soar Sierra Half-Zip
Buy now: Soar (UK â international delivery available) | ÂŁ95
Having a couple of pockets on your t-shirt seems like a great idea â who wouldnât want a little extra room for gels and essentials without having to carry a running rucksack? However, t-shirt pockets often prove to be more of a hindrance than a help in reality, because anything put in them swings around in incredibly annoying fashion when you run.
Fortunately, Soar has thought very carefully about this with the Sierra Half-Zip, which has two rear pockets positioned to sit right on your pelvis to avoid their contents flapping around while you run. The result is a lightweight, comfortable top that has space for a couple of gels, snacks or your keys â just what you want for long runs out on the trails.
Kalenji Short-Sleeved Trail-Running T-Shirt
Hereâs one clear difference between a trail running t-shirt and a road tee â you wonât find any of the latter that boast about the abrasion resistance of their fabrics. This bargain t-shirt is built to withstand constant rubbing from backpacks, so you can strap on your trail pack with no fear your top will be run ragged by the end of the day
The t-shirt also has two back pockets to pop a gel in, and the long zip on the front and lighter fabric on the sides and under the arms will help to keep you cool while running. The synthetic fabric might start to whiff a bit after a run, so it might not be the best pick for multi-day trips, but it does dry in a flash if you do find a handy stream to wash the top in.
Best trail-running jackets
Gore R7 Shakedry Hooded Jacket
Any waterproof jacket has to strike a balance between protection from the rain and breathability, and no jacket does it better than Goreâs R7 Shake-Dry. It will keep you dry even when running through a storm, but itâs also lightweight enough that you can pop it on in the drizzle without fear of overheating.
That almost magical balance of waterproofing and breathability does come at a hefty cost, but the R7 is worth the outlay. It also packs up into its front pocket to be stashed in your trail backpack or even a pocket, and weighs a mere 118g, so youâll barely know itâs there until you need it. The material also lives up to its name in that you can quickly shake the drops off after a shower, so you can pack it away without also dumping a load of water into your pack.
Inov-8 AT/C Stormshell
The Inov-8 Stormshell is another great lightweight waterproof jacket that will serve you well in all conditions on your trail runs. It has taped seams, so you can tick that off the checklist of any trail event where they have required kit for you to compete, and it packs into its own pocket for easy storage in a rucksack.
Itâs not quite as light and breathable as the Gore R7, but then it is an awful lot cheaper, and it still impresses on both those counts. And it does have one nifty feature that the Gore R7 doesnât â thumbholes on the sleeves, for that extra cozy feel.
Best trail-running shorts
Montane Fang Shorts
You might think you could never fall in love with a pair of running shorts, but after a long day on the trails, you can be sure youâll look at the Montane Fang shorts with a surprising amount of affection. The reason for that starts with their practicality â they are lightweight, comfortable and have both a zipped pocket for your keys and stretchy pouches for your gels.
However, itâs the anti-odour properties of the Fang shorts that will really win you around to them, especially if your trail run ends in a tent with the prospect of running again the next day on your mind. The Polygiene-treated fabric used in the shorts prevents unpleasant odours from building up, so you can use them again and again without fear youâre going to scare away the local wildlife with your stench.
Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts
Thereâs a lot to like about these shorts, ranging from the water-repellent finish on the material to the anti-odour, Polygene-treated inner brief, but perhaps their finest feature is the hefty amount of storage they offer.
Thereâs the classic zipped pocket on the back, which is bigger than most youâll find, and then there are four â FOUR! â stretchy pouches to pop gels, snacks, keys or whatever else in. Sure youâll need to pull the drawstring pretty tight to ensure the shorts donât fall down if you load up every one of those pockets, but thatâs a small price to pay for all that real estate.
Best trail-running leggings
Salomon Fast Wing Long Tights
If your trail runs tend to take you to high altitudes, then the extra warmth provided by a pair of tights will be welcome. These lightweight leggings offer that warmth without being too hot in milder conditions, and they also provide a low level of compression to support your muscles without becoming uncomfortable when worn over long periods.
The Fast Wing tights also have a clever extra feature for mountain runners in the grippy pattern on the thighs, which is the spot you put your hands down when moving into powerwalk mode on steep ascents. Itâs something youâll probably barely even notice until the day you have to power/plod up a climb in the rain, when youâll be very grateful for it.