Keen to take your trail-running to the next level? Dr Rosie Carey is a mine of information on ultra-marathons and trail-running, so we asked her to break down the basics of essential gear to start investing in.
One of the positive benefits of road running is that you really require hardly any gear for it: a pair of running shoes, some shorts and that’s about it. Trail running can be as simple as a pair of trail-running shoes, but if you plan on taking it a bit more seriously you may need to start looking at buying some extra gear.
Races often have ‘compulsory equipment’ lists. These lists aren’t a ploy to try to get you to buy more stuff, or because the race organisers are being difficult, but are essential for the terrain you will be running in.
Trail running, by definition, is off-road. This means that conditions can vary from desert heat to freezing cold (literally), rocky mountain path to slippery muddy forest trail. And it’s not uncommon to twist an ankle or trip and fall while trail running, especially if you are tired and the legs aren’t being quite as obedient as they should be. The list of essential equipment is to protect you from the elements and to (possibly) save your life if you do get into a difficult situation.
I covered this in the last article, but in summary a hydration pack should have capacity for at least a litre of fluid (more if the run is longer). Remember that if conditions are hot and humid you may require more fluid. As a general rule, bank on 500ml/hour.
This is an important one because people often confuse windproof jackets with waterproof jackets. Windproof jackets are usually lighter and cheaper than waterproof jackets so people are tempted to use them instead of waterproof jackets, but if it is pouring with rain, within a few minutes your windproof jacket will be soaked through and you will be at best, cold and uncomfortable and at worst, at risk of hypothermia. Waterproof jackets are made of a waterproof material and have sealed seams and zips to ensure that very little water gets through.
A space blanket is a foil blanket that is ubiquitous to most first aid kits. They work on the principle of reflecting body heat to keep you warm. I have known of a case in which a trail runner injured his leg and was in a very remote place. Emergency response workers took a couple of hours to get to him and covering himself with a space blanket probably prevented him from becoming hypothermic.
Thermal base layer
If you are doing a run that goes through the night or in which the weather could be bad, a thermal base layer is essential. This is a tight-fitting long sleeve top that keeps you warm while still wicking moisture away from your skin.
Not just for scenic selfies. There are a few emergency apps such as MySOS that you may want to download in case you get into trouble.
This is not always on the compulsory list, but I always take along an energy bar or gel. You will be grateful for it if you get lost or end up taking longer en-route than you expected.
So you can call for help if necessary. Remote places don’t always have cellphone reception.
There are other items that are not on the compulsory list, but may be worth considering taking along: Buff, cap, anti-chafe cream, sunblock, trekking poles
Most of the gear mentioned is readily available at sports shops such as Sportsman’s Warehouse (call 032 586 1000). If you want a more specialised store, try Trappers Trading at Lifestyle Centre (032 586 3570) or the Salomon store in Gateway (031 584 7127).