two people running up a mountainside

9 Essentials You Need While Mountain Running

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Have you been interested in mountain running? Want to start tackling mountain trails but not sure where to start? 

The sport of mountain running — which often intersects with ultrarunning — is an incredible one. But it’s one that requires a lot of vigilance. Mountain runners need to keep their head on a swivel, following basic rules of the mountain to stay safe while on the trail. From watching their feet for roots and rocks to keeping an ear out for wild animals, mountain runners need to keep their wits about them.

But they also need to be sure to pack out with the right gear. From the right trail shoes to waterproof jackets to running bracelets, here are the essentials a mountain runner needs:

1. Trail running shoes

First and foremost, you need a reliable pair of trail running shoes. Here’s the thing: there’s no one trail running shoe that’s perfect. Trail running shoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and structures. Runners that overpronate can get a shoe with added arch support while mountain runners can get shoes with textured outsoles. You’ll want to inspect the trail shoes you’re considering, as you’ll want a pair with significant grip versus, say, a soft-trail shoe, which will have an outsole more comparable to a road shoe. Similarly, you may want a trail shoe with a rock plate — a feature which adds density and structure to the middle of the outsole to protect your feet from sharper rocks and boulders. 

2. Outdoor layers

Second, you’ll want to be sure to bring outdoor layers along with you. The weather cools down once you get towards the top of the mountain, and the chance of precipitation increases, too. This makes windproof and waterproof clothing a must for your daypack. 

3. Merino wool socks

Similarly, you’ll want to keep your feet comfortable. While the right trail shoes are a good start, you’ll benefit further by ditching your cotton socks for merino wool socks. Naturally moisture-wicking, they’ll keep sweat away from your feet, all while keeping your feet warm and comfortable. You’ll be able to keep blisters at bay and take on that mountain with no problem. 

4. Moisture-wicking clothing

Don’t leave the moisture-wicking feature just for your feet. Extend it to the rest of your body, too. Merino shirts, shorts/pants and underwear will keep you comfortable throughout your run, allowing you to focus on the mountain rather than the sweat collecting on your back. 

a person jogging on a mountain trail

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5. Trekking poles

Conquering a mountain is no easy task. First you have the climb, which is torturous on the calves and hamstrings. Then, you have the descent, which is brutal on your quads, lower back and ankles. How do you stay safe against that? 

Trekking poles make ascending and descending much easier. You may be thinking, “Why would I need trekking poles while running?” But with mountain running, you’re not always running. And that’s fine. You need to be smart about when you’re running and when you’re speed hiking. On a steep climb? Hike it with help of your trekking poles. Heading down a treacherous path? Use your trekking poles to maintain balance as you steadily progress. 

6. Headlamp

Even if you start your mountain running adventure early, you very well could get lost. Suddenly, what was meant to be a run done by 4 p.m. ends up with you still on the trail at 6 p.m. — as the sun is going down. Don’t get caught by surprise. Carry a headlamp so you can always have light when you need it. 

7. Medical alert jewelry

Accidents happen while out on the trail. The greatest problem is that you can’t do anything if you get seriously injured. You have no way of informing anyone of your name or medical information. However, a medical ID solves that problem. Users of Apple products, particularly as a GPS device, can wear an Apple Watch medical alert bracelet to carry their personal and medical information with them wherever they go.  

8. Hydration bottles or pack

It’s equally essential to bring along enough water. While there may be a stream you can grab water from, thanks to a portable water purifier, you might not be so lucky. Rather than taking your chances, you should bring along enough water with strapped, handheld water bottles or a hydration pack. 

a man standing on a mountain overlook with his fist raised in the air

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9. Food and snacks

Just as you need water, you’ll also want to bring along enough food. Simple sugars and carbs are enough, as they’ll keep you energized throughout your run (which will keep you from hitting the dreaded runner’s wall).  

Before you start mountain running, you need the right gear and tips so take your time to prepare. Once you’re ready, get out there and conquer that mountain, from base to peak.