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Gear and Technology

Talking trail: What to wear, what to pack

JP running in a forest.
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A Brooks expert who regularly runs in the mountains chats about the best apparel and gear for the trail. 

Brooks senior running experience specialist JP Harris picked up running to stay in shape. After his first trail race, a 11 km through a state park in Missouri, he was hooked. 

“I love where trails can take you. Epic views and amazing scenery make it a unique running experience. Dodging rocks and roots along a run cause me to be so much more present and in the moment. I love the challenge of trail running,” he says. 

As a trail gear expert for Brooks, JP loves hearing about the joy and happiness the run brings to people. He’s passionate about helping individuals discover the sport and gets excited about being a part of someone’s journey to find health and happiness.

JP running on a forest trail

We chatted with JP about what he packs for short and long trail runs, what you should always carry with you, and his gear advice for new trail runners. 

Brooks: What do you pack for short trail runs? 

JP: A short trail run for me is anywhere from 5-19 kilometers. Generally, on a shorter trail run I won’t bring a vest. I’ll carry a handheld water bottle or two and store enough food or gels in my pockets. I always have my phone with me, and I run with a GPS watch to keep track of the time and distance.

Trail running supplies

Brooks: What do you pack for long trail runs?

JP: Anything over 19-24 kilometers I’d consider a long trail run. Besides having the proper amount of clothing for the weather, when I am out for a long run on the trail, I will usually wear a vest with two bottles of water and sometimes an extra one depending on how far I’m going or how hot it is. I make sure to bring enough food for the hours I am going to be out on the trail, generally 250 calories an hour. I also like to bring a miniature first aid kit, a safety blanket, and a small multi-tool.

JP lacing up running shoes in his car.

Brooks: Are there essentials we should consider? What are five things we *absolutely* need on a trail run?

JP: Absolutely. Here is the list of essentials:

  1. Enough water
  2. Proper amount of food
  3. First aid 
  4. Proper clothing for heat, rain, or cold weather. Be prepared.
  5. Head lamp, depending on time of day and how far you’re going. 
  6. Phone/GPS device

Brooks: How about extras? What are a few things that are nice to have, but not totally essential?

JP: Some things nice to have but not essential would be a noise maker/whistle/bear horn depending on where you are running. A multi-tool, some fresh TP, and a Ziploc bag in case you need to use the TP. Remember to leave no trace.

JP running in the forest

Brooks: What advice do you have for new trail runners in terms of gear, supplies, and packing for trail runs?

JP: Safety is most important. Always tell someone what trail you are heading out on and when you plan to be back. 

I would recommend that new trail runners pack more than what you think you will use. As you become more comfortable with going longer and farther on trails, you’ll learn what you can and can’t do without. Then you’ll really be able to dial in your gear and supplies.

When wearing a running vest, I like to put my supplies in a larger Ziploc bag to keep it dry from either rain or sweat.

Make sure you have a clean pair of clothes and a nice cold drink waiting for you when you get back to the trailhead.

I would prioritize shoes, clothing, and a good pack (in that order) above any other piece of trail running gear. None of the rest of it matters unless your feet feel good, and you feel comfortable.

You can always treat your car like an aid station. If you need to get some kilometers in or extra vert but don’t feel comfortable running too far on a trail, choose to do some out and backs. Or pick a trailhead with multiple trails and keep a stash of aid station goodies and extra water in your car.

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Jordi Gamito wearing Brooks latest trail gear

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Remember, be prepared — your trail planning will change depending on your length of run, terrain, weather, and altitude. Pack that pack full of gear from the Trail Head to Toe Collection.