Summer is the season to soak up sunshine and scenery by hitting the trails. But along with adventure, trail running also brings different challenges and variables you’ll need to consider. For example, what gear will you need? Should you carry a hydration pack or running belt? Here are five important questions to ask yourself when planning your run.
Hydration Pack vs. Running Belt: Things to Consider
- Length of your trail run
- The weather
- Your energy and hydration needs
- Additional items like keys, wallet, or phone
- Goals for your trail run
How long will your run take?
Road running is usually a matter of simple math. You multiply your goal pace and distance to determine the length of your run. Trail running, on the other hand, has more variables. Hills and obstacles such as roots or mud can make it challenging to keep a steady pace. If you’ve never traveled the trail or don’t know what you’ll encounter, a good rule of thumb is to multiply your typical road-running pace by 1.5. Often you’ll be moving faster than this, but adding a cushion of extra time is important for preparedness.
What is the weather forecast?
The amount of gear and water you need to carry will depend on the length of your run and weather conditions. Is there a chance of rain? You should plan on taking a rain jacket and gloves to ward off the potential for hypothermia. Will it be hot? You’ll want to carry at least a bit more water than you think you’ll need. Will you be running into the evening? Even if you don’t think it will become dark during your run, carry a headlamp just in case. Trails are often more remote with fewer amenities than roads and pedestrian paths. It’s important to factor in safety contingencies in the event of an unforeseen incident such as injury or a sudden change in the weather.
What are your hydration and energy needs?
This of course, will depend heavily on individual preferences and weather. Usually, it’s better to carry some extra weight than it is to become dehydrated or bonked during a run. In general, plan for 12-16 ounces of fluid per hour in mild temperatures and more if it’s hot. Most people perform best with about 150-200 calories per hour of snacks, gels, or energy drink powder. Energy needs will increase on especially strenuous trails or in cold weather. But if you are out for fewer than 45 minutes, most runners do not require extra calories.
What other items will you need?
You may want to carry medications such as painkillers, inhalers, electrolyte tablets, or allergy medicine. Bug repellent, sunscreen, and lip balm can also be useful.
What are your goals?
Runners aiming for a personal best or training specifically for a race will be motivated to streamline their pack or belt and carry only the bare necessities. If you’re heading out for a more relaxed run, a larger pack will allow you a few more comfort items to boost enjoyment and security during your adventure. So, now that you’ve determined the supplies you’ll need on your run, which hydration belt or pack will best meet your needs?
Running Belt or Hydration Pack: What’s Best for My Run?
Running Belts for Trail Runs
For trail runs of 90 minutes or less, the Fully Loaded and Hydra hydration belts will accommodate 12-16 ounces of water and a few emergency essentials such as phones, gels or credit cards. You can increase your water-carrying capacity without a pack by combining an Ultimate II Running Pouch with hand-held water-bottle holders such as the Hydrapalm Bottle Hand Holder. Include a smart case to protect your phone or an arm band to use your phone to listen to tunes.
Hydration packs for Trail Runs
The Journey Backpack is a versatile pack for longer trail runs and even all-day hikes in mild conditions. Its ergonomic design supports 11 liters of carrying capacity, including a 2-liter hydration bladder, along with convenient organizing pockets, two waist belt pouches, a safety whistle and LED light loop.
Getting the Most out of a Fitletic Running Belt or Hydration Pack
- Try out your pack or belt to make sure it fits correctly.
- Build up the added weight in increments if you can.
- Use lube on possible pressure points to prevent chafing.
- Make an organization strategy for the various compartments so you can access everything quickly and easily, even when you are tired.
- Empty your pack after each run. We’ve all had that one ancient gel that we carried without using for weeks. It’s also easy to forget an important item that you presumed was in your pack.