Trail runners: What do you carry?

Fairly new to prepping and while I have been a runner for years, I have only recently moved to the PNW where glorious trails are everywhere and wonderful to run on for hours. I have thought about what I should carry with me on trail runs below and am curious to anyone’s thoughts & suggestions on this. I would feel like I am mostly  concerned about wounds, bugs, & leg injuries than anything else, at least while in areas with cell service. Weight is an important factor as I need to keep good balance and form. Definitely want to ensure I am thinking about this the right way.

Most of my runs are near town and while those closest to town are fairly well traveled, I can easily go some distance and not see another person for miles. I also prefer to run in the late afternoon/evenings so need to be ready to sit around for some time if I become immobilized while waiting for help. I see this in two situations since most of my running is near town with cell service while I could always drive an hour or two out to find trails in the wilderness where I am happy to add a few pounds of gear for piece of mind.

In both situations, I have a trail running vest with several pockets and a water bladder with 1.5L capacity
Also, I haven’t yet gone for a remote trail run yet with this planned bag, not sure about total weight

With cell service/near town: ~4-5 lbs.
GPS watch (garmin forerunner) – on wrist
water filled to the situation (temperature, length of run)
~400-500 calories (gels, typically, which fuel the run, I always over pack this)
Emergency blanket
IFAK – Very light with wound dressings, bug bite things, compression wrap, pair of gloves

No cell service/remote areas:
GPS watch (garmin forerunner) – on wrist
Water fully filled
~800-1k calories
IFAK – same as above
Folding knife
Ferro rod
Map + Small/basic compass
Wilderness wipes
Depending on the area, may bring a jacket wrapped around waist even if it is warm


*note on the GPS watch, I love this even when hiking/backpacking/camping as I can save locations on it and have it point back to those locations with direction & distance. Its just an every day thing that could be useful for non-runners.


  • Comments (22)

    • 11

      I don’t do trail running (although I do hike–or did before shelter in place) but do street running in my neighborhood. But one thing I take each time is a band (you could wear on your wrist, I have attached to my water belt) with my name, address & emergency contacts + phone numbers on it.  I imagine a scenario where I black out or fall and get disoriented it would be good to have.

      • 11

        Ah good call, there is something cool called RoadID which was originally made for cyclists that I have been mulling but in the end, for me, carrying my id, insurance and laminated contact card isn’t too much trouble. While I am also a cyclist, I can never understand why some cyclists refuse to take more than just tire repair kits with them.

      • 4

        I love my RoadID! I have the kind with the stretchy silicone band and I just wear it 24/7/365 and don’t even notice it anymore. About ten years ago I was hit by a car while biking to the gym. The gym was pretty near my house and I was wearing workout clothes with very minimal pockets, so I didn’t have anything on me except my gym membership card and house key. I had a RoadID then, too, but it wasn’t as low-profile, so I only wore it when I was exercising, and I didn’t think of “riding my bike 1.5 miles to the gym” as actually exercising. The silicone band is just always there, which is much better.

      • 3

        Glad that you were safe after that crash. I have a friend who was hit in a cross walk by a car while riding his bike and he had a traumatic brain injury. Totally ruined his life and things have never been the same. 🙁

        One of those RoadID bands would be good for senior citizens who are more at risk of memory loss and falls.

    • 7

      A little ziploc bag with some Vaseline. Since as runners the most common and constant injury we get are blisters i always have it with me in my camelback and it has always been the difference between suffering back home or being able to go back without scraping more the blister.

    • 8

      I mostly hike, but I always carry bear spray 😉

    • 7

      That’s a really interesting list! What’s a typical run duration for you?

      Not saying that it’s right, but most days I’m out the door in socks, shoes, and shorts with my phone. If running in dense stuff I’ll wear compression socks. I treat clothing with permethrin every few weeks in summer, and apply bug spray on the way out. Most of my stuff is shorter (<1 hr). For longer stuff in good weather I’ll add a hydration vest, 1-2L water, aquatabs, 1-2 pks Cliff bloks, shell top, mini bic lighter, and some band-aids. Adding a button compass, small folder, and whistle would probably make a lot of sense and not add much weight.

      • 11

        I am mainly concerned about my long runs on the weekends where I run anywhere from 1.5-2.5 hours but even some of my mid week evening runs are around 1 hour. I do have some recovery runs and short speed-work runs around the blocks around my house on concrete so with those I only bring my phone and keys. I think its just that the trail system near the city I am in is huge, 80+miles of trails in a ~11 square mile area. Of course the weekend runs are usually in the cascades (national forest, wilderness lands) are a lot more serious where I should be carrying a ton more stuff (like what a hiker carries) but I strike that balance between wanting to actually run vs. slogging along like an army drill!

      • 9

        That seriously sounds amazing! Agreed on balance. Most of the time I’ve got a ton of stuff either on me, or within easy reach. Running, not so much.

    • 10

      When I am doing my long runs (3+h) I have

      ultra vest with 2 soft bottles and 1.5l bladder

      soft bottles have Hammer perpetuem

      salt tablets (s-caps)

      road ID

      hr/gps watch

      cell phone in airplane mode

      small medical kit

      rain jacket or wind shirt


      signal mirror

      some energy bites

      space blanket

      a little cash and a card (my run home takes me past convenience stores if I need an extra bit of food or sports drink)

      • 7

        What do you prefer for energy bites? I got some of the Gu energy gels but I’m starting to hate the taste a little.

      • 8

        My wife found some packets of maple syrup from Untapped that are glorious… and very sticky. I had been using Huma gels which I liked but maple syrup is awesome after an hour or two out there. I still use Maurten gels from time to time, since those are what I will use for racing when races come back.

      • 8

        @scott – That’s a really solid kit. What do you carry in the med kit?

        @JB @Gourdo – The maply syrup seems like a great idea! I got sick of bars, gels, and most drinks many years ago. I use Cliff bloks a bit, but even these get tiresome. For people who get bored of the sweetness energy bars, gels, drinks, etc, Allen Lim’s rice cakes can be a nice change of pace. I have mixed feelings about plugging his stuff because of the total pass he got on the doping thing, but here ya go! https://blog.skratchlabs.com/blog/2018/6/20/rice-cake-prep-ask-allen

      • 4
        • 12g packet of trail toes
        • DEET wipe
        • gloves
        • abd pad
        • 4x 3×3 gauze
        • 2″ roller gaue
        • 5 bandaids
        • 2 knuckle bandaids
        • steristrips
        • tegaderm
        • moleskin
        • 2x triple antibiotic
        • 2x ibuprofen
        • 2x benadryl
        • oral rehydration salts
        • ASA
        • cravat
        • 3x safety pins
      • 3

        I haven’t heard of oral rehydration salts before but after looking into them a bit they would be a good thing to have in your first aid kit. 

        Looks like a nice little kit scott Powers

      • 4

        I like the stuff from scratch labs

    • 5

      If yours going anywhere without cell service, consider investing in a personal locator beacon

      • 4

        I’m seriously starting to consider a personal locator, especially after reading The Prepared’s blog post today. It could have saved their lives.

      • 4

        Text capable sat communicator like the Garmin in reach or SpotX are what is generally recommended for backcountry travel.  That way you can also relay critical information such as gear you have and what the emergency is.  I carry one when out climbing or hiking, and if I trail run someplace I know doesn’t have service.  It just lives in my back of contingency stuff along with a compass repair kit and fire starting kit.  

      • 1

        What does a compass repair kit look like? I’ve never heard of one of those before.

      • 4

        sorry, there should be a comma there.  A compass, repair kit(sewing and zip ties mostly), and fire kit.  In winter also throw a voile strap or two in there

      • 3

        That makes more sense!