With a couple of big backpacking trips planned later this summer, I need to get my legs in trail shape. To do so, I’ve had to force myself off the bike and into some running shoes. The nice thing about trail running (or fast hiking which is often the case) is the simplicity of the gear — the basics boil down to shoes, apparel, hydration, and food. Here is the gear I’ve been using to run or hike the trails of the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe.
La Sportiva Forward T-Shirt: This super lightweight shirt feels great against the skin and dries quickly so you don’t soak in your own sweat. Mesh venting in the underarms improves airflow where you need it most. The polyester material is treated with Polygiene antimicrobial so you can wear it a few times before needing to throw it in the wash — perfect for roadtrip hiking and trail running adventures.
Stryd: I use power training for cycling so I figured I should apply the same to my running. The device itself clips onto the top of your shoe much like any other foot pod and the rechargeable battery lasts for weeks-worth of runs.
While there are a whole bunch of metrics you can geek out on when using the running power meter (check out Jim Vance’s book Run With Power to learn more) I find the Efficiency Index (EI) the most useful metric for non-competitive racing me. EI tells you how efficiently you ran in the form of speed per watt of output. The higher the better obviously. If you often run the same route, EI can be a great indicator of your improvement (or lack thereof) over time. If you are gaining more speed per watt, that’s a good sign.
Stryd also tracks basic metrics like distance, cadence, pace, elevation, and time. meaning you can leave your phone or watch at home if you want and upload all the stats later. Note: I wish Stryd would sell the shoe clips as an accessory. I lost mine early on but have since bought a shoe pouch from Tune Belt to hold the sensor in place.
Suunto Spartan Ultra: This GPS watch works with the Stryd sensor and is a great multi-sport watch in general. Compared to a phone, you can see your metrics as you run with a watch. In a race scenario, I can see this as a great way to check that you aren’t going out too hot and you can also see when you are starting to tire or perhaps not putting in enough effort. If you are going to train using power zones, you will definitely need a watch to make sure you are hitting your targets.
La Sportiva Akyra: These trail running shoes are all about grip with a combination of aggressive lugs and sticky rubber in the outsole. The 9mm heel-to-toe drop and rocker sole promotes a natural stride progression from outer heel to inner toe. There is no rock plate, but I haven’t missed it even on rocky, technical terrain in the Sierras — the toe guard will protect you from any direct root or rock hits. The upper is super breathable and the wavy laces won’t come untied. If you run into river crossings or slushy snow up high, these trail runners will drain pretty quickly.
La Sportiva Comet Skirt: I am not super comfortable in short running shorts but understand you need something that won’t restrict your movement. Running skirts are a great alternative as they offer a bit more coverage without restriction and are super flattering on pretty much anyone. This skirt comes with built-in liner shorts and a zippered pocket on the rear waistband for storing your keys or a gel if you are out for a quick run. The skirt also doubles as a swimsuit bottom since it dries super quickly — great for a dunk in the lake after a hot run/hike or for those SUP adventures on Donner.
Altra Performance Half-Zip: It’s not uncommon to experience everything from 90 degrees to 60 degrees on a single run here in the Bay Area thanks to the fog. I always carry this ultralight, minimalist jacket in my running vest for when the wind picks up, I hit the fog bank, or in places like Tahoe when I am hiking up to elevation. Weighing just a few ounces, the jacket will protect you from light elements without overheating — you get full mesh underarms and laser-cut back vents. When not in use, it packs down into its own chest pocket.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta: This running vest fits like a second skin and offers just enough room for a 2 liter reservoir in the back, jacket stashed in the stretch pouch, and plenty of front storage for two 1/2 liter soft bottles, snacks, and your phone. Two side-entry zippered pockets on the back provide even more storage space — one with a key clip and for women, an extra hair tie in case you lose yours when running (I do all the time). The sliding rail sternum straps enable you to dial in a personal fit to ensure no sloshing around. If you are using the vest in a race environment, you have the trekking pole loops and emergency whistle. There’s even an ice axe loop if you want to scale a peak Kilian Jornet style.