Our Cascadia week would not be complete without hearing from the trail master himself, Scott Jurek.
While recently sharing stories of lost trail runners with my buddies, we are often reminded how even a trail run of a couple hours could turn into an outing we never planned for. How often do we hit the trail with just a water bottle and a t-shirt or less on our back? Although many of us love trail running for its simplicity and the unknown adventures that await us on the trail, trail safety is something we can all work on. Being safe need not take the fun out of our trail time!
The most important thing we can do before leaving a trailhead, is to tell someone or leave a note or voicemail of where we are going, our planned route and how long we expect it to take. A cool app for sharing your trip is iNeverSolo. I have been on a few searches for friends who had forgotten to leave details and the search is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Knowing WE alone are responsible for our safety is critical, and packing The Ten Essentials can ensure that we survive an unplanned adventure. Here are my recommendations for “The Ten Trail Running Essentials,” based a gold standard for wilderness adventurers, “The Ten Essentials.” Keep in mind this is a basic list for moderate to long runs, and your specific trail outings and conditions may require more gear.
1.) Navigation: At a minimum all trail runners should bring a topographic map of the area unless you know the area like the back of your hand. A wrist top compass, altimeter (Garmin fenix3) and/or hand held GPS comunicator (DeLorme InReach) can be indispensable if you are lost in new territory.
2.) Sun Protection: Use sunscreen on areas that receive direct sunlight (tops of ears, nose, shoulders, etc.) or use a shirt, hat or visor to block direct rays. Sunglasses cannot only be helpful for the sun and wind, but aid visibility in blowing rain, snow and dust.
3.) Insulation: Packing a lightweight synthetic or wool long sleeve and/or an ultralight down vest can prevent hypothermia if you have to hunker down due to injury, etc. Consider lightweight nylon or waterproof pants on long remote outings.
4.) Illumination: With all the new mini headlamps and lighting systems there is no reason to not carry a mini back up light and extra battery if you need to find your way off the trails for unexpected “bonus miles.” If you think you might be cutting it close to daylight hours, bring a more powerful lamp. My favorite back up lamp that I always keep in my pack is the Black Diamond Ion.
5.) First-aid Supplies: This can be as simple as small roll of elastic adhesive bandage tape (i.e. Elastoplast, Elastiant) and a mini roll of Ace bandage. Duct tape can also be used in a pinch for closing a wound or wrapping an injury although it lacks stretch, so use caution to avoid restricting blood flow.
6.) Fire: Starting a fire may be necessary to keep warm if spending a night out on the trail. I have had a friend spend an unplanned night on the trail and he was lucky the temps didn’t drop too low. For the weight, a mini cigarette lighter can’t be beat. In wet weather a small plastic baggie of dry tinder sticks and a few pieces of paper will make starting a fire a lot easier.
7.) Repair Kit & Tools: Duct tape is the universal “fix it” item and along with a mini pocket knife, needle and thread you’ll be able to do basic repairs.
8.) Nutrition: Bring a little extra food than what you think you will need, at least a couple extra hours worth. Extra calories will ensure you think clearly when lost and give you energy to get out of the wilderness. I like to do a mix of sports foods (Clif Shot gels, Clif Bloks, bars) and real food (potatoes, fruit, hummus wraps, burritos, Clif Organic Energy Food).
9.) Hydration: Know the reliable water sources on your route and the map. If traveling in dry environments, plan to bring extra water than what you will need. If you have plenty of water sources on your route, bring an extra reservoir and water treatment-iodine tablets. My favorite is a Platypus PlusBottle 1 liter lightweight, compressible bladder that carry in my Ultimate Direction SJ Ultravest.
10.) Emergency shelter: While a trail runner may not bring a bivy sack, tarp or tent on a run, a lightweight waterproof shell and safety blanket can act as emergency shelter. My Brooks LSD jacket goes in my pack for every long run.
And my own addition, Communication: A mini whistle is very efficient to alert help and a cell phone (when reception is available) or DeLorme InReach can connect you to help instantly in situations where immediate help is not available.
Packing safe can be lightweight and does not have to steal the adventure from your trail runs. It can make sure you are able to return to the woods and trails. Travel light and safe!