Run

Ask A Gear Guru: What Are The Best Clothes And Accessories For Epic Runs?

Not all long runs start and end the same—we look at the best running clothes and accessories for unpredictable summer adventures at any altitude.

As the pandemic marches on and the summer months lead into fall, more than a few of us are probably stretching our long runs into more and more adventurous places. Sometimes these adventurous long runs can come with a side of wacky weather. If you’re lucky enough to live near a mountainous area, there’s also a good chance you’ve been trying to escape the crowds on your local bike path for a good dose of altitude social distancing, but with those types of runs, there’s also the possibility of shifting weather and unpredictable situations. Sun at the base of a climb could mean high winds at the peak; clouds at the start could give way to high temperatures an hour later. If your top secret run route is notorious for wild mood swings—or you just like to be prepared for whatever your run can throw at you, you need to pack right. Together with Podium Runner author, Lisa Jhung, we take a look at some tips for adventuring right and some of the best clothes and accessories for epic runs.

Be Prepared

This isn’t just the Boy Scout’s motto—this should be every runner’s creed as well. Today there are a host of excellent, and more importantly, light weight and run-specific clothing and accessories. There’s rarely an excuse for a botched run due to weather conditions, you really only have yourself to blame. If you live in an area with sudden summertime thunderstorms, either come to grips with the fact that you might be soaked, or grab a thin rain jacket and toss it in a fanny pack. Both of those items are easy enough to find, take up very little space, and can shift a run from a slog to an epic tale. The same thing goes for when disaster strikes—be it major or minor—small medical kits (we’ll give our favorite below) may never get used if you’re a sure-footed mountain goat, but you won’t need it until you do.

Dress For The Route

I’ve never been a big fan of sweaty runs, but also nothing ruins my run and drains my energy faster than being too cold. Oftentimes the two conditions are strangely related. If you have your eyes set on a tall peak with a big climb and a big descent that follows, you might find yourself bursting with seat on the way up only to chill on the way down. Yes, arm warmers may have started with the cycling set, but it’s ok to wear them while you run, too. Keep them rolled up on your wrists to help dab sweat from your brow as you huff and puff up the mountainside, roll them up as you bomb down the trail. Do you know you’ll be in thick overgrowth because of limited brush clearing by your local trail maintenance crew who can’t meet due to the pandemic? Wear longer shorts, wear higher socks—again, here is a good time to roll up those arm warmer sleeves when the trail closes in on you. 

Drink

No, I’m not talking about a post-run IPA (or am I?), I’m talking about staying hydrated. The more epic the long run, the less likely you’re going to be running past a (working) restroom. And with so many parks and trails limiting their communal facilities, it truly is the best idea to be more self sustained than usual. Depending on your appetite for adventure, either bring a hydration pack, a handheld bottle, or even a water treatment device if you’re willing to sip from a trusted spring. There’s nothing more devastating to an epic run than that shuttered restroom you were counting on for mile 11 hydration.

Now that you’ve thought through your next monster long run, here are a few pieces of top running clothing and accessories for changing conditions.

Men’s Arc’teryx Incendo Shorts

$80, rei.com

Long cut for wild trails? Check. Two pockets for whatever the trails might throw at you? Check. These shorts from outdoor adventure brand Arc-teryx boast a 9-inch inseam with lightweight materials and a generous cut to ensure that you move freely and are comfortable even in high temps. We also like the fact that these shorts are unlined, giving you a greater freedom of undergarment options (best bet: Runderwear).

Women’s/Men’s Black Diamond Sprint Shorts

$80, backcountry.com

Black Diamond has been making some pretty bombproof trail running gear lately, and their Sprint shorts are no exception. Despite the name, these are made for long and epic runs due to their Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish that’ll keep you moderately dry and prepared in a shower. Again, versatility is the name of the game with two zippered rear pockets and two front-facing pockets that can hold a headlamp or small-packing shell for runs that might stretch late and into unpredictable weather. Available in men’s or womens with 5- or 7-inch inseams and 2.5- or 4-inch inseams respectively; both come with a liner.

Women’s/Men’s Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt

$45, rei.com

Because there’s a good chance you’ll be running with a pack on your next epic run, be sure to get a top that’s smooth and soft to prevent shoulder strap chafing. This lightweight tee uses Capilene to help wick sweat and dry quickly, and the material is made with 52% recycled content, and is Fair Trade Certified by a brand who always keeps their supply chain in mind. 

Men’s Black Diamond Flux Merino Tee

$85, blackdiamondequipment.com

Though it’s not exactly cheap, this Merino blend tee shirt (Black Diamond calls it “Nuyarn”) is good for runs that might start with a slight chill and end with some serious heat. The material dries fast and is stretchy enough to be worn all day—even if you’re hiking or relaxing post-workout. Better yet, the Australian Merino in this tee naturally helps fight odors, so your friends and family won’t smell you, even from a social distance.

Men’s/Women’s Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover

$130, Patagonia.com

If you’re looking for that backup shell to provide light weather preparedness, this is a good option that won’t break the bank (for something that will crush all conditions, keep scrolling). Using Capilene material that feels more like a shirt than a shell, this DWR-treated outer layer will keep you reasonably warm and dry on windy mountain passes or through light showers. Naturally, this jacket packs down super small to fit into a pack or large short pocket.

Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody

$400, amazon.com

Yes, this is a pretty pricey jacket, but it literally does everything and weighs next to nothing. Packing down to 4.1-ounce ball that’s smaller than a fist, this Gore-Tex outer layer works well even in extreme changing conditions. The hood, neckline, and wrists all work to provide a good seal from the elements, while the material itself is shockingly breathable—because there’s nothing worse than getting too sweaty.

COROS Vertix Smartwatch

$600, amazon.com

Ok, this might feel extravagant, but if you’re someone who loves to track every step of your epic run and not think at all about recharging it, like ever, (and you don’t want your data held ransom), check out this beefy beast from smartwatch upstart COROS. Lasting a ridiculous 45 days in watch mode with 60 hours of full GPS, you can literally save weeks of epic runs without remembering to plug it in. Additionally, it has all of the triathlete-friendly multisport features like open-water swimming, cycling, and triathlon sport modes and a host of data functions that are too long to list here.

Osprey Duro 6 (Men’s) or Dyna 6 (Women’s)

$110, rei.com

As someone who has tried a lot of hydration packs, I keep coming back to my Osprey pretty much every time. Using an excellent harness system that wraps your body and prevents shifting or jiggling as you go, this pack also includes a hydration reservoir with a magnetically secured bite valve (note: most hydration packs do not include a bladder). Best yet, it comes in two sizes for men and for women, so you’ll get the right fit. Ready for something more epic? Osprey makes a version with 15 liters of pack space. Going light and fast? Reach for their Duro or Dyna Solo waist pack with an included 570mL bottle.

Buff Original Buff Multifunctional Headwear

$20, rei.com

Ok, I’ll say it again: Every runner should be wearing one of these, no matter the conditions. Doubling as a pandemic-era cloth face mask, this is the easiest option for pulling on and off as you encounter people on the trail, and of course it provides sun protection on your neck or warmth in changing conditions when pulled up onto your head or face. Just get one, seriously.

Nike Breaking2 Arm Warmers

$40, amazon.com

Yes, there are cheaper options out there, but these ones just look cool (and they were used by the athletes in the “Breaking 2” marathon project). Regardless of which brand or model you get, every runner who copes with changing conditions should have a pair that you can roll up and down as you run up and down the trail.

Lifestraw Water Filter

$20, rei.com

Whether you bring along a water purification device as an emergency item or it’s a part of your backcountry hydration plan, this is one of those inexpensive items that’s always better to have than not. Throw it in your pack and never use it (but be glad you have it), or use it all the time—either way, you’ll be more willing to stretch out that long run knowing you won’t dry up.

Uncharted Supply Co. Triage Kit

$50, unchartedsupplyco.com

Even if you simply leave it in your car, a good, lightweight emergency kit can mean the difference between an epic run with a good story or a hobbling slog back home. This version is much smaller than the generic ones you’ll find on Amazon, and has exactly what a runner (or cyclist) might need in a pinch.