I have been trail running for over 20 years, 10 of which have been with a dog by my side. In that time, I’ve tested a ton of different trail running gear for both dogs and humans and know well what works and what doesn’t work for us.
Trail running is my primary method of high cardio exercise and my dogs are my training partners.
The basics of running with a dog remain the same for the most part, however, heading into the mountains means leaving the house prepared for changes in weather, long hours on the trail, and the ability to carry plenty of water.
Switching from pavement to dirt doesn’t require a huge amount of transition, but the list below includes our human and dog trail running gear essentials for runs in the mountains.
Trail Running Gear for Humans
I’m not sure how I ever survived long distance trail running without a running vest. I used to have one of those waist belt water bottle holders and it caused me unbelievable chafing. I then switched to a handheld water bottle, but I like having my hands free, especially if I am running with a dog.
Now that I have my running vest, I can bring all the water and gear I might need for me and my dog, chafe-free, and hands-free. In addition to the two 1-liter hydration packs, I might bring along a rain jacket, snacks, a water bowl for the dogs, my phone, a rain jacket, and trekking poles.
These small vests can pack a surprising amount of gear!
I am an incredibly dedicated running shoe-wearer. For years, I wore the Brooks Adrenaline GTS series. And then one day, they just stopped doing their thing for me. So I bounced around a bit after switching before finding my new trail shoe love, the Topo Athletic Terraventures.
Similar to Altras, they have a wide toe box to accommodate my dang bunions and prevent them for the rest of you, a 3mm heel drop, and flexible forefront rock plates to add protection on trails. Best of all, they tackle muddy trails like a champ.
The key with trail running is, particularly if you’re in the mountains, is to be prepared for any kind of weather. Systems can roll through in an instant and you’ll want that extra layer or gloves with you.
Now, you’ll see that I only have women’s gear here. That’s because I am a female and because Dave isn’t nearly as picky about his running gear as I am. Therefore, I don’t feel that I can speak for the guys here! As you’ll notice, like my shoes, I’m pretty loyal to specific brands!
Trail Running Bottoms:
- Oiselle Pocket Jogger Compression Shorts
- Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts
- Oiselle Aero 7/8 Tights
- Patagonia Centered Crop Tights
I used to fear compression shorts. They’re so tight and short and show off everything. But one day, I said, I don’t care and gave them a try. And now they are my go to for long runs. Oiselle knows what they’re doing and these shorts are designed by women for women.
They don’t ride up or chafe and keep everything in place. Plus, they make me feel fast.
I am super picky about the shirts I run in. I hate that polyester feel against my skin. It feels gross and sticky and wet and just ick. Instead, I look for a soft feel that doesn’t matte to my skin. I need a shirt that dries quickly and keeps me warm if its cool and cool if its warm.
Before I became vegan, merino wool was my go to for this department. Since then, I’ve had some trouble finding suitable replacement items, but the list below include a few favorite shirts that hold up when I run long. Long sleeved shirts offer sun protection and can be a great substitute using suntan lotion.
My go to shirts include:
Though I’ve spent the majority of my running years in places like Seattle and Portland where we all know the winters are filled with rainy days, I never used a rain jacket. It wasn’t until a trail race required one that I got one. Now I’m not sure why I ever ran without one. It’s just silly, really.
The Ulta Jacket is perfect for me. It rolls up into a tiny ball and fits great in my vest. The interior breast pocket fits my phone and still allows for easy access. Vents allow for plenty of breathability, so I don’t have to take the jacket off and on when the rain stops and starts, and finally, the sleeves contain little mittens to keep the hands dry in a downpour.
Most importantly, it’s waterproof!
I currently use an older Ambit 3, which I love, however when I upgrade, I’ll likely go for the Spartan Trainer. It uses the wrist pulse to measure heart rate, records various sports, is water resistant up to 50m, records ascent and descent values during workout, and you can upload gpx files to follow routes.
It also has a breadcrumb feature, so if you become lost on the trail, it will redirect you back to the starting point. Though when we are running trails, we rarely go without the offline map on our phone. (our favorite app is Maps.ME)
Trail Running Gear for Dogs
We try to plan longer runs where we will have access to water fountains or streams along the way so the dogs can take a drink as needed, however it doesn’t always work out that way. If that’s the case, I bring along either the Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl or the Dexas Popware Travel Cup and make sure to carry enough water for us both.
I love the compact size of both of these bowls, as I can stash them easily in my running vest. If we’re just going out for a shorter run and I don’t bring my vest, I take the Ruffwear bowl because it folds down into a tiny size and I can easily stash it in my waist belt or shorts pocket.
In hot weather, it is especially important to bring more water than you think you’ll need and take frequent water breaks, especially if it’s the beginning of the season and you and your dog have not yet acclimated to the warm temperatures.
The Dexas Popware Travel Cup is available at Amazon.
Tip: Know your dog well and understand how to keep them cool in warm temperatures to avoid serious illness like heat exhaustion.
Until we achieve a more consistent recall with Laila, we run with her using a harness. I was against harnesses for the longest time because I didn’t want to teach her to pull, however it made a huge difference in our running.
She was going to pull regardless and the harness kept her safer and also gave me a nice little boost on the uphill.
After muddy or rainy runs or for those who have swamp monsters, the Kurgo Dog Go Shower is a huge help for keeping the car clean. Simply fill the bag with water and hang from a tree or your car and let gravity to the work. The flow is strong enough to get a lot of mud off your dog.
We even use it ourselves for showing when we camp. The bag inside is black, so it attracts the heat from the sun if left outside. This is a total luxury of trail running gear, but it’s so refreshing to wash up when you’re chaffed and tired.
The Kurgo Dog Go Shower is available at Amazon.
On trails, I like to be hands free, so I can balance over rugged terrain and just have a more normal gait. The Ruffwear Trail Runner System is my favorite way to run with a dog on the trail. The belt includes a zippered pocket that fits my phone, a pouch to carry treats and bags, and a spot to carry water. Water bottle and spring leash included.
If you’re just out for a shorter run, stay hands free with our favorite leash.
This is one of those things that is kind of annoying to carry, but you have to do it anyway in case of an emergency. I’ve fortunately never had to use one trail running, but I never want to be without it when I need it.
The one listed here is a small day hike kit that fits into my running vest easily. It’s made for humans, but you can easily make a few adjustments to make it dog-friendly as well.
The I GO Compact First Aid Kit is available at Amazon.
- Sunblock (your dog may need sun protection as well)
- Sun glasses
- Dog booties
- Poop bags