The Best Trail Running Gear We Tested Summer 2018

Last weekend I ran 48 miles, mostly by accident.

Our plan was to run 40 miles around Mt. Hood, just outside of Portland, Oregon.

Somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn and added eight “bonus” miles. The trail has a ton of elevation change, soft sand, and more than a dozen river crossings. It’s far from an off-the-couch endeavor. I had been training for the run for a couple months, testing new gear along the way. Having the right stuff helped get me through our accidental sufferfest.

Early on things were going to plan. By sunrise we were 10-miles in, steadily working our way counterclockwise around the famous Timberline Trail. We reached the halfway mark on the north side of mountain in four hours, well ahead of schedule. We stopped to snack and refill water, and then began a big descent. That’s when things got interesting. Somewhere in the next few of miles we unknowingly missed a trail sign and tacked on an extra loop, adding our bonus miles.

Despite the extra distance we were able to finish by mid afternoon, thanks to a solid training base and having the right gear with us. Having a highly functional kit helps make even your longest runs a bit more fun, safe, and comfortable. After using various packs, shoes, and apparel this summer, here are the ones that stood out to me – and that I used on the Timberline Trail.

HOKA EVO Mafate Trail Shoes ($170)

HOKA is the premier example of a function-over-form running shoe. Which is to say, while they lack the sex appeal of Nike Frees, they work better than anything else on the market. Designed on the steep slopes of Chamonix, the EVO Mafate offers a cushioned support for long, leg-pounding downhills, a fierce grip for loose rocks and skree, and a new fabric upper that helps drain water. These are ideal for any type of distance or adventure running.

Salomon ADV Skin Pack ($155) & S/LAB 6 M Shorts ($60) & Pulse SS T-Shirt ($55)

I’ve used Salomon packs for years and am continually impressed with their innovation and design. The ADV fits snug, has minimal bounce, and carries multiple liters of water, an extra layer, and snacks, easily. Salomon’s mid-length shorts and simple t-shirt are great for various uses, wicking sweat without chafing on hot days.

Territory Run Co. Loowit Trucker Hat ($32) & Instinct Sock ($16) & Anti Chafe Balm ($13)

Territory is the new kid on the block, building grassroots running communities around the country and quickly getting a reputation for simple and well-made products. I’ve been using the Loowit hat for a while now, on runs and around town. The Instinct socks offer some style to the otherwise bland merino sock world and the Anti Chafe Balm is a good way to make sure your underarms and inner thighs feel alright the day after an intense jaunt.

Garmin Forerunner 935 Watch ($500)

There are probably cheaper options, but nothing I’ve tried as of yet that is as reliable or as well-designed. The Forerunner leads the market with battery life and functionality, providing thorough training stats, elevation change, and a heart rate monitor. It was the perfect device for tracking our Timberline misadventure.

Revant Optics S2L Sunglasses ($175)

Launched last year to rave reviews, Revant’s new line of sunnies have quickly grown in popularity in the endurance crowd. Durable polarized lenses and great grip helps the S2Ls stand out from the crowd, and lifetime warranty means you may have just bought your last pair of sunglasses, ever.

All photos by Andy Cochrane.

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