Oh, what to buy for my friend, sibling, cousin, or neighbor who is looking for great new trail gear? Well, lucky for you, we’ve sourced 14 favorites from our trail running buddies who each recommended a gift for this holiday season.
These products should help the beloved trail runner in your life enjoy their off-road running, wherever the singletrack might take them. For those budget-minded shoppers among us, you’ll appreciate that almost a third of our choices come in at under $40.
Be sure to check out our other gift guides, too:
- Women’s trail running gift guide;
- Ultrarunning gift guide;
- Fastpacking and adventure running gift guide; and
- Gifts for car camping.
The Brooks Cascadia 16 is the current iteration of one of the most time-tested, runner-approved trail running shoes out there. Transitioning well from road to trail and with a traditional heel-toe drop, the Cascadia 16 speaks to the popularity of using the shoe on a variety of terrain. Dirt, rocks, snow, and scree — the Cascadia 16 runs well on them all.
While some shoe companies and designs focus on hyper-specific terrain, Brooks tends toward its ethos of “total comfort,” from the casual weekend loper to the mountain trail adventurer, especially when it comes to the Cascadia 16. If most of your runs are dry, then you can go with the standard version, but if you’re consistently running through snow or mud, then you may want to go with the Brooks Cascadia 16 GTX. Check out our in-depth Brooks Cascadia 16 review to learn more. We named the Brooks Cascadia 16 one of five editor’s picks in our best trail running shoes buyer’s guide.
The Altra Lone Peak 5 is the current model in the long Lone Peak lineage, which is one of the most popular trail running shoes ever. Altra shoes are built around the concept that they call the FootShape toebox, which is wider and has more volume than most trail running shoes. The idea here is simple: to allow the feet and toes to take their normal shape even when in a shoe.
There is good reason that this is such a popular shoe; the Lone Peak has always had a very comfortable upper, dependable cushioning and rock plate, and what some of us would describe as a glorious toebox. At the start line of any trail race, there is always a large portion of runners wearing the latest model, which thankfully for them, hasn’t changed a lot since the Lone Peak’s inception.
If you’ve never tried a foot-shaped, zero-drop shoe, it’s best to ease into their use gradually. Be sure to read our in-depth Altra Lone Peak 5 review, too. We also named the Altra Lone Peak 5 one of five editor’s picks in our best trail running shoes buyer’s guide.
Ultimate Direction Race Vest 5.0/Race Vesta 5.0 Hydration Pack ($125)
Made in nearly identical capacities for men and women, the Ultimate Direction Race Vest 5.0 (for men) and Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 (for women, pictured here) is a lightweight, durable, and low-profile running vest that still has all the pockets you need for your goodies on your regular runs as well as race day.
The Race Vest 5.0/Race Vesta 5.0 is the most pared-down version of the Ultimate Direction Signature Series. But we’ve tested this vest on all kinds of outings, and we’ve found that for most people on most runs, this sleek pack should do just fine. With room for bottles, a bladder, a large phone, and even trekking poles, this vest is sure to please someone in every race distance, from a vertical kilometer to an ultramarathon.
Ultimate Direction’s Comfort Cinch version 2.0 — how you adjust the overall fit of the pack around your torso — takes some getting used to, but once you do, it allows for a more precise fit than you can get on other packs. Finally, we like the included Body Bottle II 500-milliliter soft flasks, as their flattish shape rides against your chest comfortably.
This hat comes in black or blue, and it has five panels across the skull, so as to make it fit more snugly to your head. For most people, this is the perfect fitting hat. We also appreciate that the darker color choices hide sweat and dirt stains.
Why we love this hat so much for trail running, though, is the full coverage brim, which is both longer and wider than many hats on the market today. What this means is no more hitting your eyeballs with stray branches or streams of sunlight.
And, of course, protection for your skin from those harmful ultraviolet rays is absolutely clutch in a sport that puts us out in the elements for hours at a time. We also appreciate this hat in rain and snow, as its brim keeps the weather at bay.Shop the Black Diamond Dash Cap
How the Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket weighs less than two ounces is beyond us. There are very few other wind jackets on the market that come close to this weight, with the men’s being advertised at 1.7 ounces (49 grams) and the women’s at 1.6 ounces (44 grams). The nice thing is, this Montbell jacket is literally half the price of other ultralight products.
We generally recommend that all runners take an extra layer anytime they go for a trail run — you never know when your run might take longer than you think and an extra layer ends up handy. This jacket packs down so small it can fit in your shorts pocket, waistbelt, or in any pocket in your hydration pack, and that combined with the affordable price leaves no excuse for not having one of these ultralight beauties.
These socks came in as runner-up in our Best Running Socks guide, but because of their fun print, they’re our top choice for holiday gift-giving. The Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Crew Socks are one model of many excellent socks in the Smartwool lineup, but this particular model is the Goldilocks of socks: neither too short nor too long, not too padded nor too thin, and they keep your feet just warm enough without sweating through them on warmer days. Plus, the merino wool keeps the stink away.
While summer runners are partial to ankle socks in warm weather or longer ones for compression capabilities, these crew-length cozies will keep your ankles warm and protected while you wear pants without compromising the fit of your latest spandex tights on the trail.
If you’re looking for socks that will last you years — and Smartwool has a two-year product guarantee — these will make a great stocking stuffer.Shop the Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Crew Socks
The Julbo Spark Sunglasses are pricey, but their durable frame, options for polarized or photochromatic lenses, and classic design make the price well worth it. While these glasses don’t have a high-tech trail-specific look, we really appreciate that we can wear them both on and off the trail.
Coming in a variety of frame and lens colors, the Spark’s lenses offer three distinct options: polarized to reduce glare in bright conditions, polycarbonate so they won’t break if you take a spill, and photochromatic so you can easily transition from areas of bright sun to shadow without taking the glasses on and off. We love the versions with the photochromatic lenses so you can keep the glasses on even in the shade while being completely protected in full sun.
Of note is that the Julbo Spark Sunglasses are smaller framed, making them appropriate for women’s or other smaller faces.Shop the Julbo Spark Sunglasses
If you want a wide choice of frame colors, lenses, and polarized and non-polarized options, then check out the Smith Pinpoint Sunglasses. The Pinpoint glasses are not as flashy as some other sunglasses marketed for activewear, but that’s what makes them nice. Our gear reviewer called them a great one-and-done pair of sunglasses because they wear well both on the trail and wherever you want to wear them afterward.
In addition to their versatility and utilitarian styling, their ChromaPop polarized lenses are among the best in business right now for visual clarity and definition. Finally, one extra benefit is that Smith has a lifetime guarantee. So, while these may be more expensive than other sunglasses, they should last you forever and you can replace them for free if they don’t.Shop the Smith Pinpoint Sunglasses
While the Petzl Iko Core is a new offering from Petzl this year, we’ve quickly come to love this headlamp. This headlamp is finally a worthy alternative to those stretchy headbands that work for some, but not for all. The silicone dominant band makes it easy to stretch over all head shapes and sizes, and it can easily fit over a hat or Buff, or even a helmet. What’s innovative about its band is that it doesn’t need to be stretched tight around your head to stay in place, which will prevent pressure headaches and sore spots.
We also love its low-profile design, as both the light on the front and the battery pack on the back are slim and balanced in their weight. We hardly notice we’re wearing a headlamp.
The Iko Core is ultralight at only 79 grams and ultrabright at 500 lumens for its maximum setting, and it can run on either its rechargeable lithium-ion battery or traditional AAA batteries. It’ll run for 2.5 hours at 500 lumens, nine hours at 100 lumens, and 100 hours at six lumens. This makes it a great headlamp for those before- or after-work trail runs.
While the look is different from traditional headlamps, it works in many different outdoor scenarios and will be sure to please all your tech-savvy gift recipients.Shop the Petzl Iko Core
Fancy, sleek, and high-tech are the Jaybird Vista 2 wireless headphones! The in-ear wireless design keeps your neck free of cords and your head free from headaches, the charging case has a convenient loop to attach to your keychain for the absent-minded folks, and multiple earplug sizes means they’ll fit just about everyone.
But why pay this much for headphones, you might ask? The real key is their multiple sound settings. Out on a remote trail and need to keep an ear out for wildlife and other trail users, but still want to jam to your tunes? Their SurroundSense allows you to have great music going, but to also hear everything around you. In a safer area or the gym and want to totally block out the world? These have active noise cancellation, so the only person’s labored breathing you have to listen to is your own.
We also appreciate the eight hours of battery life before up to two more full recharges in the case, which allows us to get through even our most adventurous runs. Finally, the headphones guard against wind noise, and they are nearly dirtproof, sweatproof, and waterproof — in other words, friendly to the trail runner’s lifestyle.Shop the Jaybird Vista 2
Chosen as the best budget watch in our Best GPS Watches for Running article, the Coros Apex 42mm is a great watch that suits pretty much everyone’s needs without breaking the bank. While it skips some of the fancier bells and whistles of higher-priced watches — there’s no mapping or music — it tracks your run and some daily health markers, has excellent battery life, and can sync with pretty much any app you like.
The style is low profile and sleek, closer to the look of a track watch than the almost computer-like honkers with more tech involved. The singular dial has a bit of a learning curve, but this contributes to the pared-down design. It has modes for running, cycling, and swimming, so you can plan and upload an entire workout into the watch.
The Coros Apex 42mm is a solid GPS watch option for any trail runner.Shop the Coros Apex 42mm
What delicious little morsels. We could eat a packet of these Honey Stinger Cherry Blossom Energy Chews anytime, anywhere. I can’t think of any other brand that has cherry blossom as a flavor option. These are great for a pick-me-up anytime: pre-run, during a race, or just when you’ve got a sweet tooth (but they’re not too sweet).
These days, Honey Stinger might be best known for their scrumptious waffles in various flavors like honey (of course), caramel, cinnamon, and chocolate. While the waffles are delicious, like gels, they need to be taken with water in order to make them palatable and digestible mid-run or race. Not so with the energy chews! They’re softer than other gummy brands, not leaving you covered in sugar or chomping away for 15 minutes.
If you’re interested in other flavors, the chews also come in Pink Lemonade, Pomegranate Passionfruit, and Orange Blossom, among others. They are all delicious, but we think Cherry Blossom is the best.Shop the Honey Stinger Cherry Blossom Energy Chews
Katadyn BeFree Water Filter ($38 for the filter and 600-milliliter soft flask, $25 for the filter only)
Be free of being tied to your kitchen sink and other filtered water sources, says the Katadyn BeFree water filter. This lightweight filter, especially when combined with its 600-milliliter soft flask, is a game-changer on backcountry adventures where tap-water sources aren’t readily available.
The nice thing is, you can buy this filter with or without the attachable flask, meaning if you already have a soft flask with the same threads, it will fit just fine on that. We’ve found that the BeFree water filter and 600ml soft flask fit in the front pockets of most hydration packs on the market today.
The filter readily cleans water of the nasties (otherwise known as microorganisms) that are just fine living in the wild, but would wreak havoc if introduced to your gut.
With all this in mind, the BeFree system offers us trail runners the best kind of freedom.Shop the Katadyn BeFree
We’re not sure there’s a trail runner among us who truly loves to foam roll — sometimes it’s downright painful — but we all know it’s a necessary evil of our workout routines.
The iRunFar team’s go-to foam roller is the Trigger Point Grid 1.0 Foam Roller, which is hollow, lightweight, and extremely sturdy — not what you’d think at first when looking through the tube’s hollow interior. Unlike other rollers that are foam all the way through, this roller doesn’t lose its shape. And it has an incredible 500-pound weight limit. You could almost (but please don’t) drive your car over it.
The ridged design adds a nice touch for getting at those hard-to-roll spots while being gentle enough to roll tender spots.
Side note, the hollow core of this foam roller makes it easy to pack when traveling, too. We roll our running shorts and T-shirts up in its core.
Last, the Trigger Point Grid 1.0 Foam Roller comes in many colors, even camouflage for those who want to lose their foam roller on their next camping trip, lime green for those dreaming of margaritas on the beach, and black for those who want to match their rollers to their coffee and maybe even their souls.Shop the Trigger Point Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
Call for Comments
- What are some gifts you’d like to receive as a trail runner?
- Are there some great gifts out there that we’ve missed for this list? Leave a comment to share what you’re giving or hoping to receive this year.