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.
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 a number of our picks 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
- Car Camping gift guide
Brooks Cascadia 16 Trail Running Shoes ($130)
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, this shoe speaks to the popularity of using one 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 this model. 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 guide.
Shop the Women's Brooks Cascadia 16Shop the Men's Brooks Cascadia 16
Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoes ($140)
The Altra Lone Peak 6 is the latest model in the Lone Peak lineage, which is one of the most popular trail running shoes ever. Altra shoes are built around a concept that they call the FootShape toebox, which is wider and has more volume than most trail running shoes. The idea 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. This new edition is lighter, and our reviewer noted that the improved Altra EGO Foam midsole felt springier and more responsive than the previous edition. The upper is improved too, with a lightweight, bonded, and rubberized material replacing the heavier, stitched material of the last edition.
If you’ve never tried a foot-shaped, zero-drop shoe, it’s best to ease in gradually. Be sure to watch our in-depth Altra Lone Peak 6 review, too. Along with the Brooks Cascadia 16 above, we also named the Altra Lone Peak 6 one of five editor’s picks in our Best Trail Running Shoes guide.
Shop the Women's Altra Lone Peak 6Shop the Men's Altra Lone Peak 6
Salomon Adv Skin 5 Unisex Running Vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 Women’s Running Vest ($140)
The Salomon Adv Skin 5 hydration pack was ranked Best Overall Small-Capacity Hydration Pack in our Best Hydration Packs for Running guide. It is the perfect gift for the newbie trail runner, or the minimalist trail runner in your life who just wants to have one running pack that works for everything. For days when all you need to carry is your keys, phone, and water, it fits snug to the body and won’t jostle around. But the stretchy material in the rear compartment can expand to a surprising capacity, and there are an array of intuitively placed stuff pockets and zippered compartments at the front and sides — meaning this pack will serve its grateful recipient well for anything from a 5k jog to their next ultra.
The pack has a highly customizable fit, with an elastic sternum strap that has multiple attachment points. There are also several options for attaching trekking poles. The pack comes equipped to carry a 1.5-liter bladder, with an inbuilt barrier to keep moisture from the bladder away from the skin, although some testers found this to make the pack less breathable.
The women’s fit comes with lower placed soft flasks with long straws, which larger chested runners may find more comfortable, although many of our female testers preferred the unisex model.
Shop the Salomon Adv Skin 5 Unisex Running VestShop the Salomon Adv Skin 5 Women’s Running Vest
Black Diamond Dash Cap ($40)
The Black Diamond Dash Cap earned best overall hat in our Best Running Hats guide. To reiterate what we said there, this running hat is light, durable, and comfortable.
This hat comes in black or blue, and it has five panels across the skull 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.
Montbell Ex Light Wind Jacket ($130)
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). In the end, we named this jacket the best ultralight hoodless jacket in our Best Running Wind Jackets guide.
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, running belt, 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.
Shop the Women's Montbell Ex Lite Wind JacketShop the Men's Montbell Ex Lite Wind Jacket
Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Crew Socks ($26)
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 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 tall, 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 many 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 for years — and Smartwool has a two-year product guarantee — these will make a great stocking stuffer.Shop the Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Crew Socks
Julbo Spark Sunglasses for Women (starting at $130)
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. The iRunFar team named them one of our favorites in our Best Running Sunglasses guide.
Coming in a variety of frame and lens colors, the Julbo 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
Smith Pinpoint Sunglasses for Men (starting at $170)
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 go 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.
We love these so much that we also picked them as a favorite in our Best Running Sunglasses guide.Shop the Smith Pinpoint Sunglasses
Petzl Iko Core Headlamp ($100)
The Petzl Iko Core was a new offering from Petzl last year, and we’ve come to love this headlamp. It 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, thus eliminating 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.
Over a year of testing, we’ve named this the top trail running headlamp in our Best Running Headlamps guide.
The headlamp is ultralight at only 79 grams and ultra-bright at 500 lumens for its maximum setting. It can run on either its rechargeable lithium-ion battery or traditional AAA batteries, and will last 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 any tech-savvy gift recipients.Shop the Petzl Iko Core
Jaybird Vista 2 Wireless Headphones ($150)
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, and multiple earplug sizes means they’ll fit just about everyone. The charging case has a convenient loop to attach to your keychain, which is especially helpful for absent-minded folks.
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? SurroundSense allows you to have great music going, but to also hear everything around you. Working out in a safer area or the gym and want to totally block out the world? These have active noise cancellation, so the only labored breathing you’ll hear is your own.
We also appreciate the eight hours of battery life, which allows us to get through even our most adventurous runs. Finally, the headphones guard against wind noise, and they are nearly dirt-proof, sweat-proof, and waterproof — in other words, friendly to the trail runner’s lifestyle.Shop the Jaybird Vista 2
Coros Apex 42mm GPS Watch ($300)
Named the best budget watch in our Best GPS Running Watch guide, the Coros Apex 42mm 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
Honey Stinger Cherry Blossom Energy Chews ($32 for a box of 12)
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.
The iRunFar team loves Honey Stinger Energy Chews so much that we included them in our Best Running Foods guide.Shop the Honey Stinger Cherry Blossom Energy Chews
Katadyn BeFree Water Filter ($44 for the filter and 600-milliliter soft flask, $26 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.
To learn more about this great water filter, check out our in-depth Katadyn BeFree review and read our Best Water Filters for Trail Running guide where we named it the best filter for trail runners.Shop the Katadyn BeFree
Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller ($60)
The Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller came out on top in our Best Recovery Tools for Athletes guide, and is a great gift for the stiff and sore trail runner in your life. Firm yet forgiving, this is a great all-round foam roller for anyone. The diamond texture and rounded curves mean it’s not as aggressive as some of the foam rollers on the market. It has a center groove for aligning the spine and neck, great for targeting the back and shoulder muscles, as well as triceps, forearms, iliotibial bands, Achilles tendons, and hip flexors.
Our testers found that the center and sides were ideal for targeting specific areas and applying higher intensity pressure, while the curved dip on either side of the center worked well for large muscles or more gentle pressure. Roll Recovery designed this foam roller with feedback from elite athletes and physical therapists in order to make it one of the most effective recovery tools on the market. It comes in a choice of black, white, or lava red, to suit the style and personality of your trail runner.Shop the Roll Recovery R4 Body 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.