In recent years rules in the UK have tightened for safety reasons around the compulsory kit that should be carried with you. Since kit checks began, the term 'full body cover' was the general rule for hill races. This was then applied with common sense by race organisers, depending on the length/height of the hill and the weather conditions on that day.
However, now this has now changed with the rules stating full WATERPROOF cover. This means your jacket and trousers must be a waterproof fabric, with taped seams, and your jacket must have a hood. You don't have to wear it, but if it's not in your bag when a kit check takes place then you won't be allowed to race :-( Best advice if it's a very short summer hill race is to check with the race organiser, as you may be let off with less. But if you are regularly racing in the hills or trails, then it's time to invest in waterproofs, so you can carry on enjoying your amazing sport :-) This isn't driven by running shops trying to sell expensive kit (honest!) it's for everyone's safety and enjoyment.
Combining Clothing Layers
Choosing how to combine these layers will vary for different runners, and also can be dependent on how far you are going and at what pace. It's also crucial to remember that the higher you go the colder it gets! Also if I am going for a longer slower run I will dress warmer than I would if I was racing or doing a faster run. If you are going into the hills it is generally advisable to take a jacket with you, even if you don't wear it. With a jacket as part of my kit I then choose my base layer according to the temperature – in summer that's a t-shirt, the rest of the year if it's not too cold then I'll use a lighter thermal. If it's down under 5°C or so, or is very windy, then I'll choose to wear a warmer thermal top and fleecy tights – and carry waterproof trousers. Also if you are going for a longer run to higher hills or mountains then it's wise to pack an extra layer – more than you think you'll need – for safety.
Clothing for Hill and Trail Racing
Most hill and trail races in the calendar will now require you to carry / wear fully waterproof kit. This is getting stricter for safety reasons, so although you don’t need to toe the line fully waterproofed, you generally do need to carry it with you somehow. For some trail races and short summer hill races you may not be required to carry it, so please check with the organisers what is on their kit list. Weather on the day could also play a part in some races decisions, so it can be wise to take options with you.
In the summer months a short sleeved tee or vest is most runners' choice of base layer: layers can be added if need be. There’s a massive range out there and choice can come down to fit / price / feel of fabric, or just colour preference! Some features hill or trail runners might look for are pockets, anti-odour fabrics such as merino or polygiene treated or 1/2 zips which are useful for controlling temperature.
Moving towards long sleeved and thermal baselayers, the longest standing favourite has to be a Helly Hansen! 'Hellys' aren't overly warm so they make an ideal baselayer on changeable days under whatever other layer you have on. If you want a little more warmth Merino blends have become the most popular choice of recent seasons with Helly Hansen, Icebreaker, Montane and Ronhill all offering options. Icebreaker generally use a higher content of merino, while the other brands blend it with a polyester of some variety to improve the drying capacity of the fabric.
An extra wonderful touch with any merino layers is they're odour free! I tend to favour cleanliness and have a fairly large washing pile at home, but if you're away on a trip and need to wear a baselayer back-to-back days then with a wool top you can hang it up overnight, wear it next day, and not smell like you are doing so ;-) Odlo baslayers are wonderful non merino options if you don’t want to spend as much on a top you can wear day after day. It uses ‘effect’ which is a silver anti odour treatment, and offer 2 weights of warmth.
If you want to go super light, have a little more breathability and protect yourself from the wind and only light rain then a windproof jacket will do the job but it won't keep you completely dry, so it doesn't suit everyone's comfort levels for the rain. Montane’s featherlite is a super light and soft option, or for a budget option Ronhill’s Everyday jacket is great value at £40.
All of our fully waterproof jackets now include a hood and offer at least 20,000 hyd head of waterproofing (10,000 is min requirement for a kit check) They also have taped seams and are very lightweight and packable – all boxes ticked in a jacket to wear / carry in the hills! The Montane Minumus Stretch Ultra and OMM Kamleika are probably our most popular due to their soft stretchy fabric making them 'quieter' jacket to run in.
The Gore ‘Shakedry’ is the most expensive option, but this jacket is an investment! Being Gore-tex the waterproofing will outlast all the others by far – just mind how you go around barbed wire fences! The Ronhill Fortify Jacket and the Mizuno 20K are great prices and offer equivalent specs in waterproofing and breathability so don’t overlook them thinking they aren’t as protective because they are cheaper.
As with any running shorts, comfort is key here! But there are considerations for using off-road, such as pockets to carry things, or a longer length for a little more coverage on more exposed ground. 2-in-1 shorts have also become very popular with longer distance runners as the inner lycra shorts offer a little more support over the longer miles, plus limits chaffing. A number of brands now make some well designed ‘trail shorts’ that are popular due to their number of pockets to carry all manner of items.
Choice on shorts is rather large, so we categorise them by loose shorts which are 5” or longer and have an inner brief. Twin shorts which start at 5” and have an inner lycra short. Racing shorts which are the short split ones offering a real feeling of freedom! Then lycra shorts. This is usually the first decision to make, then thinking about how many pockets (if any) you might like on your shorts.
Have a browse of our selection within your chosen category to see what might work, but if you’re within striking distance of one of our shops we’d suggest coming in to try a selection on. All the brands fit a little differently and though it’s not life's biggest drama, it’s not so pleasant to run in shorts that don’t fit ‘right’. If you can’t visit one of our shops we do offer free returns so ordering a couple for choice is an option. Below are some of our more popular ‘pocketed’ shorts as a starter.
For cooler days you’ll be glad of some lycra. Did you know you can even get 3 categories of tights? ‘Regular’ lycra are fine for the most part of winter if you are someone who doesn't feel the cold too badly once you are moving. If you feel the cold a lot, it's a very wet and windy day, or when it gets snowy up in the hills, fleece tights are the way to go and you’ll be thankful for them once up on the exposed tops.
If you go out in all weathers then there’s options that include windproof panels combined with a fleece lyrca. Clearly these are super cosy and not a year round option, but they’ll become your best friends on the ‘character building’ days. (There are other ways to build character besides getting cold!)
3/4 length tights (capris) are great if it's a ‘warmer’ changeable day. Most runners find that their calves feel the cold the least. Other than the weight of lycra other features to consider and choose from include ankle zips, extra mesh ventilation behind the knee and just like shorts: pockets!
Here’s a selection of our most popular you wouldn’t go too far wrong choosing from, but we stock many more.
With the new rules, most decent length / height hill races now will insist on a waterproof pair being in your kit bag. Hopefully they can spend most of their life in your bag, but for wild and wet days you will be glad of them. Montane and Salomon make great options that pack small and aren’t too ‘flappy’ a fit.
At last girls have a choice with both Montane and Salomon making a women’s specific fit!! Montane offer one trouser with the Minimus, where as Salomon offer a Lightning Race Pant which comes in men’s and women’s fit, or their Bonatti pant which is a ‘unisex’ option from size XS.
When you buy a pair of trousers, think about trying a larger size as well. You don't want them to flap about in the wind obviously, but consider that they will usually be over-trousers and you might need to fit them on in a hurry on a windy hill. If they are a tight fit this will be a bit more difficult! They also don't have the stretch of lycra, so make sure you can lift your knees comfortably in them (as you would when you’re running uphill!) and nothing is feeling too tight.
Gloves are like clothing and come in various weights of fabric depending on how cold your hands get! If it’s just ‘chilly’ or your hands don’t feel the cold too much you’ll be fine with some thinner options. Next step up is for a windproof glove, which is a combination of being windproof on the ‘back’ of your hand and a thicker ( often fleece) over the palms. For the super cold hands out there there’s the Montane Prism Gloves! These are a pertex outer with a primaloft filling. These also come with a stuff sack and are very light if you needed to pack them into your bag for the windy tops!
Headgear comes in all manner of choices from Beanies to caps to headbands to buffs! The warmest options are obviously going to be hats. But if you just get cold ears then headbands are a popular choice. Waterproof caps are a wonderful alternative to a hood in a downpour, as they shield your eyes and you can still see where you’re going and even more useful if you wear glasses! Buffs or other neck scarves can be used to keep the chill off your neck, but can also be wrapped in various ways to make a hat / headband / sweatband / arm warmer/ ... their versatility makes them excellent to have a spare stuffed in your bag somewhere.
Happy running, and don't forget to enjoy the views!