What to Wear for Hill, Trail and Fell Running

Expert Advice on Running Clothing,Seasonal Running & Racing: What to Wear,Trail & Fell Training Advice
What to Wear for Hill, Trail and Fell Running

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.

This article covers clothing. You can find advice on what to carry here, and choosing fell shoes here.

TopsJacketsShorts / Trousers & TightsHats & Gloves


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.

Running Tops

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, Ice Breaker and Ronhill all offering options. The running brands will blend merino with a polyester of some variety to improve the wicking and 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 or polygiene top you can hang it up overnight, wear it next day, and not smell like you are doing so ;-) Odlo baselayers are wonderful non-merino options if you don’t want to spend as much on a top you can wear day after day. They brand it ZeroScent, which is a silver anti-odour treatment – available throughout their range, from singlets to warm thermal tops.

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Men's Icebreaker 125 Cool Lite Sphere Baselayer

Men's Icebreaker 125 Cool Lite Sphere Baselayer
Men's Running Base Layer
£80

Men's Odlo Blackcomb Half-Zip Baselayer

Men's Odlo Blackcomb Half-Zip Baselayer
Men's Running Base Layer
£90

Women's Icebreaker 125 Cool Lite Sphere Baselayer

Women's Icebreaker 125 Cool Lite Sphere Baselayer
Women's Running Base Layer
£80

Women's Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Baselayer

Women's Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Baselayer
Women's Running Base Layer
£85

Running Jackets

Montane, OMM and Ronhill all offer great lightweight waterproof jackets that will pass a kit check, plus windproof options that you can use for training.

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.

All of our fully waterproof jackets now include a hood and the majority of them offer 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 OMM Kamleika is probably our most popular due to their soft stretchy fabric making them 'quieter' jacket to run in.

The Ronhill Tech Gore-Tex Mercurial Jacket 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! 

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Waterproof Options:

Men's Montane Minimus Lite Jacket

Men's Montane Minimus Lite Jacket
Men's Waterproof Running Jacket
£185

Men's OMM Kamleika Jacket

Save - 5%

Men's OMM Kamleika Jacket
Men's Waterproof Running Jacket
£200 £190

Women's Montane Minimus Lite Jacket

Women's Montane Minimus Lite Jacket
Women's Waterproof Running Jacket
£185

Windproof Options:

Women's Odlo Zeroweight Insulator Jacket

Save - 19%

Women's Odlo Zeroweight Insulator Jacket
Women's Windproof Running Jacket
£185 £149

Women's On Weather Jacket

Save - 34%

Women's On Weather Jacket
Women's Windproof Running Jacket
£190 £125

Running Shorts

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 our shop we'd suggest coming in to try a selection on. All the brands fit a little differently and though it's not lifes 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.

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Men's Ronhill Tech Ultra 5in Shorts

Men's Ronhill Tech Ultra 5in Shorts
Men's Loose Running Shorts
£47

Men's Ronhill Tech Race Twin Shorts

Men's Ronhill Tech Race Twin Shorts
Men's 2-in-1 Running Shorts
£65

Women's Brooks Spark Half Tights

Women's Brooks Spark Half Tights
Women's Lycra Running Shorts
£50

Women's Ronhill Tech 4.5in Twin Shorts

Women's Ronhill Tech 4.5in Twin Shorts
Women's 2-in-1 Running Shorts
£55

Women's Ronhill Tech Race Twin Shorts

Women's Ronhill Tech Race Twin Shorts
Women's 2-in-1 Running Shorts
£65

Running Bottoms

Most hill races will insist on a waterproof trousers as mandatory part of 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 Janji make great options that pack small.

When you buy a pair of waterproof 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. 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.

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Men's Pressio BIO Run Tights

Save - 24%

Men's Pressio BIO Run Tights
Men's Compression Tights
£110 £83

Men's Ronhill Core Training Pants

Men's Ronhill Core Training Pants
Men's Running Trousers
£46

Montane Unisex Minimus Nano Waterproof Pants

Montane Unisex Minimus Nano Waterproof Pants
Unisex Waterproof Running Trousers
£95

Women's Ronhill Tech Tights

Women's Ronhill Tech Tights
Women's Running Leggings & Tights
£58

Women's Brooks Spark Tights

Save - 15%

Women's Brooks Spark Tights
Women's Running Leggings & Tights
£70 £59

Women's Janji Transit Tech Pants

Women's Janji Transit Tech Pants
Women's Running Trousers
£76

Running Hats & Gloves

In winter, hats and gloves are a general must, while neckwear is popular too. Again there are varying weights, so how thick to choose will depend on how much you feel the cold.

Gloves are like clothing and come in various thickness of fabric depending on how cold your hands get! Even if you don't get cold that easily, trust me you're likely to feel it in your hands first once the temperature drops. 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.

Headgear comes in all manner of choices from beanies; caps, headbands and buffs! 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.

Shop Running Hats & Gloves

Ronhill Afterhours Gloves

Ronhill Afterhours Gloves
Running Gloves
£27

Ronhill Afterhours Beanie

Ronhill Afterhours Beanie
Running Hats
£28

Buff Merino Lightweight

Buff Merino Lightweight
Running Buffs
£22.95

Ronhill Tribe Beanie

Ronhill Tribe Beanie
Running Hats
£20

Odlo Revelstoke Performance Wool Headband

Odlo Revelstoke Performance Wool Headband
Running Headbands & Neckwear
£30

Happy running, and don't forget to enjoy the views!

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