It’s officially summer, which means tanned bodies, sweaty workouts, and trails. Green, luscious, glorious trails.

So by now you should have packed away those long sleeve shirts and 3/4 length tights, and begun breaking out that shiny new summer gear.

It’s fun to play and sport new gear, but the reality is that the summer months bring on new challenges for runners, and proper equipment can help keep you safe and happy when running through even the hottest of days.

For this edition of the Gear Guide, I’ve pulled together a list of the gear I’ll be using and wearing this summer. Some of the products are new to the market, others have been around awhile. In both situations, I guarantee I actually use the products regularly, and think they’re worth every penny.

Everything You Need to Get Through Hot Summer Runs

Nuun Energy ($25 – 40 Tablets)

40-2578-BER-FRONTNuun has been around for awhile, making a name for themselves with the easy to drink and use Active Hydration electrolyte tablets. I’ve always been a fan, but never a regular customer until the recent release of the Nuun Energy tablets.

With Nuun Energy, they’ve taken their old electrolyte recipe and elevated it with a little bit of caffeine (about 1/2 a cup of coffee’s worth) and additional B vitamins.

The formula has worked beautifully for me. I used it throughout the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100, and have continued to use it on medium to long runs as the heat and humidity keep rising in the North Carolina mountains.

Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest v2 ($100)

AK-Race-VestA few months ago I wrote about how much I love the new version of the AK Race Vest from Ultimate Direction. At that point I had taken it out for a number of test runs, but never anything over 30 miles. Since then I used it in the Bel Monte 50 and at Massanutten, and I don’t  know where I’d be without it.

For a lot of people used to a bladder pack, myself included, the bottles on your chest take some getting used to. But once you get the feel for them, you won’t think twice about going back.

I also had a little issue with rubbing from one of the straps at first, but after taking the time to properly adjust the pack, it now rides with minimal bounce and no rubbing.

If you’re in the market for a hydration pack this summer, look straight to the AK Race Vest. With plenty of storage space in the back, it’ll be my go-to pack this summer for anything from 2 hour training runs to ultramarathons.

A similar female version, the Jenny Collection, can be found here.

Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential Belt ($27)

604The Race Vest might be my go-to for longer runs, but the Jurek Essential belt is my go-to every single run. Seriously, for the past few months, I’ve worn this belt for even short and easy runs.

It’s the perfect size belt to carry items like your cell phone, keys, or anything else you think you might need on a short run. For longer outings it can easily fit a number of gels, salt tablets, and other nutrition. Even if I’m carrying the pack, I tend to also carry the belt.

Ultimate Direction did something right with these newish product lines, and this combo is just right for me.

Hoka One One Rapa Nui 2 Trail ($130)

hoka_rapa_nui_2_-_blue_-_lateral_angleWhen I first saw people wearing Hokas, I wasn’t sure what to think of the moon shoes. For a long time, I had no interest in even trying them on.

But over time, I heard more and more raves about the shoes and what they were doing for runners. I finally buckled and purchased my first pair.

This new version of the Rapa Nui 2s are my second pair, and they are seriously the bomb dot com. I try to rotate out the types of running shoe I use day to day, but I’ll be lacing up the Rapa Nuis on all long runs and big races this summer.

The similar female version, called the Kailua Trail, can be found here.

Injinji Trail 2.0 Mini-Crew ($15)

InjinjiA friend convinced me to try out these crazy toe-socks after I got a particularly bad blister during a 50k race. I thought they looked a little goofy, but as someone who has consistently struggled with blisters since my first long training run, I was willing to give anything a shot.

One run in the Injinji Trail socks, and I was immediately hooked. They all but eliminate any rubbing between toes, and the fiber combination they use make for a comfortable ride for the rest of your feet.

A Place to Cool Off (Free)

Not much in this world feels better than jumping in a cool body of water after a hot, tough run. This summer I’m making a point to soak my muscles as often as possible.

So far that’s mostly been in a beautiful mountain creek running through Montreat, NC, where I’ve been logging most of my miles.

I challenge you to find a public pool, creek, ocean, or cold shower and treat yourself to a glorious cool down. It might just been the best “gear” you use all summer.

Thirty48 Compression Sleeves ($30)

thirty48Although I’ve tried it a few times, you probably won’t see me wearing compression sleeves during a race or long run. What you will see, however, is me putting them on immediately following any big outing.

Compression sleeves and socks help with blood flow, resulting in speedier recovery, and these Thirty48 Compression Sleeves keep proving their effectiveness.

They’re easy to put on, comfortable, and have shown little wear after many sweaty, dirty uses. They can also be used before and during a run if you find that helpful.

Trail Runner Magazine Subscription ($20 for 12 issues)

TrailRunner_April2014-599x800Motivation is a big part of any runner’s success. Recently, I’ve found a lot of that motivation through magazines and articles.

My favorite is Trail Runner Magazine, which has the perfect combination of in-depth articles, fluffy stories, and beautiful trail images. I can’t pick it up without wanting to go back out for a run.

Just like any magazine, you can purchase it up at the newsstand or during an airport layover, but subscribing is definitely the way to go. Monthly motivation delivered straight to your doorstep.

Guaranteed to help you get off that doorstep and out for a run. Even when the heat has you sucking the AC.

Brooks Versatile Singlet ($25)

BrooksFor the longest time I refused to wear a singlet because I thought they made you look like what I call a “runner bro.” That all changed when I got one for free at a race, and on a particularly hot day in D.C., I decided to give it a try.

I’ll admit, I still feel a little funny wearing singlets while not part of a track team, but boy are they cooler than a traditional shirt. My favorite this summer is the Brooks Versatile Singlet, which rides comfortably and doesn’t make you look like you’re trying too hard. Win-win.

The women’s Distance Singlet can be found here.

The Butt Bottle (Almost Free)

butt-bottleGoing on an hour long run, where you know you’ll want a little water, but don’t want to carry a big bottle? No problem. Sounds like a job for a recent invention I like to call the Butt Bottle.

Here’s how it works: Take an old mini bottle from a hydration belt or similar, use duct tape to affix a strap that converts it to a handheld, fill it up with water, and off you go.

You can use the bottle as a handheld for the first half of your run or until it’s empty. Once emptied, stick it in the back of your pants, around your Jurek belt, or anywhere it fits, and enjoy the rest of your run with free hands.

It’s even more practical if you have access to water fountains along the run and can fill it up a few times.

A Word About Affiliation has no affiliations with any of the companies included in this list, and was not obligated to review or recommend their products on this blog. Samples of two the products included were provided to us to test, but in both of those situations, we have since invested our own money into purchasing more. I like all of these products enough to invest my own money, or I wouldn’t have recommended them to you.

Many of the links included in the post are affiliate links, and Rock Creek Runner will get a small percentage of any sale made through these links. It comes at no cost to the buyer and is a great way to support the blog!

See you on the trail!

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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2 thoughts on “The Trail Runner’s Gear Guide: Summer 2014

  1. Great article!! We thought you might like to know about another product that will help runners beat the heat out on the trails…KryoSkinz Cooling Patches ( We’re a small startup striving to help athletes everywhere beat the heat and suffer smarter! Check us out!

  2. What about running shorts? I have a hard time finding the right pair of running shorts – they are either too tight in the groin area or too expensive. What is your go-to pair of running shorts for long runs?

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