Shopping for a trail runner isn’t easy. Every runner has their own preferences, and for the most part, all the important gear — shoes, pack, etc. — ends up being rather expensive. Socks are probably the main exception …

But who wants socks as a gift?

This year there are three running related items on my Christmas list, all of which are inexpensive and practical, and will be put to use right away.

Here are the three gifts, all under $30, that I’m asking for this year:

1. Clean Nutrition

Nutrition, and how your stomach and body react to certain fuel, may very well be the most personal aspect of running. For that reason, I’m always trying to find the most natural, easy-to-go-down foods, that still provide the benefits of a sports product. This year I discovered two new (to me) products that meet at the intersection of whole food and optimized for running.

Amrita Health Bars

I was just introduced to these a few weeks ago, but have already relied on them during my past few long runs to great success. They’re made with real fruit, taste great, and go down easily. As an added bonus, both my wife and daughter love them too.

$12.99 for a 3-pack (Amazon)

Muir Energy Gels

You may recall me reviewing a few Muir Energy gels this summer, and I’m happy to report, they’ve become my new go-to gel. With only a handful of ingredients (all whole-food, plant-based) in each gel, they’re easy on the stomach and taste buds.

$30.00 for a 12-pack (Muir Energy’s site)

2. REI Tech Shirt

Tired of all your tech shirts being cheap race shirts? I was too, but it just didn’t seem worth it for me to drop $60 on a shirt I didn’t really need.

Then I found the inexpensive REI Co-Op tech shirt, and when a shirt works, it works. The simple, clean designs were just what I was looking for, and I’ve worn one during pretty much every race for the past year with no issues. This year, I asked for two more.

Note, when pulling links for this, I saw some negative reviews that surprised me. Take that for what it’s worth.

$19.50 per shirt Men’s | Women’s (REI)

3. Packable Water Filter

News flash: runners need water. Depending on where you’re running, fresh water sources may be limited.

Like many of you, I try to limit what I carry on long runs, which means I’m often having to decide between carrying an extra bottle, dealing with the hassle of iodine, or risking it by drinking unfiltered directly from a stream or spring.

But a few months ago, just when I was about fill up a bottle directly from the stream, a friend pulled out this nifty little purifier that hooked right on to a collapsible bottle. He filled up his bottle, then mine, then packed away a full one to filter later. Easy, fast, lightweight, and practical for runners.

The filter was a Sawyer Mini, and happens to be rather inexpensive as well. It’s perfect for long run days in the mountains (hear that Santa?)

$24.95 for filter, bottle, and cleaner (REI)

Want More Suggestions?

Head to your local running store (shout-out Vertical Runner of Black Mountain). They’re sure to have tips and ideas for that crazy trail runner in your life.

Plus, every time you walk into a running store, you never know what you may find for yourself. 😉

Note: The links above are affiliate links. By purchasing through those, you’re supporting the work of Rock Creek Runner at no cost to you… and getting a sweet gift.

Bonus: New Hats

You didn’t expect me to put together a gift list with no mention of the new hats, did you?

A great running hat is hard to come by. It should be comfortable, light, breathable, sun-protective, and stylish. And for me, packable… because sometimes I just don’t feel like wearing a hat.

Introducing the new Black Bear Tweener, a trail runner’s dream hat.

After wearing it on every run for the past three weeks, I couldn’t be more pleased with how it checks off all the boxes (and by how much I want to wear it when I’m not running, too).

And for all you trucker purists out there, there’s a new design waiting for you, too.

$25 per hat (RCR)

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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