Trail running is a great way to get a good workout and take in the beauty of all that nature has to offer -- however, it doesn’t come without risks. One of the biggest differences between trail running and road running is that you need be prepared for the unexpected, as you could find yourself miles (or hours) away from help. While no one likes to think about getting injured or having an encounter with wildlife, it is also not advisable to go off into the woods unprepared and find yourself stuck in some kind of predicament.
To help other trail runners, I have compiled a list of a few must-have items that you should consider packing before you hit the trails:
1. “The Storm” Safety Whistle
This whistle is one of the loudest you can buy. It’s slightly larger than the average whistle but it emits a deafening sound which will startle and scare away stray dogs, bears, coyotes or other wildlife, as well as human predators.
It can also be used to alert rescue personnel to your location if you are injured and unable to hike your way out to safety. This is a small investment for peace of mind. http://www.stormwhistles.com/storm.html
2. Sharpie Mini Permanent Marker
Throw this in your pack and hope you never need it. However, if the unfortunate happens and you get bit by a snake or stung by an insect or spider, this will give medical professionals useful information to help determine the severity of the wound and proper course of treatment. Draw a circle around the bite or sting and then write the time it happened next to the circle. It can be lifesaving!
3. Disposable Rain Poncho
You can pick these up at the dollar store and they don’t take up much room in your pack. Getting caught in a downpour even in the summer can be a life threatening event as hypothermia can occur even in the warm months. A cheap plastic rain poncho is a great safeguard against this.
4. Life Straw
This handy filter allows you to drink straight from a stream, puddle or pond. Life Straw is a great product and is useful not only for trail running/hiking, but can also be used while traveling abroad or in extreme weather events. It’s lightweight and easy to use. You can buy Life Straw at most sporting goods, outdoor recreation stores, or Amazon.
5. Road ID
RoadID is inexpensive insurance. This simple ID band talks for you when you can’t, in order to alert medical personnel to allergies, medical conditions, and how to contact your family or significant other.
6. Neo To Go
Neosporin is an anti-septic/pain relieving spray. This handy to-go packaging allows you to clip it on your pack so it’s there when you need to clean up trail mishaps. Trust me, if the need for such a product arises, you will be grateful you decided to pack it.
7. Swiss Army Knife
This multi-purpose tool takes up almost no room in your pack and comes in handy for a number of uses. Tweezers remove ticks and splinters with ease; the saw knife can be used to blaze a trail by marking tree bark and scissors are good for cutting bandages. That’s just a few of the many tasks you can accomplish with this handy little tool.
Never go on a trail without a flashlight, even if you are planning to only be out in daylight hours. There are several brands/styles you can choose from -- options include an LED handheld flashlight or a headlamp with so many lumens, it is visible from space. If you are planning to do a lot of night running, the headlamp with mega lumens is a good fit. If you have no intention of being on the trail after dark, a small LED handheld flashlight should suffice.
9. Insurance Card/Driver’s License
Again, you hope you never need it, but if you get hurt miles from your car, it’s not going to help having that information stored in the trunk. Keep it with you.
10. Hand sanitizer and tissue
I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably not going to find a clean restroom on the trail when you need it. When nature calls in the middle of nowhere tissues are a more pleasant alternative to leaves. Just remember to be respectful and bury what you leave behind.
So here are 10 extremely easy to find and affordable items that can make a huge difference if you find yourself in an emergency situation. These are items I have felt that are the most useful, but of course, there is no limitation to how many precautions you can take. There are many other items available for trail safety, but if you want to be prepared and don’t know where to start, this is a solid list to follow.