Mountain trail running with the BUFF Pack Run Cap
Alastair Dixon, founder of Trail & Kale / 7-29-2021
When you head out to run in mountain environments it’s important to make sure you are prepared with the right running gear to help protect you from the elements and allow you to focus on your running effort! A technical running cap is one of the most important accessories as it will play a key role in shielding your head and eyes from the elements, including sun, wind, rain and even hailstorms, while keeping sweat out of your eyes.
As a trail runner who spends many hours playing in the mountains and testing trail running gear to share on Trail & Kale, I’m here to share with you why the BUFF Pack Run Cap is an ideal trail running companion.
Join me on a typical trail run to see how I wear the Pack Run Cap and benefit from its features on my trail runs in the mountains. This particular Pack Run Cap that I’m wearing in the photographs happens to be one I bought while in Chamonix, France during my last UTMB event in 2019, where I ran the 55km OCC race. Yes, the hat is still doing great nearly 2 years later which is a testament to its great durability.
I chose to wear the pack run cap for my OCC race because I knew my day in the mountains would be hot, and sweaty one, with the chance of storms rolling in which would require me to shield my face from the rain. But enough about that race :) read on to learn about how I use the Pack run cap on an ever day training run in the mountains of Southern California.
I arrive at the trailhead and unpack my essential running accessories - my cap and sunglasses - and make sure I have other important gear with me, such as my water bottle, and phone for emergencies. It’s important that all my trail running gear is lightweight and packable, so my pack is as light as possible when I’m putting in these intensive efforts!
The Pack Run Cap folds down so small that it will fit in the palm of your hand! Mine lives in a pocket of my running hydration pack when I’m not wearing it, and it weighs less than 1oz, so it’s super lightweight when I’m wearing it, as well as if I am carrying it in my pack. I appreciate that it unfolds to its original shape easily, and the brim retains its structure, while still being packable.
The trail I’m running today is a loop of around 10km long, starting with a 4km climb uphill through a canyon, around 600 meters of ascent in total. When you reach the top of the climb it is often very hot and exposed, with no shade for the rest of the run, which involves traversing a ridge for 2km and then a 4km descent back down to the start, along a rocky fire road. The descent is definitely the ‘fun’ part - the reward for all of that intensive climbing at the start!
Uphill trail running through a steep canyon
The trail up the canyon is steep in places, and uneven, so I need to pay attention to the terrain and look up to plan my next steps. I’m grateful for the flip-brim on my hat, which I flip up while climbing uphill, so I can easily see the trail ahead of me and plan my next steps without having to lift my head back. I wear my sunglasses on top of my head when in heavy shade or low light conditions, as it’s easier to see the terrain in this section without using sunglasses.
Working hard on a hot summer uphill climb
The temperature in the canyon is around 30 degrees Celsius (82 Farenheit) and there is not much of a breeze, so after the first five minutes of climbing I am sweating intensively from this uphill effort, as I work hard to have a good pace and beat my last time to get to the top. Fortunately, the sweat-wicking material on my cap is helping to keep sweat out of my face while I ‘work’, and I focus on maintaining a rhythm to my steps as I tackle the climb.
I reach the top of the climb and check my watch - I have beaten my last time by less than 20 seconds! Still, I am happy because it is such a hot day - not ideal for setting personal-best times! I reward myself with a 15 second hiking breather, facing the breeze coming off the ocean, and drink several sips of water to prepare myself for the rest of the run.
An exposed traverse under the summer sun
When I start running again, I need to increase my speed - there are no excuses now, as the climbing is over and the rest of the run involves a fairly flat traverse, and then a long downhill. Now I am out of the canyon I am feeling the full intensity of the sun, although at least now there is also an ocean breeze to help me regulate my temperature.
I am grateful for the SPF properties of my running clothes and cap for these runs. With the UV index in this area reaching a very high 10 on some days, I need to protect my body from UV rays as much as possible, and especially the top of my head and face, which are the most exposed to the sun! Because it’s not possible to effectively apply sunscreen to the top of your head, this running cap does that job for me.
Reducing the glare of the sun on the horizon
Because the sun is setting quickly over the pacific ocean and is reflecting off the water, it is very bright on the return sections of the trail and for the rest of the descent. I will flip my cap’s brim down when heading into the low sun. This makes a huge difference in reducing glare, and helps me more easily navigate technical terrain, look out for trail obstacles and plan footsteps as I start to run faster and pick up speed during the fun descent. Because it’s so hot out there today, I’m also on the lookout for sunbathing snakes, which I definitely want to avoid!
The reward of a cool stream and cold drink
Fortunately, the trail crosses several streams, and I make a point of stepping in the water to cool off my hot feet wherever possible. I also treat myself to a wet hat - I soak my Pack Run Cap and replace it on my head, which instantly helps my head cool down by several degrees. Depending on the situation, I will also submerge my feet to reduce core temperature and reinvigorate me - it’s amazing how this can help on a super hot day.
The water evaporates pretty quickly but it’s enough to keep me energetic and happy for the rest of my descent, and when I arrive back at the end of my run, I’m pleasantly surprised by my time! I head back to our campervan where a chilled bottle of water and recovery shake is waiting for me in the refrigerator, and find a shaded spot to do some cool-down stretches before heading home.