Last year, I ticked a long-standing adventure off my Northern bucket list: to run the Hadrian’s Wall trail.
I did so over 3 days and obsessively researched what gear to take so I wouldn’t encounter a single blister, dead end or, even worse, risk not completing Hadrian’s Wall. This includes:
- What running shoes to wear
- Whether a vest or t-shirt is best
- What GPS running watch to buy
- What extra kit I’d need in a storm or heatwave
- The best ointments and recovery gear
- Even the tastiest snacks!
- And what running backpack to carry it all in
Approximately four months’ training for Hadrian’s Wall proved to be the perfect testing ground for the many options.
When it came to the real thing, I ended up using it all but not carrying one single item more than I needed.
So, save yourself a job and copy my Hadrian’s Wall packing list…
(oh, given it powered me over 84 miles it doubles-up as a ultra running checklist too!)
My ultimate Hadrian’s Wall packing list
- Road & trail sneakers
- Soft water bottles
- Running backpack
- GPS watch
- Hadrian’s Wall Map
- Run cap
- Running bandages
- Drop bag
- Running shorts
- Running socks
- Running vests
- Running jacket
- Mircrofibre towel
- Loose change
- Bank card
The best Hadrian’s Wall recovery gear
- Stretch band
- Massage gun
- Compression socks
- Roll ball
- Hand sanitiser
- Spare water bladder
- Bottled water
- Spare clothes
Must-not-forget Hadrian’s Wall overnight gear
- Phone charger
- Book for downtime
And now for a breakdown of the key items…
Hadrian’s Wall packing essentials – stay on track and hydrated
Best GPS running watch with maps – Garmin Forerunner 945
My trusty running companion. The unsung hero of the route.
I would have quite literally been lost without it!
The Garmin Forerunner 945 running smartwatch was a loan from my brother and saved me from going off route and doubting my inner compass. The Forerunner face is large enough that you can glance at your wrist to see the map and your pre-set route while going flat out. Should you venture off course it’ll beep to let you know.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 comes with a ton of in-built features, such as music pairing via Spotify, suggested runs and training status. However, running Hadrian’s Wall it had one job to do – guide me home – which it did faultlessly. Bonus points for lasting 3 days from fully charged too!
Best running shoes for Hadrian’s Wall – Asics GT-2000 & Nike Wildhorse
Best Hadrian’s Wall road running shoes – Asics GT-2000
Running Hadrian’s Wall in mid-August it was extremely dry so wore road trainers 2 of the 3 days.
My choice of road running shoes was from Asics’ trusty GT-2000 range – my 4th pair in this series.
They’re great for day-to-day training as they have a lot of miles and stability in them. I run flat footed, so the lightweight cushioning and added support gave a smoother and more stable run, even on the uneven terrain of the Hadrian’s Wall route.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give them is that I didn’t get a single blister all 135km!
Best Hadrian’s Wall rail running shoes – Nike Wildhorse
I encountered all of the elevation on Day 2 of my Hadrian’s Wall adventure, from Greenhead to Corbridge.
The Hadrian’s Wall trail isn’t high altitude by any means, but you’ll spend much of the day up and down hills, plus trekking through the occasional woodland and farmland. The added traction helped maintain a decent pace and avoid injury should it rain and become slippery. Whilst a trail shoe, the Wildhorse is ok for road use too.
Overall, I didn’t find the Wildhorses to be as breathable as the Asics but my feet never felt hot or clammy. It was a good choice to swap my footwear on this stretch of the Wall as I never doubted myself when taking on steep ascents or descents.
Best backpack for Hadrian’s Wall – Salomon Active Skin 8
Pitched as a hydration vest the Salomon Active Skin doubles up as a spacious but extremely lightweight backpack.
It has multiple pockets on the front to keep the essentials – drinks, snacks, map, mobile phone and cap – handy and keep you totally self sufficient. I’d never run with a backpack until training with this but found it extremely comfy and breathable. The accompanying 500ml Salomon flasks are a must, although on reflection I may have opted for the additional bladder in the main compartment given I ran out of water on the hotter days. Great value at under £100!
Best Hadrian’s Wall water bottle – Salomon 500ml Soft Flask x3
Another lifesaver. Every Salomon backpack comes with a single soft flask, which slots snugly in the front pocket. To hydrate, simply tilt your head down and suck on the valve. I bought a second for the other side and a spare just in case I got a leak.
Before training for Hadrian’s Wall, I’d never run with my own water supply before. I was worried about the bottles bouncing around and getting in the way but shouldn’t have been. The soft flasks are designed to shrink as you drink. Another neat touch is the transparent strip that runs vertically on the flask, showing you precisely how much liquid you have left.
Top tip: don’t forget to properly wash out your flask to avoid it getting moldy.
Best Hadrian’s Wall Map: 1:25,000 OS Route Book
Pocket-sized backup to my GPS watch and the acorn trail that adorn what is generally a well-signposted route.
This Hadrian’s Wall map shows the full modern day line of the 84 mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path, from Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to Wallsend, Newcastle, in great detail.
I found the map most useful for plotting the route ahead of each day, working out key milestones and reference points to look out for. Or for reviewing progress when taking a break.
Comes in a laminate sleeve to keep it waterproof.
Stay cool in the sunshine – Best Hadrian’s Wall Summer gear
Cool running cap – Salomon XA cap
Only occasionally used but provided much-needed protection against the midday sun.
This cap is sufficiently lightweight and malleable that it can fold up and pop in your pocket for easy access.
Was a late addition to my Hadrian’s Wall kit but I was so glad I took it. A no brainer at £20.
Cool running vest – Salomon Sense Aero Singlet
Another masterclass in minimalism. The last thing I wanted was to be bogged down in a sweat-soaked t-shirt.
I switched between Salomon’s Sense Aero singlets and a Hospice handout over the 3 days. Close fitting and extremely breathable, the singlets gave me the freedom of movement I craved plus much-needed fabric cover underneath my running backpack to avoid chafing.
Salomon releases a new range every season, usually in bright colourways and geometric designs.
Sweat-resistant Sun cream – NIVEA Sport Sun Spray SPF 50
A last-minute purchase from the supermarket as I forgot to pack it.
Made for athletic pursuits, NIVEA Sport UV Sun Spray SPF 50 performs as promised. It’s quick to apply and dry on the skin, so won’t run in your eyes or leave you feeling greasy.
Unlike traditional sun cream, with its pasty texture, it’s also invisible on the skin. You can almost forget that you have something on and can get on with conquering the Hadrian’s Wall milecastles.
Food! Best Hadrian’s Wall snacks
Electrolytes – to keep energy levels up
The better your electrolyte replenishment, the less likely you are to suffer from muscle related injuries, cramps and exhaustion.
Any seasoned walker or runner will be well-acquainted with electrolytes, so consider this a reminder to pack them.
Cheap energy bars – Food Circle Supermarket
A chance discovery on Instagram, Food Cycle Supermarket reduce food waste by saving healthy and nutritious snacks near their sell-by date.
The result being heavily discounted high protein and gluten free run bars from all the big brands – Clif, KIND, Grenade, PhD, and more.
I developed a bit of an addiction for the Peanut Butter Clif Energy Bar, Maximuscle Cookies & Cream (pictured above) and the Milky Way Hi Protein Bar.
Best Hadrian’s Wall recovery gear – the secret to any multi-day ultra
I put my positive and injury-free Hadrian’s Wall experience down to two things: non-negotiable daily miles in the legs and the quality of my recovery gear.
These two items deserve special mention…
MILcea Pro deep tissue muscle massage gun
This was a new toy going into Hadrian’s Wall and it didn’t let me down.
Fully portable and with a number of attachments and speed settings, it was the first thing I turned to immediately after finishing a day’s marathon or more.
I’m not physiotherapist and didn’t have the patience to read the detailed instructions but it’s very intuitive. A blast of the calf muscles followed by a more gentle foot massage did the trick. Then again just before bed.
From memory, the gun’s battery lasted the full 3 days too.
Compression stockings – any brand will do
My Hadrian’s Wall story might have been more of an ideal if I didn’t wake up recharged and relaxed every day.
My compression stockings played a large part in that.
I put them on the moment I showered after the run and kept them on until I woke, sleeping in them. Below is a short video on the science behind them. In short, compression socks or stockings are designed to apply pressure to your calf muscles, aiding good blood flow and reducing stiffness and swelling. A tiny outlay that’ll repay itself many times over!
Don’t forget to pack something savoury. All of the energy bars and supplements are very sweet, so you’ll be grateful for a comforting sandwich or packet of crisps. Probably not the most nutritious but they’ll work wonders when you hit a low.