Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Road Trail Run 2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Runners Part 1: GPS Smartwatches & Music, Run Tops and Shorts-17 Gift Ideas

Articles by Dominique and Sam Winebaum, Sally Reiley, Jeff Valliere, Jeremy Marie, Ben David, Mike Postaski, Renee Krusemark, Marcel Krebs, & Markus Zinkl

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners Part 1:

The RTR team went to town this holiday season to bring you this holiday gifts guide. The ideas kept on coming as we pondered great ideas for runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts, most tested over many miles in all conditions during 2023.

We ended up with well over 60 gift ideas (with mini reviews) across 12 categories for the runners in your life! 

Part one here: GPS Smart Watches and Music, Run T Shirts, Tops, & Shorts

More Gift Guides to follow.

Products in the guide are identified as review samples (RS)  or personal purchases (PP)

Purchases at links in the article to our affiliate partners and on our site help support RoadTrailRun and are much appreciated. Happy Holidays!

GPS Watches & Music

Coros Pace 3 ($230)

High Performance on a Budget

The Pace 3 is the budget watch in the Gift Guide. It really leaves nothing behind compared to far more expensive other options when it comes to the basics (and then some) of accuracy, light weight, and  comprehensive and improving tracking and training on watch and in app system 

Its battery life hits 25 hours in All Networks GPS and up to 38 hours GPS alone with daily wear in smart watch mode up to 1o 18 days both proved out in my testing.  Optica wrist heart rate has been accurate, helped by it being one of lightest and thinnest watches available at mere 39g with nylon strap and 13mm thick.

Compared to the Pace 2 it  gets 4Gb on off board music storage, a  touch screen, turn by turn directions (breadcrumb routes), all new GPS and HR sensing chip sets, and a Pulse Ox sensor. All these goodies along with its GPS and HR tracking performance and comfort on the wrist add to a far more than the basics at a great price. A great gift idea for any runner . RS Pace 3  Multi Tester Review

The Coros Pace 3 is available from our partners



Sports Shoes UK SHOP HERE

Running Warehouse US  SHOP HERE 

Running Warehouse Australia SHOP HERE

Top4 Running Europe SHOP HERE

Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Garmin Forerunner 265 ($450)

Sam: I am fortunate to test just about all new running and multi sport GPS watches and the fully capable, light and bright 265 stands out and was the watch on my wrist the most of 2023.

It includes essentially all of the key training, recovery, and smart watch features of pricier  Forerunners such as the 965, theFenix and Epix except map based navigation although it does have breadcrumb navigation.

The AMOLED display with its sharp (416 x 416 pixels vs the usual 240 x 240 )  bright viewing in all light con ditions and especially dim light and indoors  where transflective screens struggle and its lightweight at 47g are the standout features. AMOLED displays when active are essentially “illuminated” and thus such watches (Apple Watch) have short battery life. Not so here as I met or exceeded the Garmin spec of 13 days in smart watch mode as well as GPS-Only GNSS mode of up to 20 hours and SatIQ (AutoSelect) GNSS mode of up to 16 hours.

Given the light weight and 12.9mm thickness, optical wrist heart rate has been very solid. Not only Garmin’s algorithms have much improved over the last couple years but as they are so light and thin, especially for those of us such as me with thin wrists, those improvements under the hood are magnified in terms of accuracy.

GPS  distance and track accuracy has also been excellent.

The Forerunner 265 is a great gift  for the dedicated runner and especially if your runner has a three more year old watch including Garmins  as here not only is accuracy improved through much newer GPS and optical heart rate chip sets but you get a vibrant bright screen that shines in dim light and is up to the task in bright. And unless you are doing long ultras, there is plenty of battery life here and yes you could splurge on the yet more amazing Epix 2 Pro or 955  here you will not be missing much beyond its on watch mapping.  Also available in a smaller diameter S version. RS

Garmin Forerunner 265 

Running Warehouse US SHOP HERE



Sports Shoes UK/EU SHOP HERE

Running Warehouse Australia SHOP HERE

Road Runner Sports SHOP HERE

Suunto Race 

$549 Sapphire Titanium, $449 Stainless Steel 

Suunto is Back! Long Battery Life, AMOLED Display, Maps, Very Competitive Pricing 

Jeremy: I might be a bit Suunto biased since the Ambit 2,  but after going to Garmin for more than a year with a Fenix 6, and testing different brands such as Polar and Coros (albeit quickly), I can’t really see anything that fits my needs more precisely. And the latest Race is a banger. AMOLED screen, 40h battery life with a top-tier GPS track, known Suunto usability and now the extensions using SuuntoPlus app and Guides, mapping onboard… The Race hits hard at the competition with its very aggressive price.It’s backed up with the best mobile App (personal opinion) that now offers short and long term training insights and the best route building capabilities. PP

Jeff V: I have been testing the Race now for nearly a month and will be writing my full review soon, but I have to say I am very impressed with the Race.  With an AMOLED screen, the Race is Suunto’s 2nd watch with AMOLED after the S7 (focus on smartwatch vs sports watch with the S7 having only  ~1 day battery life or less depending on how long you use the GPS, whereas the Race is a fully featured dedicated sports watch with amazing battery life (comparable to the Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm), top of the line GPS tracking, a large screen in a reasonable size watch body, easy to use buttons/interface with rotating bezel and a very competitive price at $549 Sapphire Titanium, $449 Stainless Stee.l  RS

Initial Suunto Race Review 

Suunto Race available


Top 4 Running Europe SHOP HERE

Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Garmin Epix  Pro (Gen 2) Sapphire Edition | 51mm - Carbon Gray DLC Titanium 

$1,100 as tested, versions at $899 - $1100 depending on size/base/sapphire - ti

The Ultimate Sports Watch

Jeff V The Garmin Epix Gen 2 Pro 51mm is, at least in my opinion and for my usage, the ultimate GPS sports watch.  With a bright vivid 1.4” AMOLED screen, exceptionally good battery life, accurate multi band GPS, accurate optical heart rate, detailed easy to read onboard maps, a reasonable weight (in the sapphire/ti version and even more so when coupled with a nylon band just 64 grams), infinite levels of customization and configurability.  

Oh, and can’t forget the built in LED flashlight that I have come to rely upon.  If the 51mm is too big for your preferences, you can opt for the 47mm or 42mm versions (with the only concessions being screen size and battery life).  Yes, it is pricey, but dang, with so much to offer and unbeatable style, it is a worthwhile investment if it is within your budget (otherwise go for the lesser priced, but just as capable Forerunner 965). Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) In Depth Review  RS

Garmin Epix Pro (Gen 2) available





Suunto Wings Bone Conduction Headphones:  $199

Jeff V The Wings have become my go to headphones for running and biking, leaving the ear unobstructed for awareness of your surroundings and thus safety.  Easy to operate with intuitive controls, a light, yet sturdy design and long battery life make these the perfect choice for outdoor activities. RS

T Shirts,Tops, Shorts

Tracksmith Strata T ($108)

Sam: The Strata T is Tracksmith's most technical top. It is very light, thin, silky, soft and stretchy.  While not “roomy”,  its stretch made my true to size medium easily true to size.

Strata is treated with Coldblack UV protection from Schoeller  which provides UVA- and UVB-protection to reduce heat build-up and provide sun protectionI. It also has a silver ion odor protection.  It proved extremely comfortable and smooth on the skin in this summer’s heat and humidity and I appreciated its sun protection. It is also one very tech T you can wear more casually as well. RS

Strata Tee and Strata Collection available at Tracksmith SHOP HERE

Ultimate Direction Cirriform Tee  ($55) 

Dominique: A high performance Tee with plenty of ventilation to maximize breathability, the Cirriform Tee is extremely lightweight (3.5 oz/100g), and super comfortable.  It drapes nicely and provides just the right amount of coverage, namely not too short and not too long.  The fit is perfect and the feel of the fabric is pleasant.  

Flatlocked anti-chafe seams and a seamless shoulder design maximize comfort, and more specifically when wearing vests and packs including as shown below my UD Fastpack 40 (RTR Review), which is by the way another great gift idea.  

I have been wearing my Cirriform Tee running, hiking, walking, as well as for tennis.  It is much lighter and feels cooler than my Ibex Merino Tee and is a better option in hot summer weather.  The fabric has been treated with SILVADUR™, an antimicrobial technology to control odor. However, I find that I need to wash my Cirriform Tee more frequently than I do when wearing a Merino Tee.

A lightweight Tee with great breathability and a chafe free design to keep you comfortable,  it is a great option for long days wear in hot weather conditions.  Reasonably priced for a high performance tee at $55, I anticipate to get a lot of wear and use out of it  as I have with my UD Nimbus Tee.  Available for men and women in short sleeve, singlet and long sleeve versions. RS

Men’s and Women’s Cirriform Tee, Singlet and Long Sleeve 

Ultimate Direction SHOP HERE

ON Ultra Tee $100

Jeremy: Light (115g - 4oz), stretchy, soft to the skin, breathable and with excellent moisture-wicking ability. This top packs all you would ever ask for in hot weather apparel. Review  RS

On Running Apparel including men’s and women’s Ultra Short and Tee available

Backcountry SHOP HERE

Oiselle Wazzie Wool Long Sleeve ($112)


Sally: Oiselle is an amazing company, by women for women. This wool blend top is a mainstay of my winter runs, keeping me warm and seemingly dry, oftentimes as my base layer under a running jacket in colder temperatures. The sleeves are nice and long and have great thumb holes so that your hands are almost covered like a mitt. 

And no matter how wet and sweaty it seems to be post run, it remains stink-free and does not require frequent washing. My Colorado based daughter says she has four of these tops and wears them for running and hiking and as a skiing base layer and even as a casual top. The fit is generous, so consider sizing down. RS

 Women's Harrier Tee - Tracksmith ($78)


Sally: I admit to being a huge fan of the Tracksmith brand, especially their two tops known as the Harrier and the Brighton. Both are wool blends and feel amazing and soft on your skin. The Harrier is 89% wool/11% nylon and ideal as a cool weather top, while the Brighton is a lighter seamless engineered merino mesh of 52% wool/28% nylon/20 % polyester and is ideal as a baselayer. I have several of the Brighton tops emblazoned with the names of Boston, London, and Chicago on them, and must admit I would much rather wear them to boast of a World Marathon Major finish than an “official” shirt.  I love the time of year when you can run in shorts and a long sleeve (yet sadly we have begun tights season now here in Massachusetts). 

I have the Harrier Tee in short sleeves and wore it whenever a singlet wasn’t enough. No odor, quick drying, comfortable, attractive! Easy fit without being compressive nor too loose. And it comes in great colors! RS and PP (multiple)

Soar Running Trail Top ($200)

Ultimate Trail Top

Designed for wearing a hydration pack yet at the same time to maximize breathability, moisture transfer and comfort   the Trail Top hsa durable, anti-abrasion, pilling resistant upper chest and shoulders made of 90 denier French Woven Air fabric. 

The lower front and back, abdomen, and sleeves are made of  a lightweight, ultra-breathable 3D woven 70 denier fabric. 

It is designed with a center seam across the body to reduce chafing and allow different top and bottom shaping and includes darts at the back. All seams are carefully placed  and the hem taped to reduce chafing. It was thoroughly tested and iterated for 18 months by its designer, Tim Soar.

When I requested the sample I told SOAR I prefer a looser, less snug fit in tops and especially in zip Euro style tops. Instead of my usual medium they sent a large and I am glad they did!

The Top drapes easily and due to the fabrics never having a sticky cling even during 2 runs in unseasonably warm 80 F / 26 C temps. I particularly noted the easy open feel of the sleeves, no cycle jersey snugness there,I am sure the medium would have worked equally as well if you prefer a snugger fit. 

In a word: Stunning! Airy, highly breathable, never sticky, easy to wear on the run and quick to try. It even performed fantastically as a layer under the Soar Trail Rain Jacket staying dry enough during a run in the rain at moderate temperatures. 

For the runner seeking the ultimate in a full zip trail shirt or for any runner ready to un zip and  air things out in the heat look no further than here, that is unless you want to go even airier  in a Tee and Long Sleeve in Soar’s Hot Weather Tops (RTR Review)

The North Face Summit High Trail Run T-Shirt ($80)

Marcel: Light, breathable and with the perfect colorway for hot and sunny days. Also features small silicone strips at the seams to prevent the shirt from slipping upwards. RS

The Summit High Trail Run T Shirt available

REI men’s women’s SHOP HERE

Bottoms: Shorts, Tights, and Pants


Marcel:A perfect complement to the TNF Summit High Trail T-Shirt, it features a very breathable yet robust stretch woven FlashDry-XD™ fabric with enhanced moisture management  and comes with a wide zip pocket and two open mesh pockets. 

Available at Running Warehouse SHOP HERE

ON Ultra Shorts ($120)  

Jeff V:  The On Ultra Shorts combine carry capacity/functionality, comfort, fit and style, resulting in one of my go to shorts for daily runs or longer adventures. 

The highlight feature of the Ultra Shorts for men and women  are the 6 built in pockets, 4 stretch pockets around the side/forward perimeter of the waist band, a rear zippered pocket, as well as an outer right side thigh pocket, plus a pass through “pocket” on the rear, possibly for poles, but more practically for a minimal windbreaker or soft flask.Review

On Ultra Shorts are available at our partners



Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

ASICS Metarun Split Shorts ($72)


Marcel: My go-to shorts for most runs in the summer, especially if i do not have to carry much stuff even though it offers the option to carry several gels and provides a zip pocket at the back. It is light, comfortable and very airy. (RS)

ASICS Metarun Shorts 

Running Warehouse SHOP HERE

Tracksmith Reggie Half Tights ($78 unlined, $88 lined)

Ben Tracksmith Reggie Half Tights (arguably my favorite piece of running gear of the last five years. It  holds up very well, is good in virtually all weather,  and has ample sized pocket in the back, and is available with or without liner. PP

Thanks for checking out RoadTrailRun's 2023 Gift Guides (more below) & for considering shopping for your gifts at our many partners

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners Part 6: Poles, Lighting, Sunglasses HERE

Road Trail Run 2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Runners Part 5: 

Packs, Race Vests, Hydration, Filtration, Nutrition, Non Alcoholic Beer HERE

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners Part 4: Run Jackets, Vests and Pants HERE

Gift Guide 3: Books/Podcasts/Subscriptions, Recovery and Form Tools, Recovery Shoes, Insoles HERE

Gift Guide 2: Run Socks, Hats and Gloves HERE

Gift Guide 1: GPS Smartwatches & Music, Run Tops and Shorts-17 Gift Ideas HERE

Some samples were provided at no charge for review purposes, others were personal purchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love all that you do/provide for the running community. Been a fan and follower since RTR's inception. One gripe that I do have is the increasingly bougie nature of items reviewed, and the sport in general. It's obvious that there is an abundance of privilege (as within all aspects of society), but I wish more companies and reviewers would support and promote the idea that the idea of running is to be as inclusive as possible, and less exclusive. I get that you are trying to provide the best options, but recommending $100-$200 shirts and shorts? I'm glad that you do have at least one or two sub $75 options, which is more realistic for the majority of runners. In the future, I would love to see more budget conscious reviews and product support, especially with clothing. Thanks for your hard work, and I will continue to be grateful for all you do.