Author: Chris Webb (@teamwebb)
My Bob Graham kit bit seemed to go down reasonably well and I will take direct credit for the fact that there are two Saddleworth contenders for the Bob Graham Club in 2014, clearly they were inspired by my musings on what underpants to wear when trotting around the Lake District. It’s time for a change though and as usual I will continue to be full of my own self-importance and write about kit for a race I’m just about to run, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
There is a difference between kit I’d take on a long outing on a trail as opposed to the fells so although there will be some overlap from threads I’ve plugged previously, there are significant changes. Plus, Mrs Webb is narked at the amount of cash I’ve blown on this race so I may as well write about it and claim that this article will add some value to the stuff I’ve bought. As with my previous efforts, hopefully you’ll be able to translate what I write to inform kit to buy for your own races and goals and picking and choosing what’s suitable.
Note: I have added links to places to buy some of this garb, I can’t guarantee it’s the cheapest but it’ll give you an idea.
Shoes: Salomon Speedcross 3
I’ve been wearing various evolutions of these shoes for years. They’re a little too ‘stacked’ to wear on the fells, I find myself going over on my ankle, so I’d rather wear the lower-to-the-ground Inov8 Mudclaws but for trails they are great. The grip looks better than it is but it’s more than capable of handling muddy paths and steep tracks and wont wreck the soles of your feet if you have a stretch on tarmac. The Quicklace system is fantastic – I’ve noticed that several other brands seem to be adopting this over traditional laces of late too – and you can make adjustments and take them on and off even with cold and wet fingers. My only complaint is the insoles which seem to bunch in the toe box, I switch them for Inov8 insoles which are much stiffer. I wore these on the West Highland Way Race last year in some tricky conditions and they were superb, I’m hoping they perform equally well in the Alps.
Despite my best efforts there is no way I can whittle down the rather lengthy kit UTMB regulation kit (Chris Maylor would love it, they even make you carry a length of tape?!?!) list to fit in my UD Scott Jurek Pack. I managed to do it for the Fellsman much to the amazement of some other competitors and it has performed admirably since I bought it whatever the weather and however much I abuse it. Frankly, I love the Ultimate Direction packs which are sans waist-belt are the fit lives up to their billing as a ‘vest’ rather than a rucksack. So I have moved up a size to the UD Peter Bakwin Vest which has extra volume (12litres rather than 9) but with the same features and fit. The front-access bottles are one of the main draws for these packs. Far more practical than bladders and now I’ve invested in some soft flasks it works even better, which brings me on to…
Bottles: Salomon Soft Flasks
I thought these things were a gimmick when they were first released. What on earth was wrong with a regular bottle? However, 2 years later and I’m a convert. They come in a variety of sizes and work well either on their own or stashed in the front pockets of a pack like the ones above. I have a 250ml one that I just hold in my hand on 1-2hours runs when it’s hot (it worked a treat on the Anniversary Waltz this year) and when it’s empty I stuff it in my shorts/bum bag and you would know it’s there. The 500ml ones fit nicely in the pack and they all nicely compress as you drink from them so they don’t slosh about. Even Big Roy Gardner likes ’em after testing one out on the Old County Tops this year…
Socks: Hilly Off-Road Anklet
My strange obsession with socks continues. I’ve tried all brands and eventually I think I’ve settled on the Hilly socks that I was wearing years ago! If I’m honest they aren’t my favourite socks, the merino wool Inov8 Mudsoc Mid are, but they wear out for too quickly and they’re never available in my size. The Hilly socks do the job and last for ages.
Waterproof Coat: The Montane Atomic DT Stretch Jacket has eventualy been retired and my running jacket is now the Inov8 Race Elite Stormshell. It’s a superb jacket although if I was out for a long winter day in wet weather I might dig out the Montane as the Stormshell is pretty lightweight and you’d probably get cold on a long day. The Stormshell is incredibly light (150g) and the excellent hood and zip that goes right up to your nose mean when it is honking down you are safely tucked away with only your eyes exposed.
Windproof: Rab Cirrus Pull-on.
It’s still the one bit of kit that gets stuck in the bum-bag or added to my race kit list despite rarely being required. Super-versatile, light, packable and probably the best £40 (or less if you can spot one in the sale) you’ll spend.
Baselayer: I’m still on natural fibres, currently I’m testing out some Super Natural baselayers (the SN website is useless, I’ve bought mine from Sport Pursuit which is a ‘flash sale’ site, well worth signing up to for nowt. They sell of surplus kit etc and it’s often significantly cheaper than any regular sale. I know Saddleworth runners like a bargain! If you do sign up and buy something, mention that I’ve referred you and I get cash :)) which I think I’ll be using in the Alps. The mix of merino and polyester/lycra means a slightly better fit (100% merino ‘hangs’ a bit which isn’t great for chaffing) and still doesn’t stink the house out.
Warm Layer: Inov8 Thermoshell
The race kit list has a couple of ‘options’ about warm layers which amount to either a long-sleeved base layer and a windproof or a single warm top. I’ll take both options depending on the conditions and whatever I don’t wear will be with my crew to collect at the various CPs. For it’s weight (260g), compressibility and versatility (it’s reversible with each side offering a different windproof/warm option) the Inov8 model seemed like the best option. I have bought a few of the new Inov8 clothing range, it seems like really well made stuff that is great for long fell and trail races.
Boxer shorts: One bit of kit that remains constant – the X-Bionic Energizer Boxer. My undercarriage has never been so well catered for…chaffe-free. Amen. I now own several pairs and will take a couple for the race.
This is another bit of kit that has stood the test of time. It’s not quite as white as it once was, I probably need to replace it, but it’s still my go-to race top. I’ve got a short-sleeved merino wool top that I’m taking too and another t-short of some description.
Shorts: Compressport Trail Shorts.
I still wear my old Skins shorts sometimes but I decided to go ‘Euro’ and invest (they’re not cheap – be careful not to think you’ve got a bargain and buy the underwear version!) in a pair of these Swiss-made beauties in bright red. They are available in less garish colours, but I like the idea of some French chap looking over his shoulder on the climb to Grand Col Ferret to see an angry Englishman in speedy red tights charging up the trail behind him. I told the Mrs they’d make me quicker and….err…they have! I am on my second pair after the first pair split at the gusset, the checkpoint staff at the Fellsman had the good fortune of seeing me more and more exposed as the race went on before I literally ripped them off to some raised eyebrows at the Park Rash CP. Quoting Blackadder: as I passed all eyes turned – and I daresay quite a few stomachs.
Buff/Inov8 Wrag: No self-respecting man would arrive in Europe without a Buff. I’ll take at least 2 to keep my head/face/ears warm and wipe sweat/snot off my face.
Still a quality bit of kit that spends 99% of its time taking up virtually no space in a dry bag but is ready to keep me warm and wind-proofed if I need it. I’m also taking a couple of caps (both of which are inov8 caps I got free from runfurther. All you need to do is run 4 races in a year!)
Gloves: Rab phantom grip gloves. I’m taking these and I’m also taking a pair of Raidlight Overmitts to comply with the kit list that demands waterproof gloves. I’ve got them, they weigh nothing but they cost me nearly 40 quid! Apparently they’re good – let’s hope so. I did own a pair of SealSkinz which I found uncomfortable (stiff fabric), not 100% watertight and pretty bulky. If I was ballsy I’d go with the surgical gloves that I saw a few Fellsman runners with last year (they have since realised that it is unnecessary to have w/proof gloves on the required kit list) – you can probably ‘borrow’ from any first aid kit for nothing and they technically do the job…
Dry Bags: XXS and XS Exped Dry bags keep my kit as dry as a bone. They’ve survived a serious amount of abuse for 4 years and are only just starting to look worn (*I’ve actually just replaced the XXS one). It only takes one experience of using a Tesco bag that has a few little holes in and your kit is soaked to make you invest in something decent. I suggest rubble sacks to the kids on Duke of Edinburgh, if you’re tight (and I know plenty of you are) then they’d do the job!
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 310XT.
Unless I’m doing a speed/hill rep session (the lack of a stopwatch on this is my only complaint) I never leave for a run without this on my wrist. I’m not a Strava man, I go for ‘desktop tech’ and use Sport Tracks (Strava is for posers!) to analyse my stats and make sure I’m knocking out enough vertical (I never am, no number of reps up Alphin Pike will replicate the climb up Croix du Bonhomme) I will take my trusty a portable charger so I can charge on the go using 3 AA batteries (I just put it in my pack and it charges on the go). I’m likely to be out well beyond the 20hr (in my experience) lifespan of the battery so I’ll need some extra juice.
Having coveted Simon Pymm’s Petzl Nao (and quite a lot of his other kit, he should really be writing this article…although he’s always crocked ;)) for a couple of years I did a test the other week between this an a Silva Trail Runner II and there wasn’t too much difference. What won me over for the Trail Runner II was the fact it took 3AAA batteries which I could easily replace and they last for up to 20hrs and the fact I found it on eBay for £40 (see my link)! It’s also significantly lighter than the Nao. I’ll be sticking a Petzl e-lite in too as my emergency light.
Long trousers: 2XU tights.
Another bit of kit that spends a large amount of time in my bag. They’re tricky to get on and off due to the tightness and they do occasionally shuffle down a bit but they’re as good as long tights are going to get. They have some holes as a result of the off altercation with some barbed wire, I call it ventilation.
Waterproof Pants: Inov8 Racepant
I blew another chunk of cash of these as they comply with the new FRA kit rules (I don’t want to do a ‘Howard Chambers’ and get sent away at the kit check!) and they are possibly the lightest and most packable pants out there. They hopefully wont get used but I have worn them around the house and could imagine donning them in a blizzard or if the rain set in.
Sun tan lotion: Riemann P20.
The sweat proof sun tan lotion is still the product of choice in this category! If you’re still banging on white gloopy stuff that you wear on the beach, go and get some of this. It does make you smell of pure alcohol which appeals to some folk!
Anti-chafe stuff: Body Glide. Gusset, armpits, lower back. Nothing more to add really.
First Aid Kit: plasters, triangular bandage, tape (leukotape to pre-tape blister prone spots, I’ve also been experimenting with Rocktape for this too and I will probably take some of that as it’s on the required kit and can be used to tape sore muscles…I’m not sure I 100% buy that but I’m going for the placebo effect) and Micropore tape (nipples!), paracetamol, ibuprofen, dry wound dressing and pads, safety pins, salt tablets (S! Caps).
Sunglasses: Julbo Contest
‘Bono’ Webb may actually put in an appearance in France as, hopefully, the weather will be glorious! These specs look as good today as the day I bought them. Julbo glasses (I recommend them all!) are ubiquitous in Europe and for a good reason – they’re affordable and great.
Raidlight Cup You have to take your own cup and I bought this a while ago with the intention of using it for the race. It’s great for hot drinks, soup, coke – whatever really. The Radilight Cup not as light or tiny as the UltrAspire Race Cup but I really can’t imagine drinking soup from one of those…